Busted, my money laundering schemes, drug dealing and terror financing days are over.

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HSBC, surely a giant in the banking world and one at the very cutting edge of managing the security of its clients. Maybe so. But not for me. I am not a great one for change. I resisted the smartphone until someone gave me an iphone a few years back and even now, tend to use it just as a telephone. My car is older than Henry Ford, my computer is a big beige thing and I have only sent two tweets.

Where was I. Okay, HSBC. So I have an account that I sort of forgot about. Not a big deal really, there was little inside it. Then one day I get a letter from the bank advising me that as the account has shown little activity over the past year, they were assuming it was dormant and were going to close it unless I got in touch. I figured an easy fix would be to simply transfer some money into it for a few days, then take it back out. That would show activity and keep it from being closed. As I said before, technology like online banking hasn’t really excited me much so I simply phoned them like I have been doing for a few years. After following the recorded instructions I suffer the elevator music whilst my call was put through to an operator.  I finally speak to a human who wants to run through some security questions to ensure I am who I say I am. Easy enough, I know my codes and  I know the answers to my personal questions. I correctly answer the code numbers and we were onto the ‘questions only I would know’ part.

“When did you open your account with HSBC?”  Pardon I replied. She repeated the question for me, not that I hadn’t understood it, no I understood, I just hadn’t expected a question I had never been asked before and one not on the security questions list. I replied that this question was a little oblique as I really had no idea when I had opened the account. I knew it was around 20 years ago, maybe closer to 30 now but to dig up the specific date from my head was like asking me what was my favourite present from my 7th birthday party. Plain impossible. Not deviating off script the operator asked again. I told her this was silly and plucked a date off the top of my head, the only date I could think of at the time. Mach 21st 1980. The day JR Ewing was shot on the the TV show Dallas. A show I thought was pretty rubbish but  was one everyone talked about non-stop at the time speculating about who had killed the nasty oil magnate.

Unsurprisingly, I was wrong. The operator then advised me that as I had answered incorrectly, she would be putting a block on my account. I told her it was going to be blocked anyway which was the reason for my call. I then asked her if she knew the date when she first opened her bank account. She said she couldn’t remember. I then asked that didn’t she think this was a rather silly question to ask customers and she agreed but said there was nothing she could do. Could you ask one of the pre-arranged questions I suggested or put me through to someone higher up the chain or give me the branch number so I could call direct. No, no and no. I would have to visit my branch and resolve it there.

Then a few weeks later I get a letter from the bank. The theme of the letter was their concern for customers security, in order to detect and prevent fraudulent activity they wanted some more information on me. A form was enclosed for me to fill in. Questions included asking me what my annual income is, which countries my net worth was held in and do I intend to continue transactions as I have done in the past and if not, why not. I filled it in. The letter told me I had just 14 days to do this. So I did.

I then get a letter back telling me that the details I had provided were incorrect and that they were placing a restriction on my account limiting me to ATM withdrawals of £50 per day. I am confused. The account they were asking about does not have an ATM card, is, according to them, due for closure and following my telephone call, has been frozen anyway.

On top of that. The account I use for daily stuff has now also had someone review the security who considers my regular US payment to a company called Netflix or something, that has been going out every month for the past two years, as suspicious and have rejected it. Fortunately Netflix have a superb call centre and they apologised for cutting off my service, gave me 2 months free, put me back online and are happy to accept payments from my other online bank and did this all in a single 10 minute telephone conversation.

The bank also decided a direct debit to British Gas could not possibly be for gas used to heat the home or cook, the clue being in the name, but no that must for sure be another one of my clever scams.

HSBC, take some time to listen to me. You know my address, you wrote to me remember, twice, and both times I have responded. You know I have been a customer since forever and you get to see all the transactions I make. My 10 bucks a month to Netflix is honestly not an elaborate money laundering scheme, the regular payment into my personal account from my business account, which has also been with you since Mr and Mrs Bieber took a few sweaty minutes making a baby, is not the result of any drug deals, arms deal, terrorist financing or robbery, if it were, I would certainly qualify as one of the least successful, stupidest and poorest criminals.

