Saturday 1 January 2005
Two thousand and five
We prepared for the New Year by taking the waters at the pub next door last night, before retiring to our sofa with the kittens. Today, we walked off the excess with a long walk through the fields and woods around the next village, in the company of a whole bunch of the locals, plus H’s parents, sister and brother-in-law.
And we’re still eating chocolate.
McGhee to leave?
Read the report following today’s goalless draw with QPR, and you’ll get the impression that Brighton will be managerless again just as soon as a better offer comes along.
My wife is de-Christmassing the house already. Somehow, I feel that it is slightly premature to do so, but she tells me that it is "New Year’s Day – not Christmas any more".
This does have one significant advantage. With all the cards removed from the shelves, I can now get to my CD collection again without causing an avalanche of festive greetings. This is a good thing, although I am reminded that I am yet to alphabetise the discs and update the catalogue of the collection to cover recent purchases (admittedly very few, but we got three CDs for Christmas and purchased a further eight in Brighton the other day). It also looks like we’ll be merging our collections, so there will be two or three duplicates that will be sold off on Amazon in order to fund a new purchase or two.
Sunday 2 January 2005
Cover your ears
Stars to record fund-raising song for tsunami victims – all very laudable, but do we really want to listen to Cliff, Ronan and Boy warbling their way through a song penned by Mike Read??
Monday 3 January 2005
Who needs TV…
…when you have kittens? I’m currently sitting at the kitchen table. Monty is racing from the conservatory through the kitchen to the living room and back, carrying a length of red ribbon (favourite toy – who needs wind-up mice?) in his mouth, with Treacle about 2 inches behind him. It has to be said that his cornering ability when at speed on the lino needs some improvement.
Load of old pants
Is it me, or is the Beeb on a mission to write loads of rubbish about blogs at the moment?
- Looming pitfalls of work blogs going over the Queen of the Skies thing again.
- Bloggers reveal their motives – well, two do anyway, and whilst their motives are interesting, they are far from representative. And check out the fascinating "12 Rules" section.
- Web logs aid disaster recovery – note the lack of consistency of terminology at the Beeb – weblogs, blogs, web logs, etc.
- Blogs take on the mainstream – a shocking example of lazy journalism, as eloquently pointed out by Gordon.
I dunno. Is the Beeb just trying to be cool and "down wid da kidz"? They even try to present news coverage in pseudo-blog format, in which they cull reports from other media (mainstream online news reporting, radio and television coverage) and cobble them together in "reporters’ log" format (recent example). This does not really give the reporters completely free rein to report with any sort of freedom (FOOC remains the only true home of that, and that is a reprocessed radio programme). The only true blogs on the Beeb, as I would understand them, have been Ivan Noble’s moving tumor diary and the fabulous but late and lamented Newslog by Nick Robinson (a man who seems like a fish out of water at ITN).
Perhaps I’m expecting too much to have truly free reporting in blog format on the Beeb – it might be the wrong place, the wrong organisation or simply the wrong style for a "serious" news reporting organisation. But it would be good if there was a little more proper understanding of the form – maybe that is too much to hope for from a body so deeply entrenched in established media formats.
Tuesday 4 January 2005
Silly possibly, but quite addictive once you get into it.
What is a blog?
Only 38% of Americans know what a blog is – this doesn’t surprise me in the least. I wouldn’t mind betting that in the UK the percentage is even smaller.
What the fox hat?
Spotted in a field near home the other day:
It is shown on the OS map as a "beacon" but what sort of beacon exactly? Is it a landing marker for UFOs? Is it, in fact, a crashed UFO? Will my brain be fried if I walk near it again?
Answers to the usual address.
Because you need kittens…
Treacle in the living room. She’s gradually getting more confident, but still very much prefers to do things on her own terms and keeps herself to herself.
Monty, on the other hand, is a riot on four legs.
Spending a penny
Wednesday 5 January 2005
Even in normally quiet Ruralville, the silence was noticable. Until the phone rang.
Chris the Ninja Pirate 2. Yarr!
Thursday 6 January 2005
I’ve got a backlog of ten hours of listening of recent editions of Global House Connection, largely due to not keeping pace over Christmas, but also as a result of the return to weekly programming there now that Constantin is broadcasting from Hamburg. Anyway, judging by the playlists, I need to get on with listening, and so should you.
