Adrian Sturrock: ‘Apparently, while I’m stuck at home, everybody’s out phishing’

I’m sitting in my office at home when the phone rings.

     ‘… Good afternoon, sir, I’m phoning in relation to your recent accident.’

     Me: ‘What? Oh my God! I’ve had an accident …?’

     ‘… I’d just like to clarify a few details with you, if I may?’

     Me: ‘Am I OK? I mean … I had no idea …’

     ‘… I’m pleased to inform you that your claim has been successful and that we have now been authorised by our underwriters to deposit the agreed compensation directly into your bank account. This should only take a few moments so, if you could just confirm your account details for me, sir, I can then ensure that the full amount is transferred to you today.’

     Me (pretending to shout across the house to my wife – who’s currently at work): ‘Nat! It’s the man from the accident shop … I don’t know … probably somewhere in India … or Nigeria … he didn’t say.  Anyway, apparently, I’ve had an accident. But it’s OK because we’re now rich. Don’t bother with cooking this evening, we’re going out to eat!’

     Directing my attention back to the voice on the phone, I continue.  ‘Forgive me,’ I say, ‘it’s clear that I’m still suffering a little amnesia from the trip or fall at work. How bad was it?’

     ‘… Sorry, sir?’

     ‘Well, between you and me, it occurs that none of my family has thought to discuss the accident with me, which leaves me wondering whether it’s more serious than you’re letting on. I mean, is it terminal? Just tell me that …?

     ‘I … um … I think you’re going to be OK, sir. If you could just confirm your bank account details with me, I can transfer the full amount today.’

     ‘Are you sure you’re not just trying to be kind to me? If not even my wife can bring herself to talk about my accident, then things can’t be looking good.’

     ‘Sir, if you could just confirm your bank account details …’

     ‘There are so many things I still want to do; so many places I haven’t visited. How long have I got left? Can you at least tell me this?

    ‘Sir, please …’

     ‘Did you know that three percent of the ice in Antarctic glaciers is made up of penguin urine? I really hoped that, one day, I’d get to see that for myself.’

     ‘Sir …’

     ‘Yes, I know. And, apparently, ducks have regional accents. Did you know that? And I’ve only heard some of them. I have so much left to do … Hello? … Are you still there? …We seem to have been cut off … Hello?’

* * * * * * * *

A few hours later, Nat arrives home. ‘Hi,’ she calls, as she’s hanging up her coat in the hallway, ‘How’s your day been?’

     ‘Hi,’ I shout back. ‘I’ve had an accident.’

     ‘What!’ She’s now in the room with me. ‘What happened?’

     ‘I’m not sure. But a nice man from the telephone called to let me know that he’s going to pay me for it. Who knew that having accidents could be an actual job. If only my careers advisor at school had told me this, things might have been so different.’

     ‘And all he wanted was your bank details, right? So he could put the money straight in?’

     ‘No, I think my careers advisor just wanted to get through his day. To be honest, I don’t feel he was really committed to his job.

     ‘No, the guy on the phone.’

     ‘Oh, yes.’ I smile. ‘How did you know that?’

     ‘… You didn’t, did you?’ Nat seems to be frowning at me.

     ‘I might be stupid, Natalie, but I’m not stupid … And anyway, he rang off before I could give them to him.’

     ‘My dad usually just tells them that he has something boiling over on the cooker, and asks them to hang on for a moment while he goes to turn it down. Then he wanders off to read his paper.’

     ‘I like your dad,’ I say.

     ‘In some ways, I seem to have married him,’ she says.

     ‘I’ll take that as a slightly creepy compliment,’ I say.

* * * * * * * *

The next morning, I find myself reading an online report about phishing scams in the UK. According to the police website, Actionfraud, there has been a 41% rise in telephone scam calls over the past year, amounting to £23.9m in losses. In my head, I compare this with a recent Guardian article I read that stated the current average UK salary to be £28,677. No wonder my careers teacher opted to leave ‘deception intended to result in financial or personal gain’ off his list of possible career choices.

     ‘Typical of a state school education,’ I say to myself. ‘If only I’d gone to Eton.’

