Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday 1 September 2010

"Divorce - never. Murder - often."

I’ve been suffering from insomnia recently, the full-on wide awake at 2am variety – and before you make any suggestions, I’ve eaten more lettuce than Peter Rabbit and had enough milky drinks to float a medium-sized barge but to no avail. The result of this has been much blog-reading in the early hours – thank you all for giving me something to do – and rather too much thinking.

Sometime during every sleepless night, the mind inevitably turns to matters financial, especially when trawling the business pages of the news sites. Like many other people, we have investments whose managers obviously saw ‘the value of your funds may go down as well as up’ as a mission statement.

They’re very proud of themselves; every so often, they send us a nice glossy brochure to tell us what they’ve been up to and how much their bonuses were – with a short footnote telling us the product is now worth rather less in real terms than we paid for it a decade ago.

Reading on in the business section in the darker watches of the night, an interesting thought occurs on the subject of an increasingly present theme; endowment policies are linked to life cover. And while PEPs and ISAs bump around in the shallows, endowment investors have been left well and truly high and dry.

A policy bought in the 80s to cover an interest-only mortgage of £100,000 could now have a projected shortfall of up to £45,000, according to recent figures. With surrender values at an all-time low, the unfortunate policyholders are stuck paying in their monthly premiums with no hope of realising that £100,000 unless one of them dies.

It has long been a source of complaint in the Tavern that modern detective stories draw heavily on abnormal psychology and deviant behaviour for motives. The regulars are pining for the days of good old-fashioned British murder mysteries, where the culprit hoped to benefit from Auntie’s will or achieve some other financial benefit – now here’s a perfect and up-to-date example.

I intend to start work on it as soon as possible. Trouble is, the title 'The Endowment Murders' does lack a certain something, don't you think?

Science fiction fans may recognize the title:
"Haven't you ever thought of divorce?" he had once asked them teasingly. As usual, George was at no loss for words.
"Divorce - never," was his swift reply. "Murder - often."
(Arthur C. Clarke: 2061 Odyssey Three)


  1. It could be age. Try a bit of non sugar muesli but avoid TV or blogs. I find gazing at the moon and howling helps.

  2. Thanks, Demetrius, I'll bear that in mind, although I'm not sure what the neighbours will think.


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