"Talking of kids", said Ray, "well -"
"Don't tell us", interrupted Julie, "your new wife is pregnant and you're going to be a dad again?"
"Don't tell us", said I, "one of your kids is pregnant and are you going to be a granddad?"
"Bugger off, Alibert! Really! I had forgotten what you're like!"
It was a reunion from my first1 job: 1986 to 1989. Six of us. Twenty years ago. I have seen them all individually in the intervening years, but it was the first occasion we had met as a group.
One is now a contract project manager, one an MD in Morgan Stanley, one a housewife, one retired, one a guru, two still at the same bank. Only one in a job indescribable. None still programming, three of us missing it. The seventh invitee, absent, also programmer when we knew him (and not a good one, he ploughed my test at the interview but we were desperate and so we hired him anyway) well, he turned out to be a serial entrepreneur and is now a multi-millionaire venture capitalist in Texas, with his photograph on the front page of his company website.
How did that happen?
What was I like?
Twenty-two years ago the computer system that we all worked on went live. The six of us all laboured an entire weekend, even sleeping in the office. On the Thursday night prior to go-live the wind woke me up in the middle of the night and I went outside to shut a slamming gate and was nearly killed by great hunks of masonry falling from the roof. It was the night of the great storm and the next day the trains weren't running and I walked to Brixton to catch the tube, marvelling at the fallen trees, On the Friday, the Saturday and the Sunday we worked eighteen hour days installing the system, testing and bug fixing, waiting around and playing Digger.
It was fun.
On the Monday morning the system was live and we sat by our screens drinking coffee with our fingers crossed. And that morning the market fell 25% in a single day, and the financial world crashed around our ears - It was black monday and it was also my first system go-live and guess I thought all go-live weekends would be like that.
What was I like?
Julie had some pictures: a Christmas drinks party twenty years ago. It was in the Arbitrageur in Throgmorton Street, that underground palace to 80s hedonism. People were smoking. There was I in the background with a narrow tie and a white shirt, I put my glasses on to see more closely, to try and make some connection with the 25 year old in the picture, to establish the persistence of a unitary self.
And Julie dragged me back to 2009
"I was saying, Alibert do you remember the support log that you wrote that weekend"
I was clueless
"Go on, of course you do! It was really good. I can still remember bits"
And she quoted2:
-2:05am back up job finished
-2:10am arm-wrestling competition with Julie to determine who has to deliver tape to Stratford
-2:30am In taxi to Stratford
"It was funny! Alibert ...you should write a blog"
The tug of the persistent, unitary self. That's what I'm like.
1Well, the first one on my CV, anyway, but in reality my second. My first job, forgotten now, I walked out on after 6 months.
2yes, it was like When Harry met Sally