The phone going off at six in the morning is enough to turn the stomach. One instinctively fears the worst. I shouldn’t have fretted so for the thirty seconds it took me to come to and answer the damn thing.

Sister of Blazing has a problem. ‘I’m on my mobile. The telegraph pole across the road has come down in the storm and we have no landline, no internet, nothing’

I point out, not unreasonably I feel, that at this hour of the morning there had better be a good reason for calling me with this sorry tale.

‘I can’t get hold of Tiscali and BT won’t do anything about it. Can you try reporting that you cannot contact me, tell BT it’s an emergency.’ She is fortunate she is over a hundred miles away on the Cornish coast or she would indeed be in immediate physical peril.

Like a good brother I contact BT, input her number, and am politely told to piss off, by a machine. So at twenty past six I am scouring the Tiscali website for a number to report out-of-order phones. Eventually I give up and try some customer service line.

Half an hour later I find the combination of numbers that connects me to Deepak. I explain the problem. ‘Whereabouts is the line severed?’ he enquires.


‘No, I mean is it on your property, or in the road, or where?’

‘The offending line is in Cornwall. I am not. I am over a hundred miles away.’

‘Can you not see it?’

Sweet mother of God, of all the call centre employees in all the world, you connect me to this one.

Eventually Deepak gets the picture and informs me that the fault will be rectified ‘within five days’. What sort of service agreement do Tiscali have with BT for goodness sake?

Later, I phone sister on her mobile. She apologises for waking me at sparrowfart. In retirement she has lost all semblance of time. ‘Not to worry’, I assure her. ‘Have they fixed it?’

‘Well the engineer turned up so I went to check everything was ok. Apparently not. He was there to wrap the severed cable around the grounded telegraph pole so nobody fell over it. He is not the engineer who actually fixes the fault.’

‘Not much of a engineer then, really?’

‘Well no’.

Because of her location these engineers are travelling for a couple of hours to get to her. Why could they not just send one who was equipped to do the job?

I’ve no doubt I will return to piss-poor service from all sorts of organisations in the future, but the utility companies (and Virgin Media!) do seem to be absolute masters of incompetence.

And in case you are wondering I don’t think Deepak is any worse than┬áKylie or Jason when the call centre was in Swindon. Piss-poor service crosses multi-national boundaries with frightening ease.