The Wanderer`s Return


I don`t know if you grew up with those illustrated books featuring Victorian images of historical events – you know the sort of thing, the  two princes looking angelic in black velvet before being bumped off in the Tower, Richard Coeur de Lion languishing in his prison while Blondel sings beyond the walls, Boadicea and her daughters being whipped by a Roman tax collector – but if you did then you might be able to help me.

What was the name of the man who walked through London stark naked with a dish of flaming coals on his head and was he foretelling the Great Plague or the Great Fire? Or could it have been the Popish Plot?

The illustration is as clear to me now as when I first turned the page as a child…..but my memory has failed to dredge up either his name or the event he was foretelling, which  is infuriating for one who has always rejoiced in having the memory of an elephant when it comes to trivia while admitting to haziness on more immediately relevent phenomena.

I would like to be reminded because I was thinking of following  his example when visiting my bank in London…apart from the naked bit.

There are limits.

The bank, it appears, wishes to know its customers, or so it says.

Having been a customer of said bank for twenty seven years I feel that if it doesn`t know me by now then it has missed the boat.

It knows that it gets regular payments; it knows I don`t take up its offers of loans to go on holiday, to buy a car or to undertake plastic surgery, let alone buy a house; it knows it is a waste of time to try to sell me insurance; it knows that it has never had the pleasure of charging me for an overdraft and it knows that I am displeased when it makes a mess of a simple transaction because its systems are designed by overpaid cretins who probably do borrow money for holidays, cars and plastic surgery and pay for everything on a credit card so do not understand that I would like to make a transfer without having to find and turn on a mobile `phone in order to receive a code which will be outdated by the time that I have found the right glasses to read it, pressed the wrong button which promptly effaces it, try it again and finally change glasses to read the computer screen.

That is if the whole process hasn`t alerted some Dr. Strangelove security system at the bank which promptly freezes my account.

It is not alone in its lunacy, I know. Leo`s broker in South Africa refuses to deal with his bank as it claims that said bank is money laundering on the basis of regular payments of twenty to thirty quid to Better World Books UK.

What could be more suspect than buying books, after all?

Same broker rashly forwarded internal e mails about the problem which were written in Afrikaans. As Leo has an old fashioned form of Flemish he found the e mails totally clear – if unflattering – and expressed himself accordingly. In Flemish.

So, as Leo`s specialist decided that an op would not be necessary on his broken leg and as mother`s birthday was looming, I took a bolt to the metropolis to allow my bank to renew its acquaintance with me, leaving him in the charge of Danilo and Maria, a Nicaraguan lady we have known for years, to give twenty four hour cover in my absence.

Breaking the habits of a lifetime, I coughed up for a direct flight with British Airways which spared me the hassle of changing `planes in odd corners of the world and suffering the current whims of the bored people manning the security lines.

None of them seem to like the packets of coffee in my carry on bag. Madrid doesn`t like them because they are all regularly square….Toronto thinks that as coffee is organic matter, it could be used in a terrorist attempt….while Amsterdam wants to know why I don`t just buy my coffee in Holland.

All went swimmingly, as I had two empty seats next to me and could thus avoid the nuisance of the man in front of my original seat who, not content with reclining it to its fullest extent imediately after take off, jumped about in it excitedly while watching cartoons on the IFE. He did not even return the seat to its upright position in order to eat…had I been forced to suffer his antics for ten hours he might have received the contents of a container of chicken curry on his cranium. Hot.

Needless to say, an evening spent in the company of an old friend over several tissue restorers removed all wish to emulate he of the flaming coals…just as well, as London was suffering from a deluge which would have doused the fires of hell on the day I set out for the bank.

My regular bus had changed its route as the Mayor of London – whose name and portrait seem to appear all over the place like Big Brother – had decided that too many bus routes served Oxford Street and had had some of them shifted. Thus instead of a two minute stroll I had to leg it for some distance, arriving like the proverbial drowned rat.

It might not have improved my temper, but it is impossible to be angry with the recepionist who does the triage of clients, or with the girls of the counter staff.

They know their bank is not universally beloved of its customers thus it is unfair to ask them to keep smiling while you foam at the mouth and gnaw the carpets….so I asked what more the bank wanted to know about me.

It appeared that it wanted a photocopy of my current passport.

But I could have sent you a certified copy!

No, I could not. That would not do.

It used to do when I lived in France.

Probably trained to observe when a customer was about to brake frith and cracke heads I was directed to a supervisor in an office out of earshot.

Ah! They had noted that my old passport had expired.


They needed my new one, for their records.


Because they had to know their customers.

It was then that I realised that knowing your customer had nothing whatsoever to do with my banking habits but everything to do with ticking a box. The system could not give two penn`orth of cold gin whether I was likely to run amok with a credit card and blow the entire assets of the bank on botox….it just needed a photocopy.

So why could I not send you a certified copy?

You could…from the U.K. They do it at the Post Office.

Why not from Costa Rica?

Oh, that`s regarded as a dodgy country…a lawyer could be pretending to be you and siphoning off your pension.

Thinking that the average Costa Rican lawyer would regard my state pension as not worth bothering to  pick up if dropped in the street I produced my passport. The photograph  of a wild eyed woman with her hair on end would be enough to convince any bank official that this was not a customer to be encouraged but the box ticker showed no reaction and made her photocopy.

That was it. The bank now, once again, knew its customer.

The rest of the trip passed peacefully: I took Mother to see the film  `Dunkirk` to celebrate her birthday. Made a change from cake and flowers, though her friends had organised that too.

The cinema boasted all round sound and it lived up to its promise. Mines exploded under your seat, bombs unleashed themselves at your head while waves lapped incessantly around you. Mother said that while all the actors were remarkably clean for men who had been retreating for days the film was accurate in reproducing the distinctive sounds of the different aircraft. She had been straffed by a Heinkel when walking home from the sanatorium in Belmont and she remembered it well.

Of course, I had news from the home front in the daily telephone call:

Maria has brought her daughter, Stephanie, with her. (Aged about seven) She has used up all your printing  paper for drawing. (Give her all those old envelopes you hoard…)

Stephanie is using at least one loo roll per day. Is this normal? What does she do with it? (No idea, but stand by to unblock the septic tank…)

She is playing on my computer. I`ve had to use yours. (Aargh!)

I was fed up with rice and beans so I asked Maria to cook me a spaghetti carbonara. (And?) She garnished it with red peppers and coriander…

I don`t need help any more. I`ve sacked Maria. (I know she called me and told me. What you don`t know is that she has arranged for Luzmilla (cleaning woman) to deputise…)

Luz is here and she refuses to go away! (Good luck with that!)

My return trip was uneventful except for the ritual disembowelling of my suitcase at San Jose airport as, once again, I drew the elderly customs officer who regards it as his mission to preserve Costa Rica from outside influences.

Whats`s this?

Chorizo. Spanish.

But you came off the `plane from London.

They sell it in London. Look at the label.

Oh yes…it`s in Spanish. What are these?




Could you open the bag?

On your own head be it.

Jesus Maria, close it up!

So home, to find the house sparkling clean, the dogs pleased to see me and Leo able to walk a short distance with a walking frame that Danilo had made him.

All is well…though I am still looking for either of my two rolling pins……

Where would you put a rolling pin….? Any ideas?


The man with live coals on his head….I remember now…he was called Solomon Eagle and it was the Plague.


















43 thoughts on “The Wanderer`s Return”

  1. I am grateful that my bank doesn’t pretend. My banker, who I actually got to know pretty well over the years, was replaced by someone I have never met who just rubber stamps things. May she and her rubber stamp live long and prosper. As for the craziness of flying to London just to photocopy a passport and take Mom to the movies, couldn’t you mail Mom or a friend that photocopy and have them mail it to the bank from England? You could mail it to me but I don’t know, France, it’s at least as dodgy as Costa Rica.

  2. The problem was the certified copy. There is no way I would put my passport in the post from Costa Rica…even by courrier service… and without the original there can be no certified copy.
    The blasted bank would not even accept a certified copy done by the Consulate!
    If living in the EU…while the U.K. is still part of it…. you can get a maire or alcalde to certify and it will be accepted, but those of us who live in outer darkness have problems.
    The origin of all this nonsense is the pressure put on other nations`banks by the U.S.A. who seem to be obsessed with knowing where their citizens hide their money….

    My bank in Spain is far more amenable… bank in Costa Rica is a pain in the proverbial…..every time I bring money over we have the same rigmarole where they ask for the origin of the funds and i produce one of the many actes de vente which I brought with me from France in my archives….we all know it is a farce, but it ticks the boxes.

    Mother`s 101st was a three line whip once Leo was declared on the mend….and she needed a few things sorted out while i was there. Offend the matriarch at yoiur peril.

  3. 101! What an age! Does she ascribe her longevity to the daily imbibing of Scotch?
    I have recently changed banks here (what a pain!), but my new banker is a lovely lady and makes a change from the wannabe dominatrix that I had at LCL.

    1. She reckons that she had a good start growing up in the countryside with good food….she has steered as clear as possible of doctors, refuses `flu jabs and doesn`t eat ready prepared food.
      She has a whisky at night before going to bed `to open the arteries`!

