Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Will Mrs Johnson Please Make Herself Known...

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

I have a proper confession. I suffer from a 'mail opening' disorder. It stems back to the days when money was seriously tight, and opening mail would invariably propel me into a panic as to how I was going to give this person the money they were asking for and that I didn’t have. (I have been a student of some kind for over half my adult life. Enough said.) And so I developed a habit of just, well….piling it very neatly in the corner and ignoring it until its presence became too much to bear.

Now the mail is much less scary but the habit persists and I still have a monthly opening ceremony. (All of my professional mail goes to my office, which I open immediately and sort out straight away. See, I do know how to do it. I am not completely stupid.)

Last Monday I had a ‘mail opening’ day. The euphoria of having beaten the pile into submission is short lived, as each opening session generates a list of things to do. Last Monday generated a list of 13 things that required my URGENT ATTENTION. Nothing life threatening, you realise. Just Things That Need Doing. I spent this Monday URGENTLY ATTENDING to the pile of Things That Need Doing.

Most of them were easy to deal with and very, very satisfying. Oh, the joy of filing a piece of paper that has been dealt with. Its almost too much to bear. A couple of them required me to part with money. I went on-line and checked my bank balance, peeping between my fingers with only one eye open. I cannot deal with the things that Require Me To Part With Money until I have some money. I calculated that this would be March 21 2008. Back on the To Deal With Later pile.

Final piece of paper. A solicitor’s letter from British Gas demanding that a woman that I have never heard of pay them money for gas that she has apparently used at my address. This woman does not live in my house, unless The Husband has her tucked away in the under stairs cupboard for his fickle amusement. The woman I don’t know of has surely not been using gas in the under stairs cupboard?

I rang British Gas. It took me 20 minutes to get through. Their goddamn ‘hold’ music was so quiet that I couldn’t hear it on speaker phone, and so had to carry on with my chores with the phone tucked under my ear. I happen to know that this is dangerous and can cause a stroke. I briefly drifted into a fantasy where British Gas had to compensate my son with millions of pounds, thus allowing him to grieve in a luxury home in Florida, because his devoted and adoring mother dropped dead whilst waiting for them to answer the f***ing phone.

Eventually I got through. Lots of talking. It took them 25 minutes to tell me that it was a mistake, a fact I was already aware of when I rang them up. I told her that I was already aware of said fact. She proceeded to explain how the mistake had been made. I drifted into oblivion for a while. She assured me it would be rectified, and we would not receive any more threatening letters for people who do not live with us.

This wouldn’t be quite so bloody annoying, were it not for the fact that this is the third time this has happened in the three years we have lived in this house. And each time the threatening letter has been addressed to a different person, at my address. Do British Gas think that I am running a safe house for people who don’t like paying their gas bills? Yes, that must be it. I am running a safe house and they are on to me. It can’t possibly be that privatisation has left them unable to run a piss up in a f***ing brewery, because we all know it is the public sector that is inefficient and poorly managed. Privatisation brings only milk and honey for shareholders and increased efficiency for the rest of us. Yes, that must be it. I must be running a safe house. Now, let’s just check that under stairs cupboard….


sheepish said...

Absolutly brilliant, I have piles of papers that I constantly shuffle around, then if anyone is coming I put everything in a big heap and put it out of sight. Then I lose documents, being a French farmer I have lots and lots of paperwork!!!!!!

And phone calls that take hours tell me about it. But I would check the attic aswell if I were you.

Stray said...

Oh! The highs and lows of post-opening-stress-disorder : POSD.

I have had it for most of my life. I'm not even sure why.


I did it Ms M! As you yourself know, I had a post-opening festival on monday and did my VAT return, It was indeed a relief.

Anyway - just now I OPENED THE POST from this morning. Including the scary bank letter. 'Not enough money to pay this ... blah blah'. I panicked. Read more closely and realised that I have forgotten to cancel a standing order for £340 a month to the council tax, from our bills account and they are also taking payments by Direct Debit. So. That's good to know! Phew!

I also got a lovely lovely get well soon card from lovely Caroline which I shall put with the lovely lovely get well soon card I got from you :)

I'm glad you didn't stroke out on the phone to BG. We haven't established what you're leaving me in your will yet ;)


brumcunian said...

Post phobia is closely followed by outsourced foreign call centre phobia in my experiences. I have a filing cabinet with every bit of paperwork for the last 6 years filed away in neat little folders with most recent correspondance being filed at the front. Now thats uber organised.

But to get this organised requires motivation which is somewhat lacking after finally getting in from a late shift at 9:45 (or in the case of this morning having 2 hours for hangover recovery before going to work). So my paperwork gets neatly stacked unopened in my study awaiting some random magical day when I will get off my arse and sort it out. I have a system though. I now recognise envelopes either by post mark, logo, design, or colour. I can identify the ones that need to be opened and the ones that can sit and fester.

