Monday, 28 December 2009


Since my last entry the World, or at least the UK, has been thrown into utter chaos. And the cause of such a breakdown in the fabric of the country? It snowed!

Now, if Britain was an equatorial country, experiencing only minor differences between the summer and winter weather patterns, then I could understand it. But we're not. We are a temperate country which has both summer and winter difference in temperature. In fact, this latest snowfall was forecast a week before it happened. But when it did finally fall, it seemed to come as a surprise to everyone who was in a position to actually prepare for it. Consequently, the roads, the railways, the airports and even the ports ground to a complete and utter halt.

Every year it’s the same. If the councils devoted as much time to preparing for the weather as the news channels do to covering the chaos that a small snow fall can cause, then this country would be as efficient as all the other European and North American countries that have snow falls.

However, it appears that it is not just winter that causes chaos. In the spring we experience floods (everything grinds to a halt and there are assurances that this will not happen again..........until next year), the summer, where if the temperatures are high half of the elderly population dies (there are assurances that this will not happen again..........until next year), the autumn where there is chaos because the leaves fall off the trees (everything grinds to a halt and there are assurances that this will not happen again..........until next year) and finally winter, where cold temperatures and snow cause chaos (everything grinds to a halt and there are assurances that this will not happen again..........until next year).

However, the white Christmas that everyone hoped for didn't materialise, as the weather changed from snow to rain, and almost all of the snow melted.

Christmas Day dawned early (all of the kids were staying) and after pressie opening m'Julie cooked our huge turkey to perfection. Unfortunately, Alec was working, so instead of being seven of us at dinner, there were only six, Alec eating later when he got back from work.

Surprisingly, by Boxing Day all the turkey was gone, which meant that the days of turkey curry, turkey salad etc were avoided.

We also managed to avoid joining the throng at the sales, although we did go to the cinema to see St Trinian's 2 on the day after Boxing Day, which was a suitably silly film to see. The nearest that we got to the sales was to try and find some speakers for Hannah's new iPod, as the ones that she had are for the previous generation of iPod and don't fit.

Unfortunately, now that it’s all over, we have the inevitable returns to work. Although I'm not back to work until next Monday, m'Julie is back at work tomorrow and the kids are back to their mother's on Thursday, returning to school on the same day that I return to work.

So New Year's Eve will be a quieter affair this year, with only me, m'Julie, her mum and Hannah, as Alec is working in one of the bars that he works in.

Oh well, another year over.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Cull Centres

For the past week I have been 'sans Internet' at home, which has been very inconvenient at times. I found this out when I decided to check my email one morning and discovered that my broadband, which had worked perfectly the previous evening, was no longer working. At this point, I telephoned my provider in an attempt to establish what was happening.

Despite having the name 'British' in the title, the call centre for this company is located in India. Now I have no problem with this provided that a. the person with whom I am speaking has a good command of the English language and b. does the job for which they are being paid.

Unfortunately, whilst all those who answered my several phone calls met criteria a, they were appalling when it came to criteria b!

The first person that I spoke to, after several minutes, initially informed me that I had never had broadband. When I pointed out that I had been with my provider at my current address since July 2007, she informed me that I was moving house, arguing with me when I told her that I wasn't. Finally, she informed me that my broadband had been seized. I asked what this meant, and was told that it meant that my broadband had been seized. However, this lady was unable to tell me why my broadband had been seized, but knew someone who could and transferred me to a British lady, who informed me that my broadband had been seized.

When I asked her why my broadband had been seized, she initially informed me that according to her records, I had never had broadband at my current address. I told her that I had been with my provider at my current address since July 2007. She even asked if my landline was still working. I pointed out that we wouldn't actually be speaking if it wasn't. This lady then established that because my original contact was with BT-Yahoo, I needed to speak to someone else. Cue gentleman in Indian call centre.

As with the previous two people with whom I spoke, I was asked for my name, my telephone number, some security questions and the nature of my problem. Having done all this, I was firstly told that I had never had broadband at my address and was then told that my broadband had been seized. However he could not tell me why it had been seized and I was put on hold whilst being transferred to the person who could help me.

After five minutes a very cheery man asked me for my name and telephone number. I explained that I had already given it to the three previous people that I spoke to but he just kept asking for my name and telephone number.

Obviously, I had got the man who was new and wouldn't deviate from his script. I, a couple of years ago, when speaking to one of these call centres, had got the person who had the script, and if you interrupted them or asked a question, went back to the start of the script and repeated everything that she had just said!

So, when I asked cheery man to put me through to a supervisor, he refused (that was obviously not in the script!) Eventually, my patience ran out and I put the phone down.

Several hours later, I tried again, but decided that I would use the approach of speaking to someone in the UK. So, when I got through to India, I asked for the UK telephone number. Four times I did this, and on each occasion, I was informed that I would be put on hold. On each occasion, because of the inactivity, the phone cut out.

