Living Spit’s Howard Coggins takes us behind the scenes of The Six Wives of Henry VII, or more specifically, to the bank.
“We’re going to need to open a company bank account…”
Company. Bank. Account.
Not me, I thought, that’s too… well… capitalist. I’m an artist. I stick it to the man. I hold a mirror up to this greedy, money-crazed, consumerist society. The daily grind of the nine-to-five treadmill is not for me. I’m free to plot my own course, to plough my own furrow, to go where the wind takes me, to…
“We’re going to need to open a company bank account so that we can get paid.”
Suddenly it all began to make sense. This was clearly our number one priority.
And so it was that last Monday morning Stu and I bundled ourselves into my car to head into the centre of Bristol’s financial district. Just in our ordinary clothes, mind. We didn’t put on ties or anything like that.
“Meet me on St. Stephen’s Street at 9.30,” Craig had said. We trust Craig. He’s older than us and has an air of louche authority about him. He’s also a big Smiths/Morrissey fan, bearing a more than passing resemblance to the vegetarian miserablist.
Luckily, I thought of a way to turn this to my advantage. Stephen Street was the producer of almost all of The Smiths’ records, providing me with a handy aide-memoire as to where we were going. “Craig looks like Morrissey,” I thought to myself. “Morrissey was produced by Stephen Street. We’re going to Stephen Street. Brilliant.” As you can imagine, I was pretty pleased with myself.
“D’you know where we’re going?” Asked Stu as we set off from Clevedon.
“Yeah” I said, as I punched the address into my sat-nav, “It’s funny, because we’re going to Stephen Street, and Stephen Street was the Smiths’ producer, and Craig looks just like Morrissey.”
Stu chuckled politely, just as the route popped up and we set off.
Half an hour later, as we sat dejectedly in the rush-hour traffic on Coronation Road, it occurred to me that Redfield isn’t exactly in the centre of Bristol’s financial district, and yet that was where we were heading.
Stu rang Craig.
“No, SAINT Stephen’s Street!” barked Craig from the other end of the phone, using the tone that he normally reserves for the rehearsal room. “Just off Corn St. Right in the centre of Bristol’s financial district.”
“We’ll be about fifteen minutes.”
He’d calmed down by the time we got there, and we were ready to make our assault on the financial institutions of the city. Not literally, of course. All three of us are very keen to stay within the law, and wouldn’t advocate any kind of direct action on any institution, financial or otherwise. Also, we all bruise easily and would quite like to hang on to our boyish good looks.
It had been decided that we would open our account with the Co-op bank, their ethical credentials being a self-righteous badge that we’d all quite like to wear. We all read the Guardian you know, and only ever drive our cars with an appropriate level of middle-class guilt.
As we bound up to the door, slightly awkward glances were exchanged. We’ve known each other for many years, but this is the first time that we’ve made work together on our own without a grown-up and we’re still working on the group dynamic. Who was going to go in first and make first contact?
We stepped back, all of us realising that this wasn’t the time to rush into things. Then I remembered that before drama school in the 80s, Craig had worked in a bank. This of course made him the obvious candidate to go in and make our enquiry – that and the fact that he’s the oldest. I pointed out both of these facts. Realising that resistance was futile, Craig drew himself up to his full height, adjusted his quiff and strode manfully forward, Stu and I following behind like a pair of awkward teenagers.
Immediately upon entering the bank it became clear that banking had changed since the 80s. And not in a way that Craig, or indeed any of us, approved of. The callow youth that greeted us like a cut-price comissionaire informed us that we would not be able to open a business account in person as these things were now dealt with over the phone. He then gestured in the direction of a booth in the corner containing a desk, on which was a phone.
We looked at each other, contemplating the unhappy realisation that we’d driven twelve miles through rush hour traffic, including a detour to Redfield, for the best part of an hour, in order to make a phone call. We all have phones. In our houses. That we can use from bed, if necessary. We didn’t point this out to our new friend, instead accepting his offer to dial the number for us with the good grace that those who have known us for any length of time will have come to expect.
“Put it on speakerphone” I said to Craig, who had once again been volunteered to speak to the telephone operative.
After collectively listening to the ringing tone for five minutes, it became clear that patience was wearing thin on all sides of the Living Spit triangle.
“What time is it?” asked Stu
“Five to ten” I replied.
“Shall we give it till ten?”
“Nah. Let’s just go.”
And with that, we flounced out. Actually, ‘flounce’ doesn’t really describe it. It was more try-and-sneak-out-so-that-our-new-friend-doesn’t-see-us’. We were unsuccessful in this, and his disappointment was palpable as we bundled ourselves out of the door.
This became the running theme of the morning. Bank after bank informed us that accounts could not be opened in person, and air was sucked through teeth as we tendered the response “No. We haven’t got an appointment.”
“Shall we go and have a coffee?” Craig said, recognising that the mood had darkened.
And so we did.