How I wasn’t scammed, who pays for cock-ups? a missing PM, a president and a suggestion for a story

23 February 2020

I had a fascinating conversation this week which left me feeling slightly guilty.  In some other parts of my life, I’m limited in what I say on the phone but here at home, what the hell.

Just before lunch on Tuesday the phone rang and showed a number I didn’t recognise – 01568 977282 – so I picked it up and said “Hello”.  There was then a pause and a slight click (clue no. 1 – possibly switching to a foreign number piggybacking a UK number?) which allowed enough time for me to say “Hello” again.  This is a précis of the conversation that then followed with a man who spoke excellent English but with a pronounced accent, possibly Indian:

Him:    Good morning, sir (clue no. 2 – he didn’t know my name).  This is BT Open Reach.  How are you today?  (Clue no. 3 – what business caller ever starts by asking how you are?)

Me:      Did you say BT Open Reach?

H:        That’s right.

M:       Am I expecting this call?

H:        Yes sir, we sent you a note about it last week.

M:       I don’t remember getting one.  What address did you send it to?

H:        Why are you asking that?

M:       Because you called me.  What address did you send it to?

H:        Why is that important?

M:       Because I want to know if this is a scam or a genuine call.

H:        (completely fazed and off-script by this point) I wouldn’t scam you, you’re a 90-year old who’s spent all his money.

M:       Sounds good to me.

H:        You’re a 90-year old arsehole whose teeth have all fallen out and you’ve got no feet.

M:       Feet?  Where did the feet come from?

H:        I’m outside and can see you through the window.

M:       Great – come in and let’s talk about this.

H:        I’ll come in now for a cuppa and if you don’t help I’ll pull the trigger.

M:       That’s fine but could you leave it till 3?

H:        Why?

M:        So I can let the Rottweilers out.

H rings off.

At one level, I felt sorry for him being paid peanuts by the thieves running the scam but I could imagine a real, toothless 90-year old being frightened by the threats and giving him access to his life savings.

A survey carried out by the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force revealed that, following the Grenfell Tower fire, more than half the owners of flats in tower blocks said their service and maintenance charges had increased dramatically, with one person saying their annual charge to cover the cost of replacing the cladding had risen from £1,080 pa to £5,760 pa.  Can anybody explain to me why the manufacturers of the inflammable cladding, and/or the builders who installed it, and/or the property developers who built the flats, and/or the architect who designed and specified the cladding don’t have to pay for this?  Why should the customers have to pay?

What’s the difference between this and Whirlpool washing machines that catch fire, or Volkswagen cars fitted with a cheat-box?  In both those cases, the manufacturers are accepting responsibility.

The continuing mystery in Britain is, once again, the whereabouts of the prime minister.  His divorce from his (second) wife, Marina Wheeler, has been made absolute so Bonzo has become the first PM to get divorced while in office since the Duke of Grafton needed a special act of parliament to do so while serving as prime minister in 1769.  Johnson and Wheeler have four children and Bonzo has at least one more born ‘out of wedlock’ in 2009 while he was mayor of London.  He tried to keep the illegitimate one secret but the Appeal Court decided in 2013 that the public had a right to know.

But where is he?  Much of lowland Britain has been underwater for weeks.  Jeremy Corbyn has visited flooded areas, as has Prince Charles but, for all we know, Bonzo could be closeted in Downing Street playing Scrabble with Dominic Cummings.

Rumours have already started to surface about Russian efforts to ensure Donald Trump gets re-elected in America’s forthcoming election.  Quite by coincidence, somebody from Russia looked at my blog last week.  Perhaps they wanted me to vote for him.  On the other hand, if I start to glow in the dark, keep your distance.

Trump himself has now claimed he is “the chief law enforcement officer” of the US, another of his lies (the Attorney General is actually the chief law enforcement in the federal government).  Within a couple more weeks, he’ll be God.

And this week’s kindness.  In 1973, an American woman lost her high school ring, in a department store in Portland ME.  It had been given to her by the man she later married and they were together until he died in 2017.  In 2020, a metal detectorist, Marko Saarinen, found the ring under 8” of soil in a forest park in Finland, identified the owner from the inscription in the ring and posted it back to her.  Writers looking for stories could fill in the missing 47 years – why not write a collection of short stories offering different explanations?

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