Really bad timing from the Post Office.

August 17, 2020

 

In this time of Covid-19, restrictions have led us to do more shopping on-line with doorstep deliveries. At the beginning many stores experienced overload of this service and had to restrict delivery slots or refuse access altogether to people who weren’t active existing customers. But the situation has eased, more staff have been taken on and we’re able to access a larger variety of stores.

postofficeshop Web Page

postofficeshop Web Page downloaded 17th August 2020

So I needed to buy some stamps and I wondered if I could do this on-line – I seemed to have heard it was possible. I tend to buy largish quantities to avoid too many visits to a post office. Quickly found the web site   www.postofficeshop.co.uk  and ordered what I needed. I was slightly miffed that delivery by Royal Mail incurred a delivery charge, which incurred VAT, but I could put up with that. They came rather quicker than I expected, so I was happy with the service.

Looking at the web page I noted that adverts were streaming across the page near the top, all slightly too fast to read, but I did spot that one of them including the word ‘Closing’.

This really piqued my interest, but it needed considerable skill with a computer mouse to pounce on this notice – rather in the way that a cat pounces on a flesh and blood mouse; then I was able to read the notice in full.

I was dismayed to learn that it said that the service was CLOSING on 31st August. What? In a time of Covid-19 when everyone is expanding the on-line and doorstep delivery, the Post Office is closing theirs! Unbelievable!

To rub salt in the wounds, the site advised ‘visiting your local post office’. I live in Greater London suburbia but in the ward I live in there used to be 6 sub-post-offices. Closures have reduced that to one. In the next ward there is that rarest of endangered species – a Crown Post Office; Crown Post Offices in surrounding town centres have gone some time ago

https://blog.postofficeshop.co.uk/important-announcement-post-office-shop-closure/

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No Alibis

June 14, 2020

Friday 12th June 2020

Opening day for shops in Northern Ireland, so a report from Belfast. I felt a strong feeling of familiarity about the street scene behind the reporter on BBC Breakfast; my subconscious was saying ‘Botanic Avenue’ to me. So when the reporter turned to the shop as a prelude to interviewing the shopkeeper it seemed just right that the shop was ‘No Alibis’ bookshop. The London news presenter, Annita McVeigh, said it was a favourite bookshop of hers during student days in Belfast. The report was repeated later in the day, including the evening.

No Alibis bookshop

The Botanic Avenue and University Street area of Belfast bring many memories and family connections to me, from my student days and since, so when staying in Belfast, I usually stay in that area and try to drop in to No Alibis, peruse their stock of detective stories and buy a book or two. It’s one of two specialist detective story shops that I’ve visited. The other was in Venice Beach, California, where, in the early 1990s I bought the only one of the ten Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck novels that I hadn’t succeeded in finding in a bookshop or library. I couldn’t find the Venice Beach shop on an internet search, but a shop in the same street called ‘Small World Books and The Mystery Annexe’ looks as if it may have absorbed it.

Back to Belfast as I knew it as a student. At first we had to buy textbooks at Mullan’s or Erskine Mayne’s in the City Centre but then a retired Wing Commander set up the University Bookshop in a pair of cottages in University Road. Later, it moved into more suitable premises in the rebuilt Ulster Bank building opposite the University. As well as textbooks the University Bookshop specialised in books of local interest and those from local authors; it was a go-to place for me for many years. Sadly, in 2011, the University Bookshop closed; it was a significant cultural event and was covered on BBC Northern Ireland; one can still find the report on the internet. I only recently found out that, in the interim, Blackwell’s had had a bookshop in the Student Union (now moved to outside premises in University Road).

No Alibi’s remit has extended beyond the detective stories, as it now stocks university textbooks for law and social science, as well as books of local interest. I may buy some of the local interest titles to go with my detective story purchases. The people at the counter are friendly and will talk about their stock, even going so far as to recommend authors I didn’t know and spontaneously offer coffee.

Looking forward to travelling to Northern Ireland again and dropping in. Best wishes to No Alibis bookshop for the future!

Mr Trump, remember the Falls Road, 1969!

June 2, 2020

Each state in the United States has its own army, called the National Guard, under the control of the state governor. In the present emergency, following the tragic death of George Floyd, some state governors have felt that their local police forces were about to be overwhelmed and have used the National Guard to reinforce them.

