Banks and cold-callers are enough to make you swear in Russian

Yes, he would report my complaint. I knew what was next. Address. Account number. Mother's maiden name

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Another bad day in life. I try to stay away from life at this time of the year. It's too crowded. Better to remain inside, where it's warm and quiet, lock all the doors and think one's thoughts. But my phone wouldn't stop ringing, and every time I answered it a recorded voice told me I'd won first prize in a competition. All I had to do was dial this number ... In the end I had no choice but to take the phone off the hook (allowing that we don't keep phones on hooks any more), whereupon someone started blowing a hooter down it. The minute I put it back it rang again - a person with no command of English whatsoever (Mr Putin's son on work experience was my guess) offering me free broadband installation but first of all a couple of security questions.

Another bad day in life. I try to stay away from life at this time of the year. It's too crowded. Better to remain inside, where it's warm and quiet, lock all the doors and think one's thoughts. But my phone wouldn't stop ringing, and every time I answered it a recorded voice told me I'd won first prize in a competition. All I had to do was dial this number ... In the end I had no choice but to take the phone off the hook (allowing that we don't keep phones on hooks any more), whereupon someone started blowing a hooter down it. The minute I put it back it rang again - a person with no command of English whatsoever (Mr Putin's son on work experience was my guess) offering me free broadband installation but first of all a couple of security questions.

This is something I cannot fathom - people ringing me then asking me to prove it's me they're ringing. Shouldn't I be asking them to prove it's them? The third and 13th digit of your KGB membership number, please. Your mother's maiden name. No, not Putin, that's your father. Thank you very much, now huy tebye v glaz! Which I think means "a dick in your eye", but if that's what it takes to get a Russian cold-caller off my phone, then a dick in the eye is what I'm threatening. It would certainly be a mistake to say thomarai gand mai lund hai? which means "Is your dick stuck up your arse?" because then you're in a conversation.

In the end my phone drove me out. It was probably for the best. My desk had become a hermitage. I was losing touch with life. There were still Christmas cards I hadn't posted from the year before and I needed to pay in a cheque I'd had since January. Anything not to go anywhere near a post office or a bank. To steady my nerves, I decided to treat myself to lunch, something light in advance of the heavy Christmas eating to come - health food, fresh and wildish.

Always a mistake, health food. Whatever benefits you derive from the green vegetables are outweighed by the damage eating in a health food establishment causes to your heart. Stress, I'm talking about. The stress of waiting for the person who serves you - usually Putin's daughter - to connect the words you're using to the food you want. The stress of lining up to pay, because whoever is in front of you in a health shop queue pays in small change. Don't know why - some environmental thing. And then the aesthetic stress - the sheer affront against beauty and convenience - of eating with recycled wooden cutlery and having to wipe your lips on a reconstituted serviette which still has wood chips in it, unless it's lunch left over from the last time it was a serviette. Maybe it's a good idea, sometimes, to eat unostentatiously in consideration of the deprivations of the Third World, but I see no reason why a healthy meal must resemble grubbing for your victuals on a forest floor.

Did I also mention that there was nowhere to sit, and that when I did eventually find a segment of a circle of tin at which to eat my now cold vegetables, it rocked? I understood the significance. The world is not a fair or even place, why should this table be? A similar principle operates at my bank. Nine tenths of the world's population has no money, so why we should we let you get your hands on yours?

Since banking is now an activity which banks discourage, it follows that an actual branch of a bank will be as inhospitable as they can make it. But no branch of any bank anywhere is as inhospitable as mine. Until a few months ago the queues to effect a deposit or withdrawal were so long they extended into the street, putting you in danger from cursing cyclists and discommoding the beggars who like to sit there, knowing that you might find it easier to pay your money into them than into your account. Then, suddenly, a major renovation! Three times the space, brand new carpets, the promise of "events" - if you can conceive of any desirable event a bank might throw other than banking - plus a convivial arrangement of chairs and tables at which you can discuss your mortgage, your investments, and maybe even the novel that most affected you as a woman.

If it's your money you want, however, you are still queuing for 40 minutes, only now you're not queuing into the street, but in serpent formation, coiled within the bank. In this way, with an emollient voice saying "Cashier number three, please", even though there isn't a cashier number three, and the assurance that you won't at least get rained on or mowed down, it is hoped you will not notice you are queuing at all.

It was the sight of the manager buzzing about the bank to no effect in pilot's headphones and microphone (was that an "event", I wondered), while 40 of us waited for a single teller to count the weekend's takings from the strip joint on the next block that sent me over the edge. "Wouldn't you be better off serving us than being wired up to nowhere?" I enquired. Rude of me, but not as rude as thomarai gand mai lund hai?, which in point of fact would have been a perfectly fair thing to ask since that was exactly where he had stuck his dick.

He explained, as he explained the last time I failed to start a riot, that they were having trouble recruiting cashiers. But he would report my complaint. I knew what was coming. Address. Account number. Mother's maiden name.

Seeing that the person at the head of the queue was a beggar waiting to deposit his incomings in copper coin - about a thousand pounds' worth by my estimation - I gave up. The cheque could wait for another year. As could life.

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