Magazine article The Spectator

A Ghost at Lloyds

Magazine article The Spectator

A Ghost at Lloyds

Article excerpt

Lloyds Bank's stone fortress in Lombard Street has room for 676 people, and no more. This was how Sir Brian Pitman controlled costs when he was hoovering other banks up. Losers in this game of musical desks could take the hint. Now his successors have preferred, as bankers do, to build themselves a new head office, and are on the move. I hope that they will first propitiate the ghost of T.S. Eliot, who worked in a basement office lit by glass bricks, and wrote The Waste Land on three months' leave of absence from the bank. How surely he conjures up the City of clerks and pubs and currant-traders and Wren churches, and the crowds trudging over London Bridge to work:

... so many, I had not thought death had undone so many. Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled, And each man fixed his eyes before his feet, Flowed up the hill and down King William Street, To where St Mary Woolnoth kept the hours With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

They had to be inside the doors of Lloyds when that bell tolled, or they were late for work: black mark. Nothing is visible there now to honour the poet's memory or tell the story. Perhaps Lloyds, before it goes, will put that right.

Exeunt omnes

The Mermaid has been on the rocks for a long time now, but I am sad to see her sink below the waves. …

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