Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

Never download anything strange from the internet. Never put your credit card details into a site you are unfamiliar with.

Yes, I know. But I was desperate. I couldn't make my father's new laptop work and having bought it for him as a gift I was miffed. So I started clicking on all sorts of dangerous-looking icons in an attempt to save face.

In particular, I decided to click 'Download Microsoft Office now!' This is because after a cursory examination of the machine I decided that the problem was most likely that, in a moment of blondeness, I had forgotten to install Office when I bought it, and that a free trial of the product had come to an end, thus disabling the system which should store my father's documents.

'Stand back, I can fix this, ' I said manfully.

'No, really, ' I said, as my father tried to argue, 'I know exactly what's gone wrong here . . . I just need to click on this . . . and this . . .

and put my credit card details in here . . . ' More protests from my father. '. . . and your address, mobile number and email in here. . .'

Really quite serious protests. '. . . and there, you see, it's starting to download.'

And it did start to download. For a while.

And then it stopped downloading and the screen froze and I started to scream. My father ran for cover, my mother shut herself in the living room, the cat leapt out of the catflap.

As Kite Towers descended into chaos, the Microsoft Office people started sending baffling messages to my father's email, detailing strange 'key' codes which must be entered into the laptop in a way that was totally unexplained. I left the machine switched on and forbade anyone to go near it, as if it were an angry dog with indigestion that might just belch its way back to health if we left it alone.

After a fitful night's sleep tortured by feverish dreams of Bill Gates dining out indefinitely on continuous payments of £110 from my Barclaycard, I packed up the laptop to take it back.

At Currys in Fulham, I accosted the first lanky boy in a nylon shirt I could find and informed him hysterically that 'everything' had gone wrong. He froze, lost the power of speech and had to be rescued by a passing colleague who said 'I'll handle this' in a way that made me instantly want to share with him all my worldly goods. …

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