27 March 2014

The Gas Man Cometh

Well, actually in my case, not the gasman but a workman. And "cometh" he did not. Although I say so myself, I'm pretty good with a paintbrush, screwdriver and hammer, even with a monkey wrench, but am useless with a saw, so there is the occasional job where I put my hands up and admit defeat. So, in the middle of last year, I looked up the ads in our local paper for a handyman to come to my rescue. I was so impressed with the way he thought round some of the problems without the alternative of racking up a huge bill, that I decided to use him before my mother moved into her retirement flat at the end of October.

The main job was to freshen up the paintwork of the walls of her entire one-bedroom flat (the woodwork seemed fine and I thought painting that would unnecessarily delay her moving in). Again Handy Andy (his name for himself, not mine) did a sterling job and I asked him if he could return in few weeks to hang my mother's pictures and replace a skirting board that had been removed by the previous owner in the kitchen to make room for an extra-wide fridge-freezer. His advert proclaims that "no job is too small", so I expected he would fit the work in when he had a spare moment.

To cut a very long and boring story short, I am still waiting.  Every so often, I ring him and he tells me with an exasperated tone that he might get over in a couple of weeks, but weeks turn into months and I ring him again. Finally after about the fourth time of reminding him, I pinned him down to giving me a definite date which would suit him. He suggested Wednesday 26th March at 2.30pm. Yesterday.

It was not entirely convenient for me, as I had a hospital appointment at lunchtime and other commitments later on, but I bust a gut yesterday to be at my mother's flat at the appointed time. I had even texted him the day before to remind him, but had ominously received no reply. Of course, my mother and I sat like lemons all afternoon waiting for him to arrive and needless to say he didn't show. I have now sent him a "yours disgusted" text telling him not to bother. I shall find someone else more reliable.

What gets me is not that he might be snowed under sub-contracting to someone else, possibly fitting bathrooms, kitchens, or who knows what (that I can understand) and that he can't be arsed to turn up for a petty little skirting board and a few pictures. What really annoys me is that he can't be bothered to pick up a phone and tell me he is snowed under. Even when I reminded him the day before, he would prefer to let me sit there all afternoon listening to a ticking clock.

Workmen, eh?

20 March 2014

It's behind you. O no, it isn't. O yes, it is

The whereabouts of flight MH370 is turning into a pantomime.  I'm sure it's not intentional but that's the way it's coming across. The story has more twists and turns than the flight itself. Every day there is a different slant on things. It's in the China Sea. No it isn't, it's in the Malaccan Straits. Wait a minute, it could be anywhere between the South pole and Kazakhstan.  Or maybe somewhere off Australia.  Mechanical failure or terrorism? No idea. The villains are the two people with false passports who have hi-jacked it. No, wait, it could be that the pilot or co-pilot had a funny five minutes or it might be Al Qaeda.  It wouldn't surprise me to read tomorrow that it was abducted by aliens.  And meanwhile in all seriousness those poor relatives wait for the final explanation, which, the more time passes, can only be bad news. Apparently the plane's diversion was done with the flick of a simple switch and a "Goodnight. All's right". That simple. (Terrorists please note). Is that all it takes?

With all the world's technology and enough willing helper countries out there searching, we still are in the situation where first a plane can disappear without trace and secondly nobody has a clue where to look for it. How on earth could this happen? The aviation industry is going to have some job making sure this does not happen again. Maybe in future something similar to Skype or CCTV contact from ground to cockpit to "see" what happened may become as essential as the black box.

06 March 2014

Four years

6 March 2010

01 March 2014

Hellfire and Brimstone

Have I died and gone to hell? I did wonder this week. It has without word of a lie been a ****ing awful week.

First my landline phone died ten day ago. I gave it a few hours, as often, when there are engineers mucking about with junction boxes in the road, they pull the wrong wires. This indeed may have been the case, as a few hours' later the phone was working again. However, nothing is that simple and I then discovered my internet connection was down. I so dread having to phone BT.  I have a hearing problem which means I don't hear too well on the telephone and phoning BT complicates things because I invariably end up talking to their call centre in Mumbai which means my ears cannot decipher the heavy accents. I might just as well be listening to Punjabi, Swahili or Cantonese for all I understand and I feel sick with fear every time I have to ring them.  With heavy heart, I had no choice and with great difficulty found myself explaining my problem and interpreting their replies, frequently asking them to repeat what they had said. They had me running up and down stairs between my main telephone junction box on one level and the internet router on another level, unscrewing things, pressing buttons, disconnecting and reconnecting, while they tested the line. Eventually they concluded there was a problem between my house and the exchange and I should give it 24-48 hours to right itself.

