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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On neurotics,
credit card cloning,
and the clarinettist's social life,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Re clarinettists not speaking to brass-players etc, the more interesting question is whether they speak to anyone at all!

My own experience was that in the pub after rehearsals there was usually a happy, laughing, boozy group of flautists, oboists, bassoonists and brass-players at the bar, while in the corner were three or four morose-looking individuals glumly sipping half-pints. They were the clarinets; and I was once one of them.

Clarinet is the perfect instrument for neurotics, partly because it's impossible to design one that is instantly in tune throughout its compass (because of overblowing at the twelfth instead of the octave) and partly because every time you change from B-flat to A or back again you worry about coming in flat because the instrument has got cold. And it's even worse if you have to play E-flat or bass as well: particularly E-flat, which is a squeaky little piece of kit that's bloody difficult to control even if you aren't doubling.

And then there's reeds. How many clarinettists does it take to change a lightbulb?
(Only one, but he'll go through a box of twenty before he finds exactly the right one ...)

Frank Cranmer, clarinetist

Dear Frank,

And I thought oboists were neurotic!!!!!!!
(Anyway, I seemed to have nailed wind players in my dialogue last week, right?)

Cordially,
Alice

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I understand that your credit card was cloned recently. How did this happen?

G C Leeds

Dear Geoff,

God only knows. All I know is this, that I, blameless I, bought two things that AM: tickets for self, daughter and (protesting) husband to the pantomime Mother Goose at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley and some petrol. Within two hours of these transactions, I was called by Mastercard. Here's how the dialogue went:

Mastercard (Scottish accent, brightly): Hello, is Mr McVeigh there?
Me: No, get lost.
(Gentle reader: In case you think me brusque, I have learned, over decades, that no good ever comes of someone asking for MR McVeigh. Professor McVeigh, certainly. Dr McVeigh, sometimes. But Mr? ... selling something.)
Mastercard: Is this Mrs McVeigh?
Me (guardedly): Um, yes. Yes, it is.
Mastercard: This could be a fraud matter, Mrs McVeigh. May I ask you some questions about your Mastercard use recently?
Me (thinking 'Ohmygod, has Christmas spending done me in AGAIN???!!!!!'): Okey dokey.
Mastercard: Please tell me which of the following transactions you recognise -- BP petrol 45 pounds?
Me: That was me. I admit it. Take me away -- but easy with the handcuffs as my tennis serve is improving and I don't want it wrecked.
Mastercard: Churchill Theatre -- 65 pounds?
Me (feeling guiltier and guiltier): Yes, me again, ditto.
Mastercard: And the store called Next -- 895 pounds?
Me: %^&&**(()(^%$""$^&(()!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's impossible!!!!! I never shop at Next!!!!!!!!
Mastercard (very calm and Scottish): No, we thought not. Jamie, please stop the card. Now, Mrs McVeigh, London theatre rip-you-off-with-a-smile-bookings -- 950 pounds?
Me: No!!!!!
Mastercard: Don't burst a blood vessel, Mrs McVeigh; you will not be charged. I take it that you haven't ordered any London theatre tickets to that amount?
Me (getting back self-control): No.
Mastercard (after going through about five other items I never ordered): Well, there's no question that your Mastercard has been cloned, Mrs McVeigh. It's been stopped already. Your renewed card will be in the post shortly.
Me: But -- but is that it?
Mastercard (cheering up immensely): You'd like a Masterloan, Mastermortgage, or Masterextradoshfornogoodreason?
Me: No. I mean, what about the police?
Mastercard (glumly): No use at all, Mrs McVeigh. They wouldn't be interested.
Me: But that's outrageous! What about Next, presumably out of pocket 900 pounds of goods supplied?
Mastercard (cynically): They'll write it off, Mrs McVeigh.
Me: I can't believe this.
Mastercard: No, nobody ever can, Mrs McVeigh. Spend five days a week at it, this job, and they never can. Toodle-pip.

PS The new card is still in the Christmas laid-back, messed-about post, which is why I'm expecting a stern phonecall from my debit card (first direct) shortly.

Yours,
Alice

Ask Alice

Hi Alice,

Just came across your wonderful review of my book How to Poison Your Spouse the Natural Way. Sorry for the delay in responding -- have been v busy.
If you have a spare cm in your column, could you please pass on my e-mail address mannj AT orcon DOT net DOT nz and my webpage www.saferfoods.co.nz ?

Best wishes for Xmas and New Years!
Jay Mann

Copyright © 15 December 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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