Tag Archives: we’re bocht

Bags Full Of Crumbs

Mr Banks had had dreams of walking with giants.

And of carving his niche in the edifice of time. He had felt the thrill of totting up a balanced book, a thousand ciphers in a row. When gazing at a graph that showed the profits up, his little cup of joy had overflowed.

He had ground, ground, ground at that grindstone, a sentence that sounds better in the present tense.

But years of daft lending, stupid investments and the previously unknown fact that the word “banker” derives from an old Irish word meaning “thick as porridge” had all caught up with him. The mortgages he had granted had been on houses of cards, the developers he had funded had been under-developed, the seed capital he had provided had been planted on stony soil, or possibly eaten by the bird-woman’s birds. He had backed a company that sold cranberry-flavoured whiskey, which was unfit for drinking, even by Americans.

He had traded in futures, whatever they are, and they were going to cost him his.

Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank had no money left. Tomorrow morning there would be a run on the bank.

Which was why he now sat in the great marble hallway outside the office in which he would shortly meet his fate.

The door opened, and he was called inside, to be meet the Irish Minister for Finance.

“Ah, Banks,” said the Minister. “We’re going to have to take this very seriously.”

Here we go, thought Mr Banks. “What are you going to do?”

“We’re going to take over your bad loans, guarantee your bank, and repay all of your creditors.”

“Who’s we?”

“The Irish people, of course. A couple with a massive mortgage. A family on the dole. A man with one leg named Smith. People like that.”

“Won’t they object?”

“If they do, they can go fly a kite.”

“And what’s going to happen to me?”

“Well, obviously you’ll have to go. But we won’t sack you, we’ll let you retire, on a massive pension.”

Mr Banks was stunned. Jane and Michael could stay at their private school. Mrs Banks could stay on her endless committees. They wouldn’t have to get rid of their French au-pair, Marie Popin.

“Aren’t you going to punch a hole in my hat?”

“Er, what?”

“Punch a hole in my bowler hat. It’s the greatest punishment that a banker can face.”

The Minister stared at him, and just for a second Mr Banks could see deep, deep anger in his eyes.

“Is that so?” said the Minister. “Well, that explains an awful lot.”

The Great Fall

In the old USSR the Communist Party took over all businesses and ran them. Badly. 1970s UK socialism tried the same thing, where various industries were nationalised and run by the Government. Badly.

These methodologies didn’t work, mainly because the disincentivised populace didn’t either. They gave us laziness, they gave us corruption, they gave us shoddy workmanship.

They gave us a mystery inside a riddle inside an enigma, when all they’d been trying to make was a doll inside a doll inside a doll.

Our Government opted not to follow that path. They went the capitalist route, where big businessmen could do what they liked, unregulated, as long as they let the Taoiseach call them by their first name and brought him for the occasional game of golf. Senior public officials were let into the scheme with huge salaries , ridiculous freedom as regards expense claims and the knowledge that if they got too greedy they would be let retire early on giant pensions, instead of being fired out the door of their department like a drunken cowboy being hurled headfirst out of a saloon.

This methodology didn’t work. It gave us laziness, it gave us corruption, it gave us shoddy workmanship.

So we’ve turned to Communism. We have nationalised our banks, taking the debts incurred by them upon our own shoulders while letting much of those boards remain in place. We will, for years and years to come, run the banks. Badly. But if you’re a writer of stuff that you like to delude yourself is funny, then yesterday was the final straw. The government’s collapse was like one of those 1960s bedroom farces, with lots of whispering, hidden liaisons, misunderstandings and with the main character running about clueless with no trousers on.

It’s just my luck. The government has nationalised comedy. And are brilliant at it.

Some Words of Norman Wisdom

In the beginning came the Vikings.

They came to Ireland in their longboats and longcoats and tried to take us over. They failed, fled back to the lands of fjords and abba, and no longer exist.

Next came the Normans. A load of people with names like Richard FitzRichard and Percy de Courcey arrived armed with Strongbow cider and had a go at running our country. They too are gone, vanished from the planet, remembered only in the occasional use of Norman as a first name for children who then face a life of slagging at school.

