My parents weren’t great lovers of what they referred to as ‘plastic rubbish’. They also kept us on constant alert to possible scams, operating on the principle that if something sounded too good to be true, then it very probably was.
I don’t know quite what happened to change their minds when my naughty little sister and I were finally allowed to open a Griffin Savers account.
Our first choice would have been the Nat West account. The one with the family of piggy banks, each one awarded for investing an increasing amount of money in the bank’s coffers. They told us that we’d be better off just going out and buying a load of money boxes. Sometimes, they would see things like that so simply. Like not buying partworks or sticker books but just buying a real book instead and having done with it.
Anyway, they let us join the Griffin Savers, we each paid £10 or whatever into our new bank accounts and we were justly rewarded with a black mini sports bag, a pencil case containing a ruler, a compass (or is it pair of compasses – I can never remember – the sort that isn’t for directions) and one of those half-moon plastic things that are only used in maths lessons. Along with the star prize; the Griffin Savers dictionary.
The £10 sat in the bank for years, only being withdrawn when I became a student and started to realise the joy of scrabbling around for bits of money. The bag was useful for swimming kit, but it became seriously uncool quite quickly and ended up at the bottom of the wardrobe. The pencil case somehow ended up decorated inside and out with two-line teenage angst poems and expressions of love for a wide range of potential suitors.
Once every few months or so, I’ll notice a guy standing at a bus stop or waiting for a train carrying a Griffin Savers bag. There are loads of those men. Men who were the sensible kind and wouldn’t allow the frivolity of a collection of piggy-banks. Men who won’t let a good bag go to waste, even if it is over twenty years old and wearing a bit thin at the corners. I often wonder what their children think of them – whether they cringe with embarrassment or fight over something that was once a treasured possession. And I wonder whether they have wives at home who are happy to let their husbands roam the country advertising a bank that doesn’t exist anymore and an account that ought to be consigned to the memories of 80s children.
Occasionally, I’ll visit the house of someone who used to be a Nat West pig collector, and I’ll see the fruits of their loyalty proudly displayed behind a glass cabinet in the very best room. Even now, I feel horribly jealous.
And whilst the Griffin Savers bags have made it to the shoulder of a hundred fathers travelling the nation on public transport, the Nat West pigs have found themselves on e-bay. I have one on my watch list that, with almost five days still to go, currently has a bid value of £320.