Microsoft releases "free" tools
Ooooh! I spy a new revenue stream for MS!
So, this is, on the one hand, a good thing, as it should lead to a reduction in infected Windows PCs globally. Tick v.g.
On the other hand, isn’t this anti-competitive, particularly when viewed from the point of view of the anti-virus and anti-adware software companies? I think I’ll hold fire before downloading and installing and see what the perceived wisdom is – after all, my machine is currently virus and adware free due to the non-MS software that I run.
Blob Farm – move the blobs away from the puddle of goo and other things that might kill them.
Friday 7 January 2005
And in other news…
To give you some variety from the normal diet of current affairs culled from the BBC News pages, here are some headlines from CNN:
- Democrats force debate on election mishaps – won’t change anything, but might just improve things for the next time around (but then a lot of people said that after the last time). See also 20 facts about voting in the USA.
- Americans polled offered more prayer than cash to tsunami victims. This speaks volumes about the state of the American nation, as well as being a damning indictment of the screwed up idea of faith that most people have (I was taught at school that giving was an integral part of Christianity – it seems that the American people have forgotten that).
- Train crash kills 8, injures 240 in South Carolina. This story hasn’t been reported by the BBC at all at this time.
- New arrest in 1964 civil rights murder case – the case that inspired the film Mississippi Burning. Pity that it has taken 40 years to get to this stage.
Whilst using SiteMeter to check the browsers that you all use to read this (IE 6 – 68%, Firefox – 22%, Netscape 3 – 1% – you poor thing!), I spotted one of those sidebar ads for eBay.
Umm, say what?
One twentieth of an hour
There has been discussion in several places about the three minute silence that was held on Wednesday in remembrance of the victims of the tsunami. I’ll point you to Vaughan’s site where I have commented on my concerns about "silence inflation".
BBC News – Seagulls fans (i.e. Attila the Stockbroker) release single in support of stadium campaign. And it looks like it’ll be in the top ten singles this week.
Whatever your footballing persuasion, buy it now and show support for the stadium campaign. Remember – it could be your club next.
EU constitutional treaty promotion
Spain begins ad campaign to promote the EU constitutional treaty.
90% of Spaniards polled knew little or nothing about the treaty. I suspect that the same is true in this country, but I also suspect that a majority of the populace have an opinion about the treaty.
Saturday 8 January 2005
Dirty computer screen? You need this.
Halfway through a book review
Avid readers of this site who have an eye for detail will have noticed that my "current reading" has been the same book for really rather a long time now. For once, this isn’t the result of laziness on my part in updating the sidebar, but is in fact due to the fact that I’m still ploughing my way through the book.
The book in question is Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky. You may recall that it was described as "devastating" by Tim Adams of the Observer on the back cover.
Now, I am able to present before the court several reasons why I’ve been chewing my way through this book at such a slow pace, having only reached page 150 of 237. Firstly, I started reading it in the days before we moved house, so time for reading was at something of a premium. Secondly, we have had Christmas and new kittens, both of which have provided distractions from the task at hand. And, thirdly, I took some time out to read Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem, which I got through in about three days, and found to be excellent.
But there are other reasons why I have taken so long to read Hegemony or Survival. Firstly, Chomsky’s presentation is, at best, an irritation. He has a tendency to place "quotations" liberally through each and every sentence, "not all of which" are accompanied by citations or references. At best, this makes the text "difficult to read" and "uneasy on the eye", breaking the flow of text across the line far too frequently to make the act of reading a pleasure. In fact, it is such a hindrance that it even gets in the way of "understanding" of the author’s meaning and intent, preventing a full and complete "assimilation" of the "facts" being presented to the reader.
(OK, I’ll stop now – I’m getting bored with typing all the "s. I think you get my point.)
Secondly, the quotations themselves are often so far removed from their context as to be meaningless to the reader. The quotation of one or two words from a source does not convey the meaning that was contained within the original source document or speech. Let me demonstrate – if I quote "Democrats [...] won’t change anything" to you, you’d think that I was saying that the Democrats were pretty much useless in every respect. However, if you read the entire paragraph (in this previous post on grayblog), you’d see that the intended meaning was quite different. I’m not sure whether this is part of Chomsky’s writing style, or was something forced upon him by editors and publishers keen to produce a lightweight volume small enough to appeal to the average reader of paperbacks and not limited to more academic circles. Either way, it is a practice that undermines the validity of Chomsky’s arguments.
