That's really nothing unusual in my life. I suppose I am better than some husbands in that I do remember our wedding anniversary. Not that I do anything about it, mind. No gift, no flowers, not even a card. Sometimes I probably even forget to say, ‘Happy anniversary'. But I do remember the date. What I don't remember is the date I first met the girl (as she was then) who would become my wife, nor the date of our first date. All that I can remember is that I first met the future Old Bat in November 1960, so we must have missed out celebrating our first 50 years sometime last month.
I know it was November 1960 because that was when I started work at the bank. Fifty years ago banking was a completely different business. There were no computers, just adding machines and, in some branches, fairly complex, electric adding machines used for posting entries onto customers' statement sheets. The ledgers were all hand-written. Not that I started on either the statement machines or the ledgers. As a junior, my jobs were filling inkwells, filing paid cheques under customers' names (which involved reading their signatures as cheques were not printed with names) sending out statements (complete with paid cheques) and other pretty mundane jobs. The most interesting job was the local clearing, partly because this got me out of the branch every morning for four weeks out of five.
(Unless you happen to be an industrial archeologist, the following explanation might prove boring and perhaps you should skip the next paragraph.)
Every day, cheques paid in by our customers for the credit of their accounts had to be sent off so that we could collect the value from the paying banks. Most cheques would be sent to our head office in London where they had a system for exchanging cheques with all the other clearing banks. In the branch, these had to be sorted by bank and then the cheques drawn on each bank had to be listed separately. The grand total then had to be agreed with the summary produced by the machinists who had listed every credit paid in during the day. The totals very rarely agreed first time, which is not really surprising given that there could have been thousands of cheques, all hand–written, and there was always pressure to list them quickly. Mistakes were almost inevitable.
Cheques drawn on so-called ‘local' bank branches were kept separate. The next morning, a junior member of the staff from each of the local banks would meet at a pre-arranged branch to exchange these cheques and settle up money owed from the previous day's exchange. There were five branches in our local clearing - one each of Lloyds, Midland and Westminster and two Barclays. It so happened that the then Young Bat worked at the other branch of Barclays from me and our first meeting was at the local clearing.
I was attracted from the first, but staff at the other branch swapped duties frequently and I didn't get to meet her all that often. However, I eventually plucked up the courage to suggest we met for a coffee after work, although just when that was I now have no idea. At the time I already had a steady girl friend and somehow, after that coffee, we just let matters drift. It was to be another year before our first real date - and that's a whole different story.
When I mentioned to the OB that we had missed an anniversary last month, she gave me a quizzical look and said, ‘November? What anniversary is there in November?' All the same, I'm taking her out for a meal tonight to celebrate. Who says romance is dead?
Fifty years. That's five decades - HALF A CENTURY! Good grief!!