You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

My name’s Jake, and I’m here to make your life more secure,

For which I’ll take some of your money.

Any trouble with a domestic appliance

At ‘Great Big Insurance’ we’ll see you’re all right.

Imagine your Hoover packing up,

And the dust and grime getting thicker and thicker,

And the bugs in the grime make you sicker and sicker

Till you’re too ill to cope; it’s a slippery slope.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

Well for only seven ninety-nine, payable monthly for each appliance,

A total amount of a hundred and four,

The pleasure is mine. Can I take it that’s fine?

 

Yes please.

 

I’ll retail your details to friends in the business.

They’ll soon be in touch to see how you’re doing,

Make sure you’re not rueing a miserable life

With a faulty spin drier or a bulb that’s gone on the living room fire.

 

Thank you.

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

My name’s Davey-Boy; Jake retailed your details.

How are you today? Good, good – you can’t get away

From the need to insure anything that may go wrong when you least expect it.

Say, if you detected a leaking tap or an iron that wouldn’t press things flat.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

You need to know where you’re at, keep things safe,

And that’s where we at ‘Phenomenal Premiums’

Can help you out. Let’s have a chat.

A hundred a month is all you’ll pay to hold domestic risks at bay.

What do you say?

 

Yes please.

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

My name’s Mikey from ‘Crikey Full Cover’.

Are you insured for each household appliance?

They often go wrong, you must be prepared; it’s not rocket science.

Imagine a faulty fridge thermostat stops keeping your cheese at the proper degree.

The rotting camembert starts to waft up through the house and into the loft,

A volatile mix building up to the point where the roof blows off.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

If you’re happy to pay ten pounds a day, the risk of explosion will soon go away.

What do you say?

 

Yes please.

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

It’s Terry here, but call me Tel. Jake said to call; I trust you’re well?

But it might not always be like that.

Can you imagine a faulty TV,

Nothing to watch, sitting alone with a cup of tea, a silent room and a stale old scone.

No stimulation, nobody calling, life becoming quite appalling

Till you wonder if it’s worth carrying on.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

Through ‘Warranty Wonders’ you overcome this.

We’ll make sure you don’t miss the TV programmes that keep you alive,

For a monthly nineteen ninety-five you’d have total reliance on every appliance.

I could sign you up now.

 

Yes please.

 

And to show that we mean it, you’ll receive in the post

A dustpan and brush, a gift from us to a customer we trust.

 

Thank you.

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

It’s Tel here again.

Regarding the gift of a dustpan and brush,

I forgot to mention at ‘Warranty Wonders’ we recognise

The risk of bending to gather up crumbs can put undue pressure on people’s thumbs,

Causing poor circulation, enhanced vegetation and everyday problems with inhalation.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

So shall we say fifty-nine ninety-nine payable monthly, to help you feel fine

And lower the risk of thumb amputation and perhaps suffocation?

 

Yes please.

 

On and on drove the hundreds, round and round they passed her name.

Railroading, frightening, charming, bamboozling,

Ducking and diving and dodging morality, skirting close to gross illegality.

The frail old lady was not respected, in spite of the comfort of feeling protected.

 

Until, until,

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

 

Who’s calling? Are you one of those appalling people who blighted the lady every day?

Well she died last night, possibly of fright,

I wonder you can sleep at night after what you made her pay.

 

Ah, condolences, condolences, most sincere.

(Thinks)

But while you’re here –

Did you realise the phone to your ear might cause radiation, degradation,

Even lead to your last exhalation?

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Hell-o, hell-o,

Hell-o, hell-o,

Hell-o, hell-o,

Oh.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello  April 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

YB Poster Main Proof5 030417

 

 

Above The Call

A waiter slops asparagus soup over my mum’s posh top, spits on my steak tartare and asks my dad if that’s a wig he’s wearing – which it isn’t. He now presents the bill for around £80 and asks dad if everything has been to his liking.

‘Splendid, thank you,’ says dad, making out a cheque for £90.

I witnessed this scenario hundreds of times during dad’s life. A routine addition of about ten per cent, rounded up, regardless of the experience.

‘It’s for the service,’ he would explain.

‘But what if that’s not very good?’ I’d say, trying to fathom it out. ‘And isn’t cooking the food and bringing it to the table what you’re already paying for?’

waiterThere seemed a touch of master-servant about the whole thing, a leftover from Victorian times – doffing the hat and placing a penny in the palm.

Dad’s benevolence especially showed at Christmas. People you never normally saw would knock at the door. The dustman (as he was then affectionately known) touched his forelock and dad handed him a small brown envelope; the milkman would find something similar in an empty milk bottle; and it was the only time the postman actually took an envelope away with him.