Thirdly, even when offering a lengthier quotation, Chomsky has a tendency to either omit or provide incomplete references and citations for his sources. As an example, this is from Chapter 6 – I read it this morning, and it irritated me no end:
(I could start on the fact that "Minister of State" and "Cabinet" should both be capitalized, but I’ll let it go.) A reference to the notes at the back of the book is offered, which provides the following reference:
That is either laziness or the result of excessive pressure from an overzealous editor. Somehow I feel that the former is more likely than the latter. Either way, we have no idea which Minister of State made this statement, when, and in the context of what events. The quotation is rendered meaningless and does not support Chomsky’s argument.
And, fourthly, Chomsky’s tendency to take the discussion off at a tangent does not lend any weight to his arguments. To suddenly start talking about the American wars against the Native Americans when in the middle of a lengthy section on post-war US policy in Central America, particularly Nicaragua, seems odd at best. But then I was warned about that, as well as Chomsky’s habit of bending chronology to suit his argument (perhaps evidenced by my third point above, although we’ll probably never know), by Francis Wheen. And he often goes in circles and becomes self-contradictory too, but let’s not completely pull the man to pieces.
Strangely, though, I’m determined to see this book through to the end. I’m not convinced by a lot of Chomsky’s arguments, particularly when he tries to go beyond stating the obvious. He seems to attach an unreasonable amount of malicious aforethought to the political classes which, judging by the very few members of that class that I have met, they are rarely capable of (most not being capable of much thought at all). He also finds it unreasonable that politicians are motivated by senses of self-preservation or self-interest when the results of those motives conflict with his own ideas, yet applauds those same motives when the outcomes accord with his thoughts (e.g. Gerhard Schroeder refusing to support the Second Gulf War, which is not in any way surprising when he was so close to a general election; or the Turks not allowing US forces to use bases in their country when they have a large Kurdish community (oppressed or otherwise) who might use the opportunity to attempt to secede and form a Kurdish state with their Iraqi cousins).
But in spite of that, I want to explore his ideas and see if his book reaches some towering conclusion about the state of post-war US foreign policy. If I’m pleasantly (or otherwise) surprised, I’ll report back.
Sunday 9 January 2005
…for comment spammers: if you want to leave a comment spam, don’t put it in the most recent post as it is a bit, well, obvious.
Monday 10 January 2005
The instructions are all in foreign for this game, but the essence is that you click to make the birdy go up, try to collect the ickle birdies and avoid hitting the clouds or the floor.
Now I must get back to writing exciting contracts and mailing out thrilling application forms, but I thought that I should give you something more interesting to do than watching the rain drops roll down your office window.
I’ve just had a spam mail that has offered me the opportunity (according to the subject line) to "become a mammoth". What a great idea! With my amazing bulk, huge hairy coat and impressive tusks, I could walk around Ruralville striking fear into both of the customers at the post office! I could become a special attraction at the pub to help draw in more custom! I could even carry the shopping home from the supermarket without using a polluting car and provide an ample supply of manure for the garden! It seems like a win-win situation to me – where do I sign up?
Extreme farm simulator
I can see Lord Percy laughing Stuart Hall-style at this one. Shoot the UFOs before they can abduct all your cows whilst avoiding the falling bombs – genius!
Meanwhile, I’ll be collating and stapling application forms (just in case my wife or sister-in-law think I’m not doing any work).
Iapetus has a strange bulge around its middle. Too much beer, I suspect.
Utterly fascinating though – take a look at the JPL pages, particularly this page. Also, look forward to Huygens impacting on Titan in four days from today.
Tuesday 11 January 2005
Wednesday 12 January 2005
One man went to mow
Great excitement in our little house in Ruralville tonight as we use eBay to purchase a lawnmower, finally breaking my duck on successful eBay purchases.
Now to see if it is any good when it turns up. Further bulletins to follow.
Thursday 13 January 2005
Current favourite new-to-me weblog: The Flat at the Top of the Stairs, mainly for the high levels of footnote with each post.
