"Hello, my name is Alice…" said the woman at the other end of the phone.
My heart skipped a beat: I thought it must be Dr Alice Roberts phoning to thank me for my vote of confidence the other day. Those crazy Italians sure missed an opportunity there! But then I realised that this lady did not sound at all like Dr Alice Roberts: she did not have Dr Alice Roberts' low, slightly nasal, West Country accent. I am by no means an expert on accents, but I would put good money on this particular Alice's accent originating somewhere on the Asian subcontinent.
Before I could ask Alice whether, by any chance, she happened to know my good friend Jackie Chan Singh, Alice explained that she worked in the IT Support department of the company named Microsoft Windows, and that the computer which was attached to my telephone had reported to them that it was about to crash.
Yikes! I said that sounded very serious and asked Alice if there was anything she could do to help me. Fortunately, there was.
While I waited for my computer to boot, I asked Alice where she was phoning from, as the quality of the line was appalling, making it very difficult for me to hear what she was saying. Alice explained that she was calling from Manchester. I told her that I had heard of the place. It did not occur to me to ask Alice how my computer had managed to report that it was about to crash when it had been turned off for the last 24 hours. Computers are so clever these days!
Alice then proceded to give me some instructions in order to prevent my computer from crashing. They were awfully complicated. It took me a good few minutes to locate the first key she wanted me to press. It turned out that she wanted me to press the Windows key. I think she must have been trying to avoid using technical jargon. Then she wanted me to press the ‘R’ key. The responses I was giving were not at all what Alice expected. It turned out that she wanted me to press the Windows and ‘R’ keys at the same time. Stupid me!
I explained to Alice that I could now see a box which said Run at the top and Open underneath. Now we were cooking on gas! This was exactly what Alice was hoping I would see. She then got me to type in a whole pile of letters one after the other: "E for Edward, V for Victor…" and so on. I was still having great difficulty hearing what Alice was saying, so I ended up making lots and lots and lots of mistakes. It took me ages. I have to hand it to Microsoft Windows, the people in their IT Support department have the patience of saints.
After what seemed like an age, Alice finally managed to get me to type in the word EVENTVWR and to press enter.
"What does it now say on your screen?" asked Alice.
"OH MY GOD!! IT SAYS I'M UNDER ATTACK!!" I almost shouted. "WHAT SHOULD I DO?!!!!"
"I'm sorry, I did not hear you properly," said Alice. "What does your screen say?"
"There's a big warning box on my screen. It says: ‘You are under attack: a very naughty woman calling herself Alice is trying to get you to do very silly things on your computer as part of a scumbag phishing attack!’" I gasped. "I have absolutely no idea what that means, but it sounds really bad! Do you have any idea what it means, Alice?"
Alice was still struggling to hear me and asked me to repeat the message.
I repeated the message. Before I could ask Alice whether she was in any way connected with News International and my sworn enemy, Murdoch, however, the line went dead. Those damned dodgy Manchester telephone exchanges!
So I thought I'd better post this quick update before my computer crashes.
Normal disservice will be resumed as soon as possible.