Finance: Hell is damp and swirly

The Trader
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A COUPLE of days into the new job, and already my liver is having second thoughts. It had only just rediscovered the joys of half a bottle of good red with a meal, and suddenly it's been forced back on to a regime of vodka-and-tonic with a handful of peanuts. As for the headaches...

I blame Rory, of course, and his need for company. He and the lovely Sam are no longer an item, as Rory announced on day one. "No, she left me and went back to some old boyfriend who sells insurance in Ongar. Well, more in sorrow than in Ongar, I should imagine. Bit of a dead-end job, I think." Nor does he see much of his wife, the Mouse, though they're in constant contact - "but only through our solicitors".

This leaves a gaping hole in his social life which we, his new colleagues, are invited to fill. It's an invitation we dare not refuse.

"Well," said Jaap with mock brightness on Monday evening. "I'm certainly discovering parts of London I've never visited before. I didn't think there were any pubs left that still had damp, swirly, orange-and-red carpets smelling of stale beer, and we've found three already just in one evening."

But Rory took no notice, and carried on with his tale about the time he and some broker had got so trashed that they'd reversed the bloke's Jag off the top of a multi-storey car park - only it was two-storey rather than multi-storey really.

"Heavens," said Jaap with forced jollity on Tuesday evening. "I never knew there were so many bars on boats in London. What a lot I'm learning. And do they all have damp, swirly, orange-and-red carpets smelling of stale beer, or is it just the four that we've seen tonight?"

But Rory took no notice of this, and carried on telling us about the time he'd bought a black rubber corset for a girlfriend, but had got drunk and given it to his wife by mistake, and how the Mouse had called the police.

"Oh God," said Jaap this morning, with unforced misery. "Where is he going to drag us to tonight? I can't take much more of this. I never want to see another swirly, orange-and-red carpet in my life."

We were all - Laura, Findlay, Jaap and myself - huddled round the coffee machine, hollow-eyed and pale and longing for a quiet night in. "What are we going to do?" I wailed.

"There's only one solution," piped up Laura. "We have to find him a girlfriend."

We looked at her and laughed. How many women did she think would be tempted by Rory, for heaven's sake? We tried to imagine his ad in the Personal columns: "Short, charming but completely irresponsible drunk with vast repertoire of wildly exaggerated tales seeks thick-skinned beauty for expensive dinners, lots of vodka and staggeringly dramatic arguments. Masochist preferred."

No, we told Laura sorrowfully, it would never work, so there was no point even trying.

We spent the rest of the day at our desks, gazing mournfully at our screens and - unlike the other 99.99 per cent of City employees - dreading the end of the working day. But time wasn't planning to change its rules just for us, and the end of the working day arrived and Rory sauntered over.

"So," said Jaap, with a forced smile. "Where are you planning on dragging us tonight?"

Rory looked at him, then at the rest of us, with a slightly bemused expression on his face.

"Don't you lot have lives of your own? I'm sorry to disappoint you, but you can't expect me to go out with you every night."

You could sense a silent cheer from Findlay and Jaap, and Laura was so relieved I thought she was about to burst into tears.

"There, there," Rory told her, "don't be upset. We'll go out tomorrow, I promise."

At which point she really did burst into tears.