Friday, 30 November 2012

Let the pre-move commence - It's treasure-tastic

Apologies dahlink. You may have noticed that my blog had been down for the majority of yesterday (and thanks soooo much to you people who emailed me to let me know!). Just to clarify; it wasn't my fault. Apparently I had a DNS problem. It's something that I don't quite understand, but it sounded like something that should have been treated by the genito-urinary department.

I have now been informed that it is all up and running again.

My mate Dave does the fixing ..... he owns the hosting company that I use, and because we have known each other for many years - waaaay before we worked together - he always looks after me with extra special diligence. And for getting yesterday's problem fixed, I might even send him a flapjack as a thank you. The poor bastard.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the matter in hand .........

Do you know when NASA launches space rockets? Why do they always say 'T minus 9 seconds' when they are doing the countdown? What does the T stand for? And why is it needed? It's something that has bugged me for ages. Like, why do you have to dry-clean raincoats?

Suffice to say, I have 'T minus 9 days' until I move house and the pressure is mounting, despite the fact that I try to shrug it off like an errant baked bean on my shoulder.

Even though I don't consider myself to be a hoarder (in fact, I am non-sentimental about disposing of stuff), the main problem was that I still had too many things to fit into my new house, so I needed to jettison loads of crap.

But in doing so, I encountered a real mystery. When I moved into my house, it was totally empty. Every room was a blank canvas.

"That's not a bloody mystery!" I hear you cry.

True. But what IS a mystery, is that during the clear-out process, I have discovered a whole heap of weird objects that I didn't put in there, and I honestly have no idea where they came from (the same happened when I moved from my London house - I found a load of interesting antiques in the attic - which I'm sure was empty when I moved in).

Anyway, because I am like Mother Theresa, but with a better hairdo, I have got some pictures for you .......... starting with the cellar (or basement as you call it in the US) ...........

Pic.No.1 This was the cellar AFTER I had spent a week clearing it out ..... GULP. Not looking good. It's still a European shit mountain

Pic.No.2 I did find a lot of my old stuff that I expected ..... like this oil filled radiator. And I just bunged it all on Fleabay

Pic.No.3 This was also one of mine ...... a tennis racket that I used at University. That's got to have antique value

Pic.No.4 Now we move onto the 'mystery' stuff. Starting with this tiny copper based oil-lamp. Where the blazes did it come from? It is small, but very cute (at 12cm high). Actually scrub that. Oil Lamps are not cute. It's like calling a light-bulb cute. But I'm going to clean it up. And flog it

Pic.No.5 More mystery. This was very interesting. It was a whole stack of old oil paintings ..... I will go through them later and let you know if there was anything of note in there

Pic.No.6 Mysterious-tastic! A vintage metal Guinness ashtray saying 'Guinnless isn't good for you'. I love this. I want to serve mince pies in it at Christmas

Pic.No.7 Mysterious-tastic-tastic! I found this old clay pipe down in the cellar too. It probably dates from Victorian times and has a grape motif on the sides. But where did it hail from?

Pic.No.8 Mysterious-tastic-tastic-tastic. An old 'Imperial' Typewriter. Do you know what, if I knew how to do it, I would rig it up to an iPad for comedy value

Pic.No.9  Mysterious-tastic-tastic-tastic-tastic. I found a bloody AXE in my cellar. WTF? Maybe I could use it to behead pixies ... but then who would collect Izzy's teeth?

But it was not just the cellar that has needed a good clear out ....... I had to comb through all the other rooms looking for things that we won't need in the new house and it's a lot ..................

Pic.No.9 There's lots of little things that I need to sell, like these Laura Ashley cushions

Pic.No.10 And do you remember when I bought this in January? It was one of my new gadgets at the time ..... but now it has to be sold because I have a built-in microwave at the new house. So it's on Fleabay

Pic.No. 11 Huzzar, it's me! I found this fancy hat down in the cellar (and the phone rang just as the auto-pic on my camera went off. DOH). I have worn it all day, pretending to be Lady M of Forest Hill. The Postman was quite surprised: he said "bloody hell, you look a bit glamorous for a Friday morning."

Pic.No.12 GRRRRRRR ..... at the moment, every room is full of shit that needs sorting out. And I have to do it all in a single week. As they say ...... what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger

Wish me luck dahlink!

P.S. Today I called British Telecom and arranged for them to activate my telephone and broadband in the new house. They confirmed that I will get my new broadband equipment on Friday, and that the actual service will be activated on Saturday. If that happens, I will make a kebab out of Naughty George and eat him with some cabbage salad and chilli sauce.

P.P.S. Apparently I will be getting the keys to my new house tomorrow! (Even though I am not supposed to move in until next weekend). But the new landlord thought it would be easier for me if I could move over the period of a week .... and he is right. Awwwww, I love you, Dean (in a non-sexual way).

P.P.P.S. Naughty George has got a habit of sleeping outside of the closed door of the Guest Bedroom. As though he is waiting to get in. It's weird. As though there is someone in there that he wants to get to.

 Pic.No.13 Naughty George sleeping outside of the Guest Bedroom

Hopefully the new house will sort that out.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Do you want a sneaky preview of my new house?

Bloody nora! According to my Blog statistics, this is my 900th post. I feel like I should make a cake or something, but after the flapjack incident (opens in a new window), when I accidentally used self-raising flour instead of plain, I am not rushing back into the kitchen any-time soon. Man alive, those flapjacks looked like house-bricks. I used one of them to level my desk.

And even if I DID manage to successfully bake a cake, could you imagine what 900 candles would do to the ozone layer? Actually thinking about it, it would be quite cool. There would be an enormous hole over Oxford, and I might even get a suntan. The relevance being, that one of my nicknames is 'Stilton' (white with blue veins). 

Anyway, I digress. As you know, I am moving house soon, and my bloggy chum Robert asked how I was getting on. In fact, so did my other bloggy chum, Bren.

Well, I went through an anxious week and a half where I didn't hear from the owner despite three attempts at contact, but then I got a text saying that it was all on. Huzzar!

But let's rewind a bit. When I first viewed the house, it had been lived in by an old chap who had unfortunately died, and suffice to say there were a few things about the place that were a little, ummmmm .... outdated. His son had inherited the place and promised to modernise it prior to me moving in.

However, I needed a little more reassurance ........

Hence he invited me over last Saturday to view progress (they'd been at it for two weeks). And because I am like Mother Theresa, except that I don't have ear hair (why else do they wear veils?) ......... I have got some pictures to show you.

Pic.No.1 This is the living room. It looks lots better than it did, but still has horrible brown curtains and horse brasses on the fireplace .... I will be replacing them

Pic.No.2 Ok (still in the living room), I really need your help here. What the hell do I need to do to make that ugly brown cupboard look nice? Yes, that one in the corner

 Pic.No.2 The dining room is cool - just a square room with patio windows and a lovely terracotta floor

Pic.No.3 Although I will endeavour to avoid this room as much as possible, the kitchen is modern with a brand new washing machine and built-in microwave and oven. Even better, it has a view over a field full of cows (evil bastards)

Pic.No.4 The bathroom is modern with a HUGE shower. I mean, you could hold a soiree in it. 'Canape anyone?'

Pic.No.5 This is the main bedroom. But is it me? Or should something be done with those wooden wardrobe doors?
Pic.No.6 Lovely ...... a sneak preview of Izzy's new bedroom ...... it has views spanning more than 10 miles of Oxfordshire countryside. I REALLY wanted this room, but she was adamant it was hers

But the dilemmas don't end there. 

Finally, because my new house has one less bedroom than my current house, I need to jettison one set of bedroom furniture and keep another. So dahlink, please tell me which one you would keep ......

Pic.No.7 Shabby chic bed, hand-crafted and distressed .... in a pale cream colour with matching furniture (can you see the can of mozzie spray on the side?!)

Pic.No.8.Or .......  hand-crafted Wrought-Iron Bed in Black and Brass with restored antiques?

I need help here my bloggy chum!

Friday, 23 November 2012

How do the Banks get away with it?..... apart from HSBC that is

This week I have felt like a salmon.

In a 'swimming upstream' kind of way, not in a 'taste good with watercress sauce' kind of way.

Pic.No.1 I am that good at Photo-shop, you might not be able to spot the bit that I added

Do you know when you have weeks where events are conspiring against you? Well I just had one of them.

One of my goals was to open a Business Bank Account for a new venture that is coming to fruition. As you already know, I had attempted to do this with the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and had aborted the attempt after experiencing shameful levels of customer service (opens in new window).

Following that dire diatribe (two weeks ago), I then subsequently submitted another online application for a business bank account with Lloyds TSB (the other bank that was bailed out by the taxpayers during the financial crisis).

An auto-responder email came back saying: "Thank you for your application, an advisor will be in touch within 48 hours." Bear in mind that I have several year's savings that I want to invest, and I don't want to borrow any wonga, so I consider myself to be a pretty solid potential customer (apart from the fact that I make salmon say 'flaps'. That makes me look a bit flakey).

Did I hear back from them within 48 hours? Nope. Five days maybe? Nope.

