Literal vs Lateral

One thing I’ve found fascinating with people – both where I live now, and previous places – is how literal they are, even when it means they take longer to do things.

For example, where I now live there are several junctions where turning right onto a busy road can mean significant delays for people.  But most of those junctions also have roundabouts a short distance up the road if people instead turned left.

So here, for example – the scenario is that I’m pulling out of the Stephenson industrial estate, wanting to turn right.

If I turn left, it’s 400m to the roundabout. It’s a simple thing, an 800m round-trip, and far faster than the delay when waiting to turn right. But no-one does it. They’re so locked into “I’m turning right” that they somehow don’t even think about turning left instead.

On another regular drive, in the run-up to another roundabout, the left-hand lane gets utterly jammed, waiting for a safe gap in which to get out and turn left.  But if one takes the right-hand lane, it’s all too easy to get up to the front, go all the way round the roundabout and then come off to that same route – well before the equivalent drivers in the left-hand lane have caught up.  Yes, it’s effectively a 450° turn, but it’s *so* much quicker.  And again, people are locked into “I’m turning left” and seem to not see the alternative at all.

It’s all very odd.  I mean, I’m glad I can look at it and see those lateral decisions that make life easier, but I do find it fascinating that so many people simply can’t/don’t do so.

Car Progress

Somehow I’ve already had the new (to me) car for three full months, and thankfully it’s turned out to be a good buy.

I had my concerns – for a car registered in 2016, a mileage of 18,000 is gobsmackingly low, so I did wonder if it had spent a lot of its time in garages or whatever, but it seems that the previous owner just didn’t get out much.  Obviously that is not the case with me, so that mileage has already increased by a third. (6,000 miles in three months – yeah, that’s about standard for me)

It’s proved to be an absolute beast on the motorway, and just handles all the miles I’ve thrown at it so far.  It’s weirdly quiet in general – which isn’t a complaint, just an observation that a diesel vehicle still doesn’t feel like it’s meant to be that quiet! It’s also sitting happily at an indicated 49Mpg. I’d be happy if that were slightly better, but it’s a decent enough figure for my purposes.

It’s also meant that I’ll be able to split the costs of MOT / Servicing and Tax / Insurance Renewal – I got it with about six months MOT left, so that’ll be due in April, and Insurance etc. isn’t til November/December, which is definitely nicer than having Everything Due All At Once.

There are niggles – primarily it turns out that what I’ve got is a 2015 model that was registered at the start of 2016, so it’s just missed out on having better tech integration (no Apple CarPlay, for example) although I can – and will – fix that with some form of aftermarket sortout.  On the positives though, it means I also don’t have driver “aids” like auto start/stop , or the lane-change-warning stuff (that tried to kill me last time I had it on an Insignia) which is all fine with me.

All told, it’s worked out well.

Driving Change – Better Services

Following on from the utter farce with Cazoo being shockingly shit at customer services, it’s only fair to mention that there have been other companies who have made things a lot easier than they could have been.

First among those has been Enterprise, who have always been a stand-out for me when it comes to car-hire firms. They have one simple thing that makes them stand out (and I don’t understand why other hire firms don’t mimic it) in that quite simply, they come to collect you rather than insisting on getting to them.  Alongside that, there’s been no hassle when I’ve needed to extend the hire period and so on. I know that really it’s “just” a case of doing the jobs they’re paid to do, but sometimes even that feels like a rarity.

Honourable mention also goes to We Buy Any Car, who again just did what they said they would – I got the old Kia to them, they checked it out (and explained the entire process really clearly) and paid what they’d agreed within the day. All the paperwork came through fine, the V5C change of ownership and so on, and it was all smooth and easy. (Cazoo wouldn’t do a trade-in on the Kia, as it was over their mileage limit, which is fair enough)

Alongside that, even my car insurers (Darwin Insurance) made life easy. Once I’d taken delivery of the car, I checked other insurance providers so I’d got a good idea of costs, and then called my current insurer to see what the charges would be with them.  It turned out that sticking with Darwin would mean a premium that was about 50% higher than a different provider, so it made sense to cancel the current policy and start a new one for the new car.  Darwin made that cancellation process easy and smooth – and it turned out that I’d paid enough that I got a refund rather than having to pay the cancellation fee. (Which has just *got* to be a win!)  The new policy has also all come through fine and been easy to sort.

