The day Simon Le Bon came round to my house

My ex-husband said that, if I told the story of my time with Duran Duran, no one would believe me. Luckily I have pictures to illustrate it! This story appeared in the Guardian in 2014 – but here are more details.

I was an obsessive Duran Duran fan – I just loved the music so much. It inspired me to want to become a singer-songwriter. So when I had to leave school in 1996, aged 16, and the deputy head told me I’d have to work out what to do with my life now, I replied ‘I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to go and find Duran Duran.’

I found out where the band were recording, thanks to a fellow fan I knew called Mandy, and started hanging out outside the studios. One day, Simon Le Bon turned up on his motorbike. We became friends, bonding over the fact that we both came from Pinner.

He said ‘I’d like to go back to Pinner sometime.’ He took my home telephone number (I didn’t have a mobile back then – neither did most people). The next day, he phoned me up and, to my utter disbelief, asked if he could come round.

Simon arrived at my house on Friday 7th March 1997 (yeah, it was 22 years ago, but it’s the sort of thing you remember when you’re a massive Duran Duran fan!). I was in raptures. He was riding his motorbike, was dressed all in leathers, and had brought along a spare helmet for me. The bike ride we would go on that day was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life – but before that, he would come into my house for about an hour.

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I made him a cup of tea. He sat at our kitchen table, picked up my guitar and played me a song he’d written, ‘Already Gone’. It was beautiful and delicate, but he said that Warren – Duran Duran’s guitarist at the time – said it sounded too much like ‘Wonderwall’, so the band weren’t going to use it. It didn’t sound like ‘Wonderwall’ to me, though it had a similar chord progression – but how many songs have the same chord progression as others? Millions. It’s a real shame that it was never released, because it has the loveliest melody.

My dad wandered into the kitchen and said hello to Simon. He seemed to take it for granted that a major rock star was sitting in his house drinking tea! Though my dad didn’t know anything about pop music, so he probably didn’t realise what a big deal it was. At the time, he had a massive black eye from an operation. After he’d left the kitchen, I apologised to Simon for his slightly frightening appearance, as my dad looked as though he’d been in a pub fight. Simon shook his head and said, ‘He looks cool, like a boxer!’

Then he asked if I owned a cassette player. I did, and he got a tape out of his leather biker jacket pocket and played me the band’s newest track, ‘Electric Barbarella’. I love electropop, though the lyrics and video are pretty unreconstructed (but that’s ’80s pop stars for you).

We went up to my bedroom so I could play Simon a song on my Casio keyboard, though I was extremely embarrassed about all the Duran Duran posters all over the room. In fairness, I was a teenage girl though – and what superfan doesn’t have posters of their favourite band all over their walls?

Later, as we were leaving the house, Simon stopped by a map of ancient Persia by the front door, and asked about my origins. I explained that I was half-Parsi Zoroastrian, and he seemed fascinated.

ducati

I was so scared about getting on his motorbike. I’ve always been physically risk-averse, but I rationalised, ‘If I have to die, there’s no better way than this.’ I held on so tightly to his leathers around his waist, I’m surprised Simon didn’t loosen my grip as it must have been painful! We zoomed up to Croxley Green, where my first boyfriend lived. I will never forget his jaw dropping open as he saw us riding up his road on the bike (a top-of-the-range bright red Ducati 888).

Simon came round again a week later, so I could play him a reworked version of ‘Already Gone’, but didn’t stay for long.

Those days are in the few sweet memories from my childhood, and I will always be grateful to Simon for making my troubled teenage life so special.

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THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 33

Me: 12st 4.8lbs (total loss in 33 days: 9.4lbs)

Hurray! At last I’m on the downwards slope again.

John: 14st 4.25lbs (total loss in 33 days: 3.25lbs)

John there, pledging allegiance to the mighty Apple god. If you ate more apples, John, you might lose more weight!

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon. 

Rewards start from just $1 a month, which is 85p in real money and gets you access to my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but EVEN BETTER!

So long, and thanks for all the fish

My Californian dad had a real love-hate relationship with America. He didn’t want to live there and left aged 29, but wanted to retain citizenship; he never took me over there, but arranged for me to have citizenship too; he was estranged from his abusive father, but had stayed in touch with pretty much everyone else he knew in America, such as the rest of his relatives and his school and college friends.

Anyhow, all you need to know for this story is that my dad had an aunt he particularly liked, Auntie Ann, and that in 1989 she came over to the UK with a female friend to stay with us for a month.

