There is something about the world of plastic that is beginning to drive me round the bend. The past of chequebooks and traveller's cheques is starting to seem like the green grass on the other side of that fence. On Sunday morning, I bought my Observer
– you must have guessed I read it by now – and some groceries.
On Sunday evening, I tried to buy a theatre ticket. Debit card rejected. Twice. Tried my credit card. Same thing. I suppose I should have tried the fraud number but Monday morning I went into the bank and explained the problem. I chose the branch I know has human beings in it as opposed to machines and one person with a laptop, which the nearest branches, except this one, have all become. I got served by a helpful woman on the main floor who sent me upstairs to where there were more helpful women. But I found myself sitting for nearly an hour with a woman who phoned the fraud department to receive the usual 'Your call is important to us' – well you all know the rest of that. It was what I would have heard had I made the call from home to the fraud department. One does wonder why she could not have had better access than a customer calling and even the power to do something.
The fraud people asked a few questions, said I had been hacked and both cards were stopped but new ones were promised within five working days – they came two days later. But had they not arrived I might have needed cash so what then? I do have another bank account because long ago I did quite lucrative freelance work for the British Medical Journal
which I paid into the account I held with TSB – now Lloyds. But as soon as I thought about using it, I forgot the pin number, I was so stressed by it all.
Result – another bank, this time Lloyds, where a helpful woman let me try to use the card – both attempts failed. She said I could get sent a new pin within four working days. However, seeing the problem, she rose to the occasion and said I could take my card and ID – my driving licence – to the counter and withdraw money. So I did. And if I liked I could come in once I had the new pin and they would help me change it.
Alll this has left me wondering what would have happened had I been in Italy, as I was the week before, relying on my cards for payment and cash. There is something to be said for traveller's cheques after all, something I never thought I would say in a month of Sundays, and for dollars in your money belt. Nobody wants pounds.
At least my plastic woes took my mind off what Liz Truss and her acolytes are up to. At times like this, I sometimes wonder whether I would like to still be working at Westminster – I did live through some thrilling times there – but to be honest the answer is no. Politicians today are not what they were. Then, whether or not you liked or disliked their politics, they were at least people you respected. Now they are people you would cross the road to avoid.
In my Cafe article last week, I posed a question to SR readers, asking whether I, in my middle youth not yet 62, should continue to sport turn ups to my narrow jeans as has been my accustomed style, some would say signature look, for some time now. I am pleased in some ways and dismayed in others to say that response has been forthcoming to my question. Pleased by the notion that there has been a constructive and participative reaction to my request, however, equally dismayed at the result. I received a 100% return informing me that I should ditch the turn ups and adopt the hemmed trouser leg style.
On hearing of a 100% affirmative or negative outcome in a plebiscite, vote, consultation, election or ballot, most of us instantly turn our thoughts to imperialist forces, for example, invading a neighbouring country to which they have historical notions of control, delineating part of the country as its own and calling a vote to determine its annexation from its legitimate homeland. Though even those kind of rigged consultations only tend to return high 98 or 99% favourable responses. The 1% or 2% no vote returns laughingly claimed to be proof that a fair contest has taken place. In my case, the 100% was against my style. I was roundly and heavily defeated. Though I was not going down without a fight.
I thought for a bit about the legitimacy of the outcome and indeed the governance of the whole exercise, and wondered whether I should consult with authority, such as the electoral commission or pollsters like YouGov. Even those ones that advertise on STV looking for your opinions, etc. Sir John Curtice's name briefly passed through my mind, but I quickly resolved that surely he has too much on his plate at the moment explaining the ongoing, some might even say delicious, self-inflicted, demise of the Tory Party? Finally, and still unsure of my constitutional or legal authority, I have decided to declare the result, much like was supposedly the case with the UK referendum on whether we should leave the EU, to be non–binding.
Included in the response to the actual question I posed around whether I as a 61-year-old man should be turning-up my denims was a comment and I paraphrase, 'that this kind of behaviour should not continue beyond a person's mid-20s'. Some would say, in today's society with its subtlety around appropriation of meaning, that this might be construed as 'hate speech'. The kind of comment though held blithely, which could be an epoch-making, career-ending utterance. Though I have to make it clear, it was I believe said and meant with kindness in an attempt to save me from indignity.
So, you may be wondering what I intend to do, now that I have officially voided the discourse. Well, before I do so, I must thank SR reader Maureen Holt from Australia, the sole respondent to my heartfelt plea and to whom I must thank for ensuring an outcome, resulting in a 100% vote against my continuing with turn ups. Thanks Maureen. I am afraid that, like a despotic tyrant, I must reject your position. I do, however, retain the right to again take counsel should circumstances change. For example, it would be my intention at this point to repeat the question each year, until maybe, just maybe, I give in and finally jettison the style. Though I expect there may have to be a fair few re-runs before that happens.
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