Birthday with Laurence

When Laurence met Mimi, a new dimension of life opened for them – and for all of us that knew him. Staten Island, New York replaced Crook, Co Durham; and our imaginations soared at the possibility of such an escape!

Now in Manhattan, I could not resist the chance of meeting up again.

We take Subway line 1 to South Ferry where New York City Department of Transportation’s huge orange ferries carry 20 million passengers each year across the 5.2 miles of Upper Bay to Staten Island. Three minutes from the ferry terminal in Water Street is ‘Standard and Poors‘, one of the big three international credit rating agencies, and famously, the one that downgraded the US long-term credit rating in August 2011. They however, redeemed themselves by likewise downgrading France’s rating in January 2012.

Laurence now holds the post of Director of Governance – a far cry from the English Criminal Bar. Examining and analysing how major economies and international corporations are operating, throws light on what credit facilities can be safely afforded to them. And Laurence assists and advises credit analysts with their reviews of management and governance as a part of the credit rating process. Each day he will take the 25 minute ferry between his fascinating carriage home on Staten and the 39th of 54 stories of 55 Water Street, a building comprising 3.8 million square feet. There he will manage his international team, setting the criteria on which to gauge the health of nations. No N/B 10.30 plea and directions in Middlesbrough now!

We drop down to Battery Gardens overlooking the water front, with views out to Ellis Island. Here is the table Laurence has reserved, where we will drink white wine and take a light lunch under clear blue skies.

Laurence balances the demands of corporate life with gym membership, gardening and entertaining at their Staten Island home, keeping him fit and young. One senses Mimi’s energy as Laurence describes her gradual move from performance to choreography. Today her schedule is too busy to take time away from Staten but she features large in the conversation, especially as I am accompanied by a dancer.

We speak of the change of lifestyle presented by New York, the adjustments and compromises that made the transition possible. Whilst retaining a quintessential  ‘Englishness’, the doctor has assimilated that which is necessary for high-level corporate life. His modesty conceals his determination – that has made him one of the lasting survivors in a harsh commercial environment where employees come and are ‘let go’.

As a large cloud looms, we inevitably speak of the weather – the hot summers where the dash from air conditioned office to the shade of a quayside bar is the challenge – and the cold winters where the ferries weave amongst the Canadian ice flows in the Upper Bay.

And with that and the last sip of wine, the dark cloud releases its burden. Three under an umbrella is a crowd, so Laurence races off towards Water Street and his 39th floor. Shall it be Ground Zero Memorial, or a return to Harlem? With the prospect of ‘Tango Café’ and dancing til dawn, we take the latter, leaving  the ‘standard’ affluent location in Manhattan, for one of the ‘poorer’.