There But For The Sake Of Impulsivity Go I

As I work my penultimate Friday, it’s hit home that I’ve only 28 working hours left until I leave the scintillating sphere of financial services to carve out a career in writing and begin studying Philosophy, Politics and Ethics at Brighton University.

From the tender age of 17 to kidulthood at 22, I’ve worked four and a half years in the sector and feel obliged to share a parting wisdom that has given me unbridled success without the (perceived) corollary stress: work your ass off but don’t take your life, your career or yourself seriously.

Learn to disengage from the BS of FS and have avenues through which you can unwind and decompress. It’s on drink and drugs that people in the sector too often rely; they offer only illusory support: they’re destructive, unsustainable and deceptively unreliable when used to the excess.

Highs are finite, possibilities infinite.

Personally, I travel, box, volunteer, write, attend festivals and crossdress to counteract the dulling effects the 9-5 can have on a soul.

My greatest achievements haven’t been the promotions or qualifications, but the relationships and good times spawned by them.

So, that’s the heavy stuff out of the way. Now, without the worry of a current boss or future employer scolding me for impropriety and in the spirit of not taking oneself too seriously, here’s a tongue-in-cheek rundown of a few ‘accomplishments,’ cringes, loves and hates from my time in financial services… enjoy!

My Crowning Accomplishments

  • My first business trip to Gibraltar…
When In Gib...
Gib is Influenced by Moroccan Culture

Gibraltar was cute: small, quirky, multicultural and weirdly familiar…

…basically, it was a rock with a few thousand pissheads clinging to it.

  • ‘Fighting the power’ by growing a horribly ginger beard in protest of a clean-shaven rule.
The Beard and Battleground...
The Beard and Battleground…
  • Being the impetus for a day of bright and bold outfits and crossdressing for my last day next week (more to follow). Chirp’s infectious.

My Crowning Cringes

  • After a day chugging back Aguardiente, being half-consciously spoon-fed soup without an eyebrow and much of my head’s hair at the banquet of the 2011 employee Christmas party in Portugal.
Ladies, Ladies! Form an Orderly Queue…
  • After a day and night chugging back cervezas at the 2012 employee Christmas party in Spain – and immediately after incongruously smoking multiple blunts with colleagues from another jurisdictional office – I found myself inexplicably lost on a pitch-black and labyrinthine hotel floor above the one in which the company was put up. Needing desperately to relieve myself, I thought it safe to do so in the dark, up against a nondescript wall some way from the illumination of an elevator light at the end of the corridor. To save from inflicting further flashback on myself, we’ll cut the story short: the stream flowed… on to a door that opened.
  • I’m done with this stupid list. Five minutes spent on two events and my cringe has reached spasm.

What I Shall Miss Of The Office

  • Embellishing underlings’ unsatisfactory work with phallic feedback.
Managerial Methods May Differ…
  • High pay, low exertion.
  • Post-nominals. ‘Liam Doherty MICA Int.Dip.(AML)’ gave me a cheap ego-hit.
  • Smiling at tradesmen from inside the toasty office during winter months.
  • Delightful summer and debauched Christmas parties.
  • Initialing documentation.
Deed Polls Are Worth It
  • The ability to afford and have spur-the-moment holidays.
  • Lunchtime swims in the bathing pools, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Bathing Pools

What I Shan’t Miss Of The Office

  • Shirtless tradesmen smiling at my soulless vessel as it rots behind a desk during the summer months.
  • The unidentified, reoffending fuckers who bastardise the communal sugar supply with coffee pissing granules.
Tea Drinkers Can Be Dicks Too…
  • Financial Advisors’ grammatical howlers. ‘”With regards Montgomery structure, we should be greateful if you could duly reassess you’re position in respect of the investment which underlyes the aforementioned vehicle.”‘ (Grammatical and spelling errors lifted from real-life emails.)
  • Financial Advisors in general.
  • First-world office problems:

‘”Could somebody reset the hole-punch to A4 when they’re done please!”‘

‘”Oh it’s bloody freezing in this [optimally temperature controlled] office!”‘

‘”The desk cleaners have moved my screens again!“‘

  • Perpetual provision and consumption of junk food.

