Mark's high life ends with a jolt

The Trader: 'Two large Moscow mules later, Jaap has calmed down'

Once in a while, something happens to remind me of Wallis Simpson and her comment about how you can never be too rich or too thin. This time, the event is a dinner party given by one of Jaap's close friends - or, to be precise, its aftermath.

Once in a while, something happens to remind me of Wallis Simpson and her comment about how you can never be too rich or too thin. This time, the event is a dinner party given by one of Jaap's close friends - or, to be precise, its aftermath.

Let me explain. Jaap and Mark have been pals ever since their nerve-wracking first day in the City. Dutchman Jaap and Canadian Mark sat in classes exchanging jokes about the English and their funny ways, and wondering whether anyone really understood option pricing or were just pretending they did. In the evenings, Jaap - who'd studied in London, so knew the place already - introduced him to all his friends, and soon Jaap's friends were Mark's friends, and life was sweet. Which is the way it went on, even when they both moved to different banks.

"Then one day Mark landed himself a job at one of the American investment banks," Jaap says. He names the place - though, in the interests of discretion, I can tell you only that its initials are GS - and I whistle, because it's one of those ones where the bonuses are measured in seven figures. "And ever since," Jaap goes on, "he's slowly become more and more extravagant."

I almost fall over laughing at Jaap's mastery of British understatement. At every gathering of Mark's that I've been to, there have been lakes of vintage champagne and mountains of caviar - the real stuff - and huge platters of lobsters and every other delicacy known to man. I've always staggered away afterwards full of praise for his generosity and telling Jaap how much I like him, and this most recent dinner party was no exception. As soon as our hangovers wore off, we wrote an appreciative thank-you letter and settled back into our humdrum lives.

So I'm understandably slow on the uptake when Jaap arrives on my doorstep on Monday evening, muttering, "The bastard! The miserable, selfish, stupid bastard!" You can almost hear the sound of thunder in the air around him. In fact, I haven't seen Jaap look that angry since Holland lost to Italy on penalties at Euro 2000. All I can think to do is rush around saying, "What? Why? Who?" to no great effect, while Jaap carries on cursing.

Two large Moscow mules later, Jaap has calmed down enough to become coherent. "Explain," I say, and Jaap gives a big sigh and begins.

"It's Mark," he says. "He's been complaining about me. According to Tim, he's sick and tired of me sponging off him. We've had loads of champagne and wonderful dinners off him, he says, and the last time he came round here, all he got was red wine and some crappy pheasant casserole." My jaw drops and my eyes start to brim. "I spent hours making that meal," I say, sniffing ominously. "It wasn't crappy at all, the ungrateful..." But the end of the sentence is swallowed up by tears of rage at the injustice of it.

"Of course it wasn't," Jaap says hurriedly. "Look, he chooses to throw his money around like that; it's unreasonable of him to expect everyone else to entertain the same way. Anyway, even if I had loads of money, I'd rather eat casserole with good, unpretentious friends than caviar with Mark's smart new acquaintances any day."

We're interrupted by the phone, which I answer and pass to Jaap with a look of amazement on my face. "Speak of the devil," I say, and leave the room.

By the time I return, Jaap's furious expression has softened. "You won't believe it, but Mark's lost his job. I offered him dinner out, but he said that what he'd really like is one of your delicious pheasant casseroles."

We laughed, and then felt guilty. Which is why I only said to myself, "Perhaps there is a God after all."

* thetrader@hotmail.com

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