August 2, 2013 § 3 Comments
I am in Jermyn Street shopping.
I flit from shop to shop just like a butterfly. Past Hawkes and Boodle. Church’s. Turnbull & Water.
Finally I am outside the Dunhill boutique looking through the window wondering whether I should buy a new shirt (Mike, my broker, ex-friend at JPM, power reversal, wore a light herringbone weave the other day. Mike always used to be a barometer of fashion but, since his demotion, his mind has gone to seed. Still it looked quite fetching and I start picturing myself in it) when I hear a loud shout
I turn to see a figure haring down the street. He is quite unmistakeable— Nicholas “Handsome” Dunthorpe! I try and cower behind my umbrella even though it isn’t raining anymore but he comes right up to me.
“As I live and breathe, Henry (that is my school name) Green. How on earth are you?”
“Dunthorpe. You here?”
“I’m back. Was getting a bit bored of New York, so I got a transfer back into town. Just come to pick up a suit for the wedding.”
“You don’t mean you’re finally getting hitched?”
“Ha ha no not me. It’s my little sister’s wedding. I mean it’s unlikely to be me.”
I always suspected he might be gay. This is the man who is the most successful human being I know. At Harrow he won everything. Cleverest man in Pop. Best at the hundred yard dash. Fastest swimmer. Head of school. Charming. Generous to a fault.
In every respect a God. He has golden tousled locks, a square jaw and a grin that could fell a mounted steed from 100 yards. More Atlas than human. And his mind. He has a brain that can flit across every subject from literature to the liturgy. He comes from old wealth but never let that stop him from making his own pile.
At first he spent some time in father’s bank, but got bored and decided to open up his own currency shop. Within three years he had made enough to buy the bank. He got bored again and moved to New York where, I heard, he was the most eligible bachelor in the Hamptons. An heiress—one of the Rothschilds— threatened to shoot herself if he didn’t marry her. Women fall in love with him. Babies slaver over him. Dogs roll over and weep– that kind of thing. But every man has his fatal flaw. And it seems that….but I am brought out of my reverie
“God no. I just mean I’m starting a new chapter. No time for weddings and that kind of thing!”
“I don’t know. They said you’d kind of gone AWOL out there. But then the markets are a funny place. Always follow the money.”
“Ha, that is exactly what I’m not doing. Money no longer means anything to me.”
“Well I’ve gone back to school.”
“School? You mean Harrow?”
“No I mean I’ve become a teacher.”
I am goggle-eyed with amazement. I look him up and down and, for the first time, realise he is wearing quite unusual clothes. The crumpled canvas shirt. The linen jacket. The taffeta trousers. But most of all his shoes. Brown, fluffy, laceless.
I look at him quizzically.
“Yep, I decided to give away all my money and try doing something worthwhile. And do you know— it feels more liberating than I could have ever imagined.”
“You’ve become a teacher at Harrow?”
“No not Harrow. I teach at an inner-city comprehensive. In the Isle-of-Dogs.”
I’ve never heard of this place. I don’t know whether to believe him.
“Yes I teach maths to 12 to 15 year olds. They call me Sir. Can you believe it? I live in a flat in Putney and cycle to work every morning. And every day is worth it just to see the smile on their faces. To know that I’ve helped one of them learn something that they might one day use. In real life. You know the other day a kid, little Bangladeshi boy, his name was Altaf, came up to me and said “Sir you really inspire me to become mathematician.” I swear to you that was the happiest I have felt in nearly ten years. Anyway Henry, you’ll have to come and give a talk, it’d be a pleasure. Must dash.”
He turns away and runs off into the distance, a dim silhouette fading into the night. Like a bat.
I look at the Dunhill suit in the window. Somehow it’s lost its sheen.