President Trump, never a conciliatory figure, cowering in his bunker in the White House, has chosen this moment to grandstand by threatening to send in the US Army where HE thinks the state powers are failing. This is a massive challenge to the constitutional powers of the states, and the example it brings to my mind, is a TV news report from 1969 which showed Home Secretary Jim Callaghan at his avuncular Sunny Jim best.

A little history:

Until the 1940s, local councillors throughout the UK we elected by ratepayers, which meant heads of households (overwhelmingly male) and the occupiers of business premises (also mostly male). Adults living with family, such as wives and grown-up sons and daughters, had no vote. Amongst its many reforms, the Attlee government introduced universal adult suffrage for local elections. Although the Stormont Unionist government copied nearly all the Attlee reforms into Northern Ireland legislation, this was one they omitted. It tended, not in law, but in practice, to discriminate against Catholics. Fast forward to the 1960s, it was widely seen as a real problem for the Catholic citizens and demonstrations and marches were organised by the People’s Democracy to reform it. Working class Protestants, always very sensitive to any reduction in their own status, formed counter-demonstrations and the result was punch-ups followed by communal riots. Protestant mobs invaded Catholic areas. The police were overwhelmed, as well as being totally unused to dealing with large scale violence from ‘both sides’.

Westminster had no minister specifically for Northern Ireland at the time; matters there were for Stormont to deal with, and the Home Secretary handled the hopefully few liaison issues. For nearly 50 years, this system had worked well in that it relieved Westminster of the often, for mainlanders, incomprehensible details of Ulster politics.  But now the wheels were coming off; it was time for Westminster to grasp the nettle. James Callaghan, before being an MP, was an official of a white collar trade union and had great faith in bonhomie and reasonable negotiation. He had an Irish background, but that link had been broken in his father’s time. He toured round Ulster, talking to what seemed to be the key players. Fatally, though there wasn’t probably much choice, he brought in the British army to protect the Catholic families in the Falls Road area from rampaging Protestant mobs. Nice picture opportunity with Sunny Jim in the street surrounded by Catholic women and children and some follow-ups of Catholic housewives bringing British soldiers cups of tea.

2020

Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there. In any demonstration in danger of morphing into a riot, there will be a number of groups with different agendas. The peaceful demonstrators hope that getting a lot of people there, they will influence those in power, and perhaps through the normal political processes, get elected themselves. There will be people just along for the event. Towards the more sinister end are the people who could be looters, given the opportunity. At the extreme will be so called paramilitaries; those who would countenance terrorism; perhaps they are not actually on the demo but waiting in the wings to see how they can take advantage. On the other side there will be the civic leaders and police who desperately want calm things down, but maybe some who already see it terms of a battle, that can be won by force.

As unrest develops many of the peaceful will leave, as this was not what they came for. Some of them will try their best to calm things down by talking down both sides. We can pray for their success but sometimes their fate is to be hit a police club or shield or threatened by the paramilitary godfathers that they are trying to frustrate. The demonstration then becomes for the looters and the violent with the results we know. People get hurt; attitudes harden; bystanders’ property gets destroyed and the story line peddled by the paramilitary godfathers gets more widely believed.

That’s what happened in the Falls Road. The soldiers were there in public; to the republicans who found the bullet as acceptable as the ballot box and for whom they were an ancient enemy, they were a sitting duck. Teenagers were encouraged to throw stones and snipers got ready to pick the soldiers off. The measures they took to protect themselves alienated them from the people they’d come to protect. Mis-steps and malicious actions kept a terrorist war alive for nearly 30 years and more than 3000 people died.

This is what Donald Trump should be wary of. Soldiers are good at logistics and doing what they are told. When an organised force is called for because there are not enough civil powers to do the necessary, we need them. But soldiers from elsewhere are not experts in local political subtleties and may both make their own errors and be outflanked by the godfathers.

So President Trump, let the mayors and the governors manage their own problems. If they need the US Army let them ask for it. And when the Army comes let them listen to the state and city authorities and community leaders.

Jim Dougal remembered

May 12, 2020

It was at the Squash World Masters at Cologne in 2010 that I first met Jim Dougal. The tournament got off to a rather rocky start, despite having the tournament director who had run a successful European Masters tournament in Krefeld about a year before. After a crisis meeting a couple of days in, things got back on course.

