Maeve Higgins on... the perils of opening a British bank account

Maeve Higgins on... the perils of opening a British bank account

Strap in, gang. I’m about to lay down some pretty heavy lyrics about paperwork right now. You ready?

Aii’iight. The roughest part of my transition here was getting a bank account. I couldn’t open one without proof of address but I didn’t have anything like that.

Last Tuesday, I came across a very helpful bank teller who looked up a large folder for valid proof of address options and said words I never thought I’d hear from behind a bank counter: “You could get a shotgun license? That would have your address on it — and the bank accepts that.”

I explained to her that, as a crime lord, I prefer my firearms to be unlicensed, so they can’t be traced back to me when I do crime with them. Then she suggested getting a TV licence, and made a judgement about my lifestyle while she was at it.

”You’ll probably be watching a lot of TV anyway, so better be safe than sorry,” she said.

In fact, I don’t even have a television in Britain. It’s not a principle of mine — I’m not doing Pilates and brewing Kombucha while everyone else is watching TV. It’s just that Ryanair figured out that having a TV might contribute to your happiness and reduce your sense of isolation, so decided to charge extra for bringing one.

Nonetheless, getting a license seemed like a handy option. I phoned up and learned a TV licence costs £145.50. Too rich for my under-employed blood, that’s for sure.

I asked the man on the phone if there were any cheaper options, and he said there wasn’t, unless I had a black and white TV, in which case a licence costs just £49. I told him that I suddenly remembered I had exactly that. He hesitated and mentioned that most people who buy a black and white TV licence are quite elderly, and said that I didn’t sound, I quote, ‘that old’. I know — what a flirt!

I told him I’m not old at all. Sure, I’m thinking about getting my eggs frozen but that’s just for options, you know? I assured him that I have a black and white TV set because I’m a very nostalgic person. I long for simpler times — music on vinyl, milk in bottles. I told him how I hate antibiotics and equal rights for women.

That seemed to convince him and he sold me the licence, leaving me with a chilling warning. Apparently, there’s a standard challenge visit within the first two months of purchasing a black and white TV licence, so someone will be calling around to ‘verify the set’. I assured him that was fine — like any old person, I look forward to a visitor.

The very next day I marched into the bank, brandishing my black and white TV licence with my address on it, as well as an unlicensed shotgun. They hurried me to the front of the line and I opened an account on the spot. I love this country!