Making More Work

As part of my preparation for moving (about which another post sometime soon) this week I ordered some decent moving boxes from SafeStore. Yes, I’m sure there are other sources for them, and so on, but I was happy with the stuff on offer, and they’d deliver it, so *shrug*, it’ll do.

For cost-effectiveness (within the provisos of “I’m sure I could get it better somewhere else, but CBA to hunt”) I got one of their “kits” – 4 each of small, medium and large box sizes for considerably less than individual prices  – and also added in some bubblewrap, tissue paper, and a mattress cover. All well and good.

It got delivered this morning, as expected and on-time. Two boxes – one the ‘kit’ box, and one for the bubblewrap roll etc.  Except… there’s no mattress cover, no tissue paper.  So I called them up to let them know, and the lady went off to check with the despatchers.  And that was where it got weird.

Have you checked in the Kit box?  They say they might’ve put the extra things in there, to keep it all together“.

And it turned out that was exactly what had happened.  But that boggles my mind.

Now, I assume (and I’m aware it’s an assumption and thus could be utterly flawed) that the kit boxes are exactly that – they come as a sealed box with the kit contents in. That makes sense to me.  (Otherwise they’d be assembling the kit from box stocks for every order, which seems… odd)

So, if that’s the case, the despatchers opened a kit box, put the extra bits in, sealed it up, and then put it with the other box that already had bubblewrap etc. in it. Why go to that effort when there’s an unsealed box (with space in it) right there? Why make even more work for oneself?

I despair.

[Note : I actually did better than expected out of this deal – because they didn’t send me the kit box I’d ordered, and instead sent one that’s larger, and should’ve cost about £10 more!]


Getting Stuff (Finally) Done

My local council are, to be polite, utterly fucking useless. Their skills in organisation, communication, professionalism and competence appear to be absolutely zero – in fact, most of the time I doubt they could even spell any of those words, let alone be good at them.

But, after literally years of nagging, they’ve finally done two of the jobs I’ve been nagging them about.

First, we start with The Bridge

Six years ago (I’ve probably written about it before, but can’t be arsed currently to check) we had a mains water line burst near the village – a burst that was so powerful, it destroyed the bridge wall that the pipe was next to. Now, it’s not a main road per se (i.e. it’s not an A-road or motorway) but it is one of the two main roads from my village to Milton Keynes and the motorway. So it’s not short of a fair bit of traffic.

Initially, Anglian Water put up some cones/barriers and traffic lights so that the road was usable (kinda/sorta) but reduced to one lane, on the side that wasn’t missing half a bridge wall. That situation remained for about six months (with regular failures of the traffic lights) until I asked Anglian Water what was actually happening, and had they forgotten about the bloody thing.  Turned out, they had forgotten. And there began the saga of getting it fixed.

Anglian moved things about, put in a temporary fence and barrier, opened the road up, and tried to get a repair done. (Which was fraught with its own issues around who actually owned the fucking thing, who was responsible for what, etc. etc.) The council insisted it should be done by their Highways department, who would do the work properly, and all that happy crap. So after eighteen months, Anglian handed the entire clusterfuck over to Central Bedfordshire Council, as requested, and washed their hands of the problem.

For four years I’ve been asking when it’s going to happen, what’s occurring, and so on. It’s outlasted four admin assistants, and two managers. And every time they’ve said “Oh, it’s all scheduled, we’ll hopefully have it done in about three months time“. I do realise there’ve been a lot of hassles – again, with who owns the bridge and the land underneath it, who’ll be stumping up the money, how it’ll all work and so on.  But it’s been four years where it would’ve been all too possible for someone to come off the road, through the fence, and end up twenty-odd feet down underneath it.  After every decent storm we’ve had, I’ve had to contact the council and suggest that they might want to come and put the fence back up, along with the holders/barrier that’ve fallen over.

But about a month ago, signs went up around the bridge saying that work was going to start, and take about eight weeks. And it actually started, and has been progressing nicely.  (Not that anyone from the council has thought to send a message saying “Hey, just to catch you up, it’s all happening”. That would be expecting far too much from them!

Second – the other bridge.

Back at the start of the pandemic, in the next village to mine, someone went on a graffiti spree, writing/spraying stuff on all the village’s road signs and so on. Nothing monumentally offensive, just stupid shit that no-one needs to see. And in fairness, Central Bedfordshire’s Highways department cleaned most of it off comparatively quickly. (I think it only took them a fortnight to get rid of the stuff that was nasty about Central Beds Council, and then about another two months to get rid of the less offensive but stupid stuff)

And then when Captain Tom hysteria was at its peak (Captain Tom was from the village I live in, so it was all relevant locally) they sprayed a big message about him on one of the other local bridges. You can see some of it below, or go to Google Streetview here for the full experience

Yes, it lasted long enough that it even made it onto Google Streetview.

