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I swear. This is true.
Jannings, Dicksworth and I. Our burgeoning interest in the opposite sex had driven us to observe Sister Immaculate Lobster, Sister Mary Napalm and Sister Barnaby Goebbels at their ablutions.
A glass skylight in the flat roof over the nun’s washroom adjacent to the vicarage provided the room with its only source of light, and us with an ideal vantage point.
I vividly recall Dicksworth’s reaction the time we climbed up the drainpipe, hoisted ourselves onto the roof and peered down into the steam-filled void below. Sister Immaculate Lobster was shaving her legs with a potato peeler while Sister Mary Napalm, whose prosthetic leg was leaning against the tin bath, chastised her nipples with nettles dipped in holy water. Sister Barnaby Goebbels was obscured by the roiling steam issuing from the sauna cabinet. (It was said that Sister Barnaby only agreed to transfer from the Vatican Inquisitors if certain stringent conditions were met; the sauna being one such. Others mentioned included: a bedside shaving socket, electric wimple heater, premium thumb-screws and a matched set of silver-plated scourges).
On reflection, Dicksworth – still wearing a tea towel on his head and quite recovered from his spell in hospital after the bicycle pump incident – should probably have been excluded from this early foray into a world the cretin wasn’t yet ready to in habit.
Jannings, the bells on his father’s morris dancing costume tinkling every time he moved, nudged me and pointed down at the figure of Sister Barnaby emerging from the steam. In his excitement, his jaw buried itself in the bitumen roof-covering. The sun was doing a pretty good job of heating it up and the boiling tar stuck to his chin. When it started to burn, he tried rubbing it off but only succeeded in spreading it further up his face. I tried to help but my fingers stuck to it and I had to stop pulling when he squawked in pain.
There we were then. Jannings and I glued together on the roof of the washroom. Only Dicksworth could extract us from the mess we’d gotten ourselves into. But it wasn’t to be. The sight of Sister Barnaby, stark naked, all twenty-seven stone of her slick with sweat, had turned him from a cretin with delusions of Bedouin ancestry into a raving lunatic. His eyes narrowed; tongue flopping out of his mouth like a land-locked haddock. Gurning and twitching, his fingers clawed at the skylight and he gibbered in tongues. His later assertion that a true son of the desert could only gain satisfaction in the arms of a woman of Zeppelin-esque proportions sounded as feeble to me then as it does now.
All my organs turned to mush and I panicked. I wrenched a hand from Jannings face and reached out to try and quieten the cretinous Dicksworth. Jannings shrieked, tripped over the edge of the skylight and pulled me down on top of him – and Dicksworth.
They say a man’s life flashes before his eyes in his dying seconds. At the age of twelve, I hadn’t had much of a life to flash – unlike Jannings who had once exposed himself to Angela Pringle and received a nod of approval in return.
I barely had time to register the sound of wood cracking beneath us and heave Jannings off, before the skylight fell open and Dicksworth plummeted into the judiciously placed tin bath below. A tsunami of water erupted from the bath, engulfing the screaming nuns and extinguishing the candles on the makeshift basin-altar. Only Sister Barnaby Goebbels remained unaffected by Dicksworth’s unexpected arrival. She grabbed Sister Mary’s prosthetic leg and began beating him about the head. At least she may have thought that was what she was doing. In point of fact, Dicksworth had hardly touched bottom before he was out, and off through the back door of the vicarage like a scalded cat.
No. It was the unfortunate Sister Mary Lobster who bore the brunt of Goebbel’s assault. From where I watched, she was flopped over the rim of the tub in a religious ecstasy. She may have believed the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived early and was anxious to welcome its representatives. Either way, she hardly noticed Sister’s ministrations.I don’t recall how Jannings and I regained terra firma - or how we managed to coax Dicksworth out of the coal bunker. All I know is; that evening started the circuitous journey to manhood for all three of us.
Another time I lay in a hospital bed, all by myself, jacked up on morphine, looking at a blue left arm that was the size of my upper thigh. I watched as they tested the anti-venin on me, and in very serious tones told me that if they used it on me, I would die- which I would probably do without it when the venom reached my main artery. I remember thinking how absurd the situation was, this being the second time, in the span of ten years and five days, that I lie alone in a hospital facing death from a snake bite. How utterly absurd! And the fact that I had reached out on my own and caught this animal, knowing how deadly the bite was from firsthand experience, made me feel even more foolish than afraid.
