Banking on Beef

By de Lisle, Leanda | The Spectator, May 20, 2000 | Go to article overview

Banking on Beef


de Lisle, Leanda, The Spectator


The average annual bonus at Goldman Sachs is about L360,000. Some of you out there must be getting a great deal more than that, but I don't envy you. Actually that's a lie: I envy you your bonus, but the Leicestershire agricultural show helped me see that it doesn't buy you much of a life.

I must have told you about my taking a Master's degree in Business Administration. There was I, pregnant in rural Leicestershire with my husband's cast-off trousers for clothes, with my friends coming up from London in sports cars telling me that they were earning `embarrassingly large amounts of money'. I wondered what could I do to emulate them and, at the time, the answer seemed obvious: I should take an MBA - as they all did - and become super-employable.

Three years later, armed with my three extra initials, I looked around for work and discovered that there were firms of stockbrokers in Leicester. The starting pay? Seven thousand pounds a year - which wasn't a lot even in the early 1990s; certainly not enough to encourage me to become a number-cruncher. However, a career in Leicester has advantages over one in the City. The local stockbroker who was sitting next to me at lunch at the Leicestershire show was 70 years old and still working. In London, as I was about to be reminded, you're washed up at 37.

The show's food tent was a stone's throw from where I was eating and, as usual, I made a beeline for it as soon as lunch was finished. There was a stand I hadn't seen in previous years; a sign mentioned a Northfield Farm of Cold Overton, Rutland. It sounded rather gloomy, but the display of meat and goodies lit up my afternoon. There were rolled sirloins of Dexter beef which had been hung for no less than three weeks, wonderful pork from Gloucester Old Spot pigs, jars of caramelised onions and pre-prepared meals cooked by the farmer's wife.

The man himself - a Mr McCourt was behind the counter, and filled as I was with wine and bonhomie, we got talking. …

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