Flindt on Friday: Cheques – farmer familiarity in new-age banking

Every so often, the authorities decide that it must be about time they did away with cheques, and launch a consultation on their future.

The result is usually a narrow consensus for keeping the quaint unfashionable little slips of paper – for a few more years, anyway.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the Flindt on Friday column a couple of weeks ago, it’s that the farming community still loves to write a cheque.

See also: Read more from Charlie Flindt

They have been pouring in; there were so many nicely hand-written envelopes being delivered that one of our lovely local posties gently asked if “something had happened in the family”. He was delighted at the real reason.

In fact, I had so many – nearly 200 – that in order to process them, I did something I haven’t done for many years: I went to my bank.

The farm was still under water, so I thought I’d make a bit of a trip out of it, and follow Dad’s favourite route into Winchester, which he drove every Monday to get the “money for the men”.

Chi-chi villages

It’s a fun little drive, following the River Itchen closely as it heads north from Hinton Marsh (or New Cheriton as it was re-named when the property developers arrived), then west, through some frightfully chi-chi little villages.

I doubt Dad would notice much change; a few more security gates here, a vineyard there.

Then on into Winchester, past land that he himself managed in the 40s and 50s, and finally to the car park at the old Winchester cattle market – long gone, of course.

It’s a short walk through historic Hyde (resting place of King Alfred), into the High Street, and into the bank.

At least, I thought it was the bank; from the outside it looked the same. But the interior now resembles a cross between a burger bar and a playgroup.

Lots of primary colours, child-like posters and – God save us – piped music. I popped outside to check that I had the right place. Yup, it was definitely my bank.

Cheque in

I stood there for a moment, trying to get my bearings. What happened to the long counter, and all its staff?

Where was Roz, who’d been chuckling at Dad’s toe-curling banter for decades as she counted out the tenners for the wage packets?

Where was the severe little room where I was taken in 1976 (in jacket and tie) for a chat with the manager, to open my first personal account?

In fact, where was the seriousness, the sense of solemnity – the gravitas? What would grandfather Hamilton Flindt, who ran that bank’s horticultural society in the 1920s, say?

(Top trivia: the British National Carnation Society hand out an H L Flindt Cup every year.)

There was one open plan desk – no chairs, everyone standing in that oh-so-trendy way – that was actually quite busy with traditional banking matters.

A diminutive girl was paying in the weekend’s takings, handing over huge rolls of notes that made me wonder about the wisdom of replacing emergency shutters with feng shui.

When my turn came, the cheque check was quick and reassuringly old-fashioned.

The one that had winged its way across the Irish Sea dated ‘2021’ was quietly handed back, and (once the ‘total’ had been adjusted) the paying-in book was stamped, initialled, and returned in no time.

On the way out, I couldn’t help thinking that if you ignored what looked like a playpen, and the anaemic tunes seeping from hidden ceiling speakers, it was just like the old days. Abolish the cheque? I don’t think so.