Magazine article The Spectator

'Any Other Business - Life in and out of the City: Collected Writings from the Spectator and Elsewhere', by Martin Vander Weyer - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Any Other Business - Life in and out of the City: Collected Writings from the Spectator and Elsewhere', by Martin Vander Weyer - Review

Article excerpt

Any Other Business - Life in and out of the City: Collected Writings from The Spectator and Elsewhere Martin Vander Weyer

Elliott & Thompson, pp.274, £18.99, ISBN: 9781783960163

Economics is known as 'the dismal science', and certainly there have been -- and indeed are -- economists whose day seems to have been wasted if they have left their readers with a smile on their face. Happily such puckered-brow, down-turned-lips fellows are rarely admitted through the doors of The Spectator .

For more than half a century this magazine has had City correspondents devoted, like Arnold Bennett's Denry Machin -- 'The Card' -- to the great cause of cheering us all up. In my youth there was Nicholas Davenport. He gave way to Christopher Fildes, and now we have Martin Vander Weyer to lighten the prevailing gloom on Friday morning. None of them has been one of these chuckle-headed optimists whose bland certainties make you want to throw the breakfast egg in their grinning countenance. But none has made us think that the only choice for the nation is between the gas oven and the Hemingway solution.

On the contrary they have been Kipling types, dealing with triumph and disaster just the same, with only this difference: that the sahib's stiff upper lip keeps breaking into a smile. Like Shakespeare's Puck they find themselves saying, 'Lord, what fools these mortals be', never forgetting that, being mortals, they are not free of the charge themselves.

Martin Vander Weyer, the present incumbent, our guide through the mysteries of high, and often, happily how, very how indeed, finance, has been a sahib himself in his merchant-banking days, advising the Malaysian government on the principles and problems of privatisation, doing his stuff in the boardrooms and bars of Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, and even venturing into the wild east of post-Soviet Asian republics. It's all here in this collection of his articles from this magazine and elsewhere, and it couldn't be better or more joyfully done.

Most of us are utterly ignorant of such matters, unable to tell a derivative from a Japanese equity warrant, and it's pleasing, if not comforting, to learn that the confident and optimistic traders in such things were 'all at the mercy of market forces which we could not ultimately hope to understand or control'. …

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