Not long after I started work, I began spending more than I earned.
My father had tried to drill into me the advice of Mr Micawber from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery. But I didn’t listen!
Anyway, I was called in to speak to the manager. Again.
I had to get off work to go to meet him. It was at the time when banks opened for a few hours in the mornings, closed at lunchtime when it might have been convenient for customers to visit a branch and opened for a little while in the afternoon before closing for the day at 3 o’clock.
Anyway, it turned out that the assistant manager had been assigned the task of encouraging me to get my account in order.
I went into his office and noticed copies of my account, and a few of my cheques, in front of him.
I already didn’t like him with his tight little mouth and his smug look and the way he was constantly fiddling with a pencil.
After a lecture about the appalling state of the account, the assistant manager pushed forward a couple of the cheques which, I could see even upside down, had been cashed in The Oval Bar.
And I also noticed that, on one, there was the circular stain of a beer glass.
Why they’d gone to the trouble of getting the cheques back from the clearing house, I couldn’t figure out. Until he spoke.
“I notice, Mr Murray, that most of your cheques were cashed in public houses.”
Where it came from I don’t know. But I’m still proud of how I replied to the supercilious little man.
I looked him in the eye and I said: “I find their opening hours more convenient than yours.”
He shuffled some paper, the pencil snapped.
And I bade him good day.