Mercury Makes You Mad

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 17 October 2007

The last four days have been dominated by technological breakdown, resulting in personal 'meltdown'. I know that when Mercury, the planet of communicaton, goes retrograde, things can get a little tricky but the postal strike, internet failure, computer crashing, email angst and a traffic offence have all been a little too much.

Sunday started with me wearing nothing but my pink furry bath robe as I set off to meditate in the garden. Planting my feet firmly in the wet grass I faced the morning sun; the birds chattered in the trees whilst Jackson rootled around my toes. It was sublime.

I then left the cottage at 11.00am, arriving at the flat by 12.30. After doing some research on my computer I set off an hour later for LBC.

The show was not great. Gino De Campo and Stewart Darrietta were fine guests, but all was not well. My new producer and I struggled for all sorts of reasons. I am fully conscious that real radio buffs do all their own work, record bits, research stuff, invent moments and draw in the listener. My problem is that I want to get it all right - immediately! I've been at it for 4 months; most of my colleagues have been practicing their skills for at least 140 years.

I left the studio and sat in my car, called my studio manager and moaned. Mr. Lowrie did what all good studio managers do, he listened, placated, and listened some more. I set off to go home feeling slightly better. When I stopped in a traffic jam somewhere in SW London I needed to talk to my daughter. I picked up my mobile, tapped in her number and waited for the phone to connect.

And hereth begineth the catalogue of disasters.

As I waited I noticed, in my peripheral vision, a motor bike. Not a Harley or a Triumph, but a big white Honda with POLICE written on it. Sitting next to me, looking down at my mobile dexterity, as large as life, was a copper. A big, lanky copper who had been up all night chasing a Ford Mondeo through the streets of London. A big, lanky, tired copper who had about as much give as a concrete shoe lace. 'Pull over,' he gesticulated. I panicked and threw the phone onto the floor. 'Pull over!!!' This time he shouted. He would have sworn if he hadn't been a tired teddy-bobby and me a lady of some years. I felt sympathetic towards him since my trip with the three pc's on the Thames.

I pulled over into a side street. 'Get out' he said gruffly and then told me in no uncertain terms that he could arrest me, but he wouldn't and that I had better get on the pavement as, "we didn't want me getting run over now, did we?" In that moment I would have been quite happy to have been taken out by a passing Passat, but I followed his orders. He asked me for my driving license, which I didn't have; he asked me why I was on the phone; he asked me whether it was my vehicle and all those other really official questions that Rowan Atkinson does so well.

I told him I was after directions to Camberwell and was unfamiliar with the area. When he realised that I wasn't a screaming lunatic with designs on bringing down the Welfare State he booked me, apologised profusely for having to do so, but told me he had no choice and that he really was so tired from his Mondeo chasing and that he was just doing his job. I asked him if he worked on commission - which didn't get a laugh - and watched as he flicked over his pad to a buff page to tick the box of my ethnicity for the Home Office. I said I was white British, but you could see that my San Diego tan, still glowing, perplexed him somewhat. I nearly said I had come from Islamabad but he really was just too tired for that kind of gag.

He sent me on my way with a yellow form to take into my designated police station so that I could get my three points and a sixty quid fine.

I drove back to the flat, passing several other drivers on their mobiles and boo-hooed real cartoon tears and, before Mrs. Jones has a go at me for wallowing in my own self induced tragedy, I was shocked okay.

I arrived home all flustered and flaky. Jim tutted and carried on fiddling while his wife burned.

Monday started with me going to the police station only to be told that my working name didn't correspond with the married name on my driving license and that, even though PC49 believed me, thousands wouldn't. After all, "its computers what do all the work these days." I had my license confiscated and left the cop-shop with the firm resolve to get myself a hands free jobbie. In the event Jim found me an old one which I have to hang over my ear making me look like a very untidy motor bike courier.

I called my insurance brokers and changed the name on my insurance policy to include both my married and single names then sent off sixty quid for my offence and 45 for an outstanding misdemeanour my daughter had commited - one hundred and five pounds out of my account and I hadn't even left the kitchen.

Monday continued with the Jim lad installing a new BT Hub for the computer. I swear if Room 101 were to ask me to dispose of the three things I hated most it would be. BT. British Telecom. And BT Broadband service.

My husband has the patience of a saint but even he had problems keeping the lid on the conversation with Hadahv in India. By 3.00 a.m. I hadahv had enough of the automatic-continent-hopping-cursor-control shown by Hadahv over in India. My husband and I had sat like two demented tennis addicts on an outside court at Wimbledon watching that little white arrow being bounced around the screen for nigh on 90 minutes. Ok I admit it is clever technology but by the time I crawled into bed I had tennis neck.

When Jim finally joined me his tired voice informed me that the whole system had crashed.

I woke yesterday and decided the only way to deal with Mercury's mercurial madness was to run. I had to get rid of my anger and frustration at having no email, internet, or patience. I ran through the crisp leaves, down the avenue, up the field, past the chickens and onto the road. During my little jog I forgave Jim for not being Bill Gates, forgave myself for having no tolerance, forgave Hadahv because I could, but still held onto a throbbing grudge with BT. We had to change our passwords so many times I now don't have a clue what gets me in where, when, and whether I should give a toss anyway. I decided if God had decided to throw me lemons I would make lemonade. I gave up caring about the computer and gave myself a holiday, read all the papers,made herbal tea and bought two lipsticks.