A photographer was active in the tournament area, posting his pictures on a board with suitable captions. (If he posted them on a web-page, I can no longer find them.) However he got Jim and me confused. I can’t at this juncture remember whether he posted a photo of me captioned as Jim, or the other way round. However, Jim and I sought each other out, tickled by the idea that we each had a ‘double’. We continued to meet at a number of later Squash Masters events and occasionally exchange photos and e-mails. He was a really nice guy. I shall miss him.

It was therefore a shock to discover that he died in February at too young an age. My sympathies to his friends and family.

(Modesty insists that I disclaim any impression that I am a squash player.  Barbara was already an international player when I met and married her over half a century ago. For a while, I would appear on a squash court suitably attired, but nobody found this convincing, and somebody has to be in the bottom league at the club! For the last thirty years, my many appearances at squash matches and tournaments have been as spectator, driver and bag carrier.)

From: https://www.englandsquashmasters.co.uk/  

(Retrieved 12 May 2020)

Jim Dougal – Rest in Peace

It is with great sadness that we report the death of our friend Jim Dougal this morning, 27th February 2020. He was a top squash player, competitor and more importantly a gentleman.

Jim had been looking forward to his next birthday so he could achieve great success in the O70’s age group. He was already a multiple winner of several high profile events, including the British O65’s, European Silver medallist and numerous Scottish titles. We pass on our condolences to his wife Jacinta, son and daughters, friends and Scottish Squash. A sad day for our squash family.

Club Mourns the Passing of Jim Dougal

Obituary

http://squash999.com/wsfworldmasters/2010-cologne/http://squash999.com/wsfworldmasters/gallery/

 

 

The Green Hills of Harold Wood

April 26, 2020

YouCanSeeTheNorthDowns

View from Tylers Common to the North Downs

One of things about lockdown is that one needs some structured exercise. Of course we have the garden, but there is limited amount of lawn-mowing one can do and although other gardening activities are undoubtedly tiring, it’s harder to measure what good they are doing us. So we go out together for a walk – at least half an hour walking. Occasionally we start from our house, but that means mostly suburban streets, with perhaps a bit of a main arterial road, so often we start with a short drive – keeping within the guidelines. This allows travel throughout Harold Wood and Harold Hill and to Hornchurch, Upminster and Brentwood, so gives plenty of choices of parks and woods to walk in, while still keeping one’s distance from other people.

Three things attracted us to Harold Wood all those years ago: firstly we could actually afford a house close to the railway station and shops; secondly, there was a rail service from early in the morning to after midnight and thirdly, as the ward included a lot of Green Belt, you could actually walk from the station into ‘real’ countryside.

There are three parks proper in the ward: Harold Wood Park, Paine’s Brook Land and (partially) St Neot’s Road Park. They belong to the Borough Council and are supported by the Friends of Harold Wood Parks. The second group comprises several fragments of the Thames Chase Forest; this was a millennium project and took over underused farmland and re-afforested swathes of it. It is managed by the Forestry Commission. The third and oldest is Tyler’s Common; this is also called Upminster Common, although it is in Harold Wood and 3 miles (5 km) north of Upminster. A name associated with it is Edward Luther. During World War II the Common was taken over as arable land; but by 1950 it was clear that Essex County Council were planning not to return it to its pre-war state. Luther was the most prominent activist who opposed it, resulting in defeat for the County Council.

The three sorts of land have been treated differently during the Covid-19 crisis. Thames Chase has shut off its car parks and closed its visitor centre in Upminster. Havering Council has shut buildings, playgrounds and outdoor gyms in its parks but kept other facilities open, including car parks. Tyler’s Common has no buildings and a single car park, in Nags Head Lane. Like the Thames Chase facilities larger vehicles continue to be denied access by a system of arched entrances and sod walls.

So the Tylers Common car park has been the starting point for a number of our walks

pathwayinfromwarleyroad

The only signboard for Tylers Common

mostly on the Common itself, but including one into the adjacent Tylers Wood and back, and one which crossed Nags Head Lane into Harold Court Woods. The top of the common is quite high up. From one position, you can see the North Downs to the south and Canary Wharf to the west (if you look through the right gap in the trees.) To the east you can see (and sometimes hear) the traffic on the M25, on the other side of Tylers Wood. I am reliably informed  that you can also see the City of London.