On the fifth occasion, I got the comedian. This was the one that, when I asked for a UK telephone number, put me on hold, but kept cutting in with 'would you like to speak to my supervisor?' and then put me back on hold again when I told him that I wanted the UK phone number. After the sixth time of asking and my response of 'Which bit of I want to speak to someone in the UK don't you understand you moron!' he cut me off.

On the seventh occasion, I got through to someone who, after leaving me on hold for five minutes informed me that they are only a call centre and do not have any numbers for anyone in the UK.

So, I decided to use the phone book, and I called the BT Head Office in London. It has a London address, it has a London phone number, and it diverts to the bloody call centre in India! I hung up when answered!

Next I tried calling the local BT business office with a local (to me) number. I got through to a very helpful lady who agreed that the call centre personnel are useless and who gave me another number 'up North somewhere'. I called the number and it rang twice before a recorded message informed me that the number was no longer in use and that I needed to dial another number.

Guess where the other number was for. Go on, guess. Yup! INDIAN BLOODY CALL CENTRE!!!

Eventually, after speaking to four more people, I found out what the problem was. Apparently, BT had sent me a bill in October and I hadn't paid it. Because of this, they had written to me asking me to pay it, and I had not replied. They had then written to me and told me that if I didn't pay it they would cut off my broadband service. Finally, on December 1st they had sent me a final bill and my service was stopped on 9th December.

However, when I looked at the final bill that had arrived the previous day, I noticed that there was a slight problem. The person to whom it was addressed was indeed me, the street name, town name, county name and post code were all correct. The problem was that there was no house number, which explained why I had probably not received the other letters.

So when I spoke to the final woman, I explained this. She informed me of the address that I had, which was correct, including the house number. However, when I told her that the only letter I seemed to have received from them was missing this vital element of the address, if the others were the same that would explain why they had not been received. This woman then argued with me that because they had my correct address it was not possible that the house number had been missed off. She relented when I offered to photocopy and send the letter to her complaints department and wanted to know her name so that I could inform them that she had called me a liar.

So now it came to sorting out the problem. I told her that I would pay the outstanding amount by card and asked when I would be reconnected. I was told that because of their error in not having the correct address for me, which meant that I received no bills from them, and therefore they 'seized' my line, that I would be treated as a new customer and would have no service for five to ten working days. At this point I informed her that this was not quick enough and would go elsewhere for my service. Consequently, this is my first Sky broadband post.

As for the outstanding bill, I will eventually pay it, but it is tempting to wait for them to phone, put on a series of stupid voices/accents, put them on hold a lot and cut them off at regular intervals before telling them that it will take two weeks for the bill to be paid. However, if they can provide proof that they have culled all of the useless oxygen thieves that I dealt with last week, then I will pay immediately.

Speaking of useless oxygen thieves I have had what I hope will be my final dealings with the CSA.

About six weeks ago, my ex-wife returned to work. At this point I telephoned the CSA and informed them of this fact and that the arrears that she had not paid as she was on benefits could now be paid.

Having heard nothing back, I telephoned again two weeks ago and spoke with David Grey who had charge of the communal brain cell that day (they really should be more careful who they let loose with it). Firstly, he informed me the amount that my ex-wife owed, and then informed me that she wouldn't be paying it at present as she was, according to CSA records, on benefits. I explained (slowly) that she had returned to work, informing him that I had explained this to his colleague four weeks previously. He told me that he would need to speak to my case worker, Sharon Hughes, but that she was not in until that afternoon, and that he would get her to call me. My last words to him were 'So she will definitely call me this afternoon?' and I was assured that she would.

Five days later, having heard nothing (no, I wasn't really surprised either) I telephoned again. However, when I asked for Sharon Hughes by name I was told that she wasn't my case worker. I suggested that David Grey had lied to me when he'd said that she was, but the woman I was speaking to got very snappy, informing me that she had been, but had moved to a different job the day after I was expecting a call from her. Convenient!

I therefore had to explain the whole business to her, and pointed out that the incompetence of her agency and colleagues was of epic proportions, and that I wanted the whole thing sorted out immediately, if not sooner.

Having again got quite snappy and having denied that the CSA was incompetent, I was then placed on hold whilst she did some 'checks'.

What these checks revealed were that my ex-wife is no longer on benefits and that she owed me four times the amount that Grey had told me. When I asked her how long the CSA had had the information and she had told me, I asked her to justify her denials of incompetence when Grey had access to the same information but had told me completely different things. No response.

The upshot was that she would telephone my ex, ask her about payments and would call me back, which she did the following day. However, in the true spirit of incapability that the CSA is founded upon, it appears that this woman had got the final figure wrong and that David Grey had been correct in what he told me was the sum owed. And yes, I did tell this woman that she was upholding the incompetence of her agency.

With the card payment now made, that is hopefully the last time that I will have to deal with those cretins at the CSA, although I am sure that they will, at some point, cock up when it comes to my paying for my children, but I'll deal with that when it happens.