Tales From The Riverbank


BT excelled themselves today. Readers will remember that on 18th December I had cancelled my useless Broadband package, and retained the landline, having to create a new account to include £5 per month to keep my e-mail address. I was told that this new account would be in my name. Even though the payment has come out of my bank account for years they have never been willing to substitute my name for that of Mrs Stockley, who is in any case now, once again, Mrs Knight.

The latest bill still includes the full package, so I went through the hoops and the wait to speak to a man with an Indian accent. He was very helpful. He assured me that there would be a refund on the next bill. But. That is still in the name of Mrs Stockley. It cannot be changed. I politely expressed my displeasure. Eventually the gentleman told me it could be changed at the cost of £50. I hit the roof, and demanded that this be lodged as a formal complaint. It took him a while, but he returned saying he had done so, and included  something to compensate for the ineffective Broadband. A manager will call me back within 48 hours. We will see.

Believe it or not, British Gas then capped this. I received, in the post, a bill for almost £700, including a sum of more than £650 I had paid by phone on 11th. I telephoned them. I went through more hoops. And another wait. I learned that the payment, like many others, had not gone through, because of a fault in their system. I was advised to check with my bank that this was so. I expressed displeasure at having to do this. The woman at British Gas offered to call me back in 20 minutes to check. My bank statement confirmed what she had said. She did ring me back. I paid the money and advised her that a simple letter of explanation enclosed with the bill would have been in the interests of customer service – something that her company could well do with.

Later, I decided to go on a long walk. Not, this time, literally. The trip was undertaken in July 2003 in a supportive fundraising effort for the epic row Sam was to undertake the following year. I have featured various anecdotes from the walk, the first appearing in ‘Nettle Rash’, before I had unearthed the negatives. I began to scan them today.

Sam took delivery of the specially designed rowing boat at Henley on Thames, and off we set on a fine Summer’s afternoon around the time of my 61st birthday. He and his friend James took the boat, whilst I walked along what I had hoped would be the footpath. I soon discovered that the banks of the River Thames and the Oxford Union canal were not as smooth and foliage free as that branch of London’s Regent’s Canal alongside which I had trained for the event.

Couple on riverbank 7.03

The stretch along which I followed this couple was plain sailing in comparison with what I had to battle through in the post highlighted above.

Lock gate 7.03

Elderly lock gates, green tresses dripping with possibly unsavoury water, were to be a regular feature of the journey. This was quite useful, as it gave me an opportunity to catch up.

Waterfowl 7.03

Waterfowl were plentiful;

Suckling goat 7.03

a woolly goat, or perhaps a sheep, suckled its young;


slightly older horse riders ambled leisurely along;

Lichen 7.03

and yellow ochre lichen clung to knobbly branches.


Numerous bridges were to be negotiated.

This house is one of those in which I enjoyed a peaceful overnight stay. The story of the most notable exception is told in ‘An Uncomfortable Night’.

These fields were probably located in the vicinity of the above house.

This evening, over dinner, we experienced more of faceless moneymakers’ scant regard for customer service. Our meal was taken at The Raj in Old Milton. On this Saturday night the carpark was virtually empty and, although the restaurant was doing brisk takeaway business, we were the only diners. The first thing we noticed was that, entering the parking area as usual we found ourselves passing through no entry sign. Then came the frequent notices stating that parking at any time, was only permitted for 20 minutes and anyone overstaying would be charged £100. Jackie parked in the street outside and I spoke to the  manager. Apparently, with no warning whatever to the row of shops fronting the parking area, the landlord of some of the buildings has implemented the restriction. Many of the outlets, including The Raj, are freeholders who bought their buildings with free parking included. The first owners of the Raj building did so in 1962. There are two other caterers in the block. None of their customers could eat and leave in 20 minutes. All the occupants of the block have joined in making a legal protest.

Jackie chose chicken sag; I chose king prawn khata; we shared a plain paratha and special fried rice, and both drank Cobra beer.