I too have British Gas rage. I keep getting letters off British Gas containing my neighbours energy bill. But my neighbour (who lives at 29) has registered himself for gas and electric at my address (29A). I will get on to them to rectify this but for now I'm having fun with the address mix up.

My neighbour is a council tenant. I privately own. My neighbour has no hot water or central heating. But as he has registered his energy bill to my address the council repair team keep putting 'sorry we missed you' notes through my door rather than his. They keep asking me to phone back and arrange a convenient time. Of course I never do. Nor do I let my neighbour know. I wonder how long he can cope without hot water before he finally thinks 'argh I better stop being such a scrounging cheating dole scummer and register for energy at my own address'. 3 days and counting so far.

nmj said...

Ms M, I am amazed you didn't have a stress-induced stroke, having to deal with the vacuousness of British Gas. Whenever I have to call them, I am silently mouthing f*** & c*** down the phone within three minutes of the phone call ... & I once had BT tell me that I didn't live at my address, that someone else did x

Böbø said...

I could be a woman that lives under your stairs for hubby to be fickle with, if you gloss over a couple of technicalities.

In return BT [Bastard Tw**s] is demanding £100 for a phone and internet connection I don't use, at a house I don't live at any more. They don't know where I live now. Would it be OK to give them your address. You seem a dab hand at this.

PS: If you can find a email address or web contact us form, you can bung your trenchant comments in there and they have to deal with it - so much better than being on the phone for hourssssssss. Got rid of Sky that way.

Charlotte said...

I also have post phobia. There's a neat pile in the corner of the kitchen that I ignore for as long as I possibly can, and then I sigh and attack it. Surprisingly, it is never as bad as I imagined it to be.

Boris said...

What a set of tossers. I always get really hacked off with stuff like that. But my REALLY BIG pisser offer is that they usually have an 0870 phone number for you to ring, so you get to PAY THEM for the priviledge of telling them they are in the wrong. Is this a conspiracy?

If anyone has to ring one of these numbers, check out the web site Say no the 0870 and find the regular number which will be cheaper or free.

PS Check in the wardrobe and under the bed too. Also check in that little space where you used to keep your record collection.


Ms Melancholy said...

Hey Sheepish, French bureaucracy. I can only imagine what I would be like. Piles all over the place x

Hi there Stray, I am still impressed that you did your VAT return. And I am working to get POSD added to the DSMIV diagnostic system.I know so many people who suffer from it.

Hey lovely Brum, I will ignore the 'scrounging, cheating, dole scummer' just this once, but only because it is a very funny story. Do it again though, and I will fight with you :) x

Hey lovely nmj, yes, that is precisely the conversation I had. 25 minutes of her telling me that Mrs Johnson lived with me, had once lived with me, or was proposing to live with me. I don't know how I didn't have the stroke there and then on the spot.

Hey BoBo, I am bemused that you would like to live under my stairs. Or be my husband's play thing. Would you like to talk about it?

Hey Charlotte, yes you can join the club. That is just how it is in our house.

Hey Boris, I think Mrs Johnson and her friends are occupying the exact same spot where my vinyl used to be. It is a small space and I can't imagine what gas appliances they have in there with them. I am too afraid to check.

brumcunian said...

'middle aged gentleman that has the misfortune of having to rely on benefits due to certain life events that I'm unaware of.' That better?

Dole scum is a term adopted by me from The League of Gentlemen tv series. Sometimes though it just applies to people. Why am I allowed to say it only once? ;o)

rivergirlie said...

that cartoon could have been drawn for me. i have 5k words to write before tomorrow - so naturally, i'm looking at your blog.
slap me, please.

varske said...

Interesting to see that the work post can be dealt with easily, only the home post is difficult. I am just the same, but I would also add lawyers' letters to the pile which needs to be opened "later". Even if the lawyers are on your side, they are scary and might be asking something you can't answer.

On the British Gas thing, I would just add any firm who has a call centre.

The Moon Topples said...

The cartoon at the top of this post struck me like an arrow to the heart. Here I am, sifting through blogs on the internet, when I have a novel to write and a fiction contest to run.

I hardly ever open my mail, real or e-.

anticant said...

A lovely cartoon! Why do the gloom-and-doom journos always write about the dangers lurking on the internet, and never about its liberating effects [especially for those of us who are pretty well housebound]? They're jealous of all the potential highly talented competition - such as you, Ms M - I suppose.

As for automated phone-answering machines, apart from the oodles of money they waste - OUR money, of course! - why is it that when you eventually get through to a real live human being [IF you do] they are usually so clueless and often boorish?

Try managing a major illness if you want to discover the lengths and depths of these idiocies. I say "manage" rather than "cope with" because it really is as strenuous as running a business. For the past couple of years, my life and my partner's have been dominated by this caper. Thank goodness he's a retired senior civil servant, and highly organised. It would have completely worn me out ages ago....

