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The Big Freeze

Bloody fed up with this freeze! The ice problems of the last post, when valiant efforts by J to do the council’s work allowed me to get out of my cul-de-sac, pale into insignificance compared to what we’ve got now.

The snow came again on Sunday and this time we got the full  whack. The temperature hasn’t gone above zero and the road out from my house is covered in 6 inches of snow and ice so I haven’t been able to get out in the car and my normal activities have come to a full stop.

OK, so I haven’t been completely stuck in the house because I have to walk the dog twice a day but that in itself is a problem. My confidence was shattered in last year’s bad weather when I slipped and badly twisted my knee now each time I set off with the dog, I feel I’m taking my life in my hands (or my feet).

I go tottering out with my stick looking like I’m 106, just hoping the dog will do a poo quickly so I can totter home again. My son tells me it’s not slippy on the snow and it’s ‘all in my mind’!  For God’s sake, I know it’s all in my mind but telling me doesn’t help.

Now they say it could last another two weeks, I’ll be stir crazy by then if I haven’t broken a leg in the meantime!

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January 7, 2010 Posted by | oldpeople | , | Leave a comment

Thank you Steve

Yes, I know it’s been four months since my last post! How many Hail Mary’s do I have to say in penance? Anyway, yesterday’s escapade has propelled me into action again.

Last week’s awful weather; snow, ice, freezing rain in quick succession resulted in me being trapped by the formation of an ice rink on the road outside my house. No gritters came so I couldn’t drive and couldn’t walk the dog and of course couldn’t go to see the grandchildren on Christmas Day. On Boxing Day,  J arrived with some road salt he’d purloined from a bin somewhere and did the council’s job for them and yesterday I was able to venture out to Shrewsbury with the presents. Although, it wasn’t on the day, we made it another Christmas and I had a good time with three excited children.

As I’m not very confident driving in bad weather, I left Shrewsbury with plenty of time to drive the 46 miles and get at least nearly home before it was dark. Alas, 22 miles from home, in the middle of nowhere there was suddenly a bang and loud clanking sound from the car. Luckily, there was an entrance to some sort of drive that I could pull into to and a quick inspection revealed the source of the noise; the exhaust pipe was lying on the ground!

Got out my RAC card and rang the breakdown number, I was answered by an automated message saying they would answer my call as soon as possible. This went on and on and on until over 40 minutes had passed before I had my call answered. All information given, I was then informed that their estimated time to get to me was 1 hour 45 minutes.

Depressed, I looked around to see where I’d actually stopped. I was at the entrance to a dirt track that wound round through overgrown verges. There was a wooden sign nailed to a tree at the entrance, the writing almost indecipherable said Minton Hall. A few metres up the drive was a derelict house, all windows broken, porch falling down and front door hanging off it’s hinges, quess at one time it was a gate lodge but now it was very sad and a bit spooky.

I took the dog out and walked a way up the drive and could see a large building through the trees, but the track got more and more potholed and muddy and it was getting very dark so I had to abandon the walk before I could get really close. As I was walking back,  Steve, the RAC patrolman rang to check my exact location and said he wasn’t too far away; 15 minutes later he arrived.

I was still a bit worried because I thought they would have sent a recovery vehicle and this was just a patrol van but Steve had a quick look under the car at my exhaust pipe lying forlorn on the ground, jumped up and said “It’s just the bracket that’s gone the exhaust is OK, I’ll fashion a tie up and you’ll be fine”. True to his word, he jacked up the car, slid underneath and in 10 minutes the exhaust was sitting back where it should be.

It was totally dark by the time he’d finished and I was glad to get away from the spooky house and make my way home. All together it took me 4 hours to travel the 46 miles but much as I can praise Steve and his expertise I can’t say the same for the RAC and their answering service after it took Steve less time to reach me than it did for me to get my call answered.

During the bad weather, all the motoring companies have been giving points of advice to drivers one of which is to have a fully charged mobile phone, but they don’t say that it’s because it takes them so bloody long to answer your call!

December 28, 2009 Posted by | 1 | , | 1 Comment

Before Computers

I had one less stressor in my life before I had a computer, now my normal everyday stress is compounded by the mega stress generated by the computer. In fact the computer can generate a whole range of problems each guaranteed to cause maximum stress.

