2020 minus 44: A more than pleasant surprise

Posted: 18 November 2019 in 2020 minus, personal
Tags: , , ,

Heh. I did it again.

From the opening to 55 plus 44: [further] Politics ponderings

Small amusement to start today’s entry. One of the things I like about iOS, have liked since the very first iteration of it, is keyboard shortcuts. They’re basically a way of typing a combination of letters which will then automatically resolve into a pre-written word, phrase or sentence. I have a few, but the three I’d always recommend to set up are: your email address, your phone number and… well, I’ll come on to that in a ducking minute, ok?

Being able to type ‘bbbb’ and have ‘budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk’ automagically appear saves so much bloody time, I tell you.

I set up ‘::’ (two colons) as a shortcut for my mobile phone number and ’44:’ as the same number but in ‘international format’. Which is fine and dandy… right up until you need to type “55 plus 44:’ as the title of a blog entry. Heh.

Oh, and the third? Since I rarely need to type the word ‘ducking’, I set it so if I do type the word ‘ducking’, it resolves instantly to ‘fucking’. Which is great until I sent a tweet during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions asserting that ‘David Cameron was fucking the question’. Which may well have equally accurate, now I come to think of it…

And i just did the 44: thing again. And it still amuses me.

I’ve had some entirely unexpected customer service disasters recently, from two companies with which I’ve previously associated only excellent customer support.

It’s been less than delightful.

But rather than whinge about those two companies, here’s some customer service that I didn’t know existed, and which blew me away.

A bit of history first.

Anyone reading this is likely to know or remember that I used to be married to a very lovely lady named Laura.

We’re no longer together, obviously, but it was no-one’s ‘fault’ that we didn’t last. We’re still very close friends, and she is, and remains, one of my favourite people on the planet. And she’s Phil’s mum, a brilliant, superb mum at that.

Now, I’d say this post isn’t about her, but it kind of is, in a way. At least to start with.

When I met Laura – back in the Stone Age, clearly, since our lad is now 24 – there was the initial fun of discovery: of each other, of what interests we shared, which interests we definitely didn’t share, of each other’s families.

And the different things our families did. Not only the obvious – Laura’s family was undoubtedly more religiously observant than mine – but the family traditions each had.

Laura was fairly astonished, for example, that I didn’t own a pen-knife, a Swiss Army knife.

Actually, having written that, I’m not sure “fairly astonished” quite covers it: she was flabbergasted. Mainly, but not solely, because everyone in her family had one. Whether the tiny one she had in her purse, to the absolute monster her late father had owned, everyone had one.

Not me; my dad didn’t like knives, other than for eating food, and although I kind of faintly remembered owning a cheap pen-knife at university, I certainly didn’t have one now. Or rather then, when this tale takes place.

And so Laura bought me a pen-knife. A very nice one. A Swiss Army knife, obviously, The Workchamp.

One of these.

Yeah, it’s a big pen-knife, isn’t it?

Well, no, not really, not when you compare it to, say…

But The Workchamp was certainly big enough for me. Felt lovely in my hand and I ended up using most of the functions at one time or another.

(The Workchamp officially has 21 functions, compared to 82 (!) for the big bugger above.)

Which was fine for years and years… until I pulled it out of my pocket at one point while out at a coffee shop, and a very nice policeman who happened to be at the next table very politely – but firmly – informed me that it was illegal for me to be carrying it in public.


No, not the length of the blade, in case you were wondering, but The Workchamp has a lockable big blade. And you’re not allowed to carry a knife with one of those in public.

The police officer realised I genuinely didn’t have a clue, and pulled out an envelope,. He dropped the pen-knife in it, sealed it, signed the back, then returned it to me. Then he said words to the effect of:

“Take that out when you get home, and not before. And don’t ever take it out in public again.”

All of which advice I followed.

However, if I wanted a pen-knife I could carry around, and I’d kind of gotten used to carrying one by then, I needed one I could carry around without running the risk of, y’know, being arrested.

Anyway, cutting a long story short – far, far too late – I picked up one of these:

Not quite as heavy, not quite as many functions, but also, not illegal. Which was nice.

I have no idea when I bought it. (And I’ve replaced it once after I had my bag stolen.) But I’ve had my current pen-knife for years… at least a dozen or so.

And, yeah, it shows its age: the red plastic bits either side are chipped, the spring in the scissors snapped a long time back, and it’s a bit stiff. Still works, but yeah.

Anyway, I was in central London today – following a hospital visit about which I might talk… another time, ok? – and wandered past this place in New Bond Street.

Now I genuinely had no idea how much it would cost to get mine repaired (probably too much, but thought I’d ask anyway…) So wandered in, had a look around, blanched at some of the prices of the luggage, then spoke to a lovely chap named Daniel.

Remember: I have a pen-knife bought years ago. I have no idea from where I bought it. Could be from them direct, could have been on Amazon or ebay, or from another shop.

I show him my pen-knife, fully expecting a wince at this battered old thing, the sort of look you’d get from someone into whose very nice snow-white carpet you’d trodden wet mud.

“Oh, we can certainly service and repair that for you…” says Daniel, with not the slightest wince.

“And how much…?” I ask, preparing my own wince.

“…for free.”


“Oh, we wouldn’t charge for any of the work needed on this,” continues Daniel, and then – after a quick play with the pen-knife, he lists out what needs doing, including replacing the cracked ‘scales’ – the red bits attached to either side of the knife.

It’s not a short list.

“Give me 20 minutes…?” Daniel asks.

Sure, I say, and wander off, wondering what just happened.

Came back half an hour later, and the pen-knife looks like new. All oiled, blades sharpened, scissor spring replaced, brand new ‘scales’ attached.

He recommends some accessories (a small container of oil, a specific blade sharpener) but doesn’t attempt at any point to ‘push’ them to me. Oh, and he mentions “if you lose the toothpick or tweezers, just pop in; we don’t charge for replacing those.”

So, yes. Sometimes, unexpectedly, you get it: fantastic customer service that you didn’t even know you could get.

Huge thanks, and the heartiest of recommendations to Daniel, at

95-96 New Bond St

The usual ‘something else on a Tuesday’… tomorrow.

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