Monthly Archives: June 2012

TEA AND SYMPATHY

NotNiceEtoile meets New Friend for coffee on a day when the British Summer has seemingly come to an end.  Meaning the rain has finally stopped, leaving the sun to come out. New Friend suggests to NotNiceEtoile they purchase take-away drinks from one of those depressing brown coffee establishments now situated on every high street throughout the land to punctuate the eternal lines of charity shops (probably best not to embarrass them on this blog, might costa them a bit of trade – doh!) and sit by the river.  NotNiceEtoile acquiesces.

New Friend and NotNiceEtoile queue at the counter.  Barista solicits New Friend as to her beverage requirements.  New Friend asks for a medium iced decaf skinny mint latte mochachino macchiato frappuccino with an inside leg measurement of 33″.  Barista nods, whilst not batting an eyelid.  (Thought men couldn’t multi-task?)  Turns his attention to NotNiceEtoile, who is endeavouring to recover from an acute attack of adjective poisoning. NotNiceEtoile desires an iced tea.  Says “I’ll have an iced tea, please”.  Barista enquires, Which flavour?

NotNiceEtoile politely asks him what he’s on about.

We have peach, strawberry or cucumber.

NotNiceEtoile smiles, says “Ah, no, I want an iced tea”.

Those are our iced teas.  Peach, strawberry or cucumber?

“I’d like tea flavour tea, please”.

Barista stumped.  I’m afraid we don’t do that one.

Man with full beard awaiting his large caramel espresso chai creme mocha cookie crumble ristretto granita lattecino con panna with a double topping of tandoori chicken (I’ll swear he didn’t have facial hair when he entered the place) looks over and comments that it’s like an episode of Tony Hancock.  NotNiceEtoile says it’s all her fault, she’s a comedy writer.  She’s just grateful she doesn’t write tragedy.

NotNiceEtoile sighs out loud.  Asks if they have lemons (see assorted previous headbanging beverages posts).  To her surprise, the answer is yes!  Says she’ll have an Earl Grey Tea with lemon.

We don’t do that one, Mastermind retorts.  (He has, after all, torted this before.  See above). We have peach, strawberry or cucumber.

NotNiceEtoile patiently explains we’re forgetting about the ice thing now, lose the cubes, oublier les glacons, she wants a HOT Earl Grey Tea with a slice or two of lemon.

KERCHING!

That’s £46.93 please.

Cardboard vessel is presented for inspection to NotNiceEtoile, who has asked for the tea bag to be removed fairly early on in the brewing process.  Is that OK?  NotNiceEtoile peers into the long cylinder of sepia liquid.  “Where’s the lemon?” she sobs.  It’s there, at the bottom. NotNiceEtoile takes another peek. Sure enough there’s a sliver of something so thin, it’s almost invisible to the naked eye, lying dormant at the bottom of the cup. It’s nowhere near where it should be, on top of the steaming refreshment doing the crawl, or perhaps backstroke; this slice has, like the most famous parrot in the whole of history, fallen off its perch. It is a dead lemon.

NotNiceEtoile is reminded of the episode in Jerome K Jerome’s satirical masterpiece, Three Men In A Boat, which relates the antics of three male friends enjoying a boating trip on the Thames – by chance starting out from the very town in which NotNiceEtoile is suffering this horrible trauma! – in which Harris attempts to sing a comic song.  The pianist delivers a rousing introduction to the Judge’s song in Trial By Jury, before Harris enters – at the wrong moment – with the Admiral’s song from HMS Pinafore.  Eventually, after singer and pianist manage to converge on song choice, Harris starts off six octaves too low, before realizing and suddenly switching to a high falsetto.

“Nervous old lady near the fire begins to cry, and has to be led out”.

NotNiceEtoile and New Friend make for the door.  Behind them comes a voice:

Do you want milk with that?

AAARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

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SPENDING TARGETS

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me some vouchers for my birthday.  Very kind of her, only they were for an establishment I don’t often frequent – namely (without mentioning the name) a high street sex shop.

(Why she thought I was having sex is beyond me – I was married at the time).

(Actually, not married now, still not having sex.  Go figure).

(That’s enough brackets).

Luckily for me, there was one of these stores in the very town in which I was living!  (SHE WRITES THROUGH GRITTED TEETH).

