That Time Again

There is a lady in York whom I speak to every February. My ten-minute phone conversation with her is a highlight of this short, little drab month. She is an insurance broker with whom I renew my car insurance – probably not usually a highlight in one’s calendar, but it is for me. Unbeknownst to her, she cast magic into my life a few years back, which has set firm ever since, so much so that her annual call is a candle lit. Six years on, whenever I hear her Yorkshire accent say, ‘Hello, Eimear, it’s that time again,’ I am enormously happy to hear her.

You see, once upon a time, my husband died unexpectedly and, amongst other things that were neglected by in the immediate aftermath, I forgot to renew my car insurance – for almost a year. So much fell by the wayside at that time, so why not an innocuous renewal letter? For many months, I drove around Ireland, north and south, blithely (except there was nothing blithe about me at the time) unaware of my precarious (one never likes to admit to the term ‘illegal’) road-worthy status. Ten months a widow, and I was on the move, to Scotland: a relocation, a fresh start, a helpless, hapless, hopeful leap. It precipitated in me a fresh energy and a temporary ability to attend to some life administration which included me calling my car insurer to amend my policy, provide them with a change of address, etc.

I was moving from Northern Ireland to Scotland, but, having lived in Yorkshire with my husband just before he died (and then a brief move to Northumbria), my insurance papers (that I had yet to notice were out of date) reminded my addled mind that the broker was York-based. I remembered her well: that lovely lady in the office close to The Shambles, right in the centre of York. The firm had been recommended to me, and I’d been a walk-in, a face-to-face client, so much better than dealing with an online bot someone on the phone. In selling me insurance, she had ascertained a few things about me, this and that, nothing too intrusive: a rapport, might be how you’d describe it, we had built a rapport.

I phoned to tell her I was moving to Scotland, that I had moved to Ireland in the interim, I filled her in on why. She didn’t brush over my bereavement, fear it, skirt it, the way some people did. She faced it, stayed with it, said she was sorry: “What? When? Tell me. Oh no! I am sorry, so sorry.” She was human and real, she talked and listened, and then she got around to telling me I had been uninsured – unless I had taken up a new policy in Ireland. No, definitely not. I think there may have been a gentle chiding by her at my negligence, combined with a deeper understanding as to why I’d dropped the ball. She sorted me out and a bond was formed. She took her time over the paperwork, sensing, correctly, I needed to go slow.

That first year after I’d moved, she called me a little while in advance of the next renewal date – ‘In case you miss it in the post,’ she said, shorthand for ‘are you still grief-mad?’ ‘How are you settling in?’ she said, two years into the move. ‘What about this Covid lark? They’re talking about a lockdown, surely not,’ she said in year three. In year four, we reviewed what had been the wipeout of 2020. ‘How have you coped with the last year?’ Last year it was a simple, ‘It’s me again!’ And this year’s question was straight forward but profound. ‘Any significant changes?’ she asked. Of course, it was about the car, but it got me thinking that most significant changes are slow and therefore disguised as insignificant.

She triggers the opposite of PTSD in me (whatever that is). I’m back to that moment when she was practical – reinstating my car insurance – and emotional – taking the time to be empathetic and kind. Now, I feel better in myself just hearing her voice. If she were to ring me up and say, ‘Eimear, my love,’ (she’s from Yorkshire, where people call those they don’t know very well ‘my love’ and get away with it) ‘I’m afraid to tell you your premium has gone up by one thousand pounds,’ I think I would simply say to her, ‘Do have the card machine handy, Sharon? Let’s get it sorted.’

12 thoughts on “That Time Again

  1. Eimear, simply class, amazing story. I love it! And do you know what I love about this.. is how honest you write, of being human and letting the rest of us know, talk about it don’t shy away from it. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely read about very sad and life-changing circumstances, but told with your wonderful aplomb and turn of phrase. Your Yorkshire lady reminded me of a German lady in Tuebingen (near Stuttgart) where I lived for a while. My toddler son and I would go to the bakery part of the supermarket for his post-kindergarten pretzel. There was always the free cookie first, that he would stand on tiptoes to receive. She did this for all the children, but it meant so much at the time to us – me, a dazed mother, and River an energetic child. Great post, Eimear! x

    Liked by 1 person

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