The Pained Trader is presently taking a holiday he can scarcely afford in South Africa. He was most grateful to President Zuma for firing the country's finance minister just before he flew out because it weakened the rand by 10%, thereby reducing the loan I must take out to finance a trip booked under the influence of intoxicating liquors.
Zuma took exception to his minister's continued employment after unsuccessfully threatening him with a criminal investigation for bribery. To obviate the problem, he simply tinned him.
This is the democratically elected leader of the biggest economy in the African continent who justified the installation of a swimming pool in the presidential compound, paid for by taxpayers, on the grounds that it was a health and safety feature that could be used to extinguish fires in the event of someone setting the place alight. Fin min Gordhan's successor will be decidedly more malleable when it comes to approving pet projects, I'll wager.
This is meat and drink, of course, to seasoned observers of the emerging markets.
Were I performing my normal function as a low quality commentator and incompetent facilitator of bargains made in that asset class, I would be huffing and puffing about the ethical hazards of investing in economies misgoverned by tin-pot tyrants who, in unguarded moments, wear expressions that give the impression of someone trying to remember a shopping list.
However, I have no skin in the game for now and therefore am able to enjoy the benefit of a discount on my consumption of what's on offer from the South African tourism sector and South African wines of dubious allure.
No animal magic
It seems Africa's wildlife is oblivious to the fortune I have forked out for them to perform their animal magic for the edification of my spoilt and unimpressible teenage children, because they steadfastly refused to make even a guest appearance on the bush drives that bookend the big game hunters' days here.
If I were to come upon the Jackson Five in concert atop a giant termite mound, I would be less surprised than I would to see the Big Five eviscerating each other at a watering hole, which is what I paid (or, more precisely, borrowed) good money to watch.
As the open-sided 4x4 weaves its way through featureless scrub and bush then, with only the odd token ungulate for distraction, the mind of The Pained Trader is free to roam across the imagination's savannah and indulge in his favourite pastime of making everything relate to the City. Everything is relative (except unhappiness, which is absolute).
Survival of the nastiest
Parallels between the Square Mile and the wild are easy to draw: the first law of the jungle — and the City — is survival of the nastiest.
Everyone knows their place in the food chain and it is a given that the humble sales trader occupies the lower echelons of this hierarchy.
Sales traders are the impalas of the City, spending their whole careers on the move, always stepping nervously, sniffing the wind for the faintest whiff of danger from killers such as MiFID or dark pools or electronic trading or any form of disintermediation. Death when it comes is swift and uncompromising.
Every trading floor in the City has its limping impala in particular, and everyone understands intuitively who this is. It is the weakest in the herd. The employee whose position is most precarious and who will be sacrificed first when management decides the numbers are unmanageable for scarce resources and a cull is required. The limping Impala may or may not be self-aware, but when the end comes, no one else is surprised. It was inevitable.
Hedge funds are the apex predators — the panthera leo — afraid of no one but their own, prepared on occasion to take down prey bigger than themselves and, in-between times, happy to lie around in the long grass, pleased with themselves and having their tummies tickled by brokers. They have no need of talons and fangs. They have leverage and toxic derivatives, powerful enough to rip apart any quarry.
Long-only funds are the pachyderms of the financial markets: oversized, cumbersome, gormless-looking but capable of immense destruction.
Bond salesman are the laughing hyenas of the bush, convinced they have a bad reputation for eating what others have worked for but everyone else thinks it's well-deserved.
Researchers are like buffalo. They spend a long time ruminating but all they generate is a lot of dung that spreads everywhere.
For the bonus pool, read watering hole. This is where everyone must come to drink. Hedgies pad down and lap their fill at leisure while smaller beasts must wait and slurp what's left and what's often been pissed in first. There is never enough to go round. It's a perilous spot for animals with no obvious form of defence other than an ability to make themselves scarce, and this is where most kills occur.
Owing to the relative paucity of animals on display in the wild, our field guide made us spend an inordinate amount of time this morning, watching a bull elephant in must trying to stir the curiosity of a she-elephant beside a muddy puddle.
He didn't do very much. He just stood around, trying to get in her way, looking awkward but clearly aroused. She sprayed herself with water from her trunk, gave a little trumpet and a whinny and then sloped off into the undergrowth leaving the male looking lonely and hurt.
It was like every morning beside every water cooler in the City: an over-sexed male looking for relief from his relentless battle for available resources and getting nowhere. Animals are more like people than we know. Me anyway.