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Dial hard with a vengeance

The Diary hears rumours of how the boss at a big IFA firm used to have a very different take on cold-calling. He would play pranks on passers-by by taking advantage of two phone boxes situated across the road from his office.

On slow days, he would wait until one phone box was occupied, then ring the number of the second phone box. Anyone answering would be told that MI5 wanted to apprehend the person in the neighbouring phone box and would they mind awfully trying to delay him until they could get there.

On one occasion, the police arrived to arrest the unsuspecting “patriot” trapping a distressed “subversive” in his phone box.

The Diary refuses to believe that any such behaviour went on, even in past days when margins were not so tight. But any suggestions as to the identity of the prankster would be more than welcome.

•Cheltenham is not only the frontline of IFA technology warfare, with The Exchange and Assureweb at different ends of the high street, but also the location for one of BBC2&#39s seminal comedy series.

Readers of a certain age will recall having watched Wendy Craig&#39s masterful portrayal of bored housewife Rita in Butterflies. But they may not know that the house used in the series belonged to none other than Chris Owen, group marketing director of The Exchange&#39s parent Marlborough Stirling.

Owen would often come home to find Craig, a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst and Geoffrey Palmer thesping away in his front garden.

While interior shots were done in a London studio, all external shots for the series – which was BBC2&#39s most watched programme in the early 1980s – were done on location in Cheltenham.

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