Many people, perhaps even most people, would think that working in a bank must be one of the world's most boring jobs. Granted, for much of the time - even most of it - there's nothing very exciting happening. I should know, I spent 25 years working in various branches of a high street bank before I saw the error of my ways. But there were moments.
of the customers at a small, country branch was most decidedly a
sandwich short of a picnic. She caused no trouble as a rule and was
quite capable of walking the High Street on her own. She would
sometimes push open the door of the bank, put her head round and poke
her tongue or pull a face at the cashiers. But one day she came in,
lifted an inkpot off the counter and placed it on the floor. She lifted
her skirt and pulled down her drawers... And I had to clear up
Some of the stories one heard were probably
apocryphal. There was the little old lady (they are always little old
ladies) who asked the cashier for her balance and then wrote a cheque
for that exact amount which she proceeded to cash. She took the cash to
a table in the banking hall, counted it carefully, and then took it
back to the cashier, saying, "That's right, it's all there. You can put
it back again now." And then there was lady who very carefully
examined every note she was given when she cashed a cheque. "But none
of these is one that I gave you last week," she said. "They all have
the wrong numbers."
Not all the eccentrics were on the
customers' side of the counter. One head cashier, on being asked a
question by a customer, often replied that he would have to go
downstairs to find out. He slowly sank below the level of the counter
and remained crouched there for a couple of minutes after which he
slowly rose and answered the question.riends
chief clerk (the second in command of a branch) was a part-time
smallholder. He worked at a branch in a town where there was a weekly
cattle market and one morning he bought a calf. Unable to leave the
branch for the rest of the working day, he put the calf in the strong
room where the grill was kept locked.
some time at a branch where many of our customers came from the poorer
part of town and were prone to running into the red, after which we
often had considerable difficulty in obtaining repayment. Two of us
would spend one afternoon each week driving around, knocking on doors
and asking for our (well, the bank's) money. This was a most
frustrating exercise as customers, if we found them at home, usually
tried to fob us off with vague promises of funds at some indeterminate
point in the future. One "lady" opened the door in a dressing gown
which she allowed to fall open as she hinted strongly that we could take
repayment in kind. Both of us. I got repayment in kind at another
house. We were - for once - invited in, an invitation we should have
declined. As we explained the reason for our visit, a young son of the
house was asking for a clip round the ear as he kicked my shin
monotonously. I was scatching we we drove away and went home as soon as
I could, hung my suit outside and took a shower in the hope of ridding
myself of fleas.
But the palm d'or must go to
Big George. He was - maybe still is - a Greek Cypriot who emigrated to
Glasgow at some time after the war. (Try to imagine somebody speaking English with a Greek accent overlaid with a Glaswegian accent!) He got involved in the gang scene
and ended up with a razor scar down one cheek. This did nothing to
improve his looks. I should mention that he was built like the
proverbial brick shit house, stood over six feet tall and nearly as
broad. His party trick was to take a one penny coin, wrap it in a thick
serviette, place it in the palm of his hand and squeeze. The coin came
out bent in a right angle. A penny coin has a diameter of 20.3
millimetres, approximately 0.8 of an inch, which gives an idea of the strength this feat needed.
and his fellow Cypriot Vic - who was about 5' 6" tall - ran competing
coffee houses but were the best of friends. They often came into the
bank together. Vic was happy to be served by any cashier, but Big
George had his favourite young lady, Claire. No matter that she had a
queue and other cashiers were free, he had to wait for her. One day,
Vic had been served and was waiting patiently while George queued. At
one point, George took exception to something the customer in front of
hime said to Claire. He tapped the other man on the shoulder. The
other man to find a knife in his face.
"George," called Vic. "Behave yourself," whereupon George put away his knife and we all breathed again.
Banking boring? Well, yes and no. Sometimes.
St Mary's farm is situated deep in a valley of the Downs about three quarters of a mile north of Falmer and I took this picture last Monday.