My future brother-in-law is the Son of God! Gimme a new knife…

…And other things not to say on an areoplane.

So on Thursday I finished at work, dragged a 70-litre rucksack onto my back, caught hold of my black briefcase/shoulderbag thing that always weighs like it’s made of lead, hefted a large wicker basket wrapped in cellophane in my other hand and staggered out of the office feeling thoroughly encumbered. Once Ruth had arrived and ditched her bike in the rack we set forth for the railway, where I paid a frankly criminal hundred and forty pounds for two returns to Durham – with, look you, a 33% Young Persons Railcard discout; I dread to think what it would’ve been otherwise – and off we went for another one of those weekends where we draw different coloured lines all over the map for a few days before winding up right where we started.

Bizarrely, the train was on time, although we did spend a fun minute pretending to be Germans* and sulking about the train beforehand which was a disgraceful fifty seconds behind time. Thus we left Oxford by the 1735. Three hours later, somewhere between Leeds and York, Ruth has an epiphany, and discovers that it’s actually “A really long way” from Oxford to Darlington. Aye, it is that.

An hour and a half after that, we actually made it to Darlington, where the Rev. collected us and took us back to Colburn, where Ruth’s room was annoyingly full of moths. In consequence we spent most of Friday swatting the little bastards and bagging up things to be put through the wash.

Anyway, after that we went off to Robin’s school to see him playing Jesus in ‘Jesus Christ: Superstar’.

I’ve always – guiltily – liked Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat; liked because I actually enjoy it, guiltily because, unmusical though I am, I’ve been told Webber isn’t actually that good at music. What I’d never seen, however, was him trying to do something else. I remain deeply confused as to how one can take the greatest story ever told ™, and certainly the all-time bestseller, and, by adding music make it so enormously dull and confusing.

Don’t get me wrong on this; Robin was really good, as was Mac, the guy playing Caiaphas, an ultra-cool [read: wearing a very long coat and hat and therefore ultra-cool] Jewish priest, and I’d pay good money to see the guy who was Herod playing Emcee in ‘Cabaret’… But, actually, it was really poor as a show, which I think is mostly the fault of the show itself, rather than the production. (Although, that said, tech did a really bad job on it; the sound balance was wrong for the room, the lighting rig was too much over the stage and the less said about the follow-spot operators and their wobbly over-application of fade-to-pinpoint and bring-up-to-full approach to making a mess of things, the better).

I think, by and large, I’m slightly above the average level of awareness of the Jesus story as told in the Gospel. I’ve not done any scientific tests or surveys to confirm this, but I think if someone did do a thing with a clipboard in the street I’d come off ahead of people who could only supply “Born in stable; died on cross, and I think there was something about a loaf** of fishes.”

And boy did I have a hard time working out what was going on. And this certainly is the fault of the show, because it really, really assumes a whole fatass pile of prior knowledge, and then makes no attempt to explain anything. Without lighting the fires to summon the Nomad Trolls, I’d just like to re-iterate my long-standing opposition to doing things that leave the audience feeling stupid or confused. You’re relying on those guys to enjoy themselves so they either come back or tell their friends to go. Making ’em miserable is just dumb.

Still, as I said, the production did amazingly well to be decent under the circumstances, and (bar periodic oversinging, and the aforementioned rubbish lighting techs) it was all pretty fun. And, as I say, Robin, Mac and the guy who was Herod did very well. And then we went to the pub, which was fairly fun, and then Ruth & I went to Maulds Meaburn with Tom and Judith, and spent a couple of days there.

Yesterday we left Maulds Meaburn at 1330, arrived in Durham at 1455 and got on a train at 1315, which was when it was supposed to go. That was an express, which meant we were lumbered with being in London by 1825, and slogged round the Hammersmith and City line to Paddington and got onto a train to Didcot, where we arrived at 1900 and waited half and hour for a taxi to turn up and get us back to Wallingford. [Seriously, I really need to sort out my driving test, it’d make life far easier***].

When we got back, I found I’d been sent a letter from Burton McCall, the guys who do the UK customer service for Victorinox, the Swiss Army Knives people (or, at least, the half of them that aren’t Wenger). On Wednesday I’d posted off my Swiss Champ to see if they could fix it – I’ve had it since something like the fifth day after my first student loan payment, when I was in Penbryn and, since the heady days of 2003 it’s opened a Hell of a lot of bottles. Time was when it’d pop the cap of a bottle in one neat movement, but it’s been increasingly bad at that, of late, frequently taking two, three or even four goes to gain the purchase and lever the lid off. I had a look at this, and the cause seemed to be that the steel had got worn from a neat angle to a smooth curve.

That struck me as a bit of a downer but I didn’t figure it was too bad, since all the Victorinox stuff comes with a nice lifetime guarantee that I’ve previously used for things like “I’ve lost the pen out of it, please post me a new one.” So I duly got myself a jiffy bag, spent half an hour in a queue at the Post Office and dispatched it to Burton McCall to get it re-set, or something

What alarmed me about the letter was that it plainly contained no Swiss Champ. Perhaps they were about to explain that they were going to need to keep it for a month? Or that they couldn’t fix it because opening several hundred beer bottles didn’t constitute “normal use”?

To make a hollow laughing. What they said was:

“Dear Sir,
Thank you for returning your knife for repair. Unfortunately we are unable to repair it in our UK workshop and as such are offering you two options:

1) We will replace the knife free of charge under the lifetime warranty. This will mean that we do not return your original knife, but issue you with a brand new one, the same or as close to your original as is currently available.

2) We will return the knife to Switzerland for repair. This takes approximately 8-10 weeks during which time the knife is stripped down and rebuilt to a good condition.

Please call out [ie, Burton McCall’s] Customer Services Department on 0116 2344646 with your preferred option.”

This, for some reason, struck me as thoroughly fantastic. Not only did they say “Yes! You have indeed broke your bottle opener, you mentalist dipso, you! Would you like another?” but they also recognised that if you’ve been carrying one knife around for a long time (and, to be fair, they didn’t know if it was three years or thirty) there was a damn good chance you’d be really attached to it and not want to have to lose it if you could help it.

Normally, in fact, I’d go with the latter, because I do have an enormous capacity to form deep and powerful empathic bonds with inanimate objects and things****, but we’re going away in three weeks, and I want a knife.

But I thought I’d just say how much those guys rock, because it seems fairly rare, these days, to find a lifetime warranty that really seems to mean something like it. Also, brand new replacement. Winnage.

So, yeah. That’s what’s been going on at this end, except for today, which I’ve mostly spent in a thankless trawl of Google for various things, before I go back to work tomorrow.

Have fun!

* Because they have an actual railway network on the continent, rather than a network that got broken up on the laughable pretext that companies that make money from people try to serve people really well (As opposed, say, to cutting as many corners as possible in order to make more money. Hence, tangents aside, pretending to be Germans.

** That was a typo, but it amused me, so it stayed in.

*** Also, I need to do it before my Driving Theory Test runs out and I have to go and spend thirty minutes watching clips of erratic cyclists and blind bends being insultingly obvious at me.

**** I used to “rescue” rubber bands from the floor, carrying them about on my wrist because I felt really sad that after doing such a good job before they’d been heartlessly cast aside without anyone to love them. I never said I wasn’t screwed up.

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  1. On March 12, 2007 Scatman Dan says:

    I dread to think what it would’ve been otherwise

    A little elementary arithmatic suggests that £212.12 might be the correct answer. =o)