Magic And Witchcraft

Technology is fine when it works, but you really can’t trust it. Yesterday I discovered that O’Neill Patient had never received my complaints letter. Having paid the extra fee for tracking and recording delivery, it never occurred to me that I would not get what I had paid for. When the Royal Mail website indicated that the letter had been posted, but not that it had been delivered, it was with some difficulty that I found a telephone number which I rang, in the hope of speaking to a person. Of course I got a machine giving options which didn’t quite cover my situation. This meant waiting for an adviser and listening to music for 16 minutes. The person who eventually came on the line advised me, with profuse apologies, that the package had neither been delivered nor retained. I could claim compensation if there was anything valuable inside. I said I didn’t think they would compensate me for embarrassment, and I couldn’t  be bothered to claim back the postage. I e-mailed a copy of the letter to the solicitor.

Early this morning the solicitor phoned me to check that I had received his e-mail saying he had never received the letter. I replied that I had, and that I had e-mailed a copy. He had never received that e-mail. I sent it again. It bounced back. Eventually he did receive it, but couldn’t open the attachment because it was an iMac document and they run on Windows. He passed it to his IT team to see if they could convert it. They couldn’t.

Becky entered the fray and learned that in my earliest mail I had misspelled the firm’s name. She then sent the letter as a PDF document and Mr Bourke received and acknowledged it.

While I was in the mood, I telephoned BT sales department concerning our constant interruption of Broadband connection. I asked for an engineer visit. It was two hours before one was booked. Two hours spent on the telephone.

I went through the history of our problems with the first man. He tried to sell me Fibreoptic Infinity. I gave him the story of one of his predecessors assuring me, despite my questioning it, having sold me it. This had resulted in 5 different engineer visits. Only on the fifth was I informed that we were too far from the cabinet from which supply is transferred. We returned to the older system. He said he wasn’t technical and would transfer me to someone who could help. “Please don’t send me to India and have me put through checks I have carried out numerous times before”, I asked. He said he wouldn’t. With no further contact he sent me to India.

I was then subjected to the whole array of usual checks. Since the woman was very polite and patient, I was the same with her. I did, however, stating that I didn’t like saying so because I did not want to be rude, mention that her accent was a problem, for example when she asked me to take the plug out of the “ello” port on the back of the hub, I struggled to realise that she meant “yellow”. As a non-technical person, I had been seeking L O.

She also spoke about superfast broadband. Once more I carefully explained our experience with that. After 25 minutes she said that our contract only allowed for 1 megabyte, so we needed to increase this. She then wanted to do more tests which I declined when she assured me that the increase could be arranged with the old type of cable. There is now no doubt that something had been lost in translation.

Back I went to the sales department. The conversation I’d had with the previous adviser was repeated almost word for word, except that he said I would need superfast cable. He then offered to transfer me to a technician. I insisted it should be someone in England. He complied with this, and gave me the number to which he was referring me.

An English technician ran the checks and called me back when she had finished. She said that the usual tolerance they work to is 4 drops a day. We have 92. An engineer has been booked for the 18th. If it turns out to be our equipment that is at fault it will cost me £130. That was not the case the last time engineers visited. Fingers crossed.

Well, that took care of the morning.

What better antidote to wrestling with the 21st Century mystifying technical progress than to lose myself in a book first published in 1921, relating a mystical story set in the thirteenth century – publication before the internet was invented, and taking us back to a time when even printing itself had not been invented.

This afternoon I finished another book by James Branch Cabell illustrated by Frank C, Papé. This was the Bodley Head 1925 edition enhanced by Papé’s illustrations.

The work is ‘Figures of Earth – a Comedy of Appearances’.  Although containing some beautifully poetic descriptive passages this rather picaresque fantasy novel to my mind lacks cohesive direction. The ‘figures’ of the title provides an intriguing wordplay device for tracking the main protagonist’s journey through a life concertinaed by magic and witchcraft.  Manuel is dominated by his desires prompting him to make unwise choices. He suffers from the rather common ailment of attainment providing less satisfaction than the thrill of the search. As usual I will not betray the story. The are five sections to the tale, each one dedicated to a different literary friend who defended him against the charge of obscenity brought against his earlier novel, Jurgen. Perhaps the stork depicted in a couple of the images below was a an attempt to avoid further controversy.

Although the author clearly has his tongue in cheek, this novel lacks the lightness of touch demonstrated in ‘Domnei’, highlighted above. As always, Papé is in tune with Cabell, and produces brilliant illustrations. There are vignettes throughout and decorations on each dedication page.

I have chosen to feature the twelve main illustrations, and would draw attention to the way in which the artist depicts perspective by lightening his line where appropriate.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chicken jafrezi, pilau rice and vegetable samosas. I drank more of the Malbec.



  1. Having spent hours and hours on the phone going over the same exact material, time and again, I feel for you, Derrick! There’s not much more irritating than internet providers’ “help lines.”

  2. Frustrating isn’t a powerful enough word. I don’t know how you manage to keep track of all the comings and goings and phone transfers. I would soon get lost in such a saga and not be able to recollect it sufficient to relate afterwards in sequence what had happened. As for the indistinct ‘English’ – I love your ‘LO’ story, although not at all funny for you.

