Since the bumptious boys at RBS crashed the world economy, one has been forced to view banks with a certain reserve. In our case, that reserve has developed into a thorough distrust... and distaste. Let me paint you a picture.
A lady of 94 summers has been with a certain bank for more than 70 years. Like many of her age, she does not have a computer, a laptop, nor a smartphone. Recently, she forgot the PIN number for her debit card, which due to bank branch closures, was her only nearby route to cash. She took a taxi to her bank headquarters which due to pedestrian improvements meant a 10-minute stick-aided walk. At the bank, they helpfully used her card to produce £200 and aided her back to the pavement.
On her taxi ride home, she realised she still did not have a PIN number but presumed it would be in the post. While awaiting this letter, the carer who takes this lady for her weekly visit to Marks & Spencer showed how she could pay by touching her card to the machine at the till so she adopted this new method with enthusiasm, also using it weekly to pay her local newsagent.
Then came a letter from the bank, not with a PIN number but informing her that there was no money in her current account to fund her purchases. This had never happened in the previous 70 years as salaries and then pensions had kept her comfortably afloat but they requested her physical presence to discuss the problem. So another taxi ride and stick-aided walk followed by a session that refunded her current account from another savings one, and sent her home with a print-out of her accounts that showed a certain newsagent had been receiving on some occasions more than £500 for weekly newspapers.
It was at this stage that a relative, with Power of Attorney but not in the first flush of youth, became involved. He sought to telephone the bank and, after two days, found a human being to talk to rather than a recording that either demanded passwords or suggested using their app. The human was on a special number for older people. Efficiently, the human set up a meeting at the bank for the lady and her relative 'with Adam at 2.30pm on Wednesday'.
Wednesday just happened to be one of Scotland's hottest days in living memory but the relative travelled 70 miles to the lady and both, stick-aided, made it to the bank. The charming receptionist checked her screen, smiled, and said that not only was there no record of an appointment but Adam had not worked at the bank for two years. And the number for older people was 'just during Covid'.
Restraining an impulse to use their walking sticks to do serious damage to large welcome screens and sundry terminals, the lady and her relative politely turned down the offer of deep couches (easy to sink into, impossible to push up out of) and settled in office type chairs. Adam's substitute was helpful, got the lady some cash, requested a new PIN, and produced Phoebe who was in charge 'of the case'. Phoebe pointed out that the newsagent had been charging more than £500 for newspapers. 'In no way casting any aspersions, we are considering these payments.'
The next day, the lady went to pay her weekly newspaper bill but, before touching her card to the screen, said she had been instructed to ask for a detailed receipt. Her receipt came to some £70 – steep but including delivery and some other purchases, acceptable. So all ended happily? Er, no.
At the time of writing, Phoebe, the bank's Sherlock, has been moved to a new post and Jade has taken her place. She has established email contact with the relative but nothing more. No advice on what to do at the newsagent, no report on what is being done to recover the missing money, no reply to suggestions that the police should be informed, no suggestions on how to keep the account secure. In short, not a lot has been forthcoming from the bank where staff don't have surnames. Where will it all end?
There is nothing worse than finding oneself with people who are having a good night out while you are having one you want to be anywhere but where you are. I imagine that was how it was recently at the Pleasance although people who go to comedy shows of their own volition ought to be made of sterner stuff. I suppose also it is what happens when you get old. You do not watch the likes of Game of Thrones
and could not give a toss about the prequel planned to make more money from people who do. And the same goes for all those Lord of the Rings
ones, books I read just after they were published but my hardbacks are not first editions which is annoying.
My night out was a professional matter as I review London theatres for a website. It was to Wonderville
, a mixture of magic and variety acts which opened in 2021 for a run at the Palace Theatre and has been resuscitated in what used to be the premises in the Haymarket belonging to Planet Hollywood. They have been transferred into a shabby chic cabaret room full of tables with drinks served to table. Seeing one magician do card tricks is enough, no need to see several. The woman suspended by her hair doing acrobatics above the table behind mine scared me half to death. So did the woman who did amazing things with hula hoops and ended sitting on my knee – fortunately she chose the man at the next table to go up on stage and play fairground hoop-la with her. A drama teacher on a night out, he proved adept at tossing them over her head. I would have decapitated her.
As for the illusionists, does one really need to see women – it is always women wearing not very much – climbing into boxes through which, once closed, swords are thrust by the male magician. When opened, reveal there is nobody there – closed and re-opened and there she is. The audience, most of whom appeared to be under 30, rose to its collective feet at the end – Methuselah stayed seated. I had, of course, stayed. I always do. Things might have improved and it is better being out than sitting at home watching Antiques Road Trip
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