|One of the stand-out memories from my latest western trip: the Spanish mission ruins at Abo, Salinas and Gran Quivira|
My big mistake was deciding to change my mobile phone supplier. I've never been a massive fan of Virgin, nor their founder, Richard Branson. I don’t like his chummy style – his insistence on referring to his workforce as ‘the Guys’, and his habit of addressing me with a too-familiar ‘Hi Alan’. I would complain that we’ve never met, but that would be telling a lie, and my grandmother taught me that if I insisted on uttering falsehoods I would be turned away from the Pearly Gates.
Branson and I did meet, once, when he interviewed me for a job. It was in 1969, and he was recruiting students to flog his magazine on the streets of London. You would get rained on, frozen, shouted at – but you would pocket a portion of the receipts. I thought he was a wide-boy, a chancer, a conman heading nowhere fast. I declined.
Anyway, I swore I would ditch Virgin some months ago, after a long phone call during which they agreed to upgrade my phone and re-draft my contract. It ended when they said they would ‘just check my creditworthiness’ and reported back that my grandmother was right, all those years ago: I truly was not worthy. (It seems that to get a decent rating you need to have taken out lots of loans at exorbitant interest rates.)
We got over that eventually, and I consented, warily, to go through the process once more. It didn’t
take them long to annoy me all over again (it ain’t hard, trust me) and I decided to seek the favours of another supplier who was making seductive noises.
Like most people who dabble in infidelities, I very soon found myself in deep water. By Tuesday
morning I was juggling three separate phones – the used Virgin, the ‘shiny new’ Virgin upgrade, and the inevitable cuckoo in the nest: an offering from EE. Worse – and every adulterer’s worst nightmare - none of them functioned. It took me two full days to unravel it, and am mightily relieved to have done so, even if I do feel about fourteen years older (not what you want to feel at my age, I can assure you).
So, back at the desk, reflecting on my tour, and looking ahead. I have manuscripts to read, final edits to make to the biography of Eric Knight – on which I will write at some length as publication date approaches – and plans to draw up for a new piece of biographical work which may soon be coming my way. That would be the life story of a Welsh Member of Parliament (retired). I’m not sure how gripping his political career will seem, but I am intrigued by the fact that he was born in the Depression, the youngest of an enormous family of miners. I look forward to travelling west to see him in a few weeks’ time and get an outline picture of what must have been an extraordinary progress.