But this time, this incident I endured on the evening of May seventh- at the hands of people I entrusted my life to- this scares me. I was dying, right here on this stretcher, in front of my sick and crazy Daddy, while being held down and shot full of a deadly drug by people who were supposed to be helping me...no, this took the cake , and continues to take it even as I write of it. In fact, I'm not sure if I can tell you about it- or if ,legally, I should. Because somehow, on some level, what that doctor did to me had to be wrong. My scarred mind that flinches away from bright lights thinks it was wrong, as do my bruised arms where the six interns held me down during the convulsions that followed the injection. Convulsions and contortions that lasted over one half of an hour, and were so violent that I actually kicked my walking cast off of my broken ankle- a cast that was strapped on by 5 broad velcro straps, so tightly that the ankle was kept immobilized. Or at least it was until the Doctor on duty decided I was overdosing and shot me up with an opiod antagonist called Narcan, even though I had told him and his staff repeatedly that I only take my opiod pain medication exactly as prescribed, and was only sleepy. As I lost control of my body and my head kept bashing itself off the stretcher, my legs and arms flailing, kicking and punching, back arching until I nearly snapped in two, I remember thinking that my heart was going to burst, and that I would never see my brother again. And I was so, so sad that they had called my poor sick daddy to the room, that he had to see what they had done to me. I begged them to make it stop, I cried out, "Why did you do this to me?", I screamed to them to ," Get my Dad out of here, he has Alzheimers!", while my body writhed and exposed my tattooed breasts for all to see, including the father I adore. I begged them to pull up my pants, as I lie panting and heaving under their 6 bodies, nightmare flashbacks of other times, other hands and other hateful faces leering above me. Only these faces weren't looking at me, but at each other, at their watches, at the clock- anywhere but at my contorted , snot covered, begging face. begging someone to tell me what they did to me, why they were killing me, why wouldn't they make the pain stop, the fear stop, the thrashing, and pounding of my heart stop... Why did they make me die there in front of my dad, calling me an overdose, when it was them who shot me up with some dope from Satan? As my eyes rolled up in my head the questions seemed less important, and just the sadness remained, the betrayal, the exhaustion, and the knowledge that if they had just believed me, they wouldn't have had to kill me.
When I came to, in the blackness, I did not know where I was , or why. I just knew I was sick, and alone, in pain, and tied to a stretcher.
Welcome to my May 7th.
Cook & Write Retreat - 6 nights from 8th November to 14th November
A retreat featuring workshops and cooking sessions with writing prompts to help you think about using food in your writing, lots of writing time and opportunities to get ideas and inspiration from other writers.
The lovely Debi Alper will be running a workshop at this
retreat, which will take place at the secluded and
beautiful Voley Farm in Exmoor National Park. As well as
holding a workshop on Psychic Distance, Debi will be staying for
the whole retreat and holding daily 1-1 sessions for writers to
have their work reviewed.
Cathie Hartigan of Creative Writing Matters will also be running a workshop but you will get plenty of time do your own thing as well.
Voley Farm has three holiday cottages set withing 45 acres of
farmland and ancient woodland and the retreat will fill them all.
There is also communal space to get together for workshops and
Find out more here. Hope to see some Cloudies there!
Maybe we have
been together too long
I could be wrong
I hope I'm wrong
it would help if I went away
But I'd like to stay
I want to stay
these years one thing remains true
I might never say it, but I still love you
I don’t share enough of my soul
I’m too controlled
Or so I’m told
Maybe I keep
all my feelings inside
I don’t confide
I swear I’ve tried
these years one thing remains true
I still find you sexy and I still love you
remember when you first took my hand
How could we ever know where we would land?
We’ve been together through thick and thin
We’ve had some hard time. We never gave in
Through it all, you’ve always been the one
You’ve still got what it takes to turn me on
I hope you realise just what that means
It means your still the girl of my dreams
I stand before you now. I have no fear
I’m proud to tell you what you’re waiting to hear
You see I love you. I always have
That’s right, I love you. I always have
I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.
Received a phone call from BT, informing me that he was disconnecting me because of an unpaid bill... He demanded payment immediately of £31.00 or it would be £ 118.00 to re-connect at a later date. The guy wasn't even fazed when I told him I was with Virgin Media, allegedly VM have to pay BT a percentage for line rental! I asked the guy's name - he gave me the very 'English' John Peacock with a very 'African' accent - & phone number -0800 0800 152.
Obviously the fellow realized I didn't believe his story, so offered to demonstrate that he was from BT. I asked how & he told me to hang up & try phoning someone - he would disconnect my phone to prevent this. AND HE DID!! My phone was dead - no engaged tone, nothing - until he phoned me again. Very pleased with himself, he asked if that was enough proof that he was with BT.
I asked how the payment was to be made & he said credit card, there & then. I said that I didn't know how he'd done it, but I had absolutely no intention of paying him, I didn't believe his name or that he worked for BT. He hung up. I dialled 1471 -number withheld I phoned his fictitious 0800 number - not recognized.
So I phoned the police to let them know. I wasn't the first! It's only just started apparently, but it is escalating. Their advice was to let as many people as possible know of this scam. The fact that the phone does go off would probably convince some people it's real, so please make as many friends & family aware of this. How is it done?