 

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IF YOU ENJOYED TIS SAMPLE CHAPTER, YOU CAN FIND THIS BOOK ON AMAZON: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adrian-Sturrock/e/B07QQDZMKQ?ref=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000

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Adrian Sturrock: For obvious reasons, I’m publishing this article on a Sunday.

There is a place called Hell in Norway. And every winter it freezes over. It’s a small village of only 1,589 people, which leads me to believe that all those threats I received at Sunday School as a child were mostly exaggeration, and that you have to do something pretty fucking extreme to be sent to Hell. To learn this in later life, I’m filled with both relief and the feeling that I’d been played all those years ago.

* * * * * * * * 

As one might expect, Hell has a retirement home (read ‘has’, not ‘is’), as well as a petrol station, a grocery store, and a fast food stand for passing truckers. There really isn’t a lot to do here! Most significant, however, is that Hell’s railway station is not an end-of-line stop. A sign on its outbuilding reads, ‘Gods-expedition’, an archaic spelling of the Norwegian, ‘goods handling’.

As temperatures can be as low as -25 degrees in winter, one might be forgiven for assuming that sitting in the waiting room of Hell’s station would amount to purgatory, but, as everybody knows, Purgatory is in the United States. Maine, to be precise. (According to TripHobo, there is ‘little to do in Purgatory. It is a small place which is generally used as a rest stop before moving on to better things.’ Pretty much text book then!)

Unsurprisingly – and as I’d already secretly suspected – they play the Blues in Hell. The ‘Hell Blues Festival’ started in 1992 before being changed to the ‘Hell Music Festival’ in 2006, in an attempt to attract a more eclectic crowd. The result of this, only one year later, was bankruptcy. (Not even Goths go to Hell, it seems.) The following year, ‘Blues in Hell’ was re-instated and success returned as Hell reconnected with its true demographic. Last year, British singer/songwriter Jo Harman headlined here. (Having been born in Luton, Hell must have been an almost ‘back-to-the-womb’ experience for her.)

Those who know me understand that I’m not a fan of Blues music. In fact, I place it alongside war crimes and Morris Dancing in my list of ‘Under-No-Circumstances’. However, at a squeeze, I’d still place Blues above the questionable genre of Church Hymns, which leaves me in somewhat of a dilemma regarding my preferred afterlife destination. (Have you noticed how AC/DC fans can instinctively sing along to the entire back catalogue, while church-goers who attend their event every single week still need the hymn books? There is definitely a point to be made here.)

* * * * * * * *

One of the benefits of living in the 21st Century is that one no longer has to rely on biblical supposition when it comes to the realities of Hell – not now that Hell has its own listing on Trip Advisor. A simple click of the computer mouse will tell you that Hell “wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be” and that “the train station […] is only serviced if you flag the train down.” This latter point, I feel, throws up its own existential questions.

The problem with Hell, of course, is fundamentally an ethical one: that its existence for the punishment of souls is inconsistent with a just, moral, and omnibenevolent God. On the other hand, according to lifeinnorway.com, “despite its proximity to the E6 motorway and an international airport, the village itself is remarkably peaceful. Typical Scandinavian wooden houses, well-kept gardens, lots of cyclists, kids playing in the streets: not what I expected at all!” As some schools of theological thought define Hell as specific to the individual (rather like Orwell’s Room 101), perhaps this particular town is set aside for those whose idea of torture is a recurring suburbia.

If this is not your Hell, however, don’t forget that there’s another one in Michigan, USA, another in California, another in Montana, and further Hells in Slovenia and Grand Cayman. They’ve even installed one on the moon, a lunar crater named after Maximillian Hell. Just like the song, Hell really is all around. (I am, of course, paraphrasing.)

I looked to see if Hell, Norway © has been internationally twinned with any other towns but, as yet, there haven’t been any takers despite the fact that the town can boast the honour of having produced the 1990 winner of both Miss Norway and Miss Universe (though I’m not sure how ‘The Beauty Queen from Hell’ reads on the world stage).

Hell doesn’t have a lake of fire but it does have a river and, until 1995, there was a highway to Hell, but it now goes around the village instead. And for those of you who have ever laid awake wondering, Hell is actually 14 metres above sea level. Now, that’s something the Apostles neglected to mention. 

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