A whole Stilton moon illuminated the garden when I rose this morning. The heaventree of stars hung with humid night-blue fruit.
The fence-posts cast long shadows across the field behind, and beneath the few thin skeins of mist which hovered there I saw the skulking silhouette of a familiar sight: suburban fox. I went downstairs to where Pablo, the husky puppy, was coiled on his mat, lifted one of his floppy ears, whispered in it “Kill”, opened the back door and let slip my dog of war.
And so began another day of post-modern stockbroking in the time of MiFID.
I had to climb into the saddle (of my bike, not my horse) and so didn’t stay to see the outcome of the breathless chase across the grass. I do not know whether cunning Vulpes made it to the bushes and went to ground before Pablo closed him down, or whether Richmond’s apex predator came back having dismembered him like a Saudi dissident or just panting vaporous, doggy breaths, having missed out on the quarry again. If mutt takes after master, that’s probably what happened.
I thought about the foxy margin between life and death on the ride into the City. Was strewing the contents of our recycling bin and laying yet another acrid foxmerd on my lawn a crime for which he must pay with his life? Would my callous act demand retribution from the gods and bring down their vengeance upon me? Moreover, hadn’t I once enjoyed one of the loveliest evenings of my life in the beer garden of The Fox Goes Free near Goodwood? That was no way to repay the memory of the fox brush of fortune having tickled my bits. I suffered the agonies of Raskolnikov for the 12 mile journey to the office.
As soon as I arrived, I called my daughter at home, to find her unhappy at being woken so early on half-term holidays. The sun had not yet bothered to rise and nor had she. I told her to go outside and check if she could see a fox carcass, gruesome remains or such like in the back garden or whether Pablo’s jaws were smeared with blood and guts.
“No blood to be seen and the dog is on his mat, chewing a plastic shoetree and the TV remote”, she reported. I might have got away with it.
You see, it might surprise you, Gentle Reader, to learn that contemptuous of religion though this miscreant may be, he is as irremediably and debilitatingly superstitious as a 19th-century Russian serf and he feels as though every misfortune which occurs in this life – and they are legion — is owing to some crime he has committed against the natural order of things.
If everything is not just so, if anything is displaced, then I regard it as inevitable I shall be thwarted in all my undertakings. Celestial punishment is my just deserts. Every project fails and things generally turn to shit. I struggle to reconcile my devout atheism with this addiction to false beliefs but it doesn’t stop me nonetheless.
This is why it’s not even worth bothering to come to work when I have a hangover because the daily rhythm is broken, habits collapse and there’s no way the stockbroking spirits will favour me when I’m crapulous, late and redolent of the odours of the tavern.
If it wasn't for bad luck...
To be clear, I am not talking about just avoiding cracks in the pavement or sub-ladder perambulation. I mean investing almost every act in the stockbroking day with a ritualistic property which, if neglected, guarantees my luck will oscillate only gently between the merely bad and the excremental.
I dress in the same order in the morning and take the same route to work, avoiding the same big grids or patches of degraded road surface. I complete the same half-hour of circuit training, use the last shower cubicle on the right (any intruders are given a hard glare) and lather body parts consecutively. After drying body parts in the same order, meticulous attention must be paid to ensure socks, undercrackers, cufflinks, pocket square and all items of clothing harmonise or complement. One mismatch and the day is ruined.
The desk is kept obsessively clear of all superfluous items excepting a diary, a pen and a calculator with which I tot up how much commission I am not writing. With my ‘lucky’ pen, I make a note of identical data points every morning and then, in the eyes of my clientele, I’m sure, write the same unsolicited guff afterwards.
The regimen is exhausting and over time tiny bits are added, making the processes ever more elaborate and time-consuming. And here’s the thing: it has no discernible impact. The OCD characteristics build up like silt so you’d think this bizarre irrationality would only be continued because it brings about success, that if I omitted just one step from the routine then the momentum would be lost so it must be maintained at all costs — but you’d be wrong about that. None of it works. It does not bring about the desired effect. All this is simply so it doesn’t get any worse.
Superstition is, by definition, irrational and when things are undeniably rubbish it seems strange to have an aversion to change — unless, of course, you assume all change is for the worse. After three decades in the City, that’s a safe assumption. What will it be like after Brexit? I hope I never find out and to that end…
…I attended the first protest march of my life last Saturday, as I joined three-quarters of a million fellow remaineurs, strolling through the autumnal sunshine on a day of singular beauty.
Given the density of the crowds, it was more a shuffle, to be honest, and halfway through the admittedly short route, after 90 minutes of tedious waddling, the route took democracy-in-action past my wine club, 67 Pall Mall, which temptation I found overwhelming, as did my fellow walker who had been under the impression she could march in heels.
I bade ‘arriverderci’ to one and all, now mostly sweating and fractious, called off the yomp, stepped inside the high-ceilinged, cathedral to indulgence, flirted with female staff from diverse continental countries, ate an ox-steak from Galicia, accompanied by pommes allumettes (not chips) and sluiced it down with a 2010 Syrah from the northern Rhone that was just coming into its own. What could be more European than that?
As I was leaving, the whole insanity of Brexit was revealed to me in one apocalyptic moment. Collecting my placard (“Snowflakes of the world unite”) from the hatcheck girl in reception, one of the staff members with whom I flirt most shamefully arrived for her shift, dressed in mufti and for once, with her glossy locks let loose. Mwah. Mwah. She is beautifully appellated — in fact, much of her allure derives from her surname, “Kiss”, which I preface, naturally, with ‘Miss’.
She stood on the stairs, blindingly, with sun flung spangles of light angled through the upper windows directly on to her hair and caught me, staring at her thirstily, as several, thought-crime fantasies were brought to bloom in my imagination’s hothouse.
“What are you thinking?” she asked.
Of course, you can never tell women what you’re really thinking. They have minds like the FBI.
I told her about the march and my opposition to Brexit and how it discouraged immigration and inwardly I wondered: how could anyone want to send someone like her home? Unless, of course, it was my home.