As a personal finance journalist, it is sometimes good to be reminded of how your work is perceived from the outside.
It does not always make for pleasant listening.
I recently spent a lovely Sunday in deepest Oxfordshire running the Steeple Barton Chase. It is an undulating 10-kilometre course, most of it across the private land of Philip and Jane Fleming – part of the Robert Fleming banking dynasty.
Although the run turned out to be 6.49 miles (10.44 kilometres) rather than the advertised 6.21 miles, I would not have missed it for the world. By the end I was totally exhausted and suitably flushed but exhilarated at the same time. In the rudest of good health.
Afterwards, I did not get the opportunity to walk around the 15 acre gardens belonging to the Fleming’s Barton Abbey – by appointment only – but by all accounts they are splendid. A picturesque lake, a walled garden, yew hedges and espalier fruit are just a few of the treats on offer.
But I did manage to hobble my way down to the nearby Oxford Canal where a sumptuous picnic was enjoyed while narrow boats idled their way past the bulrushes, ready to negotiate the nearby lock.
My companion for the day was a financial adviser I have known for more than 20 years. Someone I see once in a blue moon. All convivial, especially when the bottle of Cremant was extracted from the cool bag she was carrying on her back, complete with glasses.
But as the bubbles started to flow and the organic salmon and cream cheese sandwiches were consumed, I was given a little bit of a dressing down. "Why are you always so negative as a personal finance commentator?" I was asked. ‘Is negativity in your DNA or do you just see no good in the financial services sector or, for that matter, anyone or anything? Why not praise once in a while? You might feel better as a result."
After the bubbles had gone up my nose – almost as a mark of respect for the comments aimed in my direction – she got me thinking. Am I negative for the sake of being negative? Am I just a clone of The Daily Mail, always complaining and picking fault with everyone?
The more I contemplated the more I realised that the financial adviser was spot on. My middle name has become negative. Jeffrey Negative Prestridge.
She mentioned the last article she had read that had been penned by my good self – an attack on the bloated executive pay enjoyed by the country’s building society bosses and in particular the £1m plus remuneration package awarded to Skipton boss David Cutter for his work during 2017.
She did not even refer to The Mail on Sunday comment piece that had been published on the day we met – presumably because she had had better things to do with her life that very morning before meeting me than read more negative views.