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Wednesday 3rd March 2004

I was waiting for some friends to come round to play poker. I'd put some Aimee Mann on the CD player and was feeling relaxed and happy, when my home phone rang. I don't usually bother to answer this, because I tend to use my mobile and I haven't given the landline number to many people. Also most calls I get on that line are from people trying to get in contact with the previous occupants, who ran a film company. I will call them Shit Films, though this is not their real name and they probably wouldn't have been very successful if it was. They worked from home, but sold up (I was told) to go and live in France. They left no forwarding address with me and though the Post Office redirected their mail for a bit, this has now stopped. I get quite a lot of mail for them, including some quite official looking letters which I just return to sender. I have been suspecting for some while that maybe they have left their affairs in some disorder.
Because I'm so fed up with people ringing for them I've left a message on my ansaphone which says, "Hello, Shit Films, Ian and Jean are no longer at this address and I am afraid I have no forwarding details for them. If you want to speak to me, Richard, then leave a message or try me on my mobile," which I then give the number to (like I'd put it on here. I'm not THAT stupid). I have been meaning to change my phone number for ages to avoid this slight hassle, but I haven't got round to it and as I nearly always use my mobile these days doesn't really bother me too much anyway.
I was going to answer the phone in case one of the poker players had got lost or was going to be late, but I couldn't find the handset (God bless portability) and I wasn't too worried, figuring that they would either leave a message or ring my mobile if it was important.
They didn't leave a message, but within a few seconds my mobile phone was ringing. The screen said "Number Withheld", but this is what it always says when my management company ring me and as some of the people there occasionally ring on my land-line I assumed it might be them and answered.
"Is that Richard," said a cockney voice that I didn't recognise.
"Yes," I replied.
"Listen to me pal, I've had the police on to me about you lot at Shit Films. People have been cashing dud cheques up in Rugby using your name. I know where you live and if this carries on I'm going to come round there and break your fucking legs."
Which rather broke the relaxed mood of the evening. This was not something that has ever happened to me before and I have to admit that it slightly freaked me out.
"Hold on, hold on, " I protested, "I'm nothing to do with Shit Films. They used to live in this house about a year ago, and I bought it off them. They've moved to France. This is nothing to do with me."
I could hear my voice rising in panic as if I had been sucking on a helium balloon.
"Don't give me that bollocks," he continued to threaten, "I've heard you ansaphone message and it's your voice saying, 'This is Shit Films'..."
"No, it isn't. I say that Shit Films aren't here anymore."
"I've been ringing up all week. I've heard that message loads of times and it's your voice saying, 'This is Shit Films'..."
"It doesn't say that. Ring it up right now and listen to it again. It says that Shit Films are no longer at this number. Honestly mate, I'm nothing to do with them. I'm a writer. I get phone calls for them all the time....."
I was blathering, and to be honest, I was shitting myself. This fella had obviously found out the phone number for Shit Films, which meant he almost certainly does know my address. Though he might be acting the big man with his talk of breaking limbs, he did sound like he might be the kind of person who would. He was very annoyed. It transpired (I think, I was a bit befuddled and the conversation was often at cross purposes and I couldn't take it all in) that he's been given one of Shit Films other old numbers by BT and he's annoyed because he's getting calls from the police about this problem.
I talked to him for about ten minutes, trying to convince him that I was nothing to do with whatever it was that was going on and that he shouldn't be threatening me and he seemed to calm down a little bit and possibly believe me. I didn't think to say that I would be a bit stupid, if I was involved in fraud to have not changed my phone number and be operating from the address that was on public record. But then this was a man who had listened to an ansaphone message several times and still not been able to work out that what it was saying. I told him the Estate Agent that had sold me the house and said that they might have a forwarding address for the film company people and I told him to get the police to ring me if they bothered him again.
I asked him his name, but he just said with a trace of menace, "Goodbye Richard, Thanks."

Now I am paranoid enough already, without thinking there are men out there who want to break my legs for something that I haven't even done. And who probably know my address. I had a bit of an uneasy evening after this. I remembered a case a few years back where some bloke had been killed in his flat, for no apparent reason and the theory was that he'd been killed by some drug gang who were looking for someone else, but had got the wrong address. What a rubbish and lousy way to die. That would be just my luck. Though if anything like that happens, please tell the police to look for a guy who has the same phone number as the film company that until recently lived in my house (don't tell them it was called Shit Films. It wasn't).
On the positive side, if someone does break my legs, it will get me out of running the Marathon.
By the end of the night I was a bit less freaked out. The warning was intended just to scare me and it was unlikely that he would follow up on it. Perhaps the people of Shit Films have absconded because they've been up to no good, or perhaps someone has just appropriated their details for fraudulent purposes. I suspect that as being the poor chump who now lives in their former premises that this won't be the last I hear of all this.
I will be changing my phone number in the morning.
Unfortunately it's less easy to change my address.

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