      I would like to clone my Spanish bank manager…she still believes in customer service!

  4. All that way for a photocopy? I would change banks but I suspect they would be similar.
    I don’t think I have heard of Solomon Eagle and I doubt he existed. I suspect the plague got him.
    The strife when you were away ought to have been filmed. If only you had left a secret camera working…
    Have you looked outside for the rolling pins, someone may have flung them in anger and missed?
    However with no blood on the floor it appears a rather easy trip for you this time, including being at Dunkirk with mum!

  5. Glad to see another post, I inexplicably lost your site and then couldn’t find it again. (Sure you didn’t inadvertently give your bank the right to pull the site down? ) It is absolutely astonishing that you had to cross half the globe to show your passport in person. Don’t they have any trustworthy represtentation in Costa Rica – or do they deal exclusively with dodgy lawyers there?

    1. Nothing would surprise me with banks these days….though as my cashier in Costa Rica says, if I were a large scale drug or arms dealer I would have no problems with any bank anywhere in the world.

      From Europe it would have been no problem…a maire, etc., could have signed the certified copy, but here…well, as far as the major banks are concerned, it is the back of beyond. And if anyone is to be inconvenienced it has to be the customer…

      Ask not what your bank can do for you, but what you can do for your bank…

  6. That whole passport thing. London’s a world money laundering center, so the government decided that the best way to combat it is to ask small customers to prove they actually exist. This will do nothing to combat money laundering, but it lets the government claim it did something.

    1. Ticking the box again!
      London has been a disgrace in that respect for years…especially Barclays!

      From what I gather from my bank here the problem started with the U.S. government wanting to stck its nose into what its citizens did with their money abroad…and, with the power they exercise, have forced other countries to start all this nonsense of asking the origin of your funds, passports, etc…

      And now governments want to abolish the use of actual money…no wonder people are tempted by the Bitcoin Ponzi scheme…

  7. My brother had to do the same ludicrous gavotte with his Bank in the summer. He lives in Australia. Presumably that’s a dodgy territory too …. 😉 He flew from Perth to Dubai and on to London as is his normal. On the Dubai-London leg he had the long lost twin of your fellow passenger in front of him. My brother is tall and athletic. As the seat moved backwards he put his arm up and held it firm. The person wriggled and jiggled but my brother held firm. The chap looked round in indignation. My brother, stony-faced just shook his head. The chap protested. My brother said ‘this is a daytime flight and there is absolutely no need for you to lie down and make my flight uncomfortable. Clear?’ The chap hesitated and my brother said he could see the wheels turning in his mind … should he argue with this fellow? Sensibly he decided that it was better to sit upright and disgruntled. I hugged my brother.

    1. I need your brother!
      I would not have minded (well, not so much)had the chap just wanted to sleep on the night time part of the flight, but to flop back from the start was out of order.

      1. My brother is of the opinion that airlines should review their seats in light of the inability of passengers to demonstrate basic manners. He says that it would be easy to have an over-ride for the reclining that was operated by cabin crew so that you could only recline at night OR just replace with non-reclining seats. He is very uncompromising, my Bro … I might market him as a unique travel accessory!!!

  8. Sorry but I had to laugh. We are having the same problems here. Nigel is taking over all his father’s affairs with POA. Then we get ridiculous standard forms back asking for passport etc and for all forms (despite the fact they have the POA) to be signed by both him and his father. The whole thing is getting out of hand and it is a good job he has not got much hair left or it would have all been pulled out anyway.
    A rolling pin is something I have never owned, I have used an empty wine bottle all my life and it is now pretty old but is the same bottle! It lives next to the gas bottle, maybe you have got a gas bottle as well LOL.
    Take care both of you and have a good week. Diane

    1. Poor Nigel, he has all my sympathy! And to think of that magnificent head of hair he had in your wedding photograph!
      I have a gas bottle….I learned in France never to rely on the electricity supply for cooking. Do you remember seeing those combi stoves with two gas rings and two electric ones?

  9. Forgot to add that we both hate passengers who cannot sit still in front, or keep pulling on your seat from the back. Do they never think how annoying they are and how they make the trip miserable for someone else! Just plain selfish me thinks!!! Diane

    1. Total egoists, that is what they are.
      In the days when mother would take the Euroline coach to visit us in France she alighted at Tours and told us that a fellow passenger had become so enraged at the recliner in front of her that she had bashed him with her travelling umbrella.

