The Governor and the Jewel

In the wake of today's revelations and resignations at Barclays Bank, I put a little thought into what might have actually happened over the last few hours and days, the human drama behind events. Perhaps things may have unfolded a little like this:

Tuesday, July 2nd
Barclays Headquarters
The City of London

  Smoke rose through the office, twisting in long, languid helices. Scarcely visible through this haze was a solitary face, crumpled and defeated, swimming into view with every drag taken of the rubescent cigar balanced between its lips.  In its illuminating glow, the darkness drew back to reveal the man’s craggy and untrustworthy features; the features of Robert ‘Bob’ Diamond (née Ruby).  With a sigh as hopeless as one of his sub-prime mortgages, Bob considered the cigar he held between his fingers. Cuban. Havanan, to be more specific, rolled on the face of a weeping Communist orphan, like all the finest cigars. He took another drag, savouring its rich flavour: ‘You can really taste the tears,’ he muttered.  He gave a short bark of laughter, but it died in his throat; his trademark ‘Banker’s Cackle’ was off tonight. Bob wasn’t in the mood. The clouds were gathering, the vultures were circling, and the clichés were coming thick and fast. Tonight was the night that Bob resigned.

  In the expensive yet benign light of his iMac, Bob ignored his doctor’s advice and opened the Guardian LiveBlog.  His meaty chest swelled with anger, straining against the confines of its Saville Row prison. ‘These aren’t even good puns,’ he squealed girlishly, scrolling from unsubstantiated opinion to spurious tweet; ‘WHY IS STEPHEN FRY’S OPINION NEWS?’. At least when I hand over to Rich Ricci, Chief Executive of Corporate and Investment Banking, the press won't have such cheap and easy headlines, Bob thought to himself. Bob’s cursor hovered over the link to an article which read: ‘The Inhumanity of Banking’. He resisted the temptation; Polly Toynbee was a step too far for his blood pressure at the moment. He wrenched his gaze from the computer, that window into a world of morality and dissenting opinions, to the gilt picture frames that adorned his desk of rich, comforting mahogany. There lay reminders of happier times; Gordon Brown weeping openly during a visit to Barclays, Bob and Georgie O drinking champers on Nat’s yacht off the coast of Corfu. And finally, Bob’s most precious possession: the intimate portrait of Mervyn King. There was such majesty, such wisdom in those deep blue eyes, hidden behind those perky spectacles. The way he said ‘Quantitative-Easing’, oh, it made Bob moan like a small business owner looking for a loan in this dire economic climate. Bob stared, stroking the picture lovingly with his thumb before his resolve hardened and he slammed the picture face down on the rich, comforting mahogany. ‘Damn you, Mervyn,’ Bob cried in a strangled voice, ‘HOW COULD YOU BETRAY ME LIKE THIS?’ His wealthy shoulders shook with spasmodic sobbing, his body racked by grief. ‘You were The Governor, Mervyn. The Governor of my heart. YOU WERE MY KING’ But Mervyn, face down on the table, just stared on into the rich, comforting mahogany.

  ‘You have ONE new message,’ blared Bob’s phone as it suddenly crackled into life. A message? From whom? Could it be Mervyn? Was he calling to take it all back? Maybe they could still be happy! Maybe they could be together at last! His clumsy hands shaking like a middle-aged virgin with a prostitute, Bob pressed one.

  The phone exploded with a smash of incoherent and indistinguishable noise; Bob jerked his head back, nonplussed, and jabbed at the phone’s keys, wondering what had happened as the noise continued unabated. Twenty seconds had passed before he discerned flashes of Latin amid the blustering din; suddenly it all fell into place: it was just a message from Boris. ‘Cicero,’ he heard, ‘Patiamur’ and ‘Inimici’. ‘AmoAmas, A-Twat', muttered Bob; he had never got the hang of dealing with the mayor. But the bluster and noise had sounded generally supportive. At least I’ve got Sonic the blonde hedgehog on my side, he thought to himself.

  Just then there came a knock at the door; Bob looked up and uttered a smothered cry, like an asthmatic seagull. This was the real thing. He was here in person: ‘The Guv’nor’. He walked with a regal air, his Armani greatcoat sweeping around his calves, his cherubic locks and tresses playing around his powerful shoulders. Bob couldn’t help but fall for him all over again as Mervyn, unasked, lowered his supple yet sturdy frame into the chair opposite him.

  ‘Merv-‘ Bob began, but he fell silent at the raising of the Governor’s Swedish-moisturised hands. Bob was rapt with attention, his face as fixed as his interest rates.

  ‘Bob, Bob, Bob,’ chuckled The Governor. ‘Dear old palindromic Bob. I’m afraid the game is up! You’ve been a naughty boy, haven’t you, Bob?’
‘Oh yes, Governor. I’ve been very naughty. Very naughty indeed… Maybe I need to be spanked by the FSA, maybe the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants to take my bonus.’
‘Please, Bob; now is not the time for sordid finance-themed horseplay. You know why I’m here.’
 ‘Yes, Merv. In some ways, I think I’ve always known.’
 ‘Don’t be trite, Bob.’
 ‘Oh, yes, sorry, Merv.’
 ‘Bob, you need to resign.’
Silence fell in the room, the tension as thick as Parmesan rind. You could have cut the air with a sturdy cheese knife. Suddenly Bob sneezed violently.
 ‘Schadenfreude’ said Mervyn, ironically.
 ‘Thank you’ said Bob, obliviously. The spell of silence had been lifted.
 ‘But are you sure, Merv? Is there no way back?’
 ‘I’m afraid not, Bob,’ said Mervyn, his steely jaw clenched to prevent him from betraying emotion. He got up to leave, turning away from Bob to hide the tears brimming in his eyes.
‘It’s over, Robert,’ he quavered in a thin voice. ‘The dream is over’.
He made for the door and had nearly been swallowed by the darkness forever when Bob cried out: ‘Mervyn!’
The Governor stopped. He turned back, looking over his shoulder, but focused on a spot on Bob’s desk of rich, comforting mahogany. ‘Look at me,’ Bob cried. Mervyn raised his gaze and this time Bob could see the great wet tears running down the chiselled cheeks, the great man silently weeping without shame.
‘Turns out Shirley was wrong, Bob.’
‘What do you mean, Merv?’
‘Diamonds… They aren’t forever’.

  And so, in the sweep of a greatcoat The Governor was gone, swiftly padding into the night, leaving Bob behind with nothing but his anguished cries and the consoling touch of the rich, comforting mahogany.


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