Monday June 23, 2008
One of those days when everything happens at once.
I had the day booked for going to the hospital at 15:00 for the results of my biopsy, and really didn’t want or expect anything much to happen otherwise.
Except. 10:15 the agent rang and after a long rigmarole of explanation and softening up told me that the military couple had finally secured an offer on their house and, in consequence, were now able to make us an offer. Fully £35k less than our asking price. I started breathing slow and easy, waiting for him to say something else.
“They may have some room for manoeuvre,” he said, eventually.
“Just as well,” I said, having asked him to repeat the amount. “Please tell them that their offer is unacceptable. Big time.”
“Are you sure about that? I’ve been checking properties in Wales and they’ve dropped at last as much, from a lower start.”
“You do realize that if I accept this offer I am making a full £24k drop against the amount I paid for this house two years ago? In cash?”
At this point Graham blew his top.
“We are NOT accepting that or anything LIKE that,” he bellowed. “Tell ’em to get lost.”
“Did you hear that?” I asked the agent.
“Yes. Shame, that.”
“I wouldn’t let Graham hear you say that.”
“Well, I advise you to think about it, do some price research in Wales, and then perhaps you’ll let me know what we should do.”
I was very pleased to put the phone down so I could cool Graham off, who’d heated himself to full-blown Welsh boiling point. That “do not go gentle” has more than one shade of meaning to anyone who knows Swansea people.
“Let’s forget it for a while and go get lunch,” I said. It’s a helluva crisis that’s not cooled down with a nice English sandwich lunch.
Just then, the postman came, bearing several business-type envelopes, one in particular enclosing my new MasterCard from the bank. I hadn’t noticed that the old one was close to expiry but it doesn’t get much use so there’s nothing strange there. I checked the details carefully and all was well. Applied to the front of the new card there was a sticky label instructing me to phone a special number to tell them I’d received it. Turning my caution circuits to the max I dialled it.
All seemed well. They wanted to know the serial number of the card. That was ok. They wanted to know my full name. That was ok. They wanted to know my daytime phone number in case of queries. That was ok. Then: “Just a couple of security questions, Mr Bailey, and we’ll be done.”
“Ok, fine,” I said. “What was my mother’s maiden name?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I said: What was my mother’s maiden name?”
“I don’t think you understand, Mr Bailey. It’s you who needs to answer the security questions.”
“Oh, really? But how do I know that you are not a phishing enterprise posing as the Bank?”
“Because we are the Bank,” he said.
“I don’t know that,” I said. “You’re some enterprise claiming to be associated with the Bank. Strikes me as perfectly reasonable that I should seek to validate the accuracy of that claim.”
“That’s not the way it works.”
“Well. Ok. Try me with one of your security questions.”
He was sounding a little rattled by now, and not a little weary. “First, could you tell me your date of birth?”
“Why. Don’t you know it already? I’ve been a customer of the bank for almost fifty years. You must have it on file, and on your database, surely?”
There was a long silence. “I’m afraid I shall have to report your refusal to cooperate to our security section.”
“Fine. Do that. Phone me back when you’ve reached an acceptable way forward.”
Then I phoned my old friend, still working for the Bank, who once, long ago, looked after my personal banking and is now a very Big Wig Indeed at Head Office.
“The cheeky little shit,” she said. “Did you get his name?”
I had made a note of it and gave her the details of the call number, time, etc.
“Right. First off. Fear not. You are a customer in good standing with the Bank and shall remain so. Now. I’m holding the little squirt’s manager on another line, can you hang on while I deal with him?”
It didn’t take long. The manager was dealt with, along with the little squirt, no doubt, and I was thanked for my vigilance. “It it were not for people like you, John, these petty dictators would give as a bad name. When are you coming up to London so I can buy you lunch?”
“Oh, I’m too old and creaky for London lunches,” I said. “How’s about us meeting up in a few months when we’ve moved back to Swansea and I’ll treat you to a Baguette du jour.
I do love to hear a lady Big Wig splutter.
So, then, off to the hospital where I got prodded and poked by a new consultant and assured that the biopsy on my enlarged boob revealed nothing but ‘perfectly normal’ results. He agreed with me that one or other of my main cardiac medicines is almost 99% certain to be the cause and is to write to my G.P. to get a programme of controlled change and adjustment off the ground. At last! A result!
“What about the other 1%?” I asked. “Is that something you might want to take the knife to?”
“No,” he said. “No need for that. But I think I’ll book you in for a new technology ultra-sound scan as soon as we can claim a slot.”
“Great” I said. “I’ll go see my G.P. in about a fortnight to give you a chance to write to him, and I’ll wait to hear from the ultra-sound people.”
“You’ve done this before?” he asked.
“Oh, once or twice. All I really know is that it’s nothing at all like Casualty.”
At the other end of the hospital, the quiet end, Graham was waiting for me and, having fetched me a coffee to wet my whistle, demanded the full story. Which I related. In detail.
Sometimes, if you don’t record the detail, you forget the way the story sounded.
Now, in the cool of the evening, I’m just about to pack up here and go demand the first glass of my evening wine. We’ve already agreed that if Swansea doesn’t work out for us we’ll settle down once and for all in the Luberon, buy multi-geared bicycles, and finish our days sitting outside little Provencal cafes watching the world go by. I have secured an agreement in advance that, in such an eventuality, I shall be permitted two glasses of local red with my lunch.
Tomorrow we sack the agent at start off fresh with a new one. I reckon that, once we’ve done that, I shall have earned my two glasses of red, even if I do have to note them down against some future redemption date.