Now I bet some of you thought that after last week’s poptastic top 10, this week’s guff would be a list of the best Christmas films to view over the festive period. Well it is sort of. But the truth is that there is only one definitive Christmas masterpiece. Elf.
But instead of travelling through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, past the sea of twirly-swirly gum drops and then walking through the Lincoln Tunnel, I am going back to Victorian London to visit Gonzo the Great in the role of Charles Dickens.
Yes, with just four days left until Buddy’s hero comes down the chimney, I thought we would have a market reworking of A Muppet Christmas Carol with an awful lot of apologies to Mr Dickens.
Marley was dead to begin with.
Seven years later, Jake Marley’s old partner in hedge fund, Ebeneezer Parry, is sitting in his lavish office on the top floor of a 40 storey City skyscraper on a cold and dank Christmas Eve. Most of the staff of PM Investment Management left at lunchtime to spend time with their families. Parry did not much care for either Christmas or families. As far as he was concerned, there was money to be made on Christmas Day. After all, Japan was still open. He had already turned down a dinner invitation from his nephew Joe, and he had begrudgingly let his secretary, Angela, leave at 5pm.
He finally left the office at 8pm after taking out a large option position on the Nikkei and headed back to his apartment overlooking the River Thames on the Isle of Dogs. He would not be heading down to the family home in rural Essex until well into the New Year and Joe and the rest of the scroungers had left. As he climbed out of his DB7 and headed into the apartment building, Parry was approached by a couple of men looking for a donation to provide the poor with food and heating. Parry sent them away with a flea in their ears and headed into his flat, where he rustled up a dinner of lobster and chips, washed down with a couple of glasses of Mersault before retiring for the night.
As the clock struck midnight, Parry woke suddenly and his room was freezing. He got out of bed and checked the heating, but the thermostat was still on 22. He climbed back into bed, but as he did so he heard chains rattling behind him. He turned around, and there in front of him was his old partner Jake.
“Ebeneezer” said the apparition
“Go away” said Parry “ You are not real. It must have been a dodgy lobster”
“I am real” said the ghost “And I am here to warn you. For the past seven years I have been doomed to walk the Earth, weighed down by these awful chains, forged by a life of greed. You have but one chance to avoid a similar fate you old scoundrel. Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. Take heed, Ebeneezer, or you will be cursed to carry even heavier chains than these”.
With that, the ghost of Marley disappeared and Parry, somewhat disturbed by this nightmare took a few minutes to drop back off to sleep.
He was roused from his slumber as the clock struck 1am. There at the bottom of his bed was a short, rotund little person.
“I am the ghost of Christmas past” said the vision “You may call me Bagass. I am here to show you your past Parry”
Bagass grabbed Parry by the hand and the next thing he knew he was back in the dormitory of his boarding school, a place where he enjoyed the challenge of education but made few friends. Next, the ghost transported him to his first Christmas Party at Baring’s, a shindig in the Ship and Turtle in Leadenhall Market, which Parry only attended after Sir John persuaded him to leave his desk at 6pm on Christmas Eve and attend the festivities. Next, the spirit whizzed him off to TGI Friday’s in Covent Garden in the late 1980’s. Parry sees a younger version of himself with a girl with long dark hair.
“Bagass” he implored “Please do not show me this. It is too painful.”
But the rotund spirit ignored him. And tears started to roll down Parry’s face as Michelle ends their relationship after realising that he will never love her as much as money after he had spent the last two hours describing his latest killing on the LIFFE market.
Finally they return to the day of Marley’s death, where they visit a now married Michelle with her large and happy family. Parry thinks his heart will break all over again and breaks down in tears.
“Bagass, I can take no more. Please leave me”
And with that, he was back in his bed, suffering a pain in his heart that he had thought was long gone.
The clock struck 2 and nothing happened. Then there was a blinding light outside the bedroom door. The door was flung open, and a jolly spirit emerged with a Tintin like blonde quiff as a haircut.
“Ebeneezer” said the spirit “I am the ghost of Christmas present, but you can call me Watmough. Are you ready to accompany me?”
