Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a beautiful blue-eyed, blonde girl was born. She was the much yearned for daughter of Mr and Mrs Hartman; a modest couple, living a modest life in a part of Sussex known as Tinseltown. For this doting pair, their baby girl was their greatest treasure, a bundle of joy they had awaited for years. It was her happy smile as she rode her bike, her diverting giggle and loving nature that gave this couple life. For this reason they named her Brooke; the bubbling fomenting source of the river of life. She was the pure beginning, a nascent stream that would surge out and take her place in the world.

However, the Hartman’s loved their little girl so much they felt fear and trepidation for her future. They lived in terror of an evil creature known to all and sundry as the ‘monster of insecure finances.’ The Hartman’s lived a modest life in a modest house, unsullied by loans or debts but felt afraid of the big wide world that Brooke would one day flow into. It had become a different place, one where debt, loans, hire purchase and credit cards roamed free, ready to ensnare the unsuspecting in financial turmoil. Although Brooke was a happy little girl, some of her parents’ anxiety took up residence in her soul. She understood they had given her life. Like the source of a river, she needed their continued presence and guidance to ensure her survival.

Throughout her childhood, all remained in harmony. The Hartman’s formed a perfect little unit of three. Mr and Mrs Hartman were able to protect their precious girl from the harsh realities of the world and the monster of insecure finances. Each night Mr Hartman would turn to his wife and smile, knowing all was safe and secure in their daughter’s world. Brooke was of a sunny disposition, she excelled at school and her rambling and imaginative tales kept her playmates happily diverted when lessons became dull. It was only as Brooke reached the age of eighteen that storm clouds began to gather.

Although her academic prowess meant Brooke could have gone on to study a secure profession, such as accountancy or law, her free nature was calling. She had always had an affinity with birds in the trees, horses down the lane and rabbits on the meadow. Childhood visits to the zoo had been like a reunion with long-lost friends; dust covered elephants, curious giraffes and cheeky monkeys spoke a language she could comprehend. Brooke knew she was destined to be a zoologist. Mr Hartman was worried. He knew the life of a zoologist could be precarious with long hours and low pay. Moreover, if Brooke went away to university, then harmony of the family would be disturbed.

Just as Brooke’s lifeblood flowed from her parents, so they were nourished and sustained by their beautiful daughter. As the spectre of university approached, Brooke could sense the strength of her father begin to wane. She was filled with fear. She understood that all things in the universe should be balanced. Without the tributaries of both her parents her future could become insecure.

Brooke became watchful of her father. Every night, as far back as her memory stretched, she had seen him sit in his modest chair, at his modest table, in his modest house and turn to his wife and smile; a smile of pure peace and happiness. This smile had now gone. Brooke was frightened. She asked her father why he no longer smiled each night. With tears in his eyes he explained how his ‘hart’ was troubled. Thoughts of her leaving their modest way of living, exchanging it for a precarious student existence of budget-busting bedsits, bars and beer-halls, filled him with dread. His smile had gone because he could no longer be certain that his blonde princess was safe from financial insecurity.

Brooke felt the pain of her father in her own heart. She knew that one day she would have to leave the sheltered waters of her home and flow into the big wide world but perhaps that day had not yet come. Brooke realised she could choose a local school of zoology and thus remain within the safe harbour of the family home for a few more years. As she voiced her decision to her parents Brooke felt the resurgence of her father’s strength; harmony of the Hartman home was restored. That evening Mr Hartman once again sat in his modest chair, at his modest table, in his modest home and smiled a smile of peace and happiness.

Thus proceeded an interlude of tranquillity. Brooke flourished at university; secure in the knowledge she could return to the comforts of her family home each evening. Storm clouds no longer visited her horizon; studying from home meant Brooke had no need of unsecured finance. The monsters of debt, loans and credit cards no longer haunted Mr Hartman’s dreams. Being a true Hartman, Brooke wanted her financial situation to be rock-solid. To this end she sought part-time employment at a beautiful restaurant. Unfortunately, its secluded location meant reaching it was difficult. However, Brooke had always harboured a secret desire to exchange her pedal bike for a full-blooded motorised version. Now, with the prospect of a steady income, this seemed like the perfect time to abandon buses, taxis and reliance on others.

