Monday 15 September 2008

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse ...

14st 2lb; 1.0 unit of alcohol yesterday; 1,239; Dullsville, Arizona.

There are days when it seems impossible to exaggerate the emptiness and futility of my existence, even for comic effect. It comes to something when an earnest consideration of what might qualify as the absolute highlight of the last 24 hours reaches the conclusion that it was receiving a “Be My Friend” request from Facebook. The pointlessness of which is underlined by the fact that I have counted the person concerned as my friend in the non-virtual world for more than seven years.

The economic news remains relentlessly depressing. I do not even have the advantage of being heavily in debt to an institution that might go tits-up and let me off the hook. I’ve paid off my mortgage. But while I was scraping together the funds to do that, halfwitted bankers were apparently falling over themselves to advance considerably more generous mortgages to the rednecked denizens of trailer parks in Shitville, Pennsylavania, despite the fact that they had no visible means of paying for them. Then they cleverly packaged all those mortgages together and started trading them as though they were blue chip securities, picking up whacking bonuses for the brilliance of their financial engineering each time they passed “Go”. As a result of all which, I find my life savings shrinking faster than a small spillage of Perrier in the Sahara. Even before this started, my pension fund was only a third of the size it needed to be to fund retirement in the sort of shabby but vaguely genteel poverty to which I aspire. Now it looks like it might just about buy me an acceptable impaired life annuity if I hang on until the age of 85. Which in itself looks a bit of a long shot in the light of my dodgy genetic inheritance.

As for my free-falling share portfolio – well, it would be a lot less annoying if I hadn’t rung up my broker in June with the firm intention of selling everything and squandering it all on opera tickets and dinners in top restaurants. Only to be persuaded that this would be the most dreadful mistake, as the market would have picked up nicely by the autumn. Oh yeah? He did not actually quote that old Throgmorton Street mantra “Sell in May and go away; don’t come back till St Leger day”, but I could tell that he was thinking it. Which is fine. In my experience it’s being too clever by half that gets you into real trouble on the stock market, not the opposite. But, while I know as little about racing as about any other sport, I am dimly conscious of the St Leger having been run on Saturday, and you would need to have the luck and judgement of Gordon Brown to have made a killing on that and then ploughed it into the stock market when it opened this morning.

I took the dog for a walk this afternoon, and turned over ideas for an incisive column about it all for the business section of the paper. I am torn between horror at the seriousness of the situation and the irresponsible but persistent voice in my head which keeps praying, “Please God, let Goldman Sachs go bust.”

After a day of quite spectacular non-achievement, I went to bed and belatedly realized that the noises from upstairs I had been hearing all evening, and dismissed as being down to the dog playing a vigorous game with himself, were in fact the result of structural groans and thumps coming from the point where my bedroom floor meets the front wall of the house. Perhaps a sign of settlement following all the rain of recent weeks, though I am at all not sure that 130-year-old houses should suddenly be starting to get comfortable on their foundations. Perhaps, like the capitalist system, the whole thing is about to disappear into a large hole, leaving only a cloud of dust behind.

And thanks to my Prudence – and I haven’t got the patience to type out the number of noughts that would be required to set out the multiple of mine over Gordon’s – I won’t even have the satisfaction of being able to ring up some mortgage company and tell them that it is their problem.

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