With trepidation. Parry took Watmough’s proffered hand, and before he knew it he was in Borough Market with people buying all their Christmas provisions. From there, they travel to Parry’s house in Rickling Green, where Joe, his family and friends are having a wonderful time without him. In fact, most of the guests seem positively relieved that he is not in attendance. From there, Watmough takes Parry to his secretary’s house, where Angela and her family are beginning the family feast. Angela is crying as she looks over her youngest son, Tiny Tim, a happy boy but the effects of Covid-19 have wreaked havoc with his small body. Watmough explains that this will be the last Christmas that Tiny Tim sees unless the course of events change. Before disappearing, Watmough shows Parry three horrible, skinny wretches called Coronavirus, Ignorance and Want.
“Beware the first two above all else” said the spirit “They doom all who attempt to ignore them”.
With that Watmough disappeared, leaving Parry back in his bed.
The clock struck 3 and Parry began to tremble as he waited for the final spirit. Soon enough a hideous apparition appeared in the doorway. It took the form of a man. But a dreadful man. It was not long before Parry realised what had appeared before him. It was the archetypal bond broker.
“Alright, Shag” said the spirit “Ready for the future?”
With that, he padded over to the bed in his Gucci loafers, gripped Parry in an all – encompassing embrace and off they set. They soon arrived at a funeral. The only mourners were what looked to be more brokers and Parry overheard one of the brokers saying that the only reason he was here was for the lunch. He was even more shocked when he found out that this was his own funeral.
Shocked to his core, he asked the spirit to show him some tenderness connected with death. With that he was transported back to Angela’s house, where the family is mourning the death of Tiny Tim.
“Please spirit show me no more” wailed Parry.
But the spirit of the bookie was not finished. They soon arrived at a desolate cemetery, and the broker pointed to a neglected grave. Parry did not want to look for he knew what the tombstone had on it. Eventually he opened his eyes and his own name appeared before him. Sobbing painfully, he pledges to change his ways.
Parry woke on Christmas morning a changed man. Emerging from his apartment, the first people he sees are the two men collecting for charity. On seeing Parry they cross the road, but Parry follows them and empties his bulging wallet into their astonished hands. He arrived at the deserted office in the City thirty minutes later and closed his option positions, thus taking a small hit.
He then phones Gordon Ramsey and arranges for the chef to travel to Angela’s house in Buckhurst Hill to cook Christmas dinner for the family, and also sends a new PS5 for Tiny Tim to play with. With all that done, he closes down his screens and heads off to spend the afternoon with Joe and the rest of his family.
On the 27th December, Angela arrives back in the office full of bonhomie after spending the best Christmas ever. Gordon’s food was magnificent, and Tiny Tim was so made up with the PS5 that he had staged a remarkable recovery.
Her good mood was shattered as Parry bellowed at her to come into his office. Trembling, she faced her angry looking boss, fearful that she would be fired.
Instead, Parry’s face lit up and he promptly gave her a massive bonus and doubled her salary.
From that day on Parry truly was a changed man. He gave up trying to predict the markets, realising that with no logic to the price action in any asset class that there really was no point. He became a benevolent boss and father-figure to Tiny Tim and many other young traders who started at what had become one of the greenest hedge funds on the planet. And every Christmas, the staff of this hedge fund had a whole week off to enjoy with their families.
Well, not quite. As promised last week here are my tips for a top turkey on Friday.
On Christmas Eve, take the wings and legs off the bird. Place in a roasting tin with a whole head of garlic cut in half across the equator and a few sprigs of fresh time. Pour in a tin of dry cider, season and place in a really low over (around 120c) for 12 hours. I do it overnight.
On Christmas morning, take a packet of softened butter mixed with tarragon and spread the mixture under the skin of the breast. Roast the crown in the oven at 160c until the internal temperature of the bird reaches 75c. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and clean tea towels and rest the bird for at least an hour, preferably two, before carving. Shred the dark meat from the legs.
For the gravy, make a stock using the turkey giblets, Deglaze the roasting pan with more cider and add the turkey stock. Reduce the gravy until thickened and finish with a knob of butter.
Serve the slices of white meat and the shredded dark meat on a platter with pigs in blankets and a stuffing made from white breadcrumbs, onion, sage and lemon zest.
Have a great Christmas and I’ll be back in 2021, which let’s face it, cannot be as traumatic and chaotic as 2020.