The Secret Broker: Coming to Amer-… Australia. Lily-white legs ‘n all
The Secret Broker
The Secret Broker
After 35 years of stockbroking for some of the biggest houses and investors in Australia and the UK, the Secret Broker is regaling Stockhead readers with his colourful war stories — from the trading floor to the dealer’s desk.
How hard could it be coming from England and moving to Australia to work and live?
We both speak the same language and drive on the left hand side of the road. Simples!
Well anyway, that’s what I thought.
Some 27-odd years ago and with the sequel to Eddie Murphy’s ‘Moving to America’ now being advertised on TV, this brought back a flood of suppressed memories.
It was not as easy to fit in as I thought. The image of the laid-back Aussie nature was completely blown away by the doorman of my local RSL club.
My first lesson in a bit of Australian cultural difference was when a fellow Pommy, who had been over here for six months before me, came round to take me for a beer.
Off we went in his spanking brand new SAAB to my nearest watering hole, which happened to be the local RSL club.
We had the poshest car in the car park and both of us were dressed like we were heading to the Hamptons for a weekend soiree at a wealthy hedge fund owner’s place.
Ray Bans, brightly coloured Ralph Lauren polo shirts (real), Rolex watches, and tailored shorts. Churches leather dockers for our sockless feet, of course, and our rather large but latest model A$2000 mobile phones.
We were sporting the Cool Britannia look, white legs ‘n all.
I had never been to an RSL club in my life, as we always travelled business and were put up in five-star hotels, so when I rock up to the front desk, I ask the chap to point me to where I can get an amber nectar. That was was a saying I’d copied from a Paul Hogan UK TV advert, when he was promoting Fosters Lager – the beer that no Australians drank.
I wanted the guy to know that I could speak ‘Strayan and blend in with all the other patrons. I meant business.
He asked me where I lived and I said “round the corner” and then he asked my mate. He said he was “on the other side of the bridge”.
So the doorman points at me and says: “You have to become a member but your Pommy mate can be signed in by any member.”
This is where things really start to go wrong. I sarcastically tell him I didn’t think this was an Irish club, as this membership rule, for a local, seemed very Irish to me.
So I could walk into any pub no trouble but to walk into a local club, you must become a member and show your card, just to get a drink? Come on!
Anyway, he shuffles off with my driving licence to get some paperwork.
The fact that I could produce a driving licence was a story in itself.
It required me to take a fully blown driving test, which included being able to answer questions from a cartoon book of pictures. Luckily for me, the instructor could see I was a bit different from the spotty-faced teenagers in the waiting room.
He eventually passed me after he could see I had no trouble driving like (Mrs) Peter Brock. But he told me afterwards that normally I would have failed because when we were waiting to turn right at the traffic lights, I had my wheels turned in and not straight. If I was hit from behind, I would have shunted both of us into the oncoming traffic.
Back to our doorman. He returns with the form, which I fill out and give him A$5.00 for a year’s membership. He produces a temporary card and says that we need to “abide by these rules” before entry and points to a sign. It says ‘No singlets or thongs are to be worn at any time and socks must be worn with shorts at all times’.
In England, a thong is a G-string. I’m now wondering if I am going to have to show him my underpants, but it turns out they meant flip-flops, so we all have laugh. Then we start negotiating the sock issue.
We either have to go home and change or we could buy a pair each from their shop behind us, which sells the RSL team’s rugby shirts, shorts and socks.
Both being a bit hungover from the night before means we decide to each buy a pair of rugby socks and I sign my mate in, and wearing our new rugby socks, we head to the bar for that much-needed drink.
It had taken us 30 minutes to get there from the front door.
We looked like complete upper class twats in our designer gear and rugby socks and as we were sitting at the bar a 70-year-old shuffled past in his version of shorts, long socks and shoes.
This is what he looked like.
I never saw anyone dressed like this driving a kombi van round Earls Court. It instantly ruined my image of all Australian blokes being like Croc Dundee and macho men.
Eventually, when we do go to leave, we make a bit of a song and dance about taking off our socks in the foyer and returning them to the shop for a full refund but the ensuing argument promptly leads to my membership being suspended and me being reported to the committee, for further action.
When Mrs Broker asked me if I enjoyed my outing, I had to tell her what I was required to do, just to get a beer five mins away from where we live and that I will be getting a voucher for my birthday, which we won’t be able to use as I have been already suspended after my first visit.
She just rolled her eyes and muttered something about moving 12,000 miles to start a new life and nothing changes and why can’t things just be normal?
My next drinking incident was up near The Mirage at Port Douglas, where when approaching, every taxi driver would tell you how much Christoper Skase paid for each palm tree that lined the driveway.
I had managed to sneak out for a crafty beer at the local tavern and asked for a Fosters and the barman asked me if I wanted a pot.
“To piss in?” I said and he replied “No, one of these.” He produced what looked to me like the world’s smallest beer glass. Obviously, he was pulling my leg or so I thought, so I told him that I would like a pint please, not a thimble.
Everyone looked as this pint of Fosters was placed in front of me and they all watched me take my first sip. I soon realise my mistake.
It is so hot and humid that as I am about halfway through the beer, it starts to feel warm. By the time I finished the last dregs it was like bath water and tasted disgusting.
In true macho style though, I ordered another pint and this time drank it a bit faster. All I can say now is, when in Rome, drink pots.
So, those were my first real lessons in our different drinking habits.
I would have to endure the bath night jokes and warm beer jokes but when they asked me if I went for the Sea Eagles or the Rabbitohs I would start to get really lost. In England, Chelsea play in Chelsea and Manchester United play in Manchester.
How was I meant to know that the Sea Eagles played in Manly and the Rabbitohs played in South Sydney? Or that the Blues were NSW and the Maroons were Queensland?
And the madness of radio station names! I would ask someone what’s the best radio station to listen to when driving and they would say 2UE or 2SM… but no one would know the frequency.
The only hint I got for 2SM was “turn the dial to the right and stop about an inch from the end”.
Long car trips would endure not knowing if we were on the right station. If it was, it would fade out soon enough and an approaching town’s local country and western community radio would fade in.
And who would believe me back home when I told them that, whilst driving along and fighting to find a decent radio station, that as you approached a major town, appearing in the distance would be a giant prawn or a huge banana? Or even a massive merino with matching testicles, and that these would be referred to as “tourist attractions”?
Then, to cap it all off, the only brand of cheese you could buy was called “Coon”.
To recap though, I am extremely lucky to have made the choice to move from England to Australia and you will be glad to know that most of my glitches have been sorted.
I can wear shorts without socks at my local RSL. The car radio is digital, so you just hit the search button – though Spotify is now king in that department – and the selection of food in the local Woolies is sensational.
ALDI keeps me topped up with the best European nibbles and wine selection and I have fully transgressed from Fosters to Tooheys New. The beaches were a saviour during lockdown and I can read any paper and trade virtually anywhere, thanks to my mobile phone coverage.
I reckon, if you give me three more years, I would be almost there. Maybe even able to say chips instead of crisps and arvo instead of afternoon.
I still refrain from referring to Mrs Broker as Sheila, though when she calls me Bruce, it makes me chuckle.
I can honestly say… Australia, mate. You’re a little rippa.
Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.