Pic.No.2. I just secretly used my Photo-shop skills again

But to give Lloyds TSB a tiny bit of kudos, they did at least eventually respond (unlike RBS), albeit one and a half weeks late.

A cheery Lloyds chappie telephoned me yesterday and introduced himself: "Hello Dr. Dickens, I hear you want to open a Business Bank Account?"

"Yes I did indeed," I replied. 

"Did?" enquired cheery bloke.

"Yep, past-tense. I have now opened an account with HSBC." (more to come below)

"I'm sorry about that," the chappie said, " but we have had a backlog of applications to deal with. Maybe we can discuss the possibility of you moving your account over to Lloyds? ............" his voice tailed off.

"Thanks for the offer," I replied, "but I really do need a bank I can rely on."

After my aborted attempts at opening an account with RBS, and then again with Lloyds TSB, I decided to adopt a different strategy ........

I concluded that the way forward was to apply for a bank account with HSBC, a bank that HADN'T been bailed out by the taxpayer during the financial crisis. 

Get this ....... in less than TEN MINUTES after me submitting my online application, a representative from HSBC bank telephoned me. They gave me the name of my local 'Business Manager', and arranged a meeting for me the next day to finalise the details of my bank account. 

Berluddy nora! I didn't see that coming.

 Pic.No.3 Hey, HSBC ..... you've made a good start

So I turned up at the meeting (at an HSBC branch local to me) with James Bennett (my local Business Manager), and he got everything sorted there and then. 

And that was it. My Business Account was up and running. Bloody brilliant!

Ummmmm ........ I wonder why the other banks needed to be bailed out by the Government?

They are a disgrace. 

So dahlink ,what are you doing this weekend?

P.S. I have got a Co-op 'Chilli Chilli Bang Bang' pizza in the oven as we speak. Time to put the toilet roll in the fridge methinks.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

On the move ......... again!

So as you already know from a previous post (opens in a new window), I am being made homeless.

After moving to Oxford from London a few years ago, I took on the rental of a really old cottage (circa AD 1546), and ended up living here for four and a half years - way longer than I originally intended. But the owners are moving back to the family pile now that their career secondment in Ireland has come to an end. Which means that Izzy and I are technically going to become homeless.

It's been cool living here, apart from:

1. The big bastard hairy spiders

2. The plague of mosquitoes that live in the water barrels outside

3. The uneven flagstone floor in the kitchen which has caused me to fall over 13 times throughout the duration (always happens when I wear heels)

4. The low beam over my bedroom door, upon which I keep twatting my forehead (I have a permanent small circular bruise on my forehead. It looks like I've been to Mecca)

5.  The scrubland garden, which is hugely high maintenance

6. The shower curtain around the tiny bath. It sticks to my legs whilst I wash. The only feeling worse than that, is sitting on a toilet seat that is still warm from the previous incumbent

Moving house - After travelling around China a number of times, I can quite categorically state that this is not an unusual sight

But don't get me wrong, I also love a change.

It all stems from when I was a youngster.

My father was in the Royal Air Force (at which time he sported a dodgy moustache, flew fast jets, and enjoyed drinks with the chaps in the Squadron; "Tally Ho, Chumley!"), and it also meant that we never lived anywhere for more than two years.

Crikey, when I was a kid, we resided in Liverpool (oop North), Peterborough (on the right hand side of England), Belfast (in Ireland), Barnstaple (in Devon), Douglas (on the Isle of Man), Burnley (in Lancashire) .... and that is to name but a few.

And then I decided to add to the tally by leaving home at sixteen, and moving around on my own to various places: Coventry (total armpit), Birmingham (the ugliest city in the UK? But I really liked living there), Solihull (Birmingham pretending to be posh), London (loved it, and stayed there longer than anywhere else), Caerphilly (in Wales. Hated every second and I lasted less than a year there), and finally ...... Oxford!

Anyway, I digress. Back to the present. I was still being made homeless, and although I had a big urge to move somewhere abroad - I was thinking of California - I decided against it because it would disrupt Izzy's schooling.

So instead, I deployed the dog-walking Grannies in my village to help me with my dilemma of trying to find a a house in the general locale. I like to chat with them all you see, and they were keen for me to stay in the village.

I tell you now, Grannies with small dogs are the way forward. You know Miss Marple? They are just like that.

They wonder around the village, dragging their reluctant mutts behind them, and they spot every little thing that is going on. Say, for example, that I was horribly murdered by a psychopath with a machete who cut off all my limbs, I am pretty sure that they would not be phased by the amount of blood, and would weed out the culprit within a week or so.

 The ultimate Miss Marple (Margaret Rutherford). Cat's bum lips, and a keen sense of what is going on in the village

And sure enough, my strategy paid off. Picture the scene: Last weekend, I was pre-occupied with trying to get one of Barbie's arms out of the toaster, when I heard an urgent rapping of my front door.

 I opened it to find one of my lovely Grannies (armed with a Jack Russell on a leash), looking a bit flustered.

"You need to come quickly!" she shouted at me breathlessly. "I think there is a house coming available at the end of the street!"

I donned my coat and ran behind the aforementioned Granny (who was using a super-propelled walking stick) until we reached a house with a van parked outside.

There was a young man (in his early thirties) loading furniture into the back of the said van.

"Young man!" Granny shouted.

"Yes, can I help you?" asked young man.

"Is this house available for sale now you are leaving?" Granny asked.

"Yes I think so, but you'll have to speak to my Uncle .... he owns the house."

"Can we have your uncle's telephone number?" shouted old lady.

 "Sure," replied the young man, pausing for a moment to write the telephone number on the header of an old newspaper. He ripped off the segment and handed it to me.

I didn't think anything would come of it, but I rang the number a couple of hours later ...... and suffice to say ........ boyakkashaaaaa! Izzy and I have got a new house! After literally 10 minutes conversation.

We are going to be moving into our new house on the weekend of the 8-9th of December, so watch this space.

P.S. when was the last time you moved? And what was it like?

P.P.S. Lovely Granny earned a big bunch of roses and lilies, and a huge box of truffles for her efforts. In response, after a huge intake of breath, she waggled a finger at me and admonished; "oooh you're a naughty girl."

Friday, 9 November 2012

Hey you! Royal Bank of Scotland. Your customer service is SHITE

Today I am going to rant.

About bad totally shite customer service.

Picture the scene: I wanted to open a Business Bank Account; seemingly a quite straight-forward affair. And I wanted to deposit a fair old sum of wonga into said bank account. So I did a bit of research and found that RBS (the Royal Bank of Scotland) seemed to have a pretty good deal going on. Two years' free business banking to be precise.

Pic.No.1  RBS employees on a lunch-break. There are drugs in those red cans

So I rang them, and they grilled me for 38 minutes on the minutiae of my business. Then they told me that within 48 hours, a Bank Manager in my general vicinity would contact me to finalise the details.

Did it happen? ......... Nope.

So I rang them a second time, and it took a further 20 minutes for the guy on the other end to verify all my business details (again), before he too said that a local Bank Manager would be in touch to finalise the details.

Did that happen? ........ Nope.

By this stage I was getting a little irritated to say the least, and I would never normally give a company three chances, but I had already invested so much time in the application process that I decided to try again. 

So I rang them a third time, and my call was answered by a teenager on work experience (probably).

I explained to him that this was my third attempt at opening a bank account with Royal Bank of Scotland and that I was getting a little frustrated.

His high-pitched (I don't think his voice had broken yet) response was along the lines of: "Christ! I don't know what is going on in this office, but you are the fourth person who's complained to me this morning about that kind of stuff." [It was only 11am].

"So other people are complaining about RBS not getting back to them?" I asked, incredulous that he had just spewed forth that information.

"All. The. Time. Like," he said, punctuating his words for added gravitas. [Ughhh, he said 'like' at the end of a sentence.]

"Is there any chance that I will be able to open an account?" I asked tentatively.

"Yep, you've come to the right place, all I need to do is check a few business details," replied the pimply twat.

And so I spent another 25 minutes on the phone, going over all the business details that had been supplied TWICE before.

As we reached the end of the conversation, he confidently stated, "I will email you all the documentation that you need within the next hour. All you need to do, is print it out, sign it, and take it to your nearest RBS branch to finalise the details."

Call me sceptical, but I asked, "within the next hour? Definitely?"

"Well it might be a little bit longer because we are having IT problems this morning, but I'm not like the rest of 'em," the pre-pubescent nob said (and I could hear his salesman smile down the telephone line). 

Did it happen? ......... Nope.

So I waited two days (just to give him a chance).

Did it happen? ......... Nope.

So now I nominate RBS (the Royal Bank of Shite), as having the crappest customer service in the country. What makes it even worse is that the bastards were bailed out by taxpayers to prevent their collapse during the financial crisis.

Pic.No.2 RBS Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Hester, insists that he has dragged the bank out of the doldrums

I have never encountered such ineptness in such a large company.

