"The Oldie is an incredible magazine - perhaps the best magazine in the world right now" Graydon Carter, founder of Air Mail and former Editor of Vanity Fair

Subscribe to the Oldie and get a free cartoon book


Memory Lane: I fell for the girl at Northern Rock. By Roger Ley

Blog | Feb 14, 2024

It was 2008 and I would shortly be retiring from my job teaching at City College in Norwich. I had sold my house, moved into a rented property and planned to buy a bungalow in the country.

Now came a problem – where to put the quarter of a million pounds the sale of my house had raised? The banks were in crisis; there was the smell of the 1920s Weimar Republic in the air. The financial system was teetering on the edge of oblivion – my life savings could disappear.

There was only one logical place to put the money: Northern Rock. After the run on it in 2007, the Government had nationalised it and guaranteed all deposits. So my money would be as safe as the Bank of England!

I opened an account and gave my solicitor the sort code and account number. I could start my last year of teaching and begin looking for a bungalow near Southwold.

The passbook from the Northern Rock arrived soon after I’d opened the account, but as it showed only my initial small deposit, I decided to walk round to the branch during my lunch hour and have it updated.

I had been divorced for decades and, although there had been ‘relationships’ over the years, none had stuck. So, as I approached my 60th birthday, I was footloose and fancy-free.

The young woman behind the counter in Northern Rock was pleasantly efficient. She was in her thirties and had a soft Geordie accent that brought back memories of Barbara, a girl I’d courted unsuccessfully in my early twenties. She was lovely. As she received my passbook, I heard myself say to her, ‘Come away with me. Come away now. Just leave everything and come away.’

She looked down at the open passbook and, smiling, slid it under the glass to me. I left the bank hoping I hadn’t embarrassed her. I’d only meant it as a joke.

Several weeks went by before I had to call in again. She smiled as I approached and handed her my passbook. We chatted as she dealt with my transaction and we laughed about my previous visit. As I was about to leave, I asked, ‘As a matter of interest, what would it have taken for you to come away with me?’

She looked me in the eye and smiled. ‘Another zero, Mr Ley. Another zero.’

By Roger Ley, Bruisyard, Suffolk, who receives £50

Readers are invited to send in their own 400-word submissions about the past