Some of the paths are officially bridle paths and some of these have been cut up by horses’  hooves in wetter weather, but most of the paths are easy walking, with a bit of climbing.

https://upminsterhistory.net/2018/10/06/upminster-common-revealed-part-1-bird-lane-and-around-tylers-common/

http://www.thameschase.org.uk/visitor-centres/upminster-and-harold-wood

DoG Street Pub

March 20, 2020

I just got an email from the DoG Street Pub, detailing their closures over the next couple DoGstreetPub

of weeks because of Covid-19. The only time I’ve actually patronised it was in August 2018, when a visit to Virginia included a few days in Colonial Williamsburg. We had a couple of nice evening meals and glasses of good beer there. For a while afterwards, a couple of places we’d patronised in Virginia sent me promotional emails, but this was after a long gap.

In spite of the picture, DoG doesn’t refer to a canine, but is abbreviation for Duke of Gloucester Street, where it stands.  Williamsburg was the original capital of Virginia and includes a governor’s mansion, the home of the Assembly, an Anglican Church and Virginia’s first university – the College of William & Mary. In the early Twentieth Century, the incumbent of the Anglican Church proposed that it should be restored to its Eighteenth Century Colonial era heyday; he also found a Rockefeller to bankroll the project. So the area that was the original Capitol contains a variety of public and private buildings that you can enter with your pass and encounter figures playing the part of eighteenth century characters. Since the restoration removed a lot of stuff from later than the colonial times there are also areas of grass.

During and after the Revolution, the Americans realised that Williamsburg was too close to coast and could be raided by the Royal Navy, so the state Capitol was moved inland to Richmond.

So who was the Duke of Gloucester?  The most famous one was later Richard III (d.1485) but we need to find one late seventeenth century at the earliest.   Queen Anne had many, many children, mostly very short-lived; a boy was one of the longest-lived; he actually was made Duke of Gloucester but died in 1700 at the age of 11. When Queen Anne died, George I came to the throne, with his son, the future George II, whose eldest son – Prince Friedrich or Frederick, was proclaimed Duke of Gloucester in 1717 at the age of 10, though when he grew up he got the title of Duke of Edinburgh and later Prince of Wales.  Frederick’s younger son, and later in turn, his son were styled Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh.  The next Duke of Gloucester proper – the fifth creation, was the son of George V in 1928, whose son is the present Duke.

Being Duke of Gloucester seems to have been an unlucky title for centuries.  After Richard III, the sons of Charles I and Anne died too young and Frederick never succeeded as King.

So, from the timing, I reckon, Frederick was the Duke of Gloucester after whom the street in Williamsburg was named.  If you travel around Virginia there are a surprising number of place names celebrating the Hanoverian royal family, for example Frederickburg, Georgetown and Charlottesville.

Remembering my mother’s father.

March 19, 2020

My eldest granddaughter, now a university student, has all four grandparents still living. More than that, when she was small, she had two great-grandparents around and met at least one of them several times. This is marked contrast to my state, two of my grandparents died nearly twenty years before I was born, my father’s  father died about eighteen months before and my mother’s mother when I was 3 and a half (I do remember her and her cat, which survived her).

My mother’s father is of interest at the moment, because I knew he died around 1918, at the age of nearly 70. I also knew that one of the reasons he emigrated to Australia in the 1880s was that he had problems with his lungs. It seemed a short step to assume that he had died of Spanish ‘flu. As it was around a hundred years ago and we are much concerned with an infectious disease at the moment, it seemed relevant.

After he came back from Australia, my grandfather lived and worked in East Belfast. Belfast was a hive of heavy industry at the time, with many streets of brick houses all heated by coal fires. Its situation in a valley with the sea at one end, mountains to the north and hills to the south made it a bit of fog trap. (It still was c 1960, before smokeless zones; going to a higher viewpoint revealed the city as a sea of white with church spires sticking up out of it.) The Titanic exhibition in Belfast gives a thorough picture of the Belfast my mother and her siblings grew up in.

Starting with the Belfast City Cemeteries’ web site, I soon found my grandfather’s date of death and burial. They were in September 1919; how did this fit in with the Spanish ‘flu?  Time for a bit more probing.

The ‘flu pandemic was Spanish because neutral Spain was the first country that extensively reported it in newspapers – the only media.  Belligerents’ papers were much more discreet or controlled in wartime and may not have been so frank. It also killed a lot of soldiers (not too good for morale); I don’t why, but one can speculate that gathering and mixing men from all over a country, where some may have had no natural immunity, and putting them closely together in barracks and trenches, may have helped the spread.

