Time wasting

I got home from work this evening and made myself a cup of tea before settling down to watch an episode of Star Trek on Netflix.

Only two minutes in and the phone rang, so I paused the TV and picked up the phone.  I smiled as I saw the words International Call on the little LCD display. About time I had another one of these!

I sat down on the sofa, took a sip of tea and answered it.

The following is a very abridged transcript of the conversation that then took place.

Hello. My name is James, said a voice with a strong Indian accent. I am calling from The Accident Helpline. Our records show that someone in your household has had an accident in the last year

Hello James. I’m glad you called. Yes, it was me who had the accident

OK. Was the accident your fault? If not, you will be entitled to some compensation

No, it wasn’t my fault. How much compensation are we talking about?

At least two thousand pounds

Is that all? I’d like at least five thousand

Er… I’m not sure if that is possible, but we can try. How did the accident happen?

A car ran into the back of me whilst I was sitting stationary at the traffic lights

Where were the traffic lights?

They were at red. That’s why I was stationary

No, I meant, what was their location?

Oh. At the junction. You know, that awkward one by the Post Office

Hmmm, can you tell me the name of the road, please

Yes, George Street

Can you spell that for me?

Of course. G for… um, George, E for episode, O for organism, R for Rasputin, G for George again and E for… what did I say before for E?

Um, OK. Yes, it’s OK, I think I have that. Can I have the registration of your car, please

I gave him the registration of my first car, dating back 35 years. I gave it three times, mixing the numbers up each time.

I cannot find that plate on our system. It isn’t in the right format.

It was a personalised plate.  When can I get my money?

Er… I think I will need to put you through to my supervisor

There was a pause and then another Indian voice: Hello, I am Robert.

Hello Robert. Now look, James promised me some money, but now seems to be backtracking

Yes, we cannot find your car on our system. We will need to send you some documentation to fill in. Could you give me your name please?

I looked at the TV screen, where Captain Jean-Luc Picard was frozen in time, tugging at his tunic. Yes, my name is Stewart. Patrick Stewart.

Could you spell your first name for me please

Yes, it’s P for Patrick, A for anonymous, T for terrapin, R for rap-rap-rap-rapido, I for ickle, C for crash and K for Keeble Bollege, Oxford

Right. Er… thank you Mr Stewart. Now, could you give me your postcode please

I gave him a fictitious postcode.

I cannot find that on my system either. I don’t think you are in this country

Of course I am. You rang me, remember? Now, how do I get my money?

I cannot arrange for compensation for you if I cannot find you on our system

He was getting slightly irate, by now.

Your system sounds rubbish. Is there someone else I can speak to?

Yes, I will put you through to my supervisor

You have a supervisor too?

Yes, Mr Stewart, we all have supervisors

There was another pause and then another Indian voice, a lady this time. Yes. What can I do for you? she asked, somewhat abruptly.

I want my money. Both James and Robert said I could have thousands of pounds, but they won’t give it to me

This is because you have not had an accident

I bloody well have. James phoned me up and told me so

And, I also do not believe you are in this country

Well, I don’t believe you are in this country, either, so that’s two of us

I think you have been wasting our time

I think you might be right

She hung up. I checked the phone: fifteen minutes… to the second.

Not one of my best, but it was most enjoyable nonetheless.

Welsh For A Day

Yesterday, was my future brother-in-law’s Stag do.

Coming from the valleys – as he does – and being surrounded by us English taking the piss out of him all the time (yakki dar), we all decided to be Welsh… just for one day.

To make him feel at home.

And so we went to a local golf driving range – golf being one of his passions.

But we went wearing tee-shirts and pants (over our trousers) emblazoned with the Welsh flag, and with the words “Welsh For One Day” across the back.

And we carried sheep with us.

Inflatable ones.

Unsurprisingly, this drew interested stares from those around us, but after the fourth pint of wife beater, I wasn’t feeling self-conscious anymore.

And despite never having played golf, it turns out I was actually quite good. Actually, I was rubbish, but I did manage to hit it in the big holes several times. I’d have probably got an even higher score had I not been experimenting to see which bat worked best for me.

Back at HQ, silly games, beer, barbecues, beer, more silly games and more beer all ensued.

All washed down with beer.

