Gardener’s Tourette’s

21 November, 2011 (11:27) | All articles | By: Stuart Fraser

I am a living, breathing medical miracle, here for you to experiment upon, for I have a disease – rather, the branch of a disease – hitherto unknown to science: Gardener’s Tourette’s.

Yesterday morning I set forth into the garden at Fraser Towers. The place having been empty for nearly 18 months, it looks terrible.

I set about me with loppers and secateurs, spade and shears. The previous, late owners were proud of their garden and it contains, we’re told, some lovely things, so my usual scorched earth policy is out of the question. (The replacement policy will no doubt have the same effect as the scorched earth one, but that’s another matter).

A few hours into hauling brambles and nettles, hoiking up weeds, digging out paving stones, and the above diagnosis was made.

Already, every slap of a bramble in the face had brought forth a curse of darkest hue, of course. When the overloaded wheelbarrow teetered over in comedy slow motion and deposited its spiky, stingy, hard-won load over a wide zone, I thought the phrase “You ****ing ****er! You mother****ing ****!” was reasonable (though an elderly couple walking down the lane outside may have had a different opinion; they rather hurried on their way).

But by the third hour I was swearing more or less constantly, involuntarily, muttering the sort of mantra you might hear from a George Harrison of the Dark Side. Cut and scratched to ribbons, sweating smellily, the hoof of Beelzebub grinding pain into the small of the back,  I found myself wheeling the barrow up a slope for the hundredth time, repeating “tossbiscuits” loudly. Every time I picked up the heavy loppers I impugned their parentage. By the fifth hour the dog was observing me with that bemused, sideways tilt to the head collies have, even crazed ones like mine, when you do something really stupid like stop playing with them.

Then the children came home and Management informed me that I had decided my conduct was once again unacceptable. This being nearly always the case, I ignored her until she pointed out that I was swearing constantly. “Now now, my darling,” I rebuked her, reasonably. “Am I the sort of man to swear repeatedly? I grant you I do curse when things go awry, of course I do and I know I must try to do it less, but I have it entirely and completely under control, my love. Buggerybollocks.”

It was then I feared I had Gardener’s Tourette’s. Many different professions suffer from variants – low-level complaining accompanied by constant cursing. Gardener’s Tourette’s will have much wider social ramifications, however: the Titchmarshes and Royal Horticultural Society members of this world are not supposed to mutter “**** **** suds” while addressing the Daily Mail.

For the next couple of hours all was well. I concentrated hard. “Blast” was the worst I had to offer. My boys and I erected a  bird feeding station (that’s DIY store speak for a few bird feeders hanging off a crude metal spike stuck in the ground, £14.99 thank you) and then my eldest proudly brought forth a present he had been given for his birthday.

It was a bird feeder – a little open house, with a sweet little roof. It had two holes in the walls through which one threads a sharply-pointed metal spike. Between the two holes one places an apple, through which one screws the spike, suspending the fruit in mid-air to tempt our feathered little friends.

“I’ll hold the apple”, I told Jamie, somewhat rashly. Frowning with concentration, he grasped the sharp metal spike and plunged it with commendable strength and efficiency right through the fleshy end of my finger.

The ensuing scream – “****ity ***k! Oh **** **** ****ity ***t! Oh ****buckets! Ow!” – loosed the floodgates.

The boys didn’t notice, being far more interested in the gaping wound in my digit and the spurting blood, so there was no language problem there. But for the remainder of the day I prowled the grounds muttering bad things.

I’m still doing it now. Gardener’s Tourette’s.

Still, at least I got in a long fulfilling day’s work in the garden.

Which looks exactly the same as when I started this morning.


Telecom Tourette’s

I had previously suffered from British Telecom Tourette’s, but that is very common indeed. Sufferers clench their teeth, begin sweating and swear repeatedly when anybody mentions the name “British Telecom”. Onset usually follows a broken line and the lengthy wait for its repair.

Recently, as you will know, we were without a phone and broadband from September 22 to 29, and again from October 7 to 20, for different reasons.

I have complained long and bitterly to British Telecom. I think it appalling beyond measure that we are all held prisoner by the private monopoly granted to BT Group’s member BT Open Reach, which supplies our lines. No matter who you buy your phone service from – Virgin, BT, etc – Open Reach is responsible for the maintenance of the carrying of that service to you.

And their service is atrocious. They do not communicate with us, their unhappy customers. They don’t seem to communicate with BT the service provider, or with any other service provider – I was told they all have to queue in a phone system to speak to Open Reach. You will search in vain for phone numbers to speak to Open Reach staff, or e-mail addresses. And they will only ever undertake to repair a service within five working days – that’s five days not including Saturdays and Sundays, which BT Open Reach pretty much alone in the 21st century regards as non-working days.

In the 21st century, where pensioners, businesspeople, schoolchildren, workers from home, the needy – well, everybody – are reliant on our modern communications systems, that is entirely and completely unacceptable.

I’ve written to BT to tell them and will copy the correspondence to my MP now.

BT Group has now made a generous offer in compensation, not least for the expense of mobile phone calls while my line was down. In fact, BT’s complaints handling has been exemplary – kind, sympathetic, quick, efficient, handled by one person with whom one had direct contact. They will raise the working days issue, I am told.

To me, however, that means only one conclusion: when the complaints handling procedure is so efficient, so much better than the more important repair fixing procedure, something is wrong.

Let me advise you to do what Brother Polden helpfully advised me to do – write to BT and let them know how shockingly poor their service is. The address is: Sir Michael Rake, Chairman, BT Group, Correspondence Centre, Providence Row, Durham, DH98 1BT.


And if you have a fault, park yourself on somebody else’s phone and report it time after time after time – it seems to me that there’s a set number of calls (I lost count, I’m afraid) before you get put through to a UK call centre and then a complaints handler who will be a point of contact with whom you can keep chasing the repair, and any compensation where relevant. Finally, keep scrupulous records of your problem, how long it lasts, your mobile phone record – statements, calls, credits – the number of car journeys you had to make.


It may make no difference – but the alternative is to do nothing and let these corporations walk all over you.

Thanks again

Thank you to those who spoke, phoned or e-mailed about last week’s epic. And welcome to a more liberal member of the Stents clan. I take it the Patriarch has written you out of the will? Again? Thanks, too, to Brother X, a Man of Mystery, who has leaked some Post Office documents. We shall return to this next week. Talk about corporations walking all over you!



Comment from More Liberal Stents
Time November 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm

There’s a will? No one mentioned a will. Urgent memo to StentsRUS – stop wasting money on your home brew. Water will do you just fine from now on.

P.S. Apologies Fraserwords for using your blog for my family admin. I’ll have you know that I have just received a threatening email from StentsRUS warning me never to contact you again. Bah!

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