Finance: Team-building trauma with a happy ending

HALFWAY UP the rope ladder, I realised how much I hated Rory. My arms were about to give way, but if they did I'd land in the river - not that I could have been much wetter anyway, thanks to the driving rain. It was like being in hell after someone had cried "Fire!" and the water sprinklers had gone on. How on earth was this supposed to make me a better trader?

"It'll be great fun," Rory had said when he told us he'd arranged this weekend for us. "They drop you in a wood with tents and a few tins, and you have to get from camp to camp through assault courses."

Our boss's normal idea of a weekend assault course is getting through the crowds at the bar to order another round of drinks, so we were puzzled by this sudden enthusiasm for mud and canvas. Unfortunately, we were also stuck with its consequences. No croissants and orange juice for us over this weekend.

"Apparently it's good for team building," I said to Laura, whose only response was to mutter something about how we'd certainly all be united in hating Wales by the end of it. We gazed into our coffees and tried not to cry, since crying isn't allowed on the trading floor - unless England lose the football or cricket, that is.

"Well, at least Rory didn't say it'll be character building," Laura said, brightening a little. "I don't think I want my character built: I'd rather let it accumulate naturally."

But by Sunday afternoon the only thing that seemed to be accumulating naturally was dirt. There was mud in my hair, mud on my clothes and mud in my shoes. "If anyone says ,`Here's mud in your eye' I'll hit them," I growled warningly at Laura, who looked equally bedraggled. "And I never want another burnt baked bean again as long as I live."

To add insult to injury, Rory had enjoyed the whole thing hugely. "Ha, ha, ha," he'd laughed as he fell off the rope swing into the stagnant lake. "Great!" he'd cried as he tumbled out of the tree walk. "Fantastic!" he'd shouted as he landed in a sea of mud at the bottom of the log barricade. He'd even had seconds of the baked beans before retiring to his tent, while the rest of us sat there, cold and weary, longing for a Chinese takeaway and a large drink.

"If he ever suggests anything like this again, I'll resign," Jaap sighed, half-heartedly stirring the fire with a big stick. "It wouldn't be so bad if we'd been allowed to bring alcohol. I mean, it would still be ghastly, but perhaps we wouldn't care so much." And suddenly Laura started, cried "Of course!", and ran off to our tent.

We were just wondering what was going on when she came back clutching a handful of miniatures. "From my last plane journey," she said. "I forgot I had them. I always order them and then don't want them." We pounced, we drank, we cheered up. By the time we crawled into our sleeping bags, we didn't even notice the damp.

All good things come to an end, and all bad ones do, too. Back in the office on Monday morning, life suddenly seemed much rosier. Even the trading room had a new appeal: it was clean, dry and warm. Jaap, Findlay, Laura and I couldn't stop grinning.

Only Rory seemed rather subdued and quiet. "I'm fine," he said, unconvincingly, sneezing so loudly that Laura nearly dropped her coffee. "It's just a little cold."

So much for the great outdoors, after all...