Monday morning life

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Bruv calls from Honkers for a chat. He's full of Far Eastern adventures since the stock market crashed, smug as a pug as everyone who laid out millions for a shoebox on the peak wakes up to find that their property has devalued by 30 per cent over the past month, with another 30 per cent drop anticipated over the next five. Doesn't look like the tai-tais will be rattling their jewellery with quite such enthusiasm for a bit.

We discuss greedy-stupid syndrome. Greedy-stupid syndrome afflicts that sort of investor who watches the stock market rise until just before it peaks, then ploughs in everything they own. They then watch their shares go down until they hit rock bottom, at which point they sell. The markets rely on these people: if it weren't for them, after all, there would be no cheap shares for the greedy-clevers.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, suffers from a further behaviour pattern, the bank run. I experienced one of these once - not a major one, just an everyday panic - and it was quite a sight to behold: hundreds of people lined up outside a locked building in the early morning like bit-players in It's a Wonderful Life. Bruv says that the latest blip in the annals of history has been the Great Hong Kong Cake Shop Run.

It started when the Yohan department store closed its doors. Yohan, it seems, had an allied cake shop, and the cake shop sold vouchers, redeemable in exchange for baked goods. Half of Hong Kong had bought vouchers by the handful to hedge against confectionery inflation, and the city went bananas: queues of up to 5,000 people built up in pursuit of patisserie.

The mother of a friend of sis-in-law's had bought 600 vouchers at $HK45 each - roughly pounds 2,000-worth - in preparation for her son's wedding in 1999. She took the lot down for redemption. I don't know if you've seen pounds 2,000 worth of cake - I know I haven't - but it's a helluva tea party. Given that the entire population was groaning beneath the weight of an embarrassment of Eccleses, a panoply of petits fours, a glut of Genoa, a surplus of Sachertorte, most of it ended up in the waste disposal. And the irony is, the shop never went under.

"It could only happen in Hong Kong," says Bruv. "Yeah," I say, "Crazy. You'd never get anything like that happening here". "Naah," says Bruv, Everyone's far too sensible over there". "Oh, look," I say, "I've got to go. Sorry." "What's the rush?" says Bruv. "I heard a rumour that Argos are getting a shipment of Teletubbies at midday". "Christ," says Bruv, "You'd better get down there right away. There won't be any left by five past".

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