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?


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.

 


Normality (or a Semblance of it)

Now we’re through all the crap of the Festering Season™ and New Year, it’s starting to feel like a return to a version of normality. Past today, people will be back to working ‘normally’ (albeit with the current ‘Work from home if you can’ ethos and so on) and schools will be open again so we’ll be back to more usual levels of traffic and the like.

Personally, I quite like this limbo time – the drive in to the office is quiet, the office itself is deathly, and it all suits me pretty well.

That said, though, I’ve found this year (and last year) that a limbo time within a Covid-driven limbo time is… a bit much.  A step too far. I want to go back to a “normal” limbo rather than this weird fuckery.

Alongside all this, some of the other crap I’ve been dealing with in the background is finally approaching its conclusion, and while it’s not been openly affecting me, I’m also glad it’s nearly done. I’m being a bit enigmatic about it all because it’s now sub judice (and before anyone snarks, I’m the ‘victim’ in it, not the perpetrator!) but I’ll write a bit about it when I know more. The initial court appearance happens later this month, and once I know how the idiot pleads, I’ll be in a better position.

So… yeah, limbo appears to be (slowly) righting itself and becoming a bit more active again. I hope that continues to be the case…


Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I see today that the UK has decided to stop any new “Smart Motorway” projects, insisting that they need extra safety precautions.  This is primarily the aftermath of coroner’s reports into certain fatal accidents on these Smart Motorways.

From the article…

  • In 2019, 15 people were killed on “all lane running” and “dynamic hard shoulder” motorways. This is four more deaths than in 2018.
  • The number of people being killed on motorways without hard shoulders increased each year from 2015 to 2019, and totalled 39 deaths.
  • By contrast, on so-called “controlled motorways” – a type of smart motorway which have variable speed limits and a hard shoulder – there were 24 deaths in that period.
  • On conventional motorways, which cover more of the UK than smart motorways, there were 368 fatalities from 2015 to 2019.

The M1 around where I live was one of the first Smart Motorways, and I’ve written a lot about how stupid people can be on those motorways – particularly about the availability of lanes, and a lack of general driving standards (Middle-lane cunts and the like)

From my experience, a lot of drivers seem to be incapable of reading road signs saying whether a lane is open or closed (although also even whether the approaching junction is the one they want or not, until the absolute last minute)  This also seems to be borne out by the latest rash of road-safety adverts telling people that they should ‘go left’ in case of problems on motorways (and fucking hell, in my opinion anyone who needs to be told this shouldn’t be in possession of a driving licence!)

As an example of this, one of the cases the coroners were looking at was one local to me where the person’s vehicle had a problem, showed the ‘engine problem’ warning light, and they pulled in to one of the emergency refuge areas.  Now, when that happened to me, I got out of the car (in a snowy January) and called recovery to get me off the road safely.  But not this twerd, oh no.  They gave it a few minutes, started the car, no light came on, so they pulled out to continue their journey.  (The ‘engine problem’ light doesn’t necessarily immediately light up on starting – for example, if the issue is to do with the turbo, the EGR valve, air filter etc., it’ll only come on when you accelerate over a certain rpm limit, at which point you’re shafted)  And that’s what happened to Twonktacular – the light came back on, the engine performance disappeared, and they got hit by another vehicle.   Yet somehow that’s the fault of the smart motorway, not the dumbass driver.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of motorways without hard-shoulders. And I’m sure there are considerations and gambles that have been taken about how people get to emergency refuge areas, how the road monitoring is managed/staffed and so on. But I also understand how impractical it is, with current traffic levels and so on, to have a quarter of each road surface only available to vehicles in emergencies.

All told, I don’t believe that Smart Motorways are inherently dangerous. I think drivers (and their decisions, or lack thereof) are far more dangerous than roads. You just can’t blame an inanimate road for human stupidity.


Burning Money

Over the last year, a number of businesses have (unsurprisingly) moved out of the building where I have my office. The move to primarily working from home and so on has made them more aware of the costs of the offices, and in general I can see that it makes sense for them to downsize and so on.

What’s been more of a surprise is that other ones have moved in.  Again, I get it for situations like mine, where it’s better to have the office, and where working from home isn’t practicable.

There are some of those new businesses though, that despite paying the office rental/lease for a year, haven’t actually been using the offices at all, and I really don’t understand that at all.

I suppose it’s a good write-off for tax purposes or whatever, but to me it’s still odd to be basically burning that cash for no benefit at all.

Obviously it’s not my problem, and nothing to do with me. It’s other people’s business decisions and so on. I just find it interesting, and slightly baffling.


Colder Than Necessary

Yesterday, for reasons I’ll write about some other time, I had to drive up to Newark.

It’s not a horrific drive, about 90 minutes usually, and pretty easy. Straight up the A1 , and then down the M1 to come home.

Yesterday though, was bloody vile. About halfway through the drive up, it started to snow – not super-heavy, but enough to make things interesting in the still-quite-dark winter morning.

It was at this point that I discovered that my car’s heating had packed up.  Fuck.

By the time I stopped at Newark, it was snowing fairly heavily, and starting to settle.

When I came out to go home, the car had a good three or four inches of snow all over it, and the roads were full of it as well. The start of the drive home was emphatically Not Fun, although for me that was mainly because it was bloody cold inside the car, and no heating meant it was also steaming up a bit. The real Not Fun was more in the purview of other drivers who couldn’t handle snowy roads and/or hadn’t put lights on, and were generally utter fucksticks.

The M1 was OK – once I got down past Leicester the snow turned to heavy rain, and then it was just a slog through shitty weather and shitty traffic.

All in, the temperature (according to my car) rose by five full degrees (Centigrade) in the hundred miles between Newark and Home.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a drive where I was actually thankful to get out at the end of it. But that was definitely one of them.