Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

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The Independent Online

The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

Here we are in one of those quiet moments waiting for the machines to work their magic, and I'm casting over the opportunities I've enjoyed in life... We parked in a lane, and she took me out into a field off the highway; she lay back in the hollow of a dead tree and looked up at the moon. The fabric of her dress strained against her cleavage. She swept her blonde Icelandic hair off her forehead and half-smiled. We were young, quite young enough. But because she wouldn't look at me directly, I assumed she wanted to hear the full explanation of why Eric Clapton was more significant than Jimmy Page. Years later I suddenly sat up in bed going: "Ohhhh!" Then I slapped my head repeatedly, going: "Idiot! Idiot!"

The number of opportunities I've missed in life hardly bears thinking about. When I was writing speeches in another country, I got a top-secret brief to write speeches for the CEO of their telecom company. The objective was to explain to his workforce why half of them were to be made redundant. It never occurred to me to take advantage of this market-moving knowledge, even though insider trading was legal at the time. Obviously, the share price of the company was going to collapse (it's just as well I let that opportunity go).

In fact, after the profits soared, the telecom shares went from $2 to $10. I bought and sold chunks of shares four times during this trajectory - and lost money on each transaction. That wasn't easy. I doubt anyone else could have managed it. I've never made money in these speculations. One of my Oxford contemporaries won £50,000 playing backgammon in the mid-Seventies and then put it all into gold just before it started its 20-fold increase. No, that was never my style.

The cartoonist Burton Silver asked me round to write something for one of his brilliant projects. I got held up, writing something for the Prime Minister. He gave the job to someone else: Why Cats Paint. It sold millions round the world.

An electrician came round to rewire my ex-wife's house. He was going off at lunchtime to bungee jump off the Auckland Harbour Bridge. I was snooty about it, saying our English Dangerous Sports Club had rather used the idea up. I could, alternatively, have insisted on accompanying him (it turned out to be AJ Hackett, just before he went commercial). Global jumping empire now.

That advertising agency I worked in for a laugh. Of course, you can't take advertising seriously, sitting around arguing about what colour dress Mrs Klene should be wearing in the 10-second cut-down. But they got bought by Saatchi's, and the management is now on salaries of $2m a year.

And yet of all these missed opportunities... only one makes me slap my forehead and go: "Idiot!"