“Bud vases” he said, my father to me, “Bud vases, five hundred of them”
“Why do you need five hundred bud vases ?” I asked him in astonishment, “and what are bud vases by the way ?”
“Very thin little vases for putting single flowers into” he replied in exasperation as though he’d known all along and not just found out what they were ten minutes ago.
He had this friend you see who was a buyer for a very large company in Leeds, this buyer normally bought stationary by the truckload and metals by the trainload for the business to make things with and write on with, but this particular time he had been asked by the marketing department to locate five hundred bud vases to give away as Valentine presents in a sales promotion.
“Where the hell do I find five hundred bud vases, and what are bud vases” my fathers friend had asked of my father who in an instant – and this is what my father was like, note this down – in an instant my father replied “I can get you five hundred bud vases, no problem, how much do you have to spend on them ?”
The fact that at that moment in time he didn’t know what a bud vase was would be irrelevant, the amount of money available was all the information that was necessary at that moment, the finding out what bud vases were, the sourcing of them, and how cheap he could get them for, would all come later.
He found out how much money the company were willing to spend, he found out what a bud vase is, and he found a place to buy them at with a price cheap enough to make a very healthy margin for him, a dummy invoice, a cheque from the company, and then a problem – how to cash the cheque without it touching any of his business accounts, for this was naupin money, naupins, stuff that goes in your back pocket without anyone official finding out, its worth at least 30% more than the money that officially appears on your pay slip.
“You’ve got a bank account haven’t you ?” he asked me one evening on the phone, for at this time I was living 100 miles away in delightful Seaton Delaval on the north east coast.
His plan was simple, I take his cheque for £2400 and pay it into my bank account, then five days later I withdraw it all in cash and drive down to Leeds with it, hand it all over to him and he pays my petrol money, in short I become his money launderer for the cost of four gallons of petrol.
I need to point out at this moment in time that this was 1982, I had just bought my first apartment for the princely sum of £9400, so the sum of £2400 was not inconsiderable, you could buy several cars for that sort of money and you could have paid my mortgage for nearly four years for that sum, it would certainly buy a lot of beer, or a lot of drugs in Killingworth.
Drugs, where did drugs come into the equation ?
Well, my bank, the awful NatWest, was in Killingworth Township.
Now anyone who knew of Killingworth Township in the 1970s and 80s will be nodding their heads gravely and saying out loud, “Ah yes, I see where the drugs come into it now…”
For the rest of you let me explain.
In the 1960s a group of architects at North Tyneside Council went out and got very drunk one night and they may have even taken hallucinogenic drugs for several days afterwards during which time they went to work as normal and drew up their plans for the greenfield site that was known only as Killingworth, once home to Robert Stevenson, inventor of the steam locomotive and author of Treasure Island, or maybe not the author of Treasure Island, anyway, it was formally a quiet village north of Newcastle upon Tyne, farms, fields, trees, birdsong, cows, steam locomotives, that sort of thing.
The pissed up architects drew up their plans for a city in the sky sort of housing development on the green fields of Killingworth, you know the sort of thing, the sort of city in the sky that appears in all of Gerry Anderson TV puppet programmes, the sort fo city in the sky that in the 1960s we all thought we’d be living in, but on the moon, that sort of city in the sky, the sort of city in the sky where the footprint on the earth is suitable for building about four houses on so they build huge towers of hundreds of apartments out of concrete and then they build walkways in the sky between the blocks so that people don’t even have to walk down and then up forty flights of stairs to go and visit their neighbour in the next block, no all they have to do is chance their life walking across a footpath that is 120 feet up in the air – that sort of city in the sky.
Killingworth Township was a disaster of a development by the time 1982 had arrived, a dumping ground for drug and drink addled idiots with no jobs and little dole money to feed their habits, walking underneath the walkways int he sky meant taking your life in your hand as the roads beneath were stacked high with broken refrigerators, TV sets and sofas that had been flung off balcony’s and walkways in the belief that if it wasn’t on the 18th floor any more then it was out of your life.
In amongst all of this human detritus was a small concrete shopping precinct consisting of several still trading but actually boarded up shops, and my local Nat West bank – and it was into this bank that my father fully expected me to walk in and deposit a cheque that would actually buy most of the apartments in Killingworth and have some money left over for to go and buy the rest of the apartments in Killingworth, then return five days later and actually walk out of that bank with real hard cash, more cash than anyone in Killingworth will ever have heard about let alone seen, in their whole life.
It was bad enough walking into the bank with the cheque to deposit, made worse by the cashier staring at it for several seconds and then asking me where on earth it had come from in a voice loud enough to be heard by the shabby customers standing behind me in the queue. I made some excuse about having sold a car or something and then asked when could I call back to collect the cash, the cashier had to call out for someone at the back of the office to ask “When can this man come back and collect £2400 ?” I’d only been in the bank for a couple of minutes but already virtually every resident in every apartment in Killingworth Township would already know that a big collection of cash was being made from the bank on Friday.
Friday came, I spent ten minutes standing around outside the bank, peering in through the door now and again to see if all the customers had left but of course it was Friday and in those pre-cash machine days everyone went to the bank on a Friday to draw out their money for the weekend, also I’d had to come from work so there was I, the only person for miles around dressed in a suit and pacing up and down in front of the bank – everyone knew why I was there.
Stood at the counter and the bint of a cashier insisted on counting every ten pound note, all 240 of them, and called each one out loudly just so that everyone in Killingworth could hear, the queue behind me were licking their lips.
The run from the bank door to where I’d left my car in the scruffy multi-storey car park would have gained me a medal position in the Olympic 100 metres final, in fact I may write to Lord Sir Seb Coe and suggest that to add a little interest to this summers Olympics he should hold the 100 metres in a run down council estate in the arse end of London, publicise the event widely and then give each competitor £2400 to hold while they try and get back to their car without being mugged.
The winner will get four gallons of petrol paid for.