An essay by Colin Moody.

The economy is expected to shrink by 13% by years end. More like 30% say others. 

Radical thought, we may have to remodel our economy away from the model of endless growth. There can be some recovery but something fundamental feels like it’s shifting, and fast. A new era begins. 

Let’s look at some of the changes coming down the road. It is a busy road. There might be one or two tankers with confused looking drivers shifting crude oil in never ending lines that the suppliers are, at time of writing, paying companies $38 a barrel to take off their hands. They cannot stop the flow and can’t store any more. It will not stop. The material that is killing our planet, that drove the modern economy, will not stop, and we need it to stop. No one is using it right now and it can’t stop. Maybe environmentalists, who economists called hippies, have taken a pay day and have been clever enough to take a huge glut of crude, use the cash they get paid to finance the digging of a huge trench and put it all back in the ground. Making them the new lead economists of this new age? 

Fantasy? It could work. If Extinction Rebellion had prepared a huge re burial system of piping just ahead of this all they would be caning it right now.

These are interesting times, n’est-ce pas?

Foreign holiday? It will be at least three years before many feel they might not get stranded by those greedy airlines that seem to ask for bailouts, then add a nought and pay their shareholders. Finland and other countries just announced no bail out for any corporations that have avoided tax by having all assets registered in a land far, far away. Richard Branson, it is rumoured, may have to mortgage that island none of his planes fly to (he doesn’t want you bothering him there).

Less big spend items? Not in the basket. Let’s go bigger. That fancy car you wanted that the Jones’ had next door, well they took the Jones’ fancy car away a week after the lockdown ended because it was all on credit and their remodelled lower economy can’t afford it. 

Spend spend spend

And that’s the problem. Our entire economy is built on spend, spend, spend, not on producing and dealing in products directly. Want over need has been winning for a century. It took trading to new heights and lost sight of the ground where it’s foundations lay. As we are gas lit into wanting more, it took an outside force called Covid to break the model. The smog of all those cars has gone and we can see all the way down now.

All that’s been able to keep us going during this crisis so far has been the local baker, veg market, and local stores. The reset basics, the actual foundation shops that the high street needs (to know more about this read some of the essays in my new book ‘The Great Bristol High Street’) And know what? That’s maybe all we need. The basics. They work. Seasonal veg is best. Local veg is best. It was, and is again for some, the only option right now. And that local PPE supplier might just beat that big order that Westminster says is on the way from a far off place. Local gin distillery now making hand sanitiser. Local, local, local.

If you nearly lose what you need as a basic, you re-evaluate your moral compass, and lots of other things too. They flew in thousands of Romanians this week to pick our veg and keep the basics coming, so we know they matter to even the government too. Our whole economy right now has been reduced indirectly by the virus to a basic level. It would be admitted to A&E right now if it were a person. Our local charities and companies are sourcing PPE because they can’t wait to see their neighbours who work in the NHS and care sectors die. While daily press briefings talk up numbers, they have become a real life support. Public opinion is shifting to local. There we are keeping us all going. Trust is shifting to local. Local colleges 3D printing PPE beats paperwork tied up supplies on the other side of the world. 

See the thing is, when you lose your neighbours to this virus and they just go, you realise so many things can just go. And they don’t come back, and you don’t have anything else happening to distract you. Well all that, it changes you. Who we are and how we feel about the economy is about to be shifted possibly permanently into the new normal. 

Can you sense it?

The new normal

I want to explore this idea of the new normal here. Life is changed beyond all recognition and a fog of perception is clearing. To see who is giving their best and where real value is.

Cost to the economy of people turning to a more local economy? Huge perhaps, but some of those businesses will maybe scale up a new way of being. Local has been terribly affected by this all but it’s also adaptive. Restaurants went online more doing delivery. Others opened kitchens to NHS needs, making meals for the front line. And they got them to them same day. They didn’t have to secure the contract to do it after filling in the forms to make sure they met the basic requirements. Money in all this? No. But it serves the need right now. People. People are the economy. It needs to serve us or all it’s doing is serving the shareholders. Even the hedge funds can make money out of a fall in the economy. And you can be sure that profit will be locked away from the local economy somewhere high up away from the foundation level economics 99.9% of us are living right now.

