In the late ’70s, early ’80s I was working in the North East through the week and travelling home on a Friday night for the weekend, a weekend of three nights spent in the pubs of Leeds imbibing of lots of beer in the style of most other 20-something year olds.
In those long distant halcyon days of my youth we would have scoffed, nay mocked a person for suggesting that all they had to do to obtain their weekends spending money was to stand at a machine in a wall somewhere near your place of work or entertainment, and ask for cash from a machine that dispensed the stuff without stopping to chat and spend the time of day with you unworried about the growing queue at your back.
No, cash machines had been invented but their use had not yet been implemented across the country – so you went to the bank for your money.
My monthly stipend was paid directly into my bank account which always seemed to me to be most awkward and unfair given that the closest NatWest to my workplace in Newcastle was a car drive away and if I tried to cash a cheque at the branch of Barclays right beneath my office they would charge me for the privilege, so a car drive it was up to Killingworth every Friday lunchtime to withdraw the princely sum of ten pounds, my weekend spending money.
Yes dear reader, £10 is all I needed to get absolutely blathered every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night as with a pint of beer being 34p (or cheaper) your tenner would buy you 30 pints for the weekend, more than enough to find me underneath the table each night.
Killingworth was not the most glamorous of locations.
Built sometime in the 1960s it consisted of wall upon wall of high rise flats linked together by elevated walkways, some of which were several storeys above ground level, these were the ones that made excellent locations for the more feckless and feral of inhabitants to throw their broken domestic appliances down on the the roads or citizens who walked below, yes, it was a lovely place and people formed queues on the council housing list to get a flat in Killingworth.
Not really they didn’t.
The small parade of shops was buried deep in the bowels of Killingworths grey concrete monolithic structures and on that parade of shabby shops was a branch of the NatWest Bank. I can’t imagine why they chose to place a bank there for none of the locals had a need for one, their dole and pension money being drawn on Giro cheques cashed by the Post Office, but still, this was my local NatWest Bank and its here that I had to go every Friday lunchtime to withdraw the precious ten pound weekend entertainment budget, surreptitiously hiding it within my coat before scurrying out of the door and pretending that I hadn’t just been to the bank nor secreted ten pounds about my person, for ten pounds could get a persons throat cut on the elevated walkways of Killingworth.
And then one day my father rang me from Leeds with one of his “make some money quick” schemes.
“I want you to cash a cheque for me” he said
“OK” I replied
“I’ll post it to you today” he said, “You can keep £20 for yourself but bring the rest down to Leeds next week”
“OK” I replied
The cheque arrived the following day, it was for £3200
I’d never seen so much money and neither had the NatWest Bank clerk when I deposited it, as for my bank account, well, I don’t think the computer went up to four figures on my bank account, it was certainly a huge shock to the system for everyone.
“I need to withdraw it on Friday” I told the clerk
“Er, yes” she replied, stunned
“I sold a car” I lied, I’d never seen a car worth £3200, my flat had only cost £9400.
If I was nervous about depositing a mere cheque for £3200 that day I was in mortal fear of my life for withdrawing the same amount of money in cash on the Friday for surely word would have spread like wildfire around the Killy estate that I was to return for more money than a Killingworth detainee could earn in their lifetime.
I sat on a rough concrete bench for ten minutes outside the bank on that Friday lunchtime waiting for an opportune moment to enter and present my request to empty my now very healthy bank account and eventually when it seemed that the bank was empty I strode through their door with a cheery “Hello” and presented the little withdrawal slip upon which I had nervously scribbled “£3200 please”.
The clerk grinned nervously, a manager joined her at the desk and together they carefully counted the money all the while looking over my shoulder at the door just in case someone else came in, I was looking nervously over my shoulder too but at the outside walkway – the bank staff weren’t bothered about the money once it left their premises but I had a dash to the car park to make, laden down with 320 ten pound notes, thats almost seven years worth of beer for gods sake.
Someone else had come into the small bank, a few people actually and as there was only one counter they all stood behind me now peering over my shoulder at the incredible sight of years worth of dole money laid out in front of their eyes and then suddenly it was all tied up in a rubber band and handed across to me, my problem now, oh why hadn’t I brought a security van and four guards with me ?
I ran, ran out of the bank, through the dismal shopping mall, up through the car park and dived into my car, all the while running with one hand inside my jacket holding on to the parcel of ten pound notes for all the world looking like I’d just robbed the bank with the gun inside my coat. Car doors locked, engine started, tyres squealing I left the car park at 50mph and drove straight back to my small flat where a hidey-hole was already waiting behind the hot water tank, it wasn’t worth the anguish for £20.
And why did my father need to use my bank account to cash his cheque ?
Bud vases, a business deal, and a payment that couldn’t be shown in the company accounts is as much as I can tell you 🙂