There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills


Jan Morris (then in her previous guise of James Morris) wrote thus of a first glimpse, in his majestic account of Venice: “To the west, beneath a smudge of mountains, there is a thin silver gleam of oil drums, and the suggestion of smoke. A yellow barge, piled high with pop bottles, springs from a landing stage like a cheerful dove from an ark. Three small boys have grounded their boat on a sandbank and are throwing slobbery mud at each other. There is a flash of oxy-acetylene from a dark shed and a barge stands on stilts outside a boat yard. A hooter sounds; a bell booms nobly; a big white sea-bird settles heavily on a post; and thus the navigator, rounding a promontory, sees before him a city.”

I was murkily reminded of this passage (plus minor additions) when approaching Catford on the South Circular, thus: To the West, beneath a smudge of billboards, there is a thin silver gleam of abandoned gas canisters, and the suggestion of smoke. A yellow rubbish van, piled high with recycled bottles, springs from an alleyway like a mangy horse from the knackers yard. Three small boys have grounded their BMXs on a traffic island and are throwing slobbery snow at each other. There is a flash of oxy-acetylene from a dark shed and an ancient Morris Minor stands on stilts outside a garage yard. A horn sounds; a siren screams ignobly; a big black crow settles heavily on a post; and thus the automobilist, rounding a Gatso speed camera, sees before him the fag-end of a city: Catford. (With apologies to Jan/James.)

Or perhaps I should start at the beginning, for who would willingly visit Catford other than for reasons of duty or necessity? It was the faint orange glow on my dashboard indicating a potential battery problem on my recently acquired classic Mercedes that set the whole affair off. And so with this persistent warning light gleaming malevolently, onwards to the redoubtable Richard of Reeves Garage, Forest Hill, who in turn pointed me in the direction of Brownhill Road, Catford; thence to an immaculate Middle Eastern workshop dealing entirely with a product that I had absolutely no notion of: alternators.

My alternator had apparently given up the ghost and would take a couple of hours (at least) to remove and replace. “Go and have a cup of coffee in Catford,” they said, “it’s only 15 minutes walk back on the South Circular!” So with a heavy heart and Jan/James in my pocket, off I set. Well I do confess I am a South London man, but my affection for the area suffers more than mere slings and arrows when entering the environs of Catford. It is, so to speak in vernacular terms, a shit-hole.

Coffee, none worth a candle. Traffic, much and heavy. A tatty semi-covered market, pound shops, Clinton Cards, save me Lord! Then at last, the familiar heavenly blue sign of WH Smith! I was through those swinging doors like a long-dog and pawing the magazines with memories of childhood comics on shelves flooding back, trying to blot out everything outside well within the radius of a minor nuclear explosion. So my eye travelled along the shelves and alighted upon the cover of a modest-sized magazine, which had a photograph of a block of gold bullion on its cover, alongside its byline, “The Midas Touch”. Last copy! Grabbed it! For I had been trying for at least two days previously to uncover, via the web, the secrets of investment in gold. I promise you, it is really not an easy matter. I could find no reliable advice about gold itself, let alone mining shares, and I kept being redirected to sites who wanted to flog me small percentages of gold bars in multiple-ownership, securely locked in Swiss vaults for which one was responsible for ongoing storage charges. Hmm…not too sure about that! But it was gold I was after, gold I had set my sights upon, that magical substance which is neither affected by atmospheric pollution, nor subject to any sea change even if left lying on the seabed for a millennium. Alchemy! Gold! (Dire Straits take note!)

Still with an hour of entirely miss-able tedious alternator fiddling to go, I perched myself astride a wrecked bench on a concrete island outside Clinton’s Cards and began to absorb the gold dust between the covers. For here it all was; bullion background, bullion research, bullion options, bullion tips and then magically, a list of recommended bullion stocks! Thus began my personal quest for hidden stock market treasures.

It was at about this point that the traditional light bulb ignited somewhere within the Joyce cranium and I thought, perhaps this might be of interest to readers of our (im)modest publication?

My recent and new-found status as Travel Editor of The Arbuturian, with all the concomitant advantages associated with this slow rise to fame (own Arb email address, business cards, occasional free canapés, etc) allowed me a cheeky self-introduction to the editor of Shares Magazine, one Russ Mould. Might I please be granted an interview? Of course my dear fellow, when would suit? So, pack up camera, recorder, best bib and tucker, and off to the resolutely trendy Park Street, on Borough Market’s own doorstep. But I should pause for just a moment to explain just what had happened between the Catford purchase of said magazine (the best £3.95 I have ever spent) and arriving on the editor’s doorstep.

If I was to say a 20% increase in Joyce funds invested as per Shares (disclaimed) advice regarding gold as an investment over a two month period, how would that sound? Granted, gold bullion and shares has been on an accelerating market all year, but the cleverness of Shares was not to join this bandwagon, but to properly analyze the market and make sensible suggestions based on a rising scale of risk. Opting for a safe-ish middle path, over those two months I went into (and occasionally out of) six or eight of their recommendations. Up a fifth in barely eight weeks meant I was determined to personally shake the hand of the helmsman of this highly successful enterprise.

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