Yesterday, following an especially tortuous and protracted train journey on GWR, I concluded that there are actually only two downsides to Public Transport.
The first downside is the Public. On yesterday's train, I was surrounded by passengers whose noses had apparently been replaced by wide-bore fire hoses. The journey was an ordeal in expectorant-avoidance, where any attempt to seek a peaceful mental state so as to avoid contemplating the almost certainty of infection, was rendered impossible by the continual fusilade of hacking coughs. Not one of my fellow-passengers possessed such a thing as a hankie, and I am pretty sure that nobody had taken any kind of over-the-counter preparation to tackle their ghastly symptoms. And, apparently, the social etiquette of interposing one's hand between one's cough and the outside world died a long time ago. I did briefly engage in an utterly futile attempt at moral persuasion, by fixing the miscreants with a steely and significant look, after I had to duck to avoid some glutinous missile for the Nth time, but the "Wot are you looking at?" response was not promising. At least that was my interpretation of the response: the sheer quantity of mucous made them largely incomprehensible.
The second downside is, of course, the Transport itself. In my case, GWR's continued use of 1980s 'High Speed Trains' does bring with it certain reliability issues. This time, we broke down slightly outside of Paddington Station, and in that state of immobility we persisted for nearly two and a half hours, blowing my day's itinerary into oblivion. Finally, we made the last few yards of the journey into the station, pushed by a 'rescue locomotive' but the intervening period was characterised by much rushing around of personnel, and an interminable series of tannoy announcements, all of which were almost entirely incomprehensible. I was left wondering if GWR recruits its announcers solely for their distinctive nasal twang, their ability to inflict terminal damage upon the English language, and a propensity to use unexplained jargon to baffle the passengers. Either way, the impenetrability of these communications did give my fellow-passengers something to engage with, apart from the liberal dispensing of microbes. In fact, a kind of wartime blitz spirit began to develop amongst us, and I began to wonder if a bit of communal singing might have actually transformed the whole, pitiful experience.
Of course, neither of these two 'downsides' are actually that. They are merely the product of a certain attitude by way of a response to circumstances. Public Transport is what it is. Without the Public there would be no need for it. And without the Transport, you'd have lots of frustrated people with nowhere to go. To complain about either aspect is a bit like saying that hospitals would be great, if it were not for all those patients cluttering the place up - although, sometimes, one has the sneaking suspicion that this idea might form a cornerstone of government policy.
And the financial services marketplace is a bit like that too. We might complain about not having enough clients, or of having too many, or of having the wrong kind of clients - but without them, we'd have nothing at all. We might (with some justification) moan about the injurious and ill-targeted predations of the various organs of Regulation, but then it seems that self-regulation was so ineptly handled, that nobody ought to be surprised that we have ended up living on Animal Farm, instead of working in a profession which is identifiable as such. Griping about the circumstances of life might deliver some fleeting satisfaction, but we are where we are: the trick is simply to make the best of things. MiFID II might therefore be one of the most ill-conceived and egregious pieces of regulation yet to emanate from the waste-pipe in Brussels, but the trick is to work out how we might best live with it: this week, we publish new guidance for ValidPathers on this subject.