Giacomo Nobbio, RIP. You have, at some time in your life, probably held one of Sig. Nobbio’s creations in your hand – over the last fifty years, he has been the world’s leading breeder of carnations, creating just about all of the most popular cut-flower varieties in cultivation today.
No lilies on his casket then.
McGhee says he wants to stay at Brighton, but there seem to be some caveats to that desire.
In the test match between England and South Africa that started today in Johannesburg, a no-ball was awarded against South Africa because they were fielding three men behind square on the leg side.
I’ve just heard that the NatWest branch in Barnham has been subject to an armed raid. I don’t know any more details than that at the moment, and it doesn’t seem to have been reported on any of the news services yet. It happened around 2pm today.
Whilst I was working in Barnham and living in Chichester, I used that branch as much as three or four times each week and got to know all the staff. I’m hoping that Lynne, Sandy, Sharon, Paula and everyone else there is ok.
My life as an EU Commissioner
Friday 14 January 2005
Couple name child Yahoo! A mad Romanian story! Hurrah! We haven’t had one of these in literally ages.
In a shocking development, I agree with the Duchess of York. Prince Harry’s appearance at a fancy dress party in a Nazi uniform was both in keeping with the theme of the party and in keeping with the behaviour of a normal 20 year old. Even though he has some German close relatives, it does not in any way imply that he is either a Nazi or a Nazi sympathiser. Will someone please get a grip here?!
As I have said elsewhere, if he had gone to the party dressed as King Kong, would people be outraged at his implied support for giant apes swatting at biplanes from the top of the Empire State Building whilst clutching a scantily-clad Faye Wray? I don’t think so.
It has to be said that Harry should have shown a little more forethought about the likely reaction of the tabloid hacks to his choice of costume, but let’s get it all in perspective, please!
BT business broadband borked. I’m one of the 70,000 customers that have this problem it seems – my connection has been patchy this afternoon, to say the least. Most infuriating.
Saturday 15 January 2005
It had to happen
Subject line of a spam message just received:
(For those that have no idea what I’m talking about, read this Wikipedia entry. I really ought to revive my old email signature that said "all your blog are belong to graybo".)
Mark Mardell’s Africa diary, with real personal content with amusing asides. Perhaps there is hope for BBC-sponsored quasi-blogging(™ Vaughan!) after all?
Monday 17 January 2005
Well, the mower arrived promptly. I can’t say much for the build quality, as the handles do not fix properly into the base and the safety cable snapped early on (but I’m savvy enough to use a mower safely and can easily
bodge repair these things later) – but such is life when you purchase a very cheap mower made in the PRC. It doesn’t so much cut the grass as beat it into submission, but I was giving it a fairly grim acid test on our saturated and rather long lawn.
The petrol filler cap was smashed on arrival, so I’ve emailed the vendor to see if a replacement can be provided. I’ll let you know how he responds.
The main thing is that our lawn has now been cut. I’m rather pleased about this, as it was bugging me to look at it each day, and I was starting to get concerned that the lengthy sward was hiding some wild animals that might leap on me as I walked to the shed.
Following my post the other day about this, here is a link to the actual blog.
Who knew that umlauts broke RSS?
"Sender" of a spam received today: "Hugh Conn".
Who says that spammers don’t have a sense of humour?
Tuesday 18 January 2005
The long way round
OK, here’s something for you to play with. Go to MapPoint on MSN and enter your starting city as Haugesund (it’s in Norway) and your destination as Trondheim (also in Norway) – a fairly plausible journey for a Norwegian to undertake, or for that matter, an Englishman taking the Newcastle to Haugesund ferry.
Now ponder on why MapPoint suggests that you take a 47 hour journey travelling through seven other countries (yes, SEVEN – England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and back to Norway), including two ferries and the Channel Tunnel.
What does this say about Microsoft? (And can anyone explain how their database could get it so wrong?)
Getting the bird
…or the rabbit. Virtual falconry.
Monty on the conservatory windowsill.
He’s keen to get outside, but I think that his tendency to meow at everything will prevent him from getting within fifty yards of any bird.
