Saturday, 29 December 2007

My Banking Career (cont)

So there I was, working for the Westminster Bank in Knowle, Bristol. I was considered to be reliable if not brilliant. Most of all I liked being a cashier (teller).

Once I was left to interview a customer about a personal loan (usually a task for the Manager or Chief Clerk). I sat in the Manager’s office in all my glory. The customer was ushered in even as I had visions of promotions!

I needed to go out to the general office to retrieve some information. Like a fool, I knocked on the door of the Manager’s Office prior to my re-entry.

We dreaded “Bank Rate” changes. The Bank of England would announce such, and we knew that our work was cut out. As soon as business closed we would hie ourselves to the handwritten savings and loan ledgers. Then, in ink, we would “rule off” the decimals for the savings or loan (decimals were amount of loan/savings x the days since the account last moved). Then, using printed tables, we would calculate the interest paid or charged at the old Bank Rate, and be ready to extend decimals for the new rate.

It was all very primitive and labour intensive, and we could be at work until 11:00 p.m. No “overtime” of course, but the Bank gave us “Tea Money”, a per diem payment for our extra duty.

Changes were on the horizon. The Bank was computerising; Britain was introducing a decimalised monetary system - (no more Pounds, Shillings and Pence); and there was a third and totally unexpected change.

We merged with our arch rivals, the National Provincial Bank. Shame and embarrassment. Soon we would become the “National Westminster Bank“ . - (now owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland).

I was considered reliable. So I was transferred to the Chew Magna Branch of the Westminster Bank. Chew Magna is a pretty little village in north Somerset. There I was put to task in taking all the hand written date and preparing it for computer entry. Nothing exciting in that!

Then the U.K. Govt. plan for a decimal monetary system came into force. With another Clerk I was assigned to “explain the new currency” to the village yokels. This we did in the Parish Hall and in other meeting rooms. How smug we were!

I was still a cashier (teller), and three time a week would go in a taxi, with Percy (my guard) to our sub-offices in West Harptree and Blagdon.

In West Harptree we had a little Bank and I would be nice to the farmers for their once or twice weekly banking. In Blagdon I had a roll out desk in the Village Hall. Lloyds Bank also had a roll out desk there, and the Lloyds clerk and I would exchange glares, or drink coffee together. Business was slow on this weekly visit.

I was also assigned to the weekly sub-office at the Winford Cattle Market. There I would wade through acres of cow shit and sit in a cabin on stilts. The old farmers would plod themselves up the steps to deposit their cow-shit stained Pound Notes. And I was supposed to be an up and coming banker!

Well, something was up and coming, and I’ll tell you about this later.

In the meantime, do a “Google” image search for Chipping Sodbury or Chew Magna (wonderfully named towns in which I slaved for the Westminster Bank) - and see how lovely they are. At the time I did not appreciate small town/villages in Gloucestershire and Somerset

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(I had worked for the Westminster Bank in Chipping Sodbury before my [Evangelist] Eric Hutchins adventures).

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