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About the strip > The 00s

2000

The start of a new Millennium made Alex conscious of the passing of time.

06 Jan 00

Today strip

The Millennium Bug failed to manifest, to most people’s relief

08 Jan 00

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The digital economy continued to eclipse conventional industries. Alex was not slow to spot the potential for some of his "old economy" client companies, like Hardcastle plc.

01 Mar 00

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The internet had made stars of dotcom entrepreneurs like Martha Lane Fox, but things were starting to wobble..

27 Apr 00

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Surely it all had to go horribly wrong? It did. Tech markets crashed in March 2000.

28 Apr 00

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Tony Blair’s New Labour government was pushing “The Third Way” as the ideology for the Third Millennium. It was hotly debated at middle class dinner parties.

09 Sep 00

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The dotcom exuberance of the late 90s was starting to look very silly in retrospect. It would all come back a decade later.

22 Sep 00

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Technology delivered a new way of communicating, via text messaging.  Alex discovered that it had certain advantages.

21 Oct 00

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Under the new American influence bankers were now expected to be ethical. "Social outreach" policies became fashionable. Alex spent a day on a building site.

01 Dec 00

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Clive got a job working for The Devil in Hellbank (an institution with some similarities to Goldman Sachs)

12 Dec 00

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2001

The 21st Century (well, according to pedants it only technically began on January 1st 2001) was spelling a final end to some of the old-school British institutions. Blue-blooded Tiffins Bank was taken over by the Americans, who were attempting to instil a more modern work ethic.

17 Jan 01

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There were the usual media health scare stories. This year it was Deep Vein Thrombosis.

20 Jan 01

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Luckily there was soon a proper public health emergency for the newspapers to scaremonger about: an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, which started on February 19th. 

13 Mar 01

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Alex and Clive went out to Australia for the rugby to the consternation of the wives.

13 Jul 01

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Alex's boss Rupert had a brief affair with Shelley - a colleague at the bank - which caused much trepidation in the office. Shelley became a regular character in the strip.

17 Jul 01

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The defining event of the year - and probably the decade - happened on September 11th 2001 while the strip was taking a summer break. This was in some ways fortunate for the cartoonists as no one wanted funny or facetious comments (which let’s face it is what the Alex strip is about) in the week after 9/11. Even the quite innocuous ‘filler’ drawing that was meant to run in the “Alex is on holiday” spot in the newspaper suddenly looked in bad taste and had to be pulled (it was never published).  
 
But as the shock faded and the cartoon returned in its normal place, angles for humour presented themselves.

19 Oct 01

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Having to man the office phones over the Christmas period is always an unpopular duty. Well, almost always..

14 Nov 01

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The first Harry Potter film came out at Christmas. Alex and Clive found themselves as pupils in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These festive fantasy stories were to become a feature of the cartoon.

18 Dec 01

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2002

It was a time of corporate scandals. First, Enron and then WorldCom went bust following fraudulent auditing practices, which led to the demise of accountants Arthur Andersen. 

07 Feb 02

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Dotcom stocks were still falling and dragging the old economy companies with them into a global recession.

16 Jul 02

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Despite all this the march of technology continued.

19 Jul 02

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In September the Countryside Alliance staged a march on London to protest against the Labour Government's plans to ban foxhunting. It failed. But some people did well out of it.

21 Sep 02

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Alex and Penny did IVF that autumn, in what is a largely forgotten episode, resulting in no offspring (though it was mentioned later to Clive when he had experience of doing the same thing in 2013).  

06 Dec 02

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2003

The year started badly for Alex and Clive with them both being fired from their jobs.

09 Jan 03

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Their only consolation was that Robin - the annoying web-literate junior - also got fired.

16 Jan 03

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They were sent to outplacement to help them come to terms with the practicalities of finding new jobs.

28 Jan 03

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So Alex and Clive embarked on another spell of unemployment. It was only supposed to last for a few weeks but they stayed like that for the rest of the year and into the next, partly because there seemed to be a lot of material in it and partly because the authors were unable to think of a credible way of giving them their jobs back. Of course, Alex found some upside in his unfortunate situation.

