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In The BeginningAugust 2021September 2021October 2021November 2021December 2021

In The Beginning

“Look, I'm practically giving you 100,000 francs, that's almost 80 grand in real money.” he said, fiddling with his phone.  “Maybe I should just give it to José here, and at least I'd get free Guinness for ever more...”.  The barman studiously carried on arranging his bottles.  

“But what if I lose it and can't repay you?”  I say.

“Hey, I don't need the money", said Ed. "If I put it in the bank they'll give me zero. If I give it to my broker he'll give me a creepy smile and 3 percent. If I put it under the mattress, the wife will be away with it.  So no worries. And anyway, you'll be making that money sweat for me - 10% a year.”

Ed Stockler drank down the last of his pint and patted me on the back. “You said it yourself - you've been churning out programs for 35 years - top notch programs - but where's the reward?  They're  making you redundant without so much as a kind look. Here's your chance to prove your brilliance, earn some money and get some respect!”

He was right - we'd both arrived in Geneva 35 years ago working on the same IT contract, writing software for IATA, and then for various banks. The money was good, but not that good. Ed was blasé about the money, being both reckless and generous.  Whilst I squirrelled everything I earned into a tiny house and a huge mortgage, Ed burned the candle at both ends, organising free drinks for drunken crowds in plush nightclubs, writing off cars that weren't properly insured and jetting here, there and everywhere.

He still lives like that, but on a different scale. His bank account is brimming over with millions; mine still shudders nervously when presented with an electricity bill from Energie Romande.

“So all you want is 10% a year, and I get to keep the rest?” I said

“That, and a few pints of Guinness obviously. Tell you what: let's say 1st August - Swiss firework day - easy to remember.  Every year you give me 10k and a pint. In the meantime, you go out on the Internet, write a juicy algorithm, make bucket loads of spondooli for yourself, and everyone's happy”. His bank balance might have moved on but he's still firmly stuck in the 1980's, I smiled.

“And even if I do lose it all, I still only have to pay 10k once a year,” I cheerfully announce.

“Exactly. You're starting to get it, but don't forget the pint!” he says, heading for the gents.  

I'd written financial programs before, gaming the stock market, spread-betting, doubling up. All great programs, but limited financial success. First the dotcom bubble, then the financial crash. I'd been confined to the rat race ever since, bowing and scraping to the corporate ogres.  

But this one was different. The results looked good. More than good. I was pretty sure I could easily make the 10% per year, possibly even 20.  He certainly didn't need the money. Better deodorant, whiter teeth, a nicer wife: yes. But money: no. What did I have to lose?  My phone broke into my reverie and pinged me an alert - “CHF 100,000 credited to your PostFinance account.”

“Mine's a pint” Ed declared. “What have you booked for the ski season?”