The Martini Diaries – Episode 1.

In which I ponder my fluctuating weight, the dangers of throw away fashion, my first visit to Metro Bank, and finding out I am a micro style influencer.

Sunday 19 May 2019

I foolishly began today by studying my Fitbit app and looking at my bodyweight. I started monitoring it on 26 November 2018 when I calculated that for a man of my age (57) and height/build (5ft 10”) I was 16 lbs overweight. The good news is that since that time, based on my weight this morning, I have lost 4 pounds. The bad news of course is that is only 4 pounds lost over six months! Somewhat bizarrely the graph on the app shows that on many occasions over that time I have on the one hand gained 2 1/2 pounds beyond that starting weight (that was on 7 January) and had lost 12 pounds by 7 April. Since 7 April there has been several pounds increase and then I’ve been relatively stable. It’s all very confusing, as I am not on any diet or any radical form of exercise.

And that really is the theme of this short entry and my meandering thoughts of the day. How can bodyweight swing so much? I know the answer is obviously the balance between eating more than I am burning off from any kind of exercise or lifestyle. But I love my food, wine, martinis, my whiskey and soda in the evening. None of which I really want to give up! How wonderful it would be to find a balanced way of life where I can enjoy everything in moderation and have bodyweight remain static. Is it just an age thing? Well, that’s a challenge to be getting on the week with – time for a Martini to study my thoughts….

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Monday 20 May 2019

Doctor’s appointment this afternoon to review my readiness for travel to Africa over the next few months. Just needed a typhoid jab as my last one expires in September. My arm started to ache a few hours later – nothing I couldn’t moan through.

Then, off to London to attend the Scientific Parliamentary Committee meeting in the House of Commons on the topic of ‘Fashion and the throw away Society’. It was unnerving. As if we are not paranoid enough at the moment about plastic, now I have to worry about textiles. As a big consumer of clothes the statistics are terrifying. 

  • Only 1% of textiles find their way back into the cycle of usage.
  • 17-20% of industrial pollution comes from dying and treatment of clothing.
  • Fashion produces more tonnes of CO2 than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
  • 3/5ths of all clothing produced lands up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made.

I learnt about concepts such as a ‘circular economy’, and the ‘end of life process’.

I thought I had landed back in the Dickensian industry revolution!

I left wondering about our disposable society and how we had reached such a point of mass consumerism. But, during the dinner that followed the committee when I challenged the speakers about the further damage they would cause to the High Street in their demands for less consumption, I heard the expression ‘choose to want what we have’.

I am now more determined than ever to follow the quality over quantity mantra. It must be possible to invest in quality clothing without breaking the bank, clothing that can survive the test of time, ride the various style swings and trends.

Now I am on the late train home, likely to be in bed after midnight. Hoping I do not have nightmares about the planet imploding because of my love of clothes.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Today I visited Metro Bank to open a bank account for a new charity I am involved with. I had never been inside a branch of Metro Bank before. I arrived for my appointment at 12 pm, but did not leave until 3.30 pm – yes, 3 1/2 hours to open a simple bank account.

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I answered endless questions, completed forms, had my ID scanned, had a credit check, answered more questions. All the time I am at a desk in an open plan foyer with people coming and going – absolutely no privacy. The young lady serving me frequently had to leave to check with the ‘business manager’ certain things (I did wonder after a while if she was simply going behind the screen to eat a sandwich if she was as hungry as I was). There was much confusion as I tried to explain how we wished to have a separation of powers/duties in the charity whereby one person cannot both upload a payment and then authorize it – this caused much confusion for the banking staff. For us it was a simple exercise in fraud management. The fact they struggled to understand the need for that was worrying!

Moreover, they have these large machines in the lobby rather like juke boxes. Every now and then a customer arrives and dumps buckets of coins into these machines to sort them – when it happens you cannot hear yourself think – it was like trying to open a bank account in a Vegas casino.

Eventually everything was completed – only to be told the application would now be passed to her ‘business manager’ for review. So, it would be several days before I heard anything.

Last week Metro Bank’s shares plummeted by 80% following a story they had not correctly recorded their loans in their accounts. I had been tempted to buy some shares at this rock bottom price, as the financial situation otherwise seemed secure. However, based on this 3 1/2 hours experience of pretty inept administrative staff skills at the branch level I left rather less impressed – I will hold onto my money at the moment.

What ever happened to good old banks, with private offices, competent staff with the power to make decisions, and speed?

Thursday 22 May 2019

The Metro Bank saga continues. Today I received an email stating the ‘business manager’ had some more (anodyne) questions – questions that could have been asked/answered whilst I was in the bank. So, still no new charity bank account.

I visited my favourite tailoring shop today. I had a new linen suit from Samuel Windsor where the sleeves were 3/4” too long (that kind of detail – sleeves too long – is one of things that really frustrates me when I see them), but it has working cuffs. The sleeves therefore need to be removed and shortened from the top. I also had three new pairs of trousers which needed shortening – again, nothing worse than trousers that gather around ankles like a collapsed sack. Total cost for removing the two sleeves and shortening three pairs of trousers – just £54! The quality of the workmanship in the shop is exceptional. It looks run down, scruffy, clothes hanging everywhere – but, these guys know their stuff. Clothes that fit therefore do not have to cost a fortune. It’s all about attention to detail (and finding a reliable quality tailor!).

Friday 24 May 2019

I added another DVD to my classic collection today – the 1935 film ‘Lives of a Bengal Lancer’. I have not seen this film for probably 30+ years, and I have recently become intrigued to see again after I read that Adolf Hitler allegedly was fascinated by it as a lesson in how the English psyche functions. How, apparently he asked, did a whole nation of India succumb to just a few Englishmen? I hope to find the time to watch it over the next week, and will report back.

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Saturday 25 May 2019

Visited Boots today to arrange for my malaria tablets the Doctor advised me to take for my forthcoming business trips to Kenya and Rwanda. The young Pharmacist was efficient and helpful, making sure I was aware of the risks etc and explaining the choices of brand of tablet. I explained how I had, on and off, over many years in the military taken malaria tablets for months, and even years, at a time. He looked concerned and asked if I was aware those tablets are effectively now banned because of side effects! You have to love the military.

Anyway, the reason I tell of this encounter at Boots as when it came time to pay for the tablets the young pharmacist said he walks past me every morning – as I am walking to the railway station he is walking from it – and he recognised me for my impeccable appearance, “I like the way you are consistently put together”. He told me he took inspiration from me. 

I don’t dress to impress anyone, only to please myself. But, it has been a quiet ambition of mine to hope one day the world would return to style and elegance as the everyday default. Apparently I have now inspired one young man – every journey starts with one step. You never know, it might calm everyone down and be a distraction from Brexit and the apparent terminal decline of democracy and decency in our society. On that note, it is time for my Saturday cocktail…….

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