Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What a year!

Well its been a long long time since I blogged anything simple and down to earth, let alone just about me, and not moaning about companies and organisations. So I thought it was about time I did, so here goes.

First off, apologies for any typos I might make and miss, but I am trying this blog entry out on my new ACER Chromebook. I shall come back to that in a bit.

So..... What a year. Without a doubt the main factor has to be the passing of my dear Aunt Joan Hughes. This time last year, this exact time and day in fact, I was in Colwyn Bay making a surprise visit to her. Spending a little too long over at the carers house getting up to speed on how Joan had been, I finally went over to a rather frosty reception, and quite a telling off. Something I have grown used to in the years of visiting.

Slightly taken aback by the changes which had happened since I had see her last, but the time spent there together was as special as ever. Little did I know at the time that this would be the last time I would really see Joan at home, and the last bit of quality time we would spend together. As chatty and argumentative as ever, we spent hours talking about all sorts of things, before it was time for me to head home.

I remember the day well, as on my journey to and from Wales there were a series of nasty accidents resulting in fatalities and major road closures. Leaving me getting home at about midnight, and popping my M&S turkey ready meal in the oven for  very late dinner. No repeat of that this year, with the creation of my own roast dinner, which was delightful.

It seemed only a few weeks later that I returned to Wales, around my birthday, on hearing the news that Joan had taken a turn, and was now in a home. It was only just over a week later, on what would have been mums birthday, that the last of the 3 Lunt sisters from Old Colwyn would pass away, leaving a huge hole in the fabric of my life as I knew it at that time. The end of a generation, the end of the blood connection to a place which has always been dear in my heart.

A sad time was quickly surpassed by a strange time for me. A time spent in Wales, with Chris, Noel, and Chantal to name but a few. A time spent organising what can only be described as the disposal of Joan's estate, and what felt like a deletion of a connection to a special place. Reading the eulogy at Joan's funeral, looking out at all the faces of the people who had come to share that last moment, and pay their respects, I realised that THIS was what really meant something to me. Not the reading, not the attention, but the love respect and connections of friendship.

Since this time I have really started to appreciate my true friendships, and respect those people  deem 'friends'. Knowing that I would move a mountain to help them at a moments notice, and to know that however infrequent the meetings and conversations, that respect is mutual. It gives me great comfort to know, just like my aunt, I too have people like this in my life. So to you, I say thank you.

The rest of the year has been full of stress and distractions. Dealing with solicitors, estate agents (some great, some rubbish), executors, car rental companies, the list is endless. But over this time two things have kept me afloat, material objects, and food. Both things that I actually despise to an extend. But seeing as I am typing on one of those material objects to write this blog, I guess some good comes from them.
Food however is my enemy right now, and I intend on doing something about that starting in a few weeks time. Until then, I shall indulge myself and make the most of it.

Just watching the Queen's Speech after my home made lunch, for the first time I might add. I was surprised to see quite a basic speech, not highlighting the years events, but focusing on the inner person. Something I like to do quite a lot. Time for reflection is something we all need, apparently even the Queen does from time to time. So it turns out im normal after all.

Throughout this year many people I know have suffered in one way or another. From losing a loved one, to suffering from ill health of some sort. Again, it is at times like this you realise who your friends are. Having been through most of the above quite frequently over the past few years, I can appreciate what they are going through. To you all, I wish you all the best in overcoming these times, and striving to be stronger, for yourself and those around you.

So as the end of another year comes into sight, and all the memories of 2013 go into storage, regardless of what has happened, the highs, the lows... Lift your head high, and strive to fight on for another year, with each day of life being a gift in itself, everyday is Xmas, so don't waste the gift you have.

My final thought is a strange one, certainly for me, and might be a bit weird for others, including one certain person. But here goes...
2013 saw my daughter (the one I rarely speak of anymore) turn 18, an age of maturity, an age of independence. With this coinciding with my 40th year, my aunts passing, and many other milestones, something has changed in my life, and for the better (in a nice way).
I am the oldest generation of a family now, the highest tier, I have no legal responsibilities to anyone, I am soon to be debt free for the first time in years, so can catagorically say that I am borderline stress free, string free, chain free etc.
Seeing peoples pictures of their Xmas trees surrounded with gifts, having people reach out to me to ask me not to spend Xmas Day alone this year, and realising that the Xmas spirit I remember from a child is still within me somewhere, well its kinda made me quite sad. But at the same time determined too.
No longer am I in limbo between being a son, but also an absent parent. I no longer have the calling to travel to ensure relatives are ok on this day. But from this point on, I can enjoy Xmas again, and give it the respect it deserves.

So I say this now, and will keep my word. I have NO idea what I will do for Xmas 2014 yet, but I promise you one thing... I WILL celebrate it!

Thank you to everyone for reaching out, and helping reignite the flicker of Xmas within me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dear Yodel..... (again)

OK, so im calling to speak to someone, but can only get as far as the automated service. The parcel ID only gives me an update then hangs up, and the courier didn't actually come here so I don't have a card....So there is no option to speak to a human?

Yodel... the final curtain


So after much messing about with Yodel over the past couple of days, and many stories exchanged on Twitter and Facebook about the amazing behaviour of what seems to be the biggest useless company in the UK...... I finally got my package!! Woohoo!

How you may ask. Well here goes. The DELIVERY company were meant to deliver Tuesday, pretended they had, put a false scan on the package, stating they could not get into an open, functioning business during our business hours... while I was sitting outside and saw no one show up.

On Wednesday after lots of complaining to @YodelOnline and @SpirtsDirect_CS I was told the package would go out.... Then by 2pm with no scans on it, and no movement I was told it was staying at the depot and could go and collect, from the DELIVERY company. By this time SportsDirect had refunded my postage costs much to my delight, so it wasn't too bad. But as I was at work, it wasn't practical.
At just after 4 the package suddenly showed it was out for delivery. With business commitment of 5.30 it was never getting to my work on time. Yet faithfully I waited til 6.45 (past my finish time) As expected, nothing showed. And as expected, a short while later it was coded as no one in again.

Today I had reached the end of my tether and told SportsDirect to just cancel it, but didn't hear back. Frustrated I tweeted again at both companies, only to get another reply from Yodel inviting me to collect it. This would mean heading in the opposite direction to work, and being late for work!

Fed up of the whole thing, I gave Yodel my eta as 30 mins, and left home. Exactly 30 mins later I arrived there, told them who I was, gave ID and began the wait.
The guy at the counter thought the package might actually be out for delivery, so it took longer to find out where it was. Turned out it was in the warehouse anyway, where it had probably been since Tues. While I waited another lady came in, she had been waiting 5-6 days for her parcel, and like me had seen lots of activity on the tracking website, suggestions that it had been out for delivery, that no one had been home and other comments.

When the guy finally found her package he pointed to the address, telling her this was the problem and it was wrong. She said no its not, that's exactly where I live, he didn't accept it was right. When she said she would never use Yodel again, he replied 'please don't madam, please don't ' 

Finally my package arrived at the counter, and as it was put down, it was quite clear there was a slash across the front of it. Quite purposeful, and carefully done so not to damage the contents. I would go so far to say done to check what was in the package and if it was worth stealing. Done with a sharp object, cutting right through, but not touching the contents. As you can see I took a picture in situ on the counter.

Asking them to record the damage, the first guy didn't have a clue, the second said 'yeah mate, I'll put something on the system' and asked if the good were damaged. I pointed out they were dirty, he said 'ok'.

With that I took my package and left. Needless to day I tweeted my dis-satisfaction to Yodel, and after a response asking if anything was damaged, I have not heard back since.

With that, I have now vowed I will NEVER buy from a company who uses Yodel again. Along with a growing number of people I believe. Working in the parcel logistics business I am fully aware that problems happen. But I am yet to have a simple transaction with Yodel, and have never know SO many other people have such a foul taste in their mouth about a company also.