Dispassionate history of the swastika. Useful for putting down all the fools who want to see the symbol banned – if you follow their logic, pretty much every symbol should be banned (Union Flag for British atrocities during colonialism; Stars and Stripes for American hegemony [oops - been reading Chomsky toooooo long!]; the hammer and sickle for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan… I could go on…). It is time that nannying politicians stopped messing around at the edges and actually took steps to deal with the issues (for example – if they are so concerned about anti-Semitism, then take greater steps to improve education and tolerance, and also effectively punish those who use violence or desecration to promote such ideas).
I’ve been trying an old trick in an attempt to persuade the kittens not to wreck the houseplants. Each time they start playing with the leaves and damaging them, I dip my fingers into a jug of cold water that I have next to me and flick it over them. So far, I have a shredded palm and a wet floor – plus two damp kittens who don’t give a stuff. Suggestions?
Wednesday 19 January 2005
Are you male, single and interested in going to a fabulous party in Brighton on 29th January with some lovely food and great (female) company? If so, email me and I’ll put you in the picture.
(Somehow, I feel slightly dirty posting this, but it is all genuine and above board and to do with our good friends at LITK).
…Lord Percy, Aris, Kearn, Paul F and Nikki, with sightings of Ted and Dave. Thanks to Lord Percy and Lady Bren for fine hostability at Percy Towers. All preceded by a haircut with Karen, catching up on all of Paul R’s news.
Chichester seems alive and well and pretty much its normal self.
The truth about the new Airbus is revealed at B3ta.
Waving around your fire hose
Firefighter game. I actually have waved a firehose around. Insert your own smutty remarks here.
Thursday 20 January 2005
Big cat story
As Hels put it before she left for work this morning, there is only one big news story today – the Invasion of the Tabby Cat.
As I was brushing my teeth before coming downstairs this morning, I could hear meowing coming from somewhere and thought that it was our neighbour’s cat outside (it certainly wasn’t Monty’s meow and Treacle isn’t terribly talkative). When I came down to the kitchen to give them their breakfast, I found two kittens hiding under the dresser and our neighbour’s very large tabby cat on the conservatory windowsill! He or she seemed more concerned with how to get out than anything else, so I opened the door and he scurried off. Monty and Treacle then set about sniffing everything in the conservatory to make sure that he had gone, whilst Hels and I cleared up the few things that had been knocked over.
Which leaves a mystery – how the hell did he get in? No windows or doors were open during the night. We have a catflap but it was and still is locked. I tried to force it but felt that it was more likely to break than yield, and I couldn’t see how such a big cat could get through it without forcing it open. Perhaps there is some secret cat portal that we have yet to discover in this house.
Either way, Monty and Treacle don’t seem too bothered by their ordeal. Monty has resumed birdwatching duties from the windowsill and Treacle is chewing my slippers.
The replacement filler cap arrived yesterday.
Good news and bad
Well, the good news is that I’ve completed my tax return in time and will post it today. I was getting into a bit of a pickle, but a quick call to my accountant sorted out the problem I had and put my mind at rest – that’s what I pay him for, I guess.
The bad news is that I owe the Inland Revenue some money. Bah! If I’d got my finger out and done my return earlier, I could have had it taken from my tax code and paid in small amounts through the year. Instead, I’ll have to pay it all now. That’ll teach me.
Thankfully, PFE owes me some money, so I can jiggle funds around and cover the bill.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that if you haven’t done your tax return, DROP EVERYTHING AND DO IT NOW!
Friday 21 January 2005
The CD has arrived. Truly awful. But worth it. I think.
The unkindest cut
The kittens went to the vet this morning for a jab. £41 – hurts me more than them.
Monty is going back on Tuesday morning. I almost feel like a traitor to the gender by taking him there. Poor thing.
Still, when he is "done", he’ll be able to go outside! Yay!
So far, they’ve been chasing this fly for about twenty minutes. Nothing has been broken. Yet.
Monday 24 January 2005
It won’t work! The housing price problem will only be solved by supply-side measures, not demand-side policies. Increase the supply of affordable housing and prices will stabilise or fall. And I happen to know a good chunk of land that would be ideal for the purpose.
Incidentally, there was a sensible piece in Deborah Orr‘s column in the Indy on Saturday (lamentably not archived online) in which Ms Orr highlighted how increasing the right to buy would help some people, but would also lead to increased "ghettoisation" of those without the means to purchase property – as if the ghettoes we have already are not bad enough.
