Monday, December 20, 2010


Refusing to be daunted by the white stuff we set off to Islington to meet a friend for lunch in a smart restaurant. Normally the husband would have taken the car but the plan was to be sensible and go by tube.
He checked online first that the tubes were running while I stood at the kitchen window drinking a cup of coffee - now that the leaves are off the trees you can see the carriages flashing past in the distance (this far out, the line is overground). Both of us satisfied, we set out and duly boarded the first train on the principle that when it come to the underground service, get as far as you can as soon as you can and change, rather than wait for the train the indicator boards claim is going straight to your destination.
It was as well we did, because, almost as soon as we had boarded, the driver announced that the service south via Bank had been suspended due to a wununder at Moorgate.
The non-English speakers around us (most of the passengers) looked a bit puzzled. I was a bit shocked. I knew what the driver meant but I'd always thought that was how TFL staff referred to such incidents - not how they told the travelling public.
Next time the driver made the announcement he said there was a person under a train.
Couldn't help thinking how sad it was - especially for the person's family, if they had one. And for the tube driver.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banking blues

Today I went into my bank to pay a cheque made out to my husband into his bank account – at his request, I might add.
I had intended to fill out a paying-in slip, put the slip and the cheque in one of those special paying in envelopes, drop it through the appropriate slot in the wall and go on my way (and take the risk of not having a receipt, but that is by the by).
There were no paying in envelopes, so I had to queue. When I was called to the counter I handed over the cheque and the paying-in slip and remarked that there were no envelopes.
The female counter clerk did not reply. Instead she scrutinised the cheque and the paying in slip. Then she asked if I was paying the cheque in for someone.
As the cheque was made out to a Mr M So and So, and I had written that the name on the account for the cheque to be paid into was Mr M So and So, and as I had signed myself something else entirely (to my husband’s annoyance I have retained my maiden name), I thought this was pretty obvious. But I just said: ‘Yes – for my husband.’
I then volunteered that if she checked the records on her computer she would see that besides his personal account – the one she had the details of on the paying in slip – my husband also had a joint account with me, the person who had signed the slip.
Instead she asked me: ‘To what is this referring?’
I didn’t know what she meant and said so. She then asked what the cheque was for – was it an insurance claim? I assume she associated the name of company on the cheque with insurance.
By now I was getting rather irritated. What business was it of hers? Is it now Lloyds bank policy to ask everyone paying in a cheque what they are getting the money for?
I expect I looked irritated because she volunteered that she was only asking as it was rather a large amount.
I resisted the temptation to tell her that it might seem like a large amount for a bank clerk (sorry, customer service assistant) but it was small change to me.
I also resisted the temptation to tell her it was a payment for supplying lap dancers and escorts after the company’s annual general meeting.
And as I couldn’t actually remember what it was for (my eyes tend to glaze over when my husband starts talking about investment, savings and pensions) I made something up about a savings bond which seemed to satisfy her.
But now I think I was too much of a wimp. This is a bank that has had our business for more than 30 years. And not just our personal business, but our company business too.
We used to get a proper signed Christmas card from a proper old fashioned bank manager. And now I am quizzed by someone who thinks I’m an embezzler (is there such a thing) or a money launderer. All because I want to pay in a cheque to the account of the person it was made out to.
Lloyds TSB take note. I’m not sentimental. From now on it’s three strikes and you’re out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Season of mists etc

You know it’s autumn in the suburbs when…
Fat spiders lurk in the middle of giant webs strung between privet hedges and wheelie bins.
Rosy apples hang temptingly on a tree in someone else’s back garden and you imagine all the crumbles they might have made as they ripen, rot and fall.
The neighbours’ children don’t play outside when they get home from school.
Hanging baskets look very much the worse for wear.
The lawn never really dries out enough to be cut (but is really too long to leave until next spring).
Young women on the tube are wearing boots to work.
Young men on the tube are wearing jackets to work.
Museum gift catalogues and invitations to buy charity Christmas cards start arriving in the post.
There are Hallowe’en items for sale in the supermarket (including plastic pumpkin lamps, for those who haven’t the time or inclination to carve their own).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

X marks the spot

It was very quiet at the polling station. Three people of a certain age were shuffling out as I went in, while two community support officers leaned against the rails outside, both wearing expressions of extreme boredom.
This is the only time I ever venture into the grounds of the local Catholic boys school. The polling station used to be in the hall - and I think the boys had the day off - but the school has expanded and updated over the years and the local community now votes in a modern building that is used for music or art.
I hadn't taken my polling card and the officials had a little trouble finding me on their lists. Our road splits in two - one half each side of the tube line - and many of the large detached houses have been torn down and replaced by blocks of flats. My ability to read upside down (a skill learned during my occasional stone subbing stints in the days of hot metal) proved its usefulness when I spotted my name in the middle of page 17 and was given my voting slips.
It occurred to me then - as it has before - how odd it felt not to be asked for proof of identity. Almost every other activity these days seems to demand passwords, memorable information, two original documents such as letters from the tax man or a utility company, photographic ID like a passport or driving licence and so on and so forth.
Yet I was able to have my say in electing a government simply by claiming to be me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bank holiday blues

On the May Day bank holiday it's traditional to do some D-I-Y or gardening. It's also traditional for it to pour with rain. So we went hunting elephants in the West End instead.
Drifts of pink petals underneath the ornamental cherry trees carpeted the pavements in the outer suburbs. Further in towards town, the plane trees had just started to come into leaf, giving some streets a pale green glow. The weather went from bright sunshine to hail every ten minutes. And the elephants - which looked on the map we printed out on the internet as if they were clustered in herds - were few and far between.
I think we shot six.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Major and Minor

So, farewell then piano.
I’m not sure how I allowed myself to be persuaded to get one in the first place. I still recall being banished by my mother to the freezing cold front room to practice my scales. I still remember the agony of the theory exams when you had to sing (I could never hold a tune). And yet, twenty years or so later, there I was inflicting the same kind of torture on my son.
It didn’t help that his paternal grandparents were concert pianists, who had a grand piano in their front room, unlike the secondhand (possibly third or fourth, who knows?) upright we forked out for.
And it didn’t help that the parent who was the most keen on the piano playing tradition being upheld was rarely there when his son had to be taken to lessons or bribed to practice.
At least our dining room wasn’t freezing. Unlike my parents, we had central heating.
I can’t remember what grade the boy reached before he rebelled. High enough to be able to sight read Christmas carols – which is more or less all the piano has been used for over the past decade. In fact, the only people to show any enthusiasm in recent years for tickling the ivories at other times have been the grandchildren.
Probably as well, then, that the husband decided to advertise it on Gumtree for £100 (Originally supplied by Harrod’s, buyer to arrange collection).
We may not have bred another concert pianist but, oddly, I was rather sad to see it go.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Normal service resumed

The ironing man is back. But the Moldavian cleaner is on holiday. Fingers crossed that the ash cloud doesn't return.