Marescz is a bit drunk on this festive Friday. He is from Warsaw, almost straight off the boat, but unlike his compatriots, he isn't a cleaner or plumber. He is a 'pinstripe'; a City trader. 'I'm sorry,' he says. 'No need to apologise,' retorts Jez, an architect. 'We all have crosses to bear.' 'No, for being drunk,' replies Marescz. 'I celebrate. I have my bonus - GBP105,000 [HK$1.6 million]!' Jez tells him to invest it: at the bar. He does. But instead of the usual Staropramen beer, he buys champagne. It's a bit 1980s, but we don't complain. Nasdrovia - cheers. It's not a white Christmas in the City; it's a golden Christmas. London's Square Mile is awash with cash, the City having just pipped New York to the title of world financial capital. In a recent poll, London beat New York in all indices save for quality of life. Last year, 419 firms listed in London, more than twice that of the Big Apple. After the Enron scandal and 9/11, the booming Russian, Arab, Chinese and Indian economies prefer to do business in Manhattan-on-Thames. Bonuses are up almost 20 per cent, and some 4,200 people were handed GBP1 million each. Daily life appears unaffected, at first glance. But the signs are there - in the long cab queues, the burgeoning number of bars, and in property prices. As The Sunday Times put it, money, like death, travels in black. Fleets of black cabs ferry City staff to the Square Mile and Canary Wharf, from 5am. Then back home again at 6pm, when it becomes nigh impossible to hail a cab. It is no accident that, since the Big Bang of financial deregulation in 1986, London homes have quadrupled in price to an average GBP269,000, spurred by unregulated City bonuses. A friend bought her small, two-bedroom home in De Beauvoir Town for GBP200,000 in 2004. She sold it last week for GBP365,000. A City trader paid her in cash. Now, just 800 metres away, the former owners - teachers and web designers - are milking the boom and selling up. Around these enclaves, former canal-side warehouses or offices are now lofts - at an average price of GBP250,000 for a one-bedroom flat. On Kingsland Road, a City artery, some 150 units in three developments all went from 'For Sale' to 'To Let' in three weeks. The average rent is GBP1,400 a month, and they were let within four weeks. The local pubs have changed, too: they're full of bankers in stripey shirts. Last week, the local landlord boasted he'd sold a month's supply of champagne in three days. Even the muggers are feeling the boom. Robberies, says the local residents' association, are up. Not that the teachers or artists are getting mugged. Savvy criminals don't target plain old teachers when there are champagne-addled, bonus-rich City types such as Marescz about. I do hope he got home safely.