I popped round to see Harold this morning. (I popped round twice at the weekend, too, but got no reply. He says he was ‘out on a job’ – which makes him sound like a burglar! – but I’m sure I saw the curtains flicker.)
There have been ‘developments’ on the Olga front; ones that have confirmed – if confirmation were needed – that the man’s a peril to himself and shouldn’t be let off the leash.
His first thought, he announced, was to throw caution to the wind and carry on the ruse. (Mrs C almost fell off a ladder when I told her. She was changing a bulb at the time and nearly damaged the fitting.)
It occurred to Harold he might take out membership of the National Trust (there are one or two houses in the area), hire a limousine for the day (Olga is convinced he has a fleet at his disposal), and try to pass off a castle as having been his family home since Tudor times.
He gave it a dry run, but couldn’t resolve the problem of getting in without a ticket. He says he’s not au fait with Russian domestic arrangements but assumes tickets aren’t involved at any stage of the proceedings, so she might smell a rat.
Quite frankly, if she didn’t smell a rodent the size of Kent, with a large peg over her nose, I’d suggest he check through her medical records for signs of trouble in the head department.
I didn’t tell him that, of course. The man’s in love, so doesn’t want to hear the facts.
Having fallen at the first hurdle, he lost his mind altogether, and emailed Vladivostok with ‘exciting news’. He had – alas! – been called away ‘on tour’, taking his act to every corner of the UK, and wouldn’t be home for a month, possibly longer.
His hopes for breathing space were dashed within the hour. ‘No problem’, she emailed back, ‘I can rearrange flights and meet you at the London Hilton’.
The man doesn’t know when to take his foot off the gas. Even Walter Mitty would throw in the towel in hand-to-hand with Harold.
A flurry of emails followed, as he sought to extricate himself. The Hilton had been cancelled; there were floods in Chipping Ongar; the Palladium had been double-booked by a troupe of singing nuns. He was, he told her, at his wits’ end, and was, sadly, in the hands of others so could make no concrete plans to meet.
Finally Olga ran up the white flag. She said she knew he was an ‘important man’ and ‘our love must wait a little longer’.
Harold scarcely had time to pat himself on the back when she emailed again – this time with bad news of her own.
It seems her flights can’t be cancelled and the tickets are non-refundable. Worse still, she had to apply for an ‘emergency’ travel visa, which turned out pricier than expected. Overall, she’s down on the deal by some £1500, allowing for ‘a fluctuating rate of exchange’.
Harold says she works in ‘finance’, so knows about these things.
He’s an honest – if simple – soul and says it’s only right he refund her in full. I suggest the better option is to come clean. With luck she’ll swear at him in Russian and call him a few unpleasant names. Then they can part on bad terms and he won’t have to raid the bank. But he pulls out the photo of Keira Knightley and comes over all misty-eyed.
I beat a hasty retreat and leave him to it. I know a brick wall when I see one.
When I bring Mrs C up to speed, it’s lucky she’s not up another ladder. I doubt the ceiling would have survived.
She’s says it’s all a scam. There was a similar story in the Daily Telegraph last year, and the woman is ‘on the make’. £1500 would take her round the world, let alone to London and back. (I suppose it could, if she didn’t stop anywhere, though we don’t debate the point.)
There are times when I’m glad I lead a quiet life, and am not an international cabaret star like Harold, with women who look like Keira Knightley eager to visit me at all hours, regardless of the cost.
Just now, I expect Harold feels much the same way.
Thought for the Day
‘I put my foot down. Well, it was getting heavy.’
Herbert Asquith (1852-1928)