Both women were very elderly (probably in their late 70s/early 80s). Auntie Ann had a perm and was fat, and her friend Miriam had a perm and was thin. As you can see in the photo above, I had a perm and was chubby. (Joke! That was my natural hair.)

Auntie and her friend were very nice, and one day in late May they took eight-year-old me and my five-year-old little brother to Pinner Fair.

Pinner Fair was (and still is, I assume) a gigantic funfair that wove all the way through Pinner Village on the Wednesday of summer half-term. It was amazing and huge and boasted everything you can imagine: a carousel with beautiful painted horses; a ghost train; a hall of mirrors; bumper cars; a ‘fun house’ and ‘mad house’; loads of food stands (hot dogs, toffee apples and candy floss) that we were never allowed to buy anything at because my mum was a health freak; and numerous insane rides you’d need a death wish to go on.

It also had lots of exciting stalls where you could win a massive cuddly toy, and one where you could win goldfish in bags for sticking darts in three playing cards.

Now, it turned out that Auntie Ann was a dark horse: she was a bit of a sharpshooter when it came to darts.

‘Please, Auntie Ann, win us a goldfish!’ my brother and I begged.

Auntie Ann’s jaw set in steely determination. Her wrinkled, liver-spotted hand shook as she took aim and fired a dart into the first card on the stall floor. Pow! Second dart: Pow! Third dart: Ka-pow! That’s how you do it.

The man running the stall reached up and fetched us a bulging plastic bag of water with a great big fat goldfish in. We were thrilled, as we’d never had a pet before.

But being kids and always wanting more, we weren’t satisfied with just one goldfish. We now wanted one each.

Auntie Ann sighed and gave the man another quid. Pow! Pow! Ka-pow! She could have been a secret sniper, for all we knew. The man lifted down another goldfish, but this one was thinner and looked scrawny and malnourished.

And so we ended up with two very different-looking goldfish. My dad told us that, as Auntie Ann had been kind enough to win them for us, we should name them after her and her friend. So we obediently called the fat one Ann and the thin one Miriam.

My brother claimed ownership of the fat one, and he always got his way as he was my mum’s favourite child. So I was left with the scrawny one. ‘I didn’t want the stupid fat one anyway!’ I protested.

veiltail-11455_1920.jpg[These were not our goldfish. I didn’t own a camera aged eight.]

Now, the initial appeal of the goldfish wore off very quickly. They couldn’t do tricks and you couldn’t pet them. All they did was swim around their bowl with their mouths gaping (they shared a bowl, presumably in case they got lonely, or possibly for economic reasons).

So my brother and I would go into the bathroom once a day, where the fish lived on a tall wooden stand by the window, and chuck in a handful of fish food. And that was the extent of our involvement with our new pets.

We didn’t notice that Ann, the fat fish, was eating all of the scrawny fish Miriam’s food. We didn’t pay any attention to them at all.

And so I entered the bathroom one day, preparing to throw in the usual handful of fish food, and found my fish Miriam floating on top of the water.

I was shocked and upset, and wanted to tell someone. But who? My great-aunt and her friend were still staying with us, but they were in the bedroom having an afternoon nap. My dad was out of the house with my brother. I searched for my mum: she was out in the garden talking to the gardener. I barrelled down the stairs and out into the garden.

‘MUM, MUUUUM!’ I shrieked, ‘MIRIAM’S DEAD!!!!!’

I had never seen my mum move so fast in my life. She looked appalled, as though she’d seen a ghost, and sprinted into the house. I was quite gratified that she was taking my concern seriously, as she had never seemed to like the goldfish at all.

When she discovered that I was talking about the dead fish Miriam and not our elderly-yet-very-much-alive house guest Miriam, she screamed at me, which I thought was very unfair. ‘It’s not my fault we were told to name the fish after her!’ I sulked.

The next pair of pets we got were two gay rabbits. We were forbidden from naming them after anyone we knew.

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 20

Me: 12st 7.6lbs (total loss in 20 days: 6.6lbs)

I only need to lose 0.1lbs and I’ll have lost two stone this year!

John: 14st 2.5lbs (total loss in 20 days: 5lbs)

It is John’s birthday today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN! He is 69, and never was there more apt an age for such a naughty man.

For his presents, I have bought him three lottery tickets – and, even better, this:

His toenails should improve soon. On the flip side, we’re going out tonight for dim sum to celebrate, so we may weigh more tomorrow.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Ricky Steer, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon. 

