Thursday, 1 October 2009

F.R.I.E.N.D.S Phobia, Shilpa Shitty & The Campaign To Repair Hadrian's Wall


True to form for this country, the weather held off from being shite until I needed to sign on for Job Seeker’s Allowance (if my more affluent fans are reading this you may change that to Sponging Leech Hand Out, Nasty Slob Funding or whatever else enables you to look down on me while eating out of a wooden salad bowl, driving a 4x4 and paying 40% tax).

I got to the Job Centre with various bits of my body, coat and bag piss-wet through due to the torrential downpour and the fact that even my purple, golfing sized umbrella had its limits. Signed on with some cantankerous old fart at Box 1 (a desk nowhere near Box’s 2 or 3) and then made my way to Specsavers to order my super duper designer frames at knock down, unemployed person prices. After flirting with the Assistant Manager (who told me the brown frames went better with my hair) I was shuffling along the main road, hiding under my brolly and wishing dearly to be out of the rain when a very cute, 16 year old black girl suddenly appeared next to me, blatantly trying to get a free rain shield.

“Hi there, wanna share?”

(Giggling) “Yes”

I realise I’ve gone up the wrong road but decide to be chivalrous.

“I normally don’t walk up here but I’ll be a gentleman, how far are you going?”

(Pointing up the road) “to that bus stop”

I glance over my shoulder to see three of her friends laughing at her unabashed cheek.

“Your friends think it’s funny”

“They would, they’re wierd”

“What’s your name?”


“Nice name, this your bus?”

“Yes, thank you, take care”.

“You too”.

Ahhhh...the simple joys of ordinary strangeness.

Two emails that were automatically bunged in my Junk Mail folder today.

The fascinated goodbye twists the dynamic alliance.

And..The brass scores within a link.

Kind of beats “Broadsword calling Danny Boy”.

I have been a Lloyds TSB customer since oooh….about 1995 and was with TSB before the merger from about 1983. I’ve never had any problems with them whatsoever until May of this year when some shit bag got into my current account via Telephone Banking and cleared out £300. After frantic phone calls and thankfully having a sympathetic boss who let me use his phone to call England from Rome I sorted this matter out and got the money back. About a week later some dour Scotsman in a Glasgow Fraud department called me up, played me the tape of a geezer with a Pakistani accent, sounding nothing like me being asked out of date security questions before transferring the cash to the account of one Kobe Niende.

When the cynical sod came back on the line I asked him why a question about a direct debit I cancelled 3 months ago had been accepted as a valid way to enter my account. He replied that the branches sometimes have out of date information which doesn’t “drop off” straight away and can be 3 months behind Phone and Net banking. After a pause I asked if he should really have told me that.

I then asked for the crime reference number, assuming that they had reported the matter to the Police and he came out with this little beauty, proving that Lloyds TSB really don’t train their staff in how to talk to people AND that Hadrian’s Wall needs repairing.

“Well, we’re not going to report it because it’s not a large amount. The police won’t be interested as they’ll say it’s not in the public interest to pursue it. We’re the injured party here not you, you’ve got your money back. I’m sure you can see the bigger picture”.

After a pause to verify that I did just hear all this shit I say that the service is lousy and that as I am travelling, £300 is far from a “small amount”.

My misanthropic pal then replies “I would disagree with that, you’ve had your money back”.

Still, after an email to the right department I got an apology and £50 compensation and was prepared to mark it down to experience.

Then came the joys of “Busy London Branches”.

I went to cancel my credit card as they were still sending me statements even though I hadn’t used the bastard thing in about 5 years and there was 28p credit on it. I randomly chose a branch on Holloway Road who seem to send 80% of the staff for lunch at the same time and after waiting 45 minutes was told that the card was now cancelled.

A week later two further statements arrived and after calling Card Services was told that it HADN’T been cancelled as the 28p was blocking that.

A few days later I submitted a Change of Address form to the same branch and it took them a week to put the sodding thing on the system.

The final straw was when I cancelled and reordered my Debit card after suspicious activity on the Internet and it wasn’t sent for nearly two weeks (normally only takes 4 days). When I called up I was told that there had been a problem with the printing of a batch of cards including mine. The Customer Services manager apologised profusely and said that to make up for this she would have the new card sent by private courier at no charge to me, to a branch of my choice. She then rang the Holloway Road branch while I held the line and then came back to say that she had just spoken to Darren who would call me the very minute the card arrived on Friday (which was 2 days away).

Friday came and from 11am to 2pm I rang the branch 7 times and no one answered the phone. I then walked the 2 miles to enquire if the card was there only to be told it wasn’t. The cashier assured me however that Darren would call as soon as the courier arrived. When I asked why no one answered the phone the 7 times I had rung the sour faced bint replied flatly “we’re short staffed today”.

At 4.50pm I called branch again and spoke to Darren who said that the card wasn’t going to be delivered until the 30th September or maybe a day earlier if I was lucky. I pointed out that I had been promised profusely, amidst a flurry of “I can only apologise-es” that it would be with me today and the turd simply kept repeating “that’s wrong, that’s wrong. It takes 3 to 4 days. She shouldn’t have told you that. It takes 3 to 4 days. It’s the 30th. No, that’s wrong”.

I hung up on the little twat and then called back to ask for the manager. The creature that I then got was even worse. She told me the manager was in a meeting and then when I told her that I had no access to money over the weekend and had been let down yet again she just tutted and said “there’s nothing we can do if the card’s not here”. Trying to keep my temper I stated I would be shutting the account down and she robotically replied that I should come into the branch and fill a form in.

