We all get them. Cold calls flogging double glazing, insurance, charity events and surveys (that will only take a few moments, but actually take 30 minutes). And then there are the scams.
These are the most sinister as they prey on people who have a trusting nature, are unfamiliar with the workings of their computers, or are old and vulnerable. It is preying on this latter group that upsets me most.
I had a couple of calls recently perporting to be from 'The Windows Technical Department'. They told me that they had detected a problem with my computer and that they would, free of charge, fix the problem over the phone. They then set about giving precise instuctions on what keys to press etc in order to gain access to your computer with the intension of ripping me off.
Needless to say I was aware of this scam and resisited. But to have a bit of personal fun I recorded this encounter with, I assume, an Indian call center or it could have been a shed in Mumbai.
I play the part of the vulnerabel, slightly out of it, old man and a little later, his son. Anyway this is how to deal with these internet crooks...
Before I ever got into the business of design, I had 4 jobs. 4 mind bogglingly awful jobs. The last of these was working in a warehouse situated in a narrow, cobbled stone lane not far from the shadows of St Paul’s Cathedral. This was in 1963. City buildings were still blackened by years of ingrained chimney soot and the age of steam, which was still in operation at the time.
The age of steam was still in evidence.
The warehouse belonged to a Londonderry based shirt makers. Each week, a large truck would arrive from Ireland, packed high with a new supply of freshly manufactured shirts…
The location of my last sole destroying job, Black Friars Lane near St Paul's.
My job, as assistant warehouseman - kitted out in a starched brown overall - was to offload endless boxes from the truck and transfer them to the racks of the cavernous warehouse. This was the major event of the week. The rest of the time I was treading water. I worked alongside a man in his late 40s (I was only 17). He was from Northern Ireland and had been a career soldier, until he sustained a back injury and had to leave. This made him very bitter. He seemed to hate everything and everyone, and always had a smell of beer and tobacco about him.
During the long cold winter’s days we would sit, side-by-side in old captain’s chairs, our feet propped up on the edge of a cast iron coke burning stove. We’d drink endless cups of tea, eat buttered buns and read the daily rag…
The most dramatic news of that year as we consumed our buttered buns and mugs of tea.
Above our heads an old station style pendulum clock ticked away the endless days. Outside it always seemed to be raining. Suddenly this would ring…
The main mode of communication. No faxes, computers, mobiles or pagers back then.
‘Hello, warehouse.’ ‘Moss Brothers on the line’. This was the other event of the day, an order for various shirts from the company’s biggest client. So we would spring into action walking down the rows of brown boxes, cherry picking the different shirt styles and sizes required. Then it was back to the chairs, ticking clock and utter boredom. So it went on hour after hour, week after week, month after month.
When I first started I noticed that my ex solider compatriot would disappear at around 11a.m. each day for an hour or so. At the time I was very into the author John Wyndam and would wile the hours away reading. One morning deeply engrossed in ‘Day of the Triffids’, I was disturbed by an eerie breathing sound coming from somewhere in the bowels of the warehouse. I closed the book and made my way along the racks of shirts. The noise increased. As I turned to walk down the next row, there he was, lying on a shelf, cosseted on a camping mattress fast asleep. So that is where he would go each day. Appalled at such a waste of time I went back to my book without disturbing him...
The world to which I escaped.
Even more disturbingly, just a few weeks later, I too had cleared a cranny for myself in another part of the warehouse and initially would read or draw in the womb like space. But slowly I would succumb to sleep or just lay there aimlessly listening to the wind whistling through the ill fitting windows. This was my lowest point and I could see no end and no future.
But I had been attending evening classes where I was studying calligraphy and illuminated lettering for no other reason than it seemed artistic and I needed an outlet for whatever creativity I knew was lurking inside me. Whilst there, I befriended another guy who was attending a course in layout and typography - so I joined that class too. He worked in a small commercial art studio. I begged him to let me know if there were ever any jobs going. Months later he asked, ‘Are you still looking for a job?’ A short time after, I started as messenger, van driver, coffee and tea maker, sweeper and any other lowly job going. But I’d arrived on the first rung of the ladder in what seemed to be a creative world.
Moral of this story: Believe in yourself. Never give up. To find out what happened next click here
Yes, it’s that time of year again when I need to pull into a layby and take stock.
I’ll be back soon to continue my journey with more musings, stories and observations on design, architecture, films, words, art, fashion, theatre, people, history music and anything else that passes through my head. Stay sober.
Regulars to this little blog of mine will know of my love of bookshops. I am lucky enough to have a delightful independent one, just a short walk away in Exmouth Market. Appropriately called Clerkenwell Tales it stocks a good a range of books and stages many events, from signings to Literary Prize Nights. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and their choices discerning.
But as much I love this petit literary oasis, I have to own up to the fact that I have been known to browse, hit on a book, note down the title and a little later can be found tapping away at my laptop ordering it on Amazon, for half the price. Yes I know, shame on me!
The preservation of independent bookshops was brought home to me in a little YouTube video featuring my very favourite ex advertising copywriter, David Abbott. Now a fully-fledged author, with his first novel The Upright Piano Player published, he makes the case for keeping these important establishments alive. You can see it here.
And before you throw bricks at me I’d like to add that I bought David’s book at the full cover price at Daunt Books in Marylebone High Street. If you’d like to know more about David Abbott just click here. Meanwhile here is one of David’s most beautifully written advertisements from over 30 years ago. Still lovely after all those years…