We held our housewarming on Saturday. There were lots of people and even more alcohol, as well as some cracking home-made pizzas that H and I made between us. People brought flowers, gifts, food and drink and (I think) everyone had a good time. Heads were slightly delicate yesterday morning, but thanks to help from Charlie in particular, the mess wasn’t bad at all and normal service has been resumed.
Bad luck Monday
This is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, isn’t it? Well, I’m not sure about that, but we are a little pissed off that H’s car has broken down with clutch failure. Bah.
Due to the car breaking down (it’s now at the garage), Monty’s appointment with the vet tomorrow has been postponed. If I find paw marks on the broken clutch cable, I’ll know who to blame.
Tuesday 25 January 2005
Not a good week so far
We had two large new
scratching posts sofas delivered this morning (at 7.10am!), a two-seat version and a three-seat sofabed. The two-seat fitted in without too much of a fight, but the three-seat is much too big to get through the door (Hels convinced me when we were in the store that it would fit because the previous owners of the house had a leather sofa in the same room). Consequently, it is now living in the conservatory, which is far from ideal.
So I’ve just called a local and trusted building company for a quote to pull out the window in the living room, lift the sofa through and refit the window and make good. They have a good reputation locally, and the chap says that they get asked to do this sort of thing fairly frequently. The estimated charge? £280. Good job I have something soft to sit down on.
UPDATE: got another quote – £100 – which is a lot more reasonable. And they can do it on Saturday. I think they’re doing it more cheaply because it’s the best laugh they’ve had in ages.
Money flowing out
Good news – the garage have been able to look at the car.
Bad news – it isn’t just the clutch cable, it’s the actual plates.
Good news – they have the parts and can fit them this afternoon.
Bad news – BIG bucks. Ouch.
Anyone want to give a grant to the Graham and Hels Foundation for Destitute Couples?
It gets worse
I’ve spent a very large chunk of my day sorting out work politics, being told by a client that I’m breaking the law (true) and generally battling with unpleasantness. It’s left me with a situation for which there is no suitable solution which I can implement that will leave everyone happy. Unfortunately, it’s the result of a situation that I inherited and did not create – I guess that is a consolation of sorts, but it means my reputation is not enhanced, I’m frustrated by it, I’m powerless to do much about it and my clients feel slightly upset about the whole thing.
If anyone tells you that working with plants is a relaxing and enjoyable occupation, they’re simply wrong or at least very misguided.
Meanwhile, I’ve got to prepare for Europe’s biggest trade show which is in Germany this week – I’m flying out tomorrow evening and returning on Friday evening. It’s a mammoth event spread over twelve exhibition halls and will be totally gruelling, particularly as I’m travelling on my own this year and will not have my German-speaking friend with me. The only highlight is that I hope to have dinner on Thursday evening with my friends from Schwäbisch Gmünd.
The only Jew in the village
"Now I am the Jew here, I am the boss".
Incidentally, is "co-religionist" a real word?
Wednesday 26 January 2005
There should be a simple answer too, in my view. "Yes".
25 years of news
Newsnight is celebrating 25 years – take a look at some of the clips. I particularly enjoyed Olenka Frenkiel carrying a piece of the Berlin Wall in to the studio and dumping it on the desk in front of Peter Snow.
Saturday 29 January 2005
Travel rantings. Switch off now.
German trains. Teutonic efficiency? Pah! I’ve just travelled from Essen Hbf to Düsseldorf Flughaven. The train was incredibly crowded (with accomodation of the sort perfected under the Final Solution) and stiflingly hot. When it got to the Flughaven station (I could tell we were there as my face was pressed against the glass of the door), the door wouldn’t open, in spite of passengers both inside and out pressing all the buttons, and even trying to pull the doors apart using the handles. In the UK, if a train has a faulty door, it gets withdrawn from service. Apparently that isn’t the case in Germany. And there was no way through the carriage to the next door as everyone was jammed shoulder to shoulder and I had two heavy bags.
So, on to Düsseldorf Hbf. And here I found another failing of the German rail system – no platform staff with whom to remonstrate! I’d built up my remonstration powers to their maximum level by the time we got there, yet there was nobody upon whom to let rip in best English shout-point-wave-arms stylee. Most disappointing – I needed the catharsis.