[Look, I might work in the media, and have appeared countless times on live radio making jokes off the top of my head about breaking news to a million plus listeners at a time, I might have been filmed by Channel 4 News making a ground-breaking political satire programme in time of war, I might tour with my one-woman show – in which I play the woman, autographs at the end of this post – I might be experienced in standup (actually, might be an idea to rephrase that, given the circumstances), but that doesn’t mean I’m Jordan, now does it???   (Hint: mine are all my own.  Think of the money I saved).  Plus, I’m double Taurus with Virgo Rising, so away with your unreasonable expectations of my nice little Jewish girl personality, OK???]

Anyway, I got on the bus, telling myself that thousands of people go into these places every day, it’s healthy to live in a society where the purchasing of sexual accessories is an accepted part of mainstream life, nobody cares who you are, everyone’s incognito just as in every other shop, so there was absolutely no good reason why I shouldn’t remove the paper bag from my head right there and then.  (Not a good look.  Especially when it’s raining).

Bus arrived in town.  I disembarked.  My feet took me to a spot within 10 yards of the doorway, at which point they performed an abrupt U-turn before crossing the road, whereupon I found myself in a well-known chemist’s store.  (Don’t look at me like that, I was just as surprised as you are).  Wandered around for a bit, before giving my feet a good talking-to, and persuading them – nay, forcing them – back across the street and into my friend’s chosen destination.  (It was her fault, she made me do it).

So far, so good.  But I was just adjusting myself to the unfamiliar surroundings when the middle-aged portly male standing by the door turned to me and said Hello!  My god, he was a middle-aged portly male meeter-and-greeter!  (For once I actually missed extraordinarily rude French shop assistants, whom you have to chase around the place with a big net in order to get them to talk to you).  How dare he say hello to me!!!  In a sex shop, FFS!!!

Ever felt desperately sad because you’re not invisible?

Hmm.  Just me, then.

But there was something else odd about my experience…there was no mighty explosion (I suppose you have to wait ’til you get home for the Earth to move), the police didn’t arrive in cars with lights flashing to storm the building, and I was even starting to feel some good vibrations (amazing how they let you try out the products before you buy).  And there were an awful lot of peculiar items for sale that I sincerely hoped came with comprehensive instructions (if only to explain what they were).

I was beginning to relax.  Time passed, and after 1.3 seconds I’d chosen my goods (at least, I hoped they’d be good) and I joined the queue to pay.  All was going extremely well.  Until I got to the till point, when the man behind the counter said And what’s your postcode?

“Why do you need my postcode?” I asked, in an embarrassed why-do-you-need-my-postcode kind of a way.

We’re doing a survey to see where our customers live, he replied, as if he was using words I could understand.

Dear Reader, I gave him a false postcode.  (Stop laughing, it might have been yours).

I once bought a pair of curtains (yes, yes, it’s curtains for me) in another store in Brighton. The assistant there asked for my address.  I declined to give it.  He was very insistent.  I was very desistent.  I told him I saw no reason why I should give out personal information just because I was buying a pair of curtains.  We argued for a bit and I won.  I left the shop with my address still intact, but with an A4 piece of (thick) copy paper as my receipt.

The. World’s. Gone. Mad.  (Arrange these words into a popular, and true, phrase).

In these recessionary days of course, businesses have to think up ever more alluring ways to get you onto their premises.  I’ve experienced three notable efforts in the past week alone:-

1.       There’s a new Ikea-like cheap home store in the town where I now live.  I’ve been into it twice, and both times the song playing to the browsing customers was Paul Anka’s ‘Diana’. (Though it’s not half as good as his less well-known hit, ‘NotNiceEtoile’).

2.       I booked a haircut last week, and as I entered the salon my stylist, the owner, came forward to greet me, neatly performing a Norman Wisdom trip as he smiled hello.  (I congratulated him on his thoughtful welcome to a comedy writer.  Refrained from asking him how he’d greet Jordan).

3.       Yesterday, I went to a famous Fruit Store, famous for its electronic devices, curiously, for a workshop on something I’ve just acquired.  (Can’t say what it is, but I’ll keep taking the tablets).  The tutor was explaining how the calendar function works, and by way of demonstration, picked a date at random, which turned out to be my birthday!  (Every iCloud…)

Have to admit though, it’s all a little spooky, like the targeted ads you get on your email account.  (I got one for Spam Casserole last month.  Can I sue?)

