“Alexa: find me a new wife.” It shouldn’t be too difficult for a smart speaker to match-make a billionaire one hundred and thirty — make that sixty-five — times over. Moreover, if she can’t, then a byline like that on Jeff Bezos’s Tinder biography can. Even the most fastidious of dating site suitors won’t immediately swipe left (inexpert in this forum, I had to check the direction of swipe with a colleague who is) as she (or he, being politically correct, I suppose) might otherwise do when confronted with a profile photograph resembling one of the more outlandish creatures from Tolkien’s legendarium.
The first Monday in January, when most marriages buckle under the cumulative strain in the aftermath of Christmas and the onset of an abstemious period, now has semi-official designation as ‘Divorce Day’. The world’s richest man barely made it past. He was one day late. Perhaps he ordered a divorce on Amazon Prime? Maybe his wife was disappointed with her gift. Expectations must be high when your husband doesn’t just have an account on Amazon — he actually owns it.
I read the statement announcing the split and was confused to read they’d decided on this after “a long period of loving exploration”. Is 'loving' there an adjective? Were they seeking new frontiers like Columbus, hand-in-hand, or is that a euphemistic metaphor for prolonged intimacy/swinging? Alternatively, is 'loving' there a verb? They really enjoyed travelling intrepidly but now they don't?
If I were divorcing (I'm in the middle of a three-week pink ticket while my wife is away and it might have already happened for all I know) and I ran a listed corporation, the share price of which would be extremely sensitive to a news story like this, I would be much more precise with my language.
What was it that first attracted you to the plutocratic president/CEO and founder of the world’s largest company by market capitalisation?
One’s first instinct on reading a headline like "World’s richest bloke to divorce" is to think, “Ooh, that’s got to hurt in the morning”, followed by "Short the $hit out of that stock". If I could reverse that thought process, then I might have one of the essential ingredients forming the basis of a trader. Thing is, though, Jeff Bezos could live to a hundred, losing $1bn annually, and still number among the richest men in the world. Even without an hermetically sealed pre-nuptial agreement, he could remarry, divorce, halve his wealth half a dozen times and still have a chunk of change left over.
I could not. I’ve looked at the worst-case scenario (usually, it’s the same as the eventual scenario) and I know for certain that in the event of me being served papers on January 7 one year, then my wife, an accountant, a CFA, an analyst, a fund manager, a business entrepreneur and an administrative genius, would, in figurative — perhaps literal — terms, systematically dismember and reduce me to my component parts, no quarter given, let alone a half. She would divide everything in two — and then take both halves.
To the untrained eye it may not appear so, but for three decades I have worked extremely hard (in my own way) for everything I’ve got. Shuffling in of a morning, leaking shoes and shiny-ar$ed, threadbare suit, that I’ve got nothing is beside the point. I can’t afford to lose it and start all over again. The City is splattered with veterans who made a pile and then lost it all when the wife ran off with the tennis coach or he succumbed to the familiar charm of his secretary. To think of ceding everything and beginning again from scratch is unbearable to contemplate. Already I see vultures perched on the roof of my house.
To conflate two Kiplings: "If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss"… then, "You’re a better man than I am". You lost me at ‘winnings’, Rudyard.
Not even a fortnight into the New Year and already the Solzhenitsyn of the City is fighting a desperate, existential rearguard action.
Veganuary is meant to herald an embargo on booze, meat and dairy products, but no one mentioned anything about orders. Maybe clients have put me on the 5+2 diet whereby they don’t trade with me for five days and then I have two days off?
Akratic at the best of times, I never subject myself to a punishing regime of self-denial at the time of year when you most need comfort and consolation but if everyone else is, then Neronian Bacchanalia can be a lonely project. I’m not sure what the point is anyway. Who wants five years of incontinence and senility added on to the end of one’s life? I think I’m in my time-added-on already.
Last Friday, when the imperative to find someone with whom to share a bottle of wine and life’s sorrows was at its most pressing, I couldn’t find anyone who was not on board the same, terribly overloaded, triple-decker wagon. In January, too much drink is barely enough. The month is sufficiently bleak and penitential without adopting the puritanical approach. I must negotiate Twelfth Night, Divorce Day, Russian Orthodox New Year, Blue Monday, and my birthday/Holocaust Remembrance which unfortunately coincide. You can’t get through that on fruit juice.
In any case, how mad can you go in the post-Mifidian, no inducements era? If I took one of my clients for lunch every day, I’d be eating al desko by Friday.
I did receive one of Jeff Bezos’s smart speakers as a Christmas present and should bring it to the office. “Alexa: get me an order and when you’ve done that, find someone who’ll take a glass with me afterwards.” I like Alexa: she’s submissive and her volume level can be voice-activated lower. Bereft of the attributes of a conversationalist (me not her) I find our dialogue uncomplicated.
I did, though, finally persuade one brave, beautiful soul to take the plunge and accept my Mephistophelean offer of a two-hour, two bottler in a cosy French bistro one otherwise forgettable day this week. Huddled up against the raw, wintry elements outside, with the failing light and afternoon lapsing into premature evening as though the sun couldn’t be bothered to hang around, lunch glowed like an ember in the hearth and you cradle those moments in the hands like a couple of natiform mozzarellas.
If culture is what remains when you’ve forgotten everything you’ve read, lunch is what will linger when the City has crumbled to dust.
What will survive of us is lunch.