The English came next, and here the thread of my theme starts to unravel a bit since it is hard to claim that they no longer exist, especially since they are playing cricket on my TV at the moment. They have, however, lost their empire and find hilarious ways to get knocked out of the World Cup, so the central plank of my argument is still sound, and it is this.

We are the geographical equivalent of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Anyone who tries to enter us (er, I may come back to re-word that sentence later), pillage us or take our assets ends up cursed.

The EU have had a half-hearted go at ruling us from afar by bombarding us with treaties which we calmly bat back at them. In reprisal we invade their resorts with stag parties, people who drink while their kids fall into the pool and something known as the craic. We are destroying their currency right now, without even trying very hard.

The IMF are here now. Like Indiana Jones they have slipped in through a series of traps and spears (their route from the airport took them through the inner city) and intend to plunder what little cash we have left, take away our quangoes and put us on display for all the world to wonder at (mostly wondering “how the fuck did they lose so much money?”).

Good luck with that.

They should reflect that there was another organisation called the IMF, that the Mission Impossible group were actually known as the Impossible Missions Force, and IMF was printed on the folder out of which Jim used to take the pictures of his team (why did he have to do that, by the way, just how bad was his memory?). The current IMF may well come to find that this is an impossible mission, that within five years they will leave with their bailout between their legs, fleeing in terror from our brazen political lying, our brass-necked sense of entitlement and our relentless freckles.

The infiltrators of King Tut’s tomb met the curse of the Egyptian mummy. Wait till the IMF meet the Irish mammy.

Naughty Step Again

Once again we Irish have been very, very bold.

Following this week’s kidnapping of a bank official’s wife and the subsequent robbery from the AIB branch where he worked, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern suggested charges for customers withdrawing cash at ATMs, as it’s for this reason that banks have to carry so much money. While he later backed down about the charges, he did insist that we should move more towards a cashless society.

In short, bank robberies are our fault, because we selfish feckers want access to our money. The government, to be fair to them, are doing their best to change this situation by taxing us and running our economy in such a way that we have less and less money to want access to, but still we demand what little we have, forcing the poor banks to stock money instead of carrying out proper banking functions, such as refusing credit, paying themselves bonuses and trying to find ways around the salary cap imposed on their chief executive.

Now many people would claim that the ever-increasing crime rate might be due to a police force that’s too small and under-resourced, or to backlogs in the court system, or to the revolving door system of prisons, because there are too few of them. These people might suggest that the blame lies at the feet of someone who could remedy some of those problems – a Minister for Justice, for example.

The sheer cynicism of these people is typical of what makes Ireland grate instead of great. Mr Ahern is a political and intellectual colossus. Admittedly he has not yet got to grips with the problems of drug-wars, increased paramilitary activity and a growing knife-culture, but he has brought in an inspired piece of legislation which means that grown men and women cannot buy a bottle of wine at a minute past ten on a Saturday night. If Dermo says we’re not worthy then worthy is what we are not, and if that phrase seems a little unwieldy then a shit is what I do not give.

Besides, he has a point. Housebreaking would not take place if we didn’t insist on filling our homes with TVs, laptops and small amounts of jewellery. Car theft would not happen if we didn’t all have cars. Muggings would not occur if it weren’t for our ridiculous insistence on walking the streets in broad daylight.

And what about political corruption? What about the procession of politicians, many of them from Mr A’s own party, who have been caught fiddling expenses, or committing slander, or spending money raised to help their sick friend, or presenting laughable evidence to a tribunal to explain their uxexplainable cash lodgements? Is that not the fault of the politicians themselves?

Mr Ahern would say no. He’d say that’s our fault too. And he’d be right.

We voted for them.

Mea Culpa

It’s reported in today’s papers that former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has accepted some of the responsibility for our current economic crisis.

In other news, Mrs O’Leary’s cow admitted that kicking over her lantern may have contributed to the Great Fire of Chicago, Buffalo Bill Cody acknowledged that shooting all the buffalo might be part of the reason why there are no more buffalo, and a Mr A. Hitler of Germany agreed that the Second World War may have been partly his fault.

Simple, Really

The Government, reluctantly and under extreme pressure, is to hold an enquiry into what went wrong in the banks.

