A friend sent me a message relaying the unfavourable outcome for the unlobotomised segment of the population and advised me to develop a Norman Wisdom tribute act and stay put (for those unaware, the cloth-capped capers of Britain’s crappest comic enjoyed cult status under the regime of Enver Hoxha.)
I told him that because of the sudden infirmity of the pound sterling versus the relatively robust Albanian leke, I probably could not afford to live there anyhow but I could see how there would be a flood of economic migrants from Britain to Albania across this very same border crossing in years to come.
Unlike us, Albania is heading into the European Union. I checked to see if the Tirana stock exchange offered any opportunities for aspirant brokers and was crestfallen to see the bourse had actually been suspended last year because there were no companies listed and no stocks traded.
That sounds like my kind of market. I bet you the steroidification of the compliance industry has not been initiated yet — and with nothing going on, what’s to stop you going for lunch?
No, Albanians prefer to invest in pyramid schemes that would make Bernie Madoff blush. The collapse of the last ones in the previous century caused a civil war in which thousands died.
In fact, a depressed Englishman sporting a Panama hat would find the exchange rate of his native currency plummeting against all those of the Balkan nations he visited.
I received far fewer Serbian dinars, Bosnian marks, Croatian kuna, Albanian leke and Montenegrin euros for my money. This was the immediate and tangible cost of Theresa May losing her majority. From the perspective of the average punter in the City, the election, like the Titanic’s first voyage, could have gone better.
It was ironic to be entering a country that abandoned its disastrous experiment with socialism just as Britain seems hellbent on hurtling headlong into its own. But the dusty city of Tirana was a perfect antidote to the limited cognitive abilities of Diane Abbott, the return of Vince Cable, scourge of the bankers, and our rainy island pessimism.
In the course of my wanderings I was reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, a popular book on anthropology, but was disappointed to reach the end of it of its almost 500 pages and find no evolutionary explanation for the existence of sales-traders — or indeed any mention of them. It’s almost as if they have made no contribution to mankind.
Nowhere in the millennia of development from homos floresiensis, neanderthal, erectus and so on right through to sapiens was there any suggestion that the appearance of extremely efficient, financial hunter-gatherers in the late 20th century would change (and debase) the human race.
In fact, were anthropologists to find my fossilised skeletal remains several millennia from now they would deduce homo erectus had made a comeback because I am convinced, gentle reader, it is definitely bone — and if they ever were able to decipher anything I wrote they would assume I had not lived through the cognitive, let alone the scientific or technological, revolutions.
What genetic traits were favoured by financial eugenicists to breed this evolutionary marvel? A thick skin, a relentless ebullience, a hearty guffaw, excess testosterone, a lack of self-consciousness, perhaps related to a brain that has not fully developed, a massive capacity for the consumption of intoxicating liquors and a stubborn reluctance to allow past events to inform future actions.
This process of natural selection is responsible for homo venditatio-mercator, destined soon to go the way of the dodo, the dinosaur and the pornographic magazine.
Dinosaurs were obliterated by an earth-shattering meteorite and in time to come archaeologists will find mass burial pits somewhere underneath what is now the City and figure that this species was wiped out by a fatal epidemic called MiFID, which laid waste to what was a basic civilisation masquerading as something far more sophisticated.
One thing I have not missed in my time out is, unsurprisingly, the market itself. After absenting myself for most of 2017, is it embarrassing to confess I could not tell you where any major index is trading within a thousand points and I have no idea whether the Fed is on a tightening or easing cycle?
I suppose I would have heard if Janet Yellen were no longer the Fed boss but I can’t guarantee that.
I can guarantee I don’t give a toss, however. It’s bizarre how one day I was passionately commentating on my asset class on a minute-by-minute basis, evincing conviction and affecting omniscience, and then the next day I just completely switched off and I haven’t felt the remotest intellectual curiosity about stocks or interest rates since.
I keep an eye on the FX markets only because of my holiday schedule and I feel the pain of the increased price of une bièredePierre most acutely.
Does this mean, once I have left this industry forever, it will be as though the past three decades had not existed and I will never consider equities or bonds again?
Will I walk out with a carriage clock and will there be no lasting body of work or lifetime of achievement to look back upon with pride?
Was it all for nothing? Or should I just look at everything like an analyst, in monetary terms alone? It was the means to an end and I needed the money.
You can sell your body because you need the money (and, trust me, during the many low points of my career I have thought about it but there was no bid) but you still have your body afterwards.
If you have sold your soul because you needed the money, there is no possibility of ever reclaiming it. I realise now I came to the City looking softly for love. Instead I found hard cash.
Welcome drinks in the Paternoster Square sunshine with new colleagues beckon. I shall keep this existential dilemma to myself for now.