Given the volumes that Yodel deal with, I imagine even a huge number of complaints still leave a high satisfaction rating. God only knows they tweet all the positive responses they get. But you only have to search twitter for Yodel + shit / useless / crap / rubbish / bad etc and you will see just how many people complain about them daily.

In fact they are SO reactive to negative comments, that even when a friend tweeted to me, mentioning I should not be surprised how shit Yodel were, they asked him to DM them with his tracking number. 

So, I now have a dirty orange jacket, collected myself from the delivery company it was assigned to. I do wonder if to save money during a peak period, they are simply bullshitting delivery attempts and getting customers to collect. Thus keeping the shipping fee, but saving the delivery cost.

Food for thought! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

FAILED!

Kinda missing the point of home delivery don't you thing?

OK Yodel.... seriously now....

Where the hell is this package?
After speaking with SportsDirect earlier they kindly refunded the delivery charge for the parcel that Yodel don't seem to be able to deliver.
Yodel then tell me this morning that the package will go out for delivery today.... Shock horror, 3.45pm and the tracking still shows the package sitting at the station, well I never.

So here we go again, another day without the package arriving I wonder?

Time to call Yodel again and see if I can get through this time..

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Yodel you f**kin liars!


Fed up of this bullshit now, I lose track of the number of times I have dealt with Yodel, but they are yet to deliver a package without problems. From saying it was the wrong address, to tonight's 'unable to gain access' to a reception desk of a courier company that is open beyond 7pm? Seriously? 
Or was it the courier could not be bothered to deal with the traffic on Southwark Park Road, so just waited til past regular business hours, bullshitted and just coded it as business closed.

So once again I pay for faster delivery, only for the company delivering it to let the supplier down. Why people still use Yodel I don't know, I sure as hell wouldn't out of choice!

So I await some twitshit about how sorry they are, and some pointless apology which neither gets me my jacket for tonight when I wanted it for, nor the money back for paying for a delivery service that failed to deliver.

If there is one thing Yodel does do well, it's continue to survive in an environment where SO MANY people think you are utterly useless.

Thanks for nothing Yodel, the only guarantee you keep is the guarantee to fail and disappoint every time!


Yodelayheehoo... Parcel for you ..

After getting an email from SportsDirect to say my package was out with non other than Yodel, I panicked and Tweeted asking if I would ever see it. They replied and offered assistance, so I asked roughly what time the package would be delivered, as its coming to my work address.

Knowing its a 9pm commitment I was aware that it might be after I left, but then I got this reply from @YodelOnline
Hi Michael. The driver will know to deliver before 5 and I can safely say your parcel is out to you and will be attempted today :-)

Needless to say I was delighted to hear the news. However with the clock fast approaching 6pm, there is no sign of the said package, nor any replies from the @YodelOnline team. Shocker I know.

So as the clock ticks on, and the courier has still not shown, the excitement of the day moves onto another game. Away from 'look out the window' and on to 'which excuse will it be'

So here are the options.

Will the courier...

A/ Attempt the delivery just before 9pm, when the building is finally all locked up. There is someone on reception til gone 7pm.

B/ Scan the package and say the address was closed (before 7)

or
C/ Scan the package as 'wrong address' minutes before returning to the depot and scanning it back in. As has happened in the past.

If it is C I wont be too impressed.

Working for a courier company I understand how much pressure couriers are under, but as someone who works between the courier and customer, I know how important correct and clear communication with the customer is. Rule #1 DON'T promise things that won't or may not happen.

My faith in Yodel wavers from day to day.  My last experience with the online guys was great, faith restored. But then having a package delivered to my address the other day, the courier hurriedly confirmed it was the right address, and left it with me upon me signing. Only to return 20 mins later as he had left the wrong one.
YES, I know I signed for it, but I was taking the dogs out, and he told me who it was for and what address. Just gave me the wrong one.

Either way, its 5.55 now, and the tracking website says....
Current status: With courier
Your parcel requires a signature.

Monday, December 2, 2013

All in the name of a 'sensational' story


Just watching Sky News coverage of the removal of the helicopter from the crash site in Glasgow, along with interviews with fire officers, and families of missing people who believe their families are in the building.
First thing that pissed me off was the way the reporter was probing the fire officer. I understand that sometimes awkward questions need asking, and people need putting on the spot. But to stand there and insinuate that the fire service are not doing enough.... This coming from a person who works for a multi billion pound corporation, who has paid people to fly helicopters over the scene, and put camera crews and reporters on the ground for days who do nothing but repeat all the same info for hours on end, film the grieving families, and the emergency services trying to do their job.

HOW DARE YOU stand there and accuse them of standing by.

Then there are the families, who are struggling enough as it is, being interviewed about their loss or possible loss. Only to be baited with questions like "do you think the fire service could have done more". Pushing, provoking and hoping for an emergency service beating reply, damning their actions etc.

WTF is the matter with you people?

There is reporting fact, then there is twisting and turning stories to make it a bit more interesting. A helicopter crashing through the roof of a pub in the middle of a live gig wasn't 'exciting' enough. So you thought you would stir some shit up with the grieving and angry families to turn it into a police and fire service showdown.
Let me guess, next up it will turn into a 'because of government cuts' or 'had Scotland been allowed independence' story.

The story is the crash, the victims, and most of all, what caused it. If there is nothing else about the story to report, pack up, move on and fuck off home you idiots. 

The media..... making a mountain out of a molehill for the past decade.... And if they can't find one, they will just make one.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

An open letter to Bromley Parking / LBB

Before I get into the nitty gritty of the whole matter I just want to make something perfectly clear.
I have NO issue with correctly signed and enforced parking restrictions and the subsequent penalties incurred for ignoring or flaunting the parking regulations. During my 20+ years of driving, if I have made the decision to park in the face of the restrictions, I have always sucked it up and paid the fine.

However, I refuse to be tricked, cheated or lied to by an authority who behaves in the way Bromley Council have with their apparent CPZ (Controlled Parking Zone) in Bromley Town Centre.

Visiting last weekend for a quick nip to a local shop I found a yellow line on one of the back streets, checked around for any enforcement signs to see what the restricted hours were, found none within a 'reasonable' distance of the spot, so decided it was OK to park there. Before I go on, YES I know a yellow line means there are parking restrictions of certain hours, but with no enforcement signs, was left assuming weekend, like a lot of other places, were OK.

On returning to my car a little while later (10 mins or so) I was greeted by the sight of a parking enforcement officer taking a picture of my car, and starting to walk away (ticket already on the car). Quickly following her and getting her attention I politely enquired what offence the ticket had been issued for. Her first reaction was to seem a little uncertain as to why I was being so friendly about it. I said I had no issue with her doing her job, but just wanted to enquire where the enforcement signs were, and what the operational hours of the lines in fact were. She very politely replied and told me that 'this is a CPZ because its a very busy area' I asked where the signs were placed in the road I was parked in, she then explained that the signs were in fact as you enter the borough of Bromley (my entry point was approx 3/4 miles from where I parked).
I thanked her for her time and drove home.

On the way home I decided to take a look for the signs that I had missed on the way into Bromley, but was unable to find anything. So today, a week later, I decided to video my trip into Bromley, back to the space I was originally  parked in, and see if I would notice any of these CPZ notifications on the way in.

I should also add that I appealed against the ticket this week, and yesterday received a reply saying they would NOT be cancelling the ticket as they feel there is adequate signage warning of the CPZ, as I had explained my journey into Bromley, they were kind enough even to state the following....'The Controlled Parking Zone signage will be at all entrances to the zone, including London Road.

