Brian Viner: I've spent too long talking to TalkTalk

Share
Related Topics

One of the small ironies of our peculiar age is that telephone companies are less communicative than just about any other kind of enterprise. Phone them up and it feels like a minor miracle when eventually you find yourself in dialogue with a human being after all the automated nonsense of pressing 1 if you want this, or 2 if you want that. If only the next option was, press 3 if you'd like to interact with somebody real, but it never is.

Still, I was given a useful tip the other day, namely that the surefire way of getting to talk to someone at T-Mobile is to press the buttons indicating that you want to take your account away from them. Pretty sharpish you get the undivided attention of a human being.

The most incommunicative blighters of all, in my experience, are TalkTalk. We gave them our landline business a year or so ago, seduced by the promise that they were cheaper than BT. Then, a week ago, our line went dead. I won't even begin to detail the number of calls made, the number of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and star buttons pushed, over the subsequent few days. Eventually, the job of fixing the fault was passed on to BT Open Reach, yet TalkTalk couldn't put us directly in touch with the BT engineers, and clearly had no idea themselves of the repairs schedule. All rather maddening.

Several more days passed, in the course of which we had a call from "Bernard" in India, who knew nothing of our frustrations, telling us how we could improve our TalkTalk plan. I don't know when it was introduced, this policy in Indian call centres of foisting British names on their ever-obliging operatives, but we've also heard from "William" and "Derek" in recent weeks. If the TV sketch show Goodness Gracious Me was still going, they could turn it on its head as neatly as they did with the gang of inebriated Pakistanis going for a late-night "English" and abusing the waiters. Flaxen-haired Englishmen would sit at a call centre in Melton Mowbray, phoning householders in Mumbai and introducing themselves as Sanjay.

Anyway, with the fault still not sorted, my wife, Jane, got a text message from TalkTalk on her mobile, asking her to reply FIXED or NOT FIXED. At first she replied NOT FIXED!, but they couldn't make head or tail of the exclamation mark. The texts kept coming; she kept replying. Finally, five days after we'd reported the fault, a BT engineer turned up and took half an hour to sort out the problem. Then came another text from TalkTalk. FIXED or NOT FIXED?

Resisting the temptation to preface her reply with even a single expletive, Jane replied FIXED. A minute or two later her phone pinged. "Sorry, we do not understand your response." Had we found a computer with a sense of humour? Or a telephone company too in thrall to technology to realise the time-saving value of a simple phone conversation? Either way, if TalkTalk can't talk the talk, we'll have to walk the walk back to BT.

Churchill gets far more credit than he deserves

Last week in this column I questioned the attribution of two well-known sporting quotations, yielding a splendid email from a reader, Gordon Elliot, who wrote to me some time ago after I'd cited the advice usually credited to the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, that one should try everything in life at least once, except folk dancing and incest. According to Mr Elliot, there is a line in the memoirs of the composer Sir Arnold Bax attributing the quip to the much lesser-known conductor Guy Warrack.

It is the regrettable lot of the lesser-known to have their witticisms put in the mouths of others, while, conversely, the better-known have the usually posthumous pleasure of seeming sharper than they are, or were. Sir Thomas Beecham is a good example. He also tends to get the credit for the celebrated admonition of a female cellist: "Madam, you have between your legs a beautiful instrument capable of bringing pleasure to thousands, yet all you can do is scratch it." That, I'm reliably told, was actually uttered by Sir Henry Wood, founder of the Promenade concerts.

Whatever, Mr Elliot informs me that the phenomenon of sayings being reattributed to more famous people is known as "Churchillian Drift". Apparently, Churchill's biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, has failed to find any evidence of Churchill saying lots of things he is popularly supposed to have said. In some cases, Mr Elliot writes, they may have been said by his great friend F E Smith, a noted wit in his time but now largely forgotten.

He believes a similar process has occurred in cricket, "where the pithy lines of the Yorkshire fast bowler Emmott Robinson have sometimes been reassigned to Fred Trueman". If so, it's a bloody disgrace, as Trueman, and doubtless Robinson too, would have said.

The consolations of an annual catalogue

One could be forgiven for thinking that Lark, Swift and Sunrise are a pop star's daughters. Or that Saladin, Fatum, Ilas and Euphya are the children of the Turkish Prime Minister. But if, like me, you have just received the endlessly fascinating Marshalls Kitchen Garden Catalogue 2011, you will know that Lark, Swift and Sunrise are varieties of sweetcorn, while Saladin, Fatum, Ilas and Euphya are joined by Burpless Tasty Green, who couldn't possibly be the son of the Turkish Prime Minister, as varieties of cucumber.

Anyway, I always greet the arrival of the Marshalls catalogue as a sign that spring isn't too far away, and my rising excitement as I pore through its pages as proof that I have become irretrievably middle-aged.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Day In a Page

 

Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace

Gabriel Sassoon
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride