High finance and the bloke in the pub

Bill - the Banker
Joe – the Public
Jack – the Landlord

Saturday night in the Kings Arms pub – 11th October 2008

‘Hi Joe!’

‘Hello Bill. How goes it?’

‘So so, so so. What ya having Joe?’

‘I’ll have a pint thanks Bill.’

‘Two pints please Jack and I’ll have a double whisky chaser.’

‘Cor... you’re a bit flush aren’t ya Bill?’

‘Well, actually Joe I’m just trying to drown my sorrows. It’s been a bloody awful week!’

‘That’ll be £9.60 please Bill.’

‘Hold on a second Jack. Joe could you lend me £20 quid ‘til Friday?

‘But Bill, I’m skint. You always say you’ll pay me Friday and you never do.’

‘I know Joe. I’m sorry. I’m a bit short of the readies at the moment. What you might call a temporary liquidity crisis. Just let me have some cash to pay Jack and I’ll tell you all about it.’
‘Thanks Joe. You’re a real pal. Let’s sit down over here.’

‘I just can’t keep lending you money Bill. I have trouble making ends meet as it is, let alone forking out to you all the time–especially when you are always chucking it around like water. You’ve bought that great big house and you’ve got those flash sports cars sitting in the drive.’

‘I think you’re right Joe. Lending me the odd ten and twenty quid for a few days is just not doing it for me. I need something bigger and longer term.’

‘What do you mean longer term? How long?’

‘Well, like permanent really.’

‘So I’ll never get it back!’

‘No. No. Joe. I’d let you have it back sometime. Anyway you wouldn’t be giving it to me. It would be like an investment. I’d give you a receipt – like a share certificate.

‘So, how much are you talking about?’

‘I was thinking of £50 billion if that’s OK with you?’

£50,000,000,000! You must be kidding me!

Anyway, if I give you £50,000,000,000 you won’t be coming asking me for any more will you?’

‘I’d like to say no Joe, but I can’t be sure. I might need a few quid by way of a short term sub towards the end of the week.’

‘How much is a few quid?’

‘Well, £200 billion... could be as much as £400 billion if things get really tight. It’s not just for me you understand. I’d spread it around the family. They’re all strapped for cash at the moment.’

‘How did you get into such a mess Bill? I always thought you were good with money.’

‘Well, it all started as a bit of a game round our Audrey’s place after we had a few bevies one Sunday lunch time. Aunt Maude was saying how she was short of cash and that she wanted to lend her Wayne some money for a new skateboard. I saw Aunt Maude sneak upstairs, get a load of her old bingo tickets that she kept in a cardboard box under the bed and stuff them into a big brown envelope. Then she sealed it up and wrote a figure on the front of it.’

‘What sort of figure?’

‘You know an amount of money. She wrote £100 on it.’

‘Anyway, she came back downstairs and asked if anyone wanted to buy the envelope. She said that she would let it go cheap at £90. Audrey, always with an eye for a bargain, jumped at the chance. Little Jimmy, he’s only five but pretty streetwise, told Audrey not to hand over the dosh without seeing what was in the envelope. Aunt Maude shuffled over to little Jimmy, clipped him round the ear, looked Audrey straight in the eye and assured her that there was £100 in the envelope. Little Jimmy, still nursing his throbbing ear, piped up with some smart Alec remark like: ‘Why don’t you use the cash in the envelope to buy the skateboard?’ Aunt Maude glared at Jimmy who made a fast exit into the back yard. Audrey opened her purse and counted out the £90, handed it to Aunt Maude and took the envelope’.

‘Well, we had a few more beers and I got to thinking about this envelope malarkey. I grabbed an old Oxfam envelope that I found wedged down the sofa, stuffed it with some empty sweet papers that were in the bin, sealed it up, wrote £1000 on the front of it and asked if anyone would give me £800 for it. Ron, from next door produced his own envelope with £5000 written on it and handed me the envelope together with a crumpled tenner and that clinched it for me.’

‘A couple of hours and quite a few beers later we were all at it. A lot of the neighbours had joined in as well. The numbers had gone up to funny money. Some people were selling envelopes with £100 million written on them for twenty five quid. It was, like, amazing! I found out there’s a name for it you know. It’s called trading securitised investments. Those City bankers do it all the time.’

‘It was our Audrey that buggered everything up. She couldn’t resist opening the envelope. When she found the old bingo tickets she had a real barney with Aunt Maude. They haven’t spoken since. Some others opened the envelopes as well but most of us have kept them sealed. I’ve got around 50 of them worth £500 million altogether. The trouble is sometimes I wonder if they are worth that much........... Anyway, it’s been enough to make us all a bit suspicious and we’ve stopped passing around the envelopes or lending money to anyone now.’

‘You numbskull Bill, they are worth sod all!’

‘You don’t know that Joe. Not for certain, not without seeing what’s inside.’

‘Well, open the bloody things then and we’ll see!’

‘No Joe. You just don’t understand high finance. It’s not what’s in the envelopes that count. It’s what people think is in them. It’s all a matter of trust and confidence.’

‘Well I don’t trust you a bloody inch!’

I’m sorry about that Joe. What I was going to suggest is that you give me the £50 billion cash and maybe another £200 billion or even £400 billion in loans and things and you can sleep easily knowing that I have got all this money in the envelopes to repay you.

‘But there’s only bingo tickets and sweet papers in the envelopes you nitwit!’

‘I tell you what Joe, to make you feel happier I’ll let you buy the envelopes in return for the cash. My cousins in America did this recently.

‘Just sod off and leave me alone!’

‘Think carefully before you say no to me Joe. Remember what is at stake here. If you don’t let me have this cash then the world as we know it will end. The sun will set in the sky tonight and never rise again. Be afraid, be very afraid.’

‘Anyway it’s for your sake Joe, not mine. I’m doing this for you.’

‘What do you take me for a bloody idiot!’

‘It’s ignorant people like you Joe, who don’t understand high finance, that have caused this mess in the first place!’

Tim Hart
11th October 2008

Bookmark and Share