Tuesday, 29 April 2014

This April I’ve been …

… writing very few blog posts. My excuse? In a word, ‘life’. You know that thing that John Lennon sang “happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. It’s been one of those months, umpteen viruses circulating in the household (I’ve experienced three myself), car problems of a major nature resulting in the purchase of an ‘emergency car’ to go on a planned break, some sad news and preparations for a big life change (more about that in future posts).

… opening up my static caravan in East Anglia after its winter sleep. I always love going back to it after not being able to visit for so long, and on this occasion the break was more welcome than ever. I call it my ‘happy place’ as its somewhere I can just relax, forget about the stresses of life, enjoy the sea air and countryside and just chill.

… playing pirate adventure golf, great fun and a great stress reliever!

… discovering that lots of shops seem to have had a spring change round. Some of them I can understand doing so, as they’re in the middle of refurbishment, but others I’m sure have changed things just to be awkward! For example, my local Marks and Spencer Outlet shop has put all the men’s clothes where the women’s used to be and vice versa. What’s the point of that?

… reading the series of Lake District mysteries by Martin Edwards. The books, featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind, are full of twists and turns in the plots and make for gripping reading.

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Easter Eggs

Is it my imagination, or are there far fewer interesting Easter eggs to choose from in the shops these days? They all seem to be displayed in bog standard rectangular boxes, with a couple of regular chocolate bars thrown in. How boring is that?

You used to be able to find chocolate eggs encased in fun boxes – trains, cartoon characters etc – irregular packaging of much more variety.

As a child I can remember receiving a milky bar train, which was much more fun than a regular box and more recyclable because I used it in games for ages after the chocolate was long gone.

Chocolate bunnies are old hat too!
It’s true to say though that as a child I received far more Easter eggs than was probably healthy, necessary and even wanted! Everyone I knew seemed to produce a chocolate egg for me with a flourish that would suggest they were the only one to think of it!

I used to take out all the eggs from their packaging, put them in a large bag and store them in the larder. From there I could just nibble one as and when I fancied. Of course in those days, packets of buttons etc were actually stowed inside the egg, which had to be broken up (often tightly sealed instead of two halves laid together) to reveal the contents. Occasionally I over-indulged and suffered – especially with Caramac! However, there were invariably bits of chocolate left that I never ate – incredible, I know!

My children have grown up only ever having one or two eggs at Easter, with people opting to give a small gift instead, or just choosing to no longer keep up the Easter tradition. Maybe the general trend is to buy fewer eggs, hence the lack of good choice.

Whatever the reason I certainly don’t feel inspired to buy many of the eggs I see, despite being a bit of a chocoholic. I’ll just stick to a bar of my favourite chocolate – large of course!

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Friday, 4 April 2014

From Bad To So Much Better

Last week my mother’s telephone line suddenly went dead. “OK”, you may say, “These things happen”.

However, in this case the situation was somewhat more worrying, as my mother has dementia and relies on the phone to ring me to ask the simplest of questions. How does she operate her TV? Has her electric bill been paid and should she worry about being cut off? What day of the week is it and is there anything that she should be doing? I also need to be able to check in on her.

The phone provider concerned is Virgin Media, so once I was aware of the problem, I proceeded to try and contact them. This proved to be a far from easy task. Two different telephone number provided on her bill only gave automatic responses. An appointment slot could be allocated via this system, but I needed to negotiate with a ‘real person’ to make them aware of my mother’s condition and the way we would therefore have to approach the situation.

In frustration, I started down the email route. Some hours after the first email, I receive an automated reply, once again giving a time slot that did not allow for special instructions. Somewhat exasperated I sent a reply back to the email address from which the appointment was sent. This obviously went to a different department, because within a reasonable time frame I received a telephone call.

The adviser who phoned was polite and apologetic and actually very helpful. He realised this was not a ‘normal’ situation and offered repair within a few hours of the call. However, it had taken so long to get to this stage, that my mother would have been in bed, so we arranged for repair the following morning – astonishing in itself as this was Sunday!

My next concern was as the allocated time slots span four hours, would I have to go and twiddle my thumbs for all that time? But no, it was arranged that the engineer would call me when he was ready to go to my mother’s so that I would meet him there. OK that was the theory.

Sunday morning dawned, and lo and behold theory became practice! A friendly engineer rang giving me a full hour’s notice of his visit. We met as arranged and the fault was promptly fixed (apparently her line was damaged when the council cut her grass, but that’s another story).

In the early stages of attempting to contact Virgin my opinion of them had been very low, such was my frustration. But once I had broken through the system and could interact with human beings, they suddenly became much more helpful and efficient and we received good service.

What’s more, we are now to be issued with a form, that once signed by her doctor, will put my mother on a fast-track system, which means in future her phone line will always be repaired within four hours of reporting the fault.

So thank you Virgin for rising to the situation!

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