So, despite Cazoo being a monumental pain in the arse, there’ve been others who’ve made the entire thing a lot easier than it could have been.  And that’s something I’m deeply thankful for.


Unhelpful Timings

The one downside of the whole “need a new car” thing is that I’d only recently sorted out all the MOT, Servicing, Tax, and Insurance Renewal for the current car.  Which is, to say the least, a bit annoying.

Thankfully, the MoT hadn’t needed too much work – simply realigning windscreen wipers and headlamps, no major stuff at all – but still it’s annoying to have done all the stuff for ensuring it’s mechanically OK, only to then have something unchecked go ker-fut.   (OK, *start* to go ker-fut!)

The insurance renewal is a bit more of a pain. I could make alterations, but I suspect that the massive difference in vehicle values might make it ridiculous.  So I might have to cancel the newly-renewed policy – I know what that will cost, and it’s doable.  And before I make a decision, I’ll find out what the costs will be, so I can properly evaluate the pros and cons.

Again, things could be far, far worse. It’s just annoying.

Changes, Privilege, and Good Fortune

Every so often, in situations like this week’s need to organise a change of cars, I sit back and realise just how lucky I am.

Ten years ago I was just out of my official bankruptcy period, with another five years to come with it still on my credit record. I was doing OK, but something like this week would still have made life interesting. (As it was, I did have to go through a car change while in that bankruptcy period, but thankfully got through it OK because the administration people were excellent)

It’s taken a long time, but everything since then has been in a positive direction, and I’m happy with it all.  It leaves me somewhat gobsmacked that now I can again pay for a car on a credit card (and once everything’s gone through, I’ll move it all to an interest-free balance-transfer card)  with no real hassle.

Hopefully the new car will also not need anything major for a while (fingers epically crossed!) which will also help a lot.

Obviously, it’s more debt than I’d ideally like to be in – but it’s feasible/affordable, and I can sort the rest.  It might even give me some impetus for getting some other things off the ground and get some extra income that way.  We’ll see.

Regardless though, it’s good to have these occasional reminders that I’m fortunate enough to be in a good place, and simply appreciate that simple fact.


Ages back, while I was still in Tiny House, there was an offer going on for a particular brand of laundry pods – my usual brand of laundry detergent, but the pods instead of the liquid.  I took advantage of the offer, but then didn’t use the pods until after I’d moved here.

So far they’ve been OK, but nothing special. Not massively impressed – to the point of “wouldn’t bother getting them again”.  They’ve been doing the job, but… yeah, nothing epic.

Anyway, this week I saw an advert on TV for (a different type of) laundry pods, which showed people putting the pod in first and then covering it with the laundry to be washed.

Oh!“, I thought. “I didn’t know that was how they’re supposed to be used“.  (I’ve been putting them on the top of the laundry or in the middle, same as I did with the liquid dispenser)

So I looked at the instructions on the container of my ones, and yep, pod under the washing, and if it’s a large load or hard water (which my area is) then use two.  Which is another “ooops”, as I’ve only been using one at a time.  (Because you pretty much expect it to be in a “one pod per wash” set up – or at least I did!)

Yes, I should’ve read the instructions. But I’ve been doing laundry now for decades – and I’m a boy – so that wasn’t my first consideration.  Ah well. Live and learn.

As a result, I’ll just have to see how they go when I’m now using them properly. Should be entertaining…

Finance Trials

Over the last few months I’ve been intermittently fighting with two different finance companies about their shitty ways of handling things. I’m not going to name names (yet) so it’ll be “Company A” and “Company B”

Company A

The shorter of the disputes started back in June when I logged in to the app for their credit card, and discovered that my credit limit had dropped from around £6,000 to £1,000.  With no notice or warning. Which is, it’s fair to say, a bit of a concern…

I rang them (I know, old school!) to find out what was going on, and was told “Oh, well you weren’t using your full credit limit, so we dropped it”.  Which is, to be honest, well within their rights – I wasn’t using it, and *shrug*.  But it’s still not right to do so without any notice or warning – if they’re increasing the limit they give you 30 days notice and allow you to decline the change, so why not do the same for a decrease?