And Belfast? The city was the first site of Spanish ‘flu in Ireland in the spring of 1918 and led the death tables throughout, possibly helped by the polluted air.  Many victims died of pneumonia, a condition that was still regarded as a death sentence in the 1950s. The ‘flu continued there until the autumn of 1918.

So my grandfather survived the ‘flu pandemic, but died a year later.  On the site, I then followed up my grandmother and my Aunt Jeannie and found their death and grave records related to the same pair of plots. Aunt Jeannie’s claim to family fame was she died of diphtheria as a child and her legacy to my mother (and to me) was an obsession with hygiene. There she was in 1901, not quite 3; that made her the third of six children (my mother was the sixth).

So Covid-19 brought me a bit more knowledge about family history; there’s a lot more digging to do.

 

Why I went into the Bookies, November 2018

November 1, 2019

Remembrance Sunday is important to me, for personal reasons. I spent my boyhood in Enniskillen.

Betting shop in Station Road.

Betting shop in Station Road. Once a NatWest bank.

So last year, when I’d spent time abroad in the run-up toRemembrance Sunday, I hadn’t much time to equip myself and my wife with poppies. I started in Station Road. I seemed to remember them being on sale in the florists’ (long closed), the drycleaners and the Co-op. So I looked into the shops without success. A helpful check-out lady in the Co-op suggested trying Tescos (a mile away) which seemed a bit of an own goal. But passing the bookies, I notice the sought-after tray and collecting box by at cashier’s window.

I’m not what you’d call a betting man. As a student I was very impressed by a sermon I heard condemning betting; this was not on the grounds that people become addicted but on the moral dangers of winning, perhaps, an excessive amount of money which you haven’t worked for. The minister linked it to the commandment ‘Thou shalt not steal.’

So I opt out of betting. I’ll take part in raffles for a Good Cause, though I am slightly embarrassed to win. I’ve actually won the London Liberal Democrats monthly draw three times and quickly given my winnings to Havering Liberal Democrats. I have some shares, some of which have done better than expected; I suppose that could be seen as a sort of gambling, but it’s really hard to avoid that in our society.

So I, for the first time ever, went into a betting shop.  I put my tenner in the box for two poppies.

On to 2019; last Sunday, my wife had to go into Marks & Spencer, Upminster to collect a parcel. The people at the relevant counter were very busy, so we had a longish wait. This gave me time to see a tray of poppies at one end of the counter, so I scrabbled in my wallet for a tenner. But where was the collecting box? Eventually, I located at the other end of counter, near the till, firmly strapped to a pillar.

So when the staff were ready for us and gave my wife her parcel, I said I wanted to buy poppies. They looked somewhat nonplussed so I pointed out the tray and the collecting box, and did my transaction. Job done!

Except that one of the poppies fell apart in my buttonhole three days later!

 

‘The worst British foreign policy blunder since the Suez crisis.’

October 30, 2019

Just a few thoughts on Northern Ireland and Brexit.

In 2016, not long after THAT referendum, I met a friend from Ballymena. He’s someone I’ve co-operated with and like but he came up to me, smiling and eager and said ‘What do you think of Brexit then?’

My reply, without a moment’s thought was: ‘It’s the worst British foreign policy blunder since the Suez crisis.’   His face fell and he studiously avoided discussing politics with me for the rest of the weekend. I stand by what I said then.

I remember the Suez crisis. It was precipitated by President Nasser of Egypt suddenly nationalising the Suez Canal, without compensating its French and British shareholders. The British and French mounted an invasion of the Canal Zone, which was later shown to involve collusion with Israel. This fizzled out when it became clear that they were NOT going to get any support from the USA. While the eyes of the world were on Egypt the Soviet Union re-invaded Hungary. This sorry episode marked a full stop to the United Kingdom’s imperial pretensions and the start of a retreat from bases ‘East of Suez’ The new, more pragmatic, Prime Minister Macmillan started moves for the UK to join what we then called the Common Market.

The second sample was a family gathering in Northern Ireland near the Irish border. A late comer to the party was a farmer who was busy with silage. His wife said to us; ‘When he comes, don’t get him started on Brexit.’, but it was to no avail. He made it quite clear that Brexit would be a disaster. He’s a very professional farmer, active in the farmers’ union, who goes on study visits to other countries to see what we can learn from them. He’s at least the third generation in the family farm.

