Sunday, May 9, 2010

a different kind of dreaming spire

Some time in the 1970s, it must have been, my father - trained in law and engineering, and working for a large construction firm - was involved with building the dock where large oil rigs for the Brent oil field in the North Sea were constructed. And as a memento - here's an oil rig in a bottle. My favorite part of this surreal, clever piece of memorabilia is the tiny glass helicopter on the left hand side. It sits in the Oxford flat, looking uncomfortably out of place against leafy North Oxford. Unfortunately, none of the shots that I took showing two large ducks snoozing on the grass below quite came out right, although the wild fowl allusion would be an apposite one - not because of the horrible pollution going on in the Gulf of Mexico (and I should say that the Brent field was Shell, not BP) - but because Shell, optimistically - or with proleptic guilt? - named all their oil fields after sea birds - so this was labelled after the Brent Goose.

Thinking about this took me right back to my father's Life as a Businessman in the 70s, and to one grim evening in particular, when I accompanied him in lieu of my mother (whose own mother had just died) to entertain some Important Business Guests. We went to a private dining club in Knightsbridge, somewhere behind Harrods, called The Belfry (which now seems to be Mosimann's - oddly, a quick piece of Googling revealed Abba performing there in 1982), where all I remember eating is mangetout (eat WHOLE PEA PODS?) - and then on to the nightclub at, I think, the top of the Dorchester. Said IBGs were very drunk by this time. So, probably, was I. I have a Bad Memory of going over to the band - being egged on by these nauseating guys - to ask them to play something by the Stones. No success. And an even worse memory of one of the IBGs grabbing me in the corridor outside and trying to kiss me - bad move. But Oh Horrors - might I have been about to lose my father's firm a big contract? How could I tell? What to do? Reader, I am ashamed to say that I lived up to my Escort Role with a client who had Overstepped some Mark - tapped him on his beastly buttocks, and told him he was a Bad Boy. He did, meekly, back off. The whole evening was a very unpleasant glimpse of the masculine world of corporate business c.1975.

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