The sad decline of the art of excess

Are we losing the art of excess? Last week Lloyd’s of London introduced a ban on staff drinking alcohol between 9am and 5pm, even at lunchtime. While Lloyd’s is alone – for now, at least – this policy “is the latest act of the now-mighty HR and compliance departments, those once laughed-at dusty parts of the office which now practically run the Square Mile’s biggest institutions”, says Lucy Tobin in the Evening Standard. Things are radically different compared with 16 years ago, when six Barclays traders “spent £44,000 on wine at Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus (the restaurant threw in the food for free)”.

Go back a little further in time and things were even more relaxed. “I worked as a stockbroker in the 1990s, when long alcoholic lunches with fund managers were a feature of my life,” says Heather McGregor in the Financial Times. She “thought nothing of trailing over to Chelsea to take clients to a Michelin-starred establishment for the afternoon”.

During one such liquid lunch, a client said he “never seemed to be able to attract the ‘right kind’ of woman”. More than a little tipsy, McGregor suggested he should improve his clothes, “thus we found ourselves at 4pm in a Liverpool Street outfitters where I vaguely remember supervising the purchase of a whole new wardrobe”.

It’s not only City traders that are turning away from the demon drink. “The Jockey Club is to crack down on antisocial behaviour and drunkenness at the Cheltenham Festival,” says The Daily Telegraph. These restrictions also apply to “14 of Britain’s best-known tracks, among them Aintree, the home of the Grand National, and Epsom, which stages the Derby”. Still, the rules don’t seem to be too tough: the main curb involves “restricting racegoers to buying four alcoholic drinks at a time”.

Even university students are letting the side down. Oxford’s Bullingdon Club “is down to its last two members”, laments Harry Mount, a former Buller, in The Spectator, “barely enough people to trash each other’s bedrooms, let alone a whole restaurant, as the Bullingdon was wont to do”. The club began as a sporting society in the late 18th century, but its interests “morphed into heavy drinking” and drunken rampages.

In 1894, “Bullingdon members smashed all 468 windows in Christ Church’s Peckwater Quad”. However, the club “just couldn’t survive” the bad publicity stemming from the fact that “three of its former members – David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson – were the most powerful Conservatives in the country”.

Of course, a bit more moderation may be no bad thing. Publisher John Blake claims to have a manuscript of Mick Jagger’s autobiography. Written in the 1980s, it tells of “buying the historic mansion Stargroves while high on acid”. Blake notes in The Spectator that an earlier attempt by another publisher to get the Rolling Stone’s story into print floundered because “all the years of drugs and debauchery had addled his brain so badly that he could not remember anything”. As a result, Jagger gave back his million-pound advance and walked away from the project.

Tabloid money… the buzz you get from saving

• “Can you keep up with a Kardashian?” That’s the question on the latest advertisement on the London Tube for Protein World, a maker of health supplements, featuring Khloé Kardashian (pictured). It sparked controversy for seeming to flout new rules that ban ads promoting unrealistic expectations about body image. But who wants to keep up with the Kardashians anyway? Judging by the size of their social media following, “squillions” of young women “really, really do”, says Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday.

If “they get the body of their dreams, they will be… what? Happy? Fulfilled? Rich? More like starving – and broke.” Khloé Kardashian’s body “is her job”, says Brady. “If I had 24 hours a day to devote to looking good then I might look a bit more like her.” But “come on, girls. When it comes to life goals, we can do better than this, can’t we?”

• “Years of licking Co-op stamps for my mum… and sticking them in the book instilled in me from an early age the buzz you get saving money,” says Saira Khan in the Sunday Mirror. “The thrill of handing that filled-in Co-op book at the till and getting back a packet of pink wafers is one of those childhood memories that sticks.” These days “I collect everything – loyalty points and money-off vouchers from the newspaper. I cut coupons off the back of cereal packs to get free passes and discounts… My family have nicknamed me ‘Betty Bargain’.”

• “Isn’t it time Harrison Ford had his wings clipped?” asks Lorraine Kelly in The Sun. The 74-year-old actor had another near miss last week when he accidentally flew his private plane over the path of a Boeing 737 with more than 100 passengers. “Ford is rich enough to buy a hangar full of incredible life-sized toys to play with, and he obviously loves taking them all out for a spin,” says Kelly. The actor has even been quoted as saying he likes to fly up the coast to grab a cheeseburger. But in an age when commercial pilots are forced to retire at 65, perhaps Ford “needs to starting taking the passenger seat when he takes to the skies in future”.

Merryn

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