So right now we may need to choose. Protect the NHS. Protect the hyper local economy. Not the big huge over inflated economy. That economy has to stand 2m away behind the rest. It has to wait.

People are the economy. 

People first.

I asked my sociologist friend Alan Bec to read this article you are about to dive in to and he’s got some pointers for us.

“Being careful with the money we spend (invest) by spending it with the people ( local business) we care about is the power we have to co- create the new economy. Not buying from supermarkets in the street or on-line is the new hedge fund investment. Keeping the economy local and building direct connections with local business. Not buying big things often like new cars and holidays abroad is essential.”

And when that locally made PPE saves the life of the person who saves all our lives your appreciation and devotion will shift. What you choose to invest in might shift to where real value lies.

“There is something here about people using the money we have as a type of hedge fund for the community economy,” says Alan.

More on that, and more from Alan, at the end.

Two types of hedge

But let’s use some examples, two types of hedge so we can see where big economics is now in official opposition to local economics. 

Both good and bad in their way. But only one is our future now.

One sees humans as a resource to be mined and as cogs in a machine that generates profit and one that requires business to benefit society in real ways. Let’s look at the structures in both.

Hedge funds


Funds for Hedges.

Two examples, that’s all they are, picked out of the hat, that show where we are and where we might end up. Personally I can only see one has the answers we need right now. But let me lay out my stall and you decide.

1 – Hedge Fund

Investopedia (sounds like a Harry Potter character and it is a form of magic this when it comes to profits) says “A hedge fund is just a fancy name for an investment partnership that has freer rein to invest aggressively and in a wider variety of financial products than most mutual funds”

So it is special. It reaches wider. It can look for opportunity even in falling markets. The value of something may fall but if you clever clogs feel that how much people think it will fall is over estimated you can bet on that. Hedge your bets, and if you are right and they are wrong, bingo. It’s a pay day. 

Let us look a little closer at some examples in a moment but first of all we are gonna need to learn some new terms. They were coined by those who made them so they might confuse you. But it’s simple really. Economies rise and fall and when they take big losses it normally is bad for everyone, but a hedge fund makes it good for some.

These funds may be managed aggressively or make use of derivatives and leverage to generate higher returns. Got that?

So what is a derivative you might ask. No, don’t worry, I had to check it too. 

The most common underlying definition for derivatives are the asset of stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates, and market indexes. Stuff comes later. This is what something is worth. Just numbers. Not things.

In other words they use stocks and bonds and so forth as a starting place. So that is the seed in this growth pattern they are looking for, that they design computer models to follow. They are the numbers that go up and down and they are the asset. This is the foundation, the starting point for hedge funding. It is not a thing, not a place. Off we go into the virtual reality of modern finance with some of the best returns you will ever see even during pandemics and wars.

Hedge fund strategies include among their clan long term equity, market neutral, volatility arbitrage, and merger arbitrage and many more. Those are the biggies. The bulk. What are they?

I will be honest I saw that list and was a little side swiped by what I felt was going to be a complex series of intertwined things that were beyond me, so I instantly thought about a real hedge, all its branches intermeshed and it calmed me. It also forms the basis for comparison laid out in the rest of this essay. I will at times switch from Hedge Funds straight to real hedges to make sense of it all. Bear with please. And one hedge in particular that was recently discovered will form the basis for my argument for localism when it comes to modern financing and thriving.

A 800 year old Bristol hedge just a few miles from my house, very local indeed.

It contains all these varieties of hedge growing shrubs and trees. 

