by Godfrey Boden
I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows, where oxslips and the nodding violet grows, there sleeps Titania...........
Just which bank Shakespeare was thinking of, I don't know, it certainly wasn't one of ours, we don't have any fairies - just gremlins.
However, we do try to make our offices as pleasant as possible for customers and staff and so nowadays we have flower displays at strategic points and encourage members of the staff to exercise their skill in arrangements.
(Memo - I must get a book on this sometime, I have heard of the language of flowers and I believe that, for the Japanese at least, each arrangement has a definite meaning. Could it be, when I admire some tasteful display that it is really saying 'A thousand welcomes, honourable boss of the fifth degree' or is the medium capable of expressing less elevated thoughts such as 'Get lost'?)
We also hope that those who are skilled in the management of potplants will bring their over-flow to the office and so save the petty cash a trifle. Sometime ago, one of our managers brought a small plant from home, it was called Lazy Jane or some such home-spun name. This, in the easy-going home environment, had just jogged along, adding a few millimetres to its growth each month, but when it was installed at the end of the counter at the Bank, it speeded up and soon was promoted from a 4 inch pot to a 6 inch and then to a 12 inch. I suppose that it was impressed by the general efficiency of the branch or possibly (being a vegetable) it had listened to the grapevine and had heard certain rumours of a productivity bonus. Anyway, it grew and grew and soon became so large that it interfered with the handling of cash at the end till. No-one wished to cut it back, lest it be discouraged, and eventually a place was found for it in a large niche above the machine room. Its growth continued, it put out twigs and branches which pushed through small apertures into the machine room itself. It is even said that one probing shoot penetrated inside a posting machine and converted it to decimals some months in advance of D-day. Personally, I hold this statement to be mere legend, the truth of the matter being that Miss X lost her head completely when trying to correct a posting error and pressed every button and lever in sight. Be that as it may, the plant continued to flourish until one day when the branch inspector arrived in a jaundiced mood. He took one look around, ordered (a) the girls' skirts to be lengthened by 6 inches, (b) the boys' hair to be shortened to the same extent and (c) the Upas tree to be suppressed entirely. As you may guess, he had no success with (a) and (b) but gained his point with (c). The plant no longer adorns the branch, it was donated to the Botanical Society, much to the dismay of the director, who had already overspent his budget and did not relish the idea of erecting a new building to house the specimen.
Eventually one of the relief organisations was called in and Lazy Jane is now doing yeoman service in Mbutoland, where it is successfully resisting the encroachment of the desert sands into the northern areas of that country.
However, we shall persist in our policy of providing floral decorations, problems will arise of course, for example - when anti-bandit screens are installed, separating the sheep from the goats (you tell me which is which) - which side should enjoy the beauty of the flowers?
I trust that none of my readers will be inhibited by the remarkable events I have narrated, but that they will regularly use plants and flowers to delight staff and customers alike. Only one thing do I ask - don't buy artificial flowers. In these days when silver coins are made of cupronickel, wooden counters are made of polyester-di-hydrous-methylate (2np extra per square metre if you prefer a mahogany finish) and jam is made of goodness-knows-what, let's stick to the real thing as long as we can - Old Mother Nature won't let us down.
This article was first published in the Savings Banks Institute Journal of November 1970.