So the next time that someone tells you that the railways are better on the continent, they are clearly talking out of their funny-shaped Bavarian hat.
All in foreign – just click anywhere and see how many blobs get caught in the subsequent chain reaction.
I have a direct debit from my Barclays sole account to our NatWest joint account. My pay goes into my account on the 15th. The direct debit goes out on the 22nd. The mortgage goes out of our joint account on the 25th.
Because the 22nd fell on a Saturday this month, the payment was not processed until Monday the 24th. A check at my local Barclays branch cashpoint showed that the money actually left that day. When I went to the NatWest on the 25th, they said that it had still not been received. Apparently it takes three days.
Three days??? Why? Surely these things are all automated on a computer and all that happens is that a few 0s and 1s move along some wires (possibly more 0s than 1s in my case).
Where is the money in the meantime? It isn’t in my sole account and it isn’t in our joint account – so where is it? I consider it to be my money all the time, yet it is nowhere where I can find it.
Today we have received a letter from NatWest, telling us that we have been charged £35 because there were insufficient funds in our account to cover the mortgage payment. Furthermore, the mortgage payment has not been paid, which has probably had an adverse impact on our credit rating.
On Monday, I will be writing to both banks. I want the £35 back from one or other bank. I want the mortgage to be paid ASAP. I want any damage to our credit score to be rectified. I want assurances this will not happen again.
And I’m going to copy the letter to the local trading standards office and to the Consumers Association.
Sunday 30 January 2005
In a rather disturbing development, our wonderfully cute little black kitten has suddenly turned into a sex-crazed vamp. H and I nipped out for a quiet (although not very good) meal at a nearby pub (not our local – serves us right for being disloyal) last night (one of the very few times we have been out for dinner on our own since we got married) and when we got home (not too late) we discovered Treacle rolling around on her back, purring and chirruping, generally behaving like a small feline tart.
Monty, meanwhile, clearly believed that Christmas and his birthday had all arrived at once. Somewhat hastily, we prepared a duplicate set of litter tray, food and water bowls and set them in the spare room, rapidly followed by a writhing and rather excitable small black kitten. Teenage pregnancy would be somewhat undesirable, we concluded.
Since then, both cats have been pacing about in the respective confines, meowing and pining for the other. Treacle has assaulted the door on her chamber a couple of times, thus far without success.
I will be on the phone to the vet first thing tomorrow, placing an order for two sets of neutering.
Monday 31 January 2005
I want to telephone my bank. The "contact us" section of their website doesn’t include any telephone numbers. However, by using their "search for your nearest branch" section, I find the central telephone number.
When I dial this number, I am presented with two options – press 1 for account holders, press 2 for non-account holders. Simple enough. I press 1. I am then asked for the number on my cashpoint card. OK. Then I’m asked for the first and fourth digits of my five digit passcode. My what?
So, I go back to the main menu in the hope that there is an option where I can actually speak to a person. No such luck. I can’t get access to the system without my passcode and I can’t speak to someone in order to request a passcode without access to the system.
Time to move bank?
UPDATE: I finally managed to get a person. It seems they have my old address. He can’t update my file because I need a telephone passcode due to security reasons. So I have to go to a branch. In the meantime, all my statements are going to the wrong address – how secure is that?
FURTHER UPDATE: I’ve just called our other bank, and they "can’t give any information today" because I’m not set up on their telephone system. This in spite of the fact that I’ve just answered umpteen questions that only I (or possibly Hels or my mum) would know – inside leg measurement, shoe size, number of hairs on my head, etc.
I’m brassed off. I just want to speak to someone who can do the things I need done!
EVEN FURTHER UPDATE: at least the mortgage people are normal and can do the things I ask. In future, the payment will go three days later and our credit rating will not be harmed – all done quickly and efficiently.
At least when I call the vet, I get a real person on the end of the line who can give me direct and accurate answers to my questions – the result of which is that both kittens will be going in for surgery tomorrow and will emerge as slightly less cats than they are now.
Cardiac arrest Monday
Blood pressure statistically higher on Monday mornings. I don’t think that my wife needs to be told this.
I’m just about to take the kittens’ food bowls away – they’re not allowed to eat after 8pm on the day before their operations. Monty is sitting on my lap at the moment, dozing. Treacle is asleep upstairs. And I still feel guilty about the whole thing.