The most realistic story ever told.

Category: Moaning about London (page 1 of 3)

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That’s better.

Not *much* better, mind you.

It’s with a fairly monotonous sense of regularity that I find myself pondering why nothing in this country seems to work properly.  So if you’ve got the stomach for reading on you’ll see a(nother) good illustration of the sort of thing I mean.

I’ve had a phone contract with a company – let’s call them “Purple” – for a while now.  When I signed up for it I owned my phone handset, and I just needed a SIM plan with a reasonable data allowance.  The plan I signed up for gave me – among other things – an allowance of 500mb of mobile data a month.  As it happened, that was more than enough when I had my HTC Desire phone, as its onboard memory was so appallingly small that you couldn’t browse more than 2 webpages or read 3 emails or tweet twice before its cache filled and rendered it impossible to connect.  Upgrading to the HTC Desire S gave me some brief respite from this, however my affection for it waned as the touchscreen started malfunctioning and clicking on stuff I hadn’t clicked on, as well as the cache filling up and rendering me unable to view anything online.  But in the peak of its workiness I averaged about 300mb a month.

A few weeks back I stumped up the quids for a shiny new Google Nexus 4 phone – a new device full of promise, and vastly improved internet capability.  The result being that last month even though I’ve throttled everything back as far as practical and keep a watchful eye on things with data monitoring apps, I used just over 600mb, and this month I’m up to 550mb, with another 4 days left in the billing cycle – truth be known I hit 500mb about a week ago, and have kept the damage minimal by spending most of my time indoors and not using my phone.  Debating the merits of all that is a whole separate issue, but the relevant point of this is that I need a plan with a chunkier data allowance.

Weighing up the options around, I decided that one company – let’s call them “Sturgeon” – had the best plan to suit me: primarily because it includes Unlimited* data, unlimited phone minutes, and unlimited text messages.  All for about a fiver a month less than Purple charge me, and hopefully without their occasional text messages offering me cheap tickets to gigs that they mistakenly think I’m interested in.

After last month’s bill in fact I’d decided it time to jump companies to the more relevant plan, so I hopped onto the Sturgeon Mobile website and signed up for their phone plan, and I was delighted to get their confirmation telling me that my SIM card would arrive in the post shortly.

Asking Liz very nicely to keep her eyes on incoming post for this wondrous arrival, my enthusiasm waned as the reality that “shortly” probably meant “within 10 working days” set in, and so 11 days later I found myself at our Bristol flat with no sign of any SIM card.

Mobile phone shops are an ever-present fixture of all shopping areas in the UK – one shudders to think how many phones some people go through in a year to necessitate there being so many.  Nevertheless, my logical analysis of the problem was that if there was some delay in the processing of my order then perhaps the happy chappies at my local Sturgeon Mobile store would have access to the system and be able to give me a more concrete answer.  Or, better yet, they could cancel my online order and issue me with a SIM card in store.

Stop laughing.

After explaining my situation to the scruffily-bearded youth with the obligatory short sleeve shirt & shiny tie (it’s SO hard to resist saying “You’ve got red on you”), he tapped away at the keyboard and then informed me that there was no record of my order in the system.  I showed him the confirmation email, and he agreed that that indicated I’d placed an order, and his suggestion was that I call customer services.  Up until that point I’d been convinced that the primary purpose of shop staff was to provide a service to the customers, and applying pressure to this definition he reluctantly agreed to let me use the shop phone to call the 0845 number (rather than incurring charges on my Purple phone contract).

FFUUUUUUUUPredictably the Customer Service operator was as useful as a mint-flavoured suppository, however they were able to confirm that though my order had gone through the system, no account had been created and therefore no SIM was on the way.  It occurred to me to ask how long I would have waited before being given this information (it’s possible that some people apply for a new mobile phone account and then having done that just happily keep on using their old one safe in the knowledge that that’s another task off the To-Do list), but figured it more prudent to get straight onto a workaround, and within about 15 short minutes of discussion were able to conclude that I could apply for a SIM in store without fear of being double-billed.  He also agreed that the service I’d received was substandard, but due to me not having a Sturgeon account, he was unable to credit me with any sort of refund by way of apology.  Mmm… minty…

So, Mr Shiny Tie agrees to sign me up for the SIM plan which I was looking for, and asks his youthful assistant to take care of business (him having instantly become too busy with something – not that I was complaining, as youthful assistant was quite smiley and helpful).  She asked me all the questions someone would ask through the course of a phone account application, until we got to the credit check part.

