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May 2009 - Sorry, Wrong Number

Those of you who are faithful devotees of this monthly heap of words, piled onto a web page in a somewhat random order, will be quite well aware of Nick Harvey's total hatred of answering the telephone to either wrong numbers or unsolicited sales calls.

Well, dear viewers, it is my sad task on this occasion to announce that it's been a very bad month, both within Harvey Towers and without.  Shall I commence the story within or without?

Oh no, best, perhaps, before the story, to commence with the welcome, lest the beige cardigan in the third row recommences her tirade of complaints at the lack of politeness at the top of my pages.

So welcome dear viewers, no, a warm welcome dear viewers, a very warm welcome even, to the annual Maypole encircling edition of Nick Harvey's Comment, as spring gently springs, buds gently bud and the bloomin' telephone never stops ringing.

Shall we commence within then?  You see, my problems over the last month have occurred on both the electric telephone hard wired into Harvey Towers and the mobile telephone which I have occasion to take with me when I'm out and about.

Now, I'm sure this lunch is going to be a fantastic event, once it's been decided in which hostelry it's going to take place.  The trouble is, I don't think there's ever going to be any agreement over which particular hostelry will have the honour of hosting such an important event.

I can see from the rather blank looks on the faces of the majority of the occupants of the fourth and fifth rows that I'm starting to confuse you all now, am I not?  I'm terribly sorry about that.  Do let me explain.

You see, if the idiot who keeps on ringing me, accusing me of being Bob or Robert Somebody-or-Other wasn't calling from a withheld number, then I could call him back to tell him that I definitely don't want to take lunch with someone so simple that they can't string a six, or possibly eleven, digit telephone number together correctly.

As it is, he keeps on leaving War and Peace length messages on my answering system, trying I suspect to fill up the local telephone exchange with his digitised droning, all about these complex lunch arrangements.

On the one occasion that I did manage to speak with him live and in person, he bluntly refused to believe that he's capable of ringing a wrong number and that I'm not his good old mate Bob.

I honestly don't care whether he and Bob want to take luncheon in the garden at the back of a pub, or in the dining room, where it might be a little bit warmer if the wind picks up a bit, because after all, the girl who does the weather on BBC Breakfast says there's a front moving in from the west and it might bring a bit of rain cloud with it, as well as the wind picking up on its leading edge.

Neither do I care in the slightest about which pub they choose.  Which chef has moved from which hostelry to which other one is of no concern to me whatsoever, since, believe it or not, I shall not be taking lunch with them.

And how many "nasty youngsters" are sitting at the tables in the garden, smoking their "foul cigarettes" next to persons partaking of dinner is also of little consequence to me, as I shall not be partaking personally.

I've had a few wrong number calls over the years but I've never before experienced anyone so insistent on leaving so much incredible detail on an answering service.  In the end I was expecting him to tell me the size of his underpants in case he was to require a spare pair after being involved in a road accident on the way to the pub.

I suspect that the lunch date never actually took place in the end.  Well, as Bob never had an opportunity to hear the message asking him to choose the venue, then he, fairly obviously, wouldn't have bothered to reply to it.

Lucky Bob, though, I say.  If this bloke can drone on at such incredible length when he's just talking to an answering system, imagine how bored poor old Bob would have got listening to him all the way through lunch.

You stay at home for lunch, Bob!  That way you'll miss out on the foul cigarette smoke, the leading edge of the cold front, the dodgy prawns from that chef who used to be at that pub out in the villages, the cramped garden with the uncomfortable seats right by the main road, the dining room with the music on far too loud, not to mention the spare pair of size 38 underpants hung over the back of the chair.

Oh, okay, madam, so I might have exaggerated a bit about the underpants.  Sorry.

So, having completed the story from within, is it, perhaps, time to go without?

I'm suddenly conscious that this month's Nick Harvey's Comment is rapidly becoming an edition of two separate halves.  I really hope you won't all be sick as parrots after you've finished it.

Indeed, it's becoming so much an edition of two halves that I'm tempted to enquire if those nice people in playout could possibly pause it about here and pop a quick commercial break in for me?  Thank you very much.

Welcome back.  This month we're looking to relocate Phil and Kirsty from their penthouse pad in Pimlico (or Pimilco as Mr H of Nailsea likes to call it) to a rural retirement retreat in Rutland.  Oh no, sorry, got a bit carried away there; it was the commercial break that did it.

We were going without, were we not?  And with the mobile phone, just in case Mr 0161 249 4496 calls again.  Well, he calls quite regularly and I'd hate to miss the opportunity for a further discussion with him.

I was mentioning my faithful devotees at the head of this page.  As well as knowing my hatred of unsolicited sales calls, they will also be well aware of my love of the specific definitions of specific English words.

I would, therefore, like to present the word "confirm" for detailed analysis under the Acme microscope this month.  My Concise Oxford tells me that to confirm is to "provide support for the truth or correctness of", to "make definitely valid", to "establish more firmly", or to "ratify".

Try as I might, I cannot find anywhere, in any of my dictionaries where there's any reference to me confirming something meaning that I have to provide the initial information in the first place.

As I keep on saying to Mr 0161 249 4496 when he asks me to confirm my full name, my postcode and the first line of my address, "I'll gladly confirm them; you tell me what they are and I'll confirm whether you're correct or not".

He doesn't seem to want to tell me what he thinks they are.  I actually have a sneaking suspicion that it's because he doesn't know what they are.  I actually have a sneaking suspicion that there's a chance Mr 0161 249 4496 might be up to no good.

On over half the occasions when he rings, he, or the computer controlling the call, puts the phone down immediately I answer, so there's definitely something a bit suspicious about the whole business.

When he does speak, he says he's calling on behalf of an insurance company and that they've asked him to ring me.  At my request, my broker has now enquired of the insurance company in question and they deny either passing my ex-directory mobile number, which is registered with the Telephone Preference Service, to any third party or asking any third party to ring me.

An interesting aside to all this is that Mr 0161 249 4496 keeps telling me that I need to confirm all my details in order to conform to the Data Protection Act.  The fact that he's got my ex-directory mobile number strikes me as a breach of said Act in the first place.

Needless to say, in Nick Harvey's super-efficient manner, all the relevant authorities have already received detailed reports on the matter and investigations are, hopefully, now in full swing.

I'll say no more at this stage, but feel free to throw the digits 0161 249 4496, and a few others starting 0161 249 449 at Mr G Oogle's little search engine after you've read this.  The results make for interesting and complicated reading; almost as complicated as an answering system message from dear old Bob's lunching mate.

Oh, and a little bit of advice before I go.  If you happen get a call from any phone number starting 0161 496 449, then to quote that nice Captain Mainwaring in Dad's Army, "Don't tell them your name, Pike".

Well, that's the May edition well and truly in the can; and, thankfully, the phone didn't ring once while I was putting fingers to keyboard.  Must be nearly time for some more commercials, so perhaps I'd better get going.

More, promptly, on June the first, so don't forget to pop along and join me then.  Right, I'm off, where's me packed lunch?

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