  1. I think there’s some kind of rule in the technology ether that we all have to take turns in being frustrated beyond measure by incompetency enacted by the different technology companies. I’m pretty sure there will be a prize for the person who rides the storm without losing their cool. So far, no finalists.

      1. This is the downside of having been a manager: inefficiency gets to you in an inordinate measure, because you can see through the gubbins to how it should be done.

  2. If life is a series of crests and troughs, I would say you’ve been in one of those troughs. As if dealing with the tech problems weren’t enough to cause blind rage, coming upon bloodstained concrete and toilet paper on a walk at dawn….well, that just perfects the mood!

  3. We have resorted to pulling out the TV plug several time. Strange how this sophisticated technology still responds to the same basic tactics that used to unjam my Amstrad.

    Can’t avoid the suspicion that England are lining us up for an epic story of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory again.

  4. I hope things settle down soon with your business calls and television technological difficulty. I hate message machines or being put “on hold.”
    Here in U.S., for quite some time, it has been tiresome to watch the political news. The vandalism and disrespect for park property upsets me, Derrick. I hope garden prep and walks in lovely parks raise your spirits. Smiles, Robin

  5. What a beautiful bridge. So sorry about your phone AND the litter. I hope the phone at least is all good by the next post. The littler will no doubt show up in some other idyllic place. Perhaps there is only so much and it travels around?

  6. That’s such a splendid bridge. Thank you for thinking of us, even in one of those troughs Cynthia had mentioned! I daren’t ask about the ‘phone.

    1. I’m modestly familiar with Leatherhead myself, but I didn’t know about this bridge. Quite a structure.

  7. Oh those phone people – you could ring the necks. A delightful bridge walk and photos, spoilt by those rubbishy people (they drink Stella so they can’t be all bad).

    1. Is “ringing” the necks of phone people a conscious, or unconscious (even Freudian?), typo? 🙂

  8. One thing which you may know, is to hold the on/off switch pressed in (off) with your finger for ten seconds. If that doesn’t cure it, try switching off the power for one minute and then (our Sky+ Box at least) will reboot the whole system. And you are right about trying not to find out the result of matches. It is so frustrating if things go wrong!

    1. Thanks, John. At least I didn’t know the actual details, despite Mike Brown’s triumphant, grounded face, leaping out of the newspaper. Thanks for the box advice

  9. Interesting place and nice little operetta. Anywhere young people go now just tends to be strewn with litter. In the 70s there was an effective “Keep Britain Tidy Campaign” – I think we seriously need another this decade – as sell as being unsightly – the costs of continually clean up after them is enormous.

  10. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Very, very ugly. You packed a lot into this post. Hope your phone problems are soon sorted out.

  11. I’m intrigued to know why Godalming operatic society perform in Leatherhead. Guildford has three theatres and is much nearer. Having said that, I have been to the Leatherhead theatre a few times – most recently to see my niece in performance – and it is a very good venue.

  12. I’m glad that after all that you didn’t jump of the bridge Gawd,Hey maybe it was the empty bottles from the people who stole your O2 number and they was celebrating ,only teasing, but what a day or days ,,better keep an eye on your O2 bill,case it’s next stop Tin Buck Tu. Thankyou for adding me to your list From Janet

  13. What an experience Derrick, The Grand Duke Performance, and not only that, but with a professional set of costumes that had only been used once before, and with Professional Sets, the complete scenario you depict, demonstrates an excellent Operetta, my envious congratulations on attending such a fine performance.

  14. Interesting story. Glad you enjoyed the play. I suspect, by the evidence at hand, left by the riverside that someone had a little bit too much to drink, became obnoxious and received a bop on the nose and/or a split lip for their troubles or someone was drunkenly wallowing about the rivers edge, had themselves a slip and fall, receiving minor injuries causing an abrupt end to the revelry. Beautiful park and bridge although it’s sad to see such disrespect people have for their own community and nature in general. Id love to see it during the summer time. Anyway, cheers from British Columbia!

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