Don’t miss the next Docklands Walk
Don’t miss the next Docklands Walk
Drinking tea, a stroll in the rain, cooked tomatoes, left-over pasta, walking backwards….just a few of the things which can help us stay youthful whilst collecting our pensions.
Find out more with Radio Four’s Just One Thing
I was the second oldest participant in the 2023 Skyscraper Challenge in aid of Tommy’s (prenatal death research and counselling). This involved a 660′ abseil down the side of the Leadenhall Building (aka Cheesegrater) – having first climbed 42 flights of stairs (1095 steps).
The 42 floor ascent begins….
I won’t say the date from hell, not that bad so Maidstone will suffice.
I’d been chatting to a lady on a dating website. We seemd to be on the same wavelength so arranged to meet up. She said she was coming up to London to see an exhibition at Tate Britain and could we get together then.
Starting a first date in an art gallery, especially in times of covid masks, didn’t appeal for me so I suggested that I should meet her outside afterwards and we could take the boat to the City. With this she concurred and a day was agreed.
A couple of days later she messaged to say she had a change of plan, was not going to the Tate but was happy to meet me at Cannon Street around 12:30 – 1 o’clock. We arranged that she’d text me at 11 when she set off. All fine with me, a much better arrangement.
On the day I got myself into the City in good time. I never mind being early as there are always places to explore. 11 o’clock came and went, then 11:30 and no message. At noon my phone pinged with the message:
“Just leaving for Victoria change of plan. I will meet you at Tate Britain, let you know when I’m there”
– with nary a please, thank you, nor even a “sorry-but-would-it-be-ok-if…?”.
This was not going to plan. Also my first ever 21st century date in 2017 had also started at the Tate and that proved to be a dud. Still, eternal optimist that I am….
So, Underground to Victoria. On historic grounds I won’t say ‘tube’ as the District Railway was not tunnelled but dug as an embankment and the roof put back on – but I digress. Emerging from the station I found another message:
“I’m a member so you won’t need to pay”
Hmm! So we were going to some exhibition.
Some 25 minutes walk later I arrived at the Tate and sent a message saying where outside I was. No reply but she appeared in person.
We exchanged greetings and she told me that she had tickets for an artist called Paula Rego – who is no doubt very good, but that was hardly the point.
At the entrance I reached for my mask and she said “Oh, do we have to put masks on? I don’t see the point when I’ve been double jabbed”. Being a little dumbstruck I held my peace on this one, but it was followed by (and I paraphrase) “The only people at risk after two jabs are those with underlying health conditions and they shouldn’t come out anyway”.
By now my tongue had toothmarks, possibly long term ones.
I said I’d nip to the Gents while she picked up the tickets, she said this was fine but when I got back she told me that there had been a mistake: “A friend gave me the ticket because she couldn’t go but I’ve just found that it’s only for one person and they don’t have any spare places”. It was only later, looking back, that I questioned the veracity of this statement – but more on this later*.
She then said that we could go for coffee but then say goodbye so that she could go to the exhibition!
Consider my feelings at this point. I’d planned some things for us to do in the afternoon, somewhere to eat afterwards, been out since 9:30, spent an unnecessary hour in the City then travelled 45 minutes across the Capital to end up on a date lasting probably fifteen minutes having been upstaged by some artist I’d never even heard of.
We got coffee and cake – though she moaned about the quality of the latter – and finally got to chat. In fairness, she did seem a decent enough soul and struck me as somebody who’d be quite good fun in company down the pub but very different from how I’d perceived her from prior online chattings.
As we parted she said “We’re not really right for each other, are we?” to which I placidly replied “Yes, I think you’re probably right” whilst actually thinking “there ain’t no bargepole long enough”.
* Later, on reflection, I reckoned the mistake about the ticket was balderdash and just an excuse to get rid of me.
Definitely worst date this century, actually possibly since my teens. This is not so bad, the next one must surely be better – and if it isn’t I’ll really have something to write about!
I would not ordinarily take any pleasure in wasting somebody’s time, raising their blood pressure and upsetting their morning, but there are exceptions….
I had a call, apparently from Amazon, to say that my Prime subscription had been renewed for £79.99 but asking if I wanted to cancel.
Knowing it was a scam I took the call. After saying that I wanted to cancel I was immediately ‘upgraded’ to somebody else. He asked if I had access to a computer.
As it happened I had an old laptop to hand, devoid of data but in working order so I decided to see how they were going to play this.
I was asked to open a browser and was directed to the AnyDesk website. AnyDesk is a legitimate piece of remote control software. Following their instructions (and playing dumb and non-IT literate) I downloaded the program and let the scammer take control of the computer.
Thence my browser was taken to a fairly amateur Google form where I was asked for name, address, the amount I wanted credited plus my bank details. I filled this all in with fake data and the aforementioned amount of £79.99
After this a screen appeared confirming a payment of £7,999 – a hundred times the original amount. I was told that I must have typed in the wrong amount and that I’d need to pay back the extra. Scammer asked if I used online banking.
I said that I did but would have to see to this later as I had a medical appointment. This caused him to get quite agitated and tell me that if it wasn’t sent back right away then I’d be under investigation for money laundering. I persisted saying that it could be done later.
So aggravate matters further I told him that I needed the toilet and kept him waiting for another few minutes. Back on the phone he was telling me that the police would be called if I didn’t send the money back right away. Noting that the call had been going on for almost 30 minutes I decided it was time for a break and put the phone down. See below for the next chapter…
I wish I’d had a redundant online bank account with ninepence in it just to see what would happen.