Visiting a local motorbike dealership, Brooke was at first perturbed. The money needed to purchase these machines was far more than she currently possessed. She feared her plan would come to ruin before it had even begun. Yet beside her suddenly appeared a cuddly young panda bear in a sharp suit and loafers. The coy panda portrayed himself as her knight in shining armour, describing a process known as ‘hire purchase,’ where she could be loaned the money to buy the bike of her dreams. Brooke was elated, believing her wish was to come true. Moreover, a colourful Lizard with a charming smile, who introduced himself as “Payment Protection Insurance; PPI to his nearest and dearest”, accompanied the panda. He said that he hoped himself and Brooke would soon become firm friends. If Brooke were to effect Payment Protection Insurance on her purchase, not only would her payments be future-proofed, her financial agreement with playful Mr Panda would be viewed more favourably. Brooke, overcome by such friendly and intelligent advice, immediately signed up with Lizard.

However, as is often sadly true in fairy tales, all was not as it seemed. Erstwhile Lizard was actually evil in disguise, a denizen of the monster of insecure finances. A chameleon, luring Brooke to take out Payment Protection Insurance, whilst knowing she could never make a claim; as those working part-time hours were excluded from the policy. But our heroine was sadly ignorant of this fact and roared off on her motorbike believing herself not only protected by her shiny black leathers but also by her new friend PPI.

Brooke studied hard on her zoology course. Moreover, thanks to her part-time employment and decision to live at home, she maintained healthy finances; earning respect from both parents. For this reason, they were happy to agree with Brooke’s wish to take a gap year across the waters in France. Both believed she had shown she was now sufficiently worldly-wise to escape exigencies of insecure finances. However, Mr Hartman would not have been true to his nature if he had not impressed upon Brooke the need to maintain her vigilance against the monster of insecure finances. He spoke of the dangers of becoming overdrawn on her bank account; les Français would not take kindly to bouncing cheques. To avert this possibility Brooke took out several credit cards. With 56-days interest-free guaranteed, they seemed a certain means of staying in the black and avoiding the need to carry around pockets full of cash.

It was at this time that Brooke once again heard from Lizard PPI, showing he was indeed a true friend. As she took on each new credit card, an official looking envelope would arrive on her doormat, an epistle from Lizard PPI. They were letters of timely warning, exhorting her to take out Payment Protection Insurance for every new card. Believing this advice to be nothing but the best of intentions, from one who wanted to save her from the monster of insecure finances, Brooke accepted each invitation.

Unfortunately, again as is oft in the land of fairy tales, all was not as it seemed. Remember Lizard was a chameleon; Brooke could no more make a claim on her policy whilst abroad than she could if she was unemployed. These little details may have been included in another letter from Lizard but by this time Brooke had already set sail.

France was indeed a very big adventure, particularly the land of the Loire with its fairy tale castles and beautiful rivers. Brooke would often feel a twinge of homesickness as she recalled her parents; source of the lifeblood flowing through her veins. But she knew, like all rivers, she must find her own route to the sea. Moreover, she was not making this journey alone. She had met a young man named Jacques, a prince fit to inhabit one of the very castles of the Loire that she so adored. Their romance blossomed, as romance is sure to do between young people.

At the year’s end Brooke returned to England to her modest parents, living their modest life. This was a time for celebration. First was her graduation, as a fully-fledged zoologist, then the meeting between prospective parents-in-law.

All seemed harmonious in the world. After being employed by London Zoo Brooke became the guardian of the dusty elephants, curious giraffes and cheeky monkeys of her childhood dreams. Her relationship with her prince of the Loire continued to flourish. They set up home together, buying a modest flat in North London. Mr Hartman’s initial misgivings about Brooke’s young prince, (as father’s will always have doubts of their daughter’s suitors) were quickly silenced when they announced they had taken the advice of Lizard and secured their payments with Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance. Mr Hartman felt reassured that he could hand over the mantle of protecting Brooke from the monster of insecure finances to her young man.

This happiness was not to last. As happens in fairy tales, all was not as it seemed. Brooke’s prince was not so princely; he broke her heart and she was forced to leave their little flat and rent a studio nearer home. For once Lizard PPI was not on hand for advice but believing she should still follow that wise creature’s instructions she continued to pay premiums. Like her relationship with Jacques, this was a futile exercise; Brooke was renting so any claim would fall on deaf ears.