As midnight got closer, I couldn’t handle any more alcohol, and switched to softer, warmer drinks as we continued to raucously play silly games and impossible quizzes. Because I’m a light-weight, nowadays, and I think ten hours of drinking is enough for any liver.

This morning, I have awoken to find that my head – and somewhat inexplicably, my legs – are really hurting.

If that’s what it’s like to be Welsh, then you can keep it.

No fun

fonejackThe phone rang earlier and it it wasn’t a number I recognised.

I answered it anyway and was greeted with a few seconds of silence before an Indian voice cut in and introduced himself as Alex from Microsoft.

“Excellent, a scammer”, I thought, “Haven’t had one of these for ages.” and I readied myself for some fun.

“Firstly, can I check that you are the owner of the computer at your house”, Alex said, going straight into his spiel.

I assured him I was.

“That is good”, he said, “Unfortunately, we are getting many alarms spreading on to the internet from your PC”.

I tried to sound shocked. “On the Internet, you say? From MY computer? Oh dear.”

At that point ‘Alex’ suddenly started giggling, but he tried to continue. “Yes… [snigger] we have traced the alarms… [chortle] to your computer [titter} and…”

I cut in: “You’re not very good at this, are you Alex?”

“No, I’m not”, he guffawed, as he put the phone down.

I was genuinely disappointed.

Please Alex, get some training from your scamming mates and ring me back soon.

Fone fun

Old Phone IsolatedThe home phone rang Saturday afternoon. The caller display showed “International – Unknown”, so straight away I knew it was going to be something dodgy.

I answered it and was immediately greeted with two seconds of silence, before an Indian voice told me his name was Dilip and he was calling from the Accident Claims line. I was quite pleased, as I haven’t had one of these for quite a while.

Below is a (very much) shortened transcript of our two conversations, which lasted about 45 minutes in total.

Hello, my name is Dilip and I am calling you from the Accident Claims. Our records show that someone on this telephone number has had a vehicle accident in the past three years.

Yes. That was me. I was stationary at a traffic light in town a couple of years ago when a car ran into the back of me.

[Now, that piqued his interest!]

Well, you are entitled to compensation from the other driver. If you will give me a few details, we can process this. What road did this happen on?

It was on George Street. You know that bit at the top, where it goes from three lanes into two, just before the lights? Just there.  I’m confused though: why am I entitled to compensation, when his insurance company has already paid to have my car fixed?

Because you have been inconvenienced. Can I have the vehicle’s licence plate, please?

I wasn’t inconvenienced at all really. They gave me a courtesy car and everything.  I can’t remember what make it was, but it was blue, which is my favourite colour. And I was amazed at how quickly they paid up with no quibbling.

Yes, but you are still entitled to compensation. Can I have the vehicle’s licence plate please?

Surely, you already have that information in your ‘records’?

No, we just have the phone number.

Just this phone number? So, when I had my accident and handed all my details over, all I actually gave them was this ex-directory phone number? I really don’t remember doing that. Not at all. Maybe I was drunk.

Er, yes, maybe. It is my job to get you this compensation money and close this file. Do you have the licence plate number please?

Not on me. It will be in my insurance folder in the filing cabinet. Do you mind waiting a minute whilst I go and get it?

[I put the phone on the desk and went to make a cup of tea. Amazingly, when I came back, he was still there.]

Sorry, I can’t seem to find it. Anyway, I was thinking about it and I’m not really interested.

Why would you not be interested? I can get you up to 2000 pounds compensation.

Two thousand pounds? That’s nothing to me; I’m fabulously wealthy you see.

Everybody needs money, to pay for their mortgage and their bills.

Not me. I’ve got money coming out of my ears.

If you don’t want it, you could give it to somebody else or to charity.

I already donate to charity. Thousands each year.  I’ll probably get a knighthood before long. Tell you what, Dilip, you seem like a nice chap, you have it. Two thousand quid will go a long way in India, I’m sure.

I’m not in India, I’m in Birmingham. And I cannot take…

Yeah right.. [click – I cut him off. A moment later, he rang back. I answered but didn’t say anything]

Hello? Hello? Is there anybody there? Hello? [click – I cut him off again. And again he rang back. I did the same again]

Hello? Can you hear me? Hello? [click – I cut him off again, only for him to ring back again a moment later. This time I answered properly]

What happened there, Dilip? We got cut off and I couldn’t hear you. Are you OK? I was getting a bit worried. I was going to call India and ask them to go and check on you.

