Eventually I had to fight myself out of the cosy embrace of the Dog Who Came In From the Cold and trudge to the Barclays &*$%£ Bank in the Village, to present myself in person to be chastised for forgetting my codes, my mother’s maiden name and my full postal address – and also to beg for a cheque book so I could actually spend my own money on such essentials as Child One’s bassoon lessons (Why? Why am I putting the neighbours, Child Two, the cat and the neighbours through this? Why??).
The door to the bank now has a special entry portal, like the transporter bay in Star Trek but much less interesting, so even getting in took some time and patience. I then joined a queue which seemed to be made of all the misfits in Dulwich – I had no idea there was so many – and I spent a while wondering if I was becoming one. We all shuffled round, and I thought I was nearly, nearly getting to the front of the queue, when the man before me produced a great sheaf of small plastic bags from his ruck sack, each containing, of course, a selection of one and five penny pieces with which to pay all his utility bills. I was sinking into a glazed-eyed, slack-jawed pre-coma phase by the time he seemed to have finished, having got through gas, electricity, water, phone, telly …..and it took some effort for me to regain enough consciousness to plod forward a little, when he suddenly got out a note, to which Blu-Tack had been pre-applied, and proceeded to stick it to the cashier’s window. It is a measure of how deeply bored I had been that I was actually quite excited at the prospect that this might be some sort of hold-up. Did the note have ‘put all the money in a bag – Unmarked Notes only!’ written on it? All the dispirited queue perked up. Instead of dying of queuitis, we all now had an outside chance of getting on the London round-up at the end of the News at Ten. I had already pictured it all, the headlines in the Standard, ‘plucky divorcee raises alarm at bank heist,’ ‘brave well-preserved 40-something mother of two floors armed robber,’ even my acceptance speech as the Queen presented me with an OBE, ‘it was just instinct, I did what anybody else would have done …..’ I would only wince a tiny bit as she pinned the medal on my plaster cast ….
Alas, it soon became all too clear that the putative bank robber was just another nutter. The cashier peered hard at the note, then said, ‘and did you just want the last two statements, then?’ which rather rubbished all the customer’s brave, though eccentric, efforts at discretion. He nodded, and we all sighed and went back to contemplating our shoes or the long list of not very exciting insurance services Barclays £$%& offers.
Mind you, by the time I finally got to the cashier, I had cheered up a bit. There’s nothing like a display of bona fide oddness to perk me up, and I wondered whether the clerk would mention it. Of course, in true English style, she did not. She heard my tale of codes and surnames in sympathetic silence, absorbed my request for a cheque book, pressed two buttons on her computer and told me one was already on its way automatically and would be with me the following day.
So I needn’t have abandoned my reading, my fireside or my beloved cupboards after all. But I’m rather glad I did, as it’s not often you nearly participate in a bank robbery in Dulwich. Oh, and needless to say, the chequebook did not arrive in today’s post.