*** Kevin Kiernan presents a selection of letters received by Ann Drewes, Barbican’s own agony aunt ***

Dear Auntie Ann 

Lengthy waits at the GP or A+E can be a worry, but I think I can help. I am a clairvoyant, I use Precision Tarot which is like normal Tarot, but it’s much more accurate. The spirits we use from the ‘other’ world are all scientists and mathematicians, albeit dead ones. Dead accuracy is their watchword, and they can predict when you are likely to need to go to A+E.  

So, say we predict that you will need A+E in 10 days’ time. If the current wait at A+E is 6 days, then you turn up at the end of day 4 and start your six day wait. This also means that you will be queuing when you are still healthy, which is always a plus. We also supply sudokus, crosswords and 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzles to while away those tedious hours.

AA replies: Another reader has suggested that you can go to A+E as a visitor and, when no one is looking, stick yourself on an empty trolley with medical notes attached and start groaning. This has the advantage of not needing help from the 6th Dimension.

Dear Auntie Ann

Go by rail, during a rail strike? It’s more than possible. Do you remember those old films where people would travel along a railway on a handcar – basically a small platform on wheels with a seesaw mechanism up top, allowing you to manually power the handcar along the tracks.  You can achieve 7 miles an hour. Less, if you like to stop at stations for form’s sake. Down gradients will speed you up, but uphill gradients are trickier, and you might need to use all your power just to stop going backwards.  Some of the longer trips may be a little out of scope, but Barbican to Farringdon shouldn’t prove too problematic. Do make sure that there is a strike, before you take to the rails. 

AA:  Travelling at that speed gives you plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, particularly the tunnels.

Dear Auntie Ann

I think I have been subjected to a bank scam. A recent spam letter I received claimed they would be shutting down my account and asking me to take my overdraft somewhere else.  To be fair I have been continuously overdrawn for some years. A number was provided, which I rang, but when I heard an automated voice saying that my call was very important to them, and that a call handling member of their robot team would not be available for another 67 minutes, I began to realise that perhaps they were a genuine bank after all. 

AA: Useful tip – how to spot a non-scam.

Dear Auntie Ann 

My wife and I have our ups and downs, although downs seems the current trend.  However she did  say that, despite everything, it is nice to have my presence (albeit inert) in the flat. All I had to do was not to speak and not to move. Even so, I realised that things were getting potentially serious when my  wife ordered a discarded waxwork from Madame Tussauds. Apparently the pile of discarded ex cabinet ministers is causing in blockage in their Goods Outwards. Will I be replaced?

AA: I notice that gins, if they are flavoured with some fruit essence such as Elderflower or Pomegranate, have shot up in popularity (and price). Perhaps if you douse yourself with some of these flavourings your own popularity may increase. What do you think?

I received another missive from the same address as above

Dear Auntie Ann

I notice that on certain days you can pop along to St Giles’ Church, deposit unwanted items and then also pick up anything that takes your fancy. I wonder whether the organisers have considered whether they could extend the scope to include humans, such as my partner, particularly as he seems to have a strange smell about him these days. Picking up an alternative partner sounds interesting. I am not really looking for a long-term change, as there is a lot of legal stuff which would make it pricey, but a short break from his more annoying habits would be welcome. 

AA: I am not sure that the Rector would approve of a partner swapping service within the Church’s purlieu.

Dear Auntie Ann

Now that the London Museum has closed,  the highwalk around it has an intriguing air of windswept desolation. So, I propose we can bring back the tourists with a selection of haunted walks. We can hire actors to spring up out of nowhere when you are taking your late evening stroll around that section of the highwalk. At the end of October there could be a Halloween Special. The opportunities are endless.

AA: A better idea than the Skateboard park which is the Culture Miles’s latest suggestion.

Dear Auntie Ann

I think my partner, Tyrone, might have become a super geek. Whenever we speak on the phone, I have to text him a six digit verification code before we can continue the call. Even face-to-face is tricky.  He seems to think that unverified face to face communication is fraught with danger. I try to reassure him by telling him where we met yesterday and what he had for dinner last night and point to my ‘I love Tyrone’ tattoo. He ignores that and simply asks me for my Mother’s maiden name. Is this dystopian or is it the new normal?

AA: He does seem risk averse. He might have had a bad experience with identical triplets. All too common these days.

Dear Auntie Ann

IT pundits tend to focus on the strength of passwords, but no attention is made to keeping our names secure. The current trend for seemingly misspelt first names such as Jayne or Jaine  for Jane is helpful, and may well confuse the scammer, but we really need to do it properly and have names at least 8 characters long with an upper case letter a number and a symbol. So Jane becomes  j36a4Ne!  The symbol at the end could be useful in indicating one’s  character. IE: ‘=’  is even tempted, ‘#’ means tends to make a hash of things, ‘?’ Always asking questions. What do you think? 

AA   All I can say is ‘!’ .

PS: You don’t know Tyrone, do you?

Dear Auntie Ann

Highly polished cutlery, crisp, white starched tablecloths and napkins, gleaming glasses. Discreet but super-efficient service. Just the right atmosphere for a sophisticated evening of discourse or possibly romance?

The only thing that can spoil it, of course, is calorific food and toxic drink. After all, according to some pundit or other, there is hardly an item in the food and drink sections of Waitrose which doesn’t pose a serious health risk. Even if it is safe, you may be tempted to over-indulge.

So, the new restaurant in Hoxton, Zero, addresses these concerns by not serving food or drink at all. You sit there, in elegant surrounding, sipping super expensive Norwegian Spring Water – sourced some distance away from their Nuclear Facility at Telemark. For entertainment, customers are given ‘menus’ showing various food and drink items and their associated risks, rather similar to the lurid photos on cigarette packets. The cover and service charges are hefty to cover costs, but what a liberating idea to provide a social rendezvous, free from dietary concerns. 

AA: A chilling sequel to the story of the Emperor and his ‘new clothes’.

Dear Auntie Ann

I am no snowflake, but I have to admit I don’t feel entirely comfortable living in a place called the Barbican. The name comes from the Latin word ‘Barbecana’ meaning a fortified outpost or gateway. It brings back memories of the Roman Empire and all the associated history on which I need not dwell. Why not rename the estate and, indeed, some of the blocks in commemoration of those brave souls who dared to stand up to Rome, such as Attila the Hun and Alaric (the Visigoth, although he likes to keep that quiet) and our own Boadicea?  There’s also Hannibal, of course, but modern associations with the name might cause upset. 

This suggestion may seem radical but, after all, what have the Romans done for us?

AA: Interesting point. I hadn’t considered claiming reparations from the Italians, but perhaps some of the local Italian restaurants could give extra discount when we present our residents card. It will save the UN needing to become involved.