It is said that mimicry is the highest form of flattery – unless it happens to be identity theft that is, as has happened to me recently but has only just come to light – a combination of the thief’s cunning and the hectic lives of the Hollands.
As a family, we are well used to stuff being delivered to our house. We have four boys, all with a penchant for stuff and even though three of them have left home already, they like to use our house as their delivery hub and warehouse. Presumably they’re thinking is that mum and/or dad are always home plus they can deal with the cardboard. Nice.
In addition, we run the Brothers Trust from our home (recently a depository for 1500 hoodies, as many jig-saw puzzles, dog collars, tea lights…) plus Nikki’s photography business is anchored chez-Holland and as such, we are inundated with incoming. Boxes and mail arrives daily and quickly accumulates, firstly in the hallway and then beyond.
So, when another parcel arrived (a lamp) I thought little of it – just something else to trip over. Like most households, down the years we have accumulated much more stuff than we need or use. Our surfaces are generally cluttered. Too many of our drawers and cupboards are brimming and this means stuff we need can be impossible to find.
And yet, Nikki thought to purchase a new lamp. What was she thinking?
Or maybe it’s a lamp for Tom.
You see, that’s the other thing about our household and in particular its addressees is that some of us are not so-normal, if you know what I mean.
I can’t remember exactly who it was, Elton John I think or maybe Sting, explaining on a chat show that since he became rich and famous, he can no longer buy stuff for himself because everyone wants him to have their stuff for free.
This applies to our boys in general and to one boy in particular with stuff arriving almost daily. Clothes mainly, but also shoes, golf stuff, gadgets, chocolates… and I guess the occasional free-standing lamp?
Some weeks later, this lamp remained unclaimed, boxed and generally in the way. Nikki protests her innocence and despite it being addressed to me, I certainly haven’t ordered it. Eventually, action is needed. I have booked an appointment at our dump (the Covid new world) for a cardboard purge (1500 hoodies require many boxes) so I decide to include the lamp box and find a spot for the lamp close enough to a socket and ideally a place in need of illumination.
Another six weeks or so pass and I receive a letter from Next Retail, including within my brand-new store card which I have not signed up for.
From here, Nikki starts to piece things together and I remain clueless. Or in the dark perhaps, (despite my unwanted lamp).
‘Dom, wasn’t that lamp from Next?’
‘Where’s the box it came in?’
Before I can answer this, Nikki is on the phone to Next and quickly is put through to the fraud department. It being my Next card (which I did not order) and my account (which I did not open) the telephonist asks Nikki for permission to speak to her husband (the account holder).
Spying an opportunity to be funny, I answer his questions in my most outrageous camp voice – without raising even a titter btw. However, the fraud did quickly emerge. That a fictitious Dominic Holland has been busy making in-store purchases at various branches of Next – racking up a bill of almost £400 and counting. Fraud is a serious crime and this might explain why calls to the fraud line of Next Retail are recorded. They say for ‘training purposes’ but equally, it might be to build a case against people who claim ignorance about certain purchases.
With this in mind, I regret my misjudged choice of voice when it transpires that the fake Dominic Holland has blown all this money on scented candles and perfume.
Call it stereotyping but I did sound a lot like a man who is partial to a scented candle and so the man in the fraud department might well have flagged my case as dubious. I might need to cough up after all or risk going to jail.
The risk/reward of going for laughs is a nuanced and finely balanced equation. Solving it is the story of my life – and at times, what a frustrating life it is.
I add this caveat every week and I am conscious that I have yet to send out a much heralded newsletter, but by jingo they’re forthcoming. Bear with me. Because despite my entire writing canon being lost to a power surge, this writing phoenix will emerge… books are coming and if you want the inside track, then my newsletter is the only place to be – other than this blog, my patreon…