Taking the information supplied to me by Bromley Parking themselves, I checked carefully as Bromley Hill turned into London Road, and all the way along it until reaching Tweedy Road, which is the route to the town centre.. I can say with 100% confidence that there are NO signs relating to a CPZ along that stretch of London Road. There are advanced traffic warning signs, directions to the car parks, and other various town centre related information signs, but NOTHING about the CPZ.
So first things first Bromley, be sure of something before you try and use it to prove your point.

My recorded journey continued right along Tweedy Road, down into Kentish Way, still nothing other than directions to car parks, most of which are operated by Bromley Parking, so of course they are keen to highlight sources of revenue, and maybe cloak other avenues of revenue like not telling people about the CPZ and the subsequent ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY POUND fine.
Continuing along the journey, along the A21 Kentish Way until the junction with the B228 Masons Hill, so I turned into Masons Hill using the right hand of 2 lanes, and joining the road still in the outside of 2 lanes. Travelling down the hill, just starting to pass a bus stop which has a bus waiting at it, I get stopped in traffic with the bus to my left. The lights ahead at the junction of Westmoreland Road change and I prepare to move off. Suddenly as the bus to my left moves forward and I reach just before the junction of Cromwell Ave, and pass the bus stop, to my amazement there IS a CPZ sign after all. But just the one.

I'm sure you want to see this sign that I have tried to describe to you, so here it is. A few shots I managed to grab after parking up, not the same conditions I had been driving in today or indeed on the day in question, but it will allow me to highlight my issue with it I'm sure.




Using the second image as an example, in traffic, with a number of buses stopping and moving away from the bus stop, or even buses or large vehicles queuing in the left lane, which is a  pretty frequent occurrence due to the traffic lights at Westmoreland Road, it is ENTIRELY possible to completely obscure this one, single, individual CPZ notification. If this were one of a few, had been placed at the traffic lights turning into Masons Hill from Tweedy Road, or if there were more signs as you continue into High St from Masons Hill... Heck if there was even one at the entrance to Elmfield Road where I was parked, I would whole heartidly accept I was in the wrong and had failed to spot signs which were obvious to road users, as the general guidelines of CPZ recommends. But that's not the case.

Instead, Bromley have erected a single, vague, easy to miss, easy to be obscured, hard to tell where it relates to, sign which is about 18" high, on a lamppost by a bus stop, in an area of extremely busy traffic and pedestrian flow, where your attention and concentration would be better spent on the road.

So this is my point to you Bromley. I love visiting Bromley for many activities including shopping, dining, visiting friends, and have no issue paying to park the car parks you provide. It is refreshing to see a council provide quite so much parking for a town centre, although I appreciate some of it is privately managed. However, my point is, as much as I support the penalisation of stupid and selfish parking, while I think paying a fine received in good faith for one of the above acts is justified.... I feel on this occasion you are in the wrong. You have almost purposely been vague about the operational hours of single yellow lines, failed to put up what most people would consider adequate signage to inform users of your imposed CPZ. And then if that was not bad enough, you insult me by trying to tell me there are signs entering the borough which justify the fine you have issued... Where there are quite clearly NOT !
I told you in good faith what route I entered the borough and town centre by, and you have lied in your response, in writing.
I am also curious regarding the line of 'you were allowed to park to load or unload' Where is the sign that informs me THIS act is permitted? Once again, the sheer lack of signage in this location leads to even more confusion

OK, so I have gone on for long enough on this matter, so I shall sum up what the point of all this is.

My points are as follows.

1/ Your CPZ is NOT signed in a sensible and fair manner, in fact it is barely signed at all, which has no doubt led to many unfair and borderline unjustified parking fines being issued.
2/ Your letter rejecting my appeal for the fine to be cancelled is misleading, inaccurate, and offends me that you try and give me information to justify your actions. Only for me to find it not to be true.,
3/ A single sign may 'just about' tick the box for your legal obligations to advise motorists that they are entering a CPZ, but like any road sign, if it can easily be obscured, it can be deemed inadequate, any by some might even be seen as an attempt to flaunt the regulations in your favour.
4/ Finally, your appeal rejection letter notifies me that your decision is final and that I must now wait for the Notice to Owner before I can formally challenge this penalty notice, which as we all know is the line that all authorities love as it clearly really reads 'last chance for a discount, before it goes up to £130'

I shall return to Bromley tomorrow and get much clearer pictures to represent my point when I formally challenge this ticket. And for this I shall request the assistance of someone to take professional standard images, suitable for proper representation. If the findings are in my favour at the representation, I will then seek to recover costs of travelling to Bromley on two occasions, parking costs, and any charge made for the images and video taken.

A letter reflecting the comments in this blog will be sent to LBB by recorded delivery on Monday, and the signature stating the letter is received will be considered that my notice to yourselves, and intention to recover costs, has been received and understood.

I complain and moan about a lot of things in life that are irritating, annoying and even upsetting, but this is one of THE most anger provoking things I have written about in a long time.
Out of the countless signs pointing people to car parks and other things, you put up ONE to just scrape by the regulation.

Not impressed Bromley... NOT impressed.

Please see below the formal letter from Bromley stating their reasons for not cancelling the ticket,


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Well done Wonga.com ..... Almost !

After my last rant about Wonga.com and their failures to bother to contact me or respond to my emails... They did !!
Imagine my surprise when Andrew from Wonga called up and said he was aware of a serious issue and complaint I had made, and he would like to look into it to get it sorted and stop me having any more problems with my payment.
We spoke about the issue, how it had been escalated to him, and what the cause seemed to be. Andrew told me he would like to get some information then have time to look into it, and get back to me with the fix. I agreed.
As we spoke, it became apparent for a while that he thought it might be a problem with my bank account or card, and not an issue at their end. So after collecting some information from me he started to tie up the call. Before he could continue I asked him if he could take the payment there and then to stop me having to go through the hassle of sorting it out later. He agreed but with the added line that it might be a problem with the card, so a payment might not be successful.

Having spoken with my bank earlier in the day, and confirming that there was NO issue with my card, account etc, I was positive it was an issue with Wonga.
Sure enough, seconds after agreeing to 'try' and take the payment, a somewhat surprised Andrew came back on the line and confirmed the payment had gone through, no issues, and it must indeed be an issue with the system their end. No shit Sherlock !

With my mind at ease, and with the payment made, we ended the call there and agreed that he would call back later that evening after he had heard back from the IT dept.

7pm came around, and as promised the phone rang and it was Wonga again. From the offset it was made clear that there had been an issue with their system, and it was explained that my card, even though the ONLY card on file, was not set as the 'primary' card, therefore was not being used to collect payment. So in reality, rather than all the stupid emails I was getting, someone could have checked and spotted this months ago, or the system could have just spat out a 'no primary card' error. But instead its always better to blame and harass the customer, of course !

With that resolved, I was assured that it had been corrected now, and that the future payments would not have issue with them, as long as my funds were available and card didn't change. Once again rushing to end the call, Andrew again apologised and started to say his goodbye's. Stopping him in his tracks I asked if I could have the contents of our discussion in an email, as written confirmation of what had actually happened, and of the action they had taken to prevent it happening again.  This was agreed to.

20 mins later the email came through, and indeed stated all the required information for my own records.
Problem solved....................... but not the end of it.

On the day all the emails were sent to Wonga I had received the automated 'thank you' email, but none of the patronising 'better to call us' rubbish that they seem to send out when they just don't want to deal with the matter themselves. At least that's how it comes across. Every email I sent that day had all the information they usually ask for, name, email, DOB and address. Given that I had supplied all this, and received a call back, I assumed that was that.
So imagine my surprise, when 2 days later I get two more of the 'we don't know who you are, please call us' emails.

From this I can only assume that the left hand doesn't have a CLUE what the right hand is doing. Notes are not put on customers accounts, and information is not shared. All this comes together to make quite simply a piss poor customer experience.

