Mark Andrews on Saturday: Unhelpful banking and the joys of button-back velour

By Mark Andrews | Opinions | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Bank counter clerk – endangered species?

HOW the modern world makes the simplest of tasks unfathomably complicated.

Last weekend I had to make a payment of £5 to a club I belong to, which of course in the old days would have meant giving the treasurer a fiver.

But being the 21st century it has to be paid directly into a bank account. Not a problem, I thought, just walk into a branch, fill out a form and job done.

Now finding a bank still open on a Saturday afternoon was a challenge, as the convenient ones had cut their opening hours.

The one in Wolverhampton opened until 3pm, but that meant parking down by the Clarendon to avoid being stung by the pay-and-display charges. I’m not paying a £1.20 to carry out a £5 transaction.

Anyway, having negotiated the sweet scent of the Chapel Ash subway and walked the full length of Darlington Street, the branch came as a bit of a surprise. More like an end-of-the-pier amusement arcade than a bank, the windows where the cashiers used to sit had all been ripped out, and in their place were lots of people wrestling with strange machines.

After aimlessly wandering around for a bit, I was approached by a member of staff with a headset and hand-held computer, who asked if I had a ‘banking app’.

Now I don’t understand exactly how these things work, but I would have thought the fact I was in the bank to make a payment suggested I didn’t.


After being told there would be a 15-minute wait to see someone, I was invited to take a seat among some bored children playing around while a giant television told me to get a phone app.

When I did get to see a bank clerk, I was once more asked if I had a phone app. Look, I don’t have or want a phone app, ok? The transaction itself took a matter of seconds, and to be fair, she was very friendly.

A message flashed up on the giant TV screen behind her: ‘Making banking easier’. Yeah, right.


Garish – the property's 1970s style living room

OH, the patter of estate agents. Anglesey-based Dafydd Hardy is handling the sale of what it describes as ‘a striking detached bungalow’, and it is certainly that. Avocado bathroom suite, obviously, including a period bidet. There is also on olive-green button-back velour suite, orange curtains, and carpets which look like leftovers from a J D Wetherspoon refit. But the piece de resistance is probably the kitchen, with two-tone green units teamed nicely with brown vinyl flooring.

I love it. Ok, maybe not the carpet, sofa and curtain colour combo, but I love the way everything has been preserved for the past 40 or 50 years. Dated maybe, but everything looks immaculate? And if somebody has taken the care to keep everything in this kind of condition for so long, it deserves to stay that way.

It won’t, of course. It will probably be bought by some would-be Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen, who will strip it from top to bottom, install a boring white bathroom, laminate flooring, and remove every last vestige of individuality.

Then, in 10 years’ time, white bathrooms will have gone out of fashion, bright colours will be ‘in’, and somebody will probably spend a fortune converting it all back. I’d probably do the same myself. Eventually.

What sheep we are. And isn’t it ironic that a generation which obsesses so much about cutting waste and saving the planet thinks nothing of discarding perfectly serviceable home furnishings just because they are considered ‘old-fashioned’?

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.


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