“You did say you lived at number 32, didn’t you?”


“Hmm.  According to this, it doesn’t exist.”

“I can assure you, it does.  I slept in it last night.”

She beckoned me around the other side of the screen, and sure enough in the “credit check” part of the process there was an Address Finder screen which resolves your street number and postcode to an address for matching & fraud prevention purposes.  It’s something which every bank application, online shop, government agency, and… oh, I don’t know, EVERYTHING uses.  Only according to this piece of software the address which all of my bank accounts, my driving licence, mortgage, etc. doesn’t exist.  Flat 31 does, although the people at Flat 33 will be equally distraught to know that they’re homeless too.

The girl (who had an excellent name, it has to be said, but I’m not telling you what it was) looked exasperated for a second, then started tapping away at something else, and looked puzzled.  “The address exists on the Royal Mail website”, she said. “As indeed it does in real life”, I added.  “Is it a new flat, perhaps?”.  “Well, the building was put up in about 1900”.

She phoned the call centre and explained the conundrum to someone there, then started nodding with semi-certainty, scratching notes on a pad and saying “riiiiiiiight”, before hanging up and looking at me with an expression that said “Please be prepared for the fact that this answer is going to be of no use to you whatsoever”.

The source of the problem is that my address doesn’t exist in the 3rd party credit checking software that the Sturgeon application screen uses.  Therefore in order to be able to place the order, the customer needs to contact the 3rd party software vendor and correct the problem.

Yep, that’s right.  In order to get a phone contract, I have to contact a credit checking software vendor – which will no doubt involve navigating their departmental and telephone structure, and explaining the problem to an unknown quantity of confused call centre staff – to ascertain why my perfectly legitimate address doesn’t appear in their database, and then have that corrected.  Whether this subsequently means contacting Sturgeon Mobile and being put through to the software team that looks after version refreshes to make sure that THEIR system can see my address too is as yet unclear.

Optimistically I phoned the 3rd party provider to discuss the issue, but found myself quickly routed through some option panel menus to be ultimately dealt with by someone who didn’t look after an area relevant to my question, and they proved their resilience in getting back on-script no matter what the customer tried to say to them by insisting I register on their website for my free credit check, or I could order a postal copy from them for only £3.  I tried arguing that there were certain problems in ordering a postal copy from a system which doesn’t think your address exists, but now was clearly not the time for facts or logic to enter the discussion.

Quite why it’s not possible for someone at Sturgeon to follow this up in the pursuit of acquiring another customer is a bit of a mystery to me – presumably they’ve already worked out that if a customer can’t be signed up within 10 minutes then it’s not cost effective to get them on board.  It still doesn’t answer why my online application went through to completion & I was issued with email confirmation though.  I can only surmise that the reason they didn’t write to me to tell me my order had been cancelled is that they can’t, because my address doesn’t (apparently) exist.

Any suggestions?

* “unlimited” here presumably means that it’s subject to some sort of limit, although background reading on the topic suggests that it’s not going to become problematic until I start hitting 3-4gb a month.  So, can’t wait for that episode in the saga…

You can pick anything off this shelf… between these books and these teddy bears, but not the pencils.

Like many people in London, I’m signed up to various “daily deals” provider emails.  Generally they’re a thinly-veiled way to squeeze money out of people by offering discounts on implausibly priced products, however every now & again something drifts by that’s reasonable or fits within a plan that was already happening anyway.

The deal to the right came in today for a SPECIALLY PRICED AFTERNOON TEA & TOUR OF BUCKINGHAM PALACE!

Almost intriguing as a nice surprise for someone, but a quick skim of the “fine print” sort of gives it away…

  • Admission to the State Rooms is at 1:45pm only.
  • Afternoon Tea is served daily at the Courthouse Hotel between 1pm and 4:30pm.
  • Please allow 2 to 2.5 hours for your visit to the Staterooms (meaning you’d finish the tour between 3:45pm and 4:15pm).
  • There is a 20 minute stroll from the Palace to the Hotel.

Assuming you took 2 hours to tour the Staterooms, and the full leisurely 20 minutes to stroll to afternoon tea, that would give you 25 minutes to enjoy your relaxing afternoon tea (which they tell you to allow an hour for).