  10. Forget about the name and just strip down and do your walk! I know you said apart from the naked bit, but I think that would be effective for good press coverage and would pale in comparison to the ridiculousness of the bank’s policy. That gotten off my chest, I’m so happy to read that you’re out with Leo. Bravo to Danilo for the walking stick. Happy week to you all and may Leo continue to improve.

    1. I would worry about thr number of persons losing their eye sight, but yes, I agree, it would certainly get press coverage!
      Super of Danilo to weld up a walking frame and super physio which now has Leo on his feet and walking short distances.

  11. Your mother’s 101 years, apart from being worthy of a good, reinforcing slug or three, is no doubt due to ‘investing’ what the British never talk about under her mattress! As for proving who we are to those who know more about us than we do ourselves, just been through all that. Actually did a doozy on them and got our Provincial Governor ‘son’ to produce an illuminated scroll covered with all the official stamps. It was so impressive that I sent a full-colour copy as I thought the original would look great in a frame for the great grandchildren one day. Big mistake! They wanted the original which I sent with a request to return it – they didn’t!
    Glad Leo’s doing well – long may it continue.

    1. Putting anything original in their hands is asking for trouble! They are probably cloning you at this very moment!
      They missed out on not accepting a CR lawyer`s document. These generally come with huge golden stars as if you have been a very good pupil in the infants`school together with any amount of different fiscal stamps. Very colourful…but not, I suspect, up to your document.

  12. Banks, airlines and Customs…I believe they occupy the 7th, 8th and 9th levels of customer service Hell. Pity you couldn’t have added a transaction with a cable television company and maybe a car repair facility just to round out the entire experience. Congratulations to your mum on the 101st! What a great thing and to celebrate by watching Dunkirk…super!

    1. She remembers the men coming back from Dunkirk when the sanatorium where she worked was requisitioned….and she remembers the sound of a Heinkel all too well!

      Remember, I had years of experience of French customer service…which could be summed up by the phrase
      Mess off and die.
      Bureaucrats who could tell you with a straight face that yes, indeed, you had sent them a registered letter…but when they opend the envelope there was nothing inside…
      I hope that the pup is under a new veterinary regime and is feeling better.

  13. You certainly have your adventures…Happy Birthday to your Mother! I should be looking for a plane if Irma heads this way…

    1. Adventures I could live without…I would prefer to choose my own!
      Mother is touched by the kindness of blogger friends who only know her through the internet.. if her eyesight werte better I think she would be on the net herself, but typing is a strain for her.

      I have not been able to access your blog for a while…no doubt it will sort itself out in time…but what a nuisance!

      I do hope Irma will miss Florida…you would be very welcome here where the house is wheelchair friendly…but the dogs are, regrettably, not sure to be cat friendly. They have never met one, but seem to regard any new animal as a threat to their territory.

  14. Excellent post. Had me huffing. puffing, laughing and scowling. Congratulations to Mother, and to Leo.

    Maria had to go after the spaghetti carbonara incident. Quite beyond the pale.

    Hope your computer survived.

  15. The interesting thing is, working tangentially in the banking industry, most bankers hate the rules and regulations imposed on them by governments, but have no choice but to implement them. These directives, of course, do practically nothing to stem the drug trade, terrorism or whatever other fear du jour is being whipped up by the powers that be. Criminals are extremely adept at getting around roadblocks, after all. The rest of us, however, are miserably inconvenienced. But bureaucrats can sit back and not only pat themselves on the back for having “done something,” but rest assured they’ve made the future of their positions even more secure.

    1. Yo are absolutely right…all this nonsense is a pain in the proverbial to anyone working in the sector, while those responsible allow the real villains a free hand.
      Mark you when you consider that the manager of the Mexican branch of a major British bank allowed all sorts of drug money to pass through his bank and was later appointed a minister in the British government it makes me blow steam from the ears.

      1. Yes, round up the bit players to show something’s “being done” and let the real culprits go on their merry way, sometimes even rewarding them, as in the example you cited. With all the regulations in place, you can’t make a withdrawal of any size without the government knowing it by the end of the day, but somehow drug lords can launder money when it’s convenient for the powers that be.

        1. I rather suspect that our governments like having the drug trade in operation…it keeps half of the population worrying about being mugged or burgled by the other half while governments and their backers rob everyone wholesale.

  16. My banks are very efficient and don’t raise any knotty bureaucratic problems. However, I’m in the process of registering my power of attorney so I can check on the state of my mum’s numerous bank accounts, and that’s turning out to be an absurdly long-winded and bureaucratic process. I have to produce certified copies of the Power of Attorney document and various ID documents to all and sundry, and it’ll be months before I get all the information I need. Mum will probably die first.

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