My Week: Keep paying the premiums: Alan Roche receives kind words and some hard knocks selling insurance door to door

Related Topics
Monday - A spread-out post-war council estate. I walk up the short garden path, collection book tucked conspicuously under my arm.

'Oh, bleedin' 'ell - not you again.'

'Who's that, mother?' booms a deep masculine voice.

'Flippin' insurance man]' she yells back.

'Tell 'im to naff off.'

She invites me in and I ask them if they know how much they're covered for. They don't, so I quote a figure.

'That wouldn't bury a mouse. Better buy some more, then, ain't we.' I smile.

Tuesday - For 15 years Mrs L has been saving 50p a week from the 'pittance of an 'ousekeeping that stingy old sod gives me'.

Today I am delivering a cheque for pounds 990. Mrs L answers the door and pulls me inside. Closing the door quietly, she puts a finger to her mouth and ushers me into her living room. Furtively gesticulating with her thumb, she mouths: 'The sod wants half me money.'

She keeps one eye on the door while signing for her cheque in secret. 'You know where he's been all day?' she whispers. 'Down the CAB, filing for a divorce, if I don't give half. As if I don't earn the money with all the 'ousework and cookin'. Let 'im.'

Wednesday - I spend the morning in our smoke- choked office, balancing my collections. I leave later than I had wished, headache in tow.

I'm late for my little chat with Elsie at my 'cup-of-tea call'.

'I saw you coming up the road - kettle's boiled,' Elsie beams. 'Wait till I tell you what happened to me today. Went to the Young Vic to see Six Characters in Search of something or other . . . Anyway, we'd waited 30 minutes for the 217, just missed one, see.'

She breaks her monologue by offering me more cake. She slices it expertly, then continues.

'Then it starts raining; all the glass in the bus shelter's been smashed in, so we thought we'd phone for a taxi. So we pops up the road, hankie ready - for the smell, dear, you know . . . 999 calls only. Typical. So, we get back to the bus stop . . .'

And on it goes.

Finally she pauses and stares from her fifth-floor window across the roofs of identical blocks of flats. It is getting dark and Elsie, 79 this year, nods off.

I take her premiums, pounds 6.14 per month, from the envelope, mark her book, put my bone-china cup and saucer and dainty side plate on the draining-board and leave; closing the door quietly.

Thursday - Another late night. The collecting book weighs a ton and the loose change bulges in my pockets. I ring the bell of a smart detached house.

' 'Ello, mate - come in. Got a question for yer. Friend of mine's policy pays for carpet stains . . .'

I nod, knowing this is unlikely.

'Am I covered for that, then?'

I shake my head.

'It's just . . . (I groan silently) a couple of years ago a bottle of aftershave fell off my bathroom cabinet, bounced on the sink, then hit me in the mouth.' He pulls at his upper lip. 'Thee,' he lisps, 'juth there, courth ith's crowned now. But the stuff in the bottle stained the bathroom carpet.'

I open his premium receipt book. Now, about these arrears, I ask. He interrupts. 'Well, what about this then . . ?'

Friday - First thing in the afternoon I call on Mr and Mrs W. There's no reply, which is unusual. As I turn to go, a neighbour opens her door, her eyes red. 'They took old Mr W off this morning; he passed over during the night.'

I ask her to pass on my condolences to Mrs W and to offer her any help she may need with her claim.

The neighbour smiles sadly. 'Expect she'll need the insurance now, won't she?' she says.

Yes, I reply, I expect she will.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice