Finance: The Trader: Land of the falling yen

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The Independent Culture
THE JOB offer from Rory's new outfit arrived as promised, with generous terms, in the circumstances: more money, same type of car, even a cheaper mortgage.

I was on the phone to Laura three seconds later going: "Hooray! Whoopee! Let's get trashed!" and Laura kept jabbering on about how wonderful it was that we'd never again have to listen to dreary old Heinrich giving us useless careers advice.

Unfortunately, one of us still had to inform our outplacement agency chief of our success in getting a job, not through his recommended route of Diligence, Dedication and Discipline but through good, old-fashioned nepotism.

"We won't be coming in again," I told Heinrich cheerfully. "We're starting new jobs next week."

Well, naturally, he said how pleased he was for both of us, but we couldn't help noticing he said it in a grudging, tight-lipped way, as if he felt we ought to have worked our way through our personal "Job Search: The Way Forward" files first.

That done, I rang Laura again and we found ourselves an hour later in a local wine bar, well into an ice-cold bottle of Veuve and making plans for our remaining days of freedom.

It was as we started the second bottle that I remembered the free weekend in Tokyo for two that I'd won months before from Nippon Tucker, my favourite Japanese restaurant in Britain. Of course, I thought, I could go this week with Olivier.

"Ring him now," said Laura, "while your mobile still has just the one set of keys."

Luckily Olivier thought it was a top idea. No problem for him to take a few days off, and no problem for him to sort everything out with the airline and hotel, so I could carry on getting drunk. And the gods must have been on our side, because two days later we were in Tokyo, land of the falling yen.

What a difference since my last visit in January. Then, Japan's economic problems were like an ominous rumbling. There were portents of doom, but not the doom itself. Nine months on, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the prosperity bubble had burst.

"Excellent," said Olivier, "We can buy lots of electronic goodies for ourselves, and it'll hardly cost anything."

So I laughed, told him he was shallow, and ordered more sushi. When we got back to the hotel there was a message from Jamie, my old pal at my former place of work.

"What gives?" I asked when I finally got hold of him. "Do you miss me?"

But it turned out that he hadn't had time to miss me, what with having most of the Tokyo office to miss as well.

"They got rid of almost everyone," he told me. "Honestly, it's just me, a junior secretary and the cleaner, and she's not been the same since that time she found Hari stark naked and weeping under one of the trading desks."

Well, in the circumstances, what could we do but take him out to dinner? Apart from anything else, there was all that gossip from the old place to catch up on. How was Marlene? What had happened to Freddie and Marco? What about the odious Neil?

"Slow down, slow down," he said. "One at a time. Freddie and Marco are still there, but as general salesmen; Marlene has moved to European marketing; Neil's been moved to the treasury department."

And what, I asked him slightly less calmly, about Norman, the man who fired me and then had the nerve to say it upset him as much as it upset me?

"Didn't you hear?" Jamie said. "He was given the push last week. Apparently he took it very badly. The word is that he burst into tears."