Finance: The new golf

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The Independent Culture
YOU CAN annoy a lot of people at the moment just by humming "The Girl from Ipanema". Still, it seems fairly obvious that if you go around punting vast sums of money on an economy as stable as Brazil's, you've got to expect the occasional shake-down. I mean, if it were a person instead of a country, the bank manager would have stepped in long ago with the scissors and cut up the credit card. But there you go: if you're going to borrow, it's always easier to do it on an epic and totally unrealistic scale.

Luckily, things seem a little calmer this week, even if the FX boys still wince at mentions of Rio, so there's been the odd moment for chatting. Things have brightened up on the personal front ever since Olivier decided to believe the story - importantly, the true one - of how Jaap's watch found its way to my bedside table, and having clambered out of my pit of despair I'm able to notice what's happening around me.

Findlay, our resident mathematical genius, is normally a quiet type with an arid sense of humour, prone to making odd little comments in such a quiet voice that it takes a few seconds before you realise he's said anything at all, and a few seconds more before you realise how funny it is. I imagined he spent his spare time playing chess or writing computer code, but it seems I am wrong. For Findlay has taken up hang-gliding.

"It's excellent. You really should give it a go," he enthuses. "It's so peaceful up there. All this lot" - he waves at the screens around us - "seems very insignificant." Laura and I wince at each other. The thought of hanging from a kite several hundred feet from the ground doesn't appeal much, and I'm surprised Findlay has taken it up. Then I remember it's practically compulsory these days for a single man with a City career to take up at least one life-threatening sport.

"I can't say I'm in any hurry to join in," I tell Laura. "I'd spend the whole time thinking about Icarus instead of `becoming one with the wind', as Findlay puts it."

"Except that Icarus flew too close to the sun," Laura replies. "This is Britain, remember. You'd be perfectly safe most of the year. Mind you, if you flew too close to Beachy Head, you'd probably find some distraught trader and that wouldn't be much fun." And we settle down to consider some of life's mysteries, such as why you'd work 14-hour, high-stress days so you could retire early and then risk all of it by taking up some dodgy activity like rappelling or hang-gliding.

"Adrenalin junkies," I say. "They get so hooked on the stuff because of work that they need more and more excitement outside as well. So they play heart-pounding computer games and throw themselves off mountains at any opportunity." We murmur sagely about how clever we are not to spend our money in such a rash way, when the head of trading appears round the corner on one of his rare visits.

"Findlay!" he yells. "You'll be joining us all hang-gliding again this weekend, I hope?" Laura and I look mournfully at each other. Dangerous sports: they're the new golf.