The Bank that likes to say Nope


So we set off for Normandy, using the Le Shuttle tickets we’d booked last year but couldn’t use on the basis that I’d stupidly suffered a stroke and there are rules in La Belle France against driving down L’Autoroute when suffering a hemorrhage of a vein or artery whilst driving your motor at 100km per hour or over. Picky froggy bastards.

So off we went, : Drove from Dartford (sparrow’s) – Folkestone; Sat in the train from Folkestone to Calais; then on the marvellous French toll roads for 5-odd hours until we reach our destination. We knew it would be a bit tiring, and agreed to fill up with fuel, coca cola, croque monsieur etc half way down.

We drove (I drove), we paid the tolls (The Incumbent paid the tolls) I drove some more. At about 1:30 I was beginning to feel a tad esurient and suggested we stop at the next filling station. The guv’nor agreed. So we did. It was one of those garages which encourages you to pay (by card) at the pump as opposed to paying at the till inside. Being a New European (remember, this was before the Olympic Games, before we just said: “fuck everybody else, we’re alright on our own, thankyouverymuch”) I tried to get on with la meme-chose-Continental (I have no idea if that actually means anything, I just thought it looked good).

And that’s where it went horribly wrong.

In went my card, in went the petrol nozzle, and in went the gas (unleaded of course). Out came the nozzel and I looked at the LED screen on the pump, which read….

nothing.

“Oh !” thinks me  :”Buggeration !”.

In the way of a Greenwich Council worker I pressed a few buttons very hard, several times but the screen was in the language of yer Johnny Foreigner, and here was nothing on the screen in the Queen’s English to tell me if I’d paid or if I hadn’t. Bollox.

(Readers new to The Sharp Single will be placated to know that The Sharp Single’s pet hate is Englishmen who refuse to speak foreign languages. I try, I’m just no bloody good at it).

I had two choices: Assume ( as any good colonialist would) that I had paid (I am BRITISH, after all) and, like Montgomery before me, drive off in the general direction of southern Normandy. This would, of course risk being caught by Le Fuzz (no-one wants that) for not paying at all.

or

Wasting four precious minutes by confirming with the girl behind the till in the shop that I had indeed paid, and could legally leave the forecourt. Again, being British, I chose the belt-and-braces option.

“Bonjour Monsieur” I addressed the young lady. “Parlez-vous Anglais?”

“Non” Elle replyment.

Oh bugger. I continued with my fluency:

“Je pense que jai donnez lui les argent pour le gaz, mais est ce possible pour vous regardez le screen de confirmez”. (That O-level French wasn’t wasted after all.)

“Un moment monsieur”.  She then went to find someone who spoke fluent Klingon, who then went to find a consummate bollox speaker. Eventually, someone who claimed to understand me came into the booth.

“Hello Sir. How can I help you ?”

Phew. I explained that I thought that I had paid, but didn’t… well, you know …

She checked the screen, and looked at the records for my pump.

“No Sir, you haven’t paid for your gasoline.”

Cool. Thank Buddah I checked. I handed over my card and she took €80.01 from my account. Phew (again). We continued on our journey.

We had a lovely time, thankyouverymuch. We visited Plastered of Paris (of this Parish) and Mr Horrible‘s (ditto) pad on the coast and it was truly lovely. When you have spent the best part of 18 months cooped up in the Allotment of England you appreciate these sort of things. We had to do it on the cheap as the Tees aren’t selling in the millions that I’d imagined, and the missus is work-shy (yes, I will pay for that).

On my return to Blighty, I immediately checked my bank account: I was stunned (not really) to discover that I was overdrawn. On further investigation I noticed that a petrol station in France had charged me €80.01 TWICE within 6 minutes. I was less than chuffed. I’m sure you can imagine.

No matter. I immediately got onto the phone to my bank NatWest (you know NatWest:- they’re owned by RBS – that lot run by Stephen Hester – look him up – I can’t be arsed any more – who may or may not be in contention for the Biggest Crook of the year 2012 (against Newbold Coe and R.Murdoch).

The girl answered, and after several security questions asked how she could help. This was good ! I thought.

I told her my plight and my worries. Before I could get too involved she interrupted and said she was transferring me to the “Fraud” department. I’d never thought fraud was involved, just a mistake. But, okay ! I’m game. That’ll teach those Frogs a lesson for …erm…Crécy…Agincourt..or something.

“Hello Mr Bealing, how can I help ?” said the man from the Fraud Dept. It was the second time I’d been asked, and you know how patient I am, but I told him anyway.

“…so you see from my statement that €80.01 has been taken out of my account TWICE within minutes. It’s clearly a mistake and I’d like it back. Can you help ?”

“…silence…”

“It’s sixty quid” I added as if it would persuade him to help.

“…silence...”

“hello…?”   had he nodded off ? I wondered.

finally

“Ok Mr Bealing, I see your statement. Do you have the receipt ?”

Hong Kong Phewey !! “Yes, actually I do !!!” (I was finally feeling pleased with myself).

“For both transactions?” he added.

“Sorry ?” (I wasn’t finally feeling pleased with myself).

“Have you the receipt for both amounts removed from your account ?” he pressed.

“No but they are on my statement, as you can see, The two un-random amounts of €80.01 removed from my account within minutes of each other. It’s clearly a mistake” I offered.

“Oh!” he almost sounded crestfallen.
“So you only have a receipt for one of the transactions ?”