Rewards start from just $1 a month, which is 85p in real money and gets you access to my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but EVEN BETTER!

What it was really like to busk illegally on the Tube

My ex-husband describes my life as ‘a hyper-real existence’. I’ve certainly had a lot of unusual experiences – some of which I sought out, and some of which arrived at my door. The truth is, I was a very eccentric kid, because I had crazy parents and was ostracised by pretty much everyone, and I think that gave me the courage to think and do the unfamiliar.

You see, there was nothing to lose; there were no friends to impress, or to rein me in. Home was hell, so I wanted to be out of the house as much as possible, and I also had a low boredom threshold and low attention span – which partly explains all the weird and interesting jobs I had in my teens and early twenties.

This post is called ‘What it was really like to busk illegally on the Tube’, because these days it’s legal and regulated with designated pitches, which kind of takes the frisson out of it and makes it less exciting and fun.

I first started busking on the Tube in sixth form, after leaving my summer job at McDonald’s, at the start of the term in which I’d eventually get kicked out of school. I had recently turned 16, and was small and scruffy and angry.

I decided to busk as I’d been forced under threat of violence to play the violin since I was four, enduring hundreds of lessons, taking my exams and reaching Grade 8. I absolutely hated the bloody instrument – it gave me no pleasure whatsoever to play – but as I now had the ability despite detesting the torturous piece of wood, I realised I might as well make some cash out of it.

So, one evening after school in early September 1996, I took my mum’s Travelcard from her black leather handbag when she came home from work, and travelled down on the Metropolitan Line from Pinner to Baker Street.

Ariane 21.jpg[I always chose the most dignified poses.]

My mum was teaching Law at university at the time, and when she discovered I was taking her Travelcard each evening, she had a massive go at me: ‘Ariane, this is theft! Travelcards are for the use of one person only. You are depriving the London Underground of revenue. It’s illegal!’

It was all for show though – she wasn’t actually bothered, as she would leave the pale pink ticket sticking out of her bag each night so I could use it. (She wasn’t remotely interested in me though – she still isn’t – so she never asked about my busking.)

Sometimes, if she hadn’t got home from work yet and I wanted to go and busk, I would just use the back entrance to Pinner station, which was open between 7pm and 10pm each evening and had no ticket gate. I wouldn’t bother buying a ticket, because I wouldn’t be getting out at the other end – I would be staying within the Tube network.

I will never forget the first time I tried to busk. It was at Baker Street station, at the bottom of the escalator that leads down to the Jubilee and Bakerloo Line platforms. I nervously took my 3/4 size violin out of the case, put the sticky chalky rosin on my bow, and lifted the violin to my chin, bow poised to play Bach’s Concerto in A Minor.

At that exact moment, an exasperated female voice came over the tannoy: ‘Can the busker at the bottom of the Jubilee Line escalator please note that busking is not permitted on the London Underground!’

I packed up my violin frantically, and fled. I then took the Jubilee Line down to Bond Street, and busked properly for the first time. I played my heart out, playing all the classical pieces I knew, and the commuters responded by filling my violin case with coins. Many gave me curious looks, I guess because you didn’t often see 16-year-old buskers. On average, I would earn £11 an hour by playing the violin – almost three times what I’d earned at McDonald’s.

[Me in a subway. These days I’m more likely to be found in a Subway.]

Then I accidentally left my violin on a train. I was both sad about my busking being curtailed, and very glad to see the back of the wretched instrument. Luckily, my mum owned an acoustic guitar which she never used. It was just gathering dust in the living room, and I thought, ‘If I can play the violin, surely I can learn the guitar?’

As it turned out, I was pretty crap at it, but I worked out all the necessary chords, and then started singing and playing pop songs when busking instead. This was much more my thing – at that time, I wanted to be a singer-songwriter. The general public didn’t think pop songs were worth as much as violin concertos though, probably because more people have the skills to do that – so my earnings dipped to around £7 an hour, though that was still far more than minimum wage.

The more I busked, the braver and shrewder I got, and the more I learned. I discovered the most generous people weren’t white men in suits – they rarely if ever gave you money. No: it was young mums, students and ethnic minorities who were the biggest tippers, probably both because they had more compassion, and because they knew what it was like to not have much cash.

air[I guess my flares went with all the 60s songs.]