I’m in Birmingham.

No you’re not, you’re in India. Now, look, you’re quite a persistent little bugger, aren’t you?  But before I give you any of my details, I’d like to check this out with my lawyers and make sure everything is on the straight and narrow. So can you ring me back another time?

[He agreed to do so and – having wasted 30 minutes of his time – I thought that would be the last I’d hear from him.]

[But then he rang back today.]

Hello, this is Dilip from the Accident Claims. I have been trying to call you all week [ I later checked my call logs to see that he had indeed called twice a day, every day, whilst I was at work]

Sorry about that. I was skiing.


Yes, just a few days away in the French Alps. It’s what us rich people do, you know.

Oh. I would like to get this compensation for you so that I can close your file and then you will never receive any more calls from the Accident Claims.

OK. Well, my lawyers said to find out exactly what information you have in this file of yours.

Our records show that in 2012, you had accident in George Street that was no fault of your own.

But that’s just what t I told you on Saturday. Is that all you’ve got?  Doesn’t this file have my name, or my address, or anything useful?

No, that is all we have. It is my job to get the details from you so that we can close the file and get your compensation.

Ahh yes, the compensation. How much are we talking about then?

About two thousand pounds.

Make it ten.


I don’t get out of bed for less than ten thousand.

I, er, I don’t think we could get that much. Two thousand is a lot of money.

Not to me it’s not. That’s just small change. I sometimes spend that much on my weekly shop in Sainsbury’s. Did I tell you I was fabulously wealthy?

Yes. Look, if you don’t want the money, you can give it to someone else, but I need to close your file. It is my job and you would be helping me. Also, if you do not claim this compensation then the other driver can make a claim against you.

Whaaat? Now you’re just talking rubbish! How can a driver who has admitted liability and who’s insurance company has already paid out to get my car repaired, then make a claim against me?

No, no, he can. It has happened many times. Leaving your file open will allow him to make a claim against you.

OK Dilip, I’m losing interest now. You’ve tried every tactic you know into trying to scare me into giving you my personal details, but you have obviously run out of ideas.

No I…

Sshh, I haven’t finished. This has been fun but I’m going to admit something to you now. Are you listening?


I made it up.


I made it up. All of it. I’ve been joshing with you. I never had a car accident. In fact, I don’t even own a car. So your ‘file’ is complete bollocks, isn’t it?

No. Our accident book details that someone with this number… [click – he hung up]

Oh well. I then popped to the shops for half an hour and when I returned, I was annoyed to notice that he had rung again, and I’d missed him. Bugger.

I hope he does ring back sometime, as I do enjoy our little chats.

The time I was a Fitness Manager… for one day

dumb-bellMany years ago, I spent a month in California, staying with a pen friend.

A British ex-pat; she was spontaneous, mildly eccentric (which is how we had become friends in the first place, but I won’t go into that right now) and was always great fun to be around.

She lived in Santa Cruz and on my first weekend there, she took me on a sightseeing tour of the town, introducing me to friends and acquaintances as we walked round.

As we walked, we came across a Leisure Center (American spelling) that was in the process of being built. It was nearly finished and, though not yet open to the public, it’s front doors were.

“Ooh”, said Faye, “I’ve been dying to see inside here. C’mon.” and with that she strolled briskly towards the open doors.

“But, it’s not open yet”, I protested.  She continued her stride and beckoned me to follow, so I did.

The moment we stepped through the door, we were stopped by a smartly dressed chap wearing a safety helmet.

“You can’t come in here”, he said, “we’re not open to the public yet.”

“I’d like to see the manager please”, said Faye.

“I am the manager”, he said with a smile.

“Ahh, good”, said Faye. And then she went on to tell him how she was a resident of the town and was very much looking forward to using the the facilities that the new leisure center would bring when it opened. “Meantime”, she explained, “this is my very good friend, Masher, visiting me from the UK. He runs a leisure centre there and was interested to see yours. I wondered if we might be able to have a quick look round?”

I was stunned. I run a leisure centre?