So... Wonga, thanks for starting to sort my issue out, now maybe take a deeper look at how your contact system works, and stop sending stupid emails for no reason. Especially when you are asking for information which was contained in the email you are replying to ! DUH !

We shall tell next month if the issue is REALLY resolved or not. Watch this space on Dec 18th.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dear Cycle lobbyists....

I first want to continue to have a clear stance on cyclists. I fully respect and appreciate the bravery and commitment of those who do battle with all sorts of dangers and risks involved in riding a pushbike in London, and other busy cities for that matter. I agree that motor vehicles and cycles need some form of separation and safety buffer for the cyclist, and in some cases the motorist needs educating on aspects of hazard perception....BUT... and there is a pretty big BUT.... Attitudes of some cyclists need to change too.

The reason I am even writing this follow up entry is a simple video made my TfL.
This video was made, low budget, quick produce and post moment, and was done for the benefit of any cyclists out there who have never driven a large vehicle. A simple 1 min of education to raise awareness of the blindspots in a turning lorry. Have a watch, I think for most road users its probably a bit of an eye opener.

http://youtu.be/wzL0Kyk4m-8

In response to this video, a number of cycle campaigners have decided to try and turn it on TfL and say 'And THIS is why lorries need to be kept away from bicycles...'

So a couple of points from me then.

IF you want all threats to be kept away from cyclists, who is going to be using the roads? Cyclists and motorcyclists maybe? Clearly the biggest contributors to financing the road networks there im sure!

IF you want a safety buffer between bikes and vehicles.... STOP RIDING UP THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD between cars and lorries travelling in opposite directions!

IF you want cars to use their mirrors to see you in, give cars and other vehicles a chance and stop switching sides. A vehicle turning left will check their left mirror before the turn. If you are riding to their right, then switch quickly because it suits you, they will NOT have seen you.

I realise one of the greatest appeals of cycle commuting is the freedom of the route you take, the speed you travel, and not getting caught up in traffic jams. I think its brilliant that so many are willing to battle the elements to have a cleaner and healthier approach to travel in London. Sadly however with the freedom of being something so small, comes a huge danger and vulnerability to the slightest impact with the road or its users.

So think about these things for a minute, please.

When turning at a junction. You may be ABLE to position yourself to the left or right of a car, but the driver of the cars also turning will generally ONLY be looking in the mirror to the side of the car relating to the direction they are turning. Example, a car turning right will only be looking down the right side of the vehicle. If you turn on their left, they wont have seen you, so as you enter the new road, for a moment they have NO idea there is a bike between them and the kerb, so DONT ride down the inside of them, hold back for a minute.

Slow moving traffic is one of the biggest causes of rear end shunts. That's right, the car behind another massive car for a moment has a lapse in concentration and hits a large coloured metal box in front of them, even with lights on. Concentration levels in heavy traffic FALL with motorists. Legally and sensibly right or wrong, its a simple FACT. If a driver can not see a car, they are also not going to see cyclists. Yes the motorist will be to blame, but at the same time you will probably be injured. SO what's more important, being right or being safe?

Humans don't cope well with being swarmed. Imagine a customer services rep at a station where all the trains have been delayed. Everyone wants answer, everyone is surrounding and talking. In reality its a situation the mind just cant cope with, so it shuts certain voices and faces out and focuses on others. When learning to drive, drivers are taught to watch out for cyclists, and on their lessons will come across a few here and there, and you can cope with that.
In real life rush hour situations, suddenly your car is surrounded by 10+ cyclists at a time, going at different speeds, stopping, wobbling, speeding past the left and the right. An accident waiting to happen in the disorganised unruly mess of the cycle swarm. No different to commuters in a tube station, all wanting to get to their destination, all the most important person there, and all with no interest in the people around them.

Speaking of the cycle swarm, that brings me back to the start. There is high demand for this 'more space for cyclists' at the moment, which in a perfect world would be great. If there was the room to realistically make segregated areas for cyclists even I would consider commuting by bike. But the simple fact is, there is NO more room. All these wonderful ideas of banning lorries, dedicating lanes to cyclists etc just are not going to happen.
Like it or not, cars, vans, buses and lorries all have a right and 90% a good reason to be on London's roads. Tackling the school run vehicles would see a large drop in peak time users, as the summer holidays demonstrate, but there is no quick fix there. Maybe the BILLION or so being spent on the roads with cyclists in mind should be targeted at school buses instead. Reduce the school run vehicles on the roads, free up spaces on public transport? Just a thought.

The biggest point is quite a simple one, but takes a while to make.
Most cyclists consider themselves in some way a free spirit, with freedom of the roads. Some also believe they are free of any rules and regulations. Sadly some are genuinely free.... of any common sense, and will put themselves in danger regardless of how many millions are spent, and how many miles or cycle lanes and paths are created, some will decide they want to ride differently to the rest.
You only have to look at the Cycle Superhighways that were created, huge wide lanes taking a chunk out of some of London's busiest roads, but STILL you see cyclists filtering through the other lanes of traffic, trying to beat the other cyclists in some imaginary race.
The same way barriers are put up to stop people crossing at dangerous points, so people just jump the  'inconvenient' barrier and get collected by a bus. Or DO NOT swim signs are put up around reservoirs, yet people still risk it, and drown.

It is human nature to explore, disobey and take chances in order to achieve things, so it is understandable that people want to be individual and break free of the mould. The problem sadly is, that as long as these people continue to swarm cars, ignore cycle lanes and flaunt genuine rules, your cause it lost. Change comes when it is clear and evidence can be found that the change and spending of money would have a positive impact on the situation. Unfortunately cycle lobbyists who feel that the lorry turning left is ALWAYS to blame, or one who misinterprets the rules of the road into their favour are the achillies heel in the plan.

Yesterday someone insisted that a vehicle stopped in the Advance Stop Box (ASB) or beyond the first Advanced Stop Line (ASL) was against the law, and 'illegal'. And somehow endangered the pedestrians.
Well, that is sadly just ignorant. Being stopped in the ASB or beyond the 1st ASL is not breaking the rules at all, and is far from 'illegal'. Illegal generally refers to criminal law, not the road traffic act.
Just for those unsure on the matter, allow be to quote from the Met Police.

Motorists
Do not enter the ASL box when the light is red – this space is reserved for the safety of cyclists.
Crossing the first or second ASL line when the light is red makes you liable for a £100 fixed penalty, three points on your licence, and endangers vulnerable road users.
If the traffic light changes from green to amber and you cannot safely stop before the first stop line, you may cross the line but must stop before the second stop line (Highway Code rule 178).
Cyclists
Do not cross the second stop line while the traffic signal is red. Contravening a traffic signal is against the law, and could result in a £50 fine.

Myth Busting

Myth: There’s a car in the ASL box - the driver must have committed an offence.
Not true. The offence is committed when the vehicle enters the ASL box when the light is red. If the vehicle enters the box and the light changes to red, no offence is committed
Rule 178 of the Highway Code states:
If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area.
We don’t want motorists to wrongly believe that they shouldn’t stop in the ASL box under any circumstances – this might cause someone to panic, drive through a junction and cause an accident.
Myth: Motorbikes are allowed in the ASL.
Not true. The law applies to motorbikes and scooters, too.


And TfL's stance on the matter...

Drivers caught crossing the first or second advanced stop lines when the signal is red will be liable for a £60 fixed penalty charge and three points on their licence. The only exception to this rule is if the traffic signal changes from green to amber and drivers cannot safely stop before the first stop line.
In addition to stepping up enforcement on motorists, rogue cyclists are also being targeted. While most cyclists ride responsibly - some do not, and this can anger other road users. Cyclists will be targeted for jumping red lights and issued with a £30 fine if caught doing so.

So I hope that clears up any confusion for anyone.

