Sunday, August 19, 2007

Buttered Buns I have known

Listening to the radio this morning I heard a chat about tea trolleys and offices which brought the past back in a flash. My first job, at 17, was in a City bank in Bishopsgate: The Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China. How exotic that sounds today. I used to travel on the commuter train from Romford to Liverpool Street, being an Essex girl, and always bought a lovely buttered bun on my way to work, to have with my morning coffee. Those buns were wonderful. They were fruity, yeasty and had crystallized sugar on top. And they were generously buttered - with real butter. I think they probably cost one penny, and I mean old pennies, because this was before decimalization. As our Luncheon Vouchers were for 4 Shillings (this was a very good deal) I'm sure a bun couldn't have been more than that. Lunch was usually taken in the upstairs Dining Room of one of the local pubs, and they all offered a two-course lunch for 4/- then. We could have something like Steak & Kidney Pie with three veg, or a Curry with rice , or a Ham Salad, followed by a Syrup Pudding and Custard, or tinned Fruit Salad, and a cup of tea or coffee for our four shillings. That sounds like an incredible bargain now, of course, especially when you consider that four shillings in old money would now be twenty pence. Makes me feel very old.

I remember working in that bank so clearly. We were very privileged, because it was considered a great plum to get a job in a bank then. My Mum was so proud that I worked there. It was rather like an extended version of the Grammar School that I had recently left (without taking my A Levels!). There was definitely a rather jolly old school atmosphere; work was mostly conducted at a steady pace, except for the excitement when the Bank Rate was changed (just like today). And we had a Sports Club which everyone used at weekends. Ours was at a place called "The Wilderness", somewhere near Hampton Court, and we all played either hockey or tennis for the Bank. (Rugby or Soccer if you were a bloke.) The Bank was your life, really, and people then expected to work there all their lives and retire on a Bank pension. How things have changed. When I left the Bank, Mr Toynbee, who was Deputy Manager of Inward Bills where I had worked for four years, said "Well done, Lassie!" (he was very Scottish) "You've never given us a moment's trouble." I distinctly remember being rather surprised and yet pleased at his remark. It would never have occurred to me to be any trouble anyway - we were all very law-abiding in those days - but I did wonder what might have happened if I had stepped out of line. Anyway, I have always hankered after those buttered buns, and can't seem able to find them now.

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