Poor cooks, mind you. I have twice been invited to highly expensive Japanese restaurants only to find when the food arrived that it was cook's night off, and that the waiters had conspired to palm us off with a couple of forkfuls of cold slimy fish that they hadn't even bothered to pass under the grill! "I have half a mind to report you to the boffins on the Watchdog programme on the BBC!" I reprimanded a little waiter. "They could close you down overnight! But if you promise to buy yourselves a deep-frier and a decent slab of lard, I'm prepared to overlook it!" Inscrutable people, methinks. No doubt you, too, have been enjoying the multifarious pictures beamed in from Japan this week to commemorate the downfall of Yamaichi Securities. Of course, everyone will have his or her favourite episode, but my own was that marvellous section where the Chairman and his Deputy stood to attention behind their desks, blubbing their hearts out and begging the forgiveness of the world. "No can do!" I found myself replying to the television screen in the few words of Japanese that I know, "No can do!"
We have cause to be grateful that blubbing is not part of our own business culture. I must have seen my old friend and quaffing partner Sir John Harvey-Jones umpteen times on the dread gogglebox striding up and down factory floors telling chairmen and managers how to put their houses in order, but never have I seen him in tears. Our other business leaders display a similar degree of self-control: not once did Nigel Lawson break down in floods at the Despatch Box, and though the Dread Lamont is known to be something of a cry-baby in the cafe society which he chooses to inhabit, he at least saved us the worst of his tears during his brief tenure at Number 11.
I must admit that occasionally my heart has gone out to little Peter Jay as he stands there shivering in the cold and rain outside Number 11 explaining this or that economic downturn to Mr Joe Public. To think that, just two decades ago, this poor, freezing fellow could have marched right in through that heavy wooden door and demanded the best seat in the house! And now, with icicles forming on the tip of his nose, he is reduced to stuttering out a few words containing the odd sum or two, before handing back to Mr Buerk, sweltering in the nice warm studio!
I fancy I may have seen the odd tell-tale tear as it wended its way down the cheek of poor old Jay, but then there are strong rumours of Japanese blood in the family: witness the ever-so-slightly slanted eyes of his first cousin Virginia Bottomley, and the way she forces all and sundry to go for 25-mile hikes along the blistering sands of the Isle of Wight every year in the blazing sun. I hear tell that some members of the Jay/Bottomley family have been devising an escape plan for some years. Alas, last year Mrs B came across a map and compasses in her husband Peter's pockets after an emergency strip-search: the poor chap has been buried up to his neck in the sand outside Ryde ever since.
Of course, our own Royal Family is being advised to follow the Japanese way, publicly confess their shame and sob their hearts out for all and sundry. I daresay that if one crept up behind him and pounced out on poor little Prince Edward with a great big "Boo!" he might very well burst into tears, but I doubt whether Prince Philip would then offer him the use of a hankie. And the last time HM the Queen Mother shed a sorrowful tear was surely when the awful news came through that The Duchess of York had narrowly escaped being engulfed by an avalanche.
Is there a touch of Jap blood in the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie? When I sat behind them at the Queen's wedding anniversary celebrations, I couldn't resist an experiment. I was good enough to give them a couple of short, sharp pinches and produced tears aplenty, a sure sign of a Touch of the East in their make-up.
Whither the yen? Ours is not to reason why, and I daresay the little fellows will be producing yet more dishwashers and "hi-fis" before the year is out. But behind their crocodile tears, does one detect a ruthless conceit? And perhaps even a strong dose of xenophobia?Reuse content