  • Berberis thunbergii.
  • Buxus sempervirens (Box)
  • Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam)
  • Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn)
  • Fagus sylvatica (Green Beech)
  • Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’ (Purple Beech)
  • Ilex aquifolium (Holly)

If you are not a horticulturalist you might be similarly side swiped by all these terms, or like me realise that so many different types of shrub and tree are needed to make a hedge grow for so long. That’s a big list but like hedge funds when you break it down it’s simple really. 

But more on this amazing real hedge later. Park that in the back of your head for a mo. Lets get back to the hedge funds with both feet. Jump in.

Hedge funds

Long term equity.

Market Neutral.

Volatility Arbitage.

Merger Arbitage.

These are the biggies.

Lets break those down shall we. And thanks again to Investopedia for the definitions and examples. If you are appetite wetted to invest like this go check them out (warning your investment may go up or down and also your bet on an investment going down may result in an up which for you is a down and a wager on a big up swing but it goes up only a small amount may result in small to large losses on the initial investment)

Long Term Equity just means that an investment needs to last about 7 to 10 years. That sounds like such a long time when you consider that investment banks have put in so much money to build computer systems and signal transmitters that can guarantee that transactions can take place faster than Einstein could blink all over the world simultaneously. So lets call this our long term hedge. Not as long term as our 800 year old real deal specimen, but then hedge funds are for making money at a relative speed of ‘fast please’.

Next one. A Market Neutral Hedge Fund.

Now we are getting to the good stuff.

“A market neutral fund is a fund that seeks a profit in upward or downward trending environments, typically through the use of paired long and short positions. These funds can potentially serve to mitigate market risk as they seek to generate positive returns in all market environments”

In other words for the security of the investor even if the price or value of a thing, a company, coffee, pork bellies, whatever it is you are in to (doesn’t matter its the way the money flows now that’s key) goes up or down you can make money. Good money. 

“These funds can potentially serve to mitigate market risk as they seek to generate positive returns in all market environments” they say. In other words your hedge fund returns are safer because you bet on these changes taking place in defined ways. Sounds niche? Well its complicated and really special people have decided that it’s best if they manage all this for all their investors. And they never make mistakes. Well not very often. 

Bet on change, bet on stability, bet on instability. Hang where we actually end up as long as the outcome is more seeable to you than to Joe Bloggs there is good money here.

It is capitalism refined to tone profits. 

Even when the first hedge fund ever was launched in 1949 by Alfred Winslow Jones’s company, A.W. Jones & Co he quickly got into the business of having multiple niche investors involved to mitigate risks. As this is all about guaranteeing good returns. When in the 1960s hedge funds out performed most other fund types it became clear that this could be a way to make a lot of money, but you can’t just have hedge funds flood the market. They are not the market. They ride the hard working backs of the market. 

We can’t all just jump on this. Oh no. As there needs to be the mugs in the foundation investments of what things cost flying around still to make money from. Way down below, below the fog, those lower investors can’t see where the penthouse players are making their move, hedging their fortunes higher.

So quickly this new kind of investment locks out most for a few right? Well no, in the 70’s and again in the 90’s loads of big investment groups left traditional investments in droves for this kind of funding stream, they let too many suits into the party and it was all doomed. Over reliance on one kind of investment turned out to be bad. So when the economy recovered new hedge fund products emerged to tease even more profits but in a niche way. Time for some more hedge strands..

Next one.

Volatility Arbitage.

Yes I had to google that one too.

Volatility arbitrage is a trading strategy that attempts to profit from the difference between the forecasted future price-volatility of an asset, like a stock, and the implied volatility of options based on that asset.

No? Ok here you go.

Because options pricing is affected by the volatility of the underlying asset, if the forecasted and implied volatilities differ, there will be a discrepancy between the expected price of the option and its actual market price.

This is where the bet goes. On the discrepancy between how you expect a price to change and how it turns out. And it’s niche enough to appeal only to the new generation of lean super keen fund managers to follow.

God it’s a mugs game making things always grow isn’t it. But we have to learn to keep this to ourselves, as we dont want a repeat of everyone getting in on this like they did in the 70s and 90’s. 

