The Secret Broker: This won’t hurt a bit
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.
Laughter is the best medicine.
We have talked about how alcohol became a pressure release valve but we haven’t talked about the humour which, in my eyes, is a much better way of dealing with the day to day stress.
Laughter is another reaction that is a release. I was lucky enough to be born in the era of Morecombe and Wise, The Two Ronnies, Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served? (with Mrs Slocombe’s pussy), Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Yes Minister, Del Boy and Rodney, Dave Allen, The Young Ones, The Liver Birds, Porridge, Not the Nine O’Clock News and of course George and Mildred, with their motorbike and sidecar.
So, if you were too, British humour was kind of inserted into our DNA as we reached puberty and American comedy was as it is today – third class (except the Simpsons, of course).
Going straight from school and into an office at 16, you soon observed some great office antics and the golden rule was never to hurt or belittle anyone, unlike the school playground.
Being the joker at school could always get you out of trouble and when you are put in an office where humour was encouraged, you could kind of lift it a level or two.
We started out by putting the punch hole waste into someone’s umbrella, so when it was raining and they stepped outside and opened up their umbrella to protect their head from the rain, it would rain confetti on their head instead.
Then we would have notes given to newcomers to urgently phone Mr Lion, Mr C Lion and the written down number would be London Zoo’s switchboard.
A week later they were urgently phoning Mr Raff. Mr G Raff.
By the time they had got to Mr Iger, Mr T Iger they would have twigged it and the note would be put in their drawer for the next newbie victim.
As the years went on, the jokes became more involved, lovingly planned and of course, they required involvement from others.
We would arrange for prawn heads to be super glued into a colleague’s phone on a Friday night, so when he came in on Monday, the smell would be so foul that he couldn’t speak on the phone without dry retching.
Of course we would have people in other offices lined up to call him every two minutes from 9.00am and have others listening in on the phone and observing his reaction.
This went on until he literally ripped the receiver out of the phone as we all fell about with laughter.
Another good one was planting watercress seeds under someone’s desk and watering the seeds everyday until they came back from a week’s holiday.
By the time they came back to work, they had a carpet of green watercress under their desk and a note to ring Percy Thrower, who at the time was the BBC’s resident gardener.
Jokes then went to another level, when you walked around the Stock Exchange floor as a fresh-faced ‘Blue Button’.
They would get you to run around and get prices on things like ‘Underwater Airlines’ and ‘Staken Chips Industrial’ and of course everyone was in on it.
Even the clients, who, when you went back to them and told them that ‘Staken Chips were 80p to 85p in 10,000’, they would say ‘Great, I’ll have mine medium rare’ and put down the phone.
If someone had brought in a pound of grapes to munch on as a snack, the brown paper bag that they came in would be blown up and used as a football.
Bets would be placed on who could kick it the furthest and then as one cocky person was about to line up their shot, they would be distracted and the bag would be replaced with one that now contained half a brick.
After he’d kicked the bag as hard as he could and was rolling around the floor holding his foot, the original bag would be swapped back in and everyone would kick it around pointing and saying ‘what is your problem?’
We did break one of the Golden Rules with that one but hey, what are rules for?
The ultimate joke though was played out after months of pub planning and laughter.
Going back to the ‘two jacket’ trick, it took a few months for some of the newbies to catch on to what was actually happening.
One young chap couldn’t work out how he could be drinking with us, yet when he got back to the office, we had beaten him back, as he could see our jackets on the chairs.
We explained to him that we used the underground tunnel from the office to the pub as it was quicker. A secret door in the office building took us to the secret pub tunnel, we said.
After a week or so, we eventually told him the truth and promptly indoctrinated him into the secret ‘two jacket society’.
He thought he was finally being accepted as one of the lads, when in fact, he was being set up.
After a few months of him settling into the two-jacket routine, it was decided that it was time for ‘Operation Probe’ to be put into place. After months of planning, a start date was set.
On said date, he turned up in the pub wearing his ‘secret lunch jacket’ but complaining as it seems that the jacket arms have gained about an inch in length.
Everyone agreed with him on how strange that was and maybe his official jacket could help settle his frustration.
However, when he got back to his desk for his second session, his official jacket arms had also grown an inch in length.
Again we all agreed how weird this was and someone mumbled that they had witnessed this before and that it was due to a medical event. It wasn’t his jacket arms that had grown, he was informed – his arms had ‘shrunk by an inch’.
Now, this was pre Dr Google days and no one actually knew what caused this condition. Perhaps the poor chap ‘best consult with Evan Jones’, who was sitting by himself in the corner, drinking a pint and smoking his pipe (ah those were the days!).
You see, Evan’s wife was Dr Jones and if you bought him a pint and discussed your medical problem, he would go home and get an opinion of said medical complaint from his wife. The next day, upon another pint being placed under his nose, he would share the diagnosis.
On the day of delivering his wife’s “short arms” diagnosis, he had turned very pale in the face and was shaking.
He told us that Dr Jones thinks our newbie has a ‘prolapsed prostate’ and it needs urgent attention as his arm shrinkage will only get worse. Go to the doctor, he was told, and get it checked out ASAP.
We told him he had our full support.
According to Dr Jones, any doctor would be able to reset his prostate to its correct position because, when being bent over and having a finger inserted, this action will cause his neck to move forward by an inch or so. This neck action will in turn reset his arms within about 24 hours.
Unknown to our colleague, we had his second jacket arms let out by an inch that morning and whilst he was at the pub for his first session, one of the girls nipped out and had the arms on his official jacket also let out by an inch as well.
Hence he now had two jackets and each with an extra inch in both arms.
So far, so good… but we weren’t done yet.
The next day after his morning appointment with the firm’s doctor, he came back into the office to a round of knowing male nods, a few ‘how’d it go?’ and even ‘I think you deserve a pint’ from his boss. Off we all went for a well earned ‘debriefing on the procedure’ pint!
Of course his second jacket arms had been secretly altered back to their correct length and then, whilst he was recalling the pain and discomfort he had been through, his back of chair jacket was getting secretly altered back.
When he went back and tried on his official jacket, it dawned on him and everyone in the office that his procedure had been a complete success.
I think he went back and stayed on till the 3.00pm closing time, buying everyone drinks and proclaiming his relief that he was now back to normal, as he showed everyone how his arms had reset themselves and how his jacket now fits him perfectly.
Did we ever tell him?
We even had him convinced that the pleat at the back of a man’s shirt was there for this very medical reason, as it could happen to any bloke at any time.
We just made more people laugh over the next few years, as we recalled how everything was planned and how even the seamstress was in on the joke. And yes, we became very popular at dinner parties and with the ladies.
So, Martin Clearey, if you are still out there, thank you.
You changed my life and I think I changed yours.
Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.