There is a lot of ignorance out there, a heck of a lot of arrogance, and a whole lot of me me me going on. And THAT is the problem. Not lanes, not laws, not money... Just peoples attitudes and intelligence.
Any cyclist who decides to be a lone wolf and do their own thing, any one who thinks they can just squeeze down the side of the lorry before it turns, or that red lights are only for vehicles with engines... YOU are the problem, YOU are the idiot!
Education, moderation, and just a little bit of patience go a long way to saving lives. Regardless of who's fault an accident is, a fatality means a family without a loved one, and a chain of friends with a missing link. 

Stay safe out there, everyone !

PS Tuvaaq says 'Stay Safe, Be Seen'

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My thoughts on cycling in London etc

The recent weeks in London have been a very hard time for cyclists, and other road users for that matter. With a death toll that is rising at an alarming rate, cyclists are falling victim to larger vehicles on an almost daily basis. Six in a couple of weeks within London is certainly something to raise an eyebrow to, but lets not just run away here and start pointing and waving fingers like some are.

The immediate reaction from cycle campaign groups, as you would expect, was one of anger and protest, with demands for 'something' to be done about the situation. So lets start at the beginning and work towards what that 'something' should be.

In any collision there are usually 2 or more objects, in the case of the recent cycling accidents, both were vehicles of sorts being used on the public roads, and it seems in all cases, both were in use at the time of the collisions. By use I mean not parked or unattended. Lorries and buses are the two classes of vehicles which post the greatest risk to the cyclists, by their very nature, large, cumbersome and plenty of blind spots for something as small as a cyclist to disappear into.
One of the most common accidents with cycle vs large vehicle is a side swipe or being turned in on. Turning left of right with a cyclist down the side of the vehicle nearest to the turn is very common, and is caused by either the driver giving no signal or consideration to the cyclist (or not seeing them) OR the cyclist ignoring or not seeing the signal or road markings, and proceeding up the side of the vehicle as it starts its turn.

One example of the latter would be the accident yesterday in Camberwell. Lorry vs cycle, with the lorry seeming to make a left turn across the path of the cyclist. Many conclusions can be drawn from this, but I shall not speculate who is to blame, I shall merely hypothesise the various ways this could have happened.

The left turn the lorry was making is in a dedicated left turn lane leaving Camberwell Road, and where the lorry came to rest would suggest the lorry was indeed in, or at least partially in the left turn lane. Being a lorry it would be normal to assume he may have taken a slightly wider line into the turn, as it is quite a tight and awkward corner.
How the cycle came to be on the inside of the lorry is the next point. Was the cyclist intending to go straight on in the left turn lane. Was he intending to turn left and the lorry swung in and surprised him? All a mystery, and with the cyclist sadly deceased, we will never know his version of events.

Pushbikes, mopeds, motorcycles, are all vulnerable, and almost cannon fodder to the large vehicles on the roads. This is not to say that this is the actual attitude of the drivers of these vehicles, far from it in fact. I am sure most motorists involved in an accident with a smaller vehicle are affected very badly by their experience, and by any injuries caused to the other party. Lets not pretend that drivers of large vehicles in some way don't care about other peoples lives.
That would be as stupid as saying that cyclists who find their way up the inside of a large vehicle and end up in collision with said vehicle, are in some way suicidal and don't care about their own lives.

There is a simple fact at play here, that sometimes is forgotten, and that is the human body is a fragile object. When in collision with anything hard, or at speed, the exposed human body, especially the head is vulnerable to horrific injuries, even at a seemingly slow speed. Just as pedestrians are at risk of even the slightest collision with a vehicle, even a motorcycle, cyclists fall into the same category.
There is a lot of focus on cyclist fatalities right now, purely because of the crazy and sudden rise we have seen in the capital over the last few weeks, but lets not lose focus here, or suddenly feel that cyclists are the only ones.
Doing some research on the matter for example, lets take a look at the figures for 2011. So FOUR times the number of

Official statistics showed 77 pedestrians were killed last year, 19 more than in 2010, while 16 cyclists lost their lives — nine the victims of turning lorries.

So FOUR times the number of pedestrians died in 2011, than cyclists. Also note the number of cyclists, 19, statistically HIGHER than this year to date. My point in all this is people are killed day in day out on London's roads, its not nice, but its a fact. Of the number of journeys taken on foot or by some sort of vehicle on a daily basis, the chances of an accident are slim, of fatality minuet,. but ever present.

Have a look at the stats for accidents over the past few years as released by TfL, and you will see some quite shocking numbers. Just the sheer number of accidents recorded is a true eye opener. And lets not forget the less serious coming togethers that just get brushed off by both parties as a learning experience.
So here are the stats, trust me, you will be a little shocked im sure.

2010 http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/Cycling/casualties-in-greater-london-2010.pdf
2011 http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/casualties-in-greater-london-2011.pdf
2012 http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/corporate/casualties-in-greater-london-2012.pdf

Contrary to belief, the numbers are FALLING, not rising on a year on year basis. But as cycle journeys increase in the capital, and the roads get more and more congested, the likelihood of the coming together of two travellers of any sort, seems to be increasing. With more impatience, more blinkered behaviour, and more arrogance of WHO's right it is to be where and when, we are surely heading towards a flashpoint.

One of the bad things coming from the recent spate of deaths is the number of stupid and uneducated statements coming from each lobbying group. Cyclists demanding 'more space' on the roads, like it can just magically be invented and put in place over night. Even if the money was there to invest the required BILLIONS on the roads to meet the current demands of the cycling rights lobby groups, the space simply just does not exist, and never will.
The attitude of 'just ban lorries', also again, a lovely idea, but at some point all those banned lorries need to make their journeys, which would cause mayhem on the roads if lorries were only permitted a 6 hour window daily to use London's streets. But for a second, lets humour the campaigners, and say right thats it, lorries are banned.... There is one small issue... the 7,500 buses which frequent the roads on a daily basis.. What shall we do about those? There are a lot of accidents involving these too, so simply taking lorries off the road is just being biased towards businesses trying to make a living with logistics in London, and somehow saying accidents with buses are acceptable.
Hmmm, thats not going to work either is it now!

There is a simple truth here, and its the reality of all realities... People need to pay more attention, be more considerate, drop the attitude and arrogance, and learn to share the limited space there is.
Drivers need to check, then check again, cyclists need to follow some simple rules, and pedestrians need to pay attention, and cross at a safe and suitable time and location.

Lets start with drivers. MSM PSL...
As a trainee driving instructor, these 6 letters have been drilled into my head, and are really quite simple. Most older drivers will be familiar with MSM... Mirror Signal Manoeuvre , the newer ones will also know PSL Position Speed LOOK !
The most common accidents which result in serious injury are motor vehicles turning left or right and coming into collision with a cycle riding down the turning side of the vehicle. So first up, drivers of vehicles of all sizes need to make sure they take that last look before committing to the turn.
Now THIS is where the issue comes in.... If there is a cyclist riding stupidly, putting themselves in danger, NO they should not be there, NO its not their right of way, NO its no clever to be there, but at the end of the day, they are, so deal with it!
Same with cyclists, if you find yourself being squeezed, a driver in cutting over into the cycle lane, don't try and be a hero and prove a point, you vs a car, you will most likely lose.

The biggest issues out there right now are all about YOU. Drivers hate to accept responsibility for an accident, its drilled into you from when you start driver, DON'T admit blame. But it seems society has taken things one or two steps further. While we no longer admit blame, we also shun responsibility and accountability for our actions too. As well as taking a holier than thou attitude to most situation. Highlighted by a recent spate of near misses posted on YouTube, it seems the sociably acceptable approach to using the roads is 'you might kill me, but I am in the right'. Shouting and screaming at motorists of all different types, confrontations and even physical assaults on people and their vehicles... just to make the point ' I WAS RIGHT'.

