Rebecca Tyrrel: Days Like Those

It's everyone's nightmare: DH Warnock from the Inland Revenue wants to know what you're up to
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"It's a storm in a teacup," says Matthew, violently stirring his darjeeling. "You are worrying needlessly about a non-existent threat." There is a threat, though, no matter what he says, or at least an implied one; enough of one to keep me awake throughout the night and pacing the floor throughout the day. Enough of a threat for me to have found myself borrowing from Matthew's repertoire of anxiety gestures: head in hands, sighing, silent rocking to-and-fro with arms in strait-jacket position.

A Compliance Inspector at the Inland Revenue has written to my accountant: "I hold certain information," says his letter, "which suggests that your client may have been in receipt of other substantial income apart from the sources and amounts already declared."

And still Matthew says I am worrying needlessly. He says that if I have done nothing wrong all I have to do is hold my nerve and wait for the whole thing to blow over. Compliance Inspector D H Warnock will eventually concede defeat and that will be the end of it.

"Unless of course you have done something wrong," he says furrowing his brow. "Have you done anything wrong?" "No!" I say, and: "Don't you start!" "I will ask you again," says Matthew, adopting a faux grave tone, "have you or have you not done anything wrong."

He is now behaving like the ace barrister Sir Robert Morton in The Winslow Boy. In a minute, satisfied that I haven't broken under pressure and can only therefore be telling the truth, he will agree to represent me in any court case that might arise from Mr Warnock's investigation into my tax affairs.

"No," I repeat, "I have not done anything wrong." Matthew pours himself another cup of tea, picks up his sudoku book and says: "Well, in that case, stop worrying." Then two minutes later, he looks up and says: "You know how they nailed Capone in the end, don't you? They got him for not paying his income tax."

Last night, I did manage to get some sleep. I dreamt that Kevin Costner knocked at our front door and I let him in. He was Eliot Ness in The Untouchables and he had come to interrogate me. I held fast to my story until, getting up from the kitchen table, Kevin grabbed a casserole dish and placed it in front of me, saying: "Le Creuset, huh? That sure is one fine piece of cast-iron kitchenware for a dame on your earnings. Ready to talk, sister?"

It was then that I broke down and confessed to being in the pay of a Colombian cocaine cartel. Later I admitted to faking the Roswell alien and assassinating JFK. Then Matthew appeared and told Kevin that he was far more likely to find me on a Parker Knoll than a grassy one.


The accountant rang me again today. Mr Warnock has now become preoccupied with old bank statements. I admire him. I rarely bother to open them myself. In fact Matthew and I are holding a competition to see who can build up the biggest collection of unopened Lloyds Bank envelopes before 2010. Matthew is in the lead now, having not opened one since October 1991. I am way behind since being forced into making busy with the letter-opener when Mr Warnock started taking an interest in me. Now he wants to know about monies going out of my account as well as monies coming in.

"It's easily sorted," said Matthew. "It'll be on your cheque stubs." "I don't have any stubs," I wailed, "and I have no recollection why I wrote a cheque for £2,000 in 2004." "Hairdresser probably," interrupted Matthew.

"Now I'll have to spend hours and hours on the phone to the bank," I continued to wail, ignoring this reference to my visit to Nicky Clarke in March of the relevant year.

"Don't worry, I'll look after all that for you," said Matthew. "You'll want to save your weekly call from D-wing for friends and family."

I am toying with ringing Mr DH Warnock personally. Matthew says he thinks this is madness. He believes I am certain to collapse under questioning, and that if Mr Warnock so much as asks me what my favourite colour is I will confess to the Brinks Mat robbery.

But what Matthew has failed to understand is that I am no longer scared, I am now angry. I am furious that I am being suspected of something I haven't done. I am livid at the wording of Mr Warnock's letter. What does "I hold certain information..." mean? Has someone with a grudge written to Mr Warnock with incriminating evidence about me? Has Mr Warnock got nothing better to do than write frightening letters to innocent, hardworking, upstanding, tax-payers? Mr Warnock will be hearing from me.

Called to account

Mr Warnock has heard from me. Matthew kept trying to snatch the phone away as I dialled, so in the end I had to go out into the garden to make the call, locking the kitchen door behind me.

I was asked to hold the line while Mr W got my files and then he enquired, very politely - think male version of Miss Jean Brodie for the accent - how he could help me.

And now, as a result, I think I may be in love with D H Warnock, who it turns out is an extremely reasonable man. It didn't take long to work out where the confusion lay. In truth, things were a little tense at first, then, just as I was about to ask if I'd be going to an open prison, the breakthrough came - bungled bureaucracy was the cause. I am in the clear.

Matthew has subsequently been released from the kitchen and has gone, rather grudgingly I thought, to untie the yellow ribbon from the sycamore tree at the bottom of the garden.