They think it’s all over — and they’re right about that. I suppose we can now say officially it is coming home — the England football team, that is – and I’m reminded of that immutable truth: “we hoped for something better but things turned out like they always do.”
A tournament hosted by Russia and a semi-final refereed by a Turk were always going to do for England eventually. For two decades, The Pained Trader has been dealing with the stock markets of both nations so I’ve seen defeat not just rescued from the jaws of victory but retrieved from its digestive tract and surgically removed from its colon.
I know all about the tantalising failure to realise one’s potential at the hands of these two ancient adversaries and the recidivist triumph of hope over experience. Failure is familiar and therefore more easily digested. We know exactly where we are with it whereas ultimate, glorious victory would have been disorienting and destabilising.
The collective mood in the Square Mile rarely matches that in the rest of the country but once every four years it tends to chime as everyone is infected by an epidemic of optimism against which one cannot be inoculated.
High temperatures and endless sunshine contributed to this air of unreality which persisted and led us all to believe that something epochal was taking place. Like the rest of the nation, the City this morning was deflated and suffused with a sense of disappointment. Despair grows like Japanese knotweed in the heart of the English football fan and wraps around it fatally. We need a word to describe this unfortunate exclusion from the World Cup, something catchy, like "Brexit", which conveys its meaning clearly.
I know: "exit".
For the last month, MiFID’s Reign of Terror was temporarily suspended as the footy provided an anaesthetic for trading pain, a valid excuse for non-productivity and a distraction from the unshakeable conviction that we are all done for if things continue as they are.
The last month felt a bit like Christmas: the normal rules of engagement were set aside and it was possible to exhibit a sense of civility to all men and be pleasant to people you don’t really like.
Water-cooler conversation had an obvious starting point, “Did you see that match?” and a straightforward ending, “Where will you watch this match?” rather than half-hearted enquiries about weekends and the weather. If management passed and caught you staring at the television set, gormless and slack-jawed, with the screen gone dead behind you, well, for once this was excusable, because everyone else on the trading floor was watching meaningless encounters between footballing minnows from the emerging world who could not qualify anyway.
What now then for the hapless, hopeless stockmongerer? What can fill this lacuna in the trading day? Broking? Don’t make me laugh. Actually, you can’t.
I’ve arrived back at that point I last recorded in 2009 when I am thrilled to just make it through to Friday not so much because I’m looking forward to the weekend but more because it means I can’t be made redundant for at least three days. In fact, if I just scrape through tomorrow, keeping a low profile and spending large parts of the day hiding in corridors or hunkering down in the handicapped toilet, then chances are my longevity will be extended by several weeks.
The reason being that Salvation Bank is moving offices. We are not going far (indeed, as my manager might point out, I’m going nowhere) but there is and has been a lot of upheaval on the dealing room for weeks and from Monday onwards we will all be occupying new, beautifully-appointed premises a short stroll from where we are now.
I stuck my head round the door yesterday and was impressed by the chill-out areas,
breakout breakdown rooms, refreshment zones, informal seating, carefully landscaped outside space and all the other workplace gimmicks introduced by Silicon Valley nerds and now being propagated by overpaid designers across every bank in the City.
Because we spend so much time here, the bank wants to make us feel like home but for me that just means a huge mortgage and a doghouse where I spend the greater part of my non-working life.
We have a central staircase which leads out onto the rooftop terrace (I have a feeling in my waters they’re going to regret that) a bar (ditto) a wellness sphere (me neither) a men’s locker room with vanity arrangements (me neither). All this is agreeable.
Though there is no teleport facility which can take me away when the pressure becomes unbearable or even a box into which I can crawl for a double-handed head-clutcher, they appear to have thought of everything to make the average employee happy in his surroundings (and most of the things which might keep a below-average employee off the balcony) except for one important thing: how am I going to get an order?
Affording the same storage capacity as a manbag, we have all been issued with hotboxes as standard into which we must tip the entire contents of our pedestal drawers because, it being all like Californian and open-plan ‘n stuff where we sit in future, we are not allowed storage on the desk and surfaces are to be kept clear.
The small cabinet beside me probably contains exactly the same paraphernalia as yours: loose change (diverse currencies) leaking pens, broken pencils, sachets of various sauces, chopsticks, a packet of prophylactics past their sell-by date (like their owner) enough plastic cutlery to kill a whale if he swallowed it, painkillers (no matter how many I have, when the pain comes there are never enough) an extensive collection of men’s toiletries, a perfectly good pair of undercrackers, (I think they are mine) a shoe polishing kit (which is regularly pressed into service on the unbuffable turds which land in my lap with metronomic regularity) and of course, the hip flask containing enough King’s Ginger Liqueur to see me through the hours of darkness between say 7am and 5pm.
I spent ages trying to fit everything into my manbag but it was like trying to force 10lb of horse manure into a 6lb sack and after a careful inventory of all items, I took the booze and the ibuprofen and emptied the rest into the bin.
A few minutes later, I had second thoughts, rummaged around in the bin and salvaged the underwear and the condoms. Then I had third thoughts and discarded those for the final time.
You never know your luck. Well, you don’t but I do.