Jane's been longing to introduce us for ages. "He's an old family friend. He used to do what you do, only he got bored and threw it all in to set up a brewery in Somerset. He's doing really well. I thought he might inspire you."
Jane, bless her heart, thinks everyone she knows in the City ought to leave as soon as funds permit. Not that this is much of a surprise, given that she works in corporate finance. After all, if you'd spent your first year at work photocopying prospectuses, you might share her opinion.
It's all a far cry from the trading floor. Of course, everyone has bad days, but we can usually find something to keep our minds occupied, even if it's only making up product lines for fictional companies. I can't imagine ever getting sick of this little game, so I'm intrigued to know what made Toby throw in the towel, the company car and the six-figure salary.
"It's hard to know where to begin," he says, looking thoughtful. "Apart from anything else, it was so long ago it feels almost as if it happened to someone else. I mean, it was the Eighties. But I suppose my first wave of uneasiness was over the unemployment figures."
I raised my eyebrows and asked him what he meant by that. Surely the only time a trader worried about numbers was when they'd done a trade and suddenly had an inkling they'd made a mistake. "Or at bonus time," said Jane drily.
Toby smiled. "The figures from the US were due out, and at 1.30pm they flashed up on the screen and I said, `Oh good, unemployment's up' because it meant the markets would move in our favour. Then I realised I was happy because a lot of people had lost their jobs. I saw what an amoral person the City had turned me into."
Anyway, from then on the whole Thatcherite dream began to lose its gloss. He found it harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. He stopped reading the financial pages and started reading the film reviews instead. He took to leaving his desk in the middle of the day for 15 minutes of fresh air. When he started going home on time, his bosses suggested he might like to work elsewhere. He agreed - he resigned.
"So I'd done my bit for the unemployed by joining them," Toby said. "Not that those out-of-work Americans would have understood the irony of the situation, of course. Anyway, I had my latest bonus to keep me solvent so I wasn't going to starve. Then a friend gave me a beer-making kit, and I've never looked back. I'm a much better person for having left the City. I can't believe you two still work there." He paused, and my heart sank. Oh no, I thought, any minute now he's going to start talking about the delights of real ale and we'll never get him to stop. "Is that the time?" I said. "I must go."
Jane rang the next morning, sounding furious. "The nerve of the man," she said. "All that stuff about being a better person for having left the City. It turns out he's just sold his company to one of the big breweries for an absolute fortune. He's gone in this morning to tell his staff ... and then he's going to sack them all."Reuse content