‘”Cake… because it’s Thursday! Sure, six slices sounds bad, but I’ve had a salad for lunch.”‘

  • Office politics. Disassociating yourself from the people playing games and occupying yourself with your own business pays dividends (note to self: discontinue business-speak).
  • Staring through a computer screen – staring into the void – after a holiday or festival.
  • My job. As much as it’s given me, and me to it, I’m not going to miss my job a fraction of a smidgen of a tiny liddle bit.

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Happy Friday and have a kickass long weekend!


The Sweet Science

“Boxing is the sport to which all other sports aspire.” – George Foreman

I could not agree more with the statement, not that I have the testicular fortitude to do anything but agree with heavyweight Hall of Famer ‘Big George.’ The sweet science transcends its nature as a sport moreso than any other; legendary triumph and grave tragedy are produced in equal measure – that’s boxing.

When Gallery set the theme of ‘rivals’ for the August issue, I could think of no better subject than my adoptive sport; when I thought of boxing (which I have done for an inordinate amount of time each day of the last two years), I could think of no better person to talk to for this piece than local boxing legend Gerry Walsh.

The punter pays to catch but a climatic glimpse of a boxer’s story. While the themes of persistence and courage ring just as true outside the squared circle as inside of it, the hostility and barbarism the punter pays for isn’t what the boxing community is all about.

“You meet some characters through boxing,” says Gerry Walsh, 80 years old, after driving me to exhaustion at Guernsey’s amateur boxing club. An octogenarian boxing the ears off a man a quarter of his age on a Sunday morning, it just doesn’t happen anywhere but a boxing gym. Gerry’s story, like so many others pugilism has produced, is an inspiring one that started from humble beginnings.

Gerry at twenty and eighty years of age

In the throes of a second world war at an army barracks on the outskirts of Dublin, to which children were often drawn solely on account of the hot chocolate promised them after training, Gerry’s boxing career started at 9 years old; the age at which he had his first bout. He moved to Bristol with his family while still young and trained up until he was called upon for National Service, the delightful British term for conscription, in the early fifties where he furthered his boxing training.

Gerry represented both Ireland and the British army as a light-welterweight boxer, racking up many more wins than losses and turning heads along the way. After serving his time in the forces, Gerry opened his own boxing club in Bristol where he resettled to train competing amateur boxers whilst boxing competitively himself; but one of the heads turned by the dedication and intensity with which he approached his training was a senior army officer offering a role in the forces.

Muhammad Ali once said “he who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” An accomplished competitive boxer running a successful boxing gym needn’t take risk, but Gerry took one anyway. This is the attitude that makes champions in life as well as the ring: grafting the same job and drumming the same punch bag all your life may get you somewhere eventually, but it’s not until you take a risk that life starts to get really interesting.

What I’ve taken from Gerry, and boxing as a whole, is that working your ass off, being humble in learning, confident in action and taking the odd risk is a formula for success. That’s boxing.

Thus one Corporal Gerry Walsh was posted to Northern Ireland, Kenya and Germany as a physical exercise instructor: waking up at 6am for the first of three 8-mile runs of the day with a squad of combat troops, training alongside pugilistic contemporaries such as Sir Henry Cooper and representing Ireland and the British army on the national stage.

(You can find rare proof of Ali’s fallibility by YouTubing ‘Henry Cooper vs Cassius Clay;’ ‘Enry’s ‘Ammer knocks ‘The Greatest’ for six!)

Gerry missed out on representing Great Britain at the Olympics, losing a hard fought decision against Scot Dick McTaggart, who had a then-rare advantage of being leftie, or ‘southpaw’ in boxing parlance. “You just didn’t get southpaws in those days,” Gerry tells me, chuckling. “You were made to box orthodox.” Though Gerry pressed him every second of the fight, pulling back to front punches from unfamiliar angles proved too big an adjustment to make and he lost a narrow decision. McTaggart went on to win gold at the 1956 Olympic Games. (Gerry’s involvement with the Olympic amateur squad didn’t end there – he contributed to the team’s training on an ongoing basis.)

