Bunhill: Nice Christmas Day at the office, dear?

OK, it was chilly this Christmas, but did so many people have to wear anoraks?

A new survey of 374 organisations by Reed Personnel Services, the recruitment specialist, reveals that 8 per cent will have worked on Christmas Day this year - a rise of a third on 10 years ago. The reason is that the customer now seems to demand it. Reed says the most marked increase in Christmas working has been in the services sector, and in particular telephone banking operations and computer helplines.

It is perhaps only a natural extension of all-night shopping in supermarkets that the service ethic should now infiltrate the day traditionally set aside for The Great Escape, Ben Hur, the Omnibus edition of East Enders and the East Enders edition of Omnibus. Christmas used to mean conspicuous consumption, self-indulgence that knew no tomorrow, and of course the compulsory breath of fresh air on a bracing, weight-reducing walk of around eight minutes' duration. Now it means ringing up the bank to find out how much damage the Christmas shopping has inflicted on your finances, before presumably grabbing back the presents and returning them to the shops.

A spokeswoman for Reed said employees were not necessarily victims of the all-consuming consumer society, pointing to anecdotal evidence that many of them actually like to get out of the house on 25 December (probably to escape from the very same obsessive people who'll be ringing them up later). However, if you extrapolate Reed's figures for the whole of Britain's working population, and assume an average of just one person per company chained to their desk on Christmas Day, around 2.5 million hapless souls will have been in their offices last Thursday - and surely that is the work ethic gone crazy.

No wonder the roads were so crowded as I drove to the office.

As the Heritage Lottery Fund considers applications from the arts world for Millennium funding, its eyes may be drawn to one request from the National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside. For the chairman of trustees at the NMGM has first-hand experience of Britain's cultural heritage.

In an earlier incarnation David McDonnell, who's also head of the accountancy firm Grant Thornton, played the drums for a band called the Quarrymen, named after the Liverpool school he attended, Quarry Bank. "I liked the idea of being a drummer," he recalls. "I was also lousy at it."

And what an exercise in realism that was ... if only he'd stuck at the music and bunked off mathematics. Instead, he threw down the drumsticks and went on to earn a crust leading a global accountancy firm. But the Mersey beat carried on without him: after a few more personnel and name changes, the Quarrymen went on to earn something more than a crust as the Beatles.

That Mr McDonnell ever had a crack at showbiz was down to his being at school with one John Lennon - he who would have been convicted many times over if assault with a deadly tongue had ever been made a criminal offence. And without wishing to give credence to the latest bout of revisionism that has transformed Lennon from rebel with a cause to unreconstructed bastard guilty of every "ism" going, it seems that "Give peace a chance" wasn't on his mind in the playground. "My memory of him is as not a very nice person. He was a bit of a bully," says Mr McDonnell.

However, they then got to know each other better and then they went their separate ways. But their paths were to cross again. Mr McDonnell's first accounting job was as a "raw recruit" in the small Liverpool firm of Bryce Hanmer, and one of its clients owned a music store in Liverpool. The client's name was Brian Epstein, who then met the Beatles, became their manager and got Bryce Hanmer to do the band's accounts.

This was 1961, and if ever Mr McDonnell wonders about the one that got away, think how his accountancy firm must feel. About a year later Mr Epstein moved his financial affairs down to London, and as luck would have it Bryce Hanmer had by this time merged with another firm, Thornton Baker, which had a London office. But Thornton Baker looked the gift horse in the mouth and, deciding that the Beatles "weren't the sort of reputable clients it wanted", passed on the work to a rival. The Beatles weren't even taking drugs at the time; the accountants almost certainly were.

Mr McDonnell has moved onwards and upwards since then, and he's also lost his Scouse accent. However, he has stuck close to his roots and used his high-profile position to correct the popular perception of Liverpool as an area full of thieves, men with permed hair and police identity parades where no one can spot the difference. It was partly because of this work as "a low-key ambassador for the City" that the NMGM approached him in 1995, and he admits that at first he didn't know much about the arts world. "I had to hit the ground running," he says.

Now, as he prepares a full bid to the Heritage Fund for pounds 35m of Lottery money, he talks of the city's renaissance as a cultural centre showcasing both national and local works of art. And he speaks in much the same terms about his own industry. "The old image of accountants as grey professionals who counted other people's money is not entirely unjustified and it's doomed to extinction anyway," he says. "This is now a function of technology and, before you know it, people will be doing the calculations for themselves from computers on their watch straps." The future for the profession, he adds, is corporate finance, "entrepreneurialism and helping people to create things".

So could accountancy be the new rock 'n' roll and will Mr McDonnell be playing the drums? On Penny Lane, meanwhile, will the barber serve another culture buff? And, seeing as our friend from the North is so involved with urban regeneration, will he please do something about those 4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire?

Yes can do

HERE'S something one of my colleagues drank earlier. It's a hot drink in a can, one of a new range now appearing in Bunhill Towers courtesy of Brooke Bond - the company that brought us PG Tips and the tea-drinking monkeys.

My colleague speaks highly of this development because the alternative is one of those plastic vending-machine cups that lead to burnt hands, evocative language and a hefty dry-cleaning bill. The drinks still taste the same, of course, but that's not really the point; like I've always said, you can't beat a nice can of tea.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent