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Friday, 15 July 2011

Happy Birthday

 It was my birthday yesterday. We had a quiet day.

The missus was at work with her work experience student, me at home trying out the washing machine after it had been fixed. The evening was given over to the Residents' Association meet at the local pub. Not a great turn out and I was stuck drinking non alcoholic beer and missed "Torch wood" which the missus said was "fab" - she's a child of the early 70's.

My birthday present was a very sharp Japanese kitchen knife and a zappy chopping board. The knife is stunningly sharp and is, for the moment , my prized possession. Is there nothing this man can't pare? It slices through vegetables and, more worryingly, flesh in a thrice. Reminds me of the subtle knife in the second book of  Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials". It would cut your finger off as well as look at you.

It's sharp, but not as sharp as my computer man. He is a wizard. Before he arrived we had one extremely slow desk top. When he left it went like shit off a shovel.

Clicking here, there and everywhere, drilling down into the works of Microsoft programming he was able to discover lost files, lost boys, corrupted low life and nasty warped minds lurking in the depths of my innocent looking computer.

After running some  heap powerful diagnostic programs he turned a arthritic dodo into a sprightly roadrunner. I learnt that a hardware  upgrade carried out by our local, now closed, computer shop had rammed 1Gb of RAM into a 500MB slot. My computer had been buggered and no mistake. But all is now heavenly; my sanity  restored and I can beaver away at mega speed. If only my brain could be so easily fixed.

Two signs of ageing. First, being unable to remember where the car's been parked. If I don't use it for more than a day, I lose it. Having to traipse around the streets looking for the thing. I think I'll  tie a large balloon to it when I park so I can see where it is over the top of the houses. But then I'd forget to take it down before driving off.

The second sign of aging is forgetting how to calculate the interest on one's savings. It went something like this....

Today, my bank sent me a form letting me know that one of our  Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) was about to mature. They very helpfully showed the capital invested, the interest earned over the investment period and the total. Except all three entries were wrong. The capital sum invested was £200 less than it should be making the interest earned and the total considerably less than I was due.

This gave me an opportunity to use my acclaimed spreadsheet skills to work out the correct figures and then I could  humiliate the poor sucker at the call centre, dazzling him with my high powered financial nous.

It took me an age to work out what I had to do. Initially I was so far off that I ended up calculating that the total was less than the initial investment; but I persevered and arrived at a figure that I was sure was right. Halifax were planning to short change me by a couple of hundred pounds. I know they need to increase their margins: but like this?

My call was answered by a very pleasant young man - they all are ( young) now - who asked for my name and enquired how he could help. I explained my slight niggle...but before he could do anything we had to go through the usual security check, name, address, collar size and National Insurance( NI) number, which I just happened to have to hand on my annual P60. I quoted the number..I was asked to double check it. I repeated it.. a long silence.

"My Coidan, that's alright I'll ask you another security question - what is the balance on the ISA. I read out the (incorrect) total on the form. "Do you have any other accounts with us." "Yes". "Can you tell me what they are, please?" Off the top of my head I could list four. Still he wasn't satisfied. I was getting rather annoyed. "Why all this?" I asked, "Wasn't my NI number correct?" "I'm afraid not", he replied. So I rummaged through my papers and found another document with the bloody thing on it. I read it out and the final "A" which I'd left off initially - 'cause it wasn't on my P60.

"Thank you Mr Coidan, and how can I help you." It was only the knowledge that he was about to get his comeuppance that stopped me from exploding. So I explained, in a tone which managed to be simultaneously  condescending and  patronising,  that the Capital Sum recorded on the letter was wrong. I  pointedly pointed out that the initial investment certificate, which they issued, showed the correct amount. As did the tax statements, issued again by them, in 2010 and 2011. I also drew attention to the balance in July 2010, calculated by them, being only £14 less than the amount they are now trying to palm off on me.

"There", I thought, "Stuff that in your pipe." "Please bear with me Mr Coidan, I'll need to check this with a colleague, and I was put on hold.

For the next few minutes I feverishly recalculated my calculations - no I was completely right.

"Thank you for holding on, Mr Coidan. I've added another £166 to your total." No apology for getting it wrong. But I had him. "Could you confirm the amount you owe me." I insisted. The amount was 40 pence more than I'd calculated. Like a clever dick  I couldn't resist pointing that out to him.  "I'd be grateful if you'd send me a corrected maturity notification." I pontificated. "Of course sir, I'll do that right away. Is there any thing else I can help you with, Mr Coidan." I was on a pompous roll by now "As it so  happens there is. I have a fixed rate bond maturing shortly and I'd like to transfer the money to an ISA." "Sorry, can't help you there, I'm responsible for ISAs only, but I can transfer you to my colleague"....Fuck.

I'm tempted to write to the bank suggesting that if this error can happen to me it might be happening to loads of people - an error in the system! "Coidan foils major bank melt down, retired financial wizz kid spots major clanger!!"

Then again I've been enough of a prick today. I'm bound to stumble across another major financial disaster sooner or later.  

Oh, I won £25 on the Premium Bonds - High Roller or what?


Steve said...

Birthday happiness is a sharp kitchen knife?

That should be printed inside a Hallmark birthday card.

P.S. Happy birthday. ;-)

ChickPea said...

Belated Birthday Greetings - I hope your fingers remain intact - and I now LONG to find balloons festooning the streets to help us find our motors... loadsaluv, x

Marginalia said...

Dear Steve, thank you.

And thank you also CP. A car balloon is in the post.

Scarlett said...

Happy Happy Happy Birthday - late of course <3

Old Cheeser said...

Slightly belated happy birthday and get you for being so sussed about your ISA! It pays to check these things out I guess. I have a Halifax ISA too actually, but have put no money in it for about 4 years, since I withdrew all the savings to put a deposit down on the flat that me and my partner bought. I went into a branch to check out the balance for the first time in years recently, and was overjoyed to see that I now had approx. £2.64 with the accumulated interest! Woohoo!!

Well done for being sussed on your premium bonds too.

Marginalia said...

Thank you S and OC.

£2.64, you've be able to buy the whole of the Murdoch press for that soon.