  3. Amazing art. Sounds like you needed a lot of Malbec to quell the frustration of the morning. I’m currently in the throes of a house and floods insurance claim so I understand all too well the frustrations of long waits on the phone. No fun.

  4. And I thought I got myself into some pickles. You certainly take the biscuit, how on earth do you manage to do it?
    Is it perhaps all this ‘superb chicken jafrezi, pilau rice and vegetable samosas’ you eat instead of a good old steak & kidney pud?
    Perhaps its not your fault; it’s jackies, stuffing you with all the wrong grub! 👿 :bear:

  5. So frustrating. We have a helpline company in Tipperary. They don’t pay well and turnover is high. They also cannot help much because the objective of the broadband providers is to sell the ‘improved’ products rather than to fix the existing ones.

  6. I am always on the verge of giving up the internet thing but I am lucky enough to have access to numerous free wifi facilities. I guess your problem is being in the country?

  7. I was fascinated by all of the detailed and brilliant illustrations, and due to my good functioning 21st century computer and service provider, I was able to slide show view the wonderful sketches. Hope your able to resolve your 21st century technology problems soon

  8. It seems to me that your problem isn’t technology, but BT. Many organisations today have scant respect for their customers, but BT have made it into an art form; they are an appalling company. I’m surprised you didn’t switch to spirits.

    1. Many thanks, Mike. You are right about BT, but the only way we, here, have been able to get effective broadband seems to be EE mobile which doesn’t help with TV

  9. It is so frustrating to deal with those tech issues. I hope you get it all worked out.
    I was trying to book a medical appointment online a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t do it because my e-mail address had changed, and there was no way to get into to the system to change it, and I couldn’t create a new account because I was already in the system. . .when I called to make an appointment, I got stuck on hold, where they kept telling me that most appointments can be booked online.
    I’m glad you had a book, wine, and a delicious dinner to make up for the ordeal. 🙂

    1. Many thanks, Merril. What a nightmare. I successfully booked one on line recently. Just for cataract adjustment. I was given one in April. A few days ago I received two different letters from NHS – one telling me my appointment was cancelled, another giving me one in January. Thus incurring twice the postage.

  10. Do you remember the time when we were told having internet would not only save all the trees but would also free up an enormous amount of time for us? Oh how we laugh!! (My lap top outdid itself yesterday shutting down 8 times after abortive update attempts and reverting to ‘the previous version of windows 10’ on manual start up.)

  11. What an awful day! My mother has just had her land-line repaired after being without a phone for over a week. We had to report the fault twice as after the first time BT lost the details!

  12. I see you have been roaming around the world electronically —I suspect somewhat like Manuel. I too am wary of the parrots of the call centres who keep looping infinitely in a pre-determined set of questions and answers regardless of the problem at hand, and who were apparently invented to confound the purchasers into a frustrated resignation. The cocktail of cheap labour and differently abled tongues (as in ‘Indians’ in your case) might compound the agony of the distraught caller.

    1. Quite so, Uma. The woman herself was polite and patient, and I could mostly understand her, but whenever I made a point, she ignored it and moved on to the next question.

      1. Perhaps they would make better sense if they were trained for products they were dealing with and they were permitted to converse naturally. They are bound and tutored to herd the callers towards the script they have on the screen before them. It is grossly counter-intuitive, but no one wants to take risks with human ingenuity at the lower spectrum of labour. I have realised there are times they genuinely want to help you (and know you are doomed) but they are handicapped like a one chip robot. At the end of the day, it is just another facade of the great corporate fraud unleashed upon the users. As Milo Minderbinder would say, whatever is good for the corporate, is good for you.

  13. I almost couldn’t bear to read your story, as it was bringing back the horror of switching from ADSL to fibreoptic. But it did prompt me to do a speed test, which I haven’t done for ages, and I’m pleased that I am least getting what I am paying for. I hear my provider is being forced to compensate thousands of customers who are paying for much higher speeds, which cannot be delivered because the provider has not purchased enough capacity to cover the demand. Lots of luck with the technician.

  14. This post fills me with dread as I, too, will have to phone BT at some point to sort out our telephony. It’ll have to wait till the holiday when I shall have time to do it. But what a waste of my precious time off. Oh, I know the frustration Derrick. Best thing to do is to lose oneself in a good book.

    1. Sorry to learn that, Jenny. I have now resolved never to be sent to India again. I have the number of the English call centre who helped in the end. If necessary e-mail me and I’ll give it to you. Many thanks

  15. 1. I particularly like the look on the stork’s face.
    2. After all that time on the phone regarding ‘connection’ I was expecting your dinner time comment to be more on the lines of ‘…..and I enjoyed a lovely bottle of Glennlivet 15 YO.”

  16. Sorry to hear your frustration – as said above, you handled it with gentlemanly aplomb! Sadly, it appears that customer service (or rather the lack thereof) is a worldwide phenomenon. George Orwell appears more prophetic every day!

  17. Poor Derrick and Jackie! I had problems with our ISP/phone provider this fall, and spent many hours on the phone, and being transferred to parts unknown. I know what you went through. 🙂

    I love the illustrations!

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