It was decided – well “she” decided – that we were to get married in April 1967. We had some planning to do. Furniture, bedding etc. all had to be decided upon. We put together a book where we could list all the things we needed. We could then start picking designs etc. As part of our wanders around the West End, we had quite often ended up in the King’s Road. At that time, the King’s Road area in Chelsea was THE place to go. One of the places we liked there was the new Habitat shop. Now, no-one had ever seen anything quite like Habitat before. It was a centre of the best in 1960s design at reasonable prices. This made it easier to decide on stuff because it had most things under it’s roof.
The real problem was that we spent a lot of money in going backwards and forwards between Romford and Streatham and neither of us was earning a lot of money. Although I was in the FX dealing room of the bank, clearing banks at that time didn’t pay any premium to staff working there. Eventually, I got a few merit rises over the posted salary grades (which were based solely on age – oh and there were different salaries for men and women!) but not at this time. Remember that, at that time, the top of the salary table was a 30 year old man where it was at £1,000p.a. (which when adjusted for inflation was a mighty £15,500 in today’s money). So, banking wasn’t the best paid job around at that time. This meant that we were never able to save too much for the great day. I think that, at that time, we were earning that much between us, given our ages. Mind you, we didn’t have computers, big screen TVs, etc. available. Still, I was smoking a pipe at that time, which cost some money.
One of the main things that everyone needs when getting married is somewhere to live. We were, obviously, only able to rent at that time so we had to start looking for somewhere. We started looking at what were then called “digs” in the Streatham area. Digs involved someone letting out a couple of rooms in their house – nothing self contained of course. Those that we saw were, frankly, appalling. I mentioned this one lunchtime in the bank rest room. One of my friends at that time – Tony Saville (who worked in the Securities department) mentioned that he was moving out of his flat as he had managed to get a mortgage from the bank. He was living in the Kennington Road which was about 2 miles or so from the City. We went and had a look and found that it was a nice flat situated above a line of shops with a handy bus route outside. It was some way from Streatham and a long way from Romford but we wanted to fly the nest and this looked a likely spot to end up. Unfortunately, my boss had other ideas!
My immediate boss was John Botevyle, who was Treasury Manager but his boss was Mr. Robinson – the Assistant Manager of the Foreign Department (I would never have known his first name!). I had to get an employer’s reference for the landlord and it was Mr. Robinson’s job to do that. The rent on the flat was £30.00 per month (about £450 nowadays) so it was a reasonable rent for a two bedroom flat in a nice area. Hmmm, I hadn’t reckoned on 1960’s banking strictures on staff commitments. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that the bank didn’t consider that we could afford this. I pointed out to him that we didn’t have much choice because if it wasn’t this one, it would be something and anything decent was around this price. He came back to me after a few days with a new plan. It seems that the bank branch in Watford had a self contained flat over it and the staff member living there was moving on to another posting so this would become available. It even tied in with our wedding date.
Bank flats were subsidised at that time and it was a very good thing to get hold of one. However, Watford was 16 miles from Euston which was 2 1/2 miles from the Cornhill and needed an underground ride. We costed this up and, although I can’t remember the breakdown, the total cost of the rent and the fares for us to commute came to – wait for it – £30.00. No amount of pleading made any difference so, that’s how it was left. We agreed to take the flat. However, having made the point, the bank did think about this and came up with a slight adaption to the plan.
Valerie had started work in the Cheque Clearing department and had done rather well there. She was one of the first to be trained on the new-fangled automated cheque sorting machines so she had stood out a little. From here, she had been “promoted” to working in various branches around the central London area. She started off at the new Regent Street branch and had then moved to the Oxford Street branch – someway down near Bond Street. One of her big assets was that she had a built in desire to get out of the branch at the earliest time possible. In those days work in the branch finished when all the day’s work was complete. With Valerie’s urging, they quite often got done around 4.30! She had even been on a course up in Manchester Head Office (well Lloyd Entwistle branch actually) where, she will tell you, she shared a hotel with the Kinks – then a famous pop group! As she was now adept at branch work, they came up with a plan for her to move to the Wembley Branch of the bank. This was situated between Watford and Euston so she would save money by having a much reduced travel cost.
So that was how it was left as we prepared to get married and move away from both of our families.