Finance: The Trader: Keeping a low profile, living the high life
It's good to have a City job - lots of money, but no one knows who you are
Wednesday 31 March 1999
Of course, people had lower expectations then. As far as they were concerned there were only three things you could be: alive, dying or dead. But mere existence isn't good enough for us anymore; we expect to be amazingly well all the time, and if we're not we do something about it. "We need a holiday. Let's spend some of that bonus money that's about to tumble into our bank account," said Jane once she'd sorted out the problems with her boss. "See if you can take one of the weeks with Easter in it." I laughed.
Didn't she realise they would have been booked up months in advance? But she just laughed right back and told me not to be naive. "Only senior managers dare to book time off at Easter or Christmas," she said. "No one else will because they think it doesn't look keen enough."
Luckily, she was right and now we're in Jamaica, sitting on the terrace of our villa, looking down over Kingston and drinking Blue Mountain coffee. Quite how Jane managed to pull off a booking at such short notice, I'm not sure.
"Last-minute cancellation," she says. "Supermodel stubbed her toe and couldn't travel. Something like that, anyway."
Bad luck for her, brilliant for us. Strawberry Hill is the sort of place that's written up in the glossy magazines with breathless reverence, and is even nicer in the flesh than in the photographs. It seems an insult to call it a hotel.
The villas are so submerged in greenery and gardens that half the time you feel you're the only people around. "Just as well, really," Jane says. "I feel a bit square compared to some of the other guests."
She's referring, I think, to the couple we saw as we arrived: him with goatee and crochet skullcap, her with long blue hair and a nose stud. They just had to be stressed-out music business executives. "Do you think we seem as strange to them as they do to us?" I asked Jane, but from the way he was whispering to her and looking in our direction with an "I am not looking in your direction" expression on his face I had my answer.
Otherwise, we haven't really seen many of the other people staying here. If we can hardly drag ourselves away from our villa, presumably they all feel the same, particularly the famous ones.
Even better, I've realised it's the first holiday in ages where there hasn't been an off-duty futures trader with a hyperactive mobile on the next balcony. Money talks, but some of it talks quieter than the rest.
"It's at times like this," I say to Jane as we sip our drinks, "that you appreciate having a City job. Lots of money, but no one knows who you are. I'd hate to be a celebrity and have my picture in the tabloids every time I so much as sneezed." Jane agrees with me on that one and then tells me she's hungry and we should have dinner.
We find ourselves on the table next to the music-business couple who are vaguely looking in my direction. Suddenly he starts and nearly drops his drink, and I can hear him say, "It is, I tell you, it is." He stands and comes over shyly to our table. "I'm sorry to bother you," he says, "but there's this column in The Independent called `The Trader'... I'm a big fan. Your profile... you look just like her. Are you?" And I blushed and said yes. Well, it's nice to be recognised, isn't it?
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