By Charles Wyndham.
You may have gathered over time, if you are foolish enough to read a few of my burbles, that I am not one to resist too strongly the odd glass of wine passing my lips.
Nowadays, the fad seems to be for ever more exotic cocktails.
These cocktails come in all sizes, shapes and colours with their ‘morishness’ cleverly disguising the actual alcoholic content successfully enough to enable everyone to pass out together.
It was one night a very long time ago that I learnt, as I got rather fond of the whisky sours being proffered, that cocktails are simply dangerous.
But cocktails don’t have to be limited to the contents of an appropriate shaker. Good old Molotov came up with an interesting idea, assuming that is why a bottle of petrol with a cloth stopper which can be lit and thrown, is called a Molotov.
However it got its name, it is quite a popular implement of enjoyment for the unruly.
In our industry we seem to be rather fond of our own cocktails, and I am not talking about the DTC’s Christmas cocktail party for its sightholders held in January.
I would guess that most of the guests would welcome a bucket of whisky sours to help them through the speeches.
We are in the curious situation where the dominant supplier, De Beers, through its own incompetence, aided and abetted by force majeure (a Biblical downpour at the Venetia mine), is clearly going to be very short of rough, certainly till the autumn.
Seeing the prices of rough shoot up over the last couple of weeks or so and hearing stories that some are hoarding rough gave me my first trembling recall of the overdose of whisky sours.
At the same time, the Managing Director of De Beers, Monsieur Mellier has been telling everyone, who is awake, that he expects, wants, or will insist that prices rise by at least 10% this year.
Anyone would think that we are in some glorious orgy of a booming market or even cocktail party.
If we are, it has passed by me and all to whom I speak.
Retail is not a happy tale.
To be fair, in the context of an overall economic gloom it is surprisingly good, but in real terms the only place where there seems to be some real action is in America and the impetus from China and India has faded away, for the moment anyway.
At the same time, there has been the well publicised altercation between the ABN AMRO bank and one of its major sightholder clients resulting, so I understand, in the bank accepting 60 cents in the dollar on a $150 million loan.
Whatever the details of this tiff between the two parties, it would and has inevitably had and will have an impact on the attitude of the banks lending to our industry, not just the ABN.
It is always in times of duress (that the niceties of how business is actually conducted gets the attention it deserves. It is not as if anyone does not know about the often unpleasant reality.
As long as things are booming and everyone is making money no one cares what is going on and the last thing anyone wants to be is a party pooper and spoil the fun.
So it was in the prime market scandal, the Libor scandal and in our own beloved contamination with horse meet scandal.
Once the merry go around stops, then no one can stop pointing the finger at everyone else enough.
I don’t know about you, but I find the ‘contaminated’ meat scandal quite amusing.
Apparently we have all been unknowingly eating horse meat, many eat horse meat on purpose…. So what therefore, apart from being cheated and for some having religious sensibilities raised, is this song and dance all about, when there is even the slightest chance of Berlusconi doing a Banquo and reappearing on the Italian political scene.
Tens and tens of millions of pounds worth of product have been withdrawn from the shelves and the indignant outrage has only been quelled by the even more trivial story, though not for the victim, about the killing of Mr Pistorius’s very photogenic girl friend, be it on purpose or by accident.
There is absolutely no health risk in the horse meat, and as mentioned, everyone has been happily chewing on it for sometime totally unaware.
There appears to me to be a totally inappropriate response, just as if everyone has had too many cocktails.
The feeding frenzy that might be being conjured up by the supposed short term lack of rough supply, despite demand for polished remaining pretty subdued and banks becoming increasingly reticent in lending to the industry, ranks, to me as another dangerous effect of one of our own industry’s heady cocktail.