Saturday, 31 December 2011
Just call me René
To paraphrase Her Majesty the Queen’s Christmas message to the Nation in 1992 (God, was it that long ago?), 2011 is not a year I shall look back on with undiluted pleasure…it has turned out to be an 'annus horribilis.
Sure, there were those moments of startling success, as when three gorgeous ex employees of mine came to visit at an hour early enough to catch me clad only in a towel, just to see how I was getting on after my heart attack, reminding me of my strong views about Bosses sleeping with staff members and the fairly obvious fact I was no longer their boss. Dressed the way they were and with the barely disguised ‘come hither’ looks of the unbridled temptress, another heart attack was almost guaranteed.
But, in what would prove prophetic for the rest of the year, such brief moments of triumph were all too quickly followed by a rapidly accelerating rug under my feet, as several hours later Marcia returned and drew the inevitable conclusion suggested by the sight of her semi naked husband in the company of three startlingly attractive young ladies, the skimpiness of their attire leaving them to the casual observer, I suppose, pretty much semi naked as well. While women are pretty adept at faking an orgasm as well as hiding credit card receipts and collecting shoes, they are also pretty skilled at disguising arousal if needs must, while men are left trying to hide something as obvious as a lighthouse in the desert and, under the keen, malevolent gaze of an irate girlfriennd, about as useful.
For the rest of this awful year I have had to make a point of not dressing until two in the afternoon claiming that Englishmen (I try hard to make the distinction between 'unemployed' and 'of private means' but I suspect Marcia is wising up), do, when relaxing in their own homes, dress thus as a matter of course and there is absolutely nothing remarkable about it. I think Marcia is beginning to believe me about the dress code, if not the state of our finances, as she has tired of beating me and conjugal rights have recently been re-installed.
Foolishly, I ignored the warning signs apparent during 2010. I could not see how the global economic down turn would affect the Angolan economy, based as it is on ever higher oil prices. The fact that I could not draw hard currency from my dollar account was an irritation, not the salutary warning of impending disaster.
I was an asset millionaire and could ride out all this. Beer tokens I could earn doing the odd consultancy job. I had started a new company in 2010 and won some good international contracts in 2011 and was happy for revenue to be reinvested. After all, there is nothing as safe as houses and I had three of them along with acres of building land.
Then the money dried up. Clients now wanted to pay in local currency, not good old USD. Transfers abroad meant changing Kwanzas on the street at outrageously expensive rates of exchange and then using Western Union or Moneygram to get the money out at outrageous fees. The property market collapsed. What were once million dollar houses were now being sold for a couple of hundred thousand with maybe the sweetener of a decent second hand four by four thrown in. A once vibrant cash economy is rapidly reverting to a barter economy. Banks are woefully undercapitalised and business loans have dried up. It is the rest of the economically depressed World times ten. Meanwhile, I choked on local cigarettes and ‘whisky’ imported from India.
Nela, the very attractive spinster who moved in next door (Marcia hates her as well) is raking it in baking and decorating birthday and wedding cakes. Colonel Henriques supplements his salary with the revenue from his club, the Esplanada Triangulo, so named because of the shape of the plot of land on which it stands. Sr Filipe started his tiny little shop selling staples and alcohol and has now bought a bloody great truck to collect the stock he needs to keep the shelves of his now vastly extended premises full.
I am proud of the security and investigative services I provide my clients but in today’s competitive market, it’s a difficult way to make a million and as anyone knows, pride is both hard to swallow and not particularly nutritious for the family clustered expectantly around a dining table. Given my explosives and firearms skills I could always knock off a few banks or liquor stores but, as anyone who has read Elmore Leonard’s ‘Swag’ knows, it’ll all end in tears. Mind you, in addition to reminding me how difficult it is to walk a straight path on a winding route, the book did give me a taste for ‘Salty Dog’ cocktails.
Apart from the Air France contract and a foiled attempt at a ménage a quatre, my only genuinely satisfying success in 2011 was managing to grow smuggled English Horse radish in my garden. Now that really is sad.
‘As far as I can see’, I told Marcia, ‘the only things that make money in a recession are food, alcohol and sex. Building houses is a mug’s game’.
For once, Marcia didn’t disagree.
I have been banging on for years about the Barra de Kwanza and the restaurant and hotel I am going to build there but now I am bloody serious. I have taken a huge hit on the house in Benfica in order to get the capital I need for my mate Julian and his crew to go through the site like a dose of salts and finish it off so that I can open.
So, I will enter 2012 homeless. I have converted the roof over my family’s head to cash and will launch them on a new and exciting venture, one based on food, alcohol and sex.
I will provide the food and alcohol, it will be up to the clients to see if they can score with the waitresses or any girls attracted by the bright lights but, given Marcia’s skill with drop forged steel kitchen knives, I shan’t be interviewing potential female staff clothed only in a towel.
I am off for a shower.