The CD of my life: “Under Pressure”  “Queen and David Bowie”

29 Jun

For new readers unfamiliar with the concept the series of articles on this site with titles beginning “The CD of my life” comprise the contents of the little boxes of particular memories of events in my life which are triggered by my hearing a particular song.
At least thats how it normally works. Sometimes, however, it works the other way round – thinking of a particular event brings back the song I (often for very obscure reasons) associate with it.

I should also say that the events brought back are not necessarily highlights of my life and in this instance remind me of a monumental injustice that still annoys me even after more than 30 years!

In 1982 I was in what turned out to be my final year at the Norwich office of Barclays Bank Trust Company  an office of around 60 people in all. In the normal way of things in Trust Company offices this meant that the more sociable of us struggled to put together teams of four people for the various Norwich inter-branch competitions which we were entitled to compete in.  I’m not sure whether this was because people tended to live a long way outside of Norwich and after-hours attendance was required or just because they were a boring and apathetic bunch!

Actually I am sure that both of those explanations were right, with the second part applying to members of the Executorship & Trustee Department – it must have been something to do with them dealing with dead people all of the time! I recall an occasion when a member of that team walked past the Tax Department, yawning prodigiously.

One of my colleagues looked up at me and remarked “He’s been talking to himself again!”


1982 was the year that General Knowledge quizzes really took off  prompted I think by the launch of the board game Trivial Pursuit in that year  and, not to be left out, Barclays Norwich area Sports & Social club decided that an Inter-branch knock out quiz competition would make a refreshing change from the old favourites of Darts and Ten-Pin Bowling.

So we entered a team. Actually I do seem to think that as this was more an intellectual pursuit than physical, we got more interest in the office than usual and entered TWO teams.  I dont think the other one lasted long, however, and I was only really interested in mine anyway!

I remember that 16 teams from the central Norwich branches (Trust Company included) gathered at a function room of a large city centre hotel in Norwich to be reduced down to the single team that would take on the winners from 3 other parts of the district in the Grand Final in a few weeks time.

I dont recall too many of the fine details and I think most of the questions were given to the teams in turn and answers had to come through the team captains. I do remember that both teams had either buzzers or bells so there must have been at least one quick-fire round in each match,  quite possibly the music round.

At this point it is relevant for me to digress slightly and educate you about banking qualifications of the time.

All Bank staff (those with any expectations of a career anyway) were expected to be members of The Chartered Institute of Bankers and were expected to study for their qualifications. To achieve the prestigious ACIB letters after ones name it was necessary to complete the 5 more generalised subjects of part 1 before moving on to the more specialised areas of part 2. For most people Part 1 was as far as they wanted to go especially as you had to get 2 of the 5 subjects at one go before knocking off the other three at leisure.

I tried Principles of Law and Accountancy at my first attempt.  I passed the first but failed the latter because of an innate inability to get the hang of double entry bookkeeping! Basically I learned in the classroom of Ipswich Civic College that the Debit side was the side nearest the window and then had to take the exam in a hall which only had skylights!

So, for my second attempt I did Law again, tried (and failed) Accountancy again and also took (without any course of study at all and on the grounds that I shouldnt really have needed one for that particular subject) English.   I got my two passes and decided that was enough for the time being.  I never, in fact, got any more! The Law exam contained a compulsory question (that had to be passed in its own right for one to get any sort of pass in the whole thing) on Negotiable Instruments – that is to say, Banking Law which had no bearing on my work at all but which does have a bearing on where this is going.

Those examination passes, I should mention also, were obtained in 1975  seven years before this story  so I could probably have been forgiven for having forgotten most of the subject matter.

Meanwhile, back at the inaugural inter-branch General Knowledge quiz, the Trust Company team sailed majestically and easily through the first three rounds to the final where we were to meet the top team from the main Norwich banking branch, Bank Plain.

Despite having had a degree of success with their team we were rather surprised when our opponents made a substitution for the final. We were told that their normal captain had not been able to attend earlier because she was taking her Institute of Bankers examinations.

We were still pondering why this was so important when the Question Master and organiser announced that the final was to contain an  extra round worth eight points. on BANKING LAW!

For some reason all of the Banking Branch teams had been made aware of this but no-one had thought to notify Trust Company (although we had received all other communications)!

With a sense of foreboding we took our places, tested our buzzers and things were fairly even over the opening rounds.

Then came the additional special round where our only consolation was that incorrectly answered questions were not offered to the other teams for bonus points.

Not too surprisingly, with their captain perfectly primed with the required knowledge the Bank Plain team gained all eight points – we got ONE and were thus well behind as we got to the final music round. It was a simple name the artist or band round following the playing of an excerpt from a song and I rather lost track of who had answered which question correctly as it progressed.

As our Captain I went last and correctly identified Queen & David Bowie following a snippet of the track mentioned as the title of this piece.

And then came the scores.

We had lost by ONE POINT!

To say that we took our defeat well would not be absolutely true and I was still seething the next day when I was asked by Eric Northam our Tax Department Manager how we had got on.

Eric was a calm, quite gentle person but after I explained he asked me to close his office door and listen while he called the organising manager at his desk in a nearby branch.

He delivered a blistering bollocking about the special round and went into great detail about how Barclays was much more than just staff in Branch Banking. He did not allow the other guy a moment to try to refute the obvious accusation of cheating and asked how HIS branch would have felt if they had got to the final and been confronted with similar questions on obscure points of UK Tax Law!

“Well dont ever do that again” was how he finished off before throwing the phone back into its cradle, then turned to me and advised me to forget about it!

As you see though, I didn’t and even though its been 34 years it still rankles!

Here is the usual link to a YouTube version:


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Posted by on June 29, 2016 in CD of my Life


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