From Amsterdam to Zagreb I thought I had seen it all, but I was wrong


I’ve been everywhere, man

Crossed the deserts bare, man

I’ve breathed the mountain air, man

Travel, I’ve had my share, man

I’ve been everywhere

Johnny Cash

By Richard Matthews April 15th

Business travel, business meetings and business lunches are inextricably linked. Indeed Lunches and suppers form an integral part of the business trip. As the song says “I’ve been everywhere man “ and I have been everywhere on business from Amsterdam to Zagreb (I impressed myself with that fact!) and enjoyed wonderful hospitality and made many great lifelong friends in all the places I have visited. Some trips you look forward to more than others and if I’m honest the choice between visiting Chicago or Bermuda in November was, as they say, a bit of a no brainer. Thankfully I had a client, actually a great friend too in Bermuda, who of course needed regular visits. Bermuda a beautiful place but also the only place I’ve ever been seasick and having been so discovered a passionate dislike of deep sea fishing. One of my erstwhile colleagues there used to insist that I turned my back on him every time I saw him as he claimed he only recognised me by the back of my head as he was so used to seeing it hanging over boat’s railings.

I was reflecting on business trips this week having spent the day in Luxembourg, and as always with business travel, an inordinate amount of time at airports. As I left a rainy London on Tuesday morning I was not expecting to sit in the sun in the charming Place d’Armes in Luxembourg enjoying lunch but we did. As I sat in the airport waiting my flight I reflected back on some of the trips that I had made. To be honest some of the places, Hamburg, for example I am biased against due to the relationships I had there, and Paris. Well Paris a city I love but a city where we had a fractious relationship, whilst at REFCO, with our sister office. Actually fractious doesn’t quite do the relationship justice. Horrendous may be a better word .Never mind though it still memorable for many reasons and in particular for a visit I made as a money broker. Whilst I was a broker at Babcock and Brown Tony Two-Names ( Anthony Llewelyn-Davies) myself and Terry Barnard visited Paris . As we drove in from the airport Terry turned to us and said “Amazing how many branches of Macdonalds there are in the capital of food“. Tony and I looked at each other quizzically and then suddenly Terry exclaimed “ Look there’s another one” We glanced out of the cab window and we spied a large M advertising the Metro.

I have been always enjoyed travelling from a young age when I hitchhiked around Europe and remember my first business trip to Belfast in the 70s where we stayed in the Europa Hotel which at the time was reminiscent of what a hotel in the Lebanon was like on a trip in the 90’s. Great times and memories which include having great fun in Dublin where we went fishing in The Westbury hotel with Papa T. True The Westbury, fantastic hotel that it is , offers many things but not a trout stream . God knows why we thought it might but then we did discover Vodka and Lucozade as a hangover cure. Having been everywhere over the years I thought I had seen everything. Well I was wrong and before this column turns into Trip Advisor there is one more story I wish to relate.

I got a call this week to meet two clients who were visiting London, from Hong Kong, at The Mayfair Hotel. Nothing unusual in that and being around the corner from Langans I was more than happy to pop up and see them on Friday morning. It was only on my way up there that I got a text saying “come to room 335”. Odd I thought but hey, never mind let us see. I went up to the third floor, found the room number and knocked on the door which was quickly opened by…a Nurse. Now to be honest I wasn’t sure whether they had got into a fight the night before and she was caring for them or she was part of the previous night’s entertainment and that they were still partying. Then I walked in to be presented with the two guys on intravenous drips. As I mentioned earlier Vodka and Lucozade was about as adventurous as I ever got when it came to hangover cures but apparently the new idea is to replace the vitamins you’ve lost drinking with a NAD drip. Well they tried to convince me it was the best thing to do and having seen them again on Saturday they did look a thousand times better so it looks like there is something in it.

Certainly Sterling this week looks like it’s been on a vitamin drip and reacting well. Europe’s travails continue with the union standoff in France seemingly slipping over to Germany now where there have also been strikes. The French rail workers and Air Crews are trying to coordinate strikes indeed one of the people I met in Luxembourg had only made the meeting as he had got so fed up with trying to travel by plane or train in France he hired a car. In a throwback to 1968 Students are also striking as they fear that the government will increase University Fees which at present are only €184 per annum at The Sorbonne. Sterling should continue to benefit from these problems including the increase in Right Wing anti Europe populism on the mainland of Europe. As a secondary factor it now appears clear that the UK will benefit from a good trade deal from Europe for no other reason than Europe needs the money that we will be asked to pay for it with. Do not be surprised if Sterling approaches €1.20 in the short term, indeed some chartists, including my muse Sir A, are looking for a substantial move back towards it’s all-time highs in the €1.40s over time.

As with all things in life though be prepared for a shock. With Putin and Trump shaking their fists at each other, like the cartoons of Presidents Chernenko and Reagan did in the video to Two Tribes in an earlier era, there is the potential for a huge error of misjudgement in Syria. Whilst this posturing carries on safe haven currencies should remain attractive and the stock markets vulnerable and maybe in need of more than a NAD drip.

And just in case you thought I was exaggerating….

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 the opinion of the author.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *