Finance: The Trader: The naked truth about those Aussie pub lunches

Nudity is empowering only when you're a Hollywood actress - and get paid millions for it

THERE'S A strange atmosphere in our corner of the floor. Nothing to do with the possible move to the Wharf; there's been no news on that and it seems we'll end up finding out about it the usual ways - in the newspapers or when they send round the packing crates. No, this is something altogether different. This is the after-effect of an unwise lunch.

No one gave it a thought when our counterparts at Aussiebank rang and asked if we wanted to meet for a pub lunch. Stepping outside the office in daylight hours is such a rare treat that the reply was a resounding "yes" all round. When the day and the time came, we piled happily into a flotilla of taxis - Simon, Findlay, Rory, Laura, Kirsty and I - and headed off east.

"I hope it's not unreformed pub food," Laura said as we headed further from the City's gleaming glass-and-steel heartland. "That gravy from granules makes me sick."

I frowned as our surroundings got grubbier. "I think you might have to be prepared for the worst," I answered sadly. And the worst is what we got. The cabs pulled up outside a dingy entrance and we clambered out. Even from here, the smell of sweat and stale beer was nauseating. Where on earth had the Aussie boys brought us? "What do you think that means?" asked Laura, pointing to a blackboard with "Lunch show 1pm" scrawled on it. I wasn't sure, but inside my heart was slowly sinking. By the time we made it through the door, it was well and truly sunk.

"Why aren't there any tables?" Findlay hissed at me as we fought our way through the throng to the corner where the Aussie boys had holed up. "And why are you three the only women in here?" I didn't have the heart to tell Findlay he was wrong. He'd find out about the other women here soon enough.

"You have worked out this is a strip show, haven't you?" I said to Laura, and she looked shocked, then upset. If she had known, she would have stayed away, you could see that. So would I, for that matter; I felt very uncomfortable.

Kirsty was having none of it, though. "For heaven's sake," she almost spat. "There's nothing wrong with women being able to explore their sexuality like this. Stripping can be very empowering."

Then the first scrawny young woman came out, looking more tired than anything. She went through a five-minute routine to a disco tune, while the men pushed towards the tiny stage to get a better view. Simon, our irritating young salesman, was particularly anxious for a ringside seat, but Findlay lingered in distress at the back with Laura and me.

Kirsty and Rory were with the Aussie boys, who were oblivious to our lack of enjoyment. Another girl came on, then another and another until the 45 minutes was up and the crowds dispersed.

Back at the office, our hunger pangs were cured by Mrs Hughes's excellent home-made fruit cake. Thoughts were less easily dealt with. Findlay threw himself into work, apparently in an effort to forget. Laura and I tried to update the trading manual for much the same reason. Even Kirsty was subdued, having perhaps seen that nudity is empowering only when you're a Hollywood actress and get paid millions for it.

Rory wandered over. "What a terrible place that was," he said. My spirits lifted. He did think it was inappropriate for a business meeting in this modern world.

"I don't know how they could take us there," he continued. "We could have gone to this table-dancing club I know: champagne, decent food - and the girls are prettier."

thetrader@hotmail.com

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