“You run a leisure center in the UK?”, asked Mr Manager, taking my hand and shaking it vigorously. Not sure what to say, I just nodded feebly. “Yes, I’d be happy to show you round”, he said, “but I’m a bit rushed this morning, so we’ll have to be quick. Oh, and you’ll need a safety helmet, as men are still working in some parts of the building. I’ll just go and grab a couple”, and he disappeared around a corner.

“What the… why d’you say… how am I going…. I DON’T RUN A LEISURE CENTRE!” I spluttered out in a hushed whisper.

“You’ll be fine”, Faye smiled, “just run with it.”

“But I…” At that point Mr Manager returned with a white safety helmet in each hand.  We put them on and followed as he led us around.

First port of call was the gym. It was huge, with machines of all types and mirrors that went all around the walls. Several sets of weights were stacked up neatly on cradles to one side and a row of treadmills ran the full length of the room. Mr Manager beamed at me. “This is the gym”, he said, with the voice of a proud father. “What do you think?”

“I… I think it’s amazing”, I said, “My, er, my gym isn’t even half this size.”

We walked on and as we did so, he asked me awkward leisure center related questions. Several times I looked at Faye and could see she was trying to suppress a smile. She was loving this. I wasn’t. I was thinking on my feet and not making a particularly good job of it.

We walked through some double doors and into the spectating area of a large swimming pool. It had been filled already as the centre was due to open in just a few days, and the water sparkled a deep blue as sunlight from the windows reflected off it. “And this is our swimming pool”, said Mr Manager, stating the obvious.Again, I marveled at it and wished that MY swimming pool could be as big.

And that’s how it went for the rest of the tour: “I wish we could have as many squash courts as you have here, but we just haven’t the room”, “Yes, we do Judo classes once a week, but our hall is much smaller than this”, “No, we don’t have a climbing wall…” etc.

I remember that at one point he remarked how young I was to be in a managerial position. He had a good point as I was only in my very early twenties and probably still had acne.  I bluffed – as I had been doing for the previous twenty minutes – and gave him some guff about my father being the current manager/owner and me taking it over from him.  It wasn’t a very good lie and I don’t think he actually believed it, but he said nothing and shook our hands as we left the building.

“That was fun”, said Faye, with a wicked smile as we walked back down the path toward the street, “Where can we try next?”

“Don’t you fucking dare!”

An open letter to Sainsbury’s


I visited your Bramingham Store in Luton yesterday, in order to purchase my lunch.

Whilst there, I found myself perusing your wares in – what you call – your Technology Section: tellies, iPods, iPads, PVRs, etc.

And I couldn’t help noticing the display that you had put up to showcase your range of televisions. Attached is a picture to show what I mean. Can you see the deliberate mistake?

Apparently, your televisions, as well as being digital (which is good) and HD Ready (erm, OK) and having Freeview (which is handy), also boast ‘NICAM Stereo’.

No. They. Don’t.

NICAM stands for Near Instantaneous Companding Audio Multiplex – as you well know – and was used to transmit stereo sound signals, embedded in an analogue TV signal.

You’ll have noticed that I said “was”- past tense. This is because, with the advent of the Digital Switchover, the analogue TV system is no more. It has ceased to be. In fact, it ran up the curtain and met the choir invisibule way back in October of 2012. And NICAM went with it.  So, your lovely display is nearly 18 months out of date, I’m afraid.

What’s worse though – and I’ll admit to not being 100% sure on this, but I’m fairly certain – this particular display went up less than 12 months ago.

Also, as NICAM is an acronym, you should really have capitalised each letter, not just the first one.

Yours sincerely (and somewhat pedantically)


Mr Masher

(aged 51½)

Limpic Games

I took the kids down to Brighton on Saturday, visiting family.

Each July, my cousin Dan and his lovely wife, Helena, host a summer barbecue for friends and family. They’ve been doing this for about ten years now and each year gets slightly bigger and more elaborate.
As well as copious amounts of food and drink, Dan also arranges plenty of games for us all to play: rounders; cricket etc. The kids aren’t left out either as there’s always a bouncy castle and a trampoline and a zip wire for them to play on.

This year, Dan decided we should have an Olympic themed party.

As soon as I arrived, I was forced into picking an envelope from a box. The letter inside – with accompanying ID badge – stated that I would be part of Team USA and would be the sole USA participant for Event 5… the 100 metre sprint. Me? With my knees!
Dan assured me that all was not as it seemed and that I had nothing to worry about. After about an hour, the games started.
Event 1 – throwing the hammer, turned out to be lobbing a welly boot as far as possible. Team USA won that one.
Event 2 – the steeplechase was a team relay event requiring each team member to traverse the bouncy castle assault course whilst carrying a baton that had to be passed to the next team member. The baton was a “wet willy”. Don’t ask. I threw myself into that one and suffered an injury as a result, doing a passable Wilhelm Scream as I came down the slide.


Event 3 – was a tug of war which Team USA easily won, seeing off GB, China, France and Germany with ease… till they ganged up on us. It ended up being a battle between those living North of Watford and those living South.


Event 4 – was gymnastics, with a single player from each team having to cross some parallel bars, go under a high beam and over a low beam and do a forward roll, all blindfolded. Luckily it was all at ground level and just marked out on the floor with tape. Thanks to a very nimble young lad on our team, Team USA won that one as well.
Event 5 – the hundred metre sprint, turned out to be just ten metres, but it had to be run in slow motion and the runner who got nearest to completing it in exactly 1 minute was the winner. That’d be me then! GO TEAM USA!

Medals were handed out after each event and I’d have got a gold… if the kids hadn’t nicked them all.

All in all, it was a bloody great day and I got lots of photos of people doing silly things and having a good time, but I don’t know most of them well enough to go sticking their pictures up on the internets without their permission, you’ll just have to make do with these.

Not growing up

In my hotel room, earlier this week, I could hear some noises outside, below my bedroom window.  There was a male voice and a female one and a clattering noise that sounded a bit like a tamborine. Intrigued – and being very nosey – I tried to have a look, but the safety cable prevented me from lifting the window up more than six inches. So I stood on the sofa bed, in the hope that a little extra height would allow me a better vantage point. It didn’t and so I gave up.

Turning around, I looked at the desk up against the far wall and wondered if I could get from the sofa bed to the desk without touching the floor.

Like I was twelve or something.

Between me and my objective were a tall pedestal coffee table that was wobbly with just a cup of tea placed upon it; the bed and then a chair. Shouldn’t be too difficult, I thought. And indeed, it wasn’t. And so once I’d reached the other side I turned round and came back again. Then I wondered if I could do the same thing, but reach the bathroom. That would be more difficult as there was a big gap between the bathroom and the writing desk. If I grabbed a pillow from the bed as I crossed, I should be able to use that as a stepping stone and still keep my feet from touching the floor. Again, it was easily done, but this time I was a bit too confident in my sure-footedness and I knocked over the coffee table as I crossed, sending it crashing to the floor with a loud thud. Heaven knows what the people on the floor below thought was happening.

Picking the coffee table up, I decided that perhaps I should grow up and go read a magazine instead.

Then, this afternoon, I got home early and so I went to pick the kids up from school. I walked to the school, as it only takes about fifteen minutes. I walked briskly but about halfway there I was overtaken by someone with longer legs than me: I recognised him from the playground… another dad who was obviously also on his way to pick his kids up.

Having longer legs than me and – dare I say it – being a bit younger, he soon pulled away and started to put some distance between us. I couldn’t keep up.

Now, there is a point about 150 yards from the school, where the road splits in two directions. Both lead to the school, but one is marginally shorter – and therefore quicker – than the other. Daddy Longlegs took the shorter of the two routes and so I took the longer one.

And I ran.

I ran as fast as I could – dodgy knees and all – until I reached the top where the roads joined up again, then I slowed to a normal walking pace and tried to control my breathing, reaching the school gates just as he came round the corner. He walked in a few paces behind me.

He said nothing as he strode past me again but he did throw a weird glance at me out of the corner of his eye.

I hoped that he might be wondering just how I’d managed to beat him there, but I  know that he knows that I’d raced him there.

And that I’d then pretended I hadn’t.

Like I was twelve or something.


Twatery fowls

This week, I thought I’d forego giving you a picture of the view from my room as I’m in the same hotel as last week but in the room next door. The view is pretty much exactly the same.

