Thursday, 11 December 2008

Not Worth the Risk (part II)

So, they think I’m too old, do they? Well I’ve got news for them, I can still bounce. I’m still at the age where I can describe my mishaps in terms of: “I fell over” rather then “I had a fall”.

I fell over this morning. It was the real thing, a full-banana-skin Beano-comic slip. It was icy. It’s been icy most mornings for a few weeks. (What is it with the weather this year? We haven’t had ice before Christmas, in The Wirral, since I was child for whom falling over was just part of life’s daily ritual, like walking, eating and attracting dirt.)
Anyway, I was fiddling with my ipod, trying to find the latest offering from Mur Lafferty (I Should Be Writing – I recommend it), when I stood on a particularly solid, low-traction puddle, and next thing I knew I was on my back admiring the stars. (7AM. Clear sky. Beautiful.) The thing is, it didn’t hurt. Nothing broken. Nothing damaged – apart from my packed lunch, which got a bit squashed, but then sandwiches taste better that way. I always say you should carry sandwiches around in the bottom of a rucksack for a few hours before eating, to help bring out the flavour.

I’ve been making a habit of pre-adolescent acrobatics lately. I was up on the roof at the week-end, stringing-up Christmas lights. There was frost on the roof and suddenly I’m doing a Torvill and Dean down the tiles. Fortunately I had hold of the string of lights and they were enough to stop me sailing out into the void. Lucky escape. I’m not sure how well I’d have bounced from that one.

I rounded the day off nicely a few hours later. We had to make room for the Christmas tree. It was quite a big tree. I always set out saying we’re getting a smaller tree this year and I always come back with something that wouldn’t look out of place in Yosemite.
So we had to make space. A bookcase had to go. Upstairs, on the landing, was the only space we had. We have a lot of bookcases. It’s like a disease, I can't bear to part with books; not even by selling them.
Anyway, Sarah said she’d unload the bookcase and I said no, I can move it as it is. Sarah said I was silly to try and I said it’s not that heavy, I can manage.
Guess who was right.
I moved it across the lounge without a problem, walking it from side to side. I got it up the first two steps, then there’s a ninety-degree turn to the foot of the main staircase.
“Don’t do it. Let me take the books out!”
“It’s okay, I’ve got it.”
First step.
“Mike, you’ll hurt yourself.”
Second step.
On the third step my strength failed me. I couldn’t make that last inch. In an effort to gain more height I leaned back.
And I kept on going back.

Now you would expect that an old man, too old to be insured, would come off quite badly, falling down stairs with a loaded bookcase in his arms. Well here I am, I’m writing this, and most of the pain has gone now. Nothing broken.

But I’ve come away from the experience having learned something new. Perhaps insurance companies’ concerns about insuring advanced middle aged persons, are derived with regard not so much to their growing frailty, but rather as to their growing stupidity.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Not Worth the Risk.

Had a letter yesterday. It was about my Life Insurance. My policy will expire in February. Thank you.

That’s all it said.
It brought back memories from years ago, hiding from the Man-from-the-Pru. The door bell would ring and Sarah or I would recognise his car in the road… and we’d hide behind the settee.
Because the Pru-man had The Power.
He was able to wheedle his way into our family, assuming a comfortable first-name relationship, and he would chat and advise and cajole and gradually the topic of insurance would creep into the friendly banter. He was good, no question. He already had us hooked into a small policy, but he never rested, he was always looking to land the big fish; the Professional policy.
I had just one weapon in my arsenal: he always called me David, my first name. Everyone else calls me Mike. And I was careful never to put him straight on this detail, because it was my lifeline. This was the thing that told me: this man is not your friend.

Then one day, two of them arrived. And by the nervous body language from our regular guy, I could tell that he’d brought no less than the very messiah of Pru-men; a big game fisherman if ever there was one.
“How are you, today… Mike?”

So, when a letter arrives to say my money is no longer required, that the relationship is over, and there’s no knocking at the door – that I am allowed to slip the net without even a suggestion of policy extension or increased premia - well I can only come to one sobering conclusion.

I’m now too old to insure!

I’m only fifty-two. If you assume I’ll get beyond a hundred – and this is certainly a key part of the game-plan – well then, I’m only middle-aged. But the insurance companies, it would seem, are no longer interested in my coin. Oh, I suppose there’s something out there for an old duffer like me, something that comes with a hefty risk adjustment and a measly pay-off. Okay, I'm that desperate, but where’s the fight? Where’s the game of cat and mouse? Where’s the guy in the sharp suit, the one who knows my name?