You can make money out of the volatility fluctuations over terms of time that suit you and your investors. Whoopeee kiiii yay. But shush.

Last one today.

Merger arbitrage, often considered a hedge fund strategy, involves simultaneously purchasing and selling the stocks of two merging companies to create “riskless” profits. A merger arbitrageur reviews the probability of a merger not closing on time or at all.

You probably are ahead of me now on this one. But the riskless aspect here is knowing that news of a merger usually makes the stocks of those companies go up. You keep buying and selling and the profits keep going up. Most important thing is that it is in persistent amounts that mean when the merger goes ahead late or not at all you were riding that wave. 

Sorry new metaphor now. 

You go on as far as you can before you run out of wave. Free energy. Free money. These types of hedge funds are so good you might see pop up ads on your feeds tell you about them but be aware the best schemes use your investments as the fodder to move markets one way while side bests for larger amounts bet differently. Remember real dealers in hedge funds use sophisticated computer modeling to predict how one thing effects another. Your investment provides the initial kick with thousands of others like you that gets them up on the board and riding the wave you made. They catch the wave your investment energy provides, you run out of energy 20ft from the shore. Or if you were able to get up on the board one of these bastards is the one who cuts you up and steals your wave. Not cool right?

Want to look in another direction? No worries mate. Drop the surf board and come look at my real hedge, in Bristol. 

Funds for hedges

Part 2 – Funds for Hedges (real growth at last)

Here is an excerpt from the FT last week taking time to see how the French president see things at this time. “Unlike other world leaders, from Donald Trump in the US to Xi Jinping in China, who are trying to return their countries to where they were before the pandemic, the 42-year-old Mr Macron says he sees the crisis as an existential event for humanity that will change the nature of globalisation and the structure of international capitalism”. His direct quote was “particularly in recent years it increased inequalities in developed countries. And it was clear that this kind of globalisation was reaching the end of its cycle, it was undermining democracy.”

The french government is expecting a 2020 budget deficit of 9 per cent of gross domestic product, the highest since the Second World War. These stats are similarly stamped on other countries all over the world. And I wonder what will happen to the economies of countries who break their lockdown earlier than medical advisors recommend to save economies in the long term if that leads to huge infection rates that will swamp their ability to respond. 

If Capitalism can’t take a hit and readjust, if it comes out fighting in a wounded state for short term gains there might not be a country left to fight for. I say again. 

The economy is people. Macron has something.

But we’ve made big gestures in this too in the past.

At the end of the First World War the government seeing many factors at play and growing unrest at home started a huge home building campaign of homes fit for heroes. A huge cost to bolster not just our economy but to deal with a huge inequality in the equation as the old system broke. Homes for all to prevent a huge fall. Saved us and saved capitalism too by the way. Homes need stuff.

Then after the Second World War there was a risk again, a huge mess of pretty much everything, we were on our knees in all senses in terms of our ‘worth’ and what did we get? We got the NHS. Not just bolstering our belief in a society for all but actual service for our health that was for all. For all. Saving us all. That was how it started.

It held us together.

Now corona. Bigger economic hit than the Great Depression. So time for another big gesture to prop up the system. What will it be? Universal basic income? Will it be about what we value now? Right now? During the Great Pause?

So what can we learn from that 800 year old hedge off Horefield Common in Bristol? 

Growing in the hedge

Let us look at its constituent parts and for the sake of argument imagine they are like constituent parts of society. Not economy. Or maybe more realistically imagine how so many different things got ‘added’ to the model that made this hedge a success. Like the addition of homes for heroes, the NHS and maybe our soon to be launched basic universal income or whatever we demand for our ‘society hedge’. 

  • Berberis thunbergii.
  • Buxus sempervirens (Box)
  • Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam)
  • Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn)
  • Fagus sylvatica (Green Beech)
  • Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’ (Purple Beech)
  • Ilex aquifolium (Holly)

All growing in a side road in one hedge. The most successful hedge in the country some might say.