Oddly, you are quick to block payments to anyone other than the payment you yourself take for my poorly performing ISA which you sold to me on the pretence that it would grow and grow because your teams are so in tune with the markets. It’s grown very little by the way. Your experts aren’t quite the ‘experts’ you think, unless you mean expert at frequently increasing the fees for badly managing my fund. That transfer continues, them paying themselves they don’t see as suspicious.

Why ask me to make up my own personal security questions if you’re simply going to hit me with one of your own and one I suspect anyone over the age of 40 wouldn’t be able to answer off the top of their head.

I fear for the future if my insignificant financial transactions can in anyway be seen as of concern, especially since you managed to miss the Mexican drug lords who laundered $881 million through you yet crack down on me for having a dodgy direct debit with British Gas. The opening gambit on your letter says you are committed to protecting customer accounts which I guess you are succeeding in doing, my accounts are now so well protected, even I cannot get into them. It will be goodbye HSBC once I have sorted this mess you created out and I offer the few people who will ever reach this far a little advice, do not bank with HSBC unless you want your ISA to go down and your accounts to be blocked for the illegal activity that is subscribing to Netflix.

I dived with Debbie and upset a few locals…

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Throughout most of my twenties, I  managed to be banned, removed unwillingly or refused entry from far too many bars, clubs and restaurants. It’s not something I mention with any pride as it most often meant humiliation and led to me spending weekends trying to find places where doormen didn’t recognise me, with or without my stick on beard. I can even say, with much regret, that I was once asked to leave Germany. That happened the day I arrived and before I had even left the airport. A misunderstanding shall we say. Fortunately, having since been back into Germany a few times with no questions asked or problems, I think the authorities have agreed with me it was just a simple, silly  little misunderstanding. However it has taken over 20 years for the town of Weymouth to see our little misunderstanding with any leniency, as one summers afternoon in the early 1990’s, this picturesque seaside town told me to leave and  never to come back.

My visit to Weymouth was to enjoy my passion at the time, scuba diving. It was back then a rather ideal spot for wreck dives with a number of interesting old boats ending up on the sea bed at various depths, it was also a good place for novices to run through some open water training as there were many sandy spots between 10 and 15 metres deep. For me though, having done the wrecks to death and helped countless students achieve neutral bouyancy, I was there that day to enjoy a few drift dives with my buddy. A drift dive is where you basically drop down to just above the sea floor and let the current push you along, you’re a passenger on nature’s very own sightseeing bus, just enjoying the ride and enjoying the landscape. Now the waters off the UK do not give you the visual experience of somewhere like the Bahamas or Thailand. It lacks the colourful and exotic wildlife, lacks the crystal clear visibility and a dry-suit is pretty much mandatory. But that aside, it’s still great fun. There’s lobsters and crab, cuttlefish in the kelp, big grey, green and brown fish and curious seals who like to race alongside you showing off their aquatic talents. Another bonus for me is that there are less people about. Drift dives need a current whereas if you’re diving a wreck or practising your buddy breathing, a current is what you do not want. So most dives are scheduled around the tidal window. You enter the water as the tide is slowing, enjoy you sunken boat and aim to be back as the tide begins picking up again. I remember many dives where the small window meant the dive site could look like a supermarket car park with dive boats battling for space over the wreck. On a few occasions I even managed to ascend the wrong anchor line and climb into some other clubs boat. But as we’d all come from the same launch site, I would generally end up close to where I started and got to chat with some other divers on the trip back. So with all the boats ashore when the current is running, a drift dives gives you a bit of solitude.

