Banking – a Teen-eye View

Very sadly, in their “wisdom” Co-operative Bank have decided to close our town’s Britannia Building Society branch and, as this is where my daughter’s account is held and she really does need somewhere with a local branch to pay in and withdraw money, we’ve had to close her account and look for somewhere else to put her money.

Our last trip to Britannia was very sad. The lady there had red eyes and said she had spent the latter part of the week, since the news of the forthcoming closure was made public, closing accounts and saying goodbye to people. As she’s worked there for the past 30 years and isn’t sure whether or not she’ll be made redundant, you can understand how she’s feeling.

We left, armed with a cheque which my daughter wanted to get paid into a new account as soon as possible. Despite the sadness of leaving Britannia, she felt quite positive and was looking forward to seeing what the banks could offer her.  Admittedly it’s not a huge cheque given that my daughter took out money before Christmas and then again in the new year to go shopping in the sales, but it is a cheque nevertheless and there is the added incentive for the bank that my nan has decided to make regular payments into my daughter’s new account. We thought they’d be biting her arm off to have her as a new customer….

We did have a limited number of places to look at, not living in a city. The following is what we found from a quick trip around the banks we have in town, on a Saturday morning, and the opinions are from the point of view of how we found the staff rather than based on the quality of accounts on offer. As my husband and I don’t use any of these local banks ourselves, I was completely unbiased and, like my daughter, was making decisions on impressions made on the day.

We did consider the local Plough & Share scheme but as they are also only open on a Monday at present between 1 and 3 it would mean me running my daughter’s account as she doesn’t leave school until after 3. They are a fantastic and good ethical choice otherwise in my opinion.

HSBC in our town don’t open at all on a Saturday. As my daughter and her friends often decide last minute to catch a train into the city to go on a spending spree this put her off immediately. It’s a bit of a shame as she’d been into the bank with my mother and was quite keen to go in there as it was familiar to her.

We thought of the Post Office but the queue was doubled up inside and then out of the door.

We tried Santander but the ladies in there started off by standing in the background chatting to each other and then, when one did come to speak to us, she talked so fast we weren’t really able to catch what she said, she left us no time to ask questions just told us to take the paperwork, read it and come back, and talked about my daughter rather than to her. They didn’t ask if she had money to invest or whether she needed a savings or current account.

Barclays have an undercover lobby to walk through which had the smell of a toilet so daughter wouldn’t even go in!!

Lloyds Bank were interested in taking her money but only if someone introduced her as a customer. When they found out that my husband and I weren’t already customers of theirs, the attention immediately passed from my daughter to me and trying to sell me their current and savings accounts so that I could then introduce my daughter. Presumably this would be after someone had introduced us? Again my daughter wasn’t asked what sort of account she needed but they did say that an advisor would be able to help her with that if we could find someone to introduce her/us. They said I would need MY passport and driving licence – neither of which I have. This would apparently pose a problem. They did tell her that she would probably have a cashpoint card and when she said she had no idea what that was as she’d never had one before, they said I would be able to help her with that….

Next we tried NatWest. Daughter was initially put off as it does look a bit old-fashioned and forbidding from outside but, honestly, we were running short on options by then. But what a warm welcome! It was a young (compared to me!) girl behind the counter who was backed up by other colleagues who weren’t serving at the time and all of them spoke only to my daughter. They asked her what she was interested in and, given that she wanted to pay in her cheque and also had the regular savings from nan, they suggested having 2 accounts (and at this point showed her the latest NatWest piggy, which may well have swayed the decision!). We were invited to make an appointment and when I didn’t have my diary with me, my daughter was given a card with their details. I would need to come along but only needed to bring a household bill to prove our address and my daughter her birth certificate to prove her identity. We left with leaflets, details of their website for further information if we needed it, an assurance that a member of their staff would explain cashpoint cards to my daughter and much more a positive feeling.

All in all I have to say I was quite shocked and disappointed by our experiences. After all the bad press that banks receive I’d have thought they’d be interested in gaining new customers at an early age and encouraging them to use their accounts properly. What a shame that, other than the NatWest Bank, the most positive, polite and friendly person was the lady from Britannia who stands to lose her job.

Well, I'd be interested....!

Well, I’d be interested….!

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Energise Me!!! (Please!)

You may remember last year that I took part in a brilliant challenge suggested by those clever people at Whittard? I created a cake in a mug….cooked in the microwave! Yes, really! Check back to October 2013 if you don’t believe me!