Berberis Thunbergii. First one out of the bush and into the hand as it were. Where did that one come from? We have no idea which of these species made it into this super successful hedge first so i am just gonna work through them in order and give you the main benefits.

Berberis can be deciduous or evergreen shrubs with spiny shoots bearing simple, often spine-toothed leaves, and small yellow or orange flowers in axillary clusters or racemes, and small berries appear at the end, like a dividend at the end. Ker Ching.

Origin Japan. A nation hit by huge natural disasters which can lead to huge unpredictable outcomes like the tsunami that led to the Fukashima nuclear disaster. Here a spiky survivor is forming part of the core of the robust nature of this Bristol Hedge. Who saw that coming right out the gate? Nature will look in some unexpected places for inspiration and foundation. It’s picked a born survivor here. Imported hope.

So we plough on.

Hedge component number 2. Buxus sempervirens (box) is a large, slow-growing evergreen shrub with small, glossy oblong leaves, and small, yellowish flowers. Not much to look at but it grows best in well-drained soil in partial shade; can be scorched by sun and strong winds but is drought resistant.

The thick wirey Japanese hedge is able to form a foundation of growth in harsh conditions and the Box variety will hold on when there is a drought. But it can be scorched by the sun. What it needs is a variety to work with that wont be scorched. It is looking for a merger deal. With a third species.

Type 3. Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam)

OK. This one is a large deciduous tree developing a fluted grey trunk. Leaves 5-8cm long, ovate, conspicuously ribbed, turning yellow in autumn. Catkins open in spring, followed by hop-like fruiting catkins. It is not really even a hedge. It got into this hedge how? It was grafted in. By a pro. A long time ago. If you were a hedge fund manager would you have seen that coming? Nope. You were so intro shrubs, trees were a whole new ball game. 

Being a tree it grows up up up, but grafting it and I suspect pollarding it back (cutting a lot of the growth potential away by cutting into the trunks nearly all the way through and laying it sideways for horizontal growth) allows it to grow along and through the hedge rather than bursting out of it, and it can take that sun all day, no bleaching, no problem.

Quite a sideways shift from the first two isn’t it. And the first component in the hedge that needs a lot of human physical care to help it to take and grow. Team effort this one.

Imagine a world where governments are made up of leaders who think the market forces need to take care of themselves and is reluctant to curb freedoms of the free market during an outbreak for fear of how it will effect the market’s core values. Those kind of governments might delay action in a real emergency for fear of damaging the economy. When what they need is to pollard it right back, if they want it to survive.

Pretty much what we have right now. 

The business model must keep on. Have they been blindsided by this two dimensional thinking? 

First three species in our Bristol hedge and boom! We have already got such variety that leads to continuous real growth, with some drastic pollarding we can achieve the amazing. 

What hesitation is there. When something needs pollarding. Pollard it! Cut away a lot to save the rest, and who knows what else you might save. One big cut now saves it all later. In a world of managed outcomes that is slow to act in a crisis this species and how it’s managed in a hedge maybe has the most to teach us at this time of crisis. Or you could let the whole hedge go and wait for Personal Hedge Equipent to come in from overseas. Probably plastic. Probably china. Probably won’t last long.

But the raw reality of modern economics is that they are looking for opportunities even now while we are all paused. Market values are swinging wildly. Remember those negative oil prices? Wow. Big opportunities for some. Maybe we need to look at the next player in the Bristol hedge. See what lessons are there.

4. Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn)

This is a small, rounded deciduous tree with glossy, deeply lobed leaves and flat sprays of cream flowers. It’s berries are medicine. Hawthorn is used for diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as congestive heart failure, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat. It is also used to treat both low blood pressure and high blood pressure, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), and high cholesterol. And there it is in that old hedge over there. 800 years it has been making berries for you. For us. Keeping us healthy. 