“…silence...”

“Mr Bealing ?” I think he thought I’d gone.

I composed myself, with al the dignity I could muster: ” So you are asking me if I have a receipt for a transaction which, at the time, I never knew took place ? Is that was you are seriously asking me ?”

“er…yes…”

“Oddly, no I haven’t. I don’t have a bill for something I didn’t know I’d paid for. I feel such a fool” I began chewing the leg of the table.

I think he knew where I was coming from.

“I know you won’t want to hear this, Mr Bealing, but I’m afraid, I’m unable to help you. You need to take it up with the Petrol Station in France”

I’m unsure of what my response was. I know I was livid, my head spinning and I was trying desperately not to take it all out on the young lad on the other end of the line. I do remember asking him :

“Where or when, in this year of RBS fuck-ups, Your system going down and making my direct debits miss deadline, Bankers Criminality and City Fraudsters do you (and I’m not taking out on you, Sonny, just your employers) get off telling me that you cannot help me ???? You and I know that a conversation, in French, with a garage on a French motorway will never take place. But the fact that, so swiftly, your guidelines tell you that you cannot help me – even in the face of blindingly obvious evidence – that an error (not in my favour) has been committed sums up you lot to a tee. If I had the money to pay off my overdraft with you I would and keep my money under the sink. You are all a bunch of cvnts (present company excepted). Go Fvck yourself you robbing bastards.

It was something like that.

“…silence...”

And it’s been silence ever since.

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Boracic Park


I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, provided I die by four o’clock this afternoon. I wish I’d said that. Actually it’s a old joke told by comedian Henny Youngman, but I know exactly what he meant. I’ve always been skint. It doesn’t matter how much I’m earning, what the economic climate is, or how good I’ve been in any given month, I’ve always been skint. Like most of us, I drink and eat my way through 10% more money each month than goes into my bank account. Towards the end of every month I start making plans and forming strategies on either how I’m gonna make it til next payday, which card I’m gonna use to pay for that meal/trip/suit/beer and/or what lie I’m gonna tell the bank manager when he makes his regular threatening call.

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All of these plans are, of course, bollox and never work, so inevitably I drift ever-further into debt month-by-month as I ply my King Cnut-like efforts to ward off the bailiffs until “that christmas bonus” (that’s one for our older readers) comes along and saves me. What a silly cnut! The age of bonuses and proper pay-rises (at least in this neck-of-the-woods) is long-gone, and just like a Labour election victory or an exciting Grand Prix, I doubt if I’ll see another one in my lifetime.

As I head towards my last pay-cheque from my current employer (we’re paid in advance) and await the first from my next (they pay in arrears) I dawns on me that next month could be a disaster, even by my fiscal fuck-up standards. There’s a voice in the back of my head telling me that I might get away with not getting the traditional bollocking from NatWest because everyone is feeling the pinch and they’ll take pity on me. The UK economy shrank by its worst rate in half a century. So did mine !! Will the bank manager excuse my ever-increasing overdraft? Fat chance. There’s another voice telling me to drink myself into oblivion and forget how potless I am. Hmmmm…. tempting.

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But it’s true: everyone is feeling the pinch. I read with interest this morning that HRH Queenie is in such dire a financial mess that she’ll be forced to eat the corgis by 2012. The government too, we’re told, can’t afford to build aircraft carriers (but they’re going to anyway) or buy the new Trident nuclear missile system (ditto). One thing’s for sure, the way that Brown and Cameron are swinging at each other over cuts, cum the next election we are all of us going to be worse off, as will be our schools, hospitals and local services— whoever gets in— but at least we can enjoy our shiny new weapons which they’ve bought with our money.

If you were feeling a bit flush earlier on in the year, doubtless you would have invested a couple of quid in Michael Jackson tickets. That was a waste of time, wasn’t it? However all is not lost: The promoters have come up with a brilliant idea: They can either give you your money back , or you don’t get your money back and they will send you the tickets you would have got— as a sort of momento ! They’ll look nice on your wall, even nicer on eBay. If all 800,000 of those who bought tickets take up this offer, the promoters AEG save paying out around £50m. Jacko is said to have owed around £100m and I’m not sure how much of the gate would go back to his estate, but the gold rush certainly seems to be well under way, thanks to his untimely demise. Ipod downloads of his back catalogue are at biblical proportions. It’s baffling.

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I’m not sure what the score is for those trying to recoup the money which they lost to Bernie Madoff, but yesterday he went down for 150 years. Is that fair? I dunno. Seems a bit steep and a tad unrealistic, but I’m sure those poor sods who he swindled will not give a toss. I suspect my bank manager is considering similar penalties for me if I don’t sort my act out . It’s alright for him, he hasn’t got to buy a round of sandwiches and several halves of lager for his leaving do. Who in their right mind holds a piss-up in the week before they get paid? I might offer to pay back my debt at £1 per-month for the next 150 years. I’m in a little recession all of my own. My GDP is in a slump. I have revised my figures and they still look bloody awful. There is still hope, however: the Royal Mint announced yesterday that there’s some 20p pieces out there without dates on them. If you find one, they’ll pay 50 quid for it. No great shakes, you might think, but someone on eBay has just sold one for over £5000 ! I just need to find ten of the buggers and I’m laughing!

But until I do, it’s my round. So what are you having? I’ve got 20 pence.

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