Midweek Money: The day the bread bin ordered bunds

The Trader
ISN'T it remarkable how quickly you can change from a Master of the Universe to a whimpering toddler? I should know; I've spent the past two weeks battling the worst flu I've ever had. By the time I was able to move from bed to the sofa, I felt like the scraps from a vampire's banquet and was probably about as interesting to talk to. All the more generous, then, of Laura to pop in every evening on her way back from work to see how I was getting on.

"Don't worry, you're doing me a favour, too," she said on the third visit. "Rory's dragged all the others off to some hideous brokers' Christmas party, but I used you as an excuse to escape."

And with that, we got down to chatting. Findlay, it seems, has found out about a fridge that can e-mail you at work to tell you when you're low on milk or orange juice or whatever.

"Anyway," said Laura, "he was going on and on about it, and how you could put it in your kitchen cupboards as well. And then we realised that's what must have happened to that trader the other week, the one who did or didn't lose pounds 10m. He's obviously testing a prototype. His bread bin sent him an e-mail saying, `Buy buns!' and he misread it and bought bunds instead."

The following evening, Laura turned up again clutching a box of chocolates and a copy of the new trading system manual.

"I thought you might want to have a look at our great masterpiece," she said. "It looks great, doesn't it?"

So we found ourselves laughing about all the work we'd put into it, and how awful the trading system had been before we got it sorted out.

"Do you remember?" said Laura. "It had so many holes in it, we were thinking of gathering them all together into one big hole and offering it to the Jubilee Line. I wish you weren't ill; it's boring without you." Then she went home.

The next day a vast bouquet of roses and lilies arrived for me. Suddenly I felt a million times better, so when Laura rang to say she couldn't make it that evening, I didn't mind.

"I'll lie on the sofa and gaze at that amazing bouquet you all sent me. Did you choose it?" I asked. There was a pause.

"Choose it?" said Laura. "I didn't even know about it. I expect Rory sorted it out."

And we agreed that that must have been what happened, and Laura went back to her number-crunching. Later on, the doorbell rang. It couldn't be Laura, so it was almost bound to be Jehovah's Witnesses. But the voice over the intercom was a familiar one: "Hello Miss Invalid. Can I come in?"

I felt my heart skip a beat. What was Jaap doing here? And why was I so pleased to see him? As he walked into the flat he spotted the flowers and smiled.

"Do you like them?" he said. "I chose them specially."

I felt my knees go weak. But of course they would, I told myself. That's what happens when you have flu.