RIP Big Red

When your car breaks down you assume, when you have a wonderful mechanic, that you can just hand your car over and in a couple of days you’ll get it back working and all lovely again … I discovered last weekend that this isn’t the case and some things can’t be fixed.


I drive an old car.  It’s a 2002 Vauxhall Astra 1.8 SRI and it is the best car in the world, ever.  I bought it in 2007 and it still drives like new with over 75k miles on the clock.  It’s sexy red (hence the name Big Red) and goes like sh*t off a shovel, has impressive acceleration and holds the road like a dream.  Two weeks ago I was driving home from dropping the spawn off at work when the traction control light (the light that comes on when it’s icy and you get crunchy brakes) came on along with the car spanner light (it’s a car with a big spanner on it and it usually means there’s something wrong with the ECU).  As the lights were solid orange and not flashing I drove the car sparingly for the next couple of days until I could get it into the garage but they were only little pootling-around trips of a few miles.  So it went into the garage on Thursday.  Thursday night I rang the mechanic and he said there were two fault codes but the faults it said it had weren’t there so he was keeping it overnight and would pass it to a mechanic who had specialised knowledge in these electronic thingys.  So I left it at that.  I got a phonecall on Friday lunchtime to say that my car was basically buggered and the only way it could be possibly mended was with a new wiring loom which would be a massive job.  Unfortunately (he said) you can no longer get this from Vauxhall because the car’s fourteen years old and they no longer produce the correct connector so the only other option was to find a fourteen year old one with perfect wires and perfect connections from a breaker’s yard which would be nothing short of miraculous.  The other mechanic had put another ECU in the car and coded it to the car but when he started it up the same (non) faults came back and the spanner light came back on.   This meant that the problem wasn’t with the ECU and, on further investigation, he discovered that one of the connections in the plastic connector box at the end of the wiring that leads to the ECU wasn’t working.  You can’t just buy this connector box thingy and put the current wires into it because it comes moulded onto the end of the wiring loom.  So the car is now stuck in limp mode and I’ve been told that there’s a very real possibility if I drive it that it will just die and everything will switch off.  Scary or what?  My only option, which breaks my heart, is scrapping it.  Now I have the unenviable task of trying to find the funds for another car on top of the £25 a week bus fares it’s currently costing me to get to work.  Of course there’s probably somebody out there that could mend it but it’d cost thousands of quids that I don’t have.



Big Red – the sexiest car in the world, ever


Dear Government, please arse-rape me some more, I love it and I’m bent over and ready.

The reality, just how grim it is up north for us right now.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything about Grumpy Gobshite’s ESA so thought I’d bring you up to speed on the latest.

Back in April he won his tribunal and was back in receipt of Employment & Support Allowance, but only for a year.  What those devious bastards at the DWP did though was backdate that year to the November before when they had told him on his initial WCA that he was fit for work.  Because that’s what the DWP do, twist the rules to suit themselves in order to hit targets.  So, technically, he only gets seven months of that year and cannot apply, or be considered, for ESA again until April 2014.  In the meantime we’ve been receiving at least a letter a month, and during October one a week, saying that his claim would end on 8th November 2013 – our 22nd wedding anniversary.  Happy Anniversary!  In late August his GP tried him on some painkiller patches called BuTrans which have made quite a difference to the things he can manage.  He’s allergic to the patches but that’s another story.  Suffice to say he puts up with the blisters and peeled off skin for the bonus of slightly lessened pain.  He’s been attending meetings with a company called Inspire 2 Independence (I2I) who deal with the WRAG people and try to line them up with companies who are sympathetic to staff who may not be able to give 100% some days or who simply cannot work 40 hours a week.  Because his ESA claim was ending he sorted it with I2I to make sure that he could still use their helpful service and they said that even if he subsequently went onto Jobseekers Allowance they’d still be there for him.  So on 11th November he applied for JSA.  He attended an interview at the Jobcentre Plus and they were happy that he was still using I2I as it proved he was actively seeking work so made their job easier.  After 8th November his ESA stopped which was a shortfall of £436 a month in our income.  I work.  I’m one of David Camoron’s so-called hardworkers.  Sadly though, as I work for a very small family company so there isn’t extra money for voting myself a 10% payrise or extra expense payments – my wage is a fixed salary every month.  I haven’t had a payrise this year.  I got one last year but it was the first one for three years.  So we weren’t actually looking forward to the £57 weekly JSA but that £228 a month would make a massive amount of difference to us.  It’d still be £200 a month less than we were used to but with a bit more belt-tightening we probably could’ve managed.  I should point out at this point that we’ve already belt-tightened plenty thanks to price increases across the board and the astronomical fuel prices that our Government refuse to do anything about.  I need a car for work, a year’s car costs are considerably less than a year’s bus ticket would be for me to get to work and back home, not taking into account the extra two hours a day I’d spend travelling if I had to get buses.  The gas and electric have both gone up over 8% last month too but I’m not even thinking about the £21 a month increase to the direct debit right now.  Just another thing that our Government refuse to do anything about.  We all know it’s because their fuel and utility costs are paid by expenses and the majority of them and their family/friends are shareholders in these companies holding us all to ransom so it isn’t in their interest to do anything about it other than make the right noises so we think that they care.