Its not about right or wrong, its not about right of way, its about living. As much as it frustrates me to say it, there are some idiots out there, legally allowed to be on the road, because their either scraped through a driving test, or ride a pushbike which requires little more than actually owning the bike. Maybe this is where things are going wrong. Not enough time spending warning learner motorists about hazard and how we perceive them. As well as having tens of thousands of pushbikes swarming all over London's road with seemingly no accountability or regulation.

With drivers there is only so much you can try and teach them, and most of the lessons concentrate on controlling the car, and not enough time is spent on learning all the peculiarities of the road. Its almost as if you need a degree in sociology to understand what other users of the road are going to do next.

For cyclists, back in the day you would do a cycling proficiency test at school, learning how to ride straight and sensible close to the kerb. Now days, you get your first bike, learn how to pedal without falling off, and you are away. No legal obligations or licencing / insurance requirements, just go on your way.
The one set of rules that DO exist for cyclists however, seem to be flaunted by many at any opportunity. Weaving, jumping lights, pulling straight across junctions etc
If you are unsure of these rules, please take a look here https://www.gov.uk/rules-for-cyclists-59-to-82
There aren't many, but even with so few, it seems some cyclists are hell bent on putting their lives on the line on a daily basis, just to get there 2 mins sooner, or because they are a bike and should not have to wait.

Im not going to turn this is to a cyclist bashing blog entry, although having paid close attention to them over recent days I can see something really needs doing about some of their behaviour. But I will say this much to summarise.

The most vulnerable in any walk of life need to take the most care to survive. Self preservation goes a long way, from the animal kingdom up to us high and mighty humans. A female walking home in the dark from the station would be more aware of their surroundings than a group of males for example. Should a lone female have to fear and be more alert, no of course not. But human behaviour tells us that they are the at risk group, and therefore they respond to this by changing their habits.

The same needs to happen on the roads too. And while all road users have some degree of right to be there, there are rights of way on paper, but in reality, right or wrong, a dangerous situation needs consideration and sometimes to be avoided, rather than barrelling into it, then screaming at someone for being in the wrong..... while trying to free your leg from under the wheel.

While motorists need to check their mirrors, next time you are riding a bike, look at the behaviour of all the other cyclists, and decide for yourself if the motorist can really be expected to see every cycle at every angle.
An example from my journey to work this morning, sitting 5-6 cars back at a set of lights in the turn right lane, I watched a group of 5 cyclists all stop at the light, 2 to the left of the car, 3 to the right. As the lights changed the car and bikes moved away, and all 6 (1 car 5 bikes) turned right. As the driver started to turn he had bikes on both sides of him, all turning in the same direction. Overwhelmed by the view in his mirrors I assume, he stopped midway around the corner to let all the cyclist clear him.
The knock on effect of this is that the cars behind would see no obstruction, so would not expect the car to stop in the middle of a turn.

No accident occured, but this is just one example of where a motorist, while possibly checking every mirror available, and taking as much care as possible, is simply over run and overwhelmed by cyclists behaving badly. In my opinion anyway.

Long and the short of it... We all need to pay more attention, we all need to be considerate to other roads users, and most of all we all need to use a little common sense with a hint of patience.
Riders need to light up, slow down a bit, and ride in a slightly more understandable manner (i.e not swerving about or jumping lights)
Motorists need to give riders space, check their mirrors, and then check their blind spots.

I could go on, but its all common sense really, and if you take the time to look at any accident its clear to see how it may have been avoided.

Whatever the case, shouting outside TfL's offices will NOT save lives.
Blaming Boris will not bring the dead back.
Waving fingers and shouting loudly will change nothing.

Money is not the answer.... common sense it.

Drive / ride safely London.





Monday, November 18, 2013

There is hope for Wonga yet

But its not quite that clear cut...

It seems my email finally struck a nerve, and I received a call from the complaints department of Wonga this afternoon, stating they were aware there was an issue, and it was clear I was upset and frustrated with the whole matter.

We spent some time checking all the things were in place, I advised them that the bank had informed me there are NO issues with the card, payments to Wonga, and that NO attempts have been made to charge my card for any amount.
Using the details on their system, and adding my CCV code, a phone payment went straight through, demonstrating there and then that there is nothing wrong on my end of the deal.

So Andrew has referred the matter to the IT department for them to look into, and hopefully they can overcome what ever glitch it is THEY are having. In the meantime I wait and hope that they can sort this out once and for all.

I have no intention of being caught in the web of debt with them again, but just hope this matter can be sorted so they don't continue to rank so highly in my list of UK's most useless companies.

So, fingers crossed eh.

For now though I can relax a little, safe in the knowledge that I was NOT at fault at any stage of this nightmare process, and that Wonga have FINALLY after a couple of months bothered to get back to me and help solve the issue.
Just a shame it took a threat not to pay, and the involvement of the Financial Ombudsman to get to this stage.

Thank you however to Andrew for getting in touch and getting the ball rolling.

Dear Wonga.... YOU FAILED !

I would like to openly discuss my experiences with Wonga, and go into some more detail about how its all worked out.

Many months back, in desperate need of a quick injection of cash, I resorted to Wonga. A friend had kindly helped me out of the bog of financial despair with them once, but I fucked up, plain and simple. Even more stupidly I missed my payment / renewal date, and was faced with paying it all off in one hit, or entering a 'payment agreement'.
Settling for the payment agreement I spoke with the team about it, and was very pleased with the experience setting it up. 2 months down the line my debit card was renewed and I screwed up and forgot to tell Wonga, so the payment failed.
I contacted them, apologised and gave them the new card details. Crisis averted, or so I though. The following month I recevied an email saying the payment had failed. I called up again, the agent had forgotten to save the card details. No big deal.
The next month, payment failed email again, I call up, this time its a system outage and the payment HAD gone through, but one system didn't tell another, so the email was sent.
Next month, payment failed, month after, payment failed.... I tried in vain to contact them to sort this out, emails, phone calls etc all covered in previous blog entries, but nothing worked.
On calling last month the agent took a payment over the phone without my authorisation, I complained but Wonga failed to get back to me, so with this I approached the Financial Ombudsman who have taken the matter on.

This month  I decided to be proactive, and called Wonga a week before the payment was due. Went through it all with the agent, and confirmed they had all the right details to take the payment on the due date.... This morning I get an email... PAYMENT FAILED! So this time, paranoid that something was wrong at the banks end, I called the bank.

First up  THANK YOU NatWest for having such a coherent bunch on both Twitter and phone banking, they are amazing to deal with and answered all my questions faultlessly and promptly.

In this conversation with NatWest it was confirmed to me that not only had no payment failed, but no payment has even been presented to them for authorisation.
Seriously Wonga, you are hassling, harassing, and upsetting me with emails saying I have in some way failed to keep up my end of the bargain, and YOU have not even asked my bank for the money.

As per my emails, YOUR MOVE !! I have called you, emailed you, tried to work with you to give you my money, the money I agreed to pay you after my own slip up..... Now its up to you. I will make NO further efforts to make payment this month until YOU contact me. I realise that you will probably ignore my emails about the matter like you did last month, and that the next things I will get are emails or letters saying you have cancelled the agreement, are going to add interest, and all other sorts of financial threats. Thats fine. IF you can't be bothered to engage with a customer to resolve matters of you OWN failures I will quite happily wait for this to reach County Court level, then explain to them the poor levels of customer contact you have, and produce the emails, and call logs of when I have tried to make payment and resolve the matter.

As a matter of principal I am no longer willing to waste my time trying to sort the matter out, and if it does require any further input from me, other than answering a call or email from yourselves, I will start to add admin fees.