Switch it on and, on occasion, it will sit wondering whether to spring into life. This hanging around can also happen when trying to access a website, like it’s decided that, this time, it doesn’t want to go there. Each time while waiting for it to decide, I’m holding my breath hoping that the problem isn’t terminal.

Then there’s e-mail and the relentless arrival of messages telling me what bargains can be had if I just visit this or that website. I’ve tried the “to unsubscribe..click here” command but that’s just there to make you think you can actually do something about getting rid of them. Here’s a secret, they don’t really work!

Then there’s the doom laden e-mails, ‘There is a new virus. Beware all computers will be shut down. Forward this to as many people as possible’. Duh! The bad thing about these is that, although I know they are fake, it still makes me uneasy and more stressed.

Last night I had an e-mail from Twitter telling me my account had been compromised by some phishing attack and I should reset my password. Just click on the link it said. I did as instructed but all I got was an error message. I went back and tried a few more times with the same result. Finally, I got so fed up I forwarded the e-mail to J and went to bed.

This morning, J had sent an e-mail saying he had reset the password and I could get onto my Twitter web account, but by then my TweetDeck wasn’t working and although I reset the password on there it just kept telling me I wasn’t authorised.

Back to J again for some expertise; but Twitter was having fun, because, after a few attempts, it decided to ‘temporarily’ lock my account. So  bloody frustrating! “Chillax” it said and try again later. After I’d been ‘chillaxing’ for half an hour Twitter decided I’d had enough stress, relented, and J was able to finally sort it.

All of this messing around took the best part of an hour on and off during which time I was getting more and more fed up and wishing I’d never started the whole Twitter thing.  It seems to me that the more stuff I try to do on the computer the more stuff goes wrong and the more frustration, anger and stress I experience.

Was life easier when you read real newspapers and real letters, got proper bank statements and talked to real people on the telephone?

It was certainly slower and more insular; but, on reflection, I like being able to do my banking on-line, to read all the daily newspapers instead of just one, e-mails are less onerous to write than letters and, of course, I love tweeting,  I just wish my  computer was more person friendly so that when it plays up I can talk to it and ask it what the trouble is.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | oldpeople | , , | 1 Comment

Tomato Sitting

J and A went on holiday last Tuesday and left me in charge of their tomatoes. On the whole this was rather foolish, I felt, since everyone knows I don’t have green fingers, a fact supported by me managing to kill off their courgettes the last time they went away.

Apparently, the courgettes succumbed because I didn’t leave the greenhouse door open during the heatwave we had at that time. I was assured that they had every faith in me this time and all I had to do was water the plants and leave the greenhouse door open if it got hot.

So each morning I have gone round to the garden, watered the plants successfully apart from a mishap on the first day when I managed to water my trousers as well. The dilemma I’ve had was whether or not to leave the door open.

Alas, I have been singularly unsuccessful at gauging the weather despite checking on the BBC weather site each day. So I’ve left the door open when it’s been cold and closed it when it’s turned out hot, either way I’ve had to zoom back again to shut or open the door, each time expecting the plants to be on their last legs.

Thankfully J and A are back tomorrow so I took a picture this morning to prove that the plants are still alive today.

DSCN4808

For someone who’s horticultural know how is zero, it’s been a big responsibility. I’ve been rewarded with some tomatoes which ripened during their absence and as you can see there will be some ready for their return tomorrow, assuming the little darlings don’t keel over during the night.

At the moment I’m happy but so relieved they had the sense not leave me in charge of the chickens as well since my knowledge of chicken rearing is even less than my knowledge of plants!

August 17, 2009 Posted by | oldpeople | 1 Comment

Me and the Bike

It’s been three months since I started going to the gym to try and improve the muscle tone in my legs and the stability of my knees. During this time I have progressed on the exercise programmes from level 1 to 5, except for the bike!

At first I couldn’t even do one minute on the bike at level 1 and despite making progress on the other machines couldn’t get any where on the bike. Then the trainer tried adding cushions and foam blocks to adjust my position and after a few false starts, I gradually progressed to doing the full time. So for the last month I’ve been doing level 1.

Yesterday, a bit apprehensively, I decided to put myself up to level 2. Although it was difficult I was able to persevere for the full time and was chuffed to death when I’d finished. I didn’t suffer any after effects yesterday but boy! am I suffering today and could barely walk the dog this morning.

