Swedes are no joke for some City boys

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It's not just autumn that's in the air. For Jane - though she's loath to admit it - so is love.

It's not just autumn that's in the air. For Jane - though she's loath to admit it - so is love.

"Don't be ridiculous," she says, when I suggest this to her. "Tom and I have been out a few times, that's all. You couldn't even call them dates," she adds, though of the two of us, I'd say she's the only one who has problems with that particular description.

"Okay," I say, "so how have these not-dates been going?"

Jane grimaces. "Well, to be honest, the second one was terrible. In fact, it was so terrible, it was nearly the one and only." I am, I admit, amazed to hear this. As far as I was aware, all they were doing was having lunch - and exactly how wrong can one of those go?

"Quite wrong enough," Jane says. "First of all, he asked me what I'd been doing that morning, and I told him I'd finally got around to flogging out to Ikea to buy some cheap furniture for the second bedroom - so I can have people to stay, you know.

"Anyway, he looked a bit off-ish about it and I thought he was being picky about my taste or something."

"Brave man," I say, trying not to laugh. "Doesn't he know flat packs are the last word in furniture fashion?"

"Shut up," Jane says. "I never said it was stylish. It's just easy. Anyway, naturally, I got a bit upset about it, and almost threw his plate of food at him. Then he glared at me and asked if this was a deliberate plot to upset him. I didn't understand what he was talking about at first: then the penny dropped. They were meatballs: Swedish meatballs from Swedish Ikea. And Tom's a stockbroker."

There's a sigh from Jane - and a sharp intake of breath from me. Like many traders, I spend my working life in a little cocoon world where the only other inhabitants are traders, too. All those stockbrokers, commodity dealers and the rest might as well live on a different planet. Only now do I recall the headlines.

"Of course," I say. "These would be the same Swedes who are trying to take over the London Stock Exchange."

"Well, not exactly the same Swedes," Jane says, "to be accurate. But from the same country."

"But Tom's not your typical xenophobe," I say, because he isn't. Jane just raises her right eyebrow, Roger-Moore style. "Oh, he doesn't have anything against the Swedes. What upsets him is all the wretched jokes everyone keeps sending him. He says he hardly dares open his e-mails in case there's another crude one about saunas, blondes, pine furniture and pickled herrings."

I'm just wondering why he doesn't delete anything that looks even remotely like a sick joke before he reads it - my technique - when Jane solves the mystery. "And he daren't simply ignore them, because then his friends tell him he's a wuss for not knowing any jokes. I think boys are like that."

There's not much I can say to this, except silently agree boys quite possibly are like that, especially massively competitive City boys. "Well, there you go," I say to Jane. "No change there then."

"Actually," Jane says slowly, "Change might be the other thing that's upsetting him. He came back from New York because living there felt like running on quicksand. Nothing stayed the same for a second. I think he was hoping for a bit of stability."

"Oh, but you know what they say," I chip in. "The more everything changes, the more it stays the same."

Jane looks at me strangely. "Oh good," she says. "That will cheer him up, won't it? Brilliant. He'll go through all that upheaval - and it won't even make things better."

And then at that point, I gave up.