I went to a lunchtime concert in the City of London, the district where many bank headquarters are. It’s an area I don’t often visit. As I was early, I walked around the streets for a while. They were thronged with incredibly affluent-looking suntanned bankers in beautiful suits, wave upon wave of them, strolling to lunch in the sunshine. Their body language spoke volumes about their sense of well-being. Every restaurant and wine bar I passed was full to bursting. Their price lists seemed to place them in the ‘special occasion’ category, but they were full of people for whom this kind of meal is clearly an everyday occurrence. Champagne corks popped as I glanced in to the dark interiors, and from the open doors came a sort of gratified braying sound. Outside one of the banks, staff streamed nonchalantly past demonstrators mounting a protest about their investment policies.
Observing all this, I was struck by a powerful feeling that the banking crisis has changed nothing in the financial district. It was clearly business as usual, and people were feeling jolly good about it. Our government keeps telling us that ‘we’re all in this recession together’, but clearly we’re not. As I entered the mediaeval church for an hour of chamber music, I felt as if I were entering another world.