Anyway, veered a bit off-topic there, so back to the story.  Last Wednesday Grumpy Gobshite received a lovely letter from the DWP explaining that he wasn’t entitled to JSA payments because his NI contributions in financial years ending 2005 and 2006 were too low.  Now I fail to understand why they used those two years in particular, a phonecall to the DWP by GG just resulted in some po-faced automaton bitch telling him that they are “linking years”.  Linking to what she refused to, or couldn’t, explain, why those two years in particular she wouldn’t explain either.  He pointed out that in financial years ending 2007 and 2008 he paid his full Class 1 NI contributions because he was working and asked why they hadn’t used those years which resulted in the “linking years but no explanation” reply again.  Which makes it look like they’re using those two linking years, from over 8 years ago, since when he had worked for two years, to avoid paying him the measly pittance of £57 a week.  I’d love an explanation of where they get the “linking years” from but a large amount of Googling has failed to turn up any information.  So if anybody knows why, please, feel free to enlighten me!  In addition to that he’s also being penalised with no NI contributions either because he didn’t tell the DWP that his circumstances had changed when his ESA stopped and he went onto JSA.  Am I missing something here?  They told him that his ESA claim was ending on 8th November!  He registered for JSA on 11th November and the DWP didn’t tell themselves that?  What the fecking feck kind of screwed up games are they playing here?

Anyway, here we are as 2013 draws to a close.  We live in our mortgaged house, I’ve worked continuously for the last eighteen years, prior to that I had two years off after having a baby but didn’t claim any benefits and immediately prior to that I’d worked for six years since leaving college.  So I’ve been paying NI contributions for twenty four years and what benefit am I getting from it?  Because I’m a hardworker I cannot afford a haircut, never mind getting the grey coloured over.  Meat, fresh fruit and vegetables will become a food of happy distant memories reminisced about whilst eating beans and egg on toast.  I’m asthmatic but don’t get free prescriptions, I pay for my blue inhalers.  Not asthmatic enough to get free flu jabs from the GP though so that’s another thing I have to pay for that every fecker else seems to get for free.  GG doesn’t get free prescriptions either so that’s £100 a year for his shedload of painkillers.  Christmas ‘13 is now officially cancelled, presents for the nephews and nieces will have to go on a credit card.  A card I probably won’t be able to afford to pay very soon.  The car tax is due at the end of this month, another £250 I don’t have.  I’m just about to cancel the New Years Eve party that I host for the family every year because I can’t afford to feed us never mind buy extra pigs in blankets, ham and barmcakes.  Such a Merry Christmas from your ConDemNation party!

I’m going to carry on for now, happy in the knowledge that the £57 a week GG isn’t entitled to receive will pay towards the Prime Minister’s placenta face-cream to keep his skin in the gorgeous shiny soft condition we’ve all come to know and love.  What other choice do I have?  I can’t do anything about the stress I’m under right now, I just try and deal with it as best as I can and hope that it won’t turn into a fully-fledged nervous breakdown.  Because if it did we’d be truly fucked.

The reality of life for many of us hardworking plebs of this country is that we earn just a tiny bit too much to get any benefits at all, our money is constantly chipped away more as prices rise and all the while our Glorious Leaders sit in their inherited ivory towers (or taxpayer funded second homes) toasting their toes in front of roaring fires and lifting a glass of taxpayer funded vintage wine to their self-entitled lying lips.

