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What Are You Leaping?

Posted: 28/02/2012 00:00

So, what will you do on 29 February? Radio 4 are asking listeners to come up with something a little special to do on the day that happens only once every four years.

The first thing I definitely won't be doing is having a baby. My great Uncle Jack was born in 1900 and lived to 90, but because his birthday was 29 February he only ever got to celebrate 22 of them.

However, in the spirit of the day I shall do something nice, middle-class and Radio 4-like. On Wednesday 29 February I shall move my bank account.

For the last few years I've been with one of the big banks, who to protect from opprobrium I shan't name, so let's call them "Garclays". Initially I chose them because the shortest possible distance from my front door to a local bank led me to theirs.

It was a nice branch, one which reminded you that the Garclays who toil unflinchingly to create a tidy nest-egg of billions of pounds of tax avoidance then socialistically redistribute it to their workers whose job it is to procure chunks of government bailout and invest it in potential profits of giant companies, are nothing to do with the Garclays who employ local people in my local branch, and pay those people marginally more than they could earn from the Tesco across the road, in order for them to smile sadly at us local residents and shake their heads sorrowfully whenever we ask them for a business loan.

Then recently, my nice branch had a re-fit. They sacked most of the staff who sit out front and smile sadly at you, and expanded the counter section - not to add more cashiers, but to turn it from an open, friendly cashier depot into a giant glass-walled fortress designed to let you know a) exactly where the money is, and b) what your chances are of gaining access to it.

Either that or, in the light of the public's inability to distinguish between nice Garclays and nasty Garclays, their paranoid response to a relatively small amount of violence aimed their way during recent demos is to avoid damage to their property at any cost. Although I can't imagine Crouch End branch is ever likely to be physically endangered by the local population of weedy fifty-something macrobiotic-munching pacifists.

By a strange coincidence, earlier this week someone from Garclays rang me and asked if everything was okay. Actually it's not strange at all, barely a day goes by without someone from a big organisation ringing to ask for a couple of minutes of my time to talk about their amazing products. Guess I must be their 'go-to' guy for product assessment. Anyway, the bloke on the other end must have been quite surprised not to have the phone slammed down on him, which is what I presume most people do when telephoned at home in the middle of doing something more important, like breathing.

There was a second surprise when I decided to tell him. I explained how upset I was that the local branch had been remodelled on Fort Knox. "Sorry" he replied, "I only rang to ask if everything's okay with your account, I'm not allowed to talk about anything else." I could have continued and explained that my account would not be okay as I would be closing it soon, but I'd had my rant-to-a-stranger for the day, and lunch was getting cold.

I reckon the best way to deal with the big banks is to ignore them. Not so much in that block ears, 'shut-up shut-up I'm-not-listening' way David Cameron uses whenever he meets a Doctor, more to just go for one of the many alternatives fast becoming available: whether joining the Co-op, Nationwide, seeking microcredit or social investment.

I've moved on from being someone who doesn't understand why the economy went bust, to someone who understands why it will not, in the current circumstances, get better. Of course it's clear our manufacturing base has deteriorated so much that the only things we make nowadays are cream teas for foreign tourists, but that's partly because we have chosen, despite the best protestations of Iain Duncan Smith, to outsource that kind of mind-numbing cheap labour work to the Chinese.

Yet even super-intelligent commentators like Will Hutton, a man whose brain is so huge that the whole of the top of his head is too big to fit into the photograph accompanying his by-line in The Observer, talk about the way ahead, and how to plan for growth, without really explaining what that means.

While big busted banks and the coalition dictate these clearly nonsensical austerity plans, I'm making a tiny contribution to ignoring them, stepping away from their madness, and trying to start again with the less greedy people.

Anyone joining me? Go on, make it a happy 29 February, and while you're at it wish Happy Birthday to my Great Uncle Jack, 28 today.

 

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