Tuesday, 7 October 2008

23. A financial coup

I’ve never been very interested in finance. Well, in all honesty, I’ve never needed to be. I always earned a decent salary, was never unemployed, and my tastes and expectations never exceeded my means. I always felt we had just about enough of everything – food, housing, transport etc – but rather too many cushions and soft furnishings, which was not of course my fault.

Working in offices was a help, giving me unlimited access to the great twin joys of office life – post-it notes and fine-line pens. In latter years, they even gave me free cd-roms and memory sticks. There are few pleasures to equal a newly stocked stationery cupboard.

So, I’m quite surprised to find that in my final days I’ve pulled off something of a financial coup. I’m richer than Lehman Brothers. I have more money than the Royal Bank of Scotland. Just at the point when the world’s great financial wheeler-dealers have gone into meltdown (we knew they would), I have beaten the system by gracefully liquidating all my assets to avoid probate problems. I remember somewhere back in the days of junk bonds, some hot-shot New York banker boasting that “when the world ends, the one with the most money wins.” He never guessed it would be me.

Better still, I have already passed my good fortune to my kids. In a single master stroke, born from years of not giving a toss about the FTSE Index, I recently introduced them to the single instrument of savings I fully understood - the enduring world of Premium Bonds. It is all they need to know. As a result, not a single month has gone by without them winning at least £50 from the indefatigable ERNIE, and with the promise of untold riches to come forever into the future. Brilliant. In the end, their fiscally-challenged father is shown to have true financial acumen. And without ever having to lie or cheat or steal his way to get it.

Ok – I know what you’re thinking – it’s the drugs talking. There’s more to international high finance than he can get his head around. Fill anyone with enough morphine and steroids and they think they're masters of the universe. Not so. For the first time in weeks, I seem to have the drugs under some kind of control and I haven’t had a hallucination all day. On the other hand, I have just been watching Newsnight – so maybe all bets are off.

It’s Monday night and I’ve been home from the hospice for a few days now. Getting some predictability into the drugs regime was a real help over the weekend. I am hoping for some stability. Without it, I tend to use a walking stick in case of dizziness and my voice can waver and disappear without much warning. On Sunday afternoon, I sat down with my mother and said she could ask me any questions she liked about my illness and I would answer completely truthfully. We sat together quietly, occasionally holding hands.