Are the fruits of hedge funds keeping you healthy right now? How much are you gonna earn over the next few weeks. Me you ask? Nothing until the government’s super new plan of what looks like a gererous short-term universal income scheme bears fruit in June or July. 

A hedge fund manager would invest in the companies that dealt with these medical conditions but never contribute to allowing this layer to exist, layer 4 in a now really complex, bio diverse, co dependent hedge that is forming. 

However these conditions of high blood pressure and high cholesterol are symptoms that we are not really doing so well as a society. Irony that the economics we live by are acutally so bad for us we need the hedges hawthorne to get through our stressful days work.

Why not reduce your high blood pressure caused by stock market failure or stressful hours at a company being manipulated by investments way up above you that you had no idea were in play, by hedging your bets and betting on the change. The new normal that I suspect is coming. 

Change the only constant in the financial and hedge growing universe remember. 

Consider changing, for the sake of us all, your blood pressure, heart and the rest. 

Fagus sylvatica (Green Beech)

Nearly there. 

How to make your hedge last 800 years.

Fagus sylvatica is a large, vigorous deciduous tree with a broad, spreading crown. Leaves broadly elliptic, yellow-green in spring, rich russet-brown in autumn. Flowers small, green, followed by bristly fruits.

Pollarded by a pro and it will top off the hedge nicely. Cover for the top. Doesn’t like aphids but the number of species intertwined now are creating what we call a habitat. Something else living here will eat the aphids. Its a win for the team. We nearly have enough for the hedge to go on and on. It is now providing homes and food and producing medicine in all kinds of ways. It’s a street full of helpers all helping. 

Can you put a hedge fund bet on multiple companies all intertwined with each other like this? Fuck no. There are now too many possibilites for even the biggest super cooled super computer under a mountain somewhere in the US of A to calculate. But it’s just a hedge. Yeah, but what a hedge now. Eh?

Imagine if…

Shift from want to need was quick wasn’t it for most of us. I’m so chilled now I don’t need any more Hawthorne inspired medicine.

Imagine if that sticks. If we dont all rush back to work and need medicine to cope with that stress. What if we don’t drive the machine the way they wanted us to after this.  Maybe the baker, the butcher and the veg shop are enough. Maybe supporting each other first is enough. Sharing resources before they go to market is the right way. Not living of leftovers. We are shifting how we live and we are trying this shit out.

A hedge fund company recently took advantage of the downturn to invest in Hapvida, a Brazilian medical insurer and hospital operator; Advantech, a firm behind technology used in China to monitor the temperatures of people in public places during the pandemic and the South African pharmacy chain Clicks. All intertwined around the covid outbreak. It has made huge profits. Some were even paid to a certain local MP here in the south west, who will do well out of the outbreak. 

Neat huh?

Time for the last two hedge components.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’ (Purple Beech)

Some of the afore mentioned species like to be north facing. Or south. Or west. This one likes it all over facing. Perfect. The wrapping around hedge growth that will grow where other fear to sprout. A hedge for all hedge types. A team player. 

This is sounding like a real winner of a hedge row isnt it? 

All these species would normally be in competition for resources but here they are in perfect support of each other, a soft hand of help from us and away it grows. Even pest control works here inside the system. It is amazing. 

To give you some idea of the power of a hedge, when it really gets going, here is a little story near the end for you.

The British and Allied forces predicted how long it would take to drive their tanks from the beeches of Normandy to Berlin during the second world war to take back control of Europe. They were well off and weeks late. Because if you know your hedges in France you know now that you cannot easily drive a tank through them.

A tank! Beaten by more than one, less than eight species of tree and shrub intertwined. 

Maybe our 800 year old winner had a cousin bordering thousands of fields in France. 

