Way back when the first Lockdown was announced, I bought a set of hair-clippers, and it turns out it was probably one of the best things I did.

It’s already more than paid for itself – I think that since then I’ve only had two haircuts at my usual barbers, and all the rest have been done myself.

Of course, it’s also been a learning experience, but once I’d (sort of) figured out the hair length thing, it’s been useful.

I’m not perfect at using them – each use has ended up with a couple of return visits as I’ve discovered bits I’ve missed (or at least that feel like I’ve missed them) – but the results are at least passable, and I’m not worried about being seen out in public once I’ve done it.

Once sanity returns, I’ll still be happy to go back to having a barber do the job properly. For now, though, I’m just happy to be not looking like Cousin It.

Return of Warmth

Following on from the post about the car’s heating system having packed up, I finally got it sorted just before Christmas.

As usual my dealership was a clusterfuck from start to finish – although there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel on that one.

Initially, I asked them to have a look at what was wrong when I took it to get the brakes fixed. They ‘checked everything they could’ and couldn’t find a problem, but the heater pack is behind the centre console, and they hadn’t allocated the time to do that, so it had to come in again.

That happened on the 21st, at which point they told me it was “only a diagnostic visit – we’re just finding out what’s going wrong“, which was what I’d suspected might be the case, but regardless, my sense of humour started to fail. Because obviously that would mean a third visit for the same problem, which is just fucking ridiculous.

As it turned out, the problem wasn’t with the heating system itself, but with a cracked/fucked radiator that was leaking at a good pace. (The mechanic actually brought me through to the garage to show me) Apparently it was only doing so once the system became pressurised (about 10-15 mins into a drive), but still, fairly serious. And because the leak meant it was losing pressure, the heating system wasn’t working.   So we needed to get that sorted.

Then they told me it couldn’t be done ’til December 31st, and my sense of humour utterly failed. I wasn’t nasty, but I was quite obviously pissed off that they were happy to send me home (a not insignificant distance) with a close-to-broken car, and leave it that way for ten days.

Fortunately, at that point the light at the tunnel switched on, and one of their people (a sales manager) suggested to the reception that they move some stuff around, so that they could deal with my car the next day. Not ideal, but far better than waiting ten days.  Even better, he’d come and collect it from my house, get the work done, and bring it back.  (Which also meant it would be their problem if it went pop on the way there)

And that’s what happened.  I filled the rad with water before he arrived, to make sure it was as good as possible. The car got collected, fixed, and returned. (They fucked up the costs too, but that’s another story)   And since then, it’s all been OK, so it does appear that the problem’s been fixed.

Once he brought it back, we had a chat about how the service department had really let down the sales side on this – when it went in for a pre-MoT service, they noted that it was virtually empty of coolant, but never looked at why; they missed the leaking rad in the MoT itself; when the brakes were being replaced and they were ‘looking at everything’, they didn’t notice the rad pissing water everywhere; and the ‘diagnostic visit and then return to get it fixed’ was bullshit.

As it turned out, they’ve listened to my previous complaints about these practices, and that sales manager is now in charge of the service department, and has been tasked with making it run better, with a more customer-focused attitude. It’ll be a challenge, but it was good for him to have been able to see exactly why he was needed, and what the problems are with the current set up.

I hope it works – they’re at least aware of the problem, and trying to fix it – but only time will tell.

Exchange of Power

Over the years I’ve been here, one thing I’ve truly slacked off on is my electricity/gas supplier.

Some of that has been due to my landlord initially asking me to not change things on that score – fair enough, I guess – and just transferred the energy account name from the previous tenant to mine. Not necessarily ideal, but there we go.  And so, because of that, and it being something I just wasn’t overly faffed about, I’ve stayed with that supplier.

Anyway, that supplier was nPower, and while they’ve been a sack of shit throughout my time here, they’ve at least been a reliable sack of shit.

However.  Back in the first week of December, I logged in to the nPower website to send in a meter reading, and got a redirect page, saying “We’ve transferred your account to E.On“.  Which is… shit. It’s been done with no communication, no warning, nothing.