Well, Whittard have issued another challenge via their Blog – a Healthy New Year Blogger Carnival 

I think you ought to have a go…..

I have!

By far my best discovery so far this year is Whittard’s amazing Cinnamon & Orange Superior Tea Pyramids. They’re a flavoured Green Tea – and we all know how wonderful Green Tea is for you. It’s loaded with antioxidants and nutrients which do you masses of good – go ahead and Google if you don’t believe me (honestly, are you already not believing me for the second time in this one post. Humph!). Anyway, from the very second you open your pack of Cinnamon & Orange tea bags you KNOW you’re in for a special treat and, I swear, you’ll heave a huge satisfied sigh and put the kettle on immediately.  Here, let me tempt you further….

Try it now!

Try it now!

It’s okay, it doesn’t come with a funny sticky out aerial, I just took the photo of it in front of my radio…

So, what does this have to do with cookery and healthy recipes? Well, I decided that I needed a bit of an afternoon energy boost to go with my delicious cuppa so wondered about making some flapjacks (oats are good for digestion, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, helps control blood sugar levels, helps maintain a healthy weight fact fans – I Googled this time!) …..soaking the dried fruit in my Cinnamon & Orange tea before using it! I know – genius right?! And you know what, it worked!! It was delicious…..so delicious that I nearly ate all of the fruit before putting it in with the rest of the ingredients. So, here’s the recipe in case you’d like a go for yourself.

150g oats (I used organic jumbo oats)
45g dried fruit (I used cranberries brought back to life by soaking in Cinnamon & Orange tea)
40g seeds (I used sunflower seeds)
2 apples (I used Pink Lady….sorry, I’m being very specific aren’t I?!)
A quick glug of oil (Virgin Olive in this case)
3tbsp honey
1tbsp cinnamon (yes more, I know but yum!)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of salt

After heating the oven to 170 degrees (fan) chop your apples and then zap them in a food processor until they’re very finely chopped.

Slop a glug of oil into a saucepan, add the honey and vanilla and heat gently. Add the apples when the mixture is runny and warm and mix together well.

In another bowl mix together the oats, fruit, seeds, salt and cinnamon then add the apple mixture to them.

Press the mixture into a greased/lined tin and bake for 15-20 mins (mine needed 20) until they’re a lovely golden brown.

Turn them out and leave them (if you possibly can!) to cool and then cut them into HUGE pieces…..or normal sized slices if you’re anyone other than me!

Put the kettle on, get a lovely cup of Cinnamon & Orange on the go, sit with your feet up and go AHHHHHH very loudly….. Feel a bit smug and very happy!

Ha, managed to miss the aerial out of this photo!

Ha, managed to miss the aerial out of this photo!

 

 

Happy New Year!

Okay, so it is a little late but I really do wish you all the very best for 2014. I hope it’s happy, healthy and full of fun, new adventures and laughter.

So…….million dollar question…..have you made any resolutions?! I usually avoid them were possible because, let’s face it, they’re a pain! Why, unless you have determination of steel, put yourself up to fail and feel bad? So, how about this for a more positive idea for 2014….

Think of a wonderful thought.....any merry little thought...

Think of a wonderful thought…..any merry little thought…

Yup, a special jar just to keep note of your happy thoughts, things that have made you smile, laugh or just tickled your fancy (oo-er! Lucky you!). I can’t claim to have come up with the idea as it was floating around on Facebook, but I think it’s a great idea. The idea is that you keep adding to these notes all year and then on New Year’s Eve take them out, reflect on the year and hopefully have a bit of a chuckle at the happy memories. Sounds good doesn’t it? No pressure to do it day after day, just when the fancy takes you. Good use for a Kilner Jar too! I’ve delivered one to my mum so she can do the same. As you can see I have several (leaf shaped) notes in mine already whereas mum has added a couple of objects and is intending doing longer messages rather than just sketchy notes like me! I think I’ll probably print out a couple of photos and add them as well. When I run out of leaf post it notes, I can always use these great “toast-it” notes!

Tasty!

Tasty!

Here are a couple of photos of my happy memories so far this year to inspire you to perhaps take a leaf out of my book (or out of my jar!) and give it a go yourself.

My nephew couldn't blow his "tooter" properly but sat there quite happily making the "right noise" while we were all being daft!

My nephew couldn’t blow his “tooter” properly but sat there quite happily making the “right noise” while we were all being daft!

Lovely sight on 2nd January - a break in the rain and storms and signs of spring to come!

Lovely sight on 2nd January – a break in the rain and storms and signs of spring to come!