Selling Snow to Eskimos

Photo by Frans van Heerden on

It was said that Julian could sell snow to the Eskimos and, whilst he had never actually tried it, it was certainly true that he had on occasions managed to sell the actual straw that broke the camel’s back and had misappropriated along the way so many mickles that his muckle* was now the size of a luxury three story bolt-hole on the Algarve, paid for in tight wads of ill-gotten gains.  Thanks to him, Westminster Bridge had more Japanese owners than Sony and The Shard had more stakeholders than it had windows.  He had sold more fragments of The True Cross than four woodyards across the city were able to keep up with and if the slivers of the Elgin Marbles he had allowed Greek Visitors to repatriate over the years (for a small fee, obviously) were gathered together, the British Museum would have to open a new wing.

Julian wasn’t a bad man; anyone that knew him would tell you that.  As a young man he had been a successful Estate Agent, but he could not stand the accusations of falsehood that were continually levelled at him, so he became an even more successful car salesman where the falsehoods were never his own, but the symptoms of a dysfunctional workshop.  Later, after a very short, but extremely lucrative few weeks selling worthless credit-scheme encyclopaedias door-to-door, he felt that he was prepared for a future of living off his own nefarious wits.  He had never married; he had no children and all of his relationships tended to be short-term – not through choice but through necessity.  He could not stay in any place for long, he could never allow his friends to know his next move.  The longest relationship he had ever maintained was over the three years in which he had shared a Strangeways prison cell with ‘Slasher’ Murdoch and his abominable socks.

After his release he had crossed the Channel and armed with nothing more than a smattering of schoolboy French and the ability to talk nonsense in something that sounded vaguely like Italian, managed to make a perfectly decent living selling the Eiffel Tower to Asian tourists, many of whom had only recently availed themselves of an outstanding investment deal for part-ownership of one or another of London’s prime river crossings, but he found that the custodians of French law and order were not as forgiving, nor as amenable, as many members of our own capital’s constabulary, and he was forced to move a little further down the continent, where the police were too busy to waste their time on a sixty-year old chancer, where the suckers were plentiful and the deals were simple, even if the pickings were slimmer.

Still he was happy there.  He was older now; the weather was good, the sun shone most of the time and overheads, in general, were considerably lower than the two capital cities he had worked before.  The natives were easy-going and the tourists as naïve as anywhere else.  The living, although meagre at times, was easy.  The villa was his latest acquisition, his putting down of roots, and it had been such a steal!  Julian’s ‘experts’ had found it oh-so-easy to persuade the yokel owners of the fragility of the foundations; the weakness of the walls; the rude health of the Death Watch beetles in the joists.  The money had, on its way to the seller, found its way through more hands than a Pokeman card in a schoolyard, along a path that was so labyrinthine it probably had a Minotaur as its guardian: it had been laundered more assiduously than his underwear.  His currency was clean, clean, clean, and he was confident that no-one would be able to find fault with any of the paperchain, so it was with some surprise that he found himself being ushered into the office of Mr Ferreira, manager of the bank through which all of his financial transactions had, eventually, progressed. 

The dark wooden room felt like the court rooms with which he was much more familiar.  He felt unusually vulnerable and the discomfort danced around the features of his face.  He did not have to ask the question which was banging around his head – Was there some problem with the deal?  Had someone, somewhere, questioned the source of his capital? – Mr Ferreira read it in his eyes and answered it without hesitation, his whole demeanour signalling a major pothole in the road.  “We have the paperwork for your house, senhor” he said.
“And?… Is there a problem?”  Julian knew he would not be there otherwise.
Mr Ferreira sighed heavily.  “The problem, senhor?  The house, it is not your house.”
“What do you mean?”
“It is not your house because it was not the house of the man to whom you paid your money…”
Julian was aware that he was gaping like a stranded fish.
“…You see senhor, you really should have been more careful,” continued the bank manager.  “The Algarve, it is full of con men…”

*‘Many a mickle makes a muckle.’ a Scottish ode to thrift…


6 thoughts on “Selling Snow to Eskimos

Comments are closed.