I met this fellow called Alan who was in the tank corp that was unable to get through these damn hedges. They had to get special attachments made to the front of the tanks to stand any chance of getting through some of them. All those species intertwined and the greatest planners for the invasion did not see it coming. They chose their route and set up all the resources to make it work on that route. Too late to change it they committed to getting though the country side but the hedges said no. We underestimate at our peril what works long term. Financial systems have come late to the party. Oh and he also said to me that we need to get back to what matters when it comes to what shops we have on the high street, butchers, bakers and the like. No really! And look what we have open right now. And isn’t it nice to shop there. And have 2m all to yourself. 

A chance to rethink

The Dutch East India Co. issued the first shares in 1602, they had to wait until trees had been felled, pulped, pressed dried and printed on to with ink before they could be handed out of course. 

The first stock market was created in 1773 when traders met at a London coffeehouse, which they used as a marketplace. Eventually they changed the name to the “stock exchange.” Coffee even today is a mysterious chemistry of hot liquids, fire, beans and grinding, pressures and so forth that seems to bring more possibility and joy to the world than all the stock and shares. A lot more people enjoy coffee than buy shares. Fact! 

800 years this one hedge has grown. In Bristol. Balance of nature and nurture. Keeping the border of the field where they wanted it and sustaining more life than you can count.

And back to Covid for a moment. We have had the world health organisation tell us all how serious this is. For weeks before this all changed our world. 

We have been held up. Forced to stop. 

We hoped little changes and fluctuations would work and we could take it on the chin to protect our economy but we are instead met by a wall, an impenetrable wall of truth, that capitalism wants to march on and will not stop. It doesn’t like to bend, and so instead it just broke.

But we might have to be like we are for a while. And plant new seeds. New ideas.

And remodel everything.

Back in the hedge

I give you our final player in the story.

Ilex aquifolium (Holly). 

Last part of the hedge. What a hedge.

The greatest addition, the cherry on the cake of the hedge. 

What a wonder plant.

Common Holly is a medium-sized evergreen tree, slow-growing when young, with dark, glossy green usually strongly spiny leaves. Small, dull white flowers in spring are followed by bright red berries, on pollinated female plants. Its main attributes are that it is ‘bushy’.

The Woodland Trust describes holly as Festive, neat and prickly. Holly is a well-loved shrub that shelters birds and gives hedgehogs a cosy place to hibernate.

All these species have helped to protect each other and survive over 800 years. The holly itself can only live for 300 or so years so it may be third or umpteenth generation in our Bristol hedge.

Does hedge funding look generationally at investments? Nope. It’s all here and now. 

Right here, right now, during this outbreak it makes sense to hedge a bet on medical companies in China. However if we want to learn from this ancient hedge lets look at the other strands we need. All those other varieties. We may even need short term solutions to try out, like this Holly. It might only take for a while but while it is here it serves the hedge. It is not sending holly profits off to the cayman islands.

A new economy

Many in power voted against a pay rise for those on the front line. Nurses pay has been frozen for a decade now. That’s a real pay cut while hedge funds have offered staggering constant returns and in a modern economy built on managed outcomes those kinds of ways of thinking have become embedded. A Guardian piece looking at MP Rees Mogg and his investments (yes it was him I was mentioning earlier) noting that in the 12 months following the 2008 global financial crisis, the value of smaller companies in emerging markets rose more than 150%, with some Brazilian firms surging by about 500% within two years. Profit. That was then harvested expertly by many hedge fund investors like that company. And spread to their niche supporters.

Big money. That was when nurses wages got frozen. When our value system was opposite to what it appears to be now.

If species in the hedge which runs between Henleaze Park and Phoenix Grove were not able to work out a way to coexist when environment forces changed then that boundary would have collapsed centuries ago. One big load of pollarded trees would not have worked. When that one species inevitably died back there would be no stand in there to hold up the hedge wall. It needs all those parts. A community of species intertwined in the only way. It needs a wider perspective. Hedge funds don’t care about the wider perspective. It is not gonna make the profit they want if they bet too widely. And complex systems produce too many variables which leads to smaller changes. Smaller changes means less profit margins to bet on. Hedges real hedges can survive tough climate, hedge funds milk away in good and bad time’s and after learning from their earlier mistakes are now still cleaning up, but for how much longer can we stand it.