The following week, I got a confirmation from E.On that my account had been transferred over, and containing some basic information. Although there was nothing in it about what they’d be charging, or for how long, or… well… anything else, really.

So the key part of the email for me was this…

If you want to switch supplier within 30 days of your account moving to E.ON Next, we won’t charge any fixed tariff exit fees, but we’d love you to stick around and get to know us.

So that’s what I’ve done. Over New Year I sorted out a second transfer, moving over to Octopus Energy (which has a fixed-term contract, but no exit fees)

Amusingly, E.On then emailed as part of the process, and asked “let us know why you’re moving”.  Which I did, in no uncertain terms. (Nothing rude or sweary, but a fairly constructive ‘With that attitude, why would I want to stay?!?’ message)

The response from their representative today just went to show that moving on was absolutely the right decision…

I appreciate you providing us with your feedback this will be forwarded to the appropriate department for future assessment.
The migration process is an automated process, which unfortunately we have no control over.
Wish you all the best with your new provider.

A pretty convincing version of “Yeah, we don’t care, just piss off”

It’ll be interesting to see how the switch goes, and how things work out with Octopus…

Staying In Place

With everything else that’s going on, I’ve made the decision to stay in my current house for another year, and sorted out the tenancy agreement to that effect.

I’d been seriously looking at a couple of different locations (although still in the same region as I’m in currently) that would’ve worked, and enabled some other stuff to be a lot easier. It would also have been nice to have a slightly bigger place, as I’ve said before.

However, all the places that were available were at least double the price of the one I’m currently in, and weren’t making enough other things easier. Alongside that, the way things have been with Covid, and the upcoming clusterfuck formally known as Brexit, I ended up deciding that it was likely to be better/smarter to stay here, rather than over-extend things too much.

If nothing else, I’d be properly mortified to end up being in the shit because I’d moved to a better house and then everything else had gone to crap, knowing I could’ve still be in this little cheap(er) place.

So yeah, here for another year. That’s eight-and-a-half years now – by far the longest I’ve been in any one place since I left home.

For now, it still suits me enough. I’d like to move elsewhere, and I’ll look again come summer 2021, and see what happens in the meantime. If things are properly shit, I might stay again, but we’ll see.

Car Costs

Last week was an expensive one (and disappointing in some ways) with regards to the car.

Firstly, on Wednesday morning it failed the MoT test – three of the four linkages on the anti-roll bars were “excessively worn” (read “fucked”) and needed replacing.  Slightly annoying/disappointing, but not unexpected at 160,000 miles. (And one of the linkages had a warning last year)

What was more annoying/disappointing was the attitude of the garage about it all, who told me they had no availability until a week on Friday (i.e. October 16th) in order to do the work. And that’s just shit.

The problem is that with the “new” MoT (it’s been around for a couple of years now, so ‘new’ is a bit of a misnomer) if the car fails, it’s not really supposed to be driven at all. With the time duration, I was OK to drive it home but then wasn’t supposed to use it again ’til it’s time to be repaired. And being stuck at home like that for ten days is not my idea of fun.

Fortunately, I had a way round it – albeit a potentially expensive one.  Hire a car to use while mine was unavailable – and then it occurred to me that there’s a KwikFit on the same site, so I gave them a call as well, and organised it for them to look at my car and do whatever was necessary. Because it was later in the day, they said it might take time to order the parts, so it might not be done ’til Saturday (still a week earlier than the original garage could do) but that was fine.  And of course it also meant I could legally get to the car-hire place!

So that’s what happened. Over to KwikFit, drop off the car and paperwork, collect the hire car, and home. All fairly easy, and a better alternative than being stuck at home, or facing any legal issues.

The next day, KwikFit gave me a call, confirmed the work, told me what it would cost, and it was all fine. So they said I could collect it Friday morning, including having re-taken the MoT test.

So all told, it could’ve been a lot worse.

