No matter how confidant the roar, it turns out yelling “I shall get a job” midmorning in a London bank is not appropriate. I had expected some clapping, a couple of earnest bravas, and perhaps a bouquet of roses gingerly tossed from stage right. Nothing too fancy, I thought. Only what would be expected after a prima dona finished an improbable aria on opening night. I received none of this. Not even a polite smile. All I got were modest reprimands from the three-piece suit Oxbridge set. I also received a generous shush from a secretary down the hall.
Ypres and I decided to take leave from Coutts. Well, Ypres suggested it and I agreed. Ypres felt it was appropriate. She felt my declaration had been delivered with such aplomb that it should be acted upon with the utmost urgency. Ypres was right. I praised her common sense. I gave Alistair a careful cheerio. Ypres took his card, on which Alistair scribbled his personal phone number. As she said, we might need to call him in an emergency for financial advice.
“One never knows when a Keynesian crisis might arise. It would be imprudent to be caught off guard,” Ypres said as we hit the street.
“You are quite right. Will you hail us a taxi, Ypres? I feel your arms are better suited for the task.” We had reached Trafalgar Square from the Strand.
Ypres mimicked the stern look of Admiral Nelson atop his column. The resemblance was uncanny.
“A taxi would prove an unnecessary expense.”
“I see. I suppose that given the belt-tightening a bus is best. So long as nobody sees us, of course. Well, at least nobody important.”
“I think we should walk.”
“Walk? But, Ypres, I am not prepared for such an ordeal. My outfit is not meant for light exercice. I dressed to be whisked away in motorised vehicles, or, at minimum, trains. These shoes are not meant for walking.”
“We must economise.”
Ypres and I (I think I have finally got the me/I thing under control) ended up walking, much to my chagrin. Along the way she congratulated me on using a Dr. Johnson quote during our interview with Alistair.
“You mean when I called Alistair a hypochondriac and you adroitly pointed out that the word I was looking for was hypocrite, even though it did not apply to the situation?”
“No. When you mentioned your love of London. How when one is tired of London one is tired of life.”
“That was from the heart, Ypres. I adore London. This Dr. Johnson fellow was probably in the vicinity on the numerous occasions when I have used the line. Make no mistake, I was the one who premiered it.”
Mayfair soon came into view. It was with great relief that we reached the Park Street flat. I was able to rest my feet on my Madame de Pompadour furniture.
“Right, Ypres. Let’s get to work.” I prepared myself to deliver my monologue. I rehearsed while Ypres was in the kitchen preparing some tea. When she emerged with a tray of biscuits and two cups of carefully brewed Mariage Frères I was ready.
“You see, Ypres, as I see it, there are two ways to increase my income.
First, I can ask Uncle Edward for an increase in my allowance, which he won’t do. I could also ask him to pay the conundrum consultancy fee I was too proud to ask him for. Knowing Uncle Edward, he will not pay a fee retroactively. That is one of the qualities that makes him the top umbrella insurer in the world, despite fierce competition from his Montreal-based rival.
Second, I can get a job. Once again Uncle Edward comes to mind. I could work at his firm. I think I would be beneficial to Vasa Assurances. Nevertheless, Uncle Edward has made clear on numerous occasions that the reason he so generously give me an allowance is so that I don’t come anywhere near Vasa Assurances. The reason he bumped up my biweekly spending money was to prevent me from taking up a secretarial post. That means, Ypres, that I am condemned to find a job on my own.”
“I applaud your reasoning, Vasa. It is very sound. Lord Mansfield would be very pleased.”
“Thank you, Ypres. We’ll have to have his Lordship to cocktails next time he has a free evening. Nothing fancy, as we’re one a budget. Only the essentials. Twenty guests, a jazz band, and an open bar with a three drink limit. We’ll make sure there is more juice and water than booze.”
“As I mentioned at lunch yesterday, Lord Mansfield was a figure of the Enlightenment.”
“That club that opened up in Shoreditch?”
“No. The intellectual movement. He is dead.”
“Dead? You didn’t even mention he was sick. Was it sudden?”
“Perhaps we should get back to your reasoning on increasing your income.”
“Quite right. We can continue on the topic of dead Lords later.
As I am condemned to find a job on my own, I must set the terms for the search. I picked that up from you, Ypres. I have a university degree from King’s College and experience as a writer and consultant so it shouldn’t take too long to find something suitable. Preferably with Friday afternoons off and a 10:00 a.m. start time. What do you think, Ypres?”
“I think it is a good place to start. Yet, the labour market does not favour the young. A university degree and a couple of years’ experience no longer guarantees a long-term job. Entry-level positions are often temporary. Many are unpaid. Your job search could prove difficult.”
“Nonsense, Ypres. I’ll browse the internet for a good thirty minutes, perhaps while you massage my feet, and I will find something I am eminently qualified for which guarantees a healthy income.”
“I wish you the best of luck, Vasa.” I don’t know why, but I reckon Ypres said the last sentence rather ominously. Like one of those old ladies in crime novels who urge guests to taste their freshly baked cyanide crumpet surprise.
Chapter VI will be published Monday, 17 October 2016, at 12:00 EST 17:00 GMT. Vasa and Ypres’s first full-length adventure, Vasa and Ypres: A Mayfair Conundrum, is available on Amazon. If you enjoy Vasa and Ypres, please share on social media. Vasa and Ypres is on Twitter. You can also join over 1165 WordPress followers. Should you be desperate to part with your money, and, in the process, fund Uncle Edward’s Vasa Assurances, a donation button is available on the homepage. Donations will help keep the Vasa and Ypres project going.