Friday, 2 April 2010

Saga lout?

Getting old is nothing to be ashamed of, as Mrs M regularly re-assures me.

It has many advantages. We get regular invitations to take out insurance with Age Concern and there are some marvellous medical devices available nowadays.

Roger Ramsden at Saga sent us a letter today. It promised “Traditional, personal service”! I wondered whether this meant something in Shepherd’s Market for a conservative politician on expenses. I glanced down Roger’s letter. One of the features of his traditional, personal service is that, I quote: “we do not use automated press-button telephone menus”. I should hope not! It would quite put one off one’s game.

Ah. Here’s the thing. “All our insurance advisers are based in the UK.” I see: we’re talking about traditional personal service in tele-sales.

Roger, Roger.

This modern thing with tradition makes me a bit queasy, especially when I think of “Ye Olde Estate Agent” in Marple Bridge, which opened some time last year. I’ve been wanting to tell you about him for a while. He has opened his shop in the spot which once had a traditional butcher. Thank goodness that when the traditional chemist next door was taken over by the Co-op, the only thing they changed was the name: from Town Street Chemist to Coop Pharmacy. It must have been a few years ago, because it’s already been re-styled as “The Cooperative Pharmacy”. Good with Drugs, I expect.

Where was I?

Ah yes. “All our insurance advisers are based in the UK.” I’m not quite with you here, Roger. Are you saying: “it’s alright, Tom. Our call centre is just outside Glasgow. So, though you may not understand a word we’re saying, you’ll have the re-assurance of knowing that British jobs are not going to foreigners. Scotland’s still part of the UK.”

I beg your pardon, Roger Dearest! I’d love to speak to Priti in Mumbai today. Or Mohammed in Mitchell's Plain in the Western Cape, or even Marlene in some dreary town in the Ruhr. Well, maybe. And I also like some of the local call centres whose operatives I can’t understand. My favourite call centre is in the Hebrides, but that’s all I’m telling you.

Only last week, “Ronnie” from Dell rang me to check I had received his email about my new computer. I was delighted to see that according to his email his real name was Rohit. He even had a surname! He was very kind about my attempts to pronounce both. I asked him what the time was over there in Bangalore. It was tricky to persuade him to forget that his boss requires "Ronnie" to work in British Summer Time, but it turned out Bangalore was four and a half hours ahead of us. I suppose that's Indian Summer And A Half Time. 53 years after Indian Independence.

Some of you may have noticed that this column is not called a View of the Bridge, but a View from the Bridge.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my little corner of this muddy isle. But we freelancers don’t always get out as much as we’d like. So the view of the bridge can get a bit, well, samey. I know my neighbours like to to get out a bit too - to take the Squeezyjet of the Mind a little further than a Premier League game at a beach bar in Corfu or Bali.

I have been checking out the Office of National Statistics’ View of the Bridge. But our local area is so tiny, that, like a true consultant, I felt I had to look at a bigger picture, our charmingly entitled lower level super output area. This approximates to Mellor and Marple Bridge - there is a range of views where one ends and the other begins, and on the size of the overlap.

The last time they measured us, we comprised 1,461 persons, 1,420 of whom were white British. We had 1,006 cars and vans. 1,101 of us stated we were Christians, but thankfully we had 3 Buddhists and 4 Muslims to cheer us up.

Nine of us even worked in agriculture, hunting and fishing. Not bad for such a rural area. The rest were mostly in education, teaching sheep I expect.

I wonder how Marlene is getting on. Frohe Ostern, Marlene!

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