Wed March 29th 2017
ONE of the problems of having money and possessions is losing them. It must have been so simple living in a cave, not having to worry about tax bills, pensions, credit cards, shares, investments and what the hell Equitable Life might be doing.
Not that I'm talking about Equitable. I'm trying to blank the firm, pretend it never existed, that we never met.
Okay then, just three paragraphs. I gave Equitable almost all my worldly savings - in the form of my lifetime's pension fund. Three years ago, I cashed it in to buy an annuity, the theory being that as the rates were so low I might as well start drawing out now, before they got worse. This proved correct. But guess what I did with the money? We are still earners, me and my dear wife, paying higher tax, so I decided not to spend it but plough all our pension income back into something called a 10-year maximum investment plan - with, wait for it, Equitable.
It means I am lumbered with two appalling deals, each dropping in value all the time. And I can't get out of them. I must have been off my trolley. Hence I'm not talking about the Equitable. I was cursing the company and my own stupidity when my wife announced that her purse had gone, probably stolen. It contained her Gold Visa card, Switch card and Marks & Spencer charge card. You hear all these tales of huge bills run up in minutes on a stolen credit card by some kid. With three cards, there's probably a gang already in Barbados, in their Marks & Spencer casuals, on their 20th rum punch of the day at Cobblers Cove, which is where we happen to be going next week. How the hell am I going to get the cards cancelled and new ones issued before we go away? I do have some sort of insurance, where you ring one number and they cancel them all for you, which I did. But with going away so soon, I didn't want to take any chances, so I rang the three credit-card people direct, which of course took forever. They asked for the password, security number, mum's maiden name, dad's favourite football team, any embarrassing moments, the number you first thought of. It only took all day. So that was quick.
The insurance people said we would be covered for any loss, but we needed to report it to the police and get a reference number. I went to the cop shop in Hampstead where, of course, there was a long queue. A posh woman, the wife of a lord, so it transpired, was reporting the loss of her husband's car and even worse, so she said, the thieves had got his House of Lords parking permit. Some people will stop at nothing.
Then a lunatic with staring eyes and a bulging briefcase burst in, swore and shouted at the copper behind the counter. Several people left the queue, worried what he might produce from his briefcase. The copper was on his own, so every time he had to go elsewhere in the building to check something he had to bring down an iron grille and close his counter, just in case anyone nicked anything.
After nearly two hours waiting, I was practically screaming. I decided the briefcase man was not a lunatic but an ordinary member of the community just trying to get served, or an Equitable Life pensioner, desperate for someone to shout at.
When it was my turn, I was asked where my wife last saw her purse. "In Marks & Spencer," I said.
"Ah," said the copper. "Private property. We don't deal with that." "Okay then," I said. "In the street." Eventually he allowed me to fill in a property lost in street form. I got a copy for the insurance company. All of this fiddling around took up about two days of what's left of my life. And turned out to be totally pointless. This morning my wife got a letter from London Transport's lost property department. Her purse had been found on a bus. It hadn't been stolen after all. And everything is intact. Ah well, it did fill up my mind for two days, stopped me raging against the inequities of a certain assurance society, the one I'm not talking about. They know who they are.
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