Cat on a hot Tamar Bridge Off the Wall column – By John Clemison-

In a season when Hattie the cat spent two weeks seemingly stuck between two girders on the Tamar railway bridge, and so made national newspaper headlines (my favourite was “Hattie japes”), I found myself unwilling to wait just five minutes on the telephone to British Gas.

Hattie, who was offered pieces of mackerel by muscular firemen but still declined all offers of assistance to come down, eventually found her own way home, to the astonishment of her owner. However, I am much less patient than any common or garden moggie. I think five minutes is too long to wait: and so, I accepted BG’s offer of a call-back service. “Press the number five if you want us to call you back,” said the anodyne voice of the utility supplier, who sounded as if she had been sniffing the gas beforehand. After five minutes of answering questions, such as what is your name? – “John Clemison,” said I, in my best stentorian voice– and after giving her my Torquay telephone number, I was invited to replace the receiver.

A further five minutes passed, and the call from British Gas duly arrived back. You’ll be pleased to know that my problem was dealt with efficiently, speedily and politely.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Twice in the succeeding half-hour, I got further calls back from the same number. Both times, the voice was asking to speak to a “British Gas customer”. “When,” said the voice, “the British Gas customer is available, press any key to continue.” I did. And nothing happened.

Somewhat later that day, I received yet another call from British Gas, asking me if I was prepared to complete a survey so that the energy company could check it was doing a good job. Obviously, I accepted the challenge. Sadly, as soon as I pressed the number, the voice said: “I’m sorry. We have technical issues at the moment. Thank you for calling. Please hang up.”

Suddenly, I wished I had been that cat on the Tamar Bridge. No-one would have ever tempted me down, not even for a piece of fish.