It All Makes Work

Evelyn Simak / Rook perched on telegraph pole

My ‘Phone Line Dies

It was on Saturday morning that my friend tried to ‘phone me to tell me that the chimney specialist would be along to fit a cowl to my chimney within the hour.  The line constantly rang engaged, and so she had to email me.

As my line was stubbornly dead, I embarked on the exciting journey to report my problem to BT.  At this stage, you may be asking, ‘Why BT’.  There are three reasons, first because it is the only company that allowed transfer of calls between France and England by the inputting of a code remotely; secondly, because I have a horror of ‘rocking the boat’ by moving supplier, and finding that I no longer have a service at all; and, finally, because, regardless of the supplier used, Open Reach carries out all repairs, and there just might be an advantage for a BT subscriber.

Why do I need a landline at all?  Unlike most of you, I do not have a smart phone, and I have no intention of getting one.  Not only are they ridiculously expensive, but I am convinced that I would never learn how to use one.  ‘Horses for courses’, as the saying goes.

Press One, Press Two, Do a Double Somersault

Back to my problem on Saturday.  I naively thought that I could just go on the Internet, and report my fault.  Not so fast!  In these days of self-help, I was expected to be my own telephone engineer.  Do this, check that, record the other.  It always ended with the solution of ‘phoning BT.  Fine, I had my trusty Nokia: the trouble was that no-one from BT was answering.

So back online I went to go through the same rigmarole, then back to my Nokia – still no joy with either.  I gave up.

Sunday morning dawned, and, determined not to be beaten by an uncaring, faceless organisation, I embarked again on my quest to contact BT.  Back on the Internet, I went through the nonsensical question and answer session more times than I care to remember, when suddenly I espied a possible route out – a ‘chat to the bot’ symbol.

Dear Reader, I chatted to the bot, which tried to take me through the same damned fool questions again.  By now, I knew every question, even the correct order, and I was not prepared to take any more.  I played the ‘poor old’ card, and told the bot I was a seriously aged, vulnerable person, who could not cope with any more of BT’s stupidity.

And then what seemed like a miracle happened – the bot handed me over to a person, a real human being. He duly noted my problems, and agreed to send an engineer.  “When”, I asked eagerly.  Aye, there’s the rub; “As soon as possible”, he replied, “But, in any case, no later than midnight on Thursday”.  Oh, well, hardly speedy, but, at least I had a definitive date, or so I thought.

Nothing happened for four days, and then, on Thursday afternoon, I suddenly lost my broadband connection: I correctly surmised that BT was trying, and failing, to restore my connection.

An Engineer Calls

Friday dawned – still no connection, and then, around 9.30 am the doorbell rang: standing at the door was a diminutive person, who advised me that he had come to fix my connection.  Lord be praised!  However, he had to ‘do Health and Safety’ first.  When I sought clarification on this, he explained that he had to climb a telegraph pole in front of his boss, but would be back before I noticed.

An hour and a half later, he reappeared: I didn’t ask whether he had ‘passed’ his Health and Safety test because it was already evident that verbal communication would be problematic.  He was, I surmised from his particular style of broken English, some sort of Eastern European.  The back of his head was flat, and he was no taller than me; dressed all in black, he looked like a small monkey, with big black boots, with which he proceeded to deposit mud all over my cream carpets.

To give him his due, he did seem to know what he was doing, and did get on with the job (depositing increasing quantities of mud on my cream carpets).

Of the four BT connection points in my house, he advised that one was caput, and he would need to take up the fitted carpet in order to fix it.  No thank you: I decided to live without that one, provided the other three worked.

In an attempt to appear sociable, I asked him why it had taken so long to respond to my broken connection.  He advised that Open Reach had been on strike the previous week, and were catching up on repairs.  I enquired why he had been on strike, and he replied, ‘More money’.  My attempted pleasantry that he would need to plant a money tree then, appeared to be lost in translation, since it did not even raise a smile.

Watching him covertly, I observed that he was picking up and examining items displayed as he moved round my house, which I have to say, sent shivers down my spine, an important learning point for future visits from unknown persons.

The Times They Are Changing

This got me thinking how times have changed.

In the good old days of a nationalised British Telecom, I would have been lucky to have a telephone connection at all: I recall that, even with a husband who was a medic, it took three weeks to secure a connection, and it was only because of his profession that we got a line all to ourselves rather than having to share a party line, and, of course, only British Telecom telephones were allowed.  On the other hand, I would never have been alarmed by the actions of a workman at that time, and, of course, he would invariably have been British.

Now the Vale is full of Eastern Europeans, mainly working for Kane’s Foods, the largest salad packer in the UK.  The supermarkets have a wide range of Eastern European foods, and many independent shops have sprung up in the centre of town.  Even the local cottage hospital duplicates all its signs in an Eastern European language, which I assume is Polish, since, as everyone knows, Eastern Europeans use hospitals as their alternative to GPs.

One in six people in the UK was born abroad, and this is, of course compounded by the number of second and third generation immigrants.  My parents’ neighbours were Polish, who came here as refugees after World War II; they never really integrated, but their children did, and they never sought to change the society in which they lived.  Now, everywhere we look, alien cultures are being imposed on us.

Would I like to go back to the days of a nationalised British Telecom?  No, I would not.  Would I like to go back to 1984, when British Telecom was privatised, and the Blessed Margaret was in power?  Oh, yes, please.

Enough of this moralising, back to the practicalities of life, and my trusty carpet cleaner.   

© Chrissie 2022