Finance: On the floor

In the evenings, apparently, they get absolutely floor-wipingly drunk and play games where you swap clothes with the girls. But why they go to the Alps to do this is beyond me ...
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The Independent Culture
It's that time of year again. No, not the skiing season, but something even more deadly: the pre-skiing season. The first snow hasn't even fallen, but already Marco and Freddie can talk of nothing else.

The fact that neither of them has flung himself off a mountain since last April makes it worse, since talk has to substitute for action. Not that that applies only to skiing; some of the couples my parents know, for instance, make endless ribald comments at dinner parties about how they can't wait to get home and leap on each other, when you know they haven't had sex since Aldaniti won the Grand National.

In much the same way, Freddie and Marco have to fall back on reminiscence, though they do at least get to plan for the future as well. They spent most of this morning arguing the relative merits of different resorts, though there was a brief interlude where they compared their experiences on one particular run in Verbier. If I'd had a tape recorder with me, I could have captured that part for posterity and sold copies as a cure for insomnia.

By lunch time, everyone within earshot was praying they'd change the subject. Jenny, bless her, told them she wouldn't fetch them any sandwiches if they didn't shut up for long enough to tell her what they wanted, at the very least. It worked for five minutes, then Freddie muttered something about Italy not being as good as France for skiing and Marco came to his country's defence. Not that Marco skis there himself that often. It's not expensive enough, you see.

As far as I can see, that's the main attraction of skiing to most of my colleagues. You can do it on the cheap, but you can also do it on the ludicrously dear as well. First of all, there's the gear: the designer sportswear, this year's style of sunglasses, personalised-fit ski boots, go-faster skis. And I don't suppose that Marco, who prides himself on keeping up with fashion and consequently often looks a complete prat, could possibly make do with just the one outfit.

Then there are the trips themselves. Last year, Freddie and Marco managed to hit the slopes nearly every weekend. I used to look forward to watching them hurtle out through the door on Friday afternoons ready to pounce on a cab and hightail it to the airport. Their enthusiasm used o cheer me up no end, though mainly because it meant it was almost knocking-off time all round.

This year, Freddie is hiring a rather grand chalet in Switzerland for a couple of weeks with his girlfriend Tiggy, and a whole slew of friends with names like Baggers, Farquers and Bubbles. It sounds like hell, but with better food. In the evening, Freddie tells me, they get absolutely floor-wipingly drunk and play games where you swap clothes with the girls. Why they go to the Alps to do this is beyond me; if the last few fancy- dress parties I have been to in this country were anything to go by, getting themselves dolled up in women's clothes is something all young male Sloanes do at the drop of a hat. Good preparation for life in the Home Counties, I suppose.

Marco's tastes are a little more "sophisticated" (his description) or "trashy" (everyone else's), and usually involve a handful of Eurobankers of both sexes and their beautiful but brainless partners, champagne, and mind-numbing amounts of charlie. Marco returns from these jaunts looking completely wasted but very, very happy.

I can't see the attraction myself. Why pay all that money to go somewhere cold? I'm just pondering the madness of it when line three starts flashing, and it's Peter from Karaoke. They've been jumpy over there since the news of Yamaichi Securities' collapse, and are worried they may be next. Great, I think, some good market gossip on an important subject.

"Hi Peter, what's the problem?" I ask breezily. "It's dreadful," he replies. I'm just about to say something soothing to calm his fears of losing his job when he continues. "You see, I can't decide whether to go to Verbier or Whistler, and I have to book it today."