I got the change rescinded, but made a complaint about how it had been done. There could’ve been any number of reason why I might’ve been relying on that card/limit that Company A were unaware of (if I’d been getting the car significantly repaired, as one example) and where a sudden drop would’ve landed me in the shit.  (Fortunately that wasn’t the case – but they didn’t know that)

Alongside that, a drop in credit limit would almost certainly have a negative effect with the credit-scoring people – at a bare minimum it would have raised the Credit Utilisation percentage (the amount of your available credit that you’re actually using)  But it also makes other lenders twitchy – that whole perception of “why would Company A drop the limit if they didn’t think there was a problem?” and so on, and would’ve lessened my credit score as a result.

I got the response from them last week that my complaint wasn’t being upheld “because we can’t find any errors in how we administered your account”.  Which again is (kinda sorta) true/fair. Errors weren’t made in the decisions (although who ever heard of a credit card company decreasing a limit?!?)  But errors were definitely made in how that decision was then actioned, which was the actual reason for the complaint.

So today that’s gone off to the Financial Ombudsman for them to have a look at.

Company B

Company B’s problem has been *far* more long-winded.  Back in December I had fraudulent transactions made on the card, which got spotted and reported.  No idea where that leak came from, as it wasn’t a card I used often, but there we go. Stuff happens.

When I next used the app, as a result of the fraud, I had a flag put on for “heightened security”. Just to check it was me, verify transactions etc. And then they sent me a new card (as expected)

Only somewhere in that process, things went tits-up.  I went through the “heightened security” checks, validated myself, had to call them (I know, old school again!) and that should’ve been that.  But instead, the app locked up, and stayed that way – every time I went through the process for registering the new card in the app, it froze on insisting I needed to give those checks again. I did that four times, with Company B saying each time that they couldn’t understand why it was still wanting those checks, I’d definitely already done them.

I *suspect* that what happened was a clash – the “heightened security” was on the old card, which then got cancelled, but somewhere in the depths of their system, it wasn’t cleared in my account. So when I registered new card, it was still checking back and seeing that flag from old card.

Anyway, complaints (yes, plural) were made – firstly because of how badly it was handled (they agreed, and I got their default compensation payment) and then because the problem was *still* ongoing three months later, I couldn’t log in to the app.  That ended up going through their app support team, who might as well have been a black hole for all I heard from them.  And so I gave up for a while, and left it. I wasn’t using the card, didn’t have any payments to make, so *shrug* what the hell. Their problem, not mine.

Last week I reinstalled the app again, just to see. It’d been six months, after all…

And lo, it finally worked.  No-one from Company B had been in touch, despite those outstanding complaints and support issues, but at least it was working.

I got back in touch with Complaints because not being told was a bit shit, and they agreed. (In an hour-long phone call)  It hadn’t been handled well, the support team were rotten, blah blah.

So I’ve had another default compensation payment out of them, and it’s now all done and dusted.


All told, life could be worse.  I’m stupidly lucky to be in the position I’m in now, where neither of those issues has actually caused me any more inconvenience than yelling “Oh for fuck’s sake” on a regular basis.

But both of these companies are supposedly specialists in dealing with people with credit issues – as I was when I got them – yet haven’t seemed to have any real insight on how these issues could/would affect someone who truly was still having those issues, or anyone for whom life was a bit tight at present. (and god, who *isn’t* in that situation to some degree or other – even if it’s “just” being aware of how much prices have risen and so on?)

As such, I’ll be the person to use that fortune/luck and privilege to be able to have the time and energy to raise these complaints and hopefully make things better as a whole.

But really, neither of these things should ever have been as much of a problem as they turned out to be.  And that’s what makes it all so frustrating.