Saturday, 25 August 2007

Yet another b***** wet BH

What is it with leaks? They lie in wait hidden away for several days until they suddenly jump on you at 2.38pm, at the very beginning of a long weekend, when your trusty plumber is in Wales and won’t be back until Wednesday.

Please keep your fingers crossed that the drip drip from under my kitchen sink doesn’t get worse and that a large saucepan is enough to keep things dry until next week. Emergency plumbers are nasty nasty individuals who exploit people’s misery.

Just as well I don’t do holidays, eh?


Update (30.08.07): I’m sure you’re all waiting with bated breath to hear what happened yesterday when the plumber came. Well, what do you know, he didn’t. I got up especially for him too. Anyway, he came earlier today. Verdict: I need a new tap, but I can use silicone bath sealant in the meantime. Great, I’ve never bought a tap in my life. I really need new experiences just now. As if I didn't have enough on my plate, what with that stupid Tax Return getting properly lost and my having to redo it all, etc. etc.

By the way, I wasn't kidding about leaks revealing themselves at Bank Holidays: this is the third time it's happened to me.

On a happier note: the packet of Scottish salmon fillets I’ve just opened says, ‘Allergy advice: contains fish’. I should hope so.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

That famous British logic

I’ve written before about the palaver of telling the taxman how many peanuts I’ve earned in the past year. It’s the same thing every year: I earn four peanuts and I give him one. How difficult should it be?

Last year, I wasn’t busy in the summer (I’d just lost one of my main ‘clients’); I was busy wondering where the fourth peanut would be coming from. So preoccupied was I that I left it almost too late to fill in my tax return. The sky doesn’t fall in if you don’t do it by 30 September, but you have to calculate the amount of tax due yourself and send the taxman the correct moonay in January – on pain of death, of course. My situation is so simple that I wasn’t unduly worried about missing the deadline. Still, I'd rather let someone else make a mistake, so I sent it back in time by Signed For Recorded Delivery and breathed a sigh of relief. Well, what do you know, no one bothered to sign for it and it sat for ages in Newcastle, in a huge pile of tax returns.

Why Newcastle; don’t you live in Central London, I hear you wonder. Yes, I do, but the tax office that deals with my ‘financial affairs’ is in Newcastle, and it’s called, wait for it, ‘Cornwall and Plymouth Area’. But of course! My tax office used to be in Cornwall (it was ridiculous but at least the name corresponded with the location), but they moved it up north, last year, without telling any of us, so I had a terrible time trying to find out what had happened to my tax return. I attempted to track it with that nifty thing on the Royal Mail website, but it didn’t come up as having arrived anywhere. So, where was it? Was it in Cornwall, where I’d sent it, or was it in its new home in Newcastle? Those two places aren’t exactly next door to each other. After about a million phone calls, it was spotted safely ensconced in Newcastle: they’d been so snowed under with mail that they hadn’t had time to acknowledge receipt.

OK, then, so, this year, I decided to spare myself all that hassle and filled in my tax return well in advance of the deadline. I sent it back on 13 July, again by Signed For Recorded Delivery. Again I didn’t get an acknowledgment and again it didn’t appear on the Royal Mail website. In the end, last week, I thought I would find out, etc. etc. One person told me that it was possible it had arrived and that no one had signed for it or acknowledged it because it was sent back so early. Aaaaargh! You can’t win, can you?

Another thing you cannot do is speak to a person who is actually in the tax office where your file is. I have no fewer than six different telephone numbers for that one office, all of which take me to a call centre.

Why don’t I believe my tax return got lost in the post? Because, as I said, the same thing happened last year, and because I sent two other envelopes by Signed For Recorded Delivery on the same day – one to another address in the UK and one to France – and they both arrived at their destination within a few days. And because I just don’t believe these people. The only envelope I sent on 13 July that didn’t get there was the one addressed to the tax office? Yeah, right!

Since I don’t relish the thought of having to redo it all, I sent a letter to Newcastle a few days ago, by snail mail, asking them to please have a good look and let me know if my tax return was anywhere to be seen.

Have I had an answer to my letter? Did it even get to Newcastle? Is there anyone out there?


Thursday, 16 August 2007

Oh, yes?

A-level results are in. And, guess what, they’re the best ever.

I’m sure that, like me, you have noticed how much more clever and articulate and knowledgeable young people have become in the past year.

You haven’t? Really?

Let’s see what the results are like next year – when they reduce the amount of coursework and test kids on what they know here and now.


Update: I apologize to my non-British readers; I should have explained. This is what Wikipedia says about A-levels: ‘The A-level, short for Advanced Level, is a General Certificate of Education qualification in the United Kingdom, usually taken by students during the optional final two years of secondary school (Years 12 & 13, commonly called the Sixth Form), or at a separate sixth form college or further education college, after they have completed IGCSE or GCSE exams.’

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Where was I? *

Not on holiday, that’s for sure. I don't do holidays.

No, I was still struggling with the new PC, and all that entails. Those things are supposed to make our lives easier and save us time. Yeah, right!

And that’s when the user is not a novice and knows her software from her underwear.

Even when everything is as it should be, i.e. when the computer purrs nicely and accepts new programs without spitting them out, you’re still at the mercy of those frauds, those people who get jobs with Virgin, or Symantec (don’t start me on those crooks), and call themselves helplines. If I had made a note of the name of that woman at Virgin who told me beforehand that, no, they didn’t have a specific broadband installation download for Vista and I could use the Windows XP one, I could have made a voodoo doll, named it and stuck pins into it. OK, the connection is working, but only because I had installed broadband on two other computers already and knew what I was doing. Since they charge something like £1.50 per minute and usually spend the first 20 minutes asking for your life story, you can imagine how much the poor people who don’t have a clue have to fork out.

And then there are the peripherals that are in perfectly good working order but that won’t work with newer computers because Microsoft or Apple have decided to produce a new OS (are you following all this jargon?) and the manufacturers of those peripherals haven’t bothered to make patches for them (still with me?), so said peripherals can’t work with above-mentioned computers (phew!). My lovely flatbed scanner – so flat, so bed – should be working with this beautiful PC (coochycooch). I need it for the OCR function (there she goes again with the jargon!) because it’s easier to translate stuff when it’s on the screen in front of you than to have it propped up on the side of the monitor. Much. Anyway, I cannot throw away a machine that is not broken. I just can’t. And is it possible to buy a cheap flatbed scanner these days? ’course not. At some point you could get one for, like, £20, now everyone’s buying those 3-in-1s and they’re no good if you need to scan a book. Luckily, my partner still has an older Mac and we’ve managed to make the scanner work on it. Hooray! That’s one in the eye for Bill Gates, Vista et al.

Now if only I could make my old speakers work on the HP (Hewlett-Packard to you). Why do some new computers come without speakers? They keep telling you about what sounds you can have to alert you when you fall asleep at the keyboard or when you need a pee, and there are NO speakers!

So, as you can see, the saga isn’t over: more potentially stubborn programs and devices to install...

While I’m on the subject of waste: we’re all doing our bit to save the planet. We sort out our rubbish; we don’t leave our machines on standby (well, not all of them); we reuse plastic bags, and then we buy cook-chill stuff (I don’t, but some people not a million miles away from me do) in Tesco or M&S, and we’re asked to cook a minute portion of dog food for 25 minutes in a hot oven. Twenty-five minutes for a few mouthfuls. You can cook a meal from scratch in 25 minutes!


* I know I’ve already used that heading for another post. So what?