Actually, I can't back that up. The following companies also languish in the cesspit of crap customer service:

British Telecom 
Curry's Electricals
Sony Vaio 

And Google and Apple are a bunch of wankers too ........ there are at least 20 website layers to go through before hitting any useful support.

So dahlink, now you have to tell me the companies you dislike most and why (so we can form a gang).

Monday, 5 November 2012

Bonfires and Bingo Warriors

Ye gods. I can't believe it has been ages since I last posted. It has whizzed by in a blur of school holidays and work, compounded by the fact that I have been forced to look for a new house because the one I currently live in, is being sold (or being solded, as Izzy says).

Basically, when I moved to Oxford from London a few years ago, for convenience's sake, I rented this old (circa 1546 AD) cottage in a village called Forest Hill. It's called that because the village is built on a hill, with lots of trees on it. They weren't that imaginative in the olden days when it came to naming things.

 Pic.No.1. This is the cottage I rented. The picture is all fuzzy because I took it a couple of years ago when potatoes technologically outstripped camera phones

As events transpired, I ended up living here for over four years, mainly because I am a lazier than Paris Hilton's right eye, and also because moving house is like sticking a knitting needle behind your kneecap. Not that I have done that, mind you. I don't knit. Or do anything vaguely 'crafty'.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I needed to find a new house, and bloody pronto. And finding the 'right' house in the villages outside of Oxford is rarer than David Cameron coming up with a coherent strategy for anything.

So I decided that a lateral solution to the problem was needed ........ Grannies. Yep, you heard right ....... Grannies, a.k.a, Bingo Warriors.

In the course of taking Naughty George for his daily drag, I have become genial with a plethora of retired elderly people, most of whom have lived in the village for their entire lives. And they have all been horrified by the fact that my house is being sold.

Crikey, if I left the vicinity, who would rescue them in the event of a power cut, or take them on an emergency trip to the shops?

So I put on my proper sad face, and said, "can you keep your ears to the ground, and let me know if you hear of any houses becoming available?" After all, being retired, the oldies spend a significant portion of their days walking their Jack-Russell-sized dogs through the locale and visiting each other for coffees. They are indeed, a font of local knowledge. They all agreed, and I thought nothing of it.

Until today ....... I had a knock on the door from one of the Grannies ......... I shall update you on what happened in my next post [TEASE!]

On another note, I did manage to find a bit of time for a night out. That is my superhero power, that is.

In the UK, on the 5th of November we celebrate something called Guy Fawke's night, and that's what I did. Basically, it originated in 1604 AD when a bloke called Guy Fawkes and his mates, whom we shall call Dissidents, tried to blow up Parliament in an attempt to overthrow the government.

Pic.No.2 This is a picture of parliament that I nicked from the internet. Guy Fawkes tried to blow it up

They failed, and from that date onwards, Guy Fawke's night has been celebrated big time throughout the UK.

Home-made effigies of Guy Fawkes are burnt on communal bonfires, and fireworks are let off with gay abandon. Actually thinking about it, it probably sounds quite pagan ...... and was probably instigated by the Daily Mail (if it existed then). Naughty George has always hated bonfire nights, because the sound of the fireworks has always freaked him out. But the good thing is that because he has gone a bit (actually a lot) deaf this year, he luckily remained chilled (whilst sweating and stinking), in his bed. 

Back to the matter in hand ..... Izzy and I went to a 'Guy Fawke's event' in the neighbouring village of Beckley. And I was lucky enough to bump into some chums the minute I arrived ......

Pic.No.3 From left to right: Graham, Tim and Cath. They might look innocent but I know for a fact that they all had quaffed Mulled Wine. Also I didn't want to publish this picture of Cath with her eyes shut, but the other picture was rubbish

Pic.No.4 This is a picture of the 'Guy Fawkes' being burnt on the bonfire, but I was too far away to capture all the action

Pic.No.5 Izzy (left) and friends playing with sparklers (man alive, sparklers smell better than petrol)

Pic.No.6 The fireworks ..... I accidentally spilled a whole cup of Mulled Wine down myself when I lifted up my camera to take this shot ...... I forgot that I had the cup in my left hand. Mulled Wine is well red, and I ended up looking like I had been stabbed

Pic.No.7 The Grand Finale ..... I missed most of it because I was chatting with Cath (who bizarrely hails from the same village as me - Barrowford - oop north)

Pic.No.8 Tim and Graham (with a Doctor Who scarf on) watching the fireworks. It was colder than a Polar Bear's chuff

So, flippin' hek, it's all change around here at the moment. I'll endeavour to keep you informed in a more timely manner than I have done in the last week.

But tell me dahlink, what schenanigans have you been up to?

LinkWithin Related Posts