Rosie Millard: Thrifty living

I'm rich! Well, I seem to be – in a parallel universe
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The Independent Online

spendthrift janie and I are having an economic supper in the West End. "Skip starters and ask for tap water," she says. "That way you can bring a £40 dinner down to about £20." I mull over this while gazing at my glass of London's finest eau de ville. "And you have to wait in a side street before driving in at exactly 6.30pm so you can skip the Congestion Charge and park legally on a single yellow line," I offer.

Pathetic, I know. Trading economic tips with someone like Janie; it's like trying to harvest sun-dried tomatoes in Hull.

She looks at me with pity. "The Congestion Charge now ends at 6pm, idiot." Oh well. I wondered why all these drivers were giving me the eye as I sat tapping my fingers on the wheel in a King's Cross side street at 6.23pm.

"I feel as if I'm in some sort of parallel existence," I wail. It's true. We are holidaying locally this year, largely because taking four children abroad is eye-wateringly pricey, and because no one can be bothered to sort out putting the newly arrived Millard dog into kennels, which is bound to cost a fortune. So I've had no giant bills involving villas in Tuscany, or flights to somewhere heavenly like, er, Tuscany. And Cornwall isn't too much of a hardship, really.

But is this cost-cutting patriotic zeal reflected in my bank statements? Last month, my balance was so alarming I was convinced the bank had made a huge error, and had the bright idea of ringing up and querying every item with Anne, my bank manager. About 70 per cent down the list, I realised that her calculations were correct. So embarrassing.

She was very cheerful about it, however, as well she might be. It's been a good week to be a bank manager. The FSA announced that banks need not deal with the flood of complaints over their charges until the OFT has dealt with a High Court test case. Just after I filed my claim to the Clydesdale for £1,700 in charges, too. Typical. If only I'd got going at the start of the campaign. If only the Clydesdale hadn't been so astonishingly slow (three months) to send me back my statements. Now, of course, it's obvious why it took so long.

When I get home, I log on to see what my friend Martin Lewis at moneysavingexpert.com has to say about it. But not before deleting an email offering me a loan of $496,000, for which I have apparently applied from someone called rtugbasa@tpnet. In my parallel world, you see. "Approval will only take one minute," confirms rtugbsa@tpnet. Whoever you are, I wish you'd been employed by the Clydesdale. It needs your standards of efficiency.

With his typical bounce, Martin appears unruffled by this development in the charges saga. "Put a claim in now as a marker," he urges, although he later admits: "The effective stall on reclaims is a nightmare." For slackers like me who've only just got round to filing a claim, he suggests that my case won't be looked at until the test case has finished. "That probably won't be until the London Olympics are over," I say miserably to Mr Millard. I could, of course, start a court claim, but what with the Millard pup and four Juniors to corral, the possibility of finding a window in which to launch a court claim, and then win it, is about as likely as winning Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?.

On which I made a brief appearance last week, helping two former BBC colleagues, Jennie Bond and Michael Buerk. "Could you be my phone-a-friend?" Jennie asked me. Yeah, yeah, I thought, privately. Millionaire probably operates in the same parallel universe of phone calls as Blue Peter. Not that I'm sceptical. Actually, I am sceptical. "I'd love to, Jennie," I said. "How kind of you to ask me."

But lo; at the appointed hour, who should ring but Chris Tarrant? "Hi there Rosie, Chris here!" barked the familiar voice. Ohmigod! "Hi, hi," I squeaked. He, Chris Tarrant himself, read the question. I knew the answer. (Which Tim Burton film has been made into a dance musical? Edward Scissorhands!) I gave it to Chris. A chiming noise went off in my ear. Chris chortled that I had just won Jennie and Michael £36,000 for their chosen cause.

What a feeling. It was almost as flash as I imagine getting a loan from rtugbas@tpnet might be, but with the extra payback of the Tarrant celebrity factor.

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