Thursday, January 31, 2013

Red mist in the phone shop

The year 2012 will be remembered for many things. The Olympics, the Jubilee, other stuff too quite possibly.

2013, thus far, is shaping up to be a little more prosaic. But it may at least go down in history as The Year We Got A Mobile Phone Upgrade.

Oh the excitement. Dixon Junior’s mobile, bust past redemption, can at last be replaced with a model that is not only faster and shinier but also equally inexpensive.

So it’s off to the mobile phone shop. Not mentioning any names, but it's the one that used to be named after a flavour of marmalade, but is now named after what a Yorkshireperson says just before they say “Bah gum!”

Even early on a Saturday morning, the queue stretches almost to the door. Staff member one is deep in conversation with two customers. Staff member two  is energetically dashing in and out of the storeroom. Staff member three is handling the transfer of customer funds from an offshore haven in the Caymans to a Swiss deposit account by way of a trust fund in Jersey.

There is no staff member four.

The Blitz spirit breaks out in the queue. Doughty Brits, united in adversity, suck their teeth as staff member two vanishes once again, and tut disapprovingly as the funds are delayed due to fluctuations in the inter-bank lending rate.

At last we reach the front. Yes, says staff member two  –  still breathless from his adventures in the storeroom – we are eligible for an upgrade. Well, we did sort of know that.

So please can we have the shiniest phone known to man, with Android and infinite texts? At no extra cost to the Bank of Dad?

Of course you can, says staff member two, and disappears into the storeroom once more to get one.

And we wait, and we wait, and we wait. And as we wait, a customer approaches and asks us if there are any staff about. Get to the back of the queue, mate, and you’ll find out sooner or later.

Staff member two returns, panting and apologetic. We could certainly have that phone, he says, were it not for one problem – it’s out of stock.

Leaving aside why it’s on display when it’s not for sale, this can only mean one thing: we have to go home and call marmalade central to order one.

Staff member one’s quiet conversation reaches the half-hour mark, as intense and as apparently unending as when we first walked in.

The red mist descends.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chasing a wild chimpanzee

It’s January, and it’s time for a declutter. Books you only got half-way through when they won the Booker Prize; CDs that would have got your grandma’s toes tapping; shoes that were last in fashion when Manolo Blahnik was still wearing short trousers: they’ve all got to go.

Because a bit of decluttering cleanses  mind, body and  spirit just as effectively as any spa treatment.

We’ve having a declutter at Chronicle Towers this week. But the it’s hard to decide what to get rid of.
Deep in the depths of a forgotten cupboard, for example, is a slightly tatty copy of the Bath and Wilts Chronicle and Herald from Thursday March 24 1938.

And what a treasure trove it proves to be. On the wide rolling acres of its broadsheet front page we find a story from Liverpool with the  headline “CHASING A WILD CHIMPAN-ZEE” (they didn’t have the internet in those days so they didn’t realise that using all capital letters is the same as SHOUTING).

Mickey the chimp terrified a playground full of schoolchildren before being shot at point blank range by a Major CJ Bailey. What a ghastly deed to be remembered for.

Further down the page, things turn more parochial, with two separate stories from Trowbridge: “Unusual Result of Crash” and “UNUSUAL INCIDENTS”. It looks like the sub-editors were having a bad day: some things never change.

Deeper  in the  cupboard is The People from a few weeks before. Even in those days it veered towards sensationalism: “Torso Murder Clues Handless Arm In River” screams the lead headline, next to a picture story titled “LITTLE OLD LADY”, about Mrs Bridget German of Devon, celebrating her 10st birthday with a daily bible reading and a game of darts.

There are adverts for sheds for three and sixpence down, and for Doctor Blosser’s Medical Cigarettes, available from the chemists. The past really is another country.

And  that’s what happens when you start to declutter: you soon find that all the old clobber is too interesting to get rid of, and you end up putting it back in the cupboard for later.