Four course lunches are bad for the digestion

You were the best in town
Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl
You turned it on the world
That’s when you turned the world around

Becker and Fagen

I wrote last week about the demise of Directors lunches and the general shortening of lunch hours to err, well an hour . An hour at the desk eating a sandwich which really does nothing for your digestion or your client relationships. There are, of course days, when you are too busy to get out and then grabbing a snack makes sense indeed there were days on the floor of liffe when you just didn’t leave your booth. Those days especially in Winter seemed particularly tough when for maybe two or three days at a time you didn’t get to see daylight as you came in when it was dark at 6.30 in the morning , didn’t leave the windowless trading floor all day and went home at 6.00 in the gloom of a London Winter. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not complaining just observing and there is not one old floor trader worth his salt who wouldn’t happily go back to those days.

The friendships that were born out of the constant socialising that we indulged in have lasted me a life time and as ive said before the major joy of writing these columns are the names that reappear. As if to illustrate this I was contacted by Andrew Linden last week. Now Andrew, Sapper to all and sundry thanks to his links with the HAC, and I haven’t seen each other for over 40 years but somehow he read my column. How did he find it? God knows but Sapper will reveal all in the near future I hope. Sapper, when I last saw him was an aspiring FX broker in, I think, the now long gone Dollar/Peseta market. I drifted off to futures and ended up as I am whilst Sapper now runs “educational” tours of London called  Perhaps he has contacted me as he wants to expand into a ? If that’s the case, Sapper, I’m your man.

In-lunches weren’t the only dangerous venues we encountered back when we were kings of the markets. There were several restaurants, at the risk of being repetitive, that are forever imprinted on my liver. Let alone pubs, but those especially  “The Bermuda Triangle” of The Deacons, The Green Man and The Mithras can wait awhile. Restaurants. Where do I start? From the Grill and Cheese in Throgmorton Street where I first learnt how to entertain from older brokers we progressed to the more lethal venues such as The City Circle where Richard Reynolds tried to control gay Tony and Big Val and the Paris Grill. Oh yes the original Paris Grill where ties were fair game. Seriously, if exception was taken to the tie you were wearing it was unceremoniously cut in half and pinned to the ceiling. I write this with trepidation as one of my colleagues with a good memory has his eye on a particularly nice tie of mine.

In my very early days wine bars were all the rage and Balls Brother’s must have made a fortune in Gutter Lane and Moore house along with the more traditional , now sadly all victims of the redevelopment of the City , bars such as Coates and the most lethal of all Capitaz where only dry biscuits were served as food. Eating dry biscuits of course had the desired effect of encouraging you to consume more and more wine. Of course things went wrong and colleagues got into terrible states and scrapes. Who can forget “Battling” Bill Hempsell constantly returning after lunch to the broker’s  office who had sacked him for directing the traffic in Moorgate ?Wrong offices returned to by great characters, but of all these misdemeanours the one that sticks in my mind was by a broker with the apt nickname of  Pondlife. If you met , you would know why he gloried in the name. Now one afternoon the character in question had way too much to drink in The Green Man and unfortunately had an accident in his trousers. Luckily he had his Trench coat on, which concealed the mess,  and he rushed into Austin Reed in Cheapside where he grabbed a new pair of underpants and trousers , pushed to the front of the queue and paid for them. He then dashed down to Cannon Street and jumped on his train home, retiring to the on-board loo he rapidly stripped off and threw the offending items out of the train window and opened the Austin Reed bag only to find that in his rush he had picked the wrong bag up and inside it was a jumper. It must have been an interesting conversation with Mrs Pondlife when he eventually got home naked as the day he was born under his treasured trench-coat.

The one thing I learnt about lunch was that a four course lunch, unless you count a Trou Normand as a course, was always too much food and would cause indigestion for hours after. Like an overfull luncher the markets are trying to digest some major issues and find that they too are starting to have trouble. At the moment they are presented with the full four courses and not a freshening sorbet in sight. The cash markets are still moving and the OIS spread still seems wide whilst Gold is in backwardation which I am reliably informed , thank you Spencer Campbell , that it is being used as a short term guarantee. Combined with the inference of flight to quality from the OIS spread this is worrying and it is to be hoped that it is just the internal battles at Deutsche which are causing this.

The tech sell off looks set to carry on as investors query the business ethics of the FANGS and there is the Spotify IPO hanging over the market. It’s hard to see how Spotify ever makes a profit but I guess the big guys in the music business need it to counterbalance Apple. Then there is Tesla who I feel will go down in history as the company that changed how we view cars at the same time as never turning a profit as the big auto manufacturers come to play. Sad for Elon Musk that he has expensively proved a business cae for others to follow. All the time the USD 2-10 yield curve flattens and points to a recession in 2019.

Finally, similar to an Eton Mess for dessert, Politics seems as fraught as ever. With much of France on strike , Italy still trying to form a government with two radical parties Germany arresting the Catalan leader and Trumps tweets now being seen as catalysts for market sell offs volatility looks like it’s here to stay for a while. Perhaps it’s time to dust off those old floor trader’s Doc Martins and  start those walking tours of great lunch venues ….but where to start and what to call the tours?

Richard Matthews, who began his career in 1973, is a former trader-broker in the London money, futures and foreign exchange markets. Twitter @dickiematthews5

This column is purely the opinion of the author and is not an invitation or recommendation to trade.

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