The best places to busk turned out to be the exact places where London Underground had put ‘No busking’ signs up. My favourite place was the pitch at the end of the Central Line tunnel at Tottenham Court Road. The bottoms of the escalators at Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square were great too, but spots there were pretty much sewn up. I also regularly busked at Bond Street, Green Park and Bank.

Most other buskers were polite. If they asked to busk, it was the done thing to vacate your pitch within 30 minutes. Occasionally, angry male buskers would try to intimidate or threaten you, but I never really got scared by them, because we were in a public place and the British Transport Police were usually fairly nearby.

It was very, very rare for anyone to throw a banknote in the case, but it did happen. Thanks to tourists, foreign coins were also thrown in at times. And occasionally someone would throw food in the case: my favourite offering was a bag of apple rings, but I was also given a peach and a packet of crisps. I found these perfectly acceptable, and ate them.

It was advisable to fill your case with an average smattering of coins when you started busking. Too many coins, and passengers wouldn’t pity you; too few, and it looked as though you were rubbish and unpopular. Coins of all denominations would prove that it was OK to throw in any value, which is what you wanted – passengers would have varying amounts of cash on them, and you wanted to show it was acceptable to give coppers as well as quids.

Speaking of coppers, the British Transport Police would occasionally come round and tell you to move on. They were generally perfectly nice and reasonable, though one grumpy officer once threatened me with arrest (at which point I pretended to be 15, and said incredulously (and inaccurately), ‘You can’t arrest me, I’m only 15!’). Another time, a policeman looked surprised and said, ‘You’re certainly the prettiest busker I’ve ever seen!’ – which was not necessarily the most fulsome compliment, given that most of the other buskers were old men with straggly beards and looked like tramps.

I couldn’t busk for more than three or four hours straight – not through lack of dedication, but because my fingers would start to hurt from the strings, and my throat would get sore and hoarse from all the singing.

One Saturday morning, I busked for four hours at Tottenham Court Road station and made £30. I then left the station (I’d bought a Travelcard that day) and spent it on a pair of silver trousers. Everybody laughed at my trousers the first time I wore them, and so I consigned them to the back of my wardrobe. What a waste of hard-earned cash!

silver-trousers[These are not my silver trousers, but they’re not far off.]

Homeless people could get very aggressive if you were busking where they wanted to beg, which kind of makes sense – they were relying on donations for food and shelter, whereas I was just after extra pocket money for embarrassing clothes.

I would play the same songs over and over again, because it wasn’t as though passengers were a gig audience – they would never hear more than 30 seconds of music before they were out of earshot. I chose songs that were popular and to which I knew all the words (there was no internet back then, at least not for everyday people). Songs I played regularly included The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’, ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Nowhere Man’; Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’; Suede’s ‘Trash’ and ‘The Beautiful Ones’; and The Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’, ‘Dead End Street’ and ‘Days’.

I eventually stopped busking, because I had a few experiences where I kept getting moved on relentlessly by the police, and a few more sessions where I didn’t earn much. Three years after I stopped, the government made busking in Tube stations legal – I think they’d finally cottoned onto the fact that passengers largely enjoyed the music – but by that point I was belly dancing and regularly making £300 a night.

But that, as I often say on this blog, is another story.

simon-singh-song

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 8

Me: 12st 8lbs (total loss in eight days: 6.2lbs).

Hopefully next time I weigh in I’ll have lost half a stone! However, I’m now doing a mini book tour of Chichester (today) and Worthing (tomorrow) so won’t have my scales on me tomorrow morning.

John: 14st 8lbs (total gain in eight days: 0.5lbs).

I’m glad that John’s still checking in each morning. It motivates me to keep on going.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters: Ricky Steer, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

I was a teenage beauty queen

I ran a Twitter poll yesterday asking what you’d like to see more of on this blog. The winner by a hair was true life stories, which is handy as my whole life has been crazy. Not sure how I’m going to break this result to the eight-year-old though.

Anyhow, here’s another true tale from my rather large arsenal…

I was such an ugly, geeky, friendless kid. I had big sticky-out buck teeth, a hairy face, and my mum cut my hair. The girls at secondary school said I’d have to have sex with an animal if I ever wanted to have sex, as ‘you’re so ugly no man will ever fuck you’.

This really upset me, and I vowed I’d never have sex with an animal. And ladies and gentlemen, to this day, I have kept that promise.