Instead, here is a picture of the inside of my room, or at least part of it. I thought it somewhat strange that whoever had designed this room, had decided that the coat hooks should go above the writing desk.

So, you come in to your room, soaking wet from the rain (remember: Wimbledon fortnight isn’t far away) and you have to hang your soaking wet coat right over the desk. And only eight inches below the main circuit breaker for the room.

There’s probably a safety rule about that. Somewhere.

The picture also answers this question: what do you do when the weather suddenly turns so warm that leaving your pint of milk  (I always have some proper milk in the room as that long life crap makes the tea taste funny) on the windowsill in front of the open window to keep it cool, is no longer an option?

You nail it up to the air conditioning vent. With a spoon.  Works a treat.


The restaurant at this gaff gets very busy, very quickly and so yesterday, when I returned from work – I decided to reserve a table.

“Hello. I’d like to book a table for six-thirty, please.”

“Certainly, sir,” said the smartly dressed young man stood at the entrance.”And how many people will be in your party?”

“Oh, only the one. Just me. On my own. Solo. All alone. Nobody else.”

“That’s no problem. Name and room number please?”

“Johnny no mates. Room 219”

“Mister N…. could you spell that for me please?”

“N. O. M. A. T. E. S.”

“OK, that’s fine. All booked for you Mr Nomates.”

It amused me greatly that my little joke had completely gone over his head. But I found it even funnier when I went down for dinner an hour later. The smartly dressed young man had been replaced by a middle-aged lady with hair that had been dyed several different colours. “I have a table booked,” I said, “Room 219”.

She quickly scanned down the register and placed a tick against my name. Then she picked up a menu and said:

“Please follow me, Mr Noh Mah Tez.”

Could you tell me how to get to…

This made me laugh out loud – it seems Google’s programmers have a sense of humour.

1. go to www.google.com

2. click on ‘maps’

3. click on ‘get directions’

4. type “New York” in the first box (the ‘from’ box)

5. type “London” in the second box (the ‘to’ box) (click on ‘Get directions’)

6.On the directions: scroll down to step #24

Thanks to Spratters (AKA Arthur Pewty) for sending me that.

And now for something completely different… again

Pie iesu domine, dona eis requiemYesterday, In Trafalgar Square, I helped to set a new world record: along with 4000 other like-minded idiots, I sang Monty Python’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, whilst banging two halves of coconut together. I met up with Spratters and Dr PM (who sadly didn’t make it in time to get any coconuts).

Various characters from The Holy Grail film paraded themselves around the square, shouting suitably apt comments from the film, at the throng gathering there. Most of us had been immersed in Python lore for so long, we were able to retort with the correct comebacks, and even threw in a few ad-libs of our own. Spratters’ cry of “Are you a virgin?”, aimed at the Guinness World Records official on the podium, drew appreciative laughter from those around us.

Afterwards, The Holy Grail was shown on a large screen erected in the square. But, much as I love it, I have seen it a dozen times already and so we departed and made for the nearest pub.

It was the best St Georges Day I’ve had in a long time.

Red Nose Day

rnd-350.jpgSo, what I am I doing for RND? Well, not a great deal really. I’ve dropped a few coins in a few collecting buckets, and that’s about it.

Some people have put in some real effort though. Mike is one of them. He has compiled a list of 100 humourous British Blog posts and made them into a book, which can be bought here. And, like God… or Anneka Rice, he did it in only seven days!

Sadly, my own (rather hastily chosen and – with hindsight – ill conceived) submission, didn’t warrant inclusion, in what is sure to be a most humourous read, but I shall be buying a copy nonetheless. I urge you to do the same.

It’s for charidee, after all.

Oh, and I was emailed this today. Don’t you love it when the translator has a sense of humour!

Every little helps… part 4

I posted several entries on the old site, regarding our rather childish antics at our local Tesco’s in Hemel, where we had been posting our own inane comments on their comments board, under the name of Arthur Pewty.

These comments stayed on the board for many weeks and we occasionally noticed people reading them and smiling.

Mission achieved, then.

However, the Tesco Humour Police eventually discovered them. Our mole in the store said that two chaps in suits were seen reading them… and they were not smiling. A short while later, the comments were removed. Oh well.

Watch out for further capers, where we aim ultimately to replace one of the checkout girls with our own comedy version.