Friday, July 25, 2008

 

What You Have is What You’re Worth

I’ve been in Madrid for the past couple of weeks and I returned to the coast a few days ago by car. Vrrm vrrm. Madrid is a good place, but rather expensive. I had the good fortune to catch a summer ‘flu shortly after arriving there and so I was able to save a bundle on drinks, shopping and dinners in company with my daughter, who appreciates the fancy places when it comes to being taken out by her dad.
Actually, a similar thing happened to me a couple of years back when I flew to America.
Madrid, New York, San Francisco, bed, New York, Madrid and home.
With the credit card in almost perfect shape.
Lying abed in Madrid, and trying to keep up with the terrible financial news which is worrying most of Spain (banks and politicians not included), I heard the words of the president of the Banco de Santander (and a load of other banks – Central, Hispano, Abbey Nat and so on) regarding the current situation. The president of the Santander, by the way, rejoices in the name of Emilio Botín. Botín in my dictionary translates as ‘swag’ or booty’. Like a pirate.
Perhaps his wife calls him ‘my old booty’…
Anyway this financier was saying that the crisis is like a child’s summer cold. It won’t last for long or do any lasting damage. That said, he then turned to his shareholders and told them that this year the group expected to make around ten billion euros.
In banking, you see, every year is a ‘good year’.
Of course, banks don’t ‘make money’; what they do is they take it out of everybody else’s pockets. They ‘take’ money. Botín also means ‘spoils of war’…
So pleased were the folk from the Banco de Santander on considering their good fortune, they rushed out the same day and bought the Alliance and Leicester.
All good things come to an end and one morning I woke up to discover that my daughter had hidden the thermometer, possibly because she had just heard from a friend about a fancy new restaurant that had just opened in a particularly posh bit of Madrid.
Feeling woozy, I got dressed and staggered out into the street in search of a hole-in-the-wall. The nearest one, as luck would have it, belonged to the same Banco de Santander. I put in my card… secret number… amount… and, bugger me, the machine wanted a commission of almost six euros, a thousand pesetas, for my modest wallop. Bastards!
Which explains how the Banco de Santander, Central, Hispano and the rest of it can go around picking up extra banks every few months.
You know, the word 'bank' or ‘banco’ comes from the bench - ‘banco’ in Italian - where the moneylenders used to sit outside the churches to catch anyone who wanted to take his daughter out to dinner or buy himself a new cow. These were the ‘lombards’ that charged you a few points of interest on your loan.
I know an English girl who was given a cheque for sixty euros by her mother a month ago. She put it in the local caja de ahorros who said that it would take six weeks to clear. You know, we are in the 21st century and we do have communication by computer with London. Some shit is sitting on sixty euros for six weeks and making - ooh - maybe anything up to five céntimos off of it. Meanwhile, the same caja de ahorros charges me a ‘maintenance fee’ for the pleasure of holding my money, which it probably spends on the geegees.
Banks famously only lend money to people who already have it or, as is said, ‘they’ll only lend you an umbrella when the rain stops’. But, rain or shine, banks make their money. The last time we were in crisis, back in 1992, I was three million pesetas overdrawn. That was when I ran a big newspaper here (later to be ripped off by those fucks from the Euro Weekly). To cheer me up, the bank downstairs cranked up the interest to a massive 27% - which, I think you will agree - ain’t bad work if you can get it.
I have to say that I don’t like usury, greed, avarice… or banks.
So… anyway… could you lend me some cash?

Comments:
Dear Lennox. Your financier would do well to read the business section of the UK Daily Telegraph dated 5th August 2008. Whatever one thinks about the pundits (not a lot) there is a very cold wind blowing through the banking sector in Spain and the banker may find his "summer cold" has developed into pneumonia. Many very difficult years ahead.
 
LOMBARD: Lots Of Money, But A Right Dastard.
 
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