Alternatively, if you took 2.5 hours to look around, caught a cab across to the hotel in 10 minutes, and dashed in for afternoon tea, that’d leave you… errm… 5 minutes.

Is there something I’m missing here?

Situation: surreal, but fine

I don’t usually like to get involved with issues of the day, but given the messages and whatnot I’ve had in the last 24 hours I thought I’d break that rule and put together a synopsis of how I’m feeling about what’s going on in London at the moment.

For starters, so far I’m ok.  The place I’m living at the moment is about a mile from the Debenhams store that got smashed up last night (approx 20 mins’ walk).  Last night my eyes were glued to Twitter, trying to see what the latest news was and simultaneously trying not to get caught up in the hysterical rumour mill or the twin cavalcades of idiocy – people trying to make topical jokes, and people making self-satisfied pronouncements on what sparked all this off.

Last night, despite a fairly extensive smash & grab operation by a couple of hundred rioters both at Clapham Junction and in the not too distant Walworth Road area, buses were still running down the main road as normal, and I got my bus home from central London as usual.  Not a lot of sleep took place because I couldn’t tear my eyes off Twitter, but also because of the buzz of helicopters above.

What is taking place in various small pockets of London at the moment is opportunistic selfish looting.  I’m hesitant to call it “riots”, because my understanding is that a riot is a broadly targeted act of mob aggression – whereas this appears to be guerilla spot looting by pockets of idiots concerned with getting free stuff and revelling in the anarchy.  It’s certainly not a protest, and whilst the protest on Sunday appears to have acted as some sort of “spark” kicking this all off, there’s no connection between people demanding answers from the police for shooting a known gangster as part of a long-term gun crime operation, and the current animalistic thievery taking place.

It’s quite a confusing time – there are a lot of people with a lot of different opinions about what should be done, who is to blame, and what the source of all this is.  I guess my thoughts are – bearing in mind that I’m not a psychologist or analyst of anything relevant, nor do I hold any great historical understanding of various cultural issues in the UK – that the looting is being perpetrated by bored kids who are feeling a taste of power.  It’s a fairly limited type of power, and not in any way useful to anyone.  The Metropolitan Police are being stretched beyond their capacity to control the situation – reinforced tonight by a further 10,000 officers from around the country – and many people seem to be calling for the Prime Minister to bring the army in.  Equally, many analysts and people claiming to be intimate with the minutiae of the situation say that use of the army would be a bad idea, and counterproductive in the long term.

Personally I think it’s extremely bad that the violence and destruction has come this far.  Ideally the police should have been empowered to shut down the first couple of copycat outbreaks using appropriate force & detainment, and sending a clear message that this sort of thing is not tolerated.  I’m not talking about busting heads or anything, but hauling a couple of hundred of them away to face the music would make the next lot think twice about whether they would be able to get away with it.  Of course the police are under plenty of pressure and scrutiny as it is, so they don’t want to operate in a manner that could be seen as heavy-handed.  Trying to reason with a mob and show that you understand and are considerate to “their side” isn’t possible because the mob has no unified goal, so the only option is to regain control of the situation.

The longer it goes unchecked, it feels to me like more & more people will get drawn in & take positions.  I was quite distressed to read of a threatening message being left on the Research In Motion website advising them not to cooperate in handing Blackberry Messaging data over to police on the grounds that it had privacy implications for those who weren’t involved.

So to sum up, whilst the closest I’ve been to anything yet is walking past a betting shop with a smashed-in front window on the way to the tube station this morning, I feel quite tense even though it’s pretty much business as usual in this part of the world.  Other than the increased number of sirens zooming past the office.

(The other thing – which I’m finding it pretty hard to get out of my head although so far nobody seems to know where or when it was taken, is the footage of these jackals helping an injured boy to his feet, and then taking stuff out of his backpack.  It’s so cowardly.)

Headline image from the Flickr stream of Irish4Adventure, Creative Commons licenced.

Take two of these, and one of these, and one of these… and all of these…

When you feel a cold coming on you hit it with vitamins, right? Everyone knows that!

Feeling the unwelcome presence of a cold announcing itself, I went out to [a British chemist chain] and procured the cold-busting trifecta of Berocca, Echinacea and Ginseng.  Berocca because it’s packed with vitamins including C, and that’s widely established to be The Thing For Colds – everyone I’ve spoken to since I was about 10 years old would more than likely tell you that.  Echinacea, because it’s meant to be good for your immune system, or something.  And ginseng because… well, primarily because there was a buy 2, get 1 free promotion on at the chemist.

Out of curiosity, and because I had a lot of time to kill on this particular afternoon, I thought I’d read the Echinacea box, to see just what exactly it’s meant to do for you.  Being a massive alternative medicine skeptic*, what I read didn’t really surprise me at all.

In case it’s too hard to read, it says:

Echinacea or purple coneflower is a North American perennial that is indiginous to the central plains where it grown on road banks, prairies, fields and in dry, open woods.  The name for the plant comes from the Greek echinacea, meaning hedgehog, and reflects its sharp-pointed nature.  Since the early 20th century hundreds of scientific articles have been written about echinacea.

Now, is it just me, or does that blurb say absolutely bugger all of any value whatsoever?

By happy serendipity, a very good friend of mine tweeted about an article by the highly excellent NHS: Behind The Headlines team.  The article (opens a PDF in new window) is entitled “Supplements: Who needs them?” and inkeeping with the goals of the series addresses some common beliefs about remedies and treatments by examining the evidence to support the efficacy of those treatments, and in the case of echinacea the findings are about as confident as the labelling on the box.

A 2010 trial found that echinacea did not reduce the duration or severity of colds.  This large randomised control trial in more than 700 participants found that people who took a standardised dose of echinacea had no significant improvement in either duration or severity of their colds compared with those taking a placebo.

So vitamin C might not be any use for colds (see the article), but at least we know it stops us getting scurvy.  Man, I hope that ginseng’s doing something useful.  At least by using a BOGOF offer I can pretend that I got the echinacea for free.

* Tim Minchin summed this up nicely in his awesome poem, Storm, with the line: “By definition alternative medicine has either been not been proved to work, or been proved not to work.  You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.”

Advertising WTF: they might as well belt us around the head with planks and shout “YOU ARE DUMB. BUY OUR STUFF.”

Just a quick bit of morning incredulousness today – whilst half-listening to the radio (Five Live, for reasons to be explained separately) an ad came on featuring a made-up scene where one man is describing to his friend the benefits of owning the new Volkswagen Transporter.  One of the supposed benefits of the new model, the man explains, is that it has a lower maintenance cost than the previous model and, by implication, other vehicles in its class.

Leaving aside for now the question of why anyone would be influenced in their choice of vehicle purchase by something they’d heard on the radio – essentially as valid as overhearing someone talking about how good their car is in the pub, only instead of people who genuinely held that opinion you’re listening to people who are being paid to make specific claims – the bit that slapped me in the face as if to indicate the ludicrousness of the situation was the nature of the claim made rapidly at the end by The Voice.

The Voice is the thing customarily heard at the end of any commercial which makes a claim about a product.  It’s usually someone speaking incredibly fast listing all of the caveats and reasons why what you’ve just heard may sound better than it actually is.  When my parents talk about having been “fast talked”, I immediately think of The Voice.  I guess the idea is that they gloss over the potential pitfalls of taking the prior claims at face value so quickly that you’re not supposed to hear what they are, and the only reason they’re doing this is because the advertisers are legally required to make some mention of the fact that the claims they’ve made in the advertisement may not be strictly what you might interpret them as.  Words read out by The Voice sound as if they’re being spoken in 4-point italic greyed out font. Fans of The Simpsons would immediately be able to give examples of The Voice such as “Cheques-will-not-be-honoured” or “Real-institute-may-not-match-photo”.

In this particular case The Voice rattled out, like a road train thundering past over a cattle grid:


As I said: I’m pretty good at deciphering this sort of thing, because I immediately instinctively pay more attention when my bullshit radar switches on, so I’ll translate it into how a normal person would read it:

Maintenance cost reduction achieved by enlarging service interval.

So there you have it folks – you can save money on the maintenance cost of your vehicle by buying this new vehicle, and then having it serviced less often.  If the tedious pricks in charge of this advertising initiative ever turned their deft hand to selling orange juice then they’d probably be extolling the virtues of their amazing New Improved Juice Pack, which lasts TWICE as long as other cartons of juice (longevity-time-of-carton-achieved-by-drinking-one -80-millilitre-serving-once-a-month).  Perhaps we could all enjoy eternal youth next by only celebrating every fourth birthday.

It partially reminded me of the shampoo that my mother used to buy when we were young – it was one of those Amway products, and almost every shower-time was accompanied by the mantra “Only use a little bit – it’s very concentrated, so you’ve only got to use a little bit!”.  What I think was actually going on was that it was just extremely expensive, hence using less of it – whilst not assisting much in the hair-cleaning department – meant that a bottle would last longer.  And it’s only just occurred to me that this may have been a contributing factor in why it was that my brother and I sported buzzcuts for the majority of our pre-teen lives.

I can’t help wondering whether I’ve fallen for whatever ploy this advertisement’s trying to make, however – it seems a bit silly, on the face of it, for a person to make a decision to buy a new van based on a radio ad: probably the furthest form of advertising from the experience of van selection possible.  You can’t see pictures of it, nor gather any useful statistics about the vehicle’s specifications.  You could be listening to the ad whilst in another van, I guess, and sit there wondering about how much nicer the new van is relative to the van you’re currently in.  However surely by making me write this post, and therefore by extension be discussing the brand and the product, I’m now getting the name in front of all of you (yes, you, the millions of people reading this).

Well, to conclude abruptly – I don’t know anything specific about Volkswagen Transporters, but it’s my firm opinion that the people they’ve hired to advertise them are wankers.

The prosecution rests.

How you can tell that the holiday in Australia’s over.

Instead of looking around at the immediate outdoor environment and seeing such magnificent t-shirt conducive stuff as this:
you instead peep out of your front door to be greeted with something more akin to this:

For extra added bonus points, there’s also the option of checking the forecast on the BBC website.  Chances are, if you’re not in Australia any more then it might look something like this:

The other fun thing about snow is that it’s one of those ninja weather conditions.  Whereas with rain, you know that it’s going on out there cos you can hear it – snow can merrily drop out of the sky for hours, and if you don’t cast a glance out the window you can be quite startled by the fact that you’re surrounded by it when you open the front door.

More accurately, interchange the word “you” with the word “I” or “my”, or relevant equivalent, in the previous sections of text – essentially I didn’t want to just seem like I was writing about myself again.  But I am/was.

Ad-hoc, ad-loc, and quid pro quo… so little time, so much to… errm… go!

Barely had a spare second to scratch myself – let alone write blog entries – this week.  Tomorrow morning’s departure to Adelaide is presently very much on my mind, and my primary interest is not sleeping through my 05:00 alarm in order to be able to take off from Heathrow at 09:20 (yeah… 4+ hour lead time – don’t those wacky airlines just make it more fun than you can possibly stand?!).

So there’s no chance of hearing in detail about our Friday night festive awesomeness at The Gunmakers (including Jeffrey & I sampling the HIGHLY excellent Ten 20 Commemorative Ale as supplied by Mr P D Baggoley), nor the unexpected bus stop meeting of the mystery beer-carrying girl with the taxidermy duck in one hand.  There also won’t be time to wax enthusiastic about Sue & Ben’s magnificent Christmas Stomach Distension (by effect of Turkey & Aubergine) Event, nor the journey down to Deepest Morden for Gypsy Jazz – whereupon we couldn’t fit our merry motley crew into the pub, and so sought out alternate premises and stumbled on the cosy environs of The Sultan.  And then naturally there’s only time for the barest mention of an epic and masterful roast lunch (with beery accompaniments) at The Old White Lion in the company of Mr D Haste, Ms B Knott, and Mr P Dearing.  I scarcely dare finish with a light brushing over the topic of the magnificent Lamb Shank Extravaganza at Neonwombat & HC’s Maida Vale Palace.

Makes sense why I haven’t bloody packed yet, eh?

But of particularly joyful interest is the wonder of modern technology that is online checkin.  Following a recent temporally unrewarding experience in New York (more on this at some point), I’m now a bit obsessed with the idea of checking in to my flight online, however this particular airline – despite bold claims that online checkin opens 24 hours before departure time – seems to be non-cooperative.

Phoning their Customer Service Team (presumably in Abu Dhabi they mean this in a similarly agricultural context as we do here in Britain) I was told that “checkin for this flight opens 20 hours before departure”, or to put it another way, “Fuck off out of my face – I knock off in 3 hours, so ring back when some other poor schmuck has to deal with it”.

Tenaciously as you’d expect, I phoned them back a few hours later to see if any progress had been made – they said “We’ve had some problems and our website is down”, (although clearly it isn’t, because it’s displaying erroneous error messages – that’s not “down”, that’s just “useless*”), “Please try again after 6:30pm: the web team will fix it by then”.  Cynically, my cruft-translator understood that as “Please don’t phone until everyone else on this flight gets home and starts calling us, meaning that there’s no chance you’ll get a line through to us until at least 8:30pm, which is a shame as we close at 8pm”.

Oooooh boy, if I get bumped from this flight I will not be an amused tent inhabitant.

* This is technical web jargon, yes.

Fiduciary asshattery

Supposing you were to be speaking on the phone to your bank, and they said “Would you like to upgrade your account from type X to type Y?”.  You establish that there’s nothing to be done other than that they make a change on one of their screens and your monthly fee goes up slightly in exchange for a raft of services.

Several days later, you log on to your internet bank and go to make a bill payment.  Your bank has recently sent out a security keypad thing, where you stick your card in the top, type in your PIN, then enter some numbers from the internet banking screen, and finally when the little pad thing shows you some other digits, you type them into the internet banking screen.  This makes the payment happily happen, and we can all assume that we’re all who we say we are and life’s lovely.

Only today for some reason the number confirmationny thing failed.  It’s a bit weird, but not inconceivable that I might’ve mashed one of the wrong buttons… so I try again.  Bzzt.  One more. “Sorry, but your account has now been locked and you have been deregistered from internet banking”.  Hmm.

Phone customer services – dial, dial, dial, hold, hold, hold, explain, explain, explain…  they unlock the account again, and then say before internet banking can be used the card has to be unlocked as well using certain types of ATM.  Convenient.  I briefly floated the suggestion that the card reader might be pooched, but this is apparently so unlikely it’s not worth pursuing.  Anyway, the ATM thing happens, and now we can get on with the business of making that pesky payment.

Type, type, type, ENTER.  Code incorrect.

Type, type, type, ENTER.  Code incorrect.

Having played this game before, I go straight back to dial, dial, dial, hold, hold, hold, and am then afforded a rare but satisfying opportunity to speak with a customer service representative.  After some head scratching and patronising advice, the lady looks on the system and says “Oh, it says here you’ve had a new card issued.  That means the old one won’t be valid for internet banking confirmation any more”.  New card was news to me… “Yeah, a new card’s automatically issued when you upgrade your account”.  Seemed strange that was never mentioned to me… “Oh no, they probably won’t know that.”  But they knew I was getting a new card, right? “No, probably not”.

Rewarding, isn’t it?

Air-cooling update: FAIL!

The great air-movement debacle continues (as expected), but following some A-class verbal punishment by Cath, the building folk agreed to provide us with a proper portable air conditioner (rather than the indoor sprinkler they’d previously furnished us with).  They couldn’t promise when it would arrive – perhaps the next day, or the day after that (I’m thinking “within the next 6 months, tops”), but wonder of wonders – it turned up this morning!

It’s one of those ones which you connect a ducting hose to in order to expel the hot air through a window or similar.

Imagine our surprise when we went to fit the supplied hose to the vent on the back of the cooling unit.

Interface FAIL

Interface FAIL

Lets face it – it’s not worth doing anything if you’re not prepared to make a half-arsed dog’s breakfast of it.  How this country ever built the Empire is still a mystery to me.

I suggested a jury-rigging solution involving prodigious amounts of duct tape and cardboard, but apparently that’s not the way things are done around here.

Become a postman – it could open all sorts of doors

Just got a call from Housemate James with some routine stuff, including following up on his question yesterday of why there hadn’t been any post for him.  Apparently he’s ordered about 18 things, and was expecting them over the weekend.  The worst-case scenario is of course to get one of the red “while you were out” cards, which then means you’ve got to wait 48 hours, then go to the fairly awkwardly located parcel depot to collect.  James has had an ongoing suspicion that the postman has been just filling the cards out and then popping them through the door, and not knocking at all.

He reported that today he swung the front door open to go out, and standing there on the mat looking startled was our postman, part-way through filling out a red card.

James glared at him (or at least carried out as close to a glare as he’s capable of) and challenged him with, “I didn’t hear you knock?”.

The postman replied timidly, “Ah.  I may have gotten ahead of myself in this case”.

Good work James – hunch demonstrably proven.

I asked him if he’d given the postman a verbal dressing-down about this, and James said that he didn’t want to give him too much of a hard time, because the guy seemed a bit on the shy side.  There’s a song in that somewhere I think – the postman who wouldn’t knock, because he found it difficult talking to strangers.

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