Anyone who has followed my last two posts will know that I have been having a great deal of trouble gaining satisfaction from my bank. This morning I received another e-mail informing me that the “smart” form could not be actioned because there were some discrepancies in my answers. Back to the phone I returned. The first person I spoke to passed me to another department, telling me that they would be able to fill the form in for me. The second man either had a hangover, had had a bad night, or hadn’t got out of bed yet. He was patently disinterested and ultimately downright rude. I was remarkably contained and firmly polite. Jackie would call this quietly terrifying. He told me he could see what was wrong and said that I would need to fill in two more forms. I informed him that I wasn’t going to and that the previous person had told me he would be able to do it for me. With a curt “I’ll do it for you. Thank you. Bye.” he hung up.

I opened my account at what was then the Westminster Bank in 1960. Sometime in the next six decades a merger changed the company to NatWest. As technology has taken us over customer service has been put out to grass.

My two nearest branches have been closed. Jackie drove me to Lymington so I could see a real person. After a 30 minute wait I only had time to explain what had happened before we were due to leave for a lunch date with Helen, Bill, and Shelly. I was promised a phone call between 4.30 and 7.00 p.m. and given the card of the helpful ‘Personal Banker/Techxpert’ who gave me the undertaking.

Our lunch was taken at Tyrrell’s Ford Country Inn, a well maintained very comfortable example of what Jackie calls “faded grandeur”.

My mains choice was well cooked fish, chips, and mushy peas; Jackie’s was a plentiful ploughman’s lunch. I couldn’t resist a most toothsome blackberry and apple crumble and custard for dessert. Jackie chose salted caramel ice cream. I drank a Ringwood beer; Jackie drank coffee. No further sustenance was required this evening.

The spacious lawns were well mowed; rhododendrons were in full bloom; the ample fruit of heavily laden sweet chestnuts swept the grass beneath them.

On our return along Derritt Lane we passed a field containing a derelict farm vehicle. Ivor’s comment below reveals that this equipment is Canadian. While I was photographing it Jackie pictured

a weather vane and a dandelion clock.

I didn’t receive the phone call, but I did earlier receive a standardised e-mail containing this wonderful sentence: “We would be looking to issue you a temporary credit by 6pm the next working day, pending investigation.” I have no idea who actually initiated it.


I hate banks. Between them, two have wasted my morning.

First, I received a phone call from Barclays in France. I was €200 overdrawn. How was that when I had transferred plenty by Urgent on-line Transfer on 4th? My conversation with the caller led us to the realisation that Barclays France had changed BIC and IBAN numbers without telling me.

Why did this not surprise me? This would not be the first time they had made changes without notifying me. One example was transferring my account from Bergerac to Paris. There have been other issues. NatWest don’t operate in France. So I was stuck with Barclays.

When I had finished with the Frenchman, I checked my on-line statement. Sure enough the payment appeared on it. This meant a call to NatWest who were experiencing more than usual demand. This meant listening to music and robotic apologies for ages. Eventually I heard the voice of a real person. He was very helpful, but he had to liaise with another department several times. More music. And more music. Although the payment request had been received it didn’t work with the older BIC and IBAN, so it was in the hands of an investigative department. The advisor took the new details.

Because this last conversation had taken so long I received three timing out prompts on the computer. Each time I took the ‘stay on line’ option.

At the end of the call I found I couldn’t obtain any response from NatWest on line banking.

I telephoned once more. More music; more warnings about heavy demand; suggestions that I might like to try the on-line service. Eventually I was answered by someone in another department who tried various options to unravel the problem. This time liaising with his on-line colleagues. More music, each time; more apologies, etc., etc. Finally he told me they were experiencing technical problems affecting lots of customers. This, of course, was why there was so much demand. He advised me to try again later in the day.

Just as we made our farewells. My helper received a prompt advising him to try to interest me in an ISA. He was not able to.

Leaden skies have made for a very dull day on which the sun never opened its oppressive grey drapes.

Scotland’s acclaimed novelist, James Kennaway died in a car crash, believed to have been brought on by a heart attack, in 1968. He was 40 years old. His visceral, nightmarish, novella, ‘Silence’, was published in 1972 through the administrations of his widow, Susan. I read the final pages this afternoon. It is perhaps fortuitous that I picked it off my shelves after having finished reading ‘Schindler’s Ark’. Both deal with extremes of humanity’s violence; Kennaway sets his work of fiction in times of racial tension in America during the 1960s; Keneally’s style is far more factual. In the novella two races are equally violent; in the faction one is hell bent on destroying the other. Fifty years on we are beset by news of racial hatred and the atrocities it promotes, and the euphemism ‘ethnic cleansing’ has come into world languages. I have scanned both covers of my 1977 Penguin edition. Accessing the gallery with a click should, if necessary, make the blurbs easier to read. The portrait was made by Harri Peccinotti.

