And When Did You Last See Your Father?

W. Yeames... historyonthenet.com
W. Yeames…
historyonthenet.com

Those of a certain age will be familiar with the picture above. This nineteenth century painting by Yeames shows an imagined scene from the aftermath of the English Civil Wars of the seventeenth century.
His house captured by the Parliament forces (Right but Repulsive) the son of a king’s man, a Cavalier (Wrong but Wromantic) is questioned as to the whereabouts of his father in the presence of the sobbing females of the family.

This image came to mind today in receipt of one of those ‘know your customer’ forms from a brokerage firm. As they are about to be taken over I imagine that this is because the new owners want to have spotlessly clean noses in the eyes of what are laughingly known as financial regulators – the whitewash merchants of the house of cards that masquerade as financial institutions.

Leo hasn’t dealt through these brokers for some time and was quite surprised to find that his remaining holdings there had any value at all, but there was enough to make it worth cashing in so that was what he decided to do.

Except that he could not.
Not until he had filled out and returned the form together with proof of his identity.
It might be his money, but he couldn’t have it.

So, moaning at the expense of having to have his passport certified, he started to look at the form itself.
Which is where ‘And when did you last see your father?’ comes in.

After questions as to one’s name and address, and for some mad reason telephone numbers….for goodness’ sake, when do brokers ever ‘phone their clients…the form got into its stride.

Occupation….where the line for ‘Other’ proved tempting.
Lion tamer? Saggar maker’s bottom knocker? Arslikhan yoga specialist?

If you were retired, what was the name of your previous employer – and probably when did you last see him….
And what, were you to be one of the few not employed on a zero hours contract, was your gross annual income…..
Why they should think that income is derived exclusively from employment is beyond me…..the lack of correlation between politicians’ salaries and their actual income being a case in point.

The form is eating up the miles now…

What, it seeks to know, is the intended purpose of the account.
They are brokers…what do they think that their clients want to do!
They want to buy and sell traded stock, not to use the expertise of the firm to set up a whelk stall – as clearly they would be incompetent to do so, nor arrange a piss up in a brewery – ditto.

It then turns to what it laughingly calls your ‘wealth’.
It wants to know how much you have, which in Leo’s view is for him to know and for others to refrain from finding out.
It also wants to know how many years and months it took you to fill up your piggy bank…and where.
Leo is not minded to turn the pig upside down to check the origin of the coins within and the level of its Plimsoll Line is no business of his broker.

The form gets heavy.
It wants to know how much of the contents of your piggy bank comes from employment….and who employed you…and for how long…
Up a gum tree there…Leo classes himself as unemployable by reason of sanity.

Have you made any pennies from trading activities?
White slaving? Fitting out an East Indiaman?
No…..they mean the stock market, though this is nowhere clearly stated.
What types of investments have been traded?
Well, there were rubber plantation stocks when there were still rubber plantations…
Average size of investments?
Whatever cash was going spare in the back pocket.
Describe the expertise that enables you to profit from such activity.
Doing the opposite of anything recommended by The Financial Times.

The form is breathing heavily by now…
Has any of your wealth been derived from inheritance?
Chance would be a fine thing….
And if so how did the deceased get his claws on it?
Unfortunately no one had thought to interrogate the grandfather on the source of his wealth, probably fearing a sharp retort and clip round the ear for impudence.

Has any of your wealth derived from selling assets?
A list of properties bought and sold over the years would require a mini Domesday Book and if anyone thinks Leo can remember at this date all the buying and selling prices then they are in for a severe disappointment.

The most tempting section is the last…has any of your wealth been derived from a different source to those listed previously?
This is where all the drug dealers, bankers specialising in derivatives and other criminals must be breathing a sigh of relief.
At last they can unburden their souls…at last they can declare all!

So I imagine that that part of the form will remain forever blank.

The wide range of the questions is in itself questionable. The firm may be concerned for the origin of the monies supporting the trading activities of its clients…but has no business putting its snout into the totality of its clients’ affairs.
But if the client wishes to extract his money, the form must be filled out.

Under Common Law, in the period from the Middle Ages until the eighteenth century, the law took a dim view of those who refused to plead either guilty or not guilty and would have them carted off to a cell where they would be stretched out on the floor and have heavy stones placed upon their chests until they either decided to plead or died.
It was known, and aptly so, as the ‘peine forte et dure’….but there were those who preferred to die in this way to avoid being found guilty and having their estates confiscated, which would have left their families destitute.

This form is another demand that you should plead…but as yet the penalty for not so doing is financial rather than physical. You lose your dosh.
But give the regulators a few more years and I wouldn’t mind betting that they’ll be putting out contracts for heavy stones…

From One Market to Another

harlemfoodlocal.com
harlemfoodlocal.com
I had come home from shopping in San Jose…and was glad to offload the two heavy canvas bags whose contents had survived the hour’s run in a hot bus.
I enjoy poking about in the two main markets, the Central and the Borbon and go to my favourite shops where by now, like the other customers, I am included in the jokes and the teasing that dart across the stalls and today, just after the election results, the discussions.

