Human capital

View from Pont de la Tour restaurant, London

I am back from two days in London and still thinking about the experience. This was a different trip for me – no museums, no galleries – just long walks, some shopping, some dining, some warming up at the fireplace in the lounge at the hotel. I must not have noticed before, but this is what hit me this time: everybody we dealt with was on top of their game. I think this means if you’re very good at something, you go do it in London. Some outstanding people were:

  • The Albanian head sommelier at Gordon Ramsay’s at Claridge’s. We had very good conversations, both about wines and about Albania.
  • The South Asian saleswoman who sold me two pairs of jeans (Hudson and 7 For All Mankind) after having me try on about a dozen to find, in her opinion, the perfect fit.
  • The young pale blonde English woman who took us through the entire range of Jo Malone fragrances until we found the two that were just right.
  • The Italian maitre and staff at Pont de la Tour, where we had a festive lunch and felt at home despite eating turkey and looking out at Tower Bridge.
  • Everybody at 41 Hotel, including a concierge with the fantastically literary name of Adele Coetzee.
  • The hostess at the lounge we used at Gatwick airport, who gave us a most enthusiastic overview of her facilities and truly looked sorry we couldn’t stay longer when it was time for us to board.

This sample is, I admit, biased towards the retail and hospitality sectors, places with brutal competition where staff can’t help but being eager to please in the current downturn. But if this small sample says something about the quality of human capital in London that holds true across the board, then it must be one of the reasons why London is such a great city.

3 thoughts on “Human capital

  1. Your post reminded me of Major Livingstone’s statement following the July 2005 attacks to London. Here’s an extract:

    “Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

    I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others – that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

    In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

    They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don’t want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.”

  2. I thought about you right yesterday – as I assisted for my first time to a Mass celebrated by a woman priest.

    Actually she was no ordinary preacher, but the bishop of Stockholm – Church of Sweden’s largest diocese. I could not understand a single word of what she said but when she consecrated bread and wine, she radiated a sense of sharing and inclusion that shed a novel light on the meaning of “Communion”.

    2008 was a tough year. Having been blessed by a woman bishop on new year day, I’m confident that 2009 will be better. I wish you and your readers a great 2009.

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