26 Feb 03

Today strip

Alex and Clive both endured various demeaning forms of alternative employment: Clive in particular.

05 Apr 03

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Alex began to have nightmares about his career prospects getting even worse.

14 May 03

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Alex managed to get a job in ‘Industry’ working for his old client Mr Hardcastle and was able to exact a small revenge on his old boss Rupert. 

13 Jun 03

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Which gave him the opportunity to provide employment for his one-time colleague Clive. 

29 Jul 03

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But Alex was eventually fired by Hardcastle. Still unable to get back into the City he had to take a job as a headhunter. 

21 Nov 03

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2004

Clive had to endure the indignity of working in financial PR but he was soon fired.

20 Feb 04

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A year of unemployment had left Alex facing financial hardships and he was forced to take his son out of private school.

03 Mar 04

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City bankers had to be treated for addiction to a new device called a BlackBerry, which had already acquired the nickname of “crackberry”

01 May 04

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Alex and Clive found they were both in competition for the same jobs.

04 Jun 04

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Christopher was put into state education, where he did not fit in and was bullied.

09 Jun 04

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Alex continued to have nightmares about degrading, low status employment outside The Square Mile.

18 Jun 04

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In a surprise development Alex and Clive both returned to banking, getting jobs in the same bank, under Rupert, but with one rather unusual difference.

23 Jun 04

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It was the heyday of the BlackBerry which had become a de rigueur accessory of the investment banker.

27 Aug 04

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The ways of making money in the City were changing. Hedge funds and quants were flavour of the month. But they weren't always what they seemed.

28 Sep 04

Today strip

2005

Times were changing, as Alex's weekly phone chats with his mum were showing.

29 Jan 05

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Clive started the year still as head of department, but things were not looking good for him.

11 Feb 05

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A new character, Christian, an obnoxious, sophisticated, well-connected, polyglot, pan-European, new graduate trainee (He was called ‘Eurotrash’, but was basically French) was introduced into the strip to annoy Alex. 

29 Mar 05

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Christopher was back in private school but evidently having issues.

24 May 05

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Social inequality was still a theme.

18 Jun 05

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Advances in technology continued to provide material,  

25 Jun 05

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Diversity (or the lack of it) was becoming a concern in the City and seminars were now held on the issue

01 Jul 05

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As Russia began to compete seriously with America for business one began to wonder who had really won the Cold War.

05 Jul 05

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Alex’s boss Rupert was finding other corporate niches.

04 Aug 05

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The 7/7 London bombings changed the lives of everyone who worked in the capital.

10 Aug 05

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Smoking bans started to be enforced in banks.

16 Aug 05

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During the summer news got out that Prince William had been given some hush-hush ‘real world’ work experience in a bank. Naturally we couldn't resist making him Alex’s intern. (It turned out that Wills had already served out his fictional internship at Megabank before his real life one - at HSBC - actually started).

25 Aug 05

Today strip

Clive hung on to his job as departmental boss but the strains were showing. 

04 Oct 05

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It was only a matter of time before the bank tried to force him out.

10 Nov 05

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This had knock-on effects for those around him,.

17 Nov 05

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Over Christmas and New Year, Alex and Clive went to Narnia (The film of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe had just come out).

15 Dec 05

Today strip

2006

Alex embarked on an affair with Carolyn, who was also one of his clients. Most of the jokes revolved around Alex’s inability not to still think of her as a client.

16 Jan 06

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Alex and Clive got a new American boss called Cyrus, who introduced a lot of innovative management jargon. 

22 Feb 06

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Alex visited the “Dans Le Noir” restaurant, a real establishment where diners eat in darkness, waited on by blind staff. This resulted in the easiest week of drawing for Charles in the strip’s history. Some readers suggested he'd sneaked off on holiday.

15 Mar 06

Today strip

Alex was a contestant on the fashionable TV show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" hosted by the then ubiquitous Chris Tarrant.

30 May 06

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Hedge funds were now so cool that they hosted their own rock festival which they called "Hedgestock." The Who headlined. Pete Townshend, who was something of a fan of the Celeb strip in Private Eye, took umbrage at Alex's cynical observation on the event.

