I am in possession of two brass bells.  No, this is not a euphemism for my breasts or any other part of my anatomy that comes in pairs.  I literally have two large, heavy brass bells in my house.  My Dad had asked me to ship them to Greece where he has several more waiting for their buddies from London to join them.  I contacted a Greek moving company who had helped us when my parents first moved.  They were helpful and quoted me a price which (having no idea about these things) seemed reasonable.  After much emailing to and fro and answering questions and providing information I wouldn’t even have to provide in a detailed medical, they were booked.  Their UK partners were supposed to call and arrange collection.  Sure enough they emailed and I asked them if they were able to wrap the bells (which I can’t lift) in order to prepare them for transit.  About half an hour later, I get a call from the Greek company.  Helen prefers to speak in Greek, which immediately throws me off kilter.  I speak fluent Greek, no problem at all usually.  However, when I feel like it is the only option, I become completely tongue-tied and search and grope around frantically in my brain for even the simplest words.  What comes out is a stammering jumble of Greek and English, or Gringlish as it is commonly known.  This is after I have been asked if I speak Greek and I have answered in the affirmative. Embarrassment aside, I understood that what she was saying was that if I wanted the bells collecting from inside my house, that was extra.  What they actually prefer is that the guys driving the van do not actually exit it.  They slow down to sixty and someone runs alongside throwing stuff into the open door whilst thanking them profusely.  I asked her to say it again to make sure.  It’s extra for them to come in the house?  Suddenly the original quote seemed less reasonable.

“Yes,” she explained slowly, “and for them to wrap it.”

“Well” I said, “I have no idea how to wrap them so that they make it there securely.  I mean I know these things won’t shatter, but some sort of protection should be necessary, surely.  ”

“Look,” she says, “Just get some bubble wrap, and wrap it around the bells, secure it with some packing tape and take them outside.”

“Er, the whole point is I can’t lift them,” I said. ” I am not living with Geoff Capes. I cannot lift them ergo I cannot wrap them or take them outside.”

“Surely you can find a man around there somewhere to help you, she said, “Just get him to do it.  Leave them at the edge of the property, and you won’t have to spend the extra money”

Quite apart from the impracticality of leaving anything at the edge of the property (things disappear quickly around here), what she was asking was that I should have a man on standby waiting for these guys to arrive (any time between 0900 and 1600) so that he could load the truck for them.  In order to do this I would have to hire a man.  That would probably cost more than what they were asking.  So I told her that I would just pay the extra.  She didn’t like this.

“You can’t find a man to help you?” she said disbelievingly, scorn dripping through the telephone.  I wanted to ask her if she had been talking to my Dad.  Unbelievable – even the cargo company employee had an opinion on the fact that I am single.  I politely explained that I was prepared to pay the surcharge, and that they could invoice me directly.

“OK” she said, her disappointment evident, “Have it your way.”  I could practically hear her flouncing away as she put down the phone.

Anyway.  I spoke to the guys, we arranged payment and a date.  Yesterday, the guy comes along.

“Do you need a parking permit while you wrap the bells?” I said?.

“No, I’ll do it when I stop at my next job.”

Now I have heard this story before.  In fact I have used it before on several occasions.  Like when the trainer says we have run out of time before abs.  “Oh don’t worry,” I say, “I’ll do them at home” as I breathe a sigh of relief at being granted the reprieve.  Let’s just say that I am quite a few leg raises and crunches away from a six pack.

Anyway, I let that go.  “Where are these bells then” he grouches, like I have made him get out of the van and I am so rude.  I take him to the bells.  He picks them up as if they are made of polystyrene and takes them outside, slings them on the van and makes to leave.

“Er aren’t you going to sign for them?”  I asked. I mean, it’s not that I don’t trust these guys, and it’s not that I think anyone else has use for these bells, but still, it felt like I was handing over stuff, and there should be some sort of procedure.  He literally sighs loudly and marches back to sign the paper (which actually has a place for him to sign, date and comment on the state of the goods). He turns on his heel and leaves.  The whole exchange took 3 minutes.  Let’s just say that that may have been the most expensive 3 minutes of my life.  Bill Gates doesn’t make that kind of money and I’ve heard he does ok.

It wasn’t so much the amount which bothered me, although that stung.  It was the fact that it wasn’t included in the price.  I am asking you to pick something up from A and take it to Z. You quote me a price for it. You cannot then say that you can collect it from C and deliver it to Y but anything else is extra.  It’s like when you see cars advertised for £7995.  You think that is affordable for a new car.  What you actually get for that money is a shell in dysentery brown.  You want tyres and an engine?  That’s extra.  A different colour?  Extra.  The windows to open?  Extra.  By the time you have the car you want (and you still haven’t sprung for all the trimmings you would like), you are paying closer to £12995 for the car.  Extras are the difference between affordable and reality.  They like to make it seem that they are optional, but in my case it certainly wasn’t..  I had to pay the extra or we would have had an impasse where there was a truck outside my door with two bell-shaped spaces in it and noone to pick them up and take them to it.  Not ideal.

Imagine, you are having your appendix out.  The surgeon removes your appendix and wakes you up.  “OK, it’s out” he says.  “You want me to stitch you back up?  That’s extra.”