by The Rambler 26/10/2001
I HAVE an old friend, very old indeed, who lives alone in the country but will not have a phone installed. He doesn't want people 'ringing him up'. I have tried to convince him that nobody will know his number, if he keeps it confidential, but he still won't budge on the issue.
'Convince a man against his will and he is of the same opinion,' still applies.
When I referred to him one day last week in conversation, I heard a nice related story. An old lady of the same mould was at last converted. My friend said he could hardly believe it when one day he found a phone installed. He and his wife kept an eye on her. He hurried home and told his wife. "Is it working?" she demanded.
"I'm sure it is," he told her.
"Why didn't you check? Here give her a ring, you did get you number, I hope."
"Oh yes. Here's the number," he said.
"Give her a ring now and make sure."
My friend said he duly gave old Maggie a ring but there was no response. Tried again and again - still silence. "You may go back down to check," his wife insisted.
He got on his bike and pedalled off to find Maggie reading, with the phone at her elbow.
"Maggie!" he said, "Did it not ring? Why did you not answer it?"
Ach sure I knowed it was you," she said. "Sure nobody else knows it's here, or the number! Wasn't I talking to you a minute ago? What would I want with you? Away home to Lily and give my head peace!"
Old people have their own notions. How about this one? Old Johnny has just claimed the old-age pension - the one that is means tested and is paid to you when you are 70. An investigator had seen to him because Johnny had told he wasn't married.
The next week, the Pension Officer came across an old lady who said she was Johnny's wife, and produced a marriage certificate to prove it.
It didn't make much difference but the Pension Officer was 'narked' and headed back to Johnny.
"You told me last week you weren't married, and I have now seen a women who has a certificate to prove that she is your wife," he said. "Why did you tell me a lie?"
Ach! That's not my wife", he insisted.
"That's an aul woman I married the when wife died and I never lived with her. End of story."
Finally, did you ever hear tell of the County Tyrone veteran of the Boer War who warned his community not to claim the old age pension when it first came out? I think it was 1908, when the pension was five shillings a week.
"If you sign up for that," he pontificated, "they'll have you. If another war breaks out, you'll be called up right away." He was convinced.
Age 70, was a bit old for conscripts but the long-headed local boyo knew it all.