I was bullied at my primary school in Willesden Green, Malorees; then when I was eight, my family moved to Pinner in Harrow, Middlesex, where I was bullied at my new primary school, West Lodge Middle School (we used to call it Wet Splodge Piddle School); and then finally I was bullied at my secondary school, Watford Grammar School for Girls. It seems the saying is true that ‘wherever you go, there you are’.

I used to stare wistfully at the other girls at school in Games, and wish I had their perfect, hairless bodies. I used to cry thinking how ugly I was. Here I am, aged 11 in West Lodge uniform:

Ariane1991

But within four years, my appearance had changed. When I blossomed at age 15, I could barely believe it. Suddenly, I wasn’t ugly any more, though I was still virtually friendless. I wore a brace for two years to fix my front teeth, learned how to bleach and pluck the hair on my face, and began shaving my body. I started wearing makeup, put my hair up in a ‘pineapple’ ponytail on top of my head, and got my first proper boyfriend. I remember him saying that if he had a wish from a genie, ‘I’d wish to make your tits bigger’. Charming.

Age 15

Then, when I was nearly 17, the local paper in my hometown of Harrow ran a beauty contest for the very first time: Miss Harrow. The main prizes were a £400 hifi and £100 in cash. I entered with this photo of me and Simon Le Bon, as we were friends (another story for another time). God knows what the staff thought at The Harrow Times if they recognised him! They probably didn’t get many photos of parochial beauty contest contestants with rock stars.

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A few weeks later, I received a phone call to say I’d made it into the final five contestants. I had to come and meet the judges at the Harrow Times. Thankfully, I didn’t have to parade in a bikini, demonstrate a talent or make a speech about world peace.

A few days after the judging panel, I received another call to say that I had won, and was to be crowned the inaugural Miss Harrow! It felt amazing, but I’d left school by this point, so sadly didn’t get to feel vindicated in the face of the bullies. Though when I went to college in Stanmore the following year, a girl who had seen me in the paper told me, ‘If you’re Miss Harrow, I’m Miss Universe’ – to which I replied deadpan, ‘Congratulations, Miss Universe.’

I was crowned Miss Harrow at the Harrow Show in July 1997, just after my 17th birthday:

Age 17 (2)

Now this is where my own personal version of The Ugly Duckling gets a little surreal and funny. After my coronation, I had to have lunch with the dignitaries: the new mayor Keith Toms (above), whose wife had made my very fetching sash; the editor of the Harrow Times, Charlie Harris; and the sitting MPs.

The new MP for Harrow East at the time was Labour’s Tony McNulty. You may recognise his name, as he was later implicated in the expenses scandal and had to resign, though that doesn’t really narrow it down much.

tony-mcnulty

Tony McNulty. Image credit: Press Association.

Anyhow, over lunch, Tony told Charlie, the editor of the Harrow Times, that he didn’t approve of the beauty contest – it was sexist, reductive and unreconstructed, he said. Charlie tried to argue that it was post-modern, but Tony said he didn’t want to see another contest being run.

So, for the next 15 years, I was still Miss Harrow.

Every year, the organisers would email me and ask if, as the reigning Miss Harrow, I would appear at the Harrow Show. By then, I was slightly embarrassed about my superficial accolade, so I always said no.

I only made one more appearance as Miss Harrow, which was soon after my coronation: I rode in an open-topped sports car through the spectator-lined streets at the Stanmore Carnival. I was told to wave to the crowds, but I’d forgotten to shave my armpits, so ended up waving at them with my left hand clamped to my right pit.

I know a lot of people don’t agree with beauty contests and would take Tony McNulty’s stance here, but in my defence, given that I was bullied for my looks for years, I kind of needed some official confirmation that I was no longer hideous.

This 1952 video of The Ugly Duckling is really lovely, and will leave you with a warm feeling in your heart. I hope you enjoy it.

 

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE

I can no longer bear (or even bare) my shabby feet, so am going to fix them today. Tomorrow they will be less skanky and more swanky!

Day 3

Me: 12st 12.2lbs (total loss: 2lbs in three days)

I don’t know why the hell I’ve put on 0.6 of a pound. Yesterday I mostly ate vegetables, I couldn’t have eaten more than 1,200 calories, and I logged my foods assiduously in a food diary. Oh well – I’m not going to let this deter me. I’m still winning, after all.

John: 14st 6.25lbs (total loss: 1.25lbs in three days)

This post has been made possible by my Patreon supporters Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

The day I robbed a bank, aged 17

My first bank account was with NatWest. They offered me £30 to open it, in 1996. The branch was in Bridge Street, one of the shopping streets in Pinner, Middlesex, and I lived more than half a mile away – which, for a lazy teenager, was an epic trek.

