“Show me where it hurts”, she said.
“It hurts everywhere”, I replied.
I placed my hand on my heart and said, “Here”.
I’d been referred to a consultant rheumatologist after I was refused critical illness insurance. Blood tests had shown something amiss and from the hieroglyphic data sent by the lab, the insurers were convinced I was demonstrating an unusual amount of musculoskeletal stiffness for someone my age. They didn’t give a damn about the diagnosis but they were buggered if they were going to underwrite my career should I suddenly seize up, turn into The Tin Man and then have to spend the rest of my working life propped up on a chaise longue, crushing grapes between tongue and palate, while being oiled.
It didn’t take the consultant long to ferret out a few areas of chronic stiffness, a few things that were pretty much rigid and might never move again and just one relatively bendy patch where my morality was located. We did not even think to explore my mental inflexibility which by common consent is incurable. She did not need to place a cold stethoscope on my warm chest to see if the source of most acute pain was internal or external. Even a deaf doctor would recognise the arrhythmic beating of a broken heart but this was not her field of expertise. The tears welling in her canthi might have been those of sympathy although just as easily a manifestation of the sadness she must feel, earning a living from examining semi-naked men.
Plan A, settled upon in 1989 then, was to make a fortune in the City and retire before the age of forty to live in the Hotel Whoopee, squiring showgirls and lobbing empty champagne bottles into the swimming pool below. Plan B, gradually revealing itself over three decades, was to contract some kind of debilitating but not embarrassing illness, which would prevent me from working and allow me to live off my employment insurance.
I sat there with the air of one of those characters in a Dickens novel who waits outside the bed chamber with epic stoicism for the death of elderly but wealthy relatives. It appears I might have left it too late because what I thought was just the result of just too much footy and not enough yoga, all straining, no stretching, may actually be a degenerative condition. It could just be MiFID. It has brought the markets and my career to a halt and now perhaps renders my frame sclerotic. Maybe a body turning to stone is the revenge life takes on a man who chooses money over love in life. For the record, I made no conscious choice between either. Both proved unobtainable but while the latter would have been lovely I got warmer with the former.
Whether I would be suppler if I hadn’t spent so long sitting on my arse staring at stock prices is open to debate. If I remain seated at my desk for more than half an hour and then stand up to walk to the fridge or the bathroom I must undergo a process of evolution from all-fours to erect and upright before I reached the end of our row. Colleagues, unfamiliar with the inelasticity of my limbs, watch me limp along the aisle and assume I have been waitressing at the Presidents’ Club dinner or finally taken client advice and self-impaled on my telephone handset.
I tried one of those hot yoga classes at lunchtime in the gym near the office but that didn’t work at all. It wasn’t tiring or productive because there was not one exercise I could complete without having the instructor pin all of my reluctant body-parts in place. Work-station callisthenics are not conducive to human dignity and in this business above all others, you don’t want to be the bloke bending over and touching his toes at his desk because the literal has a habit of becoming the figurative in this game.
Standard emollients have proven unreliable. Anaesthetic gels make you smell like a men’s changing room and spoonfuls of cod-liver oil acted as emetics. The manipulations of a masseuse may soften some tissues but they seem to have the opposite impact on others and also I’m worried about my environmental footprint because there has been so much baby oil splashed over this body in my lifetime I think I’ve created an underground lake of my own somewhere. Maybe the nearby sea of my tears contains an enzyme to neutralise it but I’m convinced about that.
At Chaucer Securities I had one those height-adjusting standing desks which definitely helped, although the temptation was to raise it to the shoulder and then slump over it and sleep. Ergonomic chairs are now ubiquitous in the City but I always seem to end up with the duff one which refuses to flex and has a gammy arm. Nothing seems to help. The back locks. The knees crackle like crisp packets when I stand. Slouching aches. Worst of all is the wondering why my wife is so anxious that I take out enhanced life assurance and critical injury coverage. Does she know something I don’t? Gentle Reader, if you hear the Pained Trader has slipped into a persistent vegetative state after receiving a non-specific blow to the head from an unknown assailant then use this column as evidence.
Her apparently innocuous explanation for insisting on these fallbacks is the relentlessly pessimistic updates I provide her with on the parlous condition of Meta-Cynical, Post-Modern Stockbroking In The Time Of MiFID and my forecast longevity practising it. Whatever her intentions, she’s opened up a can of worms. I was only trying to pull a long-term sickie and now I think I’m dying and there is no unguent for that specific ailment. I always think I’m under-clubbing it. Maybe I’m overdoing it. They say it’s impossible to assimilate all of the beauty in this world until you see it for the last time. I don’t know if I can say the same about the City.