Last week, while on holiday in Suffolk, I visited Southwold Pier. One of the attractions there is a room of novelty machines – a mechanical dog that you can walk, an armchair for taking a three-minute holiday, a “bash the banker” game where you hit their little bald heads with a mallet… They have all been designed and built by the super-talented Tim Hunkin, and on the way out a leaflet caught my eye: it was advertising his new arcade in central London (just off High Holborn) and the machine on the cover was (wait for it) a money laundering machine. Reader, I visited it yesterday.
The money laundering machine is a thing of beauty. In the centre is a crane with a big magnet on it, which you lower to collect a load of 5p coins from the gutter and then hoist to deposit them into the City, via a scales at the top of the machine. But there is an obstacle to your merry laundering: on the right is a tall office-block full of regulators, who are on conveyor belts and periodically look out of the window at you – if they peer out while you are level with their window, you lose the lot. All the while, there is a running commentary about the attractions of the City of London as a laundering centre. As you can imagine, I am not the most enthusiastic launderer in the world, but even I managed to clean up £7 billion in the four minutes I was allotted. Here I am, keeping an eye on those pesky regulators – who, as the commentary reminds us, look only in a straight line and if they don’t spot you, you’ve got away with it.
So next time you’re near Holborn, do pop in to hone your laundering technique. And for those of you in rocky relationships but unable to face the cost of separation, why not try the “Divorce for £2” machine – very popular, I am told, with lawyers from the nearby Inns.