Do you know Frinton-on-Sea? Somehow this genteel little seaside resort on the Essex coast got left behind by the passage of time. Now it languishes permanently in a sort of parallel universe where the clocks stopped in 1955. The all-powerful Frinton Residents Association sees to it that the 20th Century is accepted grudgingly – one bitter morsel at a time.
They fought against the opening of a Fish and Chip Shop. They appealed relentlessly to try and stop Wetherspoons getting planning permission to open a pub – you still can’t buy and ice cream on the beach.
And now, I discover, the barricades are up against the advance of Broadband.
The gentleman knew all about the company. He was an avid reader of Which? Magazine (I imagined him sitting up late into the night poring over it by the light of a 15W bulb). I began to explain how the club works and everything went well until we came to the idea of other people paying his electricity bill.
“Who?” he wanted to know, in the tone he might reserve for foreigners moving into the town or the Olde Copper Kettle Teashop serving Lattes.
Somewhat laboriously I explained that he could get 35 retail chains from M&S to Pizza Express to pay his electricity bill.
I shouldn’t have mentioned Pizza.
“We buy everything at Tesco’s,” he insisted. “Everything…”
Never mind, he could still save money when he shopped online…
“Too expensive,” he exploded.
Now this stumped me. How could it be too expensive to shop online?
“The dial-up charges of course. The dial-up charges are cripplingly expensive.”
And that was how we discovered that tucked away in Frinton-on-Sea is a man who pays £14 a month dial-up charges, £13 a month BT line rental and £17 a month for his calls – a total of £44 a month -
when I could give him all of that for £20 a month and throw in broadband, his router and free calls to the top ten international desinations (although of course he never calls anyone abroad).
It was at this point his wife demanded to know why it all had to be so complicated and I made the mistake of calling her by her Christian name.
“What gives you the right to call me by my Christian name?” she demanded. “You don’t know me!”
Sometimes you just have to admit defeat.
“I’m sorry,” I said sadly. “I’m afraid you don’t qualify.”
“Don’t qualify! Don’t qualify! What do you mean we don’t qualify?”
“I mean that we only invite happy smiley people who want to save money to join our club – and you don’t qualify.”
And with that I left… and in the next half an hour I received a call from a lady in Monmouthshire who wanted Broadband and had been given my number. Then there was another call from the practice manager at a doctor’s surgery who needed cheaper energy – and also ran two fish and chip shops.
And when I got home my neighbour who is a Utilities Analyst and has been looking at the club for at least three years with a view to becoming a distributor came knocking on my door saying: “Can I have an appointment?”
So with a deep breath and a shuddering sigh, I am going to forget all about Frinton-on-Sea.
Of course, I know I won’t be allowed to. He’ll probably complain.