Saturday, December 19, 2015


Years ago, cloning meant all sorts of exciting things. The chance to photocopy relatives and pets, to maybe live forever. Nowadays a phone call to tell you you've been cloned means only one thing - boredom and hold music.

My bank very nicely called to tell me my card has been having fun in New York. The simple fact that this is unusual behaviour tells you all you need to know about my life. Worse, they recited a litany of recent purchases for me to confirm. "Lidl? Yes, that's me. Poundland, yes, also me. Aroma Chinese Buffet? Yep." Pause. "Expensive Shop in New York? No. Really Lovely Sounding Restaurant also in New York? No."

This kind of cloning is as humdrum as my life. But then a terrible penny drops.
"You've cancelled my card?"
"Will it still work for picking up train tickets?"
For once my bank is baffled.
"Have you ever bought train tickets online?"
"And when you go to collect them, is there any chance that my card will still be valid?"
No sir, probably not.
"Have you ever phoned a Train Company?"
My bank laughs. My bank actually laughs.

There then follows a quaint interval where my bank sweetly tries to find the right telephone number for the train company. "Bear with me, Mr Goss, I'm having difficulty finding a number for Customer Services. Or any number for them."

I find a number for Great Western Railways. It's at the bottom of my booking. It is, of course, the wrong number. You only find out about this after endless recorded messages, button pressing, more recorded messages, a travel update, a suggestion to use the website, more recorded messages, and finally someone in India with a cheap headset. They put me through to someone else who tells me to call back on Monday.

We live in an age where cloning has become routine, where your bank can tell when you're having the wrong kind of fun, and yet restaurants in New York remain the height of romance and train operating companies remain the depths of despair.

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