Ms Melancholy said...

Hey there Brum, mmmm, let me think.....because it's my blog and I say so? ;-)

Hey Rivergirlie, *little slap* (Was that hard enough?)

Hi Varske, oh I would hate to get letters from lawyers. You have my sympathy.

Hey Mahty Moon, it's a great cartoon, isn't it? Don't forget to open your fiction entry emails, will you???

Hey ant, thank heavens your partner is a retired civil servant is all I can say. Every home should have one.

Böbø said...

*** whisper ***

If I can entertain hubby and live under your stairs, then I can be closer to ♥you♥


That's so pants said...

I go away for three or four months at a time and come back to a foot high pile of post which my neighbour has kindly deposited on my kitchen table. I tear it all open in a heightened state of anxiety in about twenty minutes and then relax and go food shopping when I discover that no one has stolen my identity and cleaned out my bank acount. We all have our little rituals.

Ms Melancholy said...

Oh, darling BoBo,, you would be sure to be disappointed if you lived in my under stairs cupboard. I am really quite a bore most of the time. All I do is play Guitar Hero and watch The Sopranos. But you are welcome if you insist. I just need to check with hubby first, and ask Mrs Johnson to leave.

Dear Pants, I am impressed. That pile would take me weeks and weeks of slow build up before I could contemplate tackling it, and even then I would have to be so hacked off that opening 3 month's worth of mail couldn't make it any worse. In fact, that might be enough to stop me from going away for so long. Have you thought of nailing up your letter box before you go? Or paying your neighbour to open it?

bindi said...

I love opening mail. I always pretend it will be exciting. If its a bill or something boring I pass it over to the hub - he is a bean counter and good with details.

Notes from primary school get me stressed because I have to find the cheque book, and fill out the forms correctly and then find the correct school-provided envelope and fill that in and find the stapler and stick it all together and put it in the correct kids school bag. if I don't do it straight away, which i often don't they stay on the kitchen bench and end up getting soaked from the water from the axolotyl tank and all sticking together, and so I have to wait for the reminder notices and then my kids stand over me until I fill the forms out, because they're the ones who get into trouble at school...

That's so pants said...

I don't entirely trust it but direct debit does ensure that the flat runs itself when I'm not here.

prozac pony said...

British Gas are just wanks - don't be worrying about them, Melancholy.

I always, without fail, record every telephone conversation I ever have (unless it is a personal call). Obviously, you need to alert the person on the other end of the line to the fact that they are being recorded (a legal requirement, I think) - but this works nicely in your favour and sees the level of service received dramatically and immediately improved.

Try it. You'll see what I mean. And even if you don't have a recording device, they don't need to know this. Just lie - they do it to you all the time so you needn't feel any sense of moral shame.

Better still, write. And when you do so, always indicate at the foot of the letter that a CC has been sent to your solicitor. ALWAYS. You needn't bother with actually sending anything to your solicitor, either. How will they know? Trust me, it works every time (as long as you are in the right, of course) and most issues are resolved in the blinking of an eye - in your favour. Ethically dubious, maybe, but I could care less.

I love getting mail.

Listen, I'm actually here to ask you out on a date. No rush, so don't be startled. Either on or after the 21 march 2008, okay?

Looking forward to it already.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi Pants, I too trust DD. In fact, I open my bank statements and have no idea what is going out where. I just trust it is all going to the right place at the right time. I need a personal assistant I think.

Hey Prozac Pony, lots of marvelous ideas! Why didn't I think of that? As for the date, I shall start ironing my clothes soon. They will be so pleased to be ironed for once in their life. I just hope your new wife doesn't mind too much x

Liz said...

Hello Ms Melancholy - I can't remember if I've commented on your blog before, but I've been dipping in and out of it for a while.

I fall into the 'enjoy opening the mail' category. I'm disappointed when I get home from work and find my doormat empty (so disappointed about 90% of the time then!)

Why are all you lovely people still dealing with British Gas? Other energy providers are available. Last time I moved house, BG continued to charge me for gas at my old address as well as charging at my new one. As they had mucked me around considerably on a previous occasion, this was the point at which I changed to a different energy provider. The only time I ever have to contact them is when the credit on my account gets too much in their favour and I want some of my dosh back and, like Bobo, I have discovered that I can do this by e-mail. I also deal with BT and Tiscali by e-mail wherever possible, and indeed anyone else that might otherwise require a tedious phone call.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi there Liz, yes I think you have dropped by before, but good to see you again. Hubby thinks BG is the cheapest, having done the whole internet searching malarkey. I just can't be arsed, frankly! But i will definitely take the email route next time - I hadn't actually realised you could email them. It will save me from having a stroke.

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