And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
Elton John – Bernie Taupin 1973
By Richard Matthews 29th April
I wrote last week about being in the right place at the wrong time which probably should translate to right idea wrong time, for those of us in the financial markets, which is way too often the case. I don’t tell jokes well and to be honest I transcribe them in an even worse manner but as I am on holiday, and the joke is related to timing, I will make an exception this once. Here goes. There was many years a young married couple who decided to start breeding chickens in their flat in London. They started with a couple of chickens that laid eggs and the business grew and grew with more chickens laying eggs and they constantly reinvested into the chickens till one day they had could afford to, and indeed needed , to move to a larger property . They scoured the market and found a lovely beach front property with a huge basement where they and their chickens could live and they moved there. The business continued to grow for they were very good chicken farmers and soon the whole basement was full of chickens. Then one night a storm came and the sea crashed onto the beach and surged over the sea wall and flooded their basement and sadly all the chickens died. The moral of the story? They should have bought Ducks.
I moved to Spain in about 1995 and in an attempt to make turn two years garden leave into a Spanish version of the Good Life. I purchased a beautiful Cortijo way out in the country and indeed bought Chickens along with Goats , Rabbits even a Pig at one point along with dozen of Orange trees and Olive trees from which my dream was to produce fantastic Olive Oil . Now this isn’t the VENUE to discuss the fun and adventures I had there, indeed those stories could form a book of their own, but that was the main reason I was in Southern Spain. The whole dream, become a successful farmer, write a book about is and make a TV series. Well it didn’t work and ironically one of my neighbours did write a book, Driving over Lemons, about the area, which drove hundreds of English people to the area and ruined it. So as I always want to go against the crowd I left the small holding in the tender care of a local farmer (big mistake number one) and decided to go to the coast and start a trading arcade for day traders.
By the turn of the century open outcry had all but ceased and trading had become almost exclusively electronic in other words the floor had gone. But traders being traders new communities sprung up where they basically rented space and facilities from businesses and came to a communal office and traded away. I guess the easy way to describe the business was that the facilitator rented a large office, supplied the infrastructure from internet to clearing and then diced it into individual chunks which when added up were greater than the outlay. In other words profitable and indeed it was and is a great business model. I took the idea one step further and opened the first trading arcade in Spain in Puerto Banus, Why not? Trade all day and enjoy the benefits of a great lifestyle what could go wrong with that and on that thought Trading In The Sun was born.
Trading In The Sun, or TITS as it was known by all and sundry, started in a small office next to a trendy restaurant called Terra Sana in partnership with Jimmy Two-Names and with the support of Sonny Schneider and three of his traders Scotty, Cheesy Collins, a lovely man with warm dancing eyes set in an inverted inverted Dairylea Cheese triangle of a face, and Soapy Drew all great fun people. Three of the nicest people you could wish to meet who were joined by others who would visit at Holiday time such as Porky and Max . Fantastic flats were rented in Banus and we got going. Well we almost got going but I had overlooked the vagaries which are Telefonica and despite their promises the speed of the internet never lived up to what was really needed. We tried and tried to get the infrastructure right and a few more traders joined but eventually I gave up the ghost as competition from the tax friendly centre of Gibraltar just down the road was too much.
Some jolly japes were had by all and some great Runyonesque characters appeared such as Jimmy G the wonderful estate agent, Drunken Duncan the IT consultant, Pedro the most English Spaniard who was our landlord and Helen, the somewhat eccentric Scottish accountant. I hope all those reading this that were part of it will agree that we all gave it our best shot but in the end TITS had to go TITS up. Personally I have some regrets especially that I sold the business and the buyer reneged on paying me and still to this day parades around as large as life in a Bentley whilst living in Sotogrande maybe now Simon’s conscience will prick him. You live and learn and as I look back my mind goes back to the joke at the beginning and I realise that I should have bought ducks or in this case chosen Gibraltar over Puerto Banus but it was a great experience.
I am reflecting on this adventure rather than the markets this week as I am back down in the area and decided to have a look at the old shop, now a hairdressers, where TITS started. Sitting next door in Terra Sana I was feeling sad that a great idea was so close to working but located 40 miles too far East. However, Debbie, my wife pointed out that if we had not tried to have a crack at making it work our son Jeremy would never have made a friendship with a fellow golfer who he met whilst he was working in Spain which will last a lifetime let alone having lived a teenagers dream as JezzaBanus. And the boy with a bald head and three spikes of hair to compliment his personalised graffitied (sic) jeans became the man our daughter married and has three children with. It all goes to show that there are more important things in life than the markets and being on holiday and ignoring them is one of those things.
This column is dedicated to Julie Taylor who worked as a PA for Trading in the Sun and sadly died late last year. She was sadly a candle in the wind.
Posters by Tommy Rockett ..the boy with spikes instead of hair.
Richard Matthews, who began his career in 1973, is a former trader-broker in the London money, futures and foreign exchange markets. Twitter @dickiematthews5 www.theotherdoor.co