So Wonga..... YOUR MOVE! I look forwards to hearing from you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Im not one to Android bash (usually just Apple)

But I call bullshit somewhere here.
Now who other than the developer would benefit from getting an army of bots or fakes to put glowing reviews, and all apparently armed with the same script.

Its a shame that some companies or organisations are hell bent on faking reviews, good or bad about apps like this. But see what you think.

I stopped at 4 pages of screen grabs, but am pretty confident that there are many more.






Want to see more for yourself... Click here to have a look at the app on the Play Store, then take a shifty through the reviews.... Page after page of the same "Thank you so much blackberry team. I was waiting this app. Its really great user friendly and smooth."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Trouble getting started on BBM on iOS or Android ?

Well, it appears some people are waiting a very long time now for their activations to come through on their Android and iOS devices, so they can get started using BBM .

Well I just thought I would share what seems to be working for others, and has been reported elsewhere to work.

Force stop the app from the device, then restart the device, and re-open BBM. From there you should be able to re-enter your email address, and get started setting up your BBID and using BBM.
Its not my own idea, but seems to work, on Android at least. Not 100% about iOS.

To force stop an app on Android, do the following.
Go to settings
Select Applications
Select BBM from the App list
Press Force Stop on the apps page.

BBM for all.... finally!

Well , I have to say well done to BlackBerry for finally managing the rollout of BBM4ALL. After last months disaster all seems to have gone pretty well I have to say. And judging by the numbers, there has been a pretty big uptake of it cross-platform too.
I have a few friends who have reported delays in their email activation coming through, so have become frustrated and fed up with the idea of trying it out. Not a great first impression for sure. However others are managing to download it and get it rockin and rolling in no time at all.

I have been testing it myself on my Nexus 4 to see exactly how well it has ported over, and also to see the differences in services, message lag etc, and have to say first impressions are good.
With services like video call, voice call and screen sharing not available to the cross-platform users, I can understand some being a little underwhelmed by it, and why they are left wondering why everyone goes on about BBM so much.

But at the same time, with some friends who have previously used BBM now being able to get back on it, and instantly preferring the experience to that of Kik or Whatsapp, BBM have proven they 'still got it'.
Most ex BB users will have last used BBM on an OS7 or previous device, so will not have seen the slick revamped version of BBM until now. With new interfaces and features to get used to, even to the inexperienced eye, surely it must come across as a very mature IM service.

Time will tell how well BBM really does. With 60m users already, its not like its a totally new idea. But it will certainly be interesting to see how close to the 200m+ global users that Whatsapp currently has, BBM can actually get.

I look forwards to reading reviews over the coming weeks, and am sure they will vary widely from 'too little too late' to 'finally, amazing' with many others in between.

In the meantime, if you are one of the neigh sayers that simply says 'why do I need BBM'....... well if you are currently using ANY cross-platform IM service, why NOT try BBM and make your own mind up?

Winter is fast approaching.

Or so mu body would have you believe anyway. Aches and pains, coughs and sneezes, I'm full of them all right now. Or though then again, maybe its something to do with being in close proximity to someone with filthy self hygiene. Sneezing openly into the office, and other foul behaviour makes me cringe and feel slightly ill just at the sight of it.

That said, one thing that has changed is my reliance on public transport, and more recently I have driven into work. So I am sure I am avoiding a whole bunch of germs on there. Not sure I could handle it right now. So I am left dosed up and feeling slightly sorry for myself, and just wanting my duvet.

Meanwhile in the real world, the house in Wales is officially marked as 'under offer' on the website, and has been removed from the listings. This is Week 5 of the legal side of the sale since the offer was accepted. Frustratingly slow, I now feel for people who go through this again and again. And even more so for those who get caught in a chain sale, wondering every day if one of the links will break. Fingers crossed it wont be too much longer now.
I haven't heard from the solicitor or agent since accepting, but as they say, no news is good news. That said, I am ever so curious about how things are progressing, what stage we are at, etc. But the idea of contacting them seems like I would cause myself some bad luck or something.

In other walks of life, for some reason I have been doing a lot of thinking about Sian recently. Possibly brought on by the troubles of other friends and their relationships with their children. Or maybe its just 'that season', who knows. Either way, the thoughts are nothing I would act on, just a whole bunch of random memories, milestones I have missed, and curious of her thoughts (although unlikely to be having many I guess).

As the sale of the house approaches completion, my mind is all over the place with lots of financial matters, trying to balance the books until completion arrives, planning what to prioritise on getting done in life and on the house, and getting my affairs in order. Over the last week I have cancelled no less than THREE contracts with Orange, some might say I had too many in the first place, but others understand the logic behind it, in its own twisted way. As well as getting other financial affairs under control also. Feels somehow empowering to finally take control, every once in a while.

Birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries all roll around, some require attention, others just take my concentration for a moment to think them over. But all together, this time of year keeps my mind busy. Speaking of minds... I caught an episode of 999 Whats your emergency last night, which mostly focused on mental health, and wow did it strike a chord with me.
Now I don't claim to have suffered from schizophrenia, nor have I been in a dire mental state, but I have most definitely suffered with depression. So seeing how people cope, and don't cope with their feelings and thoughts was a real eye opener for me. Its television like this that really moves me, and makes me wish more people understood what it was like to be in such a desperate mental state.

For me, my defining moment was a bad one, finally reaching breaking point, and losing all sense of control over my thoughts. Reaching that point is bad enough, but doing it a in another country, with limited support, and being the weak link in what was meant to be a fun time... Not great.
Far away from my GP, off my meds, and drowning in thoughts and emotions (not self pity) was such a horrible feeling, and thankfully for me, only short lived.
So my thoughts and heart go out to those who truly suffer on a daily basis with mental health issues. Not out of control over emotional drunks, or attention seekers, but people who truly have no control over it, and wish just for one day of normality.

The UK has a lot to learn about these cases, and the normal people out there would benefit from realising that some people are not just playing up, not crazy, and don't want to hurt anyone. But they are fighting an inner demon who fights them for control over their mind and body on a daily basis.

Phew, deep thoughts for this time of day... I need chocolate.!

Thanks for reading.

At least someone is replying !

Thank you to the Financial Ombudsman for taking the time to review my email and get back to me with a case number regarding my complaint against Wonga.com

Dear Mr Snasdell

Your complaint

Thank you for contacting us. We will reply as soon as possible – but within six weeks.

If you need to get in touch before then, please use your reference, XXXXXXXXXXX

In the meantime, Wonga have still not managed to overcome sending me the same perpetual automated replies, asking me to call them, or asking for more information so they can work out who I am.

Well we have established one thing for sure.... My name is NOT Stephen! Idiots!



I don't really expect much from Wonga, at best, the next email I get with my name on it will probably be this time NEXT month saying they have screwed up again and my payment has failed again !

Monday, October 21, 2013

Southwark Council, sort it out !

Seriously, the spot I am referring to in the email below has been a joke for a LONG time now, constantly covered in bird faeces, and occasionally jet washed to a seriously slippery finish. Just stop the birds from nesting up there, then the problem is over with surely?

I will get some pics of the said spot in the dry and better lighting when I can to show what I mean, but for now, I am aching and am unimpressed with the state of the pavement. Thanks for falling over into bird crap !

