47 Random Fragments of Unauthorised Hope and Despair


ALISON got the phone call the night before Jamie’s birthday.

“Good evening, is that Mrs Godwin?” enquired a female voice.

Alison confirmed this was so.

“Hello Mrs Godwin, I’m calling from Sunshine Insurance in connection with your Household and Family ‘Sit Back and Relax’ Economy Cover Package...”


“It’s come to our attention, Mrs Godwin, that earlier today you purchased 20 balloons, two packs of goody bags and a large number of assorted confectionery items... is that correct, Mrs Godwin?”

“Well, yes, it is, but how...?”

“It’s standard industry tie-in procedure, Mrs Godwin, and basically I’m just making a courtesy call to make sure you’re not planning on staging any kind of party or other celebration to mark what is, I believe, your second oldest child’s sixth birthday tomorrow - is that correct Mrs Godwin?”

“Well...” Alison spluttered, quite disorientated. “Well, yes, it’s Jamie’s birthday but we’re not doing anything unusual or dangerous - just a few of his little friends round and...”

“You are aware, Mrs Godwin, that under the terms of your package you are not insured against liability for accident or injury occurring to visitors to your home numbering more than six on any one occasion and, furthermore, that under the new Criminal Liability Act it is in fact an offence to stage any such event without having previously secured appropriate insurance cover?”

“Ummm, no. I wasn’t. I heard about something like that, now you mention it, but I never imagined...”

“You would, of course, be liable for prosecution if you went ahead with an unauthorised celebration, Mrs Godwin, and we are obliged under the Act to notify the police of your intent to commit an offence, but I can offer you the opportunity to extend your package here and now so you are covered for Jamie’s birthday tomorrow, Mrs Godwin.”

“I, err, well, how much is that, then?”

“We’d be looking, Mrs Godwin, at providing full liability cover, as required by law, for up to 20 guests, plus administration charges and a legal assistance element - that’s this phone call, Mrs Godwin - so the total would be an excess of £1,630 per annum plus a one-of payment of £199. You’ll find, Mrs Godwin, that this is a very competitive rate.

“You are, of course, completely free to acquire insurance elsewhere, but I would point out that at this late stage you may have difficulty in arranging this in time and, moreover, we would, without any evidence of insurance, be obliged to proceed with our report to the authorities.”

Alison said nothing for a moment. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply before speaking.

“Thank you very much, I quite understand the situation now. I’m afraid we are not in a financial situation where we can pay for the cover you are so kindly offering and...”

“We can arrange very reasonable credit terms, Mrs Godwin.”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure you can, but I’m afraid we won’t be extending the cover. We’ll have to cancel the party.”

“And yes,” she said, interrupting the woman as she began to speak again, “I do realise you will have to report me to the police and our domestic camera output will probably receive a personal 24-hour frame-by-frame scrutiny from the president himself just in case I’m lying to you. Thank you so much for your help. Goodnight!”

“Bollocks!” said Tony, when she explained it all to him. “They’re having you on. Nobody’s going to check up on us for having a kids’ party. They’re not going to look at our cameras, not for that. I say carry on. What are they going to do? Fuck all!”

But Alison wasn’t sure. How could you tell?