The sound of slurping

Tuesday April 11, 2006

15 days to M-day

I got the two worst tasks on my list done today. The kind of task where your qualities of patience, endurance and peace of mind are required in good measure.

The first of these was our combined phone/broadband account with British Telecom, which I need to cancel while still keeping email facilities open. I’d already emailed the customer support people, to receive only a stony silence in response. So the only way to reach a satisfactory solution was to ring the central customer service number, navigate the menus, suffer being passed from pillar to post as they found the right person to handle my problem, and listen to endless repeats of the three-minute lollipop loop of Mozart’s Eine Kleine NachtMusik. I sat down with a jug of coffee and a bowl of grapes and all the peace of mind I can muster and resigned myself to a long, tedious job.

I got it done, after a long, long wait, several conversations with different people, and one mysterious disconnection in mid-stream. I emerged hot and sweaty but with my equilibrium still in pretty good order. British Telecom would do well to take a hard look at the way they tackle customer service, and fix it; there are better alternatives now and it’s only my loyalty as a pensioner of the company that keeps me connected with them.

“I think I done good there, Dolly,” I said. “I’ll take a turn around the garden before settling to the next one.”

The second task was to get buildings and contents insurance settled, terminating the policy at the appropriate time as our responsibility for this house comes to an end, and avoiding too much expense and trouble. I don’t know why but I find the whole business of managing personal insurance tedious in the extreme, and not a little depressing and this was a job I’ve been putting off until I could defer it no longer.

So, I sighed and, knowing the importance of working out the right question to ask, pulled the over-size file of policy papers, renewal certificates and informative brochures out and sat down to read. My prior efforts to cultivate a peaceful state of mind served me well because in no time at all, and without need to resort to the telephone help line, I worked out how to accomplish what I need to do to settle the business. It amounts to leaving it be until a week before the cut-off date and then mailing a letter off to cancel the policy and, subsequently, receive a refund in account of the unused portion of the premium.

I was good, and decided to write the letter there and then, dated appropriately and sealed in an envelope marked for posting on the appropriate day. That was when my confidence got shaken a little.

Only a very little and only because I chose the wrong writing tool. You see, the printer is attached to my desktop computer and, while I can and do use it over the home network from the laptop, the desktop has to be switched on and working to handle it.

Without thinking what I was doing I turned the desktop computer on, waited for it to boot up and then, out of habit, sat down to write the letter on it. Oh, dearie me! After even such a short time of laptop usage I found the keyboard heavy and clunky, and as for the mouse, well, I’ve trained myself so well on the touchpad that the mouse felt completely odd and out of the way, like a toy that’s been set aside. I found myself scratching away at the bottom of the keyboard and wondering why the cursor didn’t move.

I got it done, though, printed two copies of the letter off, stuck one into an envelope and filed the other away with the insurance papers.

“Oh dear, Dolly,” I said. “I think the old computer has been rendered obsolescent. Can’t be doing with the clunky old beast anymore.”

She shifted in the patch of sunlight she’d been basking in while I’d been working, stretched, yawned, and rolled over for a tummy-tickle, which I was more than happy to hand out. Deciding she was on a winning streak, she got up, poddled into the kitchen and sat looking meaningfully at the cupboard where I keep the Carnation Milk.

“Ok, you cunning auld besom. I can take a hint. Wouldn’t mind a hot drink myself.”

So, tasks of the day accomplished, the poet and his cat set to enjoying their beverages of choice. The kitchen came alive with the sound of slurping.


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