My prediction (indeed everyone’s prediction) is that they’ll spend a few million and come up with a load of generalised waffle.

I can save them that money (though they can send me some if it, if they wish). The paragraph below tells them everything they need to know.

Joe borrowed money to buy a car which he then wrote off in a crash. Though his asset is gone, he still has to repay the loan. Rich borrowed money to buy shares in Anglo Irish, which were then written off in a banking crash. His asset is gone, so he doesn’t have to repay the money.

That’s the banking culture in a nutshell. It’s better to be rich than an ordinary joe.

They’re welcome.

A Question Of Tort

Would you like to work with us here in the bank?

We are the one profession in Ireland where there have been no pay cuts, no redundancies and no company closures.

We certainly compare favourably with the oldest profession, since we’re not the ones being screwed.

Banks around the world are making money again, from lending at high rates to countries whose economies are shagged because they had to bail us out in the first place, we’ll soon be looking for more staff. So, do you have what it takes to join us? Try this aptitude test….

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  1. If you get this job, will you put on your Facebook page that you work as (a) a slurry-pit cleaner; (b) a recruitment officer for the Taliban; (c) a banker, and proud if it?
  2. Would you put any spare money you had into (a) bank shares; (b) property; (c) a biscuit-tin under your bed (we bankers aren’t stupid, you know)?
  3. Who was your childhood hero: (a) Superman; (b) Robin Hood; (c) Shylock?
  4. “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. Doesn’t this mean that the whole crisis is the fault of (a) the farmers; (b) the Public Sector; (c) spongers on the dole?
  5. At the end of A Christmas Carol, did you (a) feel filled with the spirit of Christmas; (b) rejoice that Tiny Tim lived; (c) hurl the book aside in disgust at how Scrooge had turned into a spineless wuss?
  6. Which of the following would fill you with dread: (a) the Boogeyman; (c) the Financial Regulator (I know, ridiculous, but we have to ask); (c) an increase in the higher tax rate?
  7. What’s the best thing about Big Brother: (a) the arguments when they’re drunk; (b) the tasks; (c) evictions live on TV (great idea for a whole new programme there)?
  8. “I don’t know what a Tracker Mortgage is.” Was this said by (a) an actor in a TV ad; (b) a beggar on O’Connell Bridge; (c) the Governor of the Central Bank?
  9. Would you rather be (a) taken in a Tiger kidnapping; (b) taken by Tiger Woods; (c) taken for a Tiger Beer by a property developer?
  10. Who do you like most in Buffy: (a) Buffy; (b) Willow; (c) the evil blood-sucking vampires?
  11. Nick Leeson got six-and-a-half years for bringing down Barings Bank. Seanie Fitzpatrick brought down the entire Irish banking system. Should he get (a) ten years; (b) life; (c) a substantially reduced bonus this year?
  12. The Minister for Finance says bankers’ salaries should be capped at half a million euro. Is he (a) serious; (b) kidding;  (c) out of his fucking mind?

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If you answered all C’s, welcome aboard, Brother Banker! You and I are practically soulmates.

Or we would be, if either of us had a soul.

Before the Flood

Sorry I’ve been missing. I’ve been up to my eyes at work.

In these straitened times, that should be a good thing, but it isn’t. Another river of shit is flowing towards the wonderful people who work with me. We’re all going to get paid less when we come back after Christmas, and some, though thankfully only a few, won’t be coming back at all.

I’ve been so busy because I’ve had to pull together information that the people at the top will use to control the river, to decide in what directions to channel it and where to let it burst its banks. Shit happens, and they have to decide who to. They hate it, and I don’t envy them.

Meanwhile the staff carry on working, and discussing next week’s (much-diluted from last year) Christmas party.

I feel so sorry for the ones who’ll be going. The rest of us, well, we’ll manage. we’ll get by on our lower salaries and, if things ever pick up again, we’ll see good times again.

But the anger at the Government and the financial misfits who caused all this will still burn inside. It will not burn with flashy and short-lasting flames of rage and shouting. It will smoulder deep, deep inside, and because of this it will last much longer. And this deep-felt anger is burning  in other companies, in the public service, in all of society.

