‘The Steeple Times’ asks banker and author David Gigauri: “What’s on your mantelpiece?”
The Steeple Times shares “wit and wisdom”. What’s your guiding force?
I want to believe that I follow a Gandhi-esque approach to life and that being good and positive will always realise a good and positive result. That said, I am not naïve by any means and a mini Machiavelli can occasionally be seen piloting the Gigauri ship.
“Don’t get even, get medieval” is, in our humble opinion, a great motto. What’s yours?
I quite like a quote by a 12th century Georgian poet Rustaveli – “Nothing Flows Out Of a Pitcher Except That Already Inside It”. It makes sense to me two-fold. Firstly, don’t expect from people anything beyond their capabilities. Secondly, keep working on yourself to fill that ‘pitcher’.
Kerry Katona was considered unacceptable in 2007. Who or what is unacceptable in 2015?
The attention seeking process of throwing cold water over oneself and posting it all over social media last year, while not even intending to contribute any money to charity, or even knowing what ALS stood for (not to mention the amount of water wasted during that process).
Tony Blair misses being Prime Minister. What do you miss most in your life?
I only miss people who were close who have now either passed or moved elsewhere. I have very little attachment to anything else.
What might you swap all your wealth for?
Clearly, something supernatural, like the Genie’s magic lamp, which offers a very generous three wishes. If it was in real life however, I would probably opt to convert everything into a balanced portfolio of highly liquid blue-chip stock.
Donald Trump was once a case of: “If you owe the bank a thousand, they close you down; but if you owe the bank a billion, you own the bank”. What’s your view on the banking crisis?
My view is that it is a decadal occurrence, with its roots linked to insatiable human appetite. People quickly become comfortable with the new improved reality, whatever it may be, and demand more at an even quicker pace. In the words of Socrates: “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have”. So, people borrowed, then they borrowed against what they acquired on the borrowed, and so on until it became unsustainable. At the start of the new cycle, everything is structured to cater for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s wants, which are inexhaustible. It is only a matter of time before people will forget this period of stress and new financial products – that are beyond the means of the majority – will be offered to enhance one’s well-being and we will be again at square one.
What phrase or word do you most loathe?
There is no word or phrase as such, but most hypocorisms ending on –z or –zza are horrendous. Why do this to what otherwise are very nice names? ‘Madge’ for ‘Madonna’ is also quite terrible.
In the UK, some people consider charity to “begin at home”. What’s your view and what causes do you personally support?
I agree. I have Georgian roots, so I am actively involved in numerous Georgia related charitable and cultural initiatives. Most of these are UK or cross-border projects, with few directly in Georgia. The range of projects varies from preserving Georgian cultural heritage at such institutions as Oxford University, the British Library, the Royal Asiatic Society amongst others and establishing new links, for example between Newcastle and Akhlatsikhe (Georgian NewCastle). I am the vice-chairman of the British Georgian Society, an ambassador for the cARTveli Art Foundation and advisor to the boards of two Georgia based charities.
The judge in Law Abiding Citizen states: “I can pretty much do whatever I want” before being blown up whilst answering her mobile phone. What’s your view on the appropriate use of such devices?
A mobile phone, or a smartphone even, is a genius little device that on daily basis is saving us hours on administrative tasks, that just few years back would have required physical trips to the bank or long exchanges with automated operators. But, since now our phones talk to us more than we talk through them, they should be treated as a ‘third person’ and hence be subject to much stricter etiquette. You would not just turn up to a business meeting or a date with an uninvited person who keeps on vibrating and beeping at you.
If you could fill a carriage on The Orient Express, who would be your fellow passengers?
I love history and archaeology, so I would like to share a trip with some of the big explorers such as Vasco da Gama, Pietro Della Valle and Heinrich Schliemann. Political figures that influenced major events from behind the scenes would also be fascinating, so I would invite Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, John D. Rockefeller, Cardinal Richelieu and Cleopatra. I would also not mind being joined by someone living and good-looking. Charlotte Casiraghi of Monaco would be perfect.
If you were unfortunate enough to end up on death row, what would be your last meal and where would you eat it?
My last meal would be quite simple, Shotis bread and Gudis sheep cheese. This combo evokes the most vivid memories of my grandparents. Are we allowed to have a starter and dessert? I would not mind a heated baguette with butter and caviar. This, too, brings back very pleasant childhood recollections. I would finish with some dulce de leche layered walnut cake topped with meringue. I would definitely like to eat it outdoors: Somewhere in the countryside under the sun, next to a forest would suit perfectly.
What time is it acceptable to consume the first drink of the day?
I would suggest we look to words of the Persian poet Omar Khayyam:
“By day and night, with strains of music, drink! Where’er thou lightest on a cup of wine; Spill just one drop, and take the rest and drink!”
He is clearly indicating that it is OK to drink regardless of the time of day and I tend to agree.
A Negroni, a martini or a cup of tea?
A Negroni, except for after 2am; then tea.
Whose parties do you enjoy the most and why?
A party of just one interesting person is more enjoyable than a huge ball of mediocre people with lots of entertainment, music and food. Thankfully there are a great deal of interesting people in London, so too many mention here.
Who is the most positive person you know?
Baloo from The Jungle Book: He is a talking bear, so I guess he qualifies as a person.
What’s your most guilty pleasure?
I don’t feel guilty at all about any pleasures.
If a tattoo were to sum you up, what would it be of?
A heptagram, a seven-pointed star. I have always felt a strong affiliation with this symbol.
If you were a car, what marque would you be?
A 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith. One was given as a gift by my great-uncle Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia to his wife, the cosmetics queen, Helena Rubenstein.
Cilla Black presented Surprise, Surprise. Tell us the most surprising thing about you.
Even though I can’t cook, I have written a cookbook, Be My Guest, with Anna Saldadze.
What’s currently sitting on your mantelpiece?
It is rather crammed. The most interesting piece is a silver sucrier with my grandmother’s monogram “E.G.” (Princess Ekaterina Gurieli) on it. It is the only item that remains from her as the rest was lost on the train fleeing the October Revolution. There is also a Giacometti print of my uncle, Ilia Zdanevich.
David Gigauri is a partner at Gryphon Emerging Markets and the vice-chairman of the British Georgian Society. He is a graduate of University College London and the London School of Economics and wrote Be My Guest with Anna Saldadze in 2013.
Follow him on Twitter at @DGigauri.
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