Davos and trust
The blanket of snow covering Davos, the Alpine resort that hosts the World Economic Forum, is normally a comforting blanket.
This year it's almost sinister.
Because for the bankers, financiers and business leaders who feel able to leave the day-to-day crisis of managing their businesses through this painful recession for a few days of jaw-jaw and endless canapes, the big question is "what horrors still lurk beneath the surface".
They are sombre and anxious - such a contrast with their confidence of previous years that globalisation and financial innovation were enriching the world (and, as luck would have it, making them particularly prosperous). . .
What really cast a pall in the preceding weeks was the fall from a state of banking grace of Bank of America and its chairman Ken Lewis.
The biggest US lender seemed to have done most things right, till its takeover of Merrill Lynch in the autumn that now looks the very epitome of hubris.
On the top of this mountain, all bankers and traders have wanted to talk to me about is the colossal losses at Merrill, the spat between Lewis and John Thain (Merrill's now departed boss), and BofA's humiliating government rescue.
"What happened to Ken Lewis killed all of us", said a banker. "Investors rightly took the view that if you can't trust BofA, who can you trust?"
This is not an ideal backdrop for the formal business of Davos, which is to come up with proposals to pull the global economy through the painful downturn and make global capitalism safe for the future.
Many of those here see themselves (still perhaps a touch hubristically?) as helping to shape the agenda for April's meeting in London of the G20 group of leading nations.
That will be when the politicians of the rich developed nations, in which the economic mess was cooked up, come together with Brazil, India, China and Russia to save the world.
I have to say that bankers are rather less optimistic about what the politicians can achieve than the politicians themselves.
There's a fatalism among the uber-capitalist class: that the economy won't turn till 2010 at the earliest; and that they've been cast into the unglamorous underworld of bonus-less toil for as long as the mind can contemplate.
If business leaders needed telling that they're less loved than ever (they didn't), the annual poll of how much they're trusted by citizens around the world was a bad start to the day.
Edelman has been polling what we think of business for a decade. This year's result, if translated into a well-known colloquial phrase, would be unprintable Anglo-Saxon.
But here's what really shocked me: Bob Diamond, the de facto creator and head of Barclays' investment bank, isn't here. That's almost the equivalent of the Queen not showing up for Royal Ascot (well not quite - but you know what I mean).
Diamond, understandably, feels he needs to stay in London, where his troops are battling away in the war against financial pessimism. And there are plenty of other Davos banking regulars who've stayed away.
But even in the absence of Diamond - and of John Varley, the bank's chief executive - Barclays is pressing ahead with its lavish annual dinner for corporate clients.
They'll be treated to a rollicking address from Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. Let's hope he cheers them up.
UPDATE, 12:13PM: The gloom here from business leaders, private-equity specialists, hedgies, bankers, management consultants and economists is deep and unrelenting.
They are immensely pessimistic about the economic outlook and about the ability of governments to lessen the pain.
I'd be tempted to come home immediately and climb under the duvet, except for one thing: when the herd is charging in a particular direction, the herd is normally wrong.
So on the basis that the best time to buy (metaphorically speaking) is when everyone else is selling, just maybe we're near the darkest hour for the global economy.