I can’t work out what it is about the bike! I have to flex and extend my knees on the other machines so it’s not just that. I can only think it has something to do with the rotating motion but, having already adjusted and re-adjusted my sitting position, am at a loss as to what to do next.

I guess I’ll keep on trying but I can see me going up the levels on everything else and ending the whole programme still on Beginners 1 on the bike!

July 16, 2009 Posted by | oldpeople | , , | Leave a comment

Another Reunion

It’s happened! The second reunion of the Class of ’61, Integrated Course of Nurse Education took place in Hexham over the weekend. This time we had managed to meet with two more members of the group who we couldn’t find in time for our reunion in October 2008.

Kate came over from New Zealand to catch up with relatives and have a walking break in Scotland, Ali came over from Spain for a hospital follow-up appointment and fortuitously we were able to find a free weekend where we could all meet up at Kay’s house.

Kate and Ali came north by train and from York were both on the same train but didn’t know it so when we all met at Newcastle it was our first meeting together for 45 years. We immediately seemed to slip back into a comfortable friendship even though we had lost touch with each other so many years before.

We had so much to catch up on; four different life patterns since we had all left London so, as you can imagine, the talking didn’t stop for the whole weekend.

We all had a good time catching up and planning for the next meeting but although Ali is planning to come back to the UK, Kate only visits here every five years so it might be sometime before we see each other again. Hope not!

July 1, 2009 Posted by | oldpeople | Leave a comment

Argos Update

Much as it pains me I have to say, Argos do listen to compaints!

I had a phone call from a PA in the Directors office in response to my letter, offering humblest apologies etc.etc. Needless to say I informed her in no uncertain terms that the catalogue of errors that were detailed in my letter was not the end of the story and proceeded to itemise to her the subsequent total failings of her company.

Poor woman, it wasn’t her fault but as the CEO was too cowardly to ring me himself, she was the one who got it in the neck for Argos’ incompetence.

Anyway, after listening to me rant on and on she apologised again and offered me a £50 gift voucher for my inconvenience. Naturally I accepted, although I would have thought that knocking the £50 off my bill would have been better.

After the series of mistakes that had already ensued, I wasn’t convinced that I’d actually get the £50 but a week later the gift card arrived. Of course I have to spend it in Argos but there’s no time limit so I guess there’ll be something I can use it for, only it won’t be from Argos Direct

June 30, 2009 Posted by | oldpeople | Leave a comment

Don’t Buy from Argos Direct

I have shopped at Argos stores on many occasions and been satisfied with the service, particularly their Reserve and Collect. Two weeks ago I tried Argos Direct to order stuff for C’s return to the UK and now wish I hadn’t.

The order I made was quite long and but all went according to plan until I got to the checkout. After entering my credit card details I received an error message that the card had not been authorised, so I re-entered the information, thinking I’d messed up with the numbers, but the card was again declined.

I rang Customer Services and was told it was my bank at fault, “they hadn’t authorised the payment quickly enough”.  My next course of action was to try to give the order over the telephone, but after being told that a number of items were out of stock, I abandoned the idea and was assured that as the order had not been completed, I would not be charged. Then I rang my bank who advised me that an authorisation code had been issued to Argos but the amount had not yet been debited from my account.

So back to Customer Services again and was shocked to find that they had the information of my original order. They gave me an order number and itemised to me the goods ready to be processed and my requested date and time for delivery to my friend’s address. None of this had I been made aware of either by e-mail or telephone and had I not contacted them again I might have gone elsewhere to purchase the goods.  I wrote a letter of complaint to the CEO.

The order was to have been delivered on Tuesday between 7am and 1pm but no delivery arrived. At about 1.20pm I rang Customer Services to enquire why there had been no delivery. I was told that the order had been loaded on the van at 8.18am and it would be delivered at the latest by 6pm. I relayed this information to my friends and they very kindly agreed to stay in until it arrived.

By 4.30pm there was still no sign of the delivery so I rang Customer Services again to confirm that the order would be delivered and was told that there had been a ‘problem’ with the order and that it had not in fact been loaded on a delivery van. “I can only apologise” said Customer Services and offered to refund my delivery charge and assured me that the order would be delivered on Friday morning. At 5.30pm, my friend rang to say Argos had arrived!

