Big Daddy’s annual Christmas dinner took place this week. It always happens prior to December 25 itself, as he takes the nuclear family – and often the extended one, of which I’m a member – across the Atlantic and the equator to his family ranch in Argentina for the holidays.
He’s considering adding to his property portfolio with a beach house in Uruguay and I’m to fly out in my advisory capacity at the beginning of February. I’m campaigning against it, simply because Big Daddy is a perfectionist, setting the highest standards for himself and those around him, and I can see it ending in trauma and possible law-suits if the architects and builders disappoint, as they are bound to.
The reason I got my Blackberry two years ago was to avoid another dressing down from Big Daddy, who expects replies to his e-mails within an hour. He is a man who knows both how to carry himself and make an impression; to watch him waltz through the doors and across the floor of Le Caprice or The Wolseley is to witness virile elegance and an unstudied self-importance.
The dinner, at his Kensington house, wasn’t the usual occasion of good cheer and merriment. As the evening wore on, fuelled by champagne and some good red wines, the mood did get more festive. But there’s no question that recession was in the air.
Big Daddy even took me aside and totted up how much he’s lost over the past six months in his various investments. It’s a large figure, one that makes my potential commission on the mega-house seem like spare change found beneath the car seat.
“How lucky to have had all that money to lose,” was all I could think of by way of response, which I realise was not terribly comforting but, frankly, what else was there to say?
I’ve heard other clients talk of the millions they have lost and “the hits” they’ve taken as well. But for most of them it was only paper money and without obscene feats of profligacy they would never have been able to spend all their cash in their lifetime. The real fat-cats – and these are the people who employ me – might have lost 40 per cent of the value of their portfolio but it is not going to change their lifestyle.
We had our own company Christmas party this week too, though not at the Connaught as Natasha had suggested. Instead, I thought, with the Thesp as an employee, we should take a trip to the theatre followed by dinner. In this environment, I couldn’t stand the thought of anything grim and depressing so I settled on something fun and frivolous and booked tickets to La Cage aux Folles.
Natasha, not a theatregoer generally, looked rather horrified by some of the other audience members; the person beside her spent most of the first half eating an endless supply of bacon-flavoured crisps. But soon her inhibitions were gone and she was laughing away. The Thesp gave a running commentary on the cast, their technique and who he’d worked with. He was in his element, “bravoing”, whooping with pleasure and singing along as the cast received a standing ovation and gave their curtain calls.
I felt positively cheered by the experience and even a bit smug for not having lost millions as my clients have done. (I didn’t have them to lose in the first place.)
“I miss the theatre,” said the Thesp as we sat for dinner.
“I miss Shane,” said Natasha.
I declined to chime in with my own melancholy, for fear our festive evening could rapidly descend into a more maudlin event than one in which we discussed losing money. Spirits lifted when we relived the highlights of La Cage and the Thesp broke into some songs from Mamma Mia.
As “The Winner takes it All” was running through my mind in the cab home, I had a phone call from Shane (my former employee and unlikely boyfriend of Natasha) in Australia. After pleasantries were exchanged he got to the point: “You know, mate, you told me there would always be a job opening there for me.”
“Hmmm ... ”
“I want to come back in the new year. Your country stinks and the weather’s lousy but I can’t get Natasha out of my head.”
“That’s great, Shane,” I said, knowing business would have to pick up rapidly to support him.
“Am I crazy?”
“Faint hand never won fair heart, Shane,” I replied.
Even in recessions, there are potentially happy endings.
Some details have been changed.