Because you are underwater and moving along, your support boat has to follow you so you don’t run into any trouble and  it can see where you are when it’s time to pick you up. It follows you by the use of a surface marker bouy which you have tethered to your kit. The bouy itself is generally in the ‘diver down’ colours so other watercraft know to give you a bit of room. I do have one of these but managed to misplace it the day before. Not wanting to miss out on things I called a mate to see if he had one. He didn’t, but he did have an inflatable sex doll, Debbie I think was her name, he’d got her from his stag night a few months back and she was still in his garage along with the ‘L’ plate stuck to her chest. That’d do I thought, after all, the support boat would always be close so all should be okay. I inflated the doll on the drive down using my air cylinder to check whether Deb was seaworthy. Arriving in Weymouth she needed a top up, so a few more blasts from the cylinder and her perky little breasts were back to their full glory.

We’d planned our dive to run along the cliff line. The current would be fairly quick and I knew the seals would get curious and soon come out to play. Buddy checks all done, we slipped into the water and began our descent.

I love this part of the dive, looking up, watching my bubbles and looking into the blue nothingness of the ocean. Well, green nothingness in the UK mostly. We hit our depth and within minutes seals were dancing and weaving between us. It was a great experience, one where time vanishes and the moment absorbs you. Maybe 20 minutes we had been down when the line to the surface began being pulled hard. I guessed the support boat were calling us, urgently it seemed as I was being quite literally dragged to the surface. Looking up I could see the boat, but next to it was another boat, a much, much bigger one.

We surfaced, our little inflatable dwarfed by the menacing hulk that was the Coastguard rescue boat. I unclipped myself and climbed aboard, no they yanked me aboard. I guessed their mood was one of anger and annoyance. But them being the ‘officials’ and me not wanting to start anything, I let them shove me about and lead me below to a room where the captain was waiting. A man of few words it seemed. “Sit there and shut the f#%* up!” was the first thing he said followed by “You two w@#*&>s are going to get a well deserved kicking for this and I hope they make you pay the costs for this silly joke of yours.”

It turned out that someone walking their dog on the cliff had spotted our Debbie floating and, her being out to sea bobbing about all pink and fleshy coloured, it looked to them like it could be a person. Worried that it was a dead body, they called the police who called the Coastguard who quite rightly launched an urgent rescue and recovery mission. They were really not pleased to find that the panic was all over a blow up sex doll and were even less pleased that it was being used as a surface marker bouy for two brain-dead halfwit divers who should have had at least a slim idea that Debbie could, from a distance, like from the cliff tops, look like a real person.  Back on dry land we were met by the police and their flashing blue lights, a crowd of curious onlookers wondering what was going on, an official from the town hall and a journalist who was relieved there was no dead body after all and over the moon that he now had the scoop of the summer for the local newspaper.

We were fined for wasting the rescue services time, Debbie was confiscated and we were banned from the town, the police, in their car with blue flashing lights, followed us to the town edge to make sure we drove off into the distance, glad, no doubt, to see the back of us. In 2011 I wrote to them asking if the ban was still being enforced as I wanted to build some sandcastles on the beach with my son. They never replied. I have since built some great sandcastles on the beaches in southern Spain instead. Any thoughts I had of returning to Weymouth have gone as the Spanish coast provides far more interesting dive experiences, the sand is more ‘sandy’ and the weather needs no mention. My son and I, away from the eyes of his mother of course, once built a ‘sand-woman’ in homage to Debbie complete with open mouth, embracing arms and spread legs. We did hide her modesty with some shells though as I didn’t want to be drawn into a educational lesson type moment with my son and the thought of the beach police fining and banning us from the town would see me on the family naughty step for eternity.

Honestly, explaining where babies come from is the easy bit..!

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I think I have most of the attributes that go towards good parenting. I make up fun bedtime stories, know where we keep the plasters, let them win at board games, fake interest in their PokemonGo progress, drive them to school in the mornings, help with the homework and bounce with them on the trampoline. I am hard when I need to, soft when I should be and always, without fail, up for a cuddle. What I am no good at, and have been dreading since their birth, is explaining where babies come from.

I had hoped the subject would come up when their mother was about and I was in the garage, or away, or out of the house. I had managed to avoid the initial preamble quite well, the standard ‘you came from you mummies belly’ had worked for a number of years. But then forces beyond my control started to up the pace of my son’s questioning. It began when he came to me with ‘Lizzie’, his pet lizard, cupped in his hands, a look of worry on his face. ‘Dad’, he said ‘I am worried about her, she’s all squishy and spongy.’ I felt her abdomen and he was right, something wasn’t right at all. We put her onto the table so we could inspect her some more and she immediately flattened her body, arched her head upwards and started lifting her feet one after the other. We both just stared as one by one, little white eggs started popping out. ‘That isn’t poop for sure’ commented my son before charging off to alert the rest of the family that they should all come quickly to see. The eggs survived a night before Lizzy ate them but this had opened up a whole new world of questioning. How had she gotten pregnant? How long had she been pregnant? And where do babies come from exactly? I was lucky in a way as the sexual antics of a reptile are a fair way off from humans, so explaining things felt easy at this point and thanks to Google we all learned things without me having to draw a willy. But I was to be tested just a few weeks later when the rabbit decided to give birth as well. An egg is one thing but a baby rabbit is an altogether tougher subject. Our rabbits spend most days humping each other and how we laugh at their antics, I’d never considered trying to explain why our furry pets jumped on each other’s backs to the children, the pet shop had told us they’d been sterilised so I never gave much concern that their constant attempts would lead anywhere so we always said they were just playing about having some fun. Now we had a problem. Now it looked like I was going to have to draw a willy after all. I hoped the burden of explaining sex would fall to the school and checked the class syllabus in the hope that it was coming up soon. No luck, it wasn’t due until next term and the lady of the house was firm in her belief that on most jobs, most, if not all things and subjects family related, she has the final say. Vagina’s, semen, where things get stuck, who does the sticking and why, would most definitely be my job and mine alone. Reluctantly I got my pencils out, opened my sketch pad and began my introduction.

I will skip the detail, it’s enough to say I felt my class was a success and not as embarrassing as I had thought, although as an illustrator my willy drawings were pretty rubbish. Job done now let’s go hit the trampoline.

So a month or so passes and my son comes rushing into the lounge urging me to come quickly to see what Snouty, our pet rat, was up to. We have two rats, both male and both incredible pets. Friendly, playful and always doing things that make me realise how clever they are. I can spend ages watching them play, watching them eat and enjoy their fearless curiosity as they explore their world in my office. So I was interested to see what was happening to excite my son so much. I wish now I had been somewhere else, anywhere, but not in the house!

We found Snouty sat like a human, his back legs in front, his bottom on the floor, like he was sat in a chair. Very funny position indeed. But shockingly, looking closer it was clear he had his willy in his hand and was giving it right good tugging. I thought explaining the act of sex was hard work and my basic sex education class had wrapped up any further explanations but I was wrong, my mind was now racing about how to explain masturbation. And what is a rat doing bloody well masturbating anyway! Snouty made the whole thing doubly complicated when his dexterity enabled him to reach down and pop his willy into his mouth. Things went further pear shaped as by now my daughter had joined us and, on witnessing this act of self-fellatio, decided mummy should come and see, we should take a photo and tell everyone else we ever meet what we had witnessed because it was for them, the funniest thing they had ever seen. I failed as a parent at that point, I was overcome by inaction, and from nowhere, out popped their devices to video and photograph our rat having a bit of a self indulgence. The rat was totally unconcerned at all the attention and carried on enjoying himself, only stopping when he reached climax. That gave us all pause for thought and for a moment there was complete silence and we all stared, mouths open at what was going on before the children burst into giggles and began asking me what had just happened.

I had managed to dodge questions about a lizard laying eggs, joke away humping rabbits and stumbled a little when the baby rabbit appeared, but now I feared I had a difficult task ahead of me to explain not only a masturbating, willy sucking rat but one that quite happily ejaculates onto his own stomach! Before they had time to bring up the questions I knew were coming, I declared it was time we hit the trampoline and ran off like a madman!