The original garage have pissed me off though – I’ve had this issue before with their other dealership, and it’s frustrating. I’m happy that they’re busy, and I know there’s less availability because of social distancing and so on. All the same, if it were my business, I’d keep at least one workshop slot per day open for same-day and urgent repairs. That way these sort of things wouldn’t be a problem – and they’d show some customer service by being able to go “Oh, yeah, we can juggle this, we’ll do it today (or tomorrow at a push)“. Which would also mean the money from said work went into their account, not that of one of their competitors.

I get that they want to keep busy and maximise things, but the simple fact is that it’s cost them money – both in not having the money for the work and replacements I needed, but also in the likelihood of me going back there for any future work. Which is what makes it so sad and short-sighted.

Anyway, from my side it’s all fine, and the car’s taxed, MoTed and fully insured again.

Archery Return

Back in March, I wrote about my starting to get back into archery after way too long – it’d been a decade or more since I last went, and this year I found a local(ish) club and went through their ‘beginners’ process (for insurance purposes etc.) before getting my bow checked over and slightly updated. In a spectacularly piss-awful piece of timing, I got that done on the same day that lockdown was announced. Bugger.

Fortunately, the club has its own field, so it’s been possible to use it during the lockdown.  I had to sort out a first induction meeting (to establish that I knew their rules and so on) and get my membership card, and from there I’ve been able to go on a regular basis.

So far, I’ve been for eleven sessions, and enjoyed pretty much all of them – last week’s one was less good, but that was just weather and environment being a bastard, plus a healthy dose of hubris from having had a really good session the week before, and it all just clustered up into a shitfest.

As it turns out, it seems I’m generally OK at the whole thing. I’ve been taking my time, building up my strength and stamina through the sessions, rather than aiming to be super-competitive or anything.

The thing for me is that I’m good enough. As with a lot of things, I find I don’t have the obsessive side of things, so I lack that desire to do everything exactly the same way, that push for perfection and rigid routine. Indeed, the people who are like that bore and annoy me.  I’m doing this primarily for fun – I like the challenge of getting things right and doing well – and it’s another way of building up my strength and stamina, which is fine with me.  But no, I don’t think I’ll ever be at the high end of  the club’s score table and so on, because I get to the point of “That’ll do”, and it’s enough for me.

But I’ll keep on going, and see how things go.


New Glasses

As I said in an earlier post, I now have new glasses again.  I had been due to get my eyes checked back in March, but as I was getting to the time when it was due, of course Coronavirus did its thing, and we all got locked down.

I’d known that my eyes had changed, that things weren’t as clear as they had been. It wasn’t anything major, but definitely something that needed to be sorted.

So when I finally got an email from Specsavers saying “You can book again for an eye test“, that’s what I did. The process was a pig – I haven’t seen browser-specific stuff in a long while, but it took a change of browser before things got sorted.  But it got sorted, I got booked in, and on we go.

The actual eye test was smooth as usual – although there were fewer people in the store at any time, no drop-ins, and everyone wearing PPE – but it all went fine. Somehow my left eye had improved, and my right had got worse. I’ve no idea how that’s possible or makes any sense at all, but there we go. Anyway, I chose the frames I wanted, paid a metric sod-load (even with  one set of frames being free, the lenses I need are still cocking expensive) and waited two weeks.

The collection of them was the only thing that was a pain – because of current situation, they weren’t doing the usual proper fitting appointment, so collection was “we’ve adjusted them to how we think they’ll work for you” and off you go.

Safe to say, those adjustments weren’t right for me. For whatever reason, the initial fittings never do – I assume my head/face just doesn’t fit in with the standard fitting algorithms and so on – so I made an appointment to go back and get them redone.  That also didn’t work, so I called them back again and pushed for a proper “no, we need to re-measure this” appointment, got that, and got it all sorted.

All told, it took a couple of weeks longer than usual (just because each re-fitting took a week to organise – they’re ridiculously busy, with the reduced number of customers allowed in at any time) but I’m now happy with the new glasses. Hopefully it’ll be another couple of years before I need to get anything else sorted!