I’ve come into some money. Twenty grand. Nice. Best not to shove it straight in my permanently overdrawn current account, though, I thought. My laptop is riddled with computer viruses. It would be just my luck if, after holding off for years, the hackers strike the moment I go into the black. So I decided I’d open a new current account with a different bank and put the money in there while I decided how to spend it.
More or less at random I took the cheque to a branch of the Alliance & Leicester in the high street. There were no other customers. As I approached her window, the cashier was staring out of the window at the empty high street, stupefied with boredom. Her mouth sagged open to let out a yawn, none came, and she shut it again.
I’d like to open an account and deposit a cheque for £20,000, I said. This simple transaction was beyond her powers of jurisdiction, unfortunately. She swung heavily down from her chair and went away. Then she returned, climbed back up on to her chair and told me to take a seat and the manager would see me in a moment. Before she’d finished the sentence a very young man — he looked about 17 — appeared in the doorway of a side office and motioned me to follow him inside.
His office was windowless, small, grubby. It was more like a night cleaner’s cubby hole than a bank manager’s office. I chose one of the plastic chairs arranged around the desk and sat down. This was his chair, he said. I stood up and we swapped places by manoeuvring around the furniture and each other in a kind of stately pavane.