Go straight to jail

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Yesterday I went into the Co-Op Bank branch at the Angel to pay a cheque in. It's a rather splendid building that once upon a time used to be a Lyons Corner House, the oh-so-English cafes that were the Starbucks of their times, where stiff-upper-lipped characters in 1940s black and white movies meet up in order to act repressed with each other.

It's changed since I was last there several months ago, having been modernised. I remember it as one of those banks where the glass screen protecting the staff hit you in the face the moment you walked in, but now it's airy and spacious, with tasteful wood panelling, plenty of open space, and a small self-serve coffee machine stocked with free Fair Traded drinks.

It also has a round plaque on the far wall, incongruously large and brightly coloured among the soft restful tones of the Co-Op corporate branding, commemorating the building's pop culture claim to fame. In 1935, when Waddingtons had just bought the British Empire and European rights to the new American board game Monopoly, the company decided to replace the rather drab Atlantic City street names with familiar London locations. To that end, the company's managing director Victor Watson took his secretary Marjorie Phillips down to London from their head office in Leeds to carry out some research. As they toured the great metropolis they stopped for lunch in the Angel corner house – and that's why The Angel, Islington, made it onto the Monopoly board. (See Tim Moore's excellent Do Not Pass Go for more on this.)

Sadly, it's not just games manufacturers who travel down from Leeds these days, bombers do too – and the evidence of this was also painfully on display at the Angel Co-Op. A round table in the centre of the branch, more usually used by customers to fill out paying-in slips and other such mundanities of banking life, is currently home to a neat display of sympathy cards. They come from other Co-Op branches, Angel customers, rival banks – anyone who had contact with 20-year-old Shahara Islam, a cashier at the branch who was one of the first victims of the July 7 bombings to be publically named. She was killed by Hasib Mir Hussain, who came down from Leeds with anything but games on his mind and blew up the bus on which she was travelling to work.

I often like to finish these posts with a neat conclusion or a pun that ties all the different strands together, but comments about the randomness of life, fate working through dice rolls, and other such sentiments would be trite and rather pointless here, I can't help thinking. Rather like playing Monopoly on a wet Sunday afternoon, this whole terrorism business is one game that will likely go on forever, fail to produce any winners, and only lead to tears before bedtime.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.