Is there now any way to remain anonymous in this world?   (Or do we all have to become the leader of the Lib Dems?)  Answers on a postcard, please.  (And don’t forget to put your telephone number and inside leg measurement).

WISH I COULD THINK OF SOMETHING TO RHYME WITH BANKER…

Sigh.

NotNiceEtoile goes into another bank.  (See previous A Load of Bankers post).  It’s 31st May. She queues until what seems like 7th June to pay off the remaining amount of a small overdraft on a business account.  Tells the teller (ah, what ironies of life) that she wishes to close the account.

The teller tells NotNiceEtoile (hence her title) that she can’t close the account herself, NotNiceEtoile has to see the woman sitting at the island information desk situated in a lonely sea of grey polyester carpet near the entrance.  NotNiceEtoile looks at the teller, and considers either confessing her fears of being electrocuted whilst shuffling the half mile across the grey polyester carpet for another pointless conversation or, alternatively, hitting her around the head with a wet haddock.  Realizing there’s six inches of reinforced glass wall protecting the obviously SAS-trained bank employee (who plainly excelled with the rule about never taking unnecessary risks), she remembers at the same time that she doesn’t in fact have a wet haddock with her.  (Tsk.  It’s in her other bag).  NotNiceEtoile bids her farewell and sparks over to the queue for the Island Native.

Half an hour later, having found herself miraculously still alive (although the electrocuted hair look is a little startling for a Thursday), NotNiceEtoile states once more that she wishes to close the account.  Island Native taps the account details into the computer (either that or she was endeavouring to book a rescue boat with 4 burly oarsmen to free her from her dreary Monday to Friday 9 – 5 castaway existence), says to NotNiceEtoile (she can’t tell her anything, she’s not a teller) that there’s a further 14 pounds to pay for future charges.

“How can there be future charges when I’ve just closed the account?” NotNiceEtoile asks, in the deferential tone she reserves specifically for those who use her as a try-out for statements of complete and utter bollocks.

Island Native murmurs something unintelligible.  NotNiceEtoile thinks what’s 14 quid versus the will to live, so reaches for her purse.

Oh, you can’t pay here, you’ll have to queue up for the counter.

Something in the way NotNiceEtoile is snarling and turning purple – and is that the odd howl she can hear? – invites her to add But that’s OK, I’ll pay it in for you if you like.

She duly takes the money and disappears for 10 minutes.  When she returns she carries on a conversation first with another bank employee, and then another customer behind NotNiceEtoile, before tapetty tap tapping data into her computer, and taking her life into her hands by volting over to the photocopier.  (See what I did there?)

NotNiceEtoile signs sixty-six copies of ID forms, 43 consent forms, 179 closure forms (now is the summer of our disconsent).  Her right wrist is so tired, she feels as if she’s been speechwriting for Jeremy Hunt.  (Now there’s a man who can talk until his right hand drops off).  Eventually Island Native announces it’s all done, NotNiceEtoile is free to go.

Cut forward to this morning, 15th June.  NotNiceEtoile skips to the front door to see what goodies Postman Pat has brought her today.  Gosh, bumper crop – there’s a sale on at Plumbs, the bathroom people, an invitation to a cervical smear appointment (is it Plumbing Friday already?) and a statement from the bank revealing the balance on her account is now -£8.92.

NotNiceEtoile glances at her calendar and sees that it’s summertime, so she pulls on her raincoat, wellies and medium-sized rubber dingy, and motors to another branch of the bank. Which is impressive, as she doesn’t own a motor.

NotNiceEtoile queues to see Man Friday at his island.  (Nice-looking.  Italian.  Puppy dog eyes. Would consider being over-charged by him…)  Anyway, waves pieces of paper in the air, explains loudly, in a sensitive and caring way, looks deep into those gorgeous…AHEM… he gets the gist, confirms on his screen the account was not shut down after all, is most sympathetic. Prints out account activity on account which doesn’t exist and which shouldn’t have had any activity on it, leads NotNiceEtoile to a side office, gives her a pen and a number for the customer helpline.