Here, Jorge, shouts the butcher in the Borbon, here’s a gringa that likes our new president!
Can’t be a gringa, then, replies Luis who sells hot peppers.
She’s not a proper gringa, bellows Jorge on the greenstuff stall. She’s from England!
Scotland, shouts Henry from the petfood stand, making what I now know to be his imitation of bagpipe music….which, curtailed as his eldritch shrieks might be, inevitably brings to mind the title of the pibroch ‘Too long in this condition’…

Things are quieter over in the Central where I buy my coffee at the Moka stand just inside the backstreet entrance.
There are better known coffee brands…particularly one which controls the airport shopping lounges and has the tourist tours pretty well sewn up…but for me the best coffee on general sale is to be found on this little stand at the quiet end of the market.
I know the men serving there by now; we enquire as to each others families…and, of course, today, we discuss the election results as with other customers I drink a coffee while waiting for my order to be to be ground and bagged.

journeytotheperfectcup.blog
journeytotheperfectcup.blog
For ‘normal’ coffee,made in the chorreador (sock) I buy Poas suave…grown on the slopes around volcano Poas north of San Jose….but as I have just been presented with a new gadget – an expresso and cappuccino maker – and have learnt how to use it without either blowing it up or scalding myself I asked for advice on the best coffee to use and returned home with a bag of Caracolillo, or Peaberry, coffee…beans which, instead of splitting into two as do normal coffee beans, remain unitary and are supposed to roast more evenly.
We shall see.

Recounting my morning over lunch, my husband said it reminded him of his days on the floor of the London Stock Exchange…when it still had a floor, and a wooden one at that.
The atmosphere was, he said, that of a real market….people you saw every day in the same place, jokes that built up, nicknames, daft pranks…before, as he gloomily added, they let women in and ruined it all.

stockexchangeHe had had no wish whatsoever to work on the Stock Exchange…or anywhere else for that matter.
He was, at that time, a student in Madrid having been sent there so as not to be under the feet of his father’s mistress and was having a whale of a time: the days in the Prado, the nights touring the bars in the company of the son of Franco’s chief of police.

But the mistress produced a baby whose imitations of the pipes put an end to the romantic idyll and, mistress and child gone, the father called his son back to the roost….he had to have someone to collect the rents on his property….thus ending the Madrid idyll as well.

Father then saw an advertisement seeking to recruit a trainee stockbroker: whoopee, with a son on the market he could gamble on shares without paying commission…and the die was cast.
Leo went to the Stock Exchange, where his employers promptly decided that ‘Leopold’ was too foreign a name and called him Paul.

It was a world to itself….no mobile ‘phones in those days. If you were on the floor and your office wanted to contact you they ‘phoned the waiter – a proper waiter – who worked on the entrance which your office used and he would flash up your number in lights on a board to alert you.

You fulfilled your clients’ orders by walking the floor and talking to the jobber who ran the book in the shares in which you were interested, playing a game of guess as to whether you were buying or selling, trying to get the best deal….you learned how to trade shares in a dead market…you learned who the dodgy dealers were and how they got away with it…you learned the nicknames – the Weasel, Mr. Round and Round…

He became very good at his job, enjoyed the challenges…but he says that what he enjoyed most was the sidelines of work…
Exploring the City in his lunch break, finding little tucked away caffs in the roof of Leadenhall Market, walking through double doors to find himself in a street between two office blocks that led to another street….and another…a complete maze.
And he enjoyed the people…not, on the whole, the Eastenders nor those who spent their time in the pub until summoned by their juniors to do a bit of work, but those who treated the place as somewhere to pass the time from more important matters, as exemplified by a friend of his who ran the smallest brokerage firm in the business but whose passion was frogs.
Word had it that if you were married to a wife like his you could understand his preferences, but be that as it may, this gentleman would collect frogspawn in his garden in Harrow and, in the season, solemnly bring in jars of the same for his colleagues to distribute around their bijou Surrey residences.

Then there were the pranksters, who would set fire to your Financial Times as you had it spread out in front of you…who would fill up their water pistols in the loos and let rip on the floor…even at the top hatted brokers in gilt edged stocks…and the elderly gentlemen who would while away quiet moments by fashioning aircraft from sheets of paper and attempting to launch them into the dome with the aid of rubber bands.
Successful attempts would see the fragile craft circling for weeks on the air currents.

Those were the days when your word was expected to be your bond…and when brokerage firms had to assume their own liabilities. Go bust and the firm was ‘hammered’.
Everyone was called to the floor and a waiter would tap with his gavel and announce that the firm of So and So was no longer trading.
It was a solemn moment, and one to give rise to second thoughts in those contemplating risky dealings.
No banks trading then on on their own behalf…no tax payers’ bailouts when they got it spectacularly wrong…no one was too big to fail.

He wasn’t around to see the Big Bang which swept away the working world he had known…he had had a final row with his father, obtained a mortgage on a wreck of a house which he restored and sold and decided that, as he could never afford to be a partner, there was no future in working all his life for others.
A series of events unrelated to work decided him…he packed it all in and set up his own business….but when he talks about that, his eyes don’t shine as they do when he talks about his days on the floor of the London Stock Exchange.

Which may explain why he always comes back laden with bargains when he does the shopping in the Borbon and the Central….