Previously Malcolm was noting his favourite Tories —
- those who go with the grain to confirm our worst prejudices,
- those who are recognisably human.
Matthew Parris, who has previously appeared on Malcolm’s check-list of all-round good eggs, is definitely among the latter. In his My Week column for today’s Times, he has this instructive anecdote:
In my London flat the phone rings. It’s from (says the Asian-sounding lady) the Office of Fair Trading. I’m due £1,200 compensation for mis-sold insurance … (I smell a rat; she sounds as if she’s at a railway station) … Please may a courier bring the cheque around this afternoon?
(I decide to play along …) He’ll be called Alex. Oh and there will be VAT of£100 payable, so will I go down to the nearest Ukash agent — it’s Costcutter on the Commercial Road, she tells me — and buy a voucher, which I will not have to give to Alex, only show him its number to prove that I have it. I won’t have to release the cash, she says, untilI’ve successfully cashed the “OFT” cheque.
I decide to follow through and promise to get the voucher. She says that she’ll call again later to check that everything’s on track, and gives me her phone number. I ring off and call the new police number for non-emergencies in London, 101.
Rather to my surprise, someone answers. I explain all. “Don’t pay anybody anything,” she says. Obviously, I say, I hadn’t planned to; but I’ve called to help the Met Police to catch these fraudsters. Alex is coming at 4pm. A police officer could lurk in the hall and collect evidence.
Oh, she says, she’ll pass on my suggestion, but she doubts that this would be appropriate because “no crime has been committed so far”.
This is baloney — there’s good cause to believe that a conspiracy to commit a crime may be under way — but I don’t bother to argue and accept her assurance that someone will call back if further help is required. Nobody does. When the “OFT” phones again, as promised, I call the whole thing off.
I was left feeling vaguely unreassured. It’s possible that the Met were following this up already, but I don’t think that the 101 lady knew if they were. What she knew was that the police aren’t very interested in this kind of thing. Why not?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch …
Shortly after Malcolm read that, the telephone rings at Redfellow Hovel. The Lady in Malcolm’s Life answers it.
A helpful soul (who knows names) wishes to tell her there is something wrong with the Windows on her computer, and would dearly — doubtless, indeed — like to help.
This is curious because all four computers in regular use at Redfellow Hovel run MacOs. The Lady doesn’t give that info, merely that she doesn’t use Windows — without adding, “… nor would, this side of Hell freezing over”.
Nice try, but no cigar.
Anyway, Matthew Parris’s “OFT” episode reminds Malcolm that some time back he bought fuel at a petrol station (which has since closed) in Palmer’s Green.
The person before him queuing to pay had a slight kerfuffle over ther transaction: somehow the bill had come up £20 in excess. Oh,dear, I’ll correct that, madam.
There was a small flurry out-of-sight below the counter line-of-sight and the remedy was made.
Malcolm felt dubious,but had no alternative in his wallet except a cash-card. And so, back on the road.
A day or so later the joint account was £721.52 adrift. The debit had been made by a seedy Turkish restaurant in Stoke Newington. At 2AM in the morning.
The bank was as helpful as they could be, but the debit would remain outstanding until the slip had been seen — this being before the days of chip-and-pin. Which makes everything s-o-o-o secure. Ahem!
Oh, and had the presumed “theft” been reported?
Malcolm therefore was off, pronto, to the local Nick, anxious to “lay evidence”.
No such luck. The Boys in Blue could not do a thing without the O.K. on form which would be supplied from the bank.
That form took two weeks to arrive.
Then back with it to the Nick, where it was courteously accepted. Even so, Malcolm was very politely told this was all old stuff; and he should have reported it earlier.
Joseph Heller would recognise the situation.
Alright, move on, nothing to see here