07 Jun 06

Today strip

It was World Cup year and, as ever, the football was avidly followed in City dealing rooms.

23 Jun 06

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Even the new American boss showed an interest.

27 Jun 06

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Alex arranged for his son Christopher to do some work experience in The City. 

07 Jul 06

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Clive called the department out on strike during the summer heatwave in July. Only Alex and the departmental intern remained working.

19 Jul 06

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All was soon forgiven though and Cyrus took his team sailing at Cowes that year.

02 Aug 06

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Alex found himself challenged to a bout of ‘white collar boxing’ by his mistress Carolyn’s husband.

27 Sep 06

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A head of ‘cost-cutting’ was brought in to turn round the bank’s finances.

07 Nov 06

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Cyrus maintained American traditions.

23 Nov 06

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At Christmas Alex and Clive took a trip to Lapland to advise Santa Claus on restructuring his business.

08 Dec 06

Today strip

2007

The year began with Alex and Cyrus snowbound together in a crevasse during a blizzard on a ski trip.

29 Jan 07

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On-line newspapers were becoming popular, but not with everyone.

20 Feb 07

Today strip

When Alex returned he had a bit work to get done.

26 Feb 07

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Following a news story on the same subject, Alex found himself sitting on a plane with a dead passenger.

09 Apr 07

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It was the 20th anniversary of the film “Wall Street”. Alex was transported back in time to that fictional era and met his hero Gordon Gekko.

22 May 07

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Prompted by The Smoking Ban, which was introduced in England in July, Alex gave up smoking and joined a support group to help him kick the habit.

21 Jun 07

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In the summer Cyrus took Alex, Clive and the rest of the team on a trip to the Mid West for a ‘Cowboy Experience’ team-bonding exercise (like the movie “City Slickers”).

04 Jul 07

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There were severe floods in August but they didn’t affect Alex.

26 Jul 07

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Markets were jittery. There was the foreboding that something really bad was about to happen. Technology was once again being blamed.

13 Aug 07

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Alex tried to get away from it all by staying in the ‘Big Brother’ House.

04 Sep 07

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The dominoes started to fall. First of all there was a run on Northern Rock - a former building society which had expanded rapidly and issued loans indiscriminately. Following reports of the bank's insolvency customers queued round the block to get their money out.

18 Sep 07

Today strip

Following the success of a real life insider newspaper column about the financial world penned by “City Boy” Clive launched his own column under the nom de plume of “City Chap”.

25 Sep 07

Today strip

The stage play “Alex” starring Robert Bathurst in the titular role had an eight-week run at the Arts Theatre in London's West End from October to December. It was popular with corporate audiences and got good reviews. By the end of the run it was playing to full houses every night and (unusually for an indie production) made money and paid profits to its backers. As an act of shameless self-publicity, the Alex in the strip, like some of his richer readers, was one of the ‘angels’ himself.  

11 Oct 07

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Despite being one of the smallest theatres in the West End the Arts boasted the highest sales of champagne in the whole of theatreland for "Alex's" run.

Charles inconveniently had another baby during the run. 

18 Oct 07

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The phrase “sub prime debt” began to be heard as market participants became very scared, 

02 Nov 07

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Jokes about these subjects also found their way into the play scripts on the night. 

19 Nov 07

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Clive found an escape in the woman of his dreams, Fabergé, who was a table dancer. 

06 Dec 07

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The film “The Golden Compass” was released at Christmas and Alex and Clive duly journeyed into a Philip Pullman parallel universe.

27 Dec 07

Today strip

2008

Alex and Clive started the year by making a business trip to China.

13 Mar 08

Today strip

Clive was called up for jury service.

22 May 08

Today strip

In the summer Clive was made redundant for the third time. Alex escaped his fate. . 

