Thursday 11 June 2009

A bad year for the Bongos

14st 9lb, 6.0 units. Yesterday’s love-struck reverie distracted me from observing that 2009 has been a really bad year for the Bongo family. First Ali; now Omar, the late president of Gabon. The latter’s Telegraph obituary, which I read shortly before I had my whisky nightcap on Tuesday, gave me more chuckles than even their finest MPs’ expenses exposés, but then I freely admit that I have a slightly odd sense of humour. If you think you might share it, do take a look at

Given his enthusiasm for naming things after himself (his home town became Bongoville, for example) it seems a great shame that he did not go the whole hog and rename his country Bongoland. Think of the trouble that would have saved the late Alan Clark, to name but one.

The other thing I forgot to do yesterday was to have a rant about internet security. I was in an unusual hurry to get to my desk at my client’s office, since I had an urgent press release that I needed a couple of people to approve. So naturally Mrs H came up to me as soon as I stepped out of the shower, wearing a sad face because the e-mail she had just tried to send to a friend had been blocked by BT (or BT (c***s) as I traditionally call them on this blog). I wasted a few minutes trying the usual tricks to sort out the problem, then belatedly noticed a message in my spam folder from BT (c***s) advising me of some fantastic new “security enhancements” to protect me from “spoofing” by fraudsters who might be using my e-mail address to send things under false names.

I had only set up my computer so that Mrs H could send e-mails from it the day before, and already the bastards had found a way of clamping down on this simple pleasure. It took me at least 15 minutes I had not got to sort it out, printing out their instructions (as they “strongly recommend[ed]” me to do, and to hell with saving the forests and the planet) and attempting to follow them. I imagine that a genuine spoofer would have been able to jump through their hoops in about five seconds, tops. To cap it all, when I had finally managed to do what they asked and received an on-screen message confirming that I was now allowed to send e-mails under Mrs H’s name, the thing still didn’t bloody work – though it did, luckily for the safety of my laptop and the many other breakable items in baby Charlie’s nursery, where I was sitting at the time, at the fourth or fifth attempt.

In a similar way, Mrs H is regularly reduced almost to tears, and I to incoherent rage, by the “security enhancements” which mean that we have to enter a secret code every time we want to use our credit cards to buy anything over the internet. Naturally every card company insists on a slightly different combination of letters and numbers from the others, and surely no-one on the planet has a hope in hell of remembering them all unless they write them down on a piece of paper, which rather defeats the object of the exercise. We both regularly have our transactions blocked because of suspected fraud; Lloyds TSB, bless them, cancelled my recent birthday present from Mrs H because they decided she was spending more than she usually did, and must be being impersonated by a generous villain.

Does anyone really think that genuine crookery is stopped or even deterred by this sort of thing? It’s all dreamt up by “experts” to justify their jobs, earn them a big wodge of wonga (sorry, I could not resist the alliteration) and make life unnecessarily difficult for the rest of us. A bit like identity cards, to pick the most flagrant example of an unnecessary and expensive solution desperately searching for a problem to justify it.

Talking of banks, Mrs H finally went to see hers yesterday, armed with the necessary paperwork to change her account into her married name, which she prefers to use for some reason. Hearing that she was on maternity leave they immediately insisted on trebling her overdraft limit, despite her telling them that this was a thoroughly bad idea. They might as well have handed a big bag of Colombian marching powder to a hopeless cocaine addict. There appears to have been no change, either, in their standard response to people exceeding their credit card borrowing limit, which is to raise it further.

Clearly the banks have learned precisely nothing from the credit crunch. Well, they need not come whingeing to me when Mrs H defaults and takes them down with her. I shall merely take quiet satisfaction in observing that it serves them right.

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