That’s taken two and a half years to get rid of, but finally got cleaned off last month.  Of course, others who’ve seen how long it takes Central Beds to sort these things, have also taken to graffiti’ing local walls and so on. Fine, it may be an influx of new people, but before the first lot happened (and that person has since moved away) we never saw any happening. Now though, I can easily think of eight or nine sites that have been hit.

Again, allegedly there were problems for the council in gaining permissions/clearances to clean that bridge – it goes over a railway line, and they were saying they couldn’t clean/wash the bridge while things might be running underneath, although that sounds like bullshit. The cleaning job when it finally happened didn’t go over the top of the bridge wall at all, so nothing would’ve been affected.  But there we go.

Purely personally, I suspect that if that graffiti had said “Central Beds council are useless bastards” it would’ve only been there a couple of weeks. But because it was about Captain Tom, I wonder if they thought it would be worse to get rid of it than to leave it.  I don’t know.

Anyway. Both jobs have (finally) been done, and it’s really nice that I won’t have to nag the useless bastards any more.  But things like this shouldn’t take that long to get sorted.  If it had been me in charge of either project I’d have got the work done, and *then* chased whoever needed to pay for it, including court stuff if necessary.  But the general public don’t need to see those delays, regardless of the cause – we just want to see stuff that’s been broken get fixed.

I don’t know what the answers are on all this – but government (both local and national) at the moment just seems like one giant clusterfuck of ineffectiveness and general incompetence. And surely there must be better ways than what we’ve currently got?


Energy Bill Saving

Roughly eighteen months ago, my energy supplier of the time (nPower, a company I’m epically happy to be rid of) sold their domestic customer base to eonNext – one of the few energy companies with a worse customer rating than nPower. (So, quite the achievement)

For many reasons I wasn’t happy about this, and used USwitch to move over to Octopus in January 2021. I’ve been really happy with that switch, and haven’t moved since.

At the time, I had a credit balance with eOn, and expected that to go on the final bill. I was expecting that bill to happen within about two months, and pay any excess over the credit at that point.  Except I didn’t hear anything from eonNext at all. I was still able to log in to the customer panel, but nothing else happened. So eventually I shrugged my shoulders and left them to their own devices.

Yesterday (June 2022, fifteen months after switching supplier!) I got a bill from eonNext, telling me what I owed them through to January 2021.

Thankfully, I remembered reading in the Guardian’s Consumer Champions pages about OfGem’s back-billing rules , which basically say that you can’t be billed for energy used more than 12 months ago if you’ve not been billed for it already (or informed by statement of account) .  Within that information page, they also include a link to the Citizen’s Advice form letter for telling energy companies that they’re in the wrong – which is obviously extremely helpful!

So this morning I emailed eonNext back (I was going to phone, but decided it was better to have it all in writing) with my own adaptations of the form letter, and proposing that (as a compromise) they used the money I’d left in the account as a part-payment, and could then sod off for the rest. (I phrased it a bit nicer than that, but that was definitely the implication)   Yes, I could’ve said “And I want that credit back as well”, but well, I haven’t had it for nearly a year and a half, so it doesn’t matter.

This afternoon I got a response from eonNext agreeing with me, wiping out the bill, and sending me a confirmation that my bill is now at zero. (I’ve printed both of those documents out, just in case they prove in future to still be fucking useless)

All told, that bit of knowledge/memory and research, and about half-an-hour’s effort (searching for the correct article, checking things out etc.) has saved me a couple of hundred quid. And that’s got to be a success by anyone’s standards.


Vaccinaceous

Somewhat fortuitously, I managed to get my Covid booster jab a few weeks ahead of the latest Omicron variant’s appearance, so it was already in full effect by the time Omicron occurred.  (That wasn’t through anything like me being organised, of course, just the way timings worked out) At the time it was a nicely organised process – rock up at the time booked, sign in, get the jab, wait fifteen minutes (in case I’m allergic to the jab and die, or something) and then fuck off to get on with the rest of my day.

The week after, I also ended up getting my flu jab.  (In my opinion, getting the “you now qualify for a flu jab” message is *definitely* a sign you’re getting old) It’s safe to say that getting that one done was pretty much the polar opposite, and not far short of an absolute clusterfuck.

I’d originally tried booking it through Superdrug, but their entire online presence seems to be “Give us a call to find out”. Utterly, utterly fucking useless.

So eventually I went to Boots where the booking process was long, with big doses of repeated information. (No idea why, but hey ho, got it booked) That bit was OK(ish) though. It was when I got to the shop that things went utterly tits-up.

I got there a couple of minutes early, and no-0ne was in the waiting area. No-one at all. Not even staff.  Another couple of people also arrived to get their jabs. Eventually someone turned up, and gave me a paper form to fill in with all my details. Which was a bit of a concern.

It turned out that – in a large town-centre store – the “proper” jab person was on a day off, and no-one knew their password, or could log in to the system and see what bookings were expected. (Nor, as it turned out, mark appointments as completed etc.) So it was all back to paper, and no-one had a single sodding clue about what was happening, who was booked in (or when) and generally shambolic.