Monday was the final, final straw as I called to ask the branch manager’s name for a complaint I was raising and he happened to answer the phone. After the introductions it went like this.

“Are you Mr Manley? I’ve been expecting a call from you. You spoke to one of my staff on Friday, she thought you were being rude to her. You called her blonde”.

After a pause I replied “No. I was trying to ascertain if it was her I’d spoken to when I made the 4 mile round trip to your branch to check if my card was there after noone answered the phone the 7 times I rang. My exact words were ‘was it you I spoke to when I came in earlier. Are you blonde?’ “

He then repeated twice that she’d thought I was being “funny” with her.

Mixing automatic, dribbly managerial, fob-offs with good, old fashioned arrogance he asked if I’d called the right phone number the 7 times I’d phoned on Friday and when I read it to him went “oh, well I don’t know why noone answered it”. He then backed up Darren as “one of my best employees” and stated that whatever Darren had told me it was almost certainly true and that Darren was always receiving compliments from both other staff and customers on his complete wonderfulness.

To really rub salt in it he was loudly chewing the entire time he was talking to me and kept saying that the tart who wasn’t blonde had thought I'd been rude to her. When I asked this cretin what he was going to do about what I’d told him he fell back on “well Mr Manley (CHEW! CHEW!) I obviously don’t like it when a customer who’s been with us for such a long time (CHOMP! CHOMP!), such as yourself, decides to close his account down (MASTICATE! MASTICATE!). I can only apologise and I’ll (SLURP! SLURP!) speak to both of my staff when I see them”.

After a pause I asked if that was it and he chuckled and went “well yes Mr Manley, but I don’t think I’ll see Shilpa, she’s off sick today. She’s pregnant you see”. He then began to reiterate that he could only apologise and chomped loudly on his Juicy Fruit so I slammed the phone down.

So, a fresh start with Halifax methinks.

Something I’ve had a fairly irrational hatred of over the years has been that monolith of mediocrity, the TV show “Friends”.

I never “got” just why it was funny watching 6 spoilt, pretty millionaires ponsing around in a dream apartment and gurning in the coffee shop for cheapo laffs. A documentary in 2000 for series 6 had the 24 script writers and the episode director non-plussed on how to make one of Chandler’s lines “funny”. They brain stormed and thrashed and had huddles in the corner until someone hit on the bright idea of asking Matthew Perry for input and the line was changed at his suggestion to “they are not so much two human beings as two bottles of vodka walking around in human form”.


I LOATHED this show. It was American and called Friends, two reasons to NOT like it and the whole thing seemed geared to lonely people who had no pals. The entire product seemed to be cynically trying to tap into the subconscious of the bedsit brigade with taglines such as “be there for Phoebe, Ross, Rachel, etc”. The total intimacy of calling every episode “the one with...” again assured me in my misanthropic melancholy that this show was nothing more than a cynical attempt to repackage Happy Days at a generation that had nothing better to to than ogle and envy doll like figures in their posh penthouse and dream futilely that they could be like them or at worst have them as F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

I was once on a plane to Italy when the screens lowered from the ceilings and the in-flight, non-changeable entertainment was an episode of Friends. It was the one with Bruce Willis (shit! Now i’m doing it...AAARRGH!!!) and I went and sat in the claustrophobic confines of the bog for 15 minutes just so I could keep my record of “Not Watching An Entire Episode Of Friends”.

Then....about a week ago my mate and his boyfriend were watching an episode. As I sleep in the lounge I had nowhere to go and sulked behind this PC while The Rembrants warbled the theme tune. Within about 5 minutes I started to giggle and then began irritating my pal and his beau, asking what was happening. By the time it had finished I had laughed out loud about 6 or 7 times and realised it was a lot ruder on the humour than I had first imagined (fat caretaker says to Joey “will you be my dancing partner?” Joey replies after a pause “is that prison lingo?”).

Today I steeled myself to watch an entire episode when I was alone in the flat and laughed loudly the whole way through while reclining on the sofa sipping peppermint tea (the one with Jean Claude Van Damme if you wanna know).

So why the irrational hatred...

Well, I read somewhere that exercise or physical activity frees the mind and even old Albert Einstein had his biggest brainwaves while combing his hair (which must be a lie, I mean did you see his hairdo for fuck’s sake?). While out jogging I mused on just why I had loathed a relatively harmless TV show for 15 years and it came down to one fairly simple thing.

I have intimacy issues.

The fact that the thing was called Friends and was all about “being there” for each other was something that on a subconscious level made me both distrusting and scared. I got royally fucked over by both my family and some of the mongoloid wurzels I went to school with and since the age of about 4 have had great difficulty in trusting people of letting myself care about others. While I’m on most levels a “nice guy” I have always had a huge phobia of getting hurt through emotional betrayal and to this day still feel bitter that I fell in love with two different women in my 38 years of life and it didn’t work out (one I dated for 5 years, one for a month. As you can see it’s all or nothing with me). So a TV show featuring the comedy equivalent of Premiership footballers, getting ridiculously high salaries for witty quips on a sitcom did nothing except piss me off and make me hate a show that glorified one of the things that I found scariest and hard to handle in life.

Now I’ve actually popped my cherry with regard to watching a TV show that millions of people liked or even loved in huuuge measures I might just be able to start to form normal relationships with normal people.

Well...unless they’re cunts of course.

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