The Secret Broker: Farewell, our non-PC Duke; ‘allo Vera!
The Secret Broker
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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.
It was with sadness this week that whilst watching an episode of Vera on ABC TV that they interrupted the show to say Prince Phillip had died.
Sure it was sad that he had passed, but my instant sadness was related to how they stopped the whole show and kept telling me the same bit of news for the next two hours.
We had to wait for it to appear on iView to find out what happened to Vera. Even then I fell asleep, so Mrs B had to explain it to me.
Having said that, I will miss him. He had a great sense of humor and had served in wars. Done his bit for Queen and country, as they say.
Or in his case and just like me, wife and country!
With him gone, we also lose some old-time antics and non-politically correct statements.
He had a few crackers, including telling a 15-year-old kid that he was too fat to ever become an astronaut. Once he patted a guy’s beer belly and said “you’re obviously new”, whilst touring an alcohol rehab centre.
It’s like all the antics we used to get up to on the London Stock Exchange trading floor that you would never get away with today. Everything is so sterile and bland now.
Back then, such antics were all designed – all – to make you laugh and relieve some of the tension that builds up before heading into a Friday afternoon and the weekend.
If you were new to the floor, many a joke would be played on you.
Jimmy ‘Shoe’ Shine would always buy some grapes on his way to work. After he had finished them, he’d blow up the brown paper bag they came in and we’d all kick it around like a football. (Or, if you must, soccer ball.)
Any newcomer would be encouraged to join in the competitions on how far we could kick it. When the newby had his turn, unbeknownst to him, the bag would be switched to one that had a brick in it. We’d all place our bets with the newcomer, then fall about laughing as he hobbled off swearing and a couple of hundred quid lighter.
Another way of relieving a newbie of some money was performed by a couple of guys from different firms. One guy, Charlie Hart, would boast how he could throw a screwed up dealing ticket and land it in a waste paper bin, about 100 yards away.
The newbie was given a chance at having a go and would quickly work out it was impossible. Bets would be placed. And just as Charlie’s arm was pulled back, he would shout out “Hey Johnston, want to earn fifty quid?” and Jonny Johnston would pick up the bin and plonk it down in front of Charlie. The screwed up ticket would be dropped into it, and the winnings openly shared between the two of them.
There were many eccentric guys on the floor. One insisted on running around without any shoes on and when he had to leave his box and go and get a price, we would all throw a week’s worth of pistachio shells on the floor. When he came racing back round the corner into the box, he would dance like a cat on a hot tin roof.
If he had a coffee in his hand, so much the better.
Nights out after work would consist of us going on city pub crawls and finding fresh-faced youngsters, in new, off-the-peg suits, and gaming them into emptying their wallets.
Peter Jones could stand on his head and drink a whole pint of beer in under 10 seconds. How he discovered he could do this we will never know. All that mattered was it always earnt us a few rounds of drink.
Another bet involved two pints of beer and half a pint of beer.
The rules were simple. The first one to skol their drinks would win the bet. One had to down two pints, one had to down just half a pint – and neither was allowed to touch each other’s glasses. To make things fair, the guy with the two pints was allowed to down his first one before the other one could touch their half-pint glass.
The trick here was to knock back the first pint in record time and then wack it upside down over the half-pint glass. Then we would all turn around and carry on talking to each other, as the other pint was slowly sipped. The loser would be left staring blankly at his encaptured glass after realising that they had just been had.
I suppose it’s an honour to have your passing interrupting a TV show for two hours. I can’t really think of anyone else, bar the Queen herself, who will achieve the same feat.
I think when she goes, I’ll take a week off and head to a mountain someplace, without any reception, and just ride it out.
There is no one else with the same pull. Donald Trump would just get a quick ticker-tape at the bottom of a Vera episode and Bill Gates may warrant a two-second interruption.
When Warren Buffett finally goes, I will be standing up tall and straight, with my hand on my heart, reciting all of his famous quotes word for word before they appear on the screen.
As for me, Mrs Broker says she will have me cremated with my body surrounded with all the worthless share certificates from my bottom drawer.
Now, that’s a true sign of respect!
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