Simon Barnett: I Don’t Like Mondays
On a Monday January 29th 1979, Brenda Spencer, a 16-year-old San Diego high school student, took a rifle and opened fire on the elementary school opposite where she lived. She killed 2 adults (including the principal) and injured 9 kids before going back to her home. Police surrounded her house and before she finally gave herself up, she spoke with a reporter on the phone. When asked why she did it, she replied, I just started shooting, that’s it. I just did it for the fun of it.
I just don’t like Mondays. I just did it because it’s a way to cheer the day up. Nobody likes Mondays. Six months later, a little known punk rocker by the name of Bob Geldof (pay attention to the name Bob), wrote a song about the event and predictably named it I Don’t Like Mondays. It became a No. 1 hit in no less than 32 countries around the world – proving what we all subconsciously feel about Mondays and that there might be a strange correlation between calamitous events and the name Bob.
Personally, I too have never liked Mondays (although not to the extent that Brenda did). I have always thought that it was just a hangover from my working days but clearly, there is something more sinister at work where Mondays are concerned. The economic events around the globe in the last 12 months has merely reaffirmed my suspicions.
Many years ago, when TV-am first launched their morning breakfast show, they featured one of the first TV property personalities. His name? Bob Beckman, a larger than life American with a remarkable resemblance to both Marlon Brandos Godfather and 70s crooner Tony Christie – I always expected him to suddenly break out into Is this the way to Amarillo. He never did, he just preached about the end of the 80s property boom, a crash in the stock market and anything else he could think of to put people off investing in property he was, in fact, a veritable Nostradamus of the 80s.
In 1983, Bob spelt out his forebodings about the British economy, predicting in his book, Downwave, a disastrous crash on the stock market and stating firmly, that by 1987 there will be no real residential housing market in Britain for the owner occupier. Some houses will be un-saleable at any price. The book sold 500,000 copies but the subsequent share and property boom that followed became one of the most spectacular Britain had ever seen, proving that, just maybe, Bob was talking out of his proverbial backside.
While he was predicting or rather preaching, he was also buying as much property as he could – fate however, has its own peculiar sense of humour (especially where Mondays and Bobs are concerned anyhow) and this was to manifest itself in 1987 in the guise of what became commonly known as Black Monday. Interestingly, almost exactly 58 years earlier on, yep, you guessed it, another Monday, the 28th October 1929, fate dealt us the Wall Street Crash.
Anyway, back to our more recent Black Monday or, more precisely Bobs Black Monday, the day that saw the largest one day percentage decline in recorded stock market history. Interest rates, over a two or three-day period, soared to nearly 17% and property crashed and burnt with a vengeance. The last thing that the Banks were doing was lending, and the last thing they were even thinking about was any kind of investment in property (if this is sounding all too eerily familiar, you’re forgiven). It took nearly eight years for the UK property market to recover its lost ground, somewhat quicker mind you than the fallout from the crash of 1929 which didn’t recover until after the Second World War. Needless to say TV-ams much derided property guru, Bob Beckman, had been proved right after all.
Characters like Bob are sadly, these days, all too rare. Back in the, 70s, Bob would use his Old English Sheepdog, William, to pick shares from the papers. Bob would read out the list of shares, and when William barked, Bob would buy (who needed economic advisors and their graphs in those days!). Over seven years, William and Bob made over 100,000, a tidy sum back then, which predictably sparked a full-blown and ultimately unsuccessful, investigation into Williams tax affairs. It became known as the Wags to Riches story, and had absolutely nothing to do with blonde bimbos married to footballers in Weybridge.
The signs of what was to come with our, and the rest of the worlds economies, were really all too evident. If only we were prepared to pay more attention to what happens on Mondays. On yet another Monday, the 21st January 2008, 77 billion was wiped off the FTSE, as it suffered its biggest one day fall since 2001. The signs were there, but were ignored by the Banks, who continued with their foolish lending, wasteful sports sponsorships and overblown charity dinners, while pandering to their own and their Private Wealth Clients egos, even though the world economy had clearly been holed below the water line. Surprisingly, this delusion of well-being continued well into 2008, until it became obvious late last year that everything, was in fact, about to go tits-up.
Finally, yup you guessed it, by Monday, January 12 2009, everything came unravelled. On this day the loss of 4,000 UK jobs was announced and from thereon in, it all went rapidly downhill. I am sure that since that Monday I could find more links to past Mondays and Bobs but it is becoming all too depressing. The UK property market is never going to be the same again, probably not in my lifetime anyway. Is there a silver lining to any of this? Maybe there is. The last 20 years has seen everybody become a Property Developer, you, your neighbour, your pet gerbil. In the last 10 years you have not been able to turn on the TV without being bombarded with the likes of Grand Designs, Location, Location, Location and Property Ladder, showcasing for years just why Banks shouldn’t lend money to complete idiots! And let’s not forget the pomposity and complete nonsense of Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen. The list of these unqualified amateurs is endless and all of this mindless drivel was funded by the excesses of the Banks ridiculous lending practices of the 90s and the noughties. Property Development will from now, be back in the hands of the professionals who know what they are doing and it will be easy to spot who they are, as they will be the only ones left standing after this perfect economic storm.
Every time I see Peter Kayes rendition of Amarillo, I somehow expect to see Bob Beckman marching towards us with a placard saying, in big, bold letters I TOLD YOU SO! Mind you, I suppose that just like Nostradamus if you preach something for long enough, there is more than just a good chance you will, at some point, be proved right. Bob disappeared from our screens sometime in the late 80s and became a resident of Monaco (presumably with William, the Tax Exile dog). Sadly, he died in 2007 (not on a Monday). In a way, for all of the derision he took in the 80s, I actually miss him. I am sure that somewhere up there he’s been watching whats happening down here and laughing his head off. SIMON BARNETT