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Afternoon mint tea by the Thames

Afternoon tea is an English tradition that involves a kind of socialisation by drinking tea and eating snacks like scones or cakes. Today, I drank fresh mint tea and ate my apple, raspberry, and nut cake while watching the boats race by. This afternoon tea was taken after wine, cheese, baguette, oven-roasted tomatoes with fresh basil and olive oil, and salad. And the occasion? to watch the boats being rowed on the River Thames. Or rather, to watch the muscular rowers row their boats from Ham to Greenwhich.

The occasion wasn't as important as the get-together itself. It was the first time, in a long time, that I was invited to someone's house in which no one asked "who do you work for" or "where do you work". In fact, everyone identified themselves as who they were, not who they were associated with.

In the financial district of Singapore, I remember introductions being made on the basis of one's employers. "I work for a consulting firm." Or better yet,"I work for McKinsey." And no one dared ask "who's that?"

In the City (in London), people are equallly "institutionalised." You have to belong to an institution. You don't say,"I'm an investment banker." You say,"I'm at JP."

Today, my host introduced me to two architects, a book designer, a commissioning editor, a curator, and a psychologist. "Meet Anne. She's a pianist, here's her music playing."

What a relief to be introduced as a pianist. Everyone knows what a pianist is and does. But who would know the purpose of an online diarist?

7 September 2002 Saturday

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