Finance: The Trader - Revenge is sweet when the boys go kart-mad

LAURA IS sipping her first morning coffee with all the gaiety of someone who's been told their bonus has been cancelled. "Oh, hello," she says limply, as I flop into my chair next to her. "Want to have a guess at the happy news?"

Frankly, at seven in the morning, what I really want is a bacon roll and several gallons of cappuccino, but with Laura so downcast I feel I should humour her and have a stab at a theory.

"The French have blockaded the international phone lines and we can't call beyond Dover? One of the directors has run off with the chairman and all the bank's money?" Then a terrible fear grips me. "Oh no; don't say Mrs Hughes has lost the recipe for her chocolate cake?"

Laura gazes at me with pity. "Even worse - Rory's issued a team summons, and we're all going go-carting. So whatever you thought you were doing on Thursday evening, cancel it now."

My heart sinks. It's bad enough spending 12 hours in a badly ventilated trading room with my colleagues, but to have to sacrifice an evening with friends as well is too much to contemplate.

Added to that, go-carting is exactly the thing to bring out ugly competitive urges in even the mildest people. What effect it will have on Simon, our pushy junior salesman, hardly bears thinking. The only hope is that his desire to win will outstrip his desire to suck up to Rory.

"It could be quite entertaining if he forgets to let the chief honcho win," Laura says, a distant look in her eyes as if she can see it already. "I mean, just imagine it." And we sit there and do just that.

Thursday night arrives with a heavy inevitability. Rory piles into his Porsche, with Simon as his simpering co-pilot, and roars off to an old bus station somewhere in the outer reaches of north London. Laura, Kirsty, Findlay and I follow more sedately in my Golf, playing cheery music to try and lift our spirits.

"It's not working," says Findlay, gloomily. "In fact, if you play Shiny, Happy People again, I may just throw myself out of the car." The gloom deepens as we arrive. It's cold, dreary and smells of burnt rubber inside the building. Findlay looks as if he'd rather be anywhere else. "Well, at least there's a changing room and a loo for you," Kirsty says sharply. "They seem to have forgotten to install one for women." She's right. Oh God, I think, another "toys for the boys" moment.

After that, things go downhill fast. We pull on filthy overalls and choose our carts. One of the organisers produces a chequered flag, and starts the first heat as solemnly as if we were driving the latest in Ferrari technology instead of stunted supermarket trolleys. I lose count of how many times Simon carves me up and forces me into the tyre perimeter, and I limp in third. Rory laughs at me for driving like a girlie.

My revenge comes at the end, when Simon does as predicted and forces Rory off the track in the final straight to lift the cup. Our chief honcho's face is still set with fury as he and Simon drive away. "Aren't you glad you're not in that car?" I says to the others.

Halfway back to town, Kirsty suddenly pipes up, "Slow down, there's a police car. Oh no, you're fine, they've already pulled someone over."

There, on the hard shoulder, is a Porsche, with Rory and Simon beside it. And I know it'll be a while before they laugh at me again for not driving fast enough.

thetrader@hotmail.com

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