We keep being told that things are going to change. Unless the powers-that-be really are as divorced from the people as they appear, then they must see that things will have to. Because the people of Ireland have had enough.

Banana Nama – 2

Sorry, but I can’t let this topic go.

The Government’s NAMA has bought €77 billion worth of loans from the banks. The property relating to these loans is worth €47 billion, but we’re paying €54 billion for them. We’re told that it’s not a bailout, that NAMA will pursue the developers for their loans just as diligently as the banks would have. And I’ve no doubt that Brian Lenihan believes that.

Ok, let’s keep it simple.

A property company, Balls of Brass Limited, borrowed €1.5 million from AIB to buy a property. This property is now worth €1 million. We have bought the loan from AIB for €1.15 million, to reflect “long term economic value”.

Next week Balls of Brass goes into liquidation. It is entitled to do this, indeed obliged to, as it is hopelessly insolvent. Its only creditor, which is us, gets legal ownership of its only asset, the property which is worth €1 million.

And we’ve just paid €1.15 million for it.

And that’s the end of it. The company is in liquidation – effectively deceased – so there is no-one and nothing left to pursue. The company has met all its legal obligations by handing over its asset to its creditors. No-one has done anything legally wrong.

But we’ve just lost money, unless the Government intends to hang on to the building in the hope that prices will rise. What if they keep falling? At what stage does NAMA lose its nerve and sell for even less than the €1 million it’s supposedly worth now? 

Bank share prices surged on Thursday after the figures relating to NAMA were released. You can see why.

A Better Opportunity

Way back in the last century, when our last recession was at its worst, I had my own business.

My typical week was spent dealing with the needs of the couple of clients that I had, reading the paper a lot (that was when I learnt to do the Irish Times cryptic crossword) and waiting for the phone to ring.

And ring it did, quite often. Every month or so some new person would phone offering me the opportunity to invest in some grand scheme. I remember one where we were going to invest in gold coins (possibly bought from ageing Nazis),  and another one where we would buy special champagne, which would be released for sale to the world when the then far-off millennium arrived.

Each salesman would ring doggedly every day for couple of weeks till it finally sank in that no meant no. Then a few days later some new person, with some new scheme, would ring, and the whole rigmarole would start again.

Time passed, the economy improved, and I noticed that phone calls like that stopped, as if the people had realised that now they could make more money from, well, real jobs. Of course, scams did continue (I won the Dutch lottery once), but they tended to be done via fax or eMail, so you felt that their heart wasn’t really in it, and that they had no real expectation of success, like the small boys you see fishing along the Grand Canal.

Now, of course, we’re fecked again, and so yesterday I received a letter offering me the “opportunity to make a substantial first or second tax-free income with very little effort.” They say that they have chosen me “through careful profiling” (i.e., opening the phone-book at random), and assure me that the business has “absolutely nothing to do with stock market investment”. Then they say that:

“It’s time to tell you what we do but remember, please read this letter through to the end.” With my heart now beating wildly (if they’d profiled me carefully enough, they’d have known not to make that happen) I turned the page.

They bet on horseracing.

I did read through to the end. They call it “investing”, claim that they invest only when the circumstances are totally in their favour, and that if I ring a special number each day they will let me know whether or not there is an opportunity that day. They freely admit that not all selections will win, but claim that more than 52% will, and then produce a table showing how in such a circumstance my winnings will grow and grow.

All this for just a €160 registration fee and a €97 monthly subscription (neither of which costs, incidentally, feature in their working example).

Now, it’s true that there are surer ways of getting rid of all your money than betting on horses, such as setting fire to it, waving it above your head while walking up O’Connell Street, or having children. Nevertheless the suspicion remains that if their method was that good then they’d keep it to themselves, since the more people bet on their selections the lower the price is likely to be (see, I know stuff).

Anyway, I’ve decided that my life has enough excitement in it already (I have Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3!!)) so I won’t be availing of their offer. I do have a friend, though -well, acquaintance, really – who might be interested. I met her through the internet, she’s a Nigerian princess who is unable to gain access to her substantial funds at present, but who is looking for someone who’ll allow her use of a bank account to transfer them into. I’m going to give her all the details of my new friends.

I’ll think they’ll get along together quite well.