This is good but not that clever. He gave the wrong number - it should have been 0800 800 152 which takes you through to BT Business. The cutting off of the line is very simple, he stays on the line with the mute button on and you can't dial out - but he can hear you trying. (This is because the person who initiates a call is the one to terminate it). When you stop trying he cuts off and immediately calls back. You could almost be convinced!
The sad thing is that it is so simple that it will certainly fool many. By the way this is not about getting the cash as this would not get past merchant services - it is all about getting the credit card details which include the security number, to be used for larger purchases. **Please Copy and Paste**.
(Shame I had such a shitty day... I don't really feel like going into huge detail, but I'm on the brink of resigning and taking grieiance proceedings against my manager. Allegedly, being Ofsted rated Good is not enough, and she has decided that I need compulsory coaching 'to bring me up to standard'. And what standard is that? Because silly me, I thought Ofsted rating me Good was enough of a standard. Needless to say, I am NOT happy about this. But even so - I'm having a book published, so yay!)
I received a phone call from a stranger, who asked to speak to me. I confirmed I was that person.
He introduced himself as Matt from XXX company (no surname).
‘Who?’ I asked.
He repeated the unfamiliar name, and continued, ‘For security, can you tell me the first line of your address?’
Technically, the answer is ‘Yes, I can’. However, ‘Will I tell?’ is entirely different.
To unspin the spin, how does this question provide any security to either of us?
‘You phone me on my landline and ask for me by name. So you have a reasonable expectation that the person picking up the phone is the person you want to speak to. On the other hand, I don’t know you from a bar of soap. Armed with my name and phone number, my address is freely available in the BT phone book and in on-line directories. You want me to give you the link so you can look it up?’
‘Unless you tell me the first line of your address, I can’t discuss the matter further with you.’
‘Dear, oh dear. What matter?’
‘I can’t discuss it.’
‘I don’t know who you are. My security question to you, is who are you?’
‘I can’t divulge that information until you confirm your address.’
‘Can I remind you that it’s you who wants to talk to me, not the other way around?
‘I can’t proceed with this conversation unless you answer my questions.’
‘I can see your problem. We appear to have reached an impasse.’
If I call my bank, do I ask ‘security questions’ of whoever picks up the phone?’ No. I expect the bank to pick up. And since I’m the one initiating the call, I expect them to check my credentials before discussing my account. So when an unknown person calls me, why is it so peculiar to want to ascertain their identity, before divulging anything to them?
It may seem that I was overly obstinate, but we all know that the question would be followed up by other questions which are not so easily in the public domain – date of birth, mother’s maiden name, favourite pet (I always get that wrong), perhaps account numbers. And all before I know what it’s about. In the past, I’ve fallen for that old rigmarole, only to discover that they want to sell me insurance.
And I will not perpetuate the myth that asking my address, is in any way secure.
I don’t even understand why anyone would think it is secure, and why would I want to do business with any stupid company who thinks it is?
Let’s try to imagine why a person picking up a phone might get the address wrong.
- They are drunk. If so, there’s no point proceeding with the conversation.
- They have dementia. This could be tested by further questions, like ‘Who is the Prime Minister?’ If they answer ‘Noddy and Big Ears’, make of that what you will.
- They’ve been kidnapped and don’t know where they’re being held; and haven’t already used the phone to call the police.
- They’re an invited guest; as such, improbable they would maliciously impersonate the householder.
- … No, can’t think of a fifth reason. Anyone?
Who else might pick up the home phone apart from me?
1. Someone else who lives there. If so, it’s plausible they know the address.
2. A workperson such as a plumber or cleaner. They’re likely to know the address, too. And unlikely to pick up the phone in the first place, knowing it’s not for them. And if they do, they’ll say, ‘She’s out.’ Call over.
3. A burglar. Ditto, really. Unlikely to pick up the phone, and if they do, likely to know the address that they’re currently burgling.
4. A random passerby who hears a phone ringing in a strangely unlocked and empty house and gallantly runs in to answer it. They might have to run out again to check the house number, but that’s easily done.
On occasions where I do have a connection to the company calling, I’ve suggested a compromise. ‘If I tell you the first part of my account number, can you supply the rest?’ This is at least some reassurance for both of us, and similar to the way that secure computer transactions work. Sometimes they comply, and I look on them with favour.
Since the address of a landline is such a prevalent question, what is its purpose? To give the illusion of security but no actual security at all? It’s meaningless box-ticking. Smoke and Mirrors. Spin. Which is why I don’t cooperate.
I agree that we all want to know who we’re talking to about our private business, but this goes both ways. The phone is convenient, I’m not denying that. And I really don’t need any more PINs or passwords. But demanding the address of a landline from the person obviously holding the phone? Perlease!
So my questions are: Who thinks this is a good security check? How does it achieve its aim? Who does it weed out? Is there a better way?