Category Archives: Thoughts

Anniversal

Having gone through the six years of the bankruptcy process (as I’ve written about many times in that period) today marks a year since that process completed. Time flies, and all that rot.

It’s the final real anniversary of any significance though – even though it came off my record a year ago, most of the banks work on a “Six years plus one” basis (fuck only knows why, but that’s their choice) when it comes to ‘full’ current accounts and the like.

So that’s where we are now – the full “six years plus one” is complete.

It shouldn’t affect things much – it would be nice to have a ‘full’ account with overdraft facility and so on , but only because that’s another thing that is good to have.  I’ve done fine over the last seven years with no overdraft and never needing one, and I don’t see any reason why that would change now.

However, it does mean I’ll almost certainly move away from my current bank’s offering, purely because they were lying dicks about it all the way through the process. Once I’d gone through the first year where I was officially bankrupt, I was fine to have a basic current account. When I got it, I was totally honest with the bank, and they said I could try to apply for an upgrade to a ‘full’ current account on a regular basis (every six months or so) and see how I did.

It was only after three years that anyone mentioned that they wouldn’t give me an account until the “six years plus one” – ‘but it’s not that we have a policy, sir, it’s just that’s how it works, we won’t do it before then‘ – and so had basically lied and wasted my time for all those reviews.  That did cost them money in the end – a complaint went all the way to the Financial Ombudsman, who found in my favour.  (The rule in this case is keep a record of all paperwork and appointments, so you can show a history of wasted time, and stuff that you wouldn’t have done if they’d been honest and said to not bother for seven years!)

So yes, I’ll probably change banks for the current account – I’m not yet sure who to, but we’ll see what happens.

But the most important thing really is that now, seven years on, there’s nothing else keeping me back.

Wallets

Back in October, based on a recommendation (and a liking of the style) I bought a new wallet from Rains. Not the cheapest of things, but also not world-shatteringly expensive, I liked the (slightly weird) sort-of-rubberised material it’s made from, and that it wasn’t leather.

Over the last three or four years I’ve swapped wallets a few times, trying out new things and designs, most of which haven’t really worked out for how I do things.So far though, the Rains one has suited me pretty well.

However, last week I realised that the rubber holding strap was breaking – along the line of the cut-in company name, which wasn’t really a surprise.  But for a not-cheap wallet, I would still have expected it to last better than that.  So I emailed Rains to say about this problem, and attached a photo of the problem.  I could’ve lived with it – once it finally snaps I could cut the strap off completely, and it wouldn’t affect the actual functionality at all – but still, might as well let them know.

Within the day they’d come back to me, offering a replacement or refund – and either way, to not worry about returning the faulty one.  I chose a replacement, which was sent out the same day, and arrived (from the Netherlands) a couple of days later.

I’ve again offered to return the faulty one (I figure they could at least see what’d gone wrong – but maybe it’s more of a common thing, I don’t know) but they’ve insisted on me keeping that as well, so fair enough.

All told though, I’ve been really impressed with Rains and how they’ve done things. There’ve been no questions or quibbles at all, just a simple smooth process that really stands out from most places. It shouldn’t stand out just for that (ideally this should be just how things are done) but it definitely does.

Scheduled

At the moment, there’s an advert on TV for Just Eat, and it freaks me out a little bit.

There’s one part of it where they talk about people “ordering their usual”, and doing so at a specific time – implying that it’s the same thing every week.  And that just weirds me out, that there are people out there who do the same thing every week, who eat the same meals with little to no variety.

At the same time though, it’s odd in other ways.  I’m just as bad at being uninspired when it comes to meals and so on – but that’s when I’m just cooking for myself.  If I’m paying for it (i.e. a takeaway, a restaurant meal or whatever) then I’m going to go for random stuff that I fancy eating.

So I think it’s the combination – that there are people who are paying for their meal and still only having the same thing at the same time – rather than *just* that it’s the same thing every time.

Anyway, it weirds me out – even though in some ways I’m also a massive hypocrite about it, as I’m semi-guilty of the same thing, but only in the privacy of my own home…

Good Omens

Last week, I went to see Neil Gaiman at the Southbank Centre, as part of the promotional activities for the new series of Good Omens. (It got released on Friday on Amazon Prime, and will apparently be on BBC2 later in the year)

Good Omens (the book) was written by Neil and the late Terry Pratchett thirty years ago, and it was one of Pratchett’s dying wishes for Neil to write it again as a TV series. At the time, they thought he’d got plenty of time, but he went downhill rapidly, and so after Pratchett’s funeral, Neil wrote the series, and then insisted on being the showrunner in order to make sure that it got to screen in a way that both of them would’ve found acceptible.

Anyway, I’d managed to get tickets even before they announced that he’d be accompanied on stage by David Tennant and Michael Sheen (who play the two main characters of the series, Aziraphale and Crowley) which made it even better.

The entire evening was fun – there was a choir of Satanic Nuns (if you’ve read the book, you’ll understand) in the foyer of the Southbank Centre, singing Queen songs (again, book, understand, blah blah) which boded well for the rest of it.

Compered by Kirsty Wark (who also appears in the series), they talked about how the series came about (see above), the story of Neil and Michael meeting for a dinner where both of them couldn’t work out how to tell the other that they didn’t want to play Crowley (Michael had originally been cast, but realised as he read the script that he was far more Aziraphael) , Neil discovering that Michael could do a pitch-perfect impression of David Tennant, and many other tales.

From the sound of it, while there were problems along the way, the fact that Good Omens is loved by so many people (and has been for a long, long time) worked as a great leveller of those problems – another story being that Nick Offernan was brought in very late in the day to replace someone else, and told Neil that a) he’d have paid his own flights in order to take the role, and b) that when the director apologised to him for coming such a long way for so (comparatively) few lines, he said “I’d have come twice as far for half as many

It was a really good evening, and when the series came out on Friday, I saw the entire thing in the space of an evening (not something I usually do, but this time it was worth it) and I can honestly say that they’ve all done a bloody good job of the entire thing. Utterly worthwhile.

 

Worst Retailer

In the news today, a survey (admittedly, of only 8,000-ish people) lists WHSmith as the worst retailer, for the second year running.

Which doesn’t surprise me – to be honest, the only thing that ever surprises me about WHSmith is that they continue to keep trading. They’ve been in my retail dead pool for about a decade now, and they keep stumbling on.

Personally, I rarely (if ever) darken the doors of a WHSmith. They simply don’t do what I want to buy, there are plenty of places that are cheaper/better, and (to me) most of the stores look dull and dirty.  I’m not saying they are dull and dirty, but they look it – again, to me.

The most recent example of this was a couple of weekends ago, I was in a place I’d not been before, and they had a big WHSmith store.  But from the outside, the lighting inside was so dull that it looked as though the store wasn’t actually open.  Just grim.

Anyway.

The thing that interested me in the story was this :

Every week we serve three million customers in our 600 UK High Street stores

That doesn’t seem like a very big figure, to be honest.  So I worked it out.

3,000,000 divided between 600 stores is 5,000 customers per store. Per week.  Which isn’t much.

And then you average it out over the seven days of the week – I’ll round it up to the nearest whole, as .25 of a person is ridiculous – and you get 715 people per store per day.   Which really isn’t a lot. I can’t see how those numbers all the stores to break even, let alone make a profit.

I truly don’t understand how they stay in business

History Plays

As I said last week, this year’s Shakespeare intake has somehow ended up being all about the history plays.  It’s not  been an intentional set of decisions, just the way things have worked out.

I’ve already seen two productions of Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V this year.  (And of course I also saw “Queen Margaret” late last year, which takes all of Margaret’s lines from Henry VI – all three parts – and Richard III and builds a play/story around that)

And now I’ve also booked to see the RSC’s production of King John later in the year.

All told, that means that of the histories, by the end of the year I’ll have seen …

  1. King John
  2. Richard II
  3. Henry IV, Part 1
  4. Henry IV, Part 2
  5. Henry V
  6. Henry VI, Part 1
  7. Henry VI, Part 2
  8. Henry VI, Part 3
  9. Richard III
  10. Henry VIII
  11. Edward III

So, I’m more than halfway through the histories.  Not bad, in less than a year.

Richard III

This year, for some reason, it appears that my Shakespeare input is primarily consisting of various history plays – not something that’s been planned, but that’s how it’s worked out. Prior to this year I hadn’t seen any of them

I’ve already seen two different productions of Richard II this year, and last week’s Henrilogy of Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. And last night I went to see Headlong’s production of Richard III at Northampton’s Royal theatre.

I was really impressed with the whole production – the set is small, making interesting use of mirrors and lighting – and overall I really enjoyed it.

The cast were excellent, and I found the entire thing far easier to understand than some of the others I’ve seen. (That may also be down to the source material, I don’t know for sure)

Obviously it’s not a happy play, but all the same, it was well worth going and seeing.