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.


Crunch/Scrape

Today I had my first ‘crash’ involving another vehicle. (I’d only had one other incident before, but that was an icy road in Norfolk, nearly 13 years ago, and it was only me involved) Before anything else, I’m fine – the car’s got a scraped body panel, but it was all fairly low-speed, no air-bags needed, no injuries, nothing.

As it was, I’m almost certain the responsibility wasn’t mine – although the other driver insists it was my fault, so I’m just letting the insurance companies fight it out.  Basically though, I was in the correct lane, the other car was merging in and for some reason expected me to give way. We’ll see what the insurance people say.

It was at a new-ish junction, and the signage isn’t the easiest to understand, but I’ve driven it enough times that I know how it works. (Although the other driver also does it fairly regularly, so should know better! 🙂 )

Using the photo below, I was turning right out of Mike Griffin Way. You can be in either lane (which is fucked up in the first place). If you’re in the left-hand lane then that becomes the direct route; the right-hand lane has another turn-off (the rough equivalent of a hairpin turn) and then merges into the direct route.  It was, in short, designed by a fucking idiot.

The junction – click to Embiggenify

So I was in the left-hand lane having come out of Mike Griffin Way, with the other car in the right-hand lane. And at the merge (top-right of the image) they decided to pull into the left-hand lane. No indication or anything, just pulling in.

Fortunately, I was aware they were there, and as they pulled across I was already braking hard and sounding the horn to let them know I was there. But still, impact. Rather than blocking the road, we went up to the nearest layby, pulled in, did the whole exchange of details, photos and so on, and then got on with life.  I’m happy with how I did everything – making sure they were OK, but also getting names, details, numbers, registration plates etc., and ensuring that they got mine as well. Basically, I didn’t want there to be any chance of miscommunications, or “he just drove off” accusations.

Because there’s been no injury, no road blockage etc., the police haven’t needed to be informed (another thing I also checked with the insurance company, to make sure they were happy with not having a police incident number or anything) and I’m quite happy to not have to involve them..

I don’t yet know what the outcome will be. My car’s OK, it’s got some nice new scratches and a dent, but it’s perfectly driveable, and I don’t know if I’ll even bother getting the scratches repaired. My insurance shouldn’t be affected (even if they decide it was my fault) as I’ve got a protected 10+ year No Claims Bonus, which means I could even have another accident (not that I’m planning to!)  before even beginning to worry on that score.

We’ll see what happens, but all is good so far as I can tell. I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to spend an afternoon – but equally, things could have been *so* much worse in so, so many ways.

 


Refridged

As mentioned in the previous post, I also ended up with a new fridge over the weekend.

On about Wednesday my (then) current fridge started sounding unwell, and running constantly – never a good sign. I messed around with the controls, lowered the chill factor to get it to turn off, that sort of thing.  And while it did turn off, it was then back to running within about ten minutes.  Diagnosis : most likely a fucked thermostat.

Now in fairness, I’ve had this fridge for coming up to 15 years, it’s been through at least two house moves, and had also had the issue of being frozen to sod for a while until I cleaned it out last year (which I suspect didn’t actually do it much good) and it wasn’t expensive in the first place, so it’s not like I’ve not had the value out of it or anything.

As a result, I ordered a new one from AO , which went (fairly) smoothly. The order itself was fine, but then over the next two days I got four silent automatic calls, which are distinctly frowned upon by OfCom . By checking the number online I figured out it was AO who were doing them – their “aftercare” department, apparently, which is really just the old “do you want an extended warranty with that?” scam.  I complained to AO, who’ve now said that they’ll investigate, and who have taken me off their call list.

Thankfully, the delivery itself was fine. The delivery people arrived when they said they would, took away the old one for recycling, left the new one with me, and buggered off. Just how I like it.

And now it’s all plugged in and running smoothly again. Happy day.


Refronted

Over the last couple of years, both of my neighbours in our little terrace/block have updated their front doors to modern composite doors, with better security and so on.  That’s left mine in the middle looking like the easiest target of the three, which is never something I’m entirely happy about.  (The other two properties in the block also have the same older front doors, but mine being between two new ones made it feel like that weakest option)

I’ve always worked with the ethos that you don’t bother making your house the safest/strongest on the street (because that just makes people think you’ve got stuff worth stealing) but you do make it harder to get into than those of your neighbours.  It can be a bit of an “arms race” scenario, and it can be a bit selfish (“I’m OK, others can sod off”) but it’s still not a bad structure to live by.

I talked about this a while back with my landlord, and he agreed that it would be a good idea to upgrade it – particularly as it’ll also be *way* more insulated and energy-efficient (which is a consideration for rented properties now, they need to pass a certain grade of energy efficiency) which makes it A Good Plan.

So – after several mis-fires of companies measuring up, assuring they could do it, and then pulling out –  the new door went in yesterday. It was a fairly big job (most of a day to do) and I’m glad that it turned out to be on a day when the temperature was actually quite reasonable (for February) so it all went OK.

Already the differences are noticeable. It’s a lot quieter (better insulation, no gaps etc.) and noticeably warmer.  Definitely A Good Thing.

Now I just need to get my replacement fridge (that’s a story for a different time) delivered tomorrow and sorted, and hopefully things will then run smoothly for a while again.


Chucking Out

I really don’t like waste – but sometimes it still happens.

Over the Christmas/New Year limbo, I spent some time clearing out stuff, as it needed doing. On this occasion, that included clearing out the kitchen cupboard under the sink, and that’s where the waste kicked in.  Various packs of crisps and the like, and they were all out of date (like, well, well out of date) and some part-bake bread rolls that had collapsed and compressed into horrific lumps of nope.

In the great scheme of things, it wasn’t actually a lot of value – maybe £30 all told – but it’s still annoying to throw it out. (Not that there was really anything else I could do with them)

It has, however, shown me the things I think I want to have as snacks and then don’t get round to actually eating, which helps in reinforcing (in my own head) why I won’t buy them again.  So I suppose that at least this is a lesson that will work for longer term better effect.

Still makes me grouchy, though.