Gerry’s tenacity continued to turn heads wherever he fought and saw him topping bills at shows as far afield as West Germany. “My commanding officer had words with me,” Gerry tells me, “he said ‘you’ve fought 9 times in 11 days Gerry!’” He must have thought him mad. A serving contemporary, CSM Bell, writing in a British paper circa 1955 wrote of his ‘tremendous courage, fighting spirit and 100% fitness… it didn’t matter how good or experienced his opponents were, they were kept busy all the time’ ‘and the spectators got good value for their money.’ Value for money is right – the deutschmarks paid to Gerry for the successful rearrangement of his and his opponent’s faces didn’t just go in to his back pocket; they went to the underprivileged children of the war-ravaged nation. Maintaining good relations with an occupied populace is one thing; it’s another to earn a loyal local following and present the Mayor of Berlin with a boxing glove filled with the money you’ve earned whooping his compatriots’ backsides. That’s boxing.

Corporal Walsh’s return to civilian life was coupled with his retirement from competitive boxing aged 28, with no fewer than 200 (!) amateur fights to his name. Now you’re familiar with the man, you might’ve guessed ‘retirement’ is an ill-suited term; he only hung up his gloves so as to lace up those of future boxers back in his adoptive hometown of Bristol, where he opened Newman’s Amateur Boxing Club, which found quick success on the amateur circuit.

Gerry (left) sparring at his gym in Bristol in view of some mesmerised youngsters

Gerry then moved on to Guernsey in 1969, cofounding and presiding over La Corbinerie Gateway Club, a charitable organisation giving mentally disabled sportspeople equal opportunities in competitive sport, and assuming the role of head coach at the Amalgamated Boys Club.

Predictably, his presence was overwhelmingly beneficial to the boxers competing under his tutelage, dramatically so, as the moral of this article will tell (column constraints prevent my further detailing Gerry’s contributions and accomplishments, certainly not due to a lack of them).

Jersey’s boxing squad, historically trouncing Guernsey’s prior to Gerry’s taking the reins, were in for a shock one night at their home turf: the Guernsey squad had tallied seven unanswered wins against their arch-rivals, won in such emphatic and brutal a manner that Gerry was compelled to refuse sending out the remainder of his squad to fight under the watch of a referee allowing such savage punishment to be absorbed by amateur sportsmen.

And it is in this action, symbolic of honourable rivalry trumping barbarity, taken by a man who personifies what the grassroots boxing community is all about, that our rivalry moral lies: for all the violence of the sport at club, national and international level, what boxing is truly about is breeding respect, discipline, camaraderie and honourable rivalry among those who choose to box, often for lacking these qualities in their upbringings. It’s not the base instinct of dog-eat-dog that prevails in boxing; you wouldn’t survive long in a boxing gym if you thought it did.

The characters you meet, the feats you witness; the friends and rivals you make – that’s boxing.

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A Baby Bigger Than A Lion

I assume you know the lion to which I refer –I will not humanise it further by calling it ‘Cecil’ – impaled by an arrow shot by an American big game hunter.

We know the name of this lion, the members of its former pride and their familial habits.

We know the hunter’s name is Walter Palmer, that he’s a practising dentist and many of the private communications sent by him.

The public reaction to the lion’s death has been momentous: the Empire State Building emblazoned with images of the lion; shipments of hunting trophies banned by at least half a dozen airlines; heartfelt appeals from far-flung TV presenters; even a beanie baby has been made ‘to comfort all saddened by the death of Cecil.’

The political reaction has been equally large: statements from a German Ambassador, a British Prime Minister and even a certain UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador who then proceeded to Tweet the address of the hunter (which ended well). The UN is even taking action (!). I can much more safely assume you do not know the name of the Sudanese migrant who was killed last week, mangled under the wheels of a truck en route to the English side of the Eurotunnel from Calais.

If you get your news from Facebook, Twitter or you only dip in to mainstream media, you may not know that dozens of individuals within the “swarm of people… wanting to come to Britain” have been dying grisly deaths trying to cross for quite a while now. Cameron’s choice of the word ‘swarm’ and the refusal to even name the ‘illegal immigrants’ being drowned, crushed, electrocuted and beaten at our border is the antithesis of the humanisation of Cecil the lion: using fear-inducing, dehumanising language to describe groups of people (yes, they’re actually people!) to lessen the humanitarian impulse that people should, and do, instinctively feel. The establishment play on it effectively, distracting you from uninteresting unpersons and enraging you with pictures of a grinning big game hunter and a beautiful animal murdered at his heel.

