Wednesday 17 September 2008

The black horse, the tortoise and the hare

14st 2lb; 7.0 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,237; Rothbury.

The Death of Capitalism: Day Three. And that gurgling noise you can hear is either (a) all my hopes for the future going down the plughole or (b) The Honourable Robert Peston being strangled by a BBC viewer or listener who could take no more. Or, quite possibly, both.

The news that HBOS is collapsing into the arms of Lloyds TSB is naturally encouraging to all those of us who like nothing better than seeing great symbols of Scottish pride crumbling into dust. I suppose it is too much to hope that all those head office staff at The Mound will be turned out of doors to sell The Big Issue, and every branch re-branded as Lloyds TSB. Though I do hope they extend the reach of their splendid call centre in Hyderabad. I can think of few things more potentially amusing than a load of people who speak English, after a fashion, as their second language, attempting to converse with the sort of hairy-kneed Highlanders whose attempts to express themselves always sound more like a determined effort to clear their throats.

At the very least, though, we can surely hope to have heard the last of Howard and the other musically challenged employees of the Halifax attempting to entice us through the doors of their now doomed branches with a song.

It just goes to show that putting an implausibly young grocery marketeer in charge of a clearing bank cum jumped-up building society was as lousy an idea as the hidebound old codgers suggested all along.

I think perhaps Lloyds TSB should trade in their black horse symbol and replace it with a tortoise. While HBOS could be symbolized by a hare, now sadly defunct and with advanced rigor mortis. Perhaps Lonesome George from the Galapagos could be persuaded to model for the new corporate logo.

Not that I have any personal interest in all this any more. I opened an account with Lloyds Bank some years ago, when my nearest branch had a friendly manager who collected scale model buses and had them on display in his office, presumably because his wife would not have them in the house. Then they merged with TSB and some utter Philistine vandalized their beautiful building in order to remove the raised lettering “Lloyds Bank Limited”, which had clearly been attached to the stonework since it was built. Shortly afterwards the manager disappeared, then they curtailed their opening hours because some east European had come in with a gun and frightened the staff (and apparently east Europeans only do that when it is getting dark). Next they cancelled my credit card, without bothering to tell me, because I hadn’t used it enough for their liking. Shortly after this I found that I could not remember the PIN for my debit card (one of those signs of incipient Alzheimer’s I would fret about nearly all the time, if I didn’t have incipient Alzheimer’s) so I rang to ask them to send it to me again, and a bloke in Hyderabad told me that first I needed to register for internet banking and began reading out the litany of questions required to achieve this.

“But I don’t want to register for internet banking,” I sighed. “I just want you to post me a reminder of my PIN so that I can get some of my money out of my bank account.”

“Ah, but the bank has decreed that it can only supply this information to customers who have registered for internet banking.”

I won’t repeat what I told him, but I expect it enlarged his English vocabulary.

I went round to my branch the next time I was passing, to give them a piece of my mind, but their next great idea to enhance customer service proved to be shutting it for four days out of seven. So I moved my account to Barclays down the road.

As a result of all which, if by some terrible mischance HBOS should end up dragging Lloyds TSB down with it, rather than proving to be the bargain of the century, I for one won’t mind in the slightest.

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