I just don't believe it...

AS I grow older, I sometimes think that Lewis Carroll had it right when he wrote Through the Looking Glass. Just think of today's definition of celebrity which in the media now generally refers to someone a little lower down the pecking order of fame than old time luminaries such as James Stewart and newspaper magnate Randolph Hearst.

If you are wondering who has rattled my cage recently, you've assessed the situation correctly. In fact, I have to report sadly that I may well have qualified for that recent half-hour television show that claimed to reveal those who are real life Victor Meldrews.

Laughably, the cause of my incredulity was the ubiquitous helpline, in this case, operating in reference to setting up a new internet link on my computer. The words "simple to use" and "contains all instructions necessary" did send the kind of frisson through me that self-assembly furniture normally produces, but I proceeded in an optimistic frame of mind.

The whole procedure took the best part of two evenings and involved a number of phone calls, where young men in places like Hemel Hempstead and Welwyn Garden City patiently talked me through the procedures until I was almost up and running.

On the second night I felt I was just one call from success, and dialled the "50p a minute helpline" in a relatively calm state of mind. In the flash of a cursor, the whole thing went pear shaped, as they say.

First, I had trouble understanding the accent of the guy on the other end of the line, a major difficulty when numbers and letters are involved.

After repeating "Could you repeat that, please?" a couple of times, he growled down the phone: "Wassa matter? Something wrong with the phone line, is there?"

Given I was paying 50p a minute and they were making good money out of me, I started to a become little irate at his attitude. Clearly, he missed the messages my clenched teeth delivery was giving, because a moment later, when I quoted what I had been told by one of his more polite colleagues the night before, he called me a liar.

I was in full Victor Meldrew mode for at least 10 minutes, and may even have used the phrase "I don't believe it!" My nearest and dearest looked at me with that familiar mix of despair, pity and bewilderment.

When it all subsided, I remembered when I first discovered the irony of life. It was when my best friend at school received three of the belt for not knowing the answer to "What is Charity?"

Mind how you go.

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