Two tales of the City. In the first, an attractive blonde meets a City financier, and is very, very cross because she is treated like "an Eastern European mail-order bride". In the second, an attractive blonde meets a City financier and is very, very cross because, she says, he tried to kiss her, even though he doesn't fancy blondes. Dearie me. It's hard to be a blonde in the City.
The first blonde (actually I don't know if she was blonde when she met her man, but she was, with very dark roots, in the photo I saw) is Diana Jenkins, a Bosnian refugee who met and married Britain's highest-paid financier, Roger Jenkins. He was earning £40m a year as head of Barclays' tax avoidance division, but her life in London, she said, left her feeling "unfulfilled" and "empty". Not, it turns out, because the money was in any way unsatisfactory (or indeed her husband) but because of the other wives. They, apparently, were extremely snobbish. "Unfortunately," Mrs Jenkins told Tatler, "with social girls, if you have a big diamond ring they will talk to you. So," she added sadly, " my lovely husband bought me a diamond ring."
The second blonde is Jordan Wimmer, a Canadian executive who met her financier, Mark Lowe, in a hotel room. He was interviewing her for a job, which he gave her on the spot. On the basis of merit, of course. He was, she has said, "one of the biggest players in the industry", and she was "in awe of him". She was a little less in awe, however, when she discovered a bit more about what being a "player" in the industry meant. It meant going to lap dancing clubs, apparently, and meetings in which female employees were wearing hot pants and stilettos.
Wimmer, who was earning £577,000 a year by the end of her time at Lowe's hedge fund firm, Nomos Capital, was so upset that she had to be treated for depression and anxiety at a £10,000-a-week private clinic. Now, she's suing the firm for £4m. Yes, that's 432 times more than Anthony Duncan, a soldier with the Light Dragoons, received for injuries and "mental anguish" in Iraq, and 4,000 times more than residents of Abidjan received from Trafigura as compensation for the health problems caused by the dumping of toxic waste, but hey, this is the City. And things are different in the City. Boy, are they different in the City.
So, a woman married to a man who devotes his life to helping very, very rich people avoid paying tax (so that not a penny of their gargantuan fortunes is wasted on people in society stupid enough not to have amassed gargantuan fortunes) is surprised that the women who marry the men with gargantuan fortunes aren't that nice? Or at least aren't that nice unless hubby has bought you a rock that really rocks? And a woman who works for a man who devotes his life to making very, very rich people even richer by a form of high-class (or at least weirdly high status) betting, is shocked when he treats other people as objects? Who did the poor darling she think she was going to work for? Nelson Mandela?
In spite of the mini-backlash against bankers (which is partly a form of collective sour grapes), we still have enormous, ridiculous, unwarranted respect for the very rich. Politicians (whatever they might be saying now) flock to them. Women flock to them. Everyone flocks to them. And then we expect them to be nice?
At one point, said Wimmer, Lowe confided his anxiety about whether a Malaysian woman called Ling – she of the hot pants and stilettos – "was really in love with him or simply after his money". And this was a (big, fat, dark, ugly) man who complained about the intelligence of blondes.
Lessons in love (and luck) from the First Lady
I bow to no one in my admiration for Michelle Obama. Intelligent, thoughtful, gorgeous and marvellously tall, she is feisty, without ever being ungracious, and manages to convey that she's a separate human being to her husband, with her own head, and her own heart, without implying (unlike our own dear Cherie) that it's all about her.
At a time when the world thought her husband walked on water, she spoke about his dog breath (a trope disastrously misappropriated by Sarah Brown, whose husband has, in recent years, appeared to walk only on banana skins) and now that the world is united in fury that he isn't Jesus Christ, she speaks of him in the same calm, consistent voice. But I think perhaps she could spare us the advice on finding Mr Right.
"Cute's good," she says in the latest issue of US Glamour magazine. "But cute only lasts so long." More important is the state of a man's heart and soul. "Don't look at the bank book or the title," she urges. "Look at how the guy treats his mother."
Indeed. Of course, it does help if your man looks like a film star, and happens to be intellectually brilliant as well as sincere, and has the kind of forensic brain that enables him to train as a lawyer, and an academic, and a politician, but can also speak and write like an angel. It does help, in other words, if he is the most eligible man in the world.
But no matter, Michelle. I'm sure there's a Barack out there for all of us. Really.
The simple benchmarks of love and loss
One of the many pleasures of autumn is a walk in the park. Green spaces which, only weeks before, were ringing with the sound of children shrieking and playing (and whining for crisps and ice-cream) have a quite different feel.
There's a mood of quiet melancholy: in the once-green leaves, now brown or yellow or brilliant red, floating to the ground and resting delicately on the grass, in the gentle drizzle and the soft grey light, in the scattered figures, now surrendered to coats, and in the set of their backs and their walks. And then there are the benches – benches with plaques, bearing messages of love and loss.
In my local park yesterday, I spotted one to a Mortimer Ribbons, not yet 60. "Dearest Mort," it said, "your unique talents, wild wisdom and incredible compassion will be remembered always." There was one for a Sunny Cracknell, only 24. "A gentle young man, with a generous heart. A loving son, brother, nephew and joyful friend." And then, heartbreakingly, there was one for Eva, just two. "Chasing pigeons, feeding ducks, in spite of illness. Living every moment."
Mortimer, Sunny and Eva, your names (your wonderful names!) are still alive in Clissold Park and so, I'm sure, is something of your spirit.