Ever hopeful of finding her prince charming, Brooke was never destined to be alone for long. A young man by the moniker of Dodger was soon to cross her path. Although his name would have no doubt caused qualms in the heart of many a girl, Brooke was immediately smitten. This time she was determined to have her fairy tale wedding, for what girl has not harboured this secret ambition. Following a whirlwind romance they were wed in a lavish ceremony attended by friends, family (and, of course, Lizard PPI was present to give the happy couple his blessing.) Brooke organised the honeymoon to surprise her beloved and, as befitting a zoologist, she chose a safari. As readers surely know, a safari is a costly excursion thus, to fund this venture, Brooke took on a personal loan at her local bank. This time Lizard was running a little late; wholly absent when Brooke signed the agreement. However, on arrival at the bank he judiciously advised the clerk to tick the appropriate box on Brooke’s behalf. After all, he was the wisest of Lizards and the most cunning chameleon of them all.

Dodger rapidly established himself in the city, earning large sums as an investment banker. Though what he was investing in, and for whom, he was never quite sure. Nevertheless he was rewarded handsomely in bonuses and likewise rewarded himself by indulging a passion for gambling; a secret he did not see fit to share with his bride.

To all appearances Brooke and Dodger were living the dream. They had been blessed with three children: blue-eyed, blonde-haired beauties all round. They owned a handsome house, a menagerie of pets and Brooke had even been able to return part-time to the job she loved at London Zoo. However, if the couple had taken the time to admire the view from their French mullioned windows, they would have seen that storm clouds were gathering once again.

Secrets have a nasty habit of losing their clandestine nature, as Dodger was to discover. His gambling creditors made their presence felt at his city office. With banks apparently being in the business of accumulating rather than losing money, his employers took a dim view of his expensive vice. Dodger was dismissed that very day with no reference and little hope for his future prospects.

Brooke, previously innocent to the realities of insecure finances, now felt a presence; a monster was stirring. She was fearful for the future. Three children meant everything in triplicate: three pairs of new shoes, three school uniforms, three birthday parties, three school trips. Brooke wondered how all these expenses could ever be met. Although she knew it would pain her father greatly if he were ever to find out, she agreed to Dodger’s suggestion that they take out a loan to see them through their troubles. Brooke returned to her local bank, which was now managed by a smooth talking man whose nameplate introduced him as Mr Penguin. It appears Mr Penguin must have been in cahoots with Lizard. No sooner was the loan agreed than he was persuading the couple they needed Payment Protection Insurance. Penguin the banker talked a good story, he led them to believe that PPI was the choice for them; neglecting to tell them a standalone policy could offer better premiums and wider cover. Moreover, Penguin committed the cardinal sin of not doing his homework properly. This left him unaware that, even with a joint loan, PPI would only apply to the first named individual. It goes without saying that Dodger, suffering a little from a swollen head, made sure his name appeared first on the agreement. As a result Brooke was left unprotected.

Our tale now enters a rather tragic phase. Having squandered the family’s finances with his gambling ways, Dodger fled the scene never to be heard from again. Brooke was left to support the three children and their need for everything in triplicate. Our heroine worked every hour of every day to support her brood and keep the financial monsters from her door. But to no avail. Her beautiful blue eyes lost their sparkle and her blonde hair became dull. Her mind lost its levity and she became weighed down with stress. Debilitating back pain weakened her body. Brooke felt that the nightmare of insecure finances that her father had often warned of had come true. Sums owed had become so huge that their handsome house was repossessed. As her family fell on the mercy of the local authority to accommodate them, she could only dream of the secure walls of her modest childhood home.

Her burden became intolerable. Brooke, believing she had let her family down and allowed the monster of insecure finance to rampage through their lives, suffered a mental break down. Luckily her parents knew it was they who were the life source of their daughter. Thus Mr and Mrs Hartman took her and her three children, blue-eyed, blonde-haired beauties every one, into safe harbour. With the nourishment of her loving family, Brooke was able to recover and take her place in the big wide world once more.

Forced sale of the handsome family house allowed Dodger’s debts to be repaid. This gave Brooke a fresh start. She resumed fulltime work in the job she loved at London Zoo with the dusty elephants, curious giraffes and cheeky monkeys. With her newly found stability, Brooke decided to purchase a caravan, a home-from-home and whimsical means to explore the countryside with her offspring. Whilst she chose to buy it second-hand the caravan was still a costly item. Brooke needed finance to facilitate her purchase. Readers will be unsurprised to learn that Miss Dolphin, the caravan saleswoman, emphasised the necessity of Payment Protection Insurance for her loan and called in Lizard to seal the deal. Brooke, having felt the ravages of insecure finances was content to pay premiums; believing they would keep her safe. However, as we know, Lizard was the most cunning of chameleons. The security offered by PPI was nothing but a sham. Brooke’s previous back problems, well-documented battle with stress and her nervous breakdown meant she would be unable to claim for such ailments.

