So we set off for Normandy, using the Le Shuttle tickets we’d booked last year but couldn’t use on the basis that I’d stupidly suffered a stroke and there are rules in La Belle France against driving down L’Autoroute when suffering a hemorrhage of a vein or artery whilst driving your motor at 100km per hour or over. Picky froggy bastards.
So off we went, : Drove from Dartford (sparrow’s) – Folkestone; Sat in the train from Folkestone to Calais; then on the marvellous French toll roads for 5-odd hours until we reach our destination. We knew it would be a bit tiring, and agreed to fill up with fuel, coca cola, croque monsieur etc half way down.
We drove (I drove), we paid the tolls (The Incumbent paid the tolls) I drove some more. At about 1:30 I was beginning to feel a tad esurient and suggested we stop at the next filling station. The guv’nor agreed. So we did. It was one of those garages which encourages you to pay (by card) at the pump as opposed to paying at the till inside. Being a New European (remember, this was before the Olympic Games, before we just said: “fuck everybody else, we’re alright on our own, thankyouverymuch”) I tried to get on with la meme-chose-Continental (I have no idea if that actually means anything, I just thought it looked good).
And that’s where it went horribly wrong.
In went my card, in went the petrol nozzle, and in went the gas (unleaded of course). Out came the nozzel and I looked at the LED screen on the pump, which read….
“Oh !” thinks me :”Buggeration !”.
In the way of a Greenwich Council worker I pressed a few buttons very hard, several times but the screen was in the language of yer Johnny Foreigner, and here was nothing on the screen in the Queen’s English to tell me if I’d paid or if I hadn’t. Bollox.
(Readers new to The Sharp Single will be placated to know that The Sharp Single’s pet hate is Englishmen who refuse to speak foreign languages. I try, I’m just no bloody good at it).
I had two choices: Assume ( as any good colonialist would) that I had paid (I am BRITISH, after all) and, like Montgomery before me, drive off in the general direction of southern Normandy. This would, of course risk being caught by Le Fuzz (no-one wants that) for not paying at all.
Wasting four precious minutes by confirming with the girl behind the till in the shop that I had indeed paid, and could legally leave the forecourt. Again, being British, I chose the belt-and-braces option.
“Bonjour Monsieur” I addressed the young lady. “Parlez-vous Anglais?”
“Non” Elle replyment.
Oh bugger. I continued with my fluency:
“Je pense que jai donnez lui les argent pour le gaz, mais est ce possible pour vous regardez le screen de confirmez”. (That O-level French wasn’t wasted after all.)
“Un moment monsieur”. She then went to find someone who spoke fluent Klingon, who then went to find a consummate bollox speaker. Eventually, someone who claimed to understand me came into the booth.
“Hello Sir. How can I help you ?”
Phew. I explained that I thought that I had paid, but didn’t… well, you know …
She checked the screen, and looked at the records for my pump.
“No Sir, you haven’t paid for your gasoline.”
Cool. Thank Buddah I checked. I handed over my card and she took €80.01 from my account. Phew (again). We continued on our journey.
We had a lovely time, thankyouverymuch. We visited Plastered of Paris (of this Parish) and Mr Horrible‘s (ditto) pad on the coast and it was truly lovely. When you have spent the best part of 18 months cooped up in the Allotment of England you appreciate these sort of things. We had to do it on the cheap as the Tees aren’t selling in the millions that I’d imagined, and the missus is work-shy (yes, I will pay for that).
On my return to Blighty, I immediately checked my bank account: I was stunned (not really) to discover that I was overdrawn. On further investigation I noticed that a petrol station in France had charged me €80.01 TWICE within 6 minutes. I was less than chuffed. I’m sure you can imagine.
No matter. I immediately got onto the phone to my bank NatWest (you know NatWest:- they’re owned by RBS – that lot run by Stephen Hester – look him up – I can’t be arsed any more – who may or may not be in contention for the Biggest Crook of the year 2012 (against Newbold Coe and R.Murdoch).
The girl answered, and after several security questions asked how she could help. This was good ! I thought.
I told her my plight and my worries. Before I could get too involved she interrupted and said she was transferring me to the “Fraud” department. I’d never thought fraud was involved, just a mistake. But, okay ! I’m game. That’ll teach those Frogs a lesson for …erm…Crécy…Agincourt..or something.
“Hello Mr Bealing, how can I help ?” said the man from the Fraud Dept. It was the second time I’d been asked, and you know how patient I am, but I told him anyway.
“…so you see from my statement that €80.01 has been taken out of my account TWICE within minutes. It’s clearly a mistake and I’d like it back. Can you help ?”
“It’s sixty quid” I added as if it would persuade him to help.
“hello…?” had he nodded off ? I wondered.
“Ok Mr Bealing, I see your statement. Do you have the receipt ?”
Hong Kong Phewey !! “Yes, actually I do !!!” (I was finally feeling pleased with myself).
“For both transactions?” he added.
“Sorry ?” (I wasn’t finally feeling pleased with myself).
“Have you the receipt for both amounts removed from your account ?” he pressed.
“No but they are on my statement, as you can see, The two un-random amounts of €80.01 removed from my account within minutes of each other. It’s clearly a mistake” I offered.
“Oh!” he almost sounded crestfallen.
“So you only have a receipt for one of the transactions ?”
“Mr Bealing ?” I think he thought I’d gone.
I composed myself, with al the dignity I could muster: ” So you are asking me if I have a receipt for a transaction which, at the time, I never knew took place ? Is that was you are seriously asking me ?”
“Oddly, no I haven’t. I don’t have a bill for something I didn’t know I’d paid for. I feel such a fool” I began chewing the leg of the table.
I think he knew where I was coming from.
“I know you won’t want to hear this, Mr Bealing, but I’m afraid, I’m unable to help you. You need to take it up with the Petrol Station in France”
I’m unsure of what my response was. I know I was livid, my head spinning and I was trying desperately not to take it all out on the young lad on the other end of the line. I do remember asking him :
“Where or when, in this year of RBS fuck-ups, Your system going down and making my direct debits miss deadline, Bankers Criminality and City Fraudsters do you (and I’m not taking out on you, Sonny, just your employers) get off telling me that you cannot help me ???? You and I know that a conversation, in French, with a garage on a French motorway will never take place. But the fact that, so swiftly, your guidelines tell you that you cannot help me – even in the face of blindingly obvious evidence – that an error (not in my favour) has been committed sums up you lot to a tee. If I had the money to pay off my overdraft with you I would and keep my money under the sink. You are all a bunch of cvnts (present company excepted). Go Fvck yourself you robbing bastards.
It was something like that.
And it’s been silence ever since.