Costly nibble at the bank

fishing lines
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MY BANK and I have had a chequered relationship. This may be because of my desire to spend more time fishing than working and a determination to subvert the bank's traditional role. They have tiresomely insisted on preserving a system under which you give the bank money, and pay for the privilege of doing so.

However, I thought things were getting better when my now manager turned out to be a born-again fisherman. Some would say these are the very worst sort, especially those who have discovered fly-fishing. At parties or social gatherings they corner anyone who has ever held a rod, describing in detail their last fishing trip, right down to how many hackles the fly had. They are immune to the fact that their audience may be someone who only fishes for pike, and sees trout merely as a useful bait.

Audiences with bank managers are generally about as exciting as reading about paint drying. But my last meeting, called to renew my overdraft, was quite a surprise. The bank manager skipped through the dull business in a couple of minutes and rapidly brought the conversation round to fishing. "I see you write about angling," he said casually. "I've just taken it up myself."

I know a trout with an open mouth when I see one. I took full advantage, promising him trips to private waters, revolutionary items of tackle not available to the public and the best of the latest books in return for a few trifling amendments to my account

I was convinced the hour-long meeting (15 minutes on business, 45 minutes on fishing) had taken just the course I had schemed when he mentioned that he was organising the NatWest Bank charity fishing match. This is an exclusive jolly for celebrities, bank worthies, codgers from the Trout Society and the press. "I'm surprised you haven't had an invitation, but I don't organise the press side," he said. "Leave it to me. I'll sort it out to make sure you're invited."

Wow! I haven't had such a friendly meeting with a bank manager since I put in a wedge of redundancy money more than a decade ago. He even said that next time we should have our meeting over lunch - and he would pay. Suddenly I foresaw my relationship with NatWest entering a new and more favourable phase.

Of course, I never sent him those unique items of tackle, invited him to stretches of the Test or Kennet, or even forwarded any books. I get a few books, it's true, but none of the other stuff, whatever people think, is available to the average hack. However, it's no bad thing to perpetuate the myth, especially if your bank manager believes that Hardy Brothers design all your rods just so they can claim you are a customer.

That meeting was a couple of months ago. It's been a busy time, and I forgot all about his invitation. Then, this week, an envelope marked "Personal" arrived with the bank's logo. The letter was headed NATWEST STILL WATER TROPHY 6 MAY 1995 and opened: "Dear Keith" (not Mr Elliott, I noted).

"You will recall that, last time we met, I mentioned that I have arranged a charity fly fishing match on 6 May."

Good old Don! (First-name terms now.) I read on. The contest was between the bank, a team of fishery managers and owners, the Trout Society and a celebrity team. Already Chris Tarrant and Roger Daltrey had agreed to fish, along with a few trout fishers who pen columns to the monthlies and claim they are journalists. The response has been overwhelming, and it promises to be a great day blah blah blah . . .

But then came the crunch.

"We are limited to the numbers of fishermen on the day, but would welcome non-fishing guests to watch and join us for lunch. The cost for lunch will be £7.50 per head. Would you kindly let us know as soon as possible if you will be joining us."

What? The treacherous bastard! I hope he's sent the same letter to David Profumo of the Daily Telegraph, Tom Fort of the Financial Times, Brian Clarke of the Times and even Stan Plecha on the Sun. God help him if one of them is actually fishing.

So much for a day's charity fishing with celebrities of the angling world. I'm merely being invited along to watch others fish and being asked to pay for the privilege at that. I wouldn't be surprised if he takes £7.50 out of my account without telling me. I can't think of anything more boring than watching others fish - except, perhaps, going fishing with your bank manager.