Of course nothing changed over the 48 hours and I was forced to ring Mumbai yet again to inform them. More running up and down stairs on my part and more testing on theirs to which they said someone would monitor the line and ring me the next day between a 2-hour slot. Did they hell? I had to ring them a third time. More running up and down stairs (at least I am getting fit) and more testing on their part concluded the router was at fault and they would send me a new one. For that they transferred me to another part of BT - this time in Glasgow where I had just as much difficulty deciphering the thick Glaswegian accent of the man who answered the call.

I had to wait 3 days for the router to arrive, but thankfully once the new router was installed, the problem was solved. It is funny how bereft I felt without internet for a whole week. I could not access bank accounts online, send or receive emails or read your blogs. Not to mention the BT television service which allows me to record, rewind or pause live television. It felt like my right arm had been cut off. How did we manage without the internet before?

As if all that was not enough, life threw me another curveball to deal with. On Tuesday I received a call from my bank to say they had been presented with one of my cheques payable to a Mr D... H.... for £3400. Was it genuine? I told them I neither knew Mr DH nor had I recently written a cheque for£3400. In that case, they asked, should they stop the cheque to which I screamed in capital letters... YESSSSSSS. It transpired the bank had flagged up the unusually high amount and the fact that the cheque number was grossly out of sequence (in fact when I checked back through my own records, that serial number went back at least 30 years!)

Then next day I went along to my local branch  and was able to see  the cheque on screen. To all intents and purposes it looked exactly like one of my cheques - same sort code, account number, branch address and account holder. What was vastly different was the handwriting both of the letters and numbers. However from close inspection of the signature I was able to tell that certain letters were not how I would write them even though the basic shape of the overall signature was very similar.

The bank suggested I may have lost a cheque book in the past but to my knowledge I have never lost one and always shred books once I have finished with them, even the stubs. It was a mystery how they had been able to copy the cheque and my signature, but of course the serial number was what had led to the forgery being discovered. I was assured the cheque had been stopped and the case was being passed to the bank's fraud department.

It was a little unnerving, particularly as my internet was still down at that point, that this had happened at all and especially because I could not check my account regularly online, but  tried to convince myself this was a one-off and that this type of low-life exists everywhere and you just have to be alert. Imagine therefore how I felt when two days later on Thursday I got another call from the bank with news of another cheque coming in. This time it was to a Mr A.... A.. for £2800. This was worrying. This apology for a human being was trying it on again with another forged cheque of mine and with my signature. The bank employee asked me to verify that I wanted the cheque stopped which I confirmed and she hung up.

This was clearly even more worrying. Once was an accident, twice a definite targeted attack. By now I had internet back again, so I decided to go online to look up the number for the bank's fraud department and discuss it directly with them. Unable to find the number listed on a google search, I decided to look up my account and see if the number was listed on that webpage. It was then that I saw it........... the stupid bank employee has deducted the £2800 from my account and I was £2800 poorer.

My heart started pounding, my mouth went as dry as the Sahara Desert and my brain turned to mush. The thought of some insect getting their hands on my hard-earned, hard-saved money drove me crazy. Somehow, I grabbed all relevant paperwork, threw myself into my car and drove manically to the local bank branch, turning corners on two wheels  rather than four in my panic to get there. Once at the bank I blurted out like some drunken imbecile that I had just been the victim of a fraud and needed to speak to someone in authority. NOW. I was taken to the Manager' Office upstairs where I poured out my story and she was able to reassure me that she would stop the cheque. Several phone calls to other departments later, she was able to confirm it had been stopped although it would take a while to reappear in my account again.  Again I saw the cheque on screen with the same handwriting as the previous forgery and the same attempt to forge my signature.

It is a mystery how this has happened and one that hopefully the Fraud Department will unravel. Suffice to say that it has made me nervous that it will happen again and with every phone call I get at present I am anxious it is a another call from the bank!

Please tell me I have not died and gone to hell.