Five hours pass before there’s a voice at the other end.  Further explanations ensue. Voice at the end of the phone says So you’d like to shut the account down today?

‘No, I’d like to shut down the account two weeks ago’.

SILENCE.

Tap tapetty tap.  OK, that’s all done for you now, and I’ve removed the extra charges.

NotNiceEtoile thanks him, and enquires about compensation for her time.  After ten minutes is put through to Somebody Else.  Somebody Else has already been briefed about the case, is extremely apologetic. Tells NotNiceEtoile it was a banking error, they’ve called up the branch involved (or rather, not involved, since they weren’t party to the closing of the account after all), branch has admitted the error.  Offers 30 quid.  NotNiceEtoile thinks it’s worth a punt, says “I think two hours of my time is worth more than that – call it 50 and I’ll go away”.   Somebody Else checks with somebody else, comes back onto the line and agrees.  Cheque is in the post.  (Where have I heard that before?)

There was a story in the media this week about a bank up north somewhere offering an account which is accessible solely by an old-fashioned pass book.  People don’t trust the internet, the bank has concluded, they’d rather turn up in person to see everything’s done properly.

NOISE OF HEAD SOMEWHERE IN SOUTHWEST LONDON BANGING AGAINST BRICK WALL

*

P.S.  I had a haircut the other day.  Called up in the morning and got an appointment that afternoon because luckily, Greece had cancelled.

A LOAD OF BANKERS

You know the one about the Englishman, the Irishman and the Scotsman going into a pub, whereupon the barman says: “What’s this?  Some sort of a joke?”

Well, try this one for size…

…NotNiceEtoile goes into a bank.  (Don’t tell me – you’ve heard this one before…)  Seeing there’s only 143 people already queuing for the measly two tellers (look, if bank employees can’t eat their tuna paste sandwiches at one of the busiest times of the day, when they can they???), she joins the end of the line.  Twenty minutes having passed fairly swiftly (only felt like 19 and three quarters in the end), NotNiceEtoile skips up to the counter and says to the 13 year-old DimWit behind the security glass (you’ll understand why there’s the need for security glass by the end of this post):-

“Hello.  I’d like to set up a standing order please”.  And she pushes a piece of paper with all kinds of details on it through to what to all intents and purposes looks like a person on the other side of the triple-glazed, bulletproof, anti-customer protection wall.  DimWit Who To All Intents And Purposes Looks Like A Person stares at piece of paper with a triple-glazed expression on her face.

What’s this?  she inquires with a sneer, which is impressive when you consider she’s stifling a yawn at the same time.

“Those are the details of the standing order I’d like to set up”, NotNiceEtoile says helpfully, providing a narrative for an action she’d rather thought would be completely blindingly obvious and unnecessary to provide a narrative for.

DimWit takes a minute to process the collection of short noises that are wafting around the entire bank – you might know them as ‘words’ –  thanks to the induction loop thoughtfully built into the premises so that the hard of hearing in Western Australia have no trouble in keeping up to date with what’s going on in the banking world of SW London.  She somehow brings herself to look at the piece of paper.

What’s this name at the top? she asks.

“That’s the name of my son”, NotNiceEtoile answers.  “I’d like to set up a standing order for him”.

Dimwit again looks at the chit.  There’s no sort code on there.

“You’ll find that hidden next to where it says SORT CODE”.

Oh yes.  Well, the account number’s too long.  

NotNiceEtoile looks at the piece of paper DimWit has bravely passed back to her through the razor-wired NoCustomerLand.  There are indeed too many numbers on that line. (NotNiceEtoile starting to think that perhaps the bank doesn’t quite suck out all the air in the protective employee cubicle behind the glass).  And she realises with some pain that she’ll have to abort this mission to await further instructions.  Like Elvis, were he sporting his blue suede shoes in a bank on the outskirts of London in 2012, she leaves the building.

NotNiceEtoile texts Son. Son texts back : “Oh sorry.  That was my card number.  Here’s my account number’.  (For some reason, hard to recall at this point that Son spent last year studying Maths and Astrophysics at a top UK university).  NotNiceEtoile says she’ll return to the bank, reassures Son not to worry, she’s British, queuing up is in her DNA, she really has nothing better to do with her day like becoming globally famous and earning sackfuls of money to pay into her account for DimWit personally to count out in pennies.