I am writing to you today regarding a fall I have taken on one of your pavements on Southwark Park Road at the junction of Raymouth Road opposite Drummond Road.
The cause of the fall was purely down to the build up of bird faeces on the pavement causing the surface be be very slippery. As I began to slip I tried to catch myself, causing what I can only describe as a cartoon slip on the spot before finally falling to my knees.
While this might sound slightly amusing, it has caused me a great deal of distress both mentally and physically. It is humiliating to take a fall like that in public, without the addition of then having to continue my journey covered in bird faeces.
In the fall I have strained the muscles in my neck and shoulder, caused scuffs on both my hands, as well as getting faeces on my trousers, trainers, hands and bag.
(pics attached)
I have seen on a number of occasions that crews jet wash the pavement, however this build up is quite a lot so indicates it has been a while. And even after the attempted clean up, the pavement remains very slippery.
Walking under this rail bridge is always an interesting affair, wondering if you will be bombed by the pigeons above. So it bothers me a great deal that so little has been done to prevent them from settling there. Other bridges have had successful netting work carried out.
So, today I am left with my clothing covered in bird faeces, sore hands, and a tight neck and shoulder, all thanks to the poor efforts of a council in maintaining their pavements. I look forwards to hearing back from you soon with a sensible solution to this matter.
Yours painfully





***UPDATE**

Great reply from Southwark Council on Twitter.
Build up of bird droppings under railway bridges we usually jet wash once a week. TFL are responsible for the netting.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Are Wonga just taking the piss now?




Just got this automated template again!
But this time with a twist.
I'm positive they are just taking the piss now!!


Dear Steven,

After reviewing your email, it seems clear the best way to get this matter sorted is over the phone. 

Please call us on 020 7138 8331. We look forward to discussing your account and trying to help find a solution for you.

Who the FUCK is Stephen ?

More Wonga bullshit.

For the third time now, in the past couple of days, Wonga have sent me another automated reply, this time saying all is well. Still unable to get a human to look at the problem, they simply persist in sending automatic, template responses, answering nothing.

Obviously by them saying this I could be led to believe that my payment went through ok on the 18th, and in turn assume that the unauthorised payment was an extra payment they had no right to take?

Of course, if a human just took 5 mins to look at the account and explain it to me in an email it would all make far more sense, and be clearer, but no. Seemingly it's not the Wonga way!

Wonga, you continue to be a cause of stress and frustration in my weekend, so please once and for all, read the damn email I sent you, address the questions and give me a straight answer.

Oh and one more thing, that script you give the outsourced call centre..... When a customer phones up distressed and angry that YOU have failed to take a payment.... scripting the agent to ask 'so how is your day going so far' is a bit fuckin retarded! #JustSayin! 

So here is the template you can expect to receive when Wonga mess up, then you try to sort it out...

Hi Michael,Thanks so much for your patience while we were checking your account. Your payment was received and your plan remains in good standing. We really do appreciate you keeping your word. The status of your arrangement can be viewed, and payments can be made anytime, by logging into the 'my account' area of our site. To avoid any hiccups, please make sure your debit card information is up to date. If you know of any potential problems, please call us on 0207 138 8331 asap.Best wishes, Collections Team

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dear Wonga.... you utter muppets!

So, if you had not already guessed, my previous blog entry was referring to ... WONGA.COM. Those happy little people that are great when all is going well, and I have had good dealings with before. But when anything goes wrong, they are simply UTTER SHIT !

3 months the issues have dragged on for now, with them not even being able to arrange one single monthly payment from my account without sending me shitty emails telling me how they are going to systematically drain my bank account over the next day if you dont call them immediately. And if you DO call them, the agent will just take an unauthorised payment anyway, so its lose lose suckers !

So after saying in my email I didnt want a templated response from them, and would like the matter looked at properly, this is the insulting shit they send.

Hi,
 After reviewing your email, it seems clear the best way to get this matter sorted is over the phone. 
Please call us on 020 7138 8331. We look forward to discussing your account and trying to help find a solution for you.
You may also find you can get things sorted by using the options in the ‘my account’ area of our site.
Best wishes,
Hi,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, HI !! are you fuckin kidding my. My email signature has my name on it, my account has too, hell, even your threatening little YOU FAILED email has my first name on it, but now im 'Hi' FUCK OFF !!!

From this point in, everything goes public, nothing is a secret, and yes, I fucked up and used a pay day loan company, my bad! lol.

Wonga, your customer 'care' is an utter disgrace, disorganised, ill informed, poorly trained, and a complete polar opposite of the experience you offer when tempting people into taking loans with you.
I can see now why so many organisations have targeted you, and understand fully the stories that people like Sky News have run.

Shame on you !


Disgusted!

After a running battle with a financial company, that shall remain nameless for now, I am finally at my wits end with it all. I have just sent them the most balanced email I possibly could at this time. Right now I am full of anger and contempt with them for the way they are behaving, and can understand why they have come under such intense fire from the media over recent months.

I am of course going to follow up this matter, and forward it to anyone who might like to take a bite out of them, as well as the financial ombudsman and maybe a few media outlets, given their unauthorised activity on my bank account today.

VERY ANGRY RIGHT NOW !!

As my letter and blog writing skills show, im mind is not my own right now.


Dear Sir / Madam
I have just come off the phone from one of your agents after having probably THE worst customer 'care' ever. I am outraged at the events on the phone, as well as how your company has behaved over this matter. I therefore wish to advise you of my intentions to approach the Financial Ombudsman with this complaint.
Please see below the catalogue of errors which has lead to this issue.
A few months (payments) back my debit card was changed. Forgetting to advise yourselves, I rightfully received an email saying my payment had failed, and that I needed to call. I did so, and made payment there and then, as well as giving my details and authorisation for future automated payments to be taken.
Last month I received an email saying it had failed again. So I phoned up only to be told they could not check anything or change anything as the computer systems were down, and to try calling back later. Which I did.
I was then told that the payment had gone through fine, the email was an error, and all would be well THIS month.
Well, yesterday I received an email saying my payment had failed yet again. Not having time to stay on hold as the wait was a long time, I emailed, to which I received no response. Today I received an email saying the payment had failed, the plan was cancelled and that an attempt would be made to take the full amount tonight.
Let me just take that last email for a second and try and work this out. Your system and my bank for some how doesn't allow you to take 10% of the sum owed, so somehow the logical thing to do is to use the same system and bank details to take 100%. That makes sense doesn't it!
So, I have called your call centre again today, and this is where my biggest issue really starts. The scripted drone that I spoke with advised me that your systems were running very slowly today, so getting my details up would take a while, while waiting she asked me various security questions, and details of the existing arrangement and payments. While doing so she enquired about the agreement amount, which I told her of. Shortly after she asked for the last 4 digits of the card being used, and the security code, which I also told her. After a short pause she said 'ok that payment has gone through today'. I enquired what payment she meant, was the system showing the same as last month and had in fact collected payment. No she replied, the payment I just requested...
This is appauling that without so much as 'would you like me to try and collect a payment from your card now' or similar, she authorised herself to take payment on behalf of your company. Therefore I protest at this unauthorised payment being taken from my account in this way, and will be formally advising the financial ombudsman of my experience with yourselves. From what I see in the media, im sure it will just be one of many.
Falling into financial hardship is bad enough, without complete jokes of companies like your own behaving in the way you do.
On the ending of the conversation she also advised me that she had set up a payment plan that would come out on the 18th of each month from Nov. Once again, please accept this as my notification of intent towards your company. IF the payment fails for any reason other than fault of my own, and I receive the same automated email threatening to systematically milk my account of every penny you can, I will immediately cancel payment and willingly forfeit the settlement, with the explicit intention of taking legal action.
For the whole time, I have maintained my side of the agreement, but on a monthly basis you fail on your side time and time again, with escalating incompetence.
I expect this matter to be thoroughly investigated, and for a completely human typed, non templated response to be sent to me explaining the actions of the agent today, and explaining why oh why something as simple as this cannot be maintained.
I really hope this matter can be resolved properly once and for all.
Thank you sincerely for ruining the start to my weekend.
Michael Snasdell
PS, this letter is being published on my blog at the same time of sending. The company name has been withheld at this point out of common courtesy. 


**EDIT**
In a hilarious twist, the company concerned have just replied to my email, stating they cant find a record of me, and for me to supply more information for them to be able to help me. I wonder if they have 'lost' my account finance information too, I doubt it eh !