Unaware of the false security being touted by Lizard, Brooke continued to forge ahead with her life. Working regular hours, with regular wages, Brooke became a prime candidate for credit card companies. These vultures began to circle overhead: each promising positives devoid of pain, instant purchasing power with no worries about bills until some distant horizon. Wanting to treat her children, blue-eyed, blonde-haired beauties every one, she accepted invitations from several cards. These she secured, as a matter of course, with Payment Protection Insurance.

Unfortunately, tragedy had not yet finished its dalliance with Brooke. The storm clouds had yet to disperse. One day, whilst feeding the elephants at the zoo, Max, oldest and grumpiest of the herd, knocked her over. The injury to her back was so painful, Brooke was unable to work. Believing her finances to be secure, thanks to safeguards offered by Lizard, she tried to make a PPI claim. However, as we well know, our Lizard was the most changeable of chameleons. His safeguards were meaningless. Brooke’s pre-existing medical conditions and ailments meant her claims were refused.

If our tale were to end here it would be a very sorry state of affairs. Our heroine has tried to lead a blameless life. She has felt the breath of the monster of insecure finances upon her journey but attempted to keep her family fully secure. Sadly, following advice of the seemingly wise Mr Panda, Mr Penguin, Miss Dolphin and their friend Lizard we now know that PPI was not in her best interests. Lizard was not merely lazy but a chameleon. He offered assurances of financial security with his Payment Protection Insurance, although, in reality, this was an illusion. The policies he offered were not keeping her secure, exclusions and exemptions meant Brooke would never be able to make a successful claim. Mis-selling anything is wrong, but falsehoods in financial security are particularly unpleasant. For whom can you trust if not your bank manager and their staff.

At the point where you might despair for the future of our heroine, seemingly trapped in the very worst of places, a transformation occurred. At long last Lizard’s cover was blown. The world had come to realise that he was a chameleon, offering financial security to millions with insurance that might not be valid. He was the very worst vulture in disguise. Fortunately, as is the way of fairy tales, this blaggard would be forced to repent for his misdemeanours; all the people who had been mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance would be able to claim back their money. However, as can occur in these circumstances, many intermediaries wanted to be part of the showdown with Lizard.

Brooke, inundated with telephone calls from firms offering to secure recompense, selected a company at random. They did not present her case in full and her quest for restitution was rejected on the basis of insufficient evidence.

Providentially, at this moment, Brooke’s fairy godmother made a belated but welcome entry into our tale. She advised Brooke about a claims management company being highly spoken of. They excelled at PPI cases like Brooke’s, where requests for compensation had been rejected. Brooke made a careful note of the name and contacted PPI Advice the very next day. They went back through our heroine’s saga of woe. They re-visited the PPI hire-purchase for her beloved motorbike (not valid because she was only working part-time), PPI for her credit cards in the lovely Loire (not valid because she was living abroad), MPPI on her little London flat (invalidated after her sad split with Jacques and her return to the rental market). They re-examined the policy she was forced to accept on her loan after heartless Dodger gambled away the family finances (meaningless as it only applied to the first named policy holder), the personal cover for her caravan loan (negated due to her pre-existing medical conditions) and insurance policies to protect her recent abundance of credit cards (useless due to her previous ailments).

The good people at PPI Advice were able to turn this tale of woe into a happy ending that would serve any fairy tale well. Their careful investigation of her nine separate claims of mis-selling resulted in Brooke being awarded £16,382 in compensation, a dizzy sum that increased further to £21,746 once interest was added. Her influx of capital had an even happier outcome. It enabled her to recapture a childhood dream: she purchased a titan of a motorbike and took to the track racing the national circuit.

Brooke felt that, by putting her in contact with PPI Advice, her fairy godmother really had made all her wishes come true.

 

READERS SHOULD NOTE THAT THIS STORY IS COMPLETELY FICTIONAL.

RESEMBLENCE TO PERSONS, PAST OR PRESENT, IS PURELY COINCIDENTAL AND BY NO MEANS INTENTIONAL