By Richard Matthews May 6th 2018
It is always incredibly pleasing when an article you’ve written is well received and doubly so when people featured in it contact you to express their agreement, amusement or just plain satisfaction with what you’ve written and last week was one of those weeks. Friends who I have not heard from in years contacted me and reminded me of stories associated with TITS whilst others reminded me to have no regrets and to be honest I don’t have too many. Just good memories of people such as lovely Lucy from Easy computers who tried to help us, the “Dinner Ladies” who were the women who brokered mortgages from part of the office led by Heather from IMS and parties where Cheesy encouraged people to dive though inflatable rings in the swimming pool. A ring that not even Lucy,who miraculously squeezed into her clothes, could have squeezed through.
I reflected on all this memories whilst I was in Madrid this last week and more pertinently about someone who never visited the office, Douglas. Now Douglas was a neighbour of mine up in the mountains of Granada but not just any neighbour he was the most extraordinary friend and on occasion’s dangerous drinking partner. He came from the south west of England and had the burr to his voice that identifies people from that area. A big man of maybe Six foot two or six foot three with a handshake or more often a slap on the back that sent shudders through the body. Bearded always immaculately dressed and rarely without a cigarette puffing away. He was part of an extraordinary group of people that I had first encountered when I moved to Spain from the UK. Ranging from heiresses to a retired Latvian smuggler and his American wife Phyllis …who had been a book keeper in a casino in Havana. Need I say more?
Douglas, pronounced Dooooglas by every Spaniard was different. Doug loved a pretty woman and indeed one evening over a long supper tried to seduce, in order of appearance, my mother in law, my sister in law and our daughter all to no avail. I’m sure he won’t mind me mentioning that he was, as the Spanish say, a Viejo Verde. He had several passions, alongside chasing women, including rose gardening in the nude by the full moon (his garden still has over a thousand species of roses) whilst living by an Ermita ( Spanish for an isolated chapel) to Fatima and every year he helped to finance her Saint’s day but our joint passion was football. He had wonderful connections in football with Real Madrid and through these into Telefonica. Telefonica were, and probably still are, a living nightmare to deal with and in the end destroyed TITS as they were unable or unwilling to supply a decent internet connection for us but not without Douglas trying every contact he had to help me and boy did he have some contacts. I will forever be grateful to Douglas for trying to do this and I remembered him this week as the last time we were meant to go to football together was the last time Arsenal played in Madrid in 2006 when they came away with a famous result and he cancelled at the last minute only to die eight months later.
Douglas always tried to get me to look beyond my own nose about Spain and realise the connections that it had through South America and to see that was really where the business opportunities lay. As anyone who has ever visited the Casa de Contratación in Sevilla will tell you the Spanish Empire was every bit as big and influential as the British Empire and those old ties via language and institutions still run deep. With the news of Argentinian forcing interest rates up to 40% last week the reverberations will surely be felt in the Spanish banking and industrial sector.
Those of us with long memories will cast our minds back to the 1980’s and the lost decade caused by the Latin American debt crisis. It is obviously too early to compare what is happening to that dire period but the risk of contagion is certainly real. After the U.S. employment and earnings figures last week showed virtually full employment in the States and wages starting to increase the threat of US inflation returning and encouraging a more hawkish stance from the fed is certainly upon us. Reading the numbers and taking into account the empirical evidence there seems to be a shortage of skilled workers which will exacerbate the inflationary fears as “tax” dollars return to the States and create further demand for labour. There are already some signs of emerging markets being pressured as dollars fly the roost and as I wrote earlier in the year the LIBOR/OIS is worth watching as rates rise and fears of a Latin American default hit the market.
A time for safe haven investments and currencies appears to be on us and Sterling will of course be caught in the crossfire. Things could turn really ugly for targeted currencies if Donald Trump ever decides to reinforce his trade with an infantry of interest rates which cannot be discounted. All of course a long way from the beautiful Ermita that Douglas used to live beside and pictured at the start of this column. It seems apt to write about Fatima’s acolyte this week as next Saturday is Fatima’s day and hopefully will be celebrated in the style that Douglas brought to everything he did and may she continue to look over us. Oh and the Nun? Well all I can say is that Douglas had apparently attempted to seduce a Nun one day only to be rebuffed at the last hurdle when he revealed to her that the key to his heart was her making love whilst in her habit which proved to be a step too far.
Richard Matthews started his journey in broking in 1973, is a former trader-broker in the London money, futures and foreign exchange markets Twitter @dickiematthews5 www.theotherdoor.co
I was never really sure of Doug’s surname as it seemed to change on quite frequent occasions. I heard one day that he had fallen from a Plum tree where he had climbed to pick a particular Rose for a woman he was having supper with. He never recovered and died a few months later in October 2006 at 63. I went to his funeral where it turned out he had 5 ex-wives (he had only ever admitted to two) and one of them had stroke at the wake. Gone but never forgotten.