NotNiceEtoile returns to the bank.  Sees the queue is now 496 people long.  Lets out a plaintive sigh and makes it 497.

On this occasion, the time is filled with her endeavouring to elbow out of her space, without using her elbows, old woman immediately behind her, who is breathing heavily down her neck and eyeballing the jokey exchange of texts NotNiceEtoile is enjoying with her son about the inadequacies of popular contraceptive devices 21 years ago.  NotNiceEtoile (quite rightly) believes the communications to be private and, more importantly, copyright.  ‘Get your own son’, she thinks loudly.

Finally, finally, NotNiceEtoile once again reaches the counter.  Some quirk of fate (think it’s known as The Monty Python Foot) has ensured she is once again face to face with the DimWit with whom she engaged last time.

“Here’s the new information”, NotNiceEtoile chirps, shoving the amended piece of paper carefully through the booby-trapped, chop-your-fingers-off-in-a-split-second scary tunnel.

DimWit knows now she will have to perform some kind of task.  Something in her head, possibly as big as a peanut (I can be generous if I like, it’s my blog) instructs the talons on the ends of her hands – where the fingernails are square cut and six inches longer than her fingers – to start inputting information into her computer.  She asks when the first payment should be sent.  “Today, please, the 1st June”.

Oh, it won’t go today.  The first one will have to be 1st July.  

“Why?  We live in a digital age.  You’re programming the computer now.”

It doesn’t work like that.  If you want the regular payment on 1st of the month, the first one will go in July.

“OK, can we send a one-off payment today?”

We can, but it won’t get there for 10 working days.

“WHAT???!!!”

It’s because it’s a bill payment.

“It’s not a bill payment, I’m sending money to my son.”

It’s regarded as a bill payment.  I’ll have to set it up separately.  

And so she makes her nails (well, I say ‘her’ nails, but I think that’s allowable because it was probably her who paid for them) dance clickety-clack onto the keyboard.  She climbs down from her chair and walks over to the printer, returning with two ENORMOUS pieces of paper, largely blank but for a few lonely numbers huddling together for warmth near the top.  Check the numbers and sign please, she slurs.

NotNiceEtoile looks at the two sheets.  Before she even gets to the account details, she sees that her son’s surname is spelled incorrectly.

“My son’s surname name is spelled incorrectly”, she says.

What’s your son’s surname?  DimWit asks.  If she was any more laconic she would have been dead for 28 years.

“Just as it’s written on the sheet of paper I gave you.  It’s ‘Shepherd’.”

It says that.

“No, it says ‘Shepard’.  My son’s name is ‘Shepherd’, as in sheep”.   NotNiceEtoile instantly regrets this remark, knowing she’s now going to have to explain what sheep are.

Oh, OK.

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack.  Off she sets again for the printer, acres of paper once again popping up at NotNiceEtoile across the enemy lines.

NotNiceEtoile coughs.  Points out as diplomatically as only she can (use your imagination, plonker) that DimWit has now typed ‘Shepheard’.

Do you want me to change it?

“Erm, yes.  It’s not my son’s name.  I want you to change it”.

At this point, possibly due to an emergency SOS emanating from the exhausted and soon to be deceased printer, a manager-type woman appears from the back office to sit next to DimWit.   Manager-type speaks softly to DimWit out of the corner of her mouth: “What’s the matter?” DimWit replies out of the corner of her mouth: I spelled the name wrong.  Almost imperceptible collective raising of bank-employed eyebrows to the ceiling.

DimWit tries once more, and with there being no other possibilities of erroneous spelling to be had, somehow gets it right this time.

Nearly done!  DimWit grins.  And then we can send £20 to your son!

“What £20???”  NotNiceEtoile exclaims.  “The amount should be several times that!”

Oh yes, that’s what I meant.

NotNiceEtoile grits her teeth and mentally makes note to change name to ReallyNotNiceAtAllEtoile.

The Queen gets four days of celebration and a fly past merely for being on the throne for a paltry 60 years.  I very much look forward to the recognition I deserve for spending almost the same amount of time on the premises of this establishment, dealing with the yokels.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the one-off ‘bill payment’ amount arrived in my son’s account the very next day.  Plainly, yet another mistake.

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