Thursday, July 25, 2019


We are, as I write this, experiencing the hottest day ever recorded in the UK. Fortunately, Horsham has a fountain, the kind that shoots water up from the pavement at various heights, to please the eye and provide a place for children and the adventurous to frolic and, on a day like today, cool off. Unfortunately, the Horsham District Council decided to celebrate the hottest day ever, by shutting the fountain off.

Horsham's Non-Water Fountain
Their excuse: sunscreen, it might get into the filters, and it might damage them. Also, children might slip.

This might have made sense (well, actually, no, it wouldn’t) but for a few extraneous reasons:

- Fountains in cities all over the world are famously packed with people on hot days. Some of these fountains are hundreds of years old and they all seem to be working fine, and as far as I know, no one has died.

- This particular fountain has been operating fine, even with children gamboling about in it, for several years now. Would another week have hurt? Why shut if off on the hottest day…ever?

No problems  here; must be Horsham-specific.
While it may seem illogical and indefensible (because it is), they did not do it because they hate children (although there is nothing to suggest that they don’t); they did it because they are afraid of water.

This makes perfect sense, when you take this recent move into historical context.

The Shelly Fountain, it was an icon of our town, it put it on the map, it was what people thought of when they thought of Horsham, but the Council shut it down, put a fence around it, left it to rot and then dug it up and made a planter out of it.

Such a joyful fountain...

...left to rot... pushing up birch trees.
The Swans, a much-loved sculpture in the Swan Walk Shopping Mall, depicted swans coming in to land on a sheet of water, about 1-inch deep. There were little jets of water that shot against the swan’s feet, giving the impression of movement. It was a lovely image, until they took the water out and replaced it with glass.


There was a water feature in the plaza near the Bishopric, a babbling brook that ran over a waterfall. This was turned off some time ago without funfair or explanation.

No reason. I guess they just didn't like it.
There is also a water fountain that was put in the town during Queen Victoria’s reign. It was restored in 1977 and hasn’t been active for as long as I can remember.

I can't recall ever seeing water in this thing.
And even the town watering trough has been turned into a planter.

Think of the poor cows!
So, you see, the move to turn off the fountain in the plaza was the next logical step toward a water-free town. If you come to visit Horsham now, you will find not a single water feature working. Apparently, this is what the Council is aiming for.

I understand their next move will be to drain the River Arun.

The River Arun, and The Riverside Walk, soon to be The Dried-out Trenchside Walk

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


Time was, you had to meet someone face to face to be scammed. Then con-men discovered mail, and the telephone, and email and their job became easier and easier until you could find yourself sat on your sofa watching Homes Under the Hammer, content in the knowledge that you had a hefty sum nestling in your bank while, unbeknownst to you, someone from the other side of the world was transferring your money from your account into his.

"Hell-o, Mr. Harling's Bank. This is Mr. Harling. I should like you take all
money from my accounts and place them in Cayman Island account, yes?
Oh, certainly, I am Mr. Harling. I do not pretending to be him.
Money is sent? Спасибо, I mean, thank you.
This has led me to develop a simple, but hard and fast rule: if anyone approaches me—via phone, mail, email, at my door or on the street—that I do not know as a friend or who is not responding to a request for assistance or sustenance, that person is, de facto, a criminal with the intent of pulling money out of my pocket and sticking it in his.

That this rule has led me to hanging up on actual utility companies and, in one memorable occasion, a hospital calling to tell me my father-in-law was being discharged and needed a ride home, is unfortunate, but I still believe it is better to err on the side of caution. I never click on links in an email and I routinely hang up on unknown callers.

But, while phone calls and extraneous emails remain a nuisance, they are easily dealt with, What I really fear is being scammed while I’m not looking. Fortunately, this has never happened. Until the other day.

I was doing the monthly updates of our accounts and noticed a fee of £98.83 taken from my bank account by a company I had never heard of. This didn’t alarm me at first. I often forget that I have bought something, but a Google search generally jogs my memory, allowing me to recall a holiday purchase from a little store in the Highlands a month or two back who have finally gotten around to taking their money. In this instance, however, the search only served to heighten my suspicion.

It was a loan company, the type catering to recently released felons and/or people with a bankruptcy looming in their background. Additionally, I found a thread on a message board about this company having taken a hundred quid from someone’s account in similarly suspicious circumstances. They were not only a dodgy loan company, they had form, so I went down to my bank, explained the situation and they, quite helpfully, canceled the direct debit, refunded my money and began an investigation.

Later that day, after finishing the household accounts, I noticed, with extreme unease, that we had more money than I thought we should. Having less doesn’t surprise, or unsettle me. But more? There was clearly something wrong. After some careful searching, I realized that a very expensive purchase I made some months back had never been deducted from my account. I wondered about this, and why I had no paperwork. Surely something that expensive would generate paperwork.

It took a while, but I finally tracked down an e-mail that jogged my memory. Something I had received and filed without thought weeks earlier: the sum I owed the company was being taken in installments, which explained why I had not seen a drop in our bank balance. Additionally, the installments had been converted to a no-interest loan by the company, and turned over to…a loan company.

In a panic, I contacted my bank, only to be told that, as the investigation process had started, there was no way they could stop it. They suggested I call the loan company, which I did, with great trepidation. I imagined they would not be pleased at my having taken the money back, and might say something like, “You took your money back? That’s okay, Vinny will be around to collect it. You’ll recognize him. He’ll be carrying a cricket bat in one hand, and a cash box in the other. You’ll become acquainted with one of them. Your choice.”

"Good morning, Mr. Harling. We can do this the easy way,
or the hard way."
The loan company, however, was cordial, and understanding, “Oh don’t worry about it,” the woman chirped, “It happens all the time.” Which only served to confirm what type of loan company they were.

Long story short (too late) everything was eventually straightened out, they got their money, the bank has been mollified, all future payments should go ahead without a hitch, and Vinny never paid me a visit.

But I’m still going to be cautious when answering the door for the next few weeks.