Alas, that wasn’t the end of it! The following day my friend checked the order and found there were some items missing. I rang Customer Services and was told that according to them, I hadn’t actually ordered four of the five missing items, but the fifth would be delivered on Friday morning before 1pm.

No sign of the delivery by 12.15 on Friday so I rang Customer Services to confirm that the item was going to be delivered and was told that it wasn’t, there had been another ‘problem’. I had the choice of arranging another delivery day (Duh!), cancelling the order or driving to the Argos store in town and picking it up myself.

I first said I would cancel the order and asked what their procedure was for refunding my money. I was told it would just appear in my account, that it was not their practice to send any written confirmation either by e-mail or letter. I didn’t trust anything they said by now so opted to drive to the store and pick up the item personally.

I’m sure you’ve lost the will to live after reading this blog so I’ll finish here by just saying that I got a very telling reaction from the assistant in the store when I explained my item hadn’t been delivered,  “Was that Argos Direct?” she asked and didn’t seem a bit surprised when I answered in the affirmative.

June 19, 2009 Posted by | oldpeople | , , | 1 Comment

News Update

Why does everything come at once?

First the dog got another UTI and was quite poorly, so she had to have another three weeks of antibiotics and we were back and forth to the vet; costing an absolute fortune.

Next some stupid woman parked her car at 45° into my rear bumper in the gym car park so there was all the hassle of arranging for it to be repaired and get a hire car. Then as I was driving the hire car home from town another stupid woman overtook a parked car, smashed the wing mirror and didn’t stop; so I had to arrange another hire car.

While all this was going on, C announced they were flying home on the 16th June and would be in Keyworth on 17th. The work on the house wasn’t finished so J and A have been working their socks off, with the help of A’s Mum and Dad, trying to get it habitable.

Meanwhile, I have been sorting through four page e-mails from C  with lists of the “essential” items she needs for their return, negotiating with her to prune the lists, shopping for the lists and ordering stuff on-line to be delivered. Most of the stuff I’ve bought on-line has been a doddle except for Argos and as that saga is still on-going, it will have it’s own post.

Anyway, my car has been returned, good as new, the dog goes back to the vet on Saturday for her final checkup,  J and A will finish the flooring this weekend and then they’ll really deserve a holiday.

Meanwhile, I’m excited about seeing my youngest grand daughter for the first time.

June 10, 2009 Posted by | oldpeople | Leave a comment

Death in the Garden

It’s a sad day today, the blackbirds have lost all their babies.

A pair of blackbirds set up house in the bush at the bottom of the garden. I have watched them collecting nesting material then disappearing into the depths of the foliage. I don’t know how many eggs were laid because I didn’t want to disturb them. A few days ago it was obvious that they’d hatched as the parents worked tirelessly collecting worms and flying in and out to feed their babies. I was so impressed with their devotion, both working equally as hard to keep their family fed.

I tried to peep in to see the nest but as soon as I moved the leaves there was a chirruping sound and either mother or father would appear making frantic alarm calls, so I thought I’d better settle myself to see them when they fledged.

Yesterday morning as I sat down with my coffee, there was an awful screeching sound outside; both blackbird parents were perched on the garage roof making their alarm calls. I thought there must be a cat around but then I saw the real cause of their alarm, a magpie was perched on the hedge nearby the bush.

The male blackbird flew at him and chased him away but the magpie was determined, flew back at the parents then disappeared into the bush. The blackbird parents’ calls got even louder and the magpie flew out but returned again and again. I tried to chase him away but he wasn’t to be denied.

The battle went on for over an hour with the blackbird parents vainly trying to save their babies. The magpie eventually flew off and I hoped that at least one baby had survived but it wasn’t to be. The parents flew in and out of the bush making their alarm calls to each other but their family had gone.

By four o’clock the male blackbird had gone leaving the female wandering around the lawn disconsolately pecking at the ground but not getting any food. So there she was, all alone, babies gone and her mate had left her to grieve on her own. It was a very sad sight!

The British Garden Birds website says “Magpies are despised by almost everyone owing to being wrongly blamed for the widespread decline in many of our songbirds by preying on their eggs and nestlings.”

‘WRONGLY BLAMED’,  after yesterday’s carnage, I for one don’t believe they are not a cause.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | oldpeople | , , | Leave a comment