Tipping in taxis was also de rigueur. Failure to do so might mean the driver retracing his route a mile before letting dad out. Ten per cent to the hairdresser prevented an unwanted bald patch. And generosity towards chambermaids and bar staff during a hotel stay guaranteed clean beds and proper whisky measures.

While all this was going on, the doctor’s receptionist, sales assistant, bus conductor, deck chair attendant, train driver, signalman, street sweeper, telesales operator, left luggage handler, airline pilot, local government officer, hospital porter, travelling salesman, car mechanic, farmer, footballer, formula one driver, lifeguard, gardener, soldier, gravedigger and balloonist, and many, many others simply had to get by on basic wages, since their services were clearly of less importance.

Class distinctions are increasingly blurred. Christmas door-knocking is no longer fashionable. But tipping in the traditional trades continues, more under the guise of mock friendship than master-servant, but with scant regard for what it really means. Clearly, it’s not in the interest of those sectors to disavow people of the custom.

When I was younger I found myself following dad’s ‘easy route’, expressing gratitude and adding percentages regardless of the circumstances – a comfortable way out, making me feel kind of important and stupid at the same time. Annual Christmas cards from the Indian Restaurant (address written at their request on an Excel sheet during a November visit) reassured me that a lasting friendship had indeed been forged.

But as social rebellion kicked in I steeled myself to experiment with paying the asking price only. I was terrified that abandoning tips would mean losing these friendships. I expected the chef to come running from the kitchen with a machete, or the manager to ban me from his establishment. I waited for the taxi man to warn other drivers by radio. I feared a Sweeney Todd incident at the barbers.

barber Instead I was offered a loyalty card by the barber, placed on the priority list by the taxi firm and welcomed back to the curry house with open arms. I realised it was my continuing custom and that of my entourage they wanted, not the small change in my pocket. We remained friends.So, although tipping is still widely practised, in my world the random and pointless custom ended years ago. But I still feel bad about all those who remain tipless while the same old people cream off the ten-percentages. And I’m trying to do something about it.

At Greggs yesterday a woman passed me my 85p sausage roll, asking if I wanted anything else and wishing me a nice rest of the day.

‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘I must say this is the most exquisitely wrapped sausage roll I’ve ever had. You presented it with utter professionalism and a beautiful smile – more than I could possibly have asked for. Here’s a pound, and I want you to keep the change.’

As I left the bakers, trying not to catch the eye of the homeless people blocking my exit, it was ample reward hearing the woman enthusiastically recount our conversation to the girl on doughnuts.

Back at home, concluding a telephone conversation with the MakerMint Water Company, I said to the assistant, Trudy:

‘Frankly, I’ve never known someone handle a direct debit application with such grace and aplomb, offering me all the information I could possibly want, and making the experience so enjoyable. Trudy, you have performed over and above the call of duty. Please give me your BACS details immediately and I shall place £5 in your bank account.’

And on the London train today, when I’d felt compelled to mention the state of the toilet to the train manager, and he’d apologised profusely before single-handedly restoring the cubicle to its pristine condition, I said as he called me to inspect his work:

‘Young man. I know you didn’t make this mess yourself, but you stepped up to the bowl and took full responsibility. Watching you don those Marigolds and plunge wholeheartedly into the matter of the moment has restored my faith in young people and in the entire railway industry. I paid £29 for this journey. Here – take this additional £2.90 to spend as you wish.’

So far, so good. And three new friends already!

Next week: Part 2. Fly Tipping – What To Give Bluebottles.

Copyright © Paul Costello January 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

When She’s 94

In A Last Banana I reflected on my feelings when Dad died. Too often it’s only after such loss that we feel able to express our emotions – when, perhaps, it seems safe and normal to do so. So this New Year I write a living tribute to my Mum, alone seven years aged ninety-four …

… whose brilliant smile welcomes me in when we’ve not met a while. Who in all sorts of weather sets pots of pink fuchsias and waves of white heather. Who daily ticks the Guardian Quick. Who knows all the scores – Wimbledon, Old Trafford and Lords – and still bowls a winning wood indoors. Who correctly predicts the winner of Strictly, and “did all those dances with Dad in the fifties”. Whose diary is filled with visits and trips. Whose faithful old heart is put to the test, just like her bus pass getting no rest. Who stumbles and falls, yet hauls herself up, with a thin-blooded bruise. Who sings all the hymns on Songs of Praise and polished pews. Whose spirit nourishes the branches beneath her. Whose Thursday perm rests on my chest when she squeezes goodbye with a hug so strong it lasts long beyond my departing.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello  January 2015

Utterly Undiscovered by Paul Costello. A hilarious Bed and Breakfast memoir set in deepest Shropshire. Order through bookshops or direct from http://www.fineleaf.co.uk

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8