Vincent Franklin looked out from what used to be the roof of City Telephone Exchange.
The Exchange (according to Con Keating) had walls fifteen metres thick and had been built to withstand a nuclear bomb. They’d pulled it down to build the Grange Hotel and so we could have the mallowstreet party on the roof. In so doing they had annoyed Con who worked next door.
There was a young lad there starting out in his career, Mark asked him how he found the City. “Beats being a professional rugby player” seemed to be the gist of his reply.
Mark, Vincent Con and I looked out over the City and Canary Wharf beyond, the Shard stuck an insolent finger up from the South of the River, the skies were a menacing grey.
Vincent started talking about the damage to the City of recent events. My mind went back to when I was this young man’s age (we’d been at the same school as it happened). Back then I saw the City through the eyes of Mary Poppins, as the upholder of a certain set of British Values.
Then Vincent made a startling comparison, he likened the state of the City with the state of the Catholic church, the desecration caused by the scandals of the paedophile priests…He came upon a good word -not just “un bon mot” but le mot juste”
Not just the sacred Catholic Church but the secular City need the kind of root and branch reform that comes about when things have gone too far. Maybe the Catholic church will find another Luther , maybe the global banking industry, currently headquartered in london will find some equivalent.
As we talked , the sun went down. The Shard, that had looked so impressive by day, turned into a mess of neon like a demented Dalek. The City was topped by garish Olympic logos swathing the Nat West tower – a corporate games for a corpulent City.
We looked behind us and saw the great dome of St Pauls, that magnificent statement of restoration , of confidence in reformation.
I thought of Shakespeare’s line on the gutted choir stalls of Britain’s churches 100 years before St Pauls was built.
Bare ruined Choirs where late the sweet birds sang
Then I thought of Eliot’s great lines that kick off Burnt Norton, the first of his Four Quartets – his great meditations on history and faith
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
It occurred to me and to Mark that in this word Reformation we held the greatness of Wren’s vision and the paucity of the vision of bankers like Diamond and Goodwin. A reformation is needed as deep as the change in Outlook that Luther brought. A refocusing on things that matter doing a good job honestly and an abandoning of the fraudulent nonsense of synthetic structured powderpuffs that annihilate value.
That dome, lit up so much better than the Shard or the City or Canary Wharf. 350 years and it still does the business, its plinths still empty,
It was a great party- beer was drunk, there was dancing and Alexandra showed us her new shoes.
The rain held off, Robert and Dawid looked cool and Eamonn O’Connor brought the most diverse and wonderful young team out to play.
Thanks Mallowstreet for a great evening. Thanks to L & G, Clear Path and Quietroom for paying for it and thanks Mark for one of those little insights that might just stick around like Luther’s declaration!