My oldest client is a remarkably spry 89-year-old who goes by the name of Jim and has a thing for betting on the horses.

Jim hasn’t been seen without a flat cap on his head and a copy of the race guide under his arm since the early ’90s.

He’s always been a cheeky bugger, but old age has progressively eroded any sense of modesty or restraint he might have had in his younger days. He flirts shamelessly with our secretary, tells me I look terrible and boasts incessantly about his prowess at the racetrack.

Jim’s gambling habit hasn’t stopped him from maintaining a decent bank balance, though. Unfortunately, he said I was to take no credit for his well-managed finances because I was a useless charlatan who wouldn’t know a good thing if it drew the inside barrier on a dry track at Moonee Ponds. He asked me to say that, and to use his real name.

I guess you could say we’ve become friends.

This morning, during what started as a cursory review of his investments, he turned the conversation to the Hayne royal commission and the fate of the big banks. Which one of them did I reckon would end up paying the most money in compensation, he asked.

It’s hard to say, I replied, before saying.

(I should probably mention that pontificating on the plight of others is something of a hobby of mine. Calling it schadenfreude would wrongly imply that I get pleasure from people’s misfortune. I don’t. I just like being right about it.)

Anyway, I should have figured it out when he asked how much I thought they’d endup paying. But – perhaps grateful for a show of intellectual respect from the old ratbag – I made some educated guesses based on how much each bank had publicly set aside for compensation payments, what their exposure was, their record of conduct and a few other salient variables. It was bald-faced speculation and likely off-base, I told him, but in a tone that implied it was probably the most accurate prediction since Deirdre foresaw my fondness for photography waning before I had  a chance to pay off that Canon monstrosity in 2002.

I got a call from Jim a few days later. Did I know anything about extraterrestrial life and the chances of it being confirmed by NASA in the next few months? No idea, Jim.

The old fella’s gone dotty, I thought.

The phone rang again that evening. I was in the car with my daughter and put Jim on speaker. Who was Ariana Grande and who was she likely to go out with, he asked.

“I’m very sure that I do not know who Ariana Grande is,” I replied. “Sounds like an order from Starbucks.”

“She’s a singer,” my daughter piped up. “A pop star.”

There was silence for few seconds, then Jim asked me to take him off the speaker thing and pass the phone to my daughter.

I was party to only half of the ensuing conversation. “Definitely not Tom Cruise,” she said. “Zac Efron? maybe. Post Malone is a person and that could happen. Eminem is too old. Who? Oh he wishes…”

This discussion continued until my daughter hung up with a ‘Bye Jimmy’ and recommenced scrolling through her phone.

“What on earth was that about?” I asked.

“Hmm? Oh, he’s gambling Dad,” she replied. “Current affairs betting. You can put money on all sorts of things these days, not just sports. He said you’ve been giving him inside information on the markets.”

Good lord.

“He said he’s going to call back when we get home,” she continued. “Apparently, Mum’s got the skinny on the name of Meghan and Harry’s new baby.”



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