Your undying enmity is important to us.

I don’t go to war these days.

Mostly I don’t have the attention span. I quickly forget what the conflict was, or I have a nice sleep and wake up free of whatever the resentment was in the first place.

Sometimes though, particularly if I’m not getting good sleep, something will rile me and I get all “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”. I’m always sorry afterwards. I get the brief kick of self-righteous anger and then the hangover of weary disappointment, and the big trek back to the life of inner peace and contented befuddlement that I prefer.

BT’ll do it.

In 2004 I took as much custom away from BT as I could. I moved my calls and my internet service to AOL and was left just paying BT rental for the phone line that comes into my home.

They did not take particularly well to being dumped and I was inundated for years with correspondence. Would I take them back? It wouldn’t be like before. They could change. Pleeeeeease. But I was hard-hearted, and my answer always remained “Nope.”

Then a few months ago, to simplify the line rental billing process, I gave my direct debit details to BT. Big mistake, because what they then started doing – without telling me they were doing it – was to start charging me for calls again. Just taking the money out of my bank.

They couldn’t have been more brazen if they’d been lighting cigars with my twenty pound notes and whistling “We’re In The Money” while they were doing it.

I noticed it on my bill this morning and thought to myself, “Crumbs. That’s not right. Better do something about that.”

What I have learned to do in early middle-age, is not to get on the first bus. The first bus is never the best bus. So I had a bit of a sit down and I thought about what I was going to do.

I said what you might call a prayer. Now the concept of praying is still a bit strange to me. I was brought up in a faith, but most of the praying I was encouraged to do as a kid was like some big mad Jim’ll Fix It list. “Dear God. Please fix it for me to have blessings on my family and friends and a space hopper and a chopper bike…”

I don’t believe in God, certainly not the weird, paranoid, partisan God of the theists. I mean that would be a peculiar entity to worship, eh? Don’t eat meat on a Friday. He hates that. And better sing him a few songs too or he’s going to be really pissed off. He likes being told how good he is, particularly in the medium of guitar-based folk music.

I’m not even much of a believer in the slightly more hands-off, woo-woo, power of the Universe God of the deists, although I have some understanding of where people are coming from when they make claims on His, Her or Its behalf.

What I do believe in though is the world outside my skull. I have faith that the things around me exist in a meaningful enough way for me to pay attention to them, and that’s what I’m doing in the process I loosely call prayer.

It’s a deep mental breath. It’s counting to ten. It’s making sure that my mind is fair and my intentions are good. It’s a mini, daily Copernican revolution where I try to come to terms with the fact that I am not the literal centre of the Universe, however much I feel like I am. It’s all I’ve got really.

So I did that, and I rang BT to find out what the story was and I found myself cast into some sort of hell.

Why are they so rude? Why are they so sarcastic? Where do they get the confidence from to flatly assert the opposite of something I know is true? And what is it about the first couple of bars of the overture from The Marriage of Figaro that they find so fascinating they have to play it on a loop for all eternity?

After a couple of goes of explaining what the situation had been, how it had changed, and asking why, I just suddenly lost the will to carry on. I thanked the BT person for their time, mentioned that I found their customer service extremely shoddy and even found a moment to emphasise that I didn’t appreciate their open hostility.

Then I hung up, annoyed at myself for reacting.

Still reeling slightly at what BT considers to be “customer service” I rang AOL. They grasped what had happened straightaway and said not to worry, they’d fix it. They even gave me a few months absolutely free and took my monthly tariff down by five quid.

I don’t know where the fault lies. The evidence seems to point towards BT but it might be AOL who dropped the ball. Doesn’t really matter. AOL fixed it. BT made my day unpleasant. Draw your own conclusions.

My final excess tetchiness expressed itself by way of a tweet in which I included the hash tag #BTfail. A few hours later I got an email telling me that BT are now following me on Twitter. Uh-oh.

I feel like I’ve provoked the Mafia or something. If I’m found at the bottom of Muirtown Basin, bound with fibre optic cable and with the Phone Directory stuffed in my mouth you know what has happened.

***

A better end to the day in the company of lads at a showing of Neil Marshall’s ebullient movie Centurion at Eden Court.

It’s Romans versus Picts as Belloq out of Raiders of the Lost Ark orders McNulty out of The Wire to take his legion (The Ninth) into the far North to quell the Picts. McNulty is betrayed by Camille out of Quantum of Solace, and his men are all killed apart from Mickey and the Next Doctor out of Doctor Who, that bloke from Inglourious Basterds and a couple of other characters to complete the diversity checklist. In fact the only way the surviving group of men could be more diversity-aware would be if one of them was a comedy robot sidekick.

None of them is.

It’s all a bit brilliant really, certainly a step back towards narrative sensibilism after Marshall’s previous movie, the sci-fi action cliché mash-up Doomsday.

Centurion has a huge amount in common with Marshall’s earlier movies Dog Soldiers, the jovial squaddies versus werewolves horror film, and The Descent (chicks versus troglodytes). Once the surviving group is defined and characterised it is subject to attritional destruction just trying to get home.

Marshall is gleefully obvious in his movie references and I enjoyed the Butch Cassidy, Assault On Precinct 13 and Star Wars nods on display here, but I missed the most obvious one.

It was only at the very end of the closing credits where Marshall thanked Walter Hill and Xenophon that the penny dropped. This is Marshall’s take on The Warriors.

I recommend it. It scurries along. The story-telling is fine. The landscape is magnificent. Most importantly, Marshall has found a way of fleshing out the story of the lost Legion of the Ninth that brings credit to both the Picts and the Romans. I had feared that there would be ignobility shown on at least one side, but not this time.

Olga Kurylenko sports an authentic Pictish pink bra earlier today.

4 comments on “Your undying enmity is important to us.

  1. Can completely empathise with the BT shenanigans – we dumped them a couple of years ago and it was definitely the right decision. Still getting the pleading letters though – bunch of idiots…

  2. I’ve had the opposite experience, John, and want to run, hide and/or scream, whenever I hear AOL mentioned. In my experience BT are the good guys and just today I had another frustrating and annoying conversation with AOL which got nowhere as usual…also got a new flat screen TV that I haven’t managed to set up yet (that’s because of Sky, and that’s another story). I think Joolz is right not to have TV – it reduces the options for incompetence and aggravation. Tomorrow I’m going to have a day out away from it all.

  3. BT, outsourcing at its finest. The people in Pune are absolutely shockingly bad, and I assume that’s who you had to deal with. I’d apologise but I technically don’t work for the same company.

    Centurion is a bit of a regret for me. Haven’t seen it yet, but they had a bit of casting in Inverness so I could have been in at (as an exra). Ach well.

  4. I actually had a BT Indian call centre guy recently that was actually fine and when I took him off script (due to the fact that I had my old router to try before he pointlessly sent me a new one as he intended) he was happy to go in the direction I suggested rather than being all ‘no, I can’t cope off the script’. Very much the exception though.

    When I’ve had UK call centres with them though it’s generally been better, mainly simply because I’ve been talking to people who use the service themselves and know what it’s like.

    And one of them once remarked upon my name. Because he had a politics degree. “A lot of good that did you, eh?” I thought, but I didn’t say it.

    I have noticed the unwelcome attentions of products if you mention them on twitter, @btcare are the worst, doing their ‘is their something I can help you with?’ thing even when I mentioned the good call centre guy, but I most recently attracted the attention of The Laughing Cow and Hannah from Ryvita.

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