Conversations about Banks

My father always had various banks as tenants in his buildings. They were good anchor tenants and signed long leases.IN the early days of building societies he also had one or two of those as tenants, and was appointed chairman of the local board of the Prudential Equity Building Society and later a director of the Standard Building Society.  When the Bank of Athens opened in South Africa he was also appointed a director of that bank.

He was particularly proud of that appointment, and had a small branch in one of his buildings. That branch has just closed down this year, not because of my father but because of the GFC, the Global (and Greek) Financial Crisis. This appointment gave him an excuse and a ticket to attend board meetings in Athens. He would base himself in the village and have Stavros drive him through for the meetings and wait for him until the meeting finished and they could return from the world of high finance to the real world of sheep in the valley around the old stone house.

In 1986 I did my fourth year elective in internal medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London. We stayed in the nurses/doctors residence with communal toilets that everyone used and communal kitchens no one used. We ate in the hospital canteen and when we were out and about in London at McDonalds where a Big Mac as less than £1, which was good value. That was until we discovered a Lebanese drug joint behind the hospital that made the most amazing kebabs for the same amount and we risked our lives to enjoy good food and become regular clients there. We never bought drugs, though.

Four events remain with me from that time in London. One was getting so down with London weather that we escaped to Amsterdam for a fun weekend. The second was hearing Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto at the Royal Albert. The third was being complimented by the consultant who saw me once a week when he worked (the rest of the time I was exploring) and was most impressed with my diligence?

The last event was an invitation by the chairman of the Bank of Athens in London to lunch. My father had been in contact with him, as they were good friends. All I had to do was call from a red public telephone and arrange a day with his secretary. It was another grey day in London and I arrived with creased clothes as we never ironed our clothes after washing in the Laundromat. I was led into his office and we chatted. He accorded me respect because of my name, and my father, and imminent profession. They were all greater than I was at that stage of my life. I still had to grow up. I was only 24 years  old.

After our business chat I was led into the board room, where two dining settings were placed. We took our seats and the secretary served a true Greek salad and we had roast chicken with lemon. We washed down the moist aromatic chicken with Retsina from Greece and finished the meal with fruit and a Greek Coffee. It was the best meal I had had in London. My father must have known I would be on the verge of nutritional bankruptcy, and edged me on to meet with his friend for lunch.

Banking had many facets in his life.

A shepherd in the field next to No 45 Kakouri

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