If we cannot remodel our economy and how it works to deal with all the elements in play we will fail, we will all fail. 

The lockdown locks down the economy and the elephant in the room, capitalism is getting restless. It wants to end lockdown. There are huge profits to be made right now. Variables are wildly oscillating and hedge fund managers may be salivating at more shifts in values. What a freak show.

But what we need is a hedge economy, not hedge funds.

Fair wages for all and a basic income needs to be guaranteed. 

Basic Reditus (in latin) 

Higher taxes for the rich. They can’t go anywhere at the moment. If they did make it to their secret bunker home in New Zealand sell the homes they left behind. Make them pay. Bigger taxes for corporations too. A model of economics for all can work. 

I’m dreaming of course.

More support for the real economy. Us.

As survivors of Covid we will have for a short time increased bargaining power, which we could push thorough.

Al Jazeera on 3rd April pointed out that the huge plagues of the past in medieval time “in turn, started a process of economic change that brought an end to the feudal system and, some argue, triggered the rise of capitalism.”

Time for new holly

Say that some holly grew in the hedge from year zero to year 300. 

Thats the medieval time. Huge upheaval in both our physical, spiritual and economic lives. 

Then some new holly grew in our Bristol hedge  from year 300 to 600. 

Follow that time line in our world history and that is post medieval and growth in a whole new way.

Here we are from 600 to 800 years in an old hedge in a world where for the last 200 or so years we have been industrialising and capitalising like crazy. Incedently it’s supposed that is when the hedge died back mostly. 

Time for us to cut back the dead wood and plant a new holly. 

Time for something new, if we want to keep this habitat alive.

Time for Funds for Hedges not Hedge Funds. 


As promised at the start of this essay let’s hear from Alan Bec. Sociologist. Life scientist. Generally into where we might be going with all this. He has something to say about sustainability. What we actually have to play with now.

What does he see as the economy we have in play right now.

“Let’s call it the connected economy. There is something about power and ownership. I spend money like I’m investing in others rather than shopping at the cheapest most convenient price. My money is an extension of my long term interests in making Bristol life a sustainable place to live and work. Shopping is no longer recreational, a fleeting emotion of happy.  The new normal is about what makes us sustainably happy.”

Hedge your bets people and take heed of this. The new normal might be around for a while and a lot of things, sustainability, ecology, volunteering, gig economy, things often in little boxes to the powers that be, destabilised by this huge shift, might we intertwine them, mesh them together and see them all become strong enough to make something that will last us a few more hundreds of years.

If more investors were gardeners I think we might have a chance to get through this.

Time to invest in real hedges of basic universal income, fair wages for all frontline workers, switch from pollutant to no pollutant systems. Rewards for positive effects from bottom up not top down. Dignity for all. More freedom less control. Less hawthorne medicine required for those sick in the system we had till the end of March.

Freedoms of different kinds strengthen each other. They might scare hedge fund managers if we don’t buy enough stuff to make the swings big enough to gamble on.

Sounds like crazy talk? Did I mention earlier those companies currently paying a good price for people to take crude oil off their hands? That’s crazy right? Makes zero sense. But it’s happening.

Anything is now possible.

So many things are needed to build something you can’t drive a tank through. That’s a solid investment. 

So lets make the hedge. For us. Unless you’ve got somewhere else to be let’s start right here, right now. 

Find seven varieties of growth ideas in your local economy, your local high street, other strands of economics and see where you can grow to in just a few steps. 

Welcome to the new normal.

This essay was written by Colin Moody, street photographer and regular workshop leader at PRSC.
insta: @moodycolin319
facebook: Colin Moody

Colin has produced two photography books published by the History Press which look at local communities and economies in Bristol.
Stokes Croft and Montpelier – 2018
The Great Bristol High Street – 2020 (new book out now and available from the Stokes Croft China bookshop soon)