Today, back in the flat, it was clear as to why that grudge was firmly in place. I opened my emails and there, staring back at me was 'ERROR', the one word you don't want to see on the bottom right hand side of your computer screen.

The geezer arrived to fit the curtains which had come off the rails, which is what I was just about to do. Whilst I was shouting at Belaji in Bombay the curtain man came into my office. 'I gavver your 'avin a go at BT' he said. I noddded, Belaji had put on some dreadful muzac to while away the hours whilst he ran backwards and forwards finding ever more passwords. As the minutes ticked away I shouted at Belaji that he would have to call me back as I wasn't going to pay for any more air time. Surprisingly he did. The curtain man continued 'The wife and me 'ave nearly divorced over them, our compooter 'as crashed free times. BT are bloody useless.' Was this curtains for me?

110 minutes later, I know because I counted them, I had another set of passwords, 73 more grey hairs and a whole new selection of disgusting pop-ups that pop up.

BT ask you to write something about their service. I wrote Belaji had been patient but I quoted the curtain man ' BT are useless'. Apparently my husband had written the self same criticism but more eloquently, and by that I mean a much longer tirade.

To compound all this irritation B had lost her student card and arrived late to her first lecture, her car battery having died and she having had to take the bus. Jim had walked right instead of left out of the flat, and was attempting to get to Covent Garden by way of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

On the bright side, Giddy in Amsterdam and Stephanie wrote to me. Thank you for your support. Evans' bald man and his big Pam Ferris lookalike are hanging wall sculptures. They are moulded out of some kind of plastic, but yes the eyes of the Ferris certainly follow you around the room.

My run this morning was delicious, the smells of the loamy Sussex earth intoxicating. I decided that the obstacles in my life at the moment are like really bad speed humps, and that they are better negotiated with style not approached like a frenzied, out-of-control, road racer. So breathing in the morning air I listed all the good things about the last four days.

The weather; my old bank manager, who visited with his delightful partner, Sharon; the return of the lovely agent from vacation; my meal last night with my husband and my homeopath; my meal tonight with him and the daughter; the fact that the kids car had been boosted by the AA and finally, somebody had handed in her student card. Things are clearly looking up as I am typing this - I am now reconnected and Jim has managed to get into his email, in the flat, that is.

I will leave you with my misunderstanding at the Thai restaurant. I am always on the look out for subjects for the radio programme. Outside the restaurant in my Twillage stood a blackboard which read 'Sun Thu Night'. I knocked on the door. A waiter in a waistcoat with a big smile, that's him not the waistcoat, poked his head out. I asked him whether he could tell me what the 'Sun Thu Night' was. Was it a Thai festival?. He came out from behind the door, took one hand from behind his back and pointed at the blackboard.

'No miss. Sunday to Thursday, night time openings.' 'Ah!' I smiled.

lol. bfn cul8tr

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At October 18, 2007 7:50 AM lynne chazer wrote:

I sympathize about BT we have had the same problems, there should be an option to speak to someone who speaks proper english, trouble is even in this country it is a problem! But the show on Sunday, with Gina, was marvellous, if you closed your eyes you could have been back on GFL. We wish!

2. At October 18, 2007 12:38 PM Pool Potato wrote:

Jeni Jeni Jeni

I may be sued here but I had so many problems with BT at work I got rid of BT at home and banned any mention of the BeasT. Since then I have been on an anti BT crusade, telling everyone I know not to have anything to do with them.

I now pay my money to the other telecoms company who are slowly taking over the world (well UK world anyone would think I was American) and get "free" calls to Europe and Canada and don't even pay rental to them who shall not be named any more.

I'm now in phone and broadband heaven, no breakdowns, no Belajis and no bleedin **.

Love as ever
Fee X0X

3. At October 18, 2007 1:03 PM Libby wrote:

Oh Jen I do sympathise, I hate it when you get days like that, I call them my Frank Spencer Days! Crying is good anyway I did when I was driving to Blackpool went the wrong way down the M something or other and ended up in London, as I only had an Autoroute not a real map I had to go all the way back to Bristol to pick up the route again. Loved the show Sunday and looking forward to Food Poker. Keep the chins up (teehee) Love Marmite Girl xx

4. At October 18, 2007 1:41 PM Martin and David in Brighton wrote:

Hello Mrs Bywater

I liked "Sun Thu Night". Our own experience was of a misunderstanding we had over a sign we saw in an old convent school hall being used for a concert, which read:

"Beware Wet Polish".

Yes, well, I'll let you work it out...!

Martin and David in Brighton

5. At October 18, 2007 7:47 PM judi4 wrote:

Hi Jeni, I too fell out with BT, I now have Richard Bransons' firm, only trouble is I had days and days of phone calls to an out of UK call centre when our broadband went funny. So its not just BT. Try asking for a manager, it eventually worked for me! Lots a luv x

6. At October 18, 2007 8:06 PM Barry Jones wrote:

Hi Jeni
Just returned from a short break and am catching up on your dailies. Regarding "Primus Omnium) in your MSU column - do you think it could mean,"Meditate on your camping stove?"
Just a thought
Best wishes, love the blogs.

7. At October 19, 2007 6:00 AM christian wrote:

Aye Lass...As thay say in Yorksha
"There's nowt az queer az folkke"

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.