The jab process itself was fine, once everything was sorted.  And thankfully I’ve experienced no real side-effects from either vaccination.

Mind you, the following day, I got a set of messages and emails from Boots telling me that I’d missed my appointment. I assume it’s also not gone into my medical record, so I could probably decide to get another one early in the new year, or something. (Not that I would, but still, fucking hell)

Anyway, it’s all done now, and so far as I’m concerned, if one of these viruses is going to get me, they’re going to have to work bloody hard to do so.


Re-Identified

For some reason, this year has involved renewing both of my primary forms of ID – a few months ago it was the passport that got done, and I’ve now had to do the driving licence as well.

In fairness, both processes have been pretty painless, and made much easier through technology – the passport had some issues with uploading a new photo (because I wear glasses, and photos without a reflection on the lenses is *difficult*) but it’s all involved a lot less hassle than one would expect.

The driving licence also pulls through the photo from the passport process (although the reverse doesn’t apply, weirdly) but it needed a lot more linked information than I expected – for example, why does my driving licence renewal require me to know/remember my NI Number? I’d already connected it to the passport system/number etc. for verification, so that seems like an unnecessary extra step, really.

Still, it’s all done, the new licence card arrived promptly – and well within the quoted two weeks – and the old one got cut in two and returned.

I now shouldn’t need a renewal on these things for another decade. How time flies, and all that!


MoTivated

Today, the car got its annual service, and also passed its MoT for this year. All told, a much better process than last year – and, of course, a lot cheaper!

I did take it back to the same dealership to get things done, and they’re still as shambolic as ever, insisting on filling every slot in the workshop, rather than leaving anything free for people who need work (for example, if the car had failed the MoT today, they’d have had to book me in for work to be done, rather than having availability on the day)  It’s a farcical situation – and similar to the bullshit system my GP is currently operating – and takes no account of things failing, or accidents happening.  Deeply annoying, to say the least.

The thing is, despite me raising it every time I deal with them, they just don’t seem to understand that the servicing side of the business is just as much of a sales tool as any of the people on the shop floor (most of whom seem to spend their days just farting around, but that’s beside the point)  The company – in this case, Kia – make a huge thing of their reliability, of their seven-year guarantee (so long as people follow the service routine, of course) which is great. But when I’m faced with a constant “Oh no, we can’t do [the work] on [that date], you’ll have to book something else” attitude, why on Earth would I buy a car that ties me in to that even more?

It’s something that would be so simple to fix – and something I’ve been told that they’ll try, but I’ve been being told that for three years now – but there just seems to be no real inclination to do it.

Still, my little car is doing OK, and as and when it does die, I just won’t get another Kia. Their loss long-term, not mine.


Non-Emergency

Back in early 2021, I did something stupid to my knee – still no idea what – which I didn’t take overly seriously.  It was sore enough that I did use a knee brace – particularly overnight – but it didn’t incapacitate me or anything.

Anyway, it turns out that the brace is quite possibly the worst thing I could’ve done, as it allowed things to heal incorrectly and so on.

The knee still plays up – but it’s intermittent. When I first stand or move, it’s sore as fuck, but then it eases off. I’m still fully capable of walking miles on it, but it’ll hurt significantly the next day, or if I then stop and leave it in one position for a long time (for example, driving home from wherever)  Having talked to others with a similar thing, and doing some research, I think what I managed to do was a meniscal tear – basically ripping some of the meniscal membranes in my knee.  Ooops.

Honestly, it’s pretty certain now that there’s not going to be much I can do to improve it. It’s as healed as it’ll get.  But I’d like to get a proper diagnosis of it, in case I’m wrong – I’m only basing this so far on personal experience (of my own damage, and the stories of others) and Dr. Google/Wikipedia, so it’s quite possible that I could be wrong.

However, getting that diagnosis is proving problematic.  It’s not an urgent thing by any chalk, but that’s an issue. My GP surgery are still only taking bookings on the actual day, so it’s a free-for-all of calling in at 8:30 in the morning in order to get a slot that day.  And honestly, I feel guilty at that point about trying to get a slot that could be better used by someone with, you know, something actually important/urgent.

It really is a massively fuckwitted plan. I don’t understand why they can’t do it so that at least one of the GPs in the practice is doing non-urgent bookings for even one day a week.  (Or balance the load and have a rota of who does a non-urgent day, or even week as a break from the urgent daily shit)

As it is, in this case I don’t honestly know that the GP would even be the best thing – all they’re likely to do is say “Oh, that’ll need an X-Ray/MRI” and refer it to the local(ish) hospital anyway.  So maybe it’d be better to go direct to what used to be the “Minor Injuries” clinic, so I can get a scan straight away. But “Minor Injuries” is now somehow “Urgent Care” (which is somehow different to “Accident and Emergency”) and that has the same effect on me – it’s non-urgent, and there are people way more in need of treatment than I am.

I’ll get round to it in the end, I’m sure. But in the meantime it’s a situation that is utter, utter bollocks.