Over the months more detail emerged about the ill-effects of Brexit on his business. He’s a dairy farmer, not a way to get rich. Northern Ireland produces more milk than it uses at home, so has an export trade across the border. Our friend was well aware that his milk went to Co. Monaghan, in the Republic. Consider what happens in case of a Hard Brexit; we revert to WTO rules and milk being imported into the Irish Republic bears a tariff, putting up the price to the customer. The customer won’t want to pay this extra and will ask his supplier to bear part or all of the extra cost. The farmer loses income or market; either way it could de-stabilise his business.

Have a look at the map of where people voted Remain and Leave in Northern Ireland in the referendum.

Northern Ireland in the 2016 Referendum

Northern Ireland in the 2016 Referendum

Remain (yellow) covers all the areas near the border and most of Belfast and its suburbs, where people are more likely to have wider experience. Leave is concentrated in the DUP heartlands. Intransigent Unionism was prevalent in the first 40 years of Northern Ireland, under the fantasy slogan  ‘A Protestant province for a Protestant people’. As mainstream Ulster Unionism became more reasonable in the 1960s, Ian Paisley formed the DUP and drained away the more stubborn unionists. To the DUP stubbornness is seen as strong – a virtue, even when, as in Brexit, it pursues mutually contradictory policies.

By the way, Ballymena is in North Antrim constituency of Ian Paisley  (pere & fils).

The other thing about Northern Ireland is the strange distribution of Westminster seats, with parties with considerable support having no seats at all in 2017. 10 DUP, 7 Sinn Fein and 1 moderate independent unionist. The STV used for ALL other elections in Northern Ireland gives a much better picture of relative support of the FIVE major parties.

A single Station Road ATM starts charging

October 28, 2019

Went round the corner at the weekend to draw some cash from an ATM – there are three in Station Road. The first one I looked at said on its screen ‘99p charge’, so I moved on.

Station Road

Station Road shops – upper half

Once upon time, there were two banks in Station Road – a NatWest and a Lloyds, each in a single shop unit. Then the NatWest expanded, taking over the next door hardware shop. Both had ATMs. However, banks started working out that they could get away with fewer branches – not caring too much that that might inconvenience their customers. So Lloyds Bank shut and a strangely placed window marks where its ATM used to be.

Former Lloyds Bank

Former Lloyds Bank with edge of Post Office ATM peeping through hole in shutter.

It became a Santander ‘Agency’, whatever that means, and later an estate agent. Sometime later NatWest pulled out, but its ATM, by then the only one, got transferred to the wall of the railway station. At certain times of the day, sunlight shone directly on the screen making it illegible. My technique was to raise my shoulders to more effectively block out the sunlight; my pose was reminiscent of a vulture in a horror cartoon.

I’m not quite sure the exact sequence of what follows, but I think the Bank of Ireland ATM in the Post Office came next. There was a snag – the post office frontage is cut off by a roller shutter out of hours. A hole was cut in the shutter – not quite in line with the ATM – which allows ATM use out of hours. If you arrive when the shutter is being wound up or down, the ATM is switched off, so you have to wait a little until it is switched on again. This ATM was joined by Cash Zone one in the Co-op and an NM ATM in the newsagents. Meanwhile, the former NatWest office had become a financial services office – I never found out precisely what they did; after some years they left and the office became a bookies. I’m sure a social historian would love to study this sequence.

During this period, extensive re-modelling of Harold Wood Station for Crossrail started; this included gutting the booking office and removal of the NatWest ATM. The station building has remained an empty shell for years.

My father spent his working life in retail banking; for him respect for the customers and community was a moral code. He would have been appalled by what has happened in recent years. Banks shutting branches, so that rural communities are left without any bank. Which magazine documents how a new wave of closures is in progress. Although ATMs are a partial replacement Which notes that the tendency is close them too, and to impose charges where before they were free to use. What happened in Station Road is a fairly trivial example of this, but if it happens in a village or country town it could be serious. Use and availability of cash is important to some people, even in these days of internet banking and payment cards. The people most likely to be affected are often those already disadvantaged.

When the banks left Station Road, you could still draw cash at the Post Office. A recent row involves one bank, Barclays, proposing to withdraw even this facility. The threat of interrogation by a Select Committee of MPs caused them to back down. Good!

Behind all this is bargaining going one between the banks, the ATM networks and the Post Office about the fees they charge each other.

The other two ATMs in Station Road have ‘Free Cash Withdrawals’ proclaimed on their facades. For them to start charging will not be so easy.