Sausage casserole meal

This evening we dined on Jackie’s colourful sausage casserole, crisp carrots and broccoli, and creamy mashed potato and swede. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Camino Nuevo.

Friends To Bank On

On another scorching day Elizabeth drove me to Southampton airport where I boarded a plane to Bergerac to be met by Lydie, waving her arms and striding across the tarmac to embrace me.  She is, incidentally, about a foot shorter than me with the grip of a bear.  I had to drop my bag.  Before paying I asked her to deliver me to the Credit Agricole cash machine in the market square.  Still dopy from the plane, I entered the wrong pin number.  I had to search in my trouser pocket for the correct one, hidden in an electronic device.  So well hidden, that by the time I had retrieved it I had run out of time.  Lydie patiently waiting in the taxi.  Me scrabbling in my trousers, concerned that I was keeping her waiting.  An Englishman just off the plane.  I had to start again.  The machine gobbled my card.

I had given Lydie a list of trips for my friend Don, joining me next week, and me up to 14th. August, the first being in three days time.  ‘No problem’, she said,  ‘Saturday will do.’  Unfortunately this bank is only open two mornings a week , and tomorrow isn’t one of them.  Any visit there also has to wait until Saturday.  Now, my French account is with Barclays.  I originally opened this in Bergerac.  Sometime last year I discovered that that branch no longer does everyday banking.  Without my knowledge my account had been transferred to Paris  I could walk to Bergerac, but no way am I walking to Paris.  There was, therefore, nothing for it today but to telephone my personal banking manager in Paris.  Despite what it says on his card he wasn’t there.  There followed conversations with two different, very helpful, women interspersed with holding, biligual, messages.  Thank goodness, with their English and my French, we got by.  My card has been cancelled and I will be sent a new one which will cost 16 euros.  So far, so good.  But.  They can only send it to England, not to my house in France.  If I could get to Bordeaux, two and a half hours drive away, I would be able to collect my replacement card there.  Patiently, oh, so patiently, I explained that Bordeaux was a very long way away, I had no car, and NO MONEY.  Ah.  I can, however, use my chequebook, I am assured, without the card, although some people will not accept cheques for small sums like 2 euros.  Throughout this I naturally remained my usual calm, unflappable, self.

I then drew 90 euros on my NatWest account.  This, of course, will cost me a transfer fee.  And I’ve just transferred almost everything in my current account in England to my French one in order to pay for replacement shutters and windows, the work to start in two days time.  I may even go into overdraft, incurring another fee, despite having more than enough in a special interest bearing account which earns peanuts.  Now I know why NatWest have changed their Gold Account to a Black one.  Somewhat stymied.

It was definitely time to visit my friend David in Le Code Bar.  David readily allowed me to run up a tab for the duration of my stay and let me have cash if I needed it.  Given that this is a very recent friendship I would call that a generous display of trust.

Never mind.  The house is as I left it in early June.  The agapanthus is blooming for the first time; the lizards are basking in 38 degrees; and I am growing my own tomatoes on a plant which has forced its way through the boards of my compost bin.  There are potatoes coming up in a bed I composted last year.

I’ve just missed the annual wine festival, the bunting for which will stay in the village for the rest of the summer.  UK, of course, has been similarly festooned since the football world cup and the Queen’s jubilee, and now awaits the London Olympics, for which I will also be absent.  I have exchanged Union flags for floral flourishes.

Once I’d settled in, I paid a visit to my friends Garry and Brigitte who live next door.  Unfortunately for me their magnificent house is up for sale; sadly for them the market is depleted.  We had what, for me, is essential, a pleasant conversation with people who  speak the correct French I learned at school with a Parisian accent, delivered at a pace I can understand.  It is good for my ears which cannot pick up the local accent.  Rather like a French speaker trying to understand a Geordie.

In Carrefour I had a cheque accepted without a card.

This evening I dined alfresco at Le Bar.  I sat under a lime tree sadly devoid of caterpillars (see yesterday).  There were, however, a number of flies seemingly interested in my steak and chips; and the occasional wasp attracted by my Adnams Innovation.  Take note of the latter, Don.  Creme brulee was to follow. I was well satisfied.