My suspicion is that they’d dup somebody (the ‘patsy’) into logging into his or her online banking where, of course, there’d be no mysterious £7,999 deposit. They’d then say that the money was on its way and tell the patsy to send £7,920.01 back to Amazon to correct the credit to the original £79.99.
Sadly people must fall for this.
…to continue the story
A minute later the phone rang again. Scammer was back with an irate “How dare you put phone down on me?”. I said I’d not put the phone down on anybody, this got an angry “Just now!”.
“Oh”, I said, “You were talking to my father, he’s gone to the clinic”. This invoked: “It is not his money, he must give it back. You need to log into his online banking”.
I told him I’d only just got in and asked him to tell me what the situation was. At this point he lost it.
“That is not your money, your bloody father must send it back”. He then said that this was money laundering and the police would be coming if the money was not sent back. I calmly explained that this was not a money laundering situation and the police would not come round until there’d been a proper investigation. This caused more ranting whereupon I asked if this was the sort of behaviour expected from Amazon employees. At which point, I am delighted to report, apoplexy appeared to set in at the other end of the line!
I toyed with telling him that he himself had been conned but reckoned he’d be more frustrated thinking that he’d come so close to a £7,900 payday.
Accordingly I put the phone down satisfied that he’d spent 45 minutes not being able to scam somebody else.
An acronym which I invented and which has been officially adopted.
“Almost fell off chair laughing”
I was delighted to discover that a ‘kpop boy band’ (whatever that may be) has adopted the name: facebook.com/AFOCL-596590480530073/
“Brian and Roger” chronicles a series of voicemails between two divorced dads.
One of them is manipulative. The other one is nice.
Improbable situations, sometimes outrageous, strong language at times.
This programme is not suitable for those of a genteel disposition.
It’s a podcast so you may need to download a program or app.
Caution: can be addictive and lead to AFOCL incidents.
Back in 2001 I was on contract in Aldgate. I’d take the train to London Bridge, walk along the Thames Path then across Tower Bridge and St Katherines Dock to get to work.
Just outside the station a homeless chap called Martin used to beg. I’d buy him a sandwich or a cup of tea a few times each week.
One morning Martin wasn’t there, not the next day either, nor ever again.
I didn’t think much of it: people move on.
Four years later I was boarding a train in Woking, when a voice called “Oi! Mate! Hold on!”.
I looked round and it was Martin! Neatly groomed, smart casual shirt and new pair of jeans.
Here’s the story.
He was begging at his usual pitch when a woman walked past, glanced at him, walked on a few paces then stopped, came back and asked him “Are you Martin?”
When he affirmed she said: “I’ve not seen you for years. I’m your Aunt!”.
Auntie lived in somewhat humble and dilapidated accommodation nearby but she took him in.
Two weeks later her number came up on the Premium Bonds! They moved out to Surrey and she set him up in his own gardening business.
“Listen mate”, he said to me, “I owe you a drink, in fact several drinks. Give me your number and we’ll go for a beer”.
So I gave him my number.
Never heard from him again!
I wish him well though.
In 1998 we moved into Alexandra Road. The house needed some work and the garden had been neglected and was full of rubble. We hired somebody to clear the rubbish and also turn over the soil.
Next day I was out in the garden in discussion with Phil, our builder when we spotted a curious small cylindrical object.
“Oh, looks like a bomb!” said Phil.
I pondered for a few seconds. The railway line nearby had been a WW2 target for the Luftwaffe
“Too small”, I replied, “anti-aircraft shell maybe?”
“Er, didn’t some of those have warheads?”
I went inside and called the police on the non-emergency number and explained that we might have found an unexploded wartime shell. On hearing this the operator said “I’ll put you through to 999”.
“Oh, no rush,” I said, “it’s been there 50 years, it can probably wait a few minutes more!”.
I explained the situation again to the emergency operator and she said “We’ll send somebody round right away but meanwhile please keep away from that side of the house and also let your neighbours know.”.
Well, we’d met the neighbours on one side but not the other, so I knocked on their door and said “Good morning, my name is Andy. We’ve just moved in next door, oh, and – by the way – we might have an unexploded bomb in the garden”.
A constable arrived, took a look at the artefact, said it looked dodgy and that the inspector was on the way. A uniformed inspector arrived, took a look himself and said “It’s quite possible. We find about one a year. I’ll call the Bomb Squad”.
By now four houses in Alexandra Road and another four in Davidson Road had been evacuated. Neighbours who’d never met before were chatting and making each other cups of tea.
Eventually we heard a siren and a dark blue Ford Granada pulled up. Two burly chaps got out, spoke to the inspector, and walked through to the garden. When they came back one was carrying my ‘bomb’. Without a word they got into the car and drove off.
I asked the inspector what it was. He replied: “They said building material – but I’m not so sure…”.
This gave me a theory. I suspect that during Bomb Disposal classes the instructor will produce my ‘bomb’ and say “Now, if some daft pillock calls up with one of these….”.
There was a postscript. Later that I day I came home in the car and was looking for somewhere to park. A chap pulled up on the far side of the road, got out of his car and made that universal gesture which means “I’m just popping on for a second then I’m off again so you can have the space”.
Next day I saw the same fellow and said to him “Thanks for the parking space yesterday. My name’s Andy, we’ve just moved in opposite”
“Ah!”, he said, “you’re the one with the bomb”.