My grandparents had given me a cheque for my birthday, which was also £30, and I wanted to cash it so I could buy something nice at the weekend. It would take four days to clear. So that Monday at 4pm I strolled down to the bank, which closed at 4.30pm. By the time I got there, it was 4.15pm – comfortably before closing time.

But no! Alas, the bank was closed. There was no notice outside – the plaque on the wall still said its opening hours were 9.30 to 4.30pm on weekdays – but the door was firmly shut and wouldn’t budge, no matter how hard I tried to get in.

I sighed. If the bank was shut, that meant I wouldn’t be able to cash my cheque in time for the weekend. Then – aha! – I heard the lock turn, and spied movement. Someone was being let out of the bank. ‘Excuse me,’ I said to the bank official doing the letting out, whose badge said Bank Manager, ‘it’s only 4.15pm and I’d like to cash a cheque please.’

‘We’re closed,’ he said, looking surly, and slammed the door in my face, locking it again.

Well!, I thought. That was just not on. The bank had an obligation to its customers – it couldn’t close early unless it had a very good reason, and the man hadn’t provided one. [My mum had been doing a law degree throughout my childhood, which may explain my slightly argumentative nature back then.]

So when the door next opened to let someone out, I slipped past them and into the bank. Hurray! Now I could cash my cheque.

‘Get out!’ snarled the bank manager. He was an Asian man, but clearly felt no solidarity for this fellow Asian. He was also quite a bit taller than my unimpressive height of 5’2″, but he didn’t scare me.

‘I’ll get out as soon as you cash my cheque,’ I said. ‘I’m a NatWest customer and you have a duty to cash it.’

‘We’re not going to cash your cheque, so you can get out now,’ the bank manager snapped, though I could see the bank tills were still open and the cashiers were working.

‘Shan’t!’ I said truculently, and slid down to the floor. I still remember exactly where in the bank I sat down – near the entrance, diagonally opposite the customer service desk. ‘I’m not leaving until you cash my cheque. You have opening hours and they’re not over yet.’

natwest

The bank manager was fuming, but clearly didn’t want to forcibly manhandle me out of the branch like Mark Field. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘Get out, or I’m calling the police.’

‘Call them!’ I said, still staging my one-girl sit-in protest. ‘See if I care. I’m going to report you to head office and close my account!’ (This wasn’t much of a threat, as back then my account contained about 50p, but it was all I could think of.)

To my surprise, the bank manager actually called the police. He dialled the number as I sat grumpily on the bank floor, and he muttered something into the phone. I shrugged and hugged my knees to my chest, bored and cross.

The police station was at the top of Bridge Street in those days, so it took less than one minute for the sirens to blaze and the police car to screech down to the bank. Two uniformed policemen burst in, then looked around the bank, puzzled.

‘We’ve come here because of reports of a disturbance!’ one of them announced.

The bank manager pointed at me.

‘Is this the disturbance?’ the policeman asked, gawping at my seven-and-a-half-stone frame, amazed.

‘She’s trespassing and refusing to leave the bank,’ the bank manager announced. I glared at him.

‘We’ve come here on blues and twos!’ the policeman ranted, staring at me. ‘We thought the bank was being robbed!’

‘Don’t blame me! I didn’t call you,’ I said. ‘I just wanted to cash my cheque.’

The policeman calmed down. ‘Well, if the bank manager tells you to leave the bank, you should leave the bank,’ he said.

I glared, defeated, and got to my feet. ‘He shouldn’t have called you though,’ I said. ‘I’m not very scary.’

‘Quite the opposite, Madam,’ replied the policeman mildly, who clearly thought the bank manager was a bit of a dick.

I never did report the bank manager to head office or close my account – I think I realised I was being a bit of a horror and they wouldn’t take my side – but I did eventually get to cash my cheque.

I still hold an account with NatWest to this day, though the best thing I ever got out of that bank was this anecdote.

2017_12_29_16_28_15[Me as a teenager. I was wearing a boob tube, though you can’t see it.]

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 1

Me: 12st 12.8lbs (total loss: 1.4lbs). Here’s a picture of my feet on the scales so I can’t cheat (apologies for my hairy legs and feet. I am basically a gorilla in human form!)

IMG_2261

John: 14st 6lbs (total loss: 1.5lbs)

John is winning (just)! I need to up my game.

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