Carol Forster column

Carol Forster column.
Carol Forster column.

Have you ever tried to enter a bank in the south of Italy?

It is rather like being teleported by Scottie then beamed through to the bank holding area.

Press the wrong button and you fear you might be catapulted cannon-ball like into the bank cashier’s desk.

This in itself is disconcerting enough but the thing I find much more intriguing is the paradox of the Italian bank guard.

As they stand there with their pistol primed and ready to use, they can appear quite intimidating.

However, I can tell you from experience, they are ever so sweet really.

James and I once had occasion to meet one on our travels in Puglia, who was delighted to see some tourists around and absolutely welcomed us to the bank, the street, the town and Italy itself.

We were astounded and temporarily forgot our purpose.

He even invited us for a cappuccino and afternoon passeggiata.

All this was being carefully observed by a toothless gummy chap who looked as if the lights were on, but no one was at home.

It intrigues me to this day what the devil that was about.

But anyway, this bank guard’s friendliness is not unusual.

Time and again, I’ve found Italian bank guards to be extraordinarily kind and helpful.

They are everything you want them to be – guide, protector, welcoming, kind; one can only hope that they would actually notice if someone tried to rob the bank.

Maybe of course this is a ploy to deter bank visitors because, once entered, that moment of relief at having finally made it through the portal, is quickly dashed when you realise, in ticketed despair, that you are number 342 in a very long queue.

Once seated, observe the stoical faces; the jokey one, with the quiet, patient wife, is on form, though his captive audience ignore, and 
the bank teller calls out 102.

With despair you realise there’s no means of escape, then finally there at the desk and the red faced bank cashier says, ‘Is not possible here...’