A tough week indeed. Battleaxe feels totally wrecked, and if me and Philosopher have avoided Covid it will be a miracle. I’ll start with the scam and work though to my sister’s funeral, because that is the saddest bit, and most hard to write about. So, first, readers BEWARE OF WHATSAPP SCAMS. I really thought I was so smart and so scam-savvy. It really put me in my place.
Yesterday I got a message on WhatsApp from someone pretending to be my daughter. The message came from ‘Clara Gaunt’ and said her phone didn’t work, and giving me a new number. ‘She’ addressed me as Mum, asked how I was, so I told ‘her’. She even said she understood about the funeral! Then she said she had a favour to ask me – because her phone was broken she was having trouble paying a couple of bills. Would I pay them for her and she’d put the money back in my account the next day. I thought this was a bit odd, but was worried that she seemed to be in trouble, so said of course I’d help. She gave me the details of two bills, totalling £2850! Crikey, I said, that’s a bit much – who is this person you owe all this to, and why? She said she was desperate, and it had been for a work laptop and IT services… It still sounded odd to me, but I went ahead and tried to pay the first bill through my mobile Barclays app, for £1490.
Next thing, the money didn’t go through and I had a message saying the payment was referred to the Fraud Department. I messaged ‘Clara’ and told her, and she said not to worry it was all genuine but she was desperate. I had a call from a man from the bank. I was quite shirty with him, told him it was perfectly OK and to please pay the money. He told me they thought it was a scam. ‘Nonsense’ sez I. He then said he was freezing our account until I phoned Clara, spoke to her and could confirm all this was real, then to call them back. ‘That’ll take ages’ I snapped. ‘Nevertheless’ he goes. So I call Clara on her ‘new’ number, and of course there is no answer. I try her on her old, usual number and needless to say there she is, knowing nothing about any of this. She was quite hurt that I could even think she would do such a thing! I said that she should be pleased that I was prepared to drop everything and help her.
Of course I then had to call Barclays back and eat a great indigestible ton of humble pie. The woman I spoke to was so nice to me, and so supportive, I nearly wept. Thank heavens for their vigilance – if the first payment had gone through I would then have sent another one… and all the money would have been lost. When Philosopher and I looked again through the very long exchange of messages between me and the fraudster, you could tell it was not right – not the language Clara would have used. But when you think your child is in trouble, you get so anxious… And, of course, I was a bit generally upset… But apparently, and embarrassingly, these scams are common – see this article.
Finally, the fraudster, still hopeful, messages me again: ‘Mum, what did the bank say?’
‘They said fuck off you verminous little scammer.’
Battleaxe attended other events with lots of people this week. On Monday I went to a Christmas lunch with five WI friends – at Porters in the Old Town. It was absolutely excellent. In the evening, Philosopher and I went to a carol/mulled wine do at Fairlight Hall in aid of the Conquest Friends. The event had been moved outside into the courtyard becasue of Covid fears. I had anticipated spending the evening schmoozing and pressing flesh, but of course it was all so dark you could’nt recognise your own mother, so had little to do except for sitting and enjoying… On Tuesday it was the WI Christmas do – about fifty of us in the Ore Community Centre, It is a big room though, and we were all very careful, so should have been OK. We had singing from the Oresome Sounds – very jolly.
On Wednesday, we travelled up to Bedfordshire. As you know, my sister Pat died last month, and her funeral was on Thursday, in the church at Carlton. The night before, we stayed in the Woodland Manor Hotel in Clapham, near Bedford, which was fine. Very quiet, and they looked after us well. Odd thing though, it was the very same hotel where Pat had her reception after marrying David, her second husband, in 2008. I had no memory of the place whatsoever – and I suspect the hotel had fallen on slightly harder times in the intervening years.
Anyway, to start, here’s a happy photo of Battleaxe with her sister in July 2001 – we had gone down to Brighton to visit Clara and her new baby, Eve.
I found the funeral service very upsetting. Look, I know my sister was much older than me, and we had not been close in our later adult lives. She had firmly forged a particular path in life, determined to create the stable, happy family life that we had lacked as children. Country, County and Conservative. Private sector, private schools and a large extended family, all economically very affluent. I followed a very different path – urban, left-wing, public service, not-for profit. In recent decades, Pat was all about being a (second) wife, a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. She was always very matter-of-fact, not dwelling on the past, and I suspect she glossed over her early life when talking to her family… hardly surprising. So also not surprising that the version of Pat presented to us at the service had virtually no mention of the fact that she had a sister with whom she had shared so much when we were growing up. Unfortunately this keyed right into the dysfunctional themes from my childhood that still occasionally intrude into Battleaxe’s head, around being forgotten and left out. OK, rationally I know that if I had known her family better, they would have heard about different aspects of Pat’s life. Also, those people had their own grief to deal with. As ever, knowing things rationally didn’t help right then, or stop me spending the entire service in tears.
My mask got all soggy and my face was sore. Of course that’s another thing – the church was absolutely jam-packed – and we sang hymns. After, the family had arranged a Reception/Wake/Gathering at a nearby hall. At first I told Philosopher that I just couldn’t face going, couldn’t face all the families, but my niece Sara persuaded us to go for a little while. The do was again packed, and this time people were not wearing masks and talking loudly ten to the dozen – so many of them seemed to know each other. We spoke to a few people, gulped down a bit to eat and then left… but talk about super-spreader event.
Here’s the cover of the Order of Service. Pat had four names in her life. She actually started as Pat Twyman. Our mother was married twice, and Pat is my half-sister. Would you believe I didn’t find this out until I was 17 – so many secrets and lies in my family. When my mother married my father, she became Pat Rhodes. Next, she wasPat Barker, when she married my much-loved and still-lamented late brother-in-law Dick, the father of her two girls. Dick sadly died far too early, when he was only 60. She was then on her own for some years, during which time I saw quite a lot of her again – she even came on holiday with us to Turkey. Then, finally, she married David Russell, and had thirteen happy years with him.
So, that’s done now. In some ways I’m quite grateful about the scam thing- it has blown all the sad thoughts about my sister clean out of my head. All we’ve got to worry about now is whether or not we have caught Covid…