Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Moving House

Do you know, those two little words once filled me with such joy.  That first flush of house-hunting is almost a magical experience.  You check out fabulous properties, ooh and ahh at each room, become mesmerised by acres of granite work tops, enthralled at expanses of oak flooring, and almost faint at marble tiling.  I do anyway.  When we viewed what was to eventually be our new house, I wandered around with my mouth hanging open.  The icing on the cake was discovering a dressing room leading off the master bedroom (a dressing room!) and, a little further on, a huge en-suite which contained a bathtub shaped like a giant open Easter egg.  It was too much.  I jumped in fully clothed.  Fortunately there was no water in it.
          Mr V hummed and hawed and looked at the whole “Moving House” thing from every conceivable angle.  Finally he agreed the house was perfect and we should go ahead.  I gave my husband a big smacker on the mouth, nearly did the same to the sales lady, and promptly burst into noisy tears of joy.  I spent the rest of the day weeping with happiness.  But then Mr V got cold feet.  Suddenly it was a bad decision.  The deal was off.  This time I cried with disappointment.  After a few days, he changed his mind again.  Suddenly it was a great investment.  I cried with happiness once more – albeit cautiously.  I wasn’t truly surprised when my husband yet again got cold feet.  It was overpriced.  It wasn’t a buoyant market.  It was the wrong time of year.  We weren’t young anymore (speak for yourself, thanks very much, because I feel perfectly young).  Every and any reason was trotted out as to why this house should be pushed to one side.  I wept for twenty-four hours solid.  When my husband changed his mind again, I had little enthusiasm left.  It was also fair to say the atmosphere in the marital abode was pretty frosty.  And they say moving is stressful.  We hadn’t even got to that bit. How more stressful could it get?  As it turned out, much muuuuuuch more stressful.
          Santander – yes I’m going to name and shame, to hell with it – sent out an incorrect mortgage offer not once, not twice, but three times a wally-brain.  Seriously, how many attempts does an employee at Santander need to
get the paperwork right?  Is there some moron sprawled across his (or her, I’m not sexist) desk, bored out of their skull and thinking, ‘Dear oh dear, it’s only Tuesday.  I have the rest of the week to crawl through. 
Yawn.  I know what I’ll do to brighten up my day!  I’ll send out a Mickey Mouse mortgage offer and titter at the pandemonium it causes. And then, even better, I’ll do it again.  And again.’  Sort yourselves out, Santander.
          Halifax Bank – yes, you are next on my rant list.  For years this bank was synonymous with Howard.  Remember him?  An adorable black guy with big specs and a natty suit, our Howard warbled away as he welcomed us through the bank’s big glass doors.  Your money was safe!  Oh it’s safe all right.  So safe you can’t get at it.  Yesterday I needed to cancel a direct debit and set up a new one.  I picked up the phone.  After five minutes of listening to six million, four thousand and seventy-three different options – none of which were applicable – a real person greeted me.
          ‘Hello, Mrs Vag…ina.’  Truly, it’s never a good idea to call me that.  Ever.  ‘You’re talking to Richard today.’
          ‘Hey, Dick.’  I was just being friendly.  Honest.
          *Uncertain sound of laughter.*  ‘How can I help you?’
          ‘I need to cancel a direct debit and set up a new one.’
          ‘Sure.  First, I need to take you through Security.’
          ‘Go ahead.’
          Now at this stage I’d just like to say my other bank is NatWest.  NatWest are sane and sensible.  They ask simple security questions like, ‘What is your mother’s maiden name?  Where were you born?  What is the third and fourth digit of your password?’  But Halifax are different.  Very different.
          ‘Yesterday you spent an amount of money.  Can you tell me what the amount was?’
          ‘I spent several amounts of money yesterday.  You haven’t sent me December’s paper statement, and I’m not set up for on-line banking with you. Therefore I can’t say what I spent yesterday.’
          ‘That’s the wrong answer, Mrs Vageen.’
          ‘How can it be the wrong answer?  I’m asking you to define a particular transaction.’
          ‘Okay.  I’ll do that.  Here’s the next question.  Ready?’  I felt like I’d suddenly dropped into a quiz show.  ‘Take your time, Mrs Virgo.’  I licked my lips nervously.  ‘Do you have an overdraft?’
          ‘Sorry, that answer doesn’t count.  You have to tell me how much your overdraft is for.’
          I frowned.  ‘I haven’t the faintest idea.  It’s probably for a thousand pounds.’
          ‘Sorry, I have to take your first answer.’
          ‘You said you hadn’t the faintest idea.’
          ‘No, I said it was probably a thousand pounds.’
          ‘But that wasn’t your first answer.’
          ‘This is getting ridiculous.’
          ‘Don’t worry, Mrs Vagano.  There is one more question I can ask before Security locks you out.’
          ‘What do you mean “locks me out”?  I’m moving, for goodness sake, and I’m moving THIS FRIDAY.  I need to sort out my direct debit.’  I took a deep calming breath.  Hyperventilation has been frequent of late.
          ‘Earlier this week, you spent a sum of money with a removal firm.  Please tell me the amount.’
          ‘Can I ring a friend?’
          ‘Is that your final answer?’
          ‘No!  Just…wait…wait a minute.’  I rummaged through my memory.  Yes, it was coming back to me. ‘Nine hundred…’
          ‘And sixteen pounds…’
          ‘And something pence.’
          ‘I’m sorry, but you failed to specify the number of pennies.  You are locked out of Security.’
          ‘Don’t be absurd!’ I spluttered.  ‘Why don’t you ask me my date of birth?  Or my mobile phone number?  Or my dog’s name?’
          ‘Because you could be anybody, Mrs Vegan.’
          ‘You’re right.  I’m none of the people you’ve called me.  I’m Mrs Viggiano.  And now I’m going to tell you exactly what I think of your bank–’
          ‘Do you want to be abusive?’
          ‘Thank you, I would love to be abusive.  Please tell your manager, your board of directors, your CEO, indeed all your shareholders, and anybody else who cares to listen …’
          ‘Good-bye Mrs Veggie.’
          I was left addressing a whirring handset, but no matter.  When you have to offload, you have to offload.  I told the handset exactly what Halifax’s security could do with itself which involved a massive rectum and a definite lack of sunshine.
          Which reminds me.  If banks are so friendly, how come they chain down the pens…?