I headed into London today for my interview to get a National Insurance number (NiNo) so that I can work and pay taxes. The appointment was for 8:35 so I got the 6:53 train out of Staplehurst. I had tried to change the appointment, which we made from New York, but there was nothing until May 5 in Canterbury and nothing available at the London office at all!
Actually I had jumped on train before the 6:53 thinking I was going to miss it, but the train was going to Charing Cross instead of Cannon Street. I changed at Tonbridge for the correct train, but still had not purchased a ticket. No conductor came by to purchase a ticket on the train so I was sure I would be paying some penalty for not having a ticket in advance. In the end I just went to the Excess Fare counter and paid the same price. Now I know what that window is for.
I got to the Job Centre 15 minutes early to find a small group of people waiting to get in the office which only opened at 8:35. When we were let in it was the epitome of organization—take this card to the first floor and wait for them to call your number. Upstairs someone else directed me to the seats for waiting to be called (not, as I learned later the first set of seats that were for waiting to get back your ID after your interview papers had been checked).
After the interview and waiting to be checked out—only about 30 minutes—I left to find some coffee and breakfast. I was heading south of the Thames to perhaps introduce myself to a recruiter I had been speaking to from New York; if he had time. Over a latte at Costa (the un-Starbucks of the UK) I spoke to the recruiter and made an appointment for the following week because his morning was full.
I was headed back to London Bridge for my return train and thought I would wander through Borough Market for a little while. Borough Market is an open-air market under the train bridges that collect to form the London Bridge train station before the trains disappear under the Thames.
It seemed like a good idea to pick up some of the delicious looking bread, cheese, fruit and other goodies on display. Buying strawberries I handed a £10 note to the vendor, who said, “Oy that’s no good. The 5s and 10s are plastic now.” Apparently the money we had from earlier visits was now no longer in circulation. “You have to take that to a bank for them to turn it in.”
The £20 note I had was still good so I put away the 4 or 5 old £10 notes I had and intended to stop at a bank on the way to the train. I bought cheese from a stall that was giving a tasters sampling to six of us standing at the Sussex cheese makers (Alsop and Walker), and a round rye loaf.
A block away from Borough Market I saw a Barclays Bank. I have a credit card with Barclays and I work for Barclays so I thought I’d give it a try to turn in those old notes. Inside, a Barclays-blue clad receiver listened to my request and said I would need to have a current account (i.e. checking) to be able to change the old notes.
I said I actually needed to open a current account now that I was in England, so could I do that now?
“You need to make an appointment in a branch to do that,” I was told. Of course I do.