Finance: On the floor

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The Independent Culture
Not a dreary pinstriped share-basher,

but a glamorous Frenchman - my only concern was whether I would ever be able to fancy him as much as he fancied himself ...

Any minute now, Chuck is going to blow a fuse. This is the fifth time in 20 minutes I've had to ask for a firm price on the same deal, and his replies are getting more and more terse. It's not my fault - the customer keeps changing his mind - but that's not going to stop Chuck from letting me know how pissed off he's becoming.

It takes quite a lot to annoy Chuck. He's one of those big-pawed sons of the soil that the middle sections of the States produce in such dependable numbers, with a voice that oozes bonhomie and efficiency in equal measure. He could probably erect a barn single-handedly in an afternoon, but he's chosen to earn his crust trading US treasuries in London. Which makes it a pretty juicy crust, when all's said and done.

Anyway, suddenly my squawk box pings into life and it's Chuck, wanting to know what's happening. "Your customer a total flake, or what?" he asks, presumably rhetorically. "Yes," I say, "a total flake, and what's more he's on line three for me." "Great," mutters Chuck, and cuts off.

So for the sixth time, we price up the deal, not expecting anything to happen. But the customer's obviously been doing some anti-fear treatment since the last time and it all goes ahead. The punter's happy and, believe me, so am I. Death by strangulation from those solid hands of Chuck was looking more and more likely.

Once all the admin's done and passed on to the back office, I discover that there's nothing much else happening in the market. Neil has the day off, so I don't have the incentive to add to my list of ways to kill him (No 1, plant deathray in his mobile phone. Or has that already been done?) No excuse for not talking to Laura, then, which is a shame because I've been trying to evade her questions all day. The thing is, I had a date with Olivier de Something de Something Else last night, and she's dying to hear about it.

I met Olivier at an old friend's dinner party. Giles provides these slap-up meals on a regular basis, mainly I suspect as way of pairing off his pals so that we can all be as happy as he is with Sarah. Usually he sits me next to some rugby-playing stockbroker who's so tedious that the only way I can stay awake is to be rude to him all evening. Not one of them has ever shown the slightest sign of appreciating that the insults are deliberate. They must think it's some incredibly clever and subtle way of flirting, otherwise why would they ask Giles for my phone number?

Anyway, this time Giles had played a blinder. but this glamorous, aristocratic Frenchman who works in the same bank as him. It was excellent. Olivier turned out to be almost a caricature of his race, all brooding stares and studiedly nonchalant sensuality. Not only that, he was also incredibly good looking; my only concern was whether I would ever be able to fancy him as much as he fancied himself. Still, when he asked for my phone number I gave it willingly enough. Purely out of curiosity, you understand.

Giles wasn't half as pleased by this development as I thought he would be. "But darling, you sat him next to me," I protested. "Yes," said Giles, "because I thought you'd just sneer at him the way you do at all the others. He's a frightful lech, goes round night-clubs picking up girls, not safe in taxis, all that sort of thing."

After that, I was wondering what I'd let myself in for. I needn't have worried. Olivier was a total gent, impeccably mannered. Even when he asked me in for coffee, all he did was make coffee. And the awful thing was, it left me feeling hideous. After all, if London's greatest Lothario doesn't want to make a pass at you, there must be something very wrong.

I rang Giles to complain.

"What did you say to him?" I wailed. "Not much," said Giles. "Just that if he laid a finger on you he'd never get another free ticket for England- France rugby matches."