Your social media feed may be overflowing with blue animal rights activists, you may even be one yourself. I believe your social media feed could, should and would be overflowing with human rights activists if the mainstream media gave ‘illegal immigrants’ equal standing with one big cat.

I’m going to even the keel and tell the story of the death of just one illegal immigrant carried to the UK border by another:

A young Eritrean woman travels around 3,500 miles from Eritrea – a brutal prison state near the horn of Africa that is North Korea-esque in its arbitrary detention, torture and murder – to seek a better life.

She is heavily pregnant and seeking a better life for her unborn child; she would, and very probably did, cross deserts and scale mountains to do so.

Paying unsavoury characters her pittance to spend several days on a dangerously overcrowded and rickety fishing boat – you know, the sort Europe were going to bomb – she crosses the Mediterranean, unlike so many others, and reaches Europe with only another 1,000 miles to go. After sneaking on trains and/or hitchhiking, no doubt being unwillingly exposed to more unsavoury characters, she makes it to the ’Calais jungle,’ a place of relative succour, but one that’s crawling with rapists (though you’d only have heard of the one middleclass white girl assaulted there), disease, with no running water and an unsympathetic police presence. She prepares to make the journey across the channel.

I don’t know her name. I don’t know what her thoughts were before she attempted the crossing by clinging to a moving lorry. (I deliberately distance myself from these thoughts so as to write about this (and politics in general.))

I do know that she defied the odds by surviving a journey that many, many people do not, and cannot, make, for the sake of her unborn baby boy; to give him a better chance at life.

His mother fell from a truck en route to Dover, triggering a premature and unattended birth.

Her baby boy lived and died in the space of an hour. Buried in a nearby makeshift cemetery.

He was named Samir.

The mainstream media would tell us if this was worth being outraged about and we abide: a lion trumps a baby. The disparity between the reactions and the level of humanity expressed is demonstrative of how much more a cause can matter with media backing.

Language is employed tactically to deaden your response to situations:

– A lion was hunted by a dentist from Minnesota, killed at improper instruction by his Zimbabwean guide.

– An illegal immigrant miscarried trying to illegally cross the Eurotunnel.

It is employed tactically to provoke a response from a situation:

– Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most beloved lion, torturously murdered before being beheaded by twisted trophy hunter.

You’d have seen headlines like the one immediately above, and may even recognise the terms I’ve dragged from some of the UK headlines, but have you ever seen a headline expressing disgust at the migrants living in conditions you wouldn’t (couldn’t!) farm animals in? There’s no outrage! The lion’s even got considerably more Wikipedia inches than the Calais jungle is apparently worth.

On the flipside, it was reassuring to see the UK Prime Minister express some sympathy. David William Donald Cameron, currently sunning himself at an undisclosed location, has “every sympathy with holidaymakers who are finding access to Calais difficult because of the disturbances there.” Wow. Like roadkill; mere ‘disturbances.’

Whilst people fleeing war ravaged former colonies die shitty deaths trying to reach our country to do jobs we don’t want to, politicking is still the order of the day: COBRA meetings and partisan approaches – no fucking humanity. It’s shit that lions are being killed for sport, really shit; it’s awesome that business and politics have finally mobilised to stop it.

It certainly doesn’t keep me up at night. What will keep me up tonight after writing this is the thought of the brave and broken woman who made that outrageous journey. I’m glad her baby boy Samir didn’t die one of the many more protracted, painful and humiliating deaths that his African brethren are destined to die seeking asylum in our ‘great’ country.

I hope his mother is still alive. I sincerely hope she makes that crossing.

Update 7th August 2015

One ballsy German television presenter had the courage to speak out on a live show against the increasing acceptability of social commentary containing dehumanising language and (correctly) linked it to an increase on attacks on refugees.

She has caused a ‘media storm’ in her native Germany and has rightly become a social media hit – she deserves the utmost respect for having the moral fortitude to speak out as so few in her position ever do.

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