My nerves were already shot to pieces when my phone rang and a faint little voice said, ‘Hallo, this is Vodafone, we’re just ringing to let you know we’ve got some offers for you.’
I was about to hang up when I remembered, in some sunken recess of the shrivelled left-hand side of my brain, that my phone contract is up for renewal soon and if I didn’t speak to the little voice I might soon have to visit the Vodafone shop (a direct replica of the underworld and God’s way of showing us what hell will be like if we don’t behave) and negotiate a deal involving unlimited gigabytes of data, and a new handset with inbuilt cinema, virtual popcorn-making facilities and other technology that will force me to live my entire life by endlessly touching the screen of my mobile phone.
So I said, ‘Oh yes, when is my contract up?’
Big mistake. In order for him to tell me that, I needed to go through security. A long time later, when I had furnished him with my postcode, mother’s maiden name, and every phone number I have ever had since I was in the womb — where I didn’t really have a phone number, as such, but it turned out that the direct line to the maternity ward of Warnford Hospital, Leamington Spa circa 1972 would do — he started to look at my account.
I wanted to say, ‘If you haven’t looked at my account until now, how did you know it is eligible for some offers?’, but I didn’t. I was too weary. He had managed to suck the life force out of me already. It wasn’t what he was saying, so much as his strangulated intonation.
No matter how much I strained my aural powers, all I could detect was: ‘I’m just oo-eee-aa-er-aaa-oooow-and I can see that you’ve ee-ee-a-oooow-arrr-arr-ee-ee-aw-awww!’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘can you repeat… you’ve what?’
‘Ah ee-ee ar-ar aw-aw…’
‘Seriously, I can’t hear… well, I can hear but I can’t… er… I tell you what, just look at my account and tell me what date my contract expires.’
‘Ar… arrrrr… ar-ee-ee…’
It was terrible. For all I knew, he might have got this job on a government scheme. I couldn’t be rude to him.
‘Please can you just say the date,’ I begged.
‘Ah… Aaapril… Aaaapril…’
‘Aaapril… Aaaapril… Aaaaapril…’
This went on for a good while, amid a muffled sound of crashing about in the background, until finally he said: ‘Aaapril… Aaaapril… July the 13th!’
He was then able to confirm, after a fashion, that there were absolutely no offers available on my account at all. Not one. In fact, my account couldn’t be more devoid of offers if all the offers had been sucked out of it using a dual cyclone offer--sucking machine designed by Sir James Dyson himself.
He couldn’t have known that before he rang me, though. He had to ring me, put me through security, access my account and then tell me that he had no offers for me.
Nothing. Nothing at all. Unless, he said, I had any business colleagues. They could have all the offers they wanted.
‘No, no business colleagues,’ I said.
‘Friends and family?’
‘No, I’ve no friends or family,’ I said, with astounding conviction. I was so desperate for the torture to end that I was prepared to sacrifice everyone I loved in order to declare myself beyond the reach of his sales pitch.
He strangled on about whether I might have any family I had forgotten, so I told him I would call him back, and put the phone down.
My nerves were shot to pieces even before I got a cold call to sell me something I couldn’t have because I am being run ragged by The Germans at the stable yard. A couple of weeks ago, you may remember, they demanded I move my bucket, which was protruding an inch from my storeroom.
Since then, there has been a severe escalation of hostilities, sparked when I had a storeroom delivery of six bales of straw. I had left my storeroom locked so the bales were piled up outside, partly obscuring my door and partly obscuring Mrs German’s stable wall.
When I arrived, she was pacing up and down. ‘This is no good,’ she barked. ‘You must leave your key so that it can be put inside.’
I began throwing bales inside the storeroom at speed, using strength I never knew I possessed.
‘This is much work for you, I see,’ she said menacingly, as she stood watching me. ‘And…ha ha,’ she laughed roguishly, ‘you have also to clear up this mess…’
I’m ashamed to say I started madly sweeping until not a single blade of straw was left on the ground. I need to rethink my battle plan.