11 Aug 08

Today strip

The intention was for Clive to remain unemployed for several months at least, but developments in the real world caused the cartoonists to think better of it and to have him back at his desk sooner, so he could comment and participate as usual with Alex as the cataclysmic events of that autumn unfolded: 
 
That September, while Charles was on his way to join part of the triumphant world tour of ‘Alex the stage play’ abroad (Hong Kong, Melbourne, Sydney, Dubai) he sat next to two bankers on the flight out, who were watching Virgin plane news about some trouble at Lehman Brothers bank. They both seemed to think it might be quite serious. By the time Charles landed in Australia the Financial World was in meltdown. Back home in London, Russell had had to hastily think up a joke about Lehmans and then cobble together the artwork on Photoshop (with the assistance of his girlfriend), using bits and pieces of Charles’ old drawings and assembling facsimile ‘Charles style’ lettering letter-by-painful-letter on the computer so as to avoid the strip failing to reflect the most important event in banking history ever (and, er, save both their jobs).  Here’s the result:

16 Sep 08

Today strip

After that Charles spent most of his long-dreamed-of ‘famous-person’ visit to his fans in Oz, sitting in his hotel room watching business news on TV, drawing new cartoons about The Crisis and then trying to find a photocopier shop that would scan them onto a memory stick for him so he could e-mail them back to Russell in London.  

Clive got his job back.

16 Oct 08

Today strip

But he had learned a useful and unexpected lesson from his short spell outside of the banking community.

21 Oct 08

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As it happened The Crisis was a godsend for the strip (they always are, actually). There was scarcely a joke about anything else for three months.

03 Nov 08

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Back in the UK again, the stage play successfully toured the provinces. However the corporate attendee ticket sale figures for its return to London took a dip. Bankers were wearing hair shirts and keeping a low profile. The production played to good audiences but the decision was taken not to extend the run. 
 
Charles and Russell began to be asked on radio programmes as pundits about The financial crisis.

That Christmas Alex and Clive found themselves publicly pilloried (literally) in a fantasy sequence set in medieval times. (Which is what many people thought Western societies would shortly be returned to.) 

29 Dec 08

Today strip

2009

Bankers had now become public enemy number one.

05 Jan 09

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One proposed response to the financial crisis was for banks to split themselves up into Good and Bad banks (and dump all their non-performing junk into the latter). Clive dreamed he had been seconded to work at “Toxic Bank”.

05 Feb 09

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As it became clear that the financial crisis was here to stay Vince the moneybroker began to feel nostalgic for the heady days of the 80s.

11 Feb 09

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Some bankers, realising that they had been outed as useless members of society, expressed a desire to “give something back” (not the taxpayer money they blew unfortunately). Alex’s colleague Simon used being made redundant to become a teacher.

13 Mar 09

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Alex’s parents celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary. Alex found an appropriate gift.

27 Mar 09

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Outrage against bankers among the public was growing and meetings of the G20 summit started to be targeted by anti-capitalist protesters.

06 Apr 09

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Alex’s team did a flight safety awareness course in a aircraft simulator as a corporate bonding experience.

01 May 09

Today strip

A small moment of schadenfreude for Alex amid all the grimness of the financial climate. After a trip to Glyndebourne he and Penny stayed in a B&B which transpired to be run by his ex-graduate trainee Robin, whose hedge fund had gone up the Swanee in the Credit Crunch.

04 Jun 09

Today strip

Things had become so bad in the Masterley household that Penny was forced to give up her agreeable existence as a corporate wife and home-maker and get a job. She became a redundancy counsellor and found plentiful clients among City investment banks who were downsizing bankers like there’s no tomorrow.

14 Jul 09

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Alex hosted a lunch to celebrate 25 years of working in the City. What were the chances of him noticing up another twenty five (or indeed twenty five days the way the markets were going?)

29 Sep 09

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With bankers being made redundant in their thousands it never looked very likely that Alex's son Christopher would follow him into the City, but to Alex’s horror he went one stage further and enrolled in art college.

09 Oct 09

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As the financial crisis deepened Clive continued to find solace with his lap dancer friend Fabergé.

05 Nov 09

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At Christmas Alex and Clive paid another professional visit to their occasional client Santa Claus whose business had been badly hit by the global financial crisis.

11 Dec 09

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The Chancellor Alistair Darling announced a windfall tax on bankers’ bonuses. Naturally the bankers found a way round it.

17 Dec 09

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