Magazine article The Spectator

Musn't Grumble

Magazine article The Spectator

Musn't Grumble

Article excerpt

Low life

I've got a new car. Well, a new old one. Ford Orion GLS injection. G reg. Hardly any rust. Driven previously by a nervous nun, according to Trevor, who sold it to me for L250. I'm pleased with it, but he shafted me. When he handed over the paperwork, he accidentally enclosed the receipt from the car auction where he bought it. It only cost him L25. Still, he'd put it through the MOT and bought a new battery for it, and I absolutely ruined his life last year by taking his long-term girlfriend off him (he still doesn't know it's me), so one mustn't grumble.

Yesterday I took a cup of tea, a phone and Yellow Pages into the conservatory and tried to buy some insurance for the car. It's been years since I last bought any - I'd forgotten what a protracted business it is. Questions, questions, questions. It was like being on Mastermind. Where was I going to keep the car? Where was I intending to go in it? For what purpose? What was I going to carry with me? Was I married? Was I a convicted criminal? Was I ill? Also, I had to decide whether I wanted to be insured comprehensively or only slightly. (My little joke about my car being so old I wanted to insure it against fire, theft and witchcraft was ignored.)

It took Lorraine from Instant Cover Now! about 15 minutes to arrive at my first quote. It was a whopping L697 a year, which was excessive, I thought, for a car worth 25 quid. The same interrogation from Sandra at Fast Quick Direct took 20 minutes and resulted in a quote of L550. Now I don't mind being robbed, as long as it's done with a glimmer of humour or humanity. But being robbed and bored half to death at the same time I found profoundly depressing. I'd started brightly, but after nearly an hour on the phone I was answering the interminable questions as mechanically as they were being fired at me.

My attention wandered: first to the relatively uplifting sight of a broken flowerpot, then via a dead bumble-bee to the book with an etiolated green cover it had died on. Answering yet another interminable series of questions put to me now by Daisy from the Norwich Union, I reached out and extracted it from underneath the flowerpot. It was a collection of English love poetry selected by John Betjeman. Whom it belonged to I had no idea. …

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