Why Vodafone ought to be ashamed of themselves

I’ve been with Vodafone since I got my first mobile phone in July of 1999, it was a Siemens C25 – the one with the dingly ringtones you could make yourself – remember?  After that I had a Siemens C35, then a Nokia 3210, a Motorola Razr next, a Nokia 5800 Music Xpress after that and finally a Nokia X6.  There are two phones on my contract, mine and the Grumpy Gobshite’s.  My first contract back in those days was about £12 a month each and I don’t think either of us have ever used all of our inclusive minutes in all that time.  Over the years the tariff prices increased slightly and the inclusive minutes reduced but still I stayed with them because I’d never had major problems with them.  In January 2007 they refused to give me Vodafone Passport for a weekend visiting a friend in Sweden, meaning I had to pay a phenomenal charge when I rang the spawn to say we got there OK.  They refused it because I didn’t pay enough on my tariff, so I paid about fifteen quid for a five minute call home, but I stayed with them.  In September 2011 they forced me onto another tariff and internet billing instead of paper bills and still I stayed with them.

My Vodafone mobile contract ran out in September of this year so I’d been checking the website for an upgrade phone but the only ones they were offering for my tariff (just over £15 a month each for two phones) were utter shite.  One day last week I got a text message from Vodafone saying that this tariff I’m on was going and the price of the new one they were putting me on was more expensive.  Feeling quite pissed off about it I decided to bite the bullet and see what else was out there with other companies.  As we have our landline, TV and broadband with Virgin Media I tried there first and discovered that we could get brand spanking new Sony Xperia L phones with 200 minutes a month, unlimited texts and 500meg of data for £16 a month.  On the Vodafone one we get 300 minutes and unlimited texts with no data so I’m swapping 100 minutes I don’t use a month for 500 megs of interweb.  Anyway, to find the Vodafone “I’m leaving” number I went into my last internet bill, which I never look at unless the bill amount was different or unusually hefty, which it never was.  I discovered that Vodafone were still charging £1.50 including VAT for itemised billing on GG’s phone every month.  So I thought that while I was on to them I’d query that too and get a refund.

So I bit the bullet, dialled 191 and chose the “if you’re thinking of leaving us” option.  There’s a stand-up comedian (can’t remember who) who says in one of his shows that if you just ring customer services you get some foreign person with English as a second language, if you ring the complaints line you get a lovely Geordie lady and if you ring the I’m leaving line you get the chirpy Irishman.  I got a lovely lady called Barbara, lilting irish accent and friendly as you could ever want.  Barbara did her absolute damndest to try and get me an Xperia L phone on my tariff but it wasn’t to be, sadly.  I’d have loved to avoid all the faff of PAC codes and waiting for the new phone delivery bloke and had Barbara been able to come up with a reasonably similar deal I’d have happily stayed.  I then asked her about the itemised billing but she couldn’t deal with that so we parted ways, Vodafone Barbara with her lovely, helpful demeanour and accent and me with my two PAC codes, needing to ring the billing department.  Before I rang billing I rang Virgin Mobile, again speaking to a most helpful lady whose name I didn’t catch.  She was foreign but her English was very good and she could even understand my lovely Boltonian twang.  She sorted me two phones out, explained what would happen in easy steps and told me exactly what to do when the new phones arrived on Friday.  So I ended that phonecall feeling elated – I’d spoken to two very helpful people and didn’t feel like I’d been bent over and unceremoniously arse-raped which is usually how I feel after dealing with call centres.  I should have known that feeling couldn’t last.  So I dialled 191 again and chose the option for billing.  This time I was answered by a lady whose command of the English language was on a par with my three-year-old nephew.  I didn’t get her name either because her accent was very difficult to understand.  I explained that I’d noticed itemised billing on GG’s breakdown and queried why I’d been charged it when I hadn’t received paper bills for over two years.  She put me on hold and then came back and said I shouldn’t be paying it so she’d processed a refund for £1.54 to my account and it wouldn’t be on again.  I told her that I’d just cancelled with Vodafone and would she please refund all of it from when they made me go onto internet billing.  That’s when the conversation got ridiculously frustrating, her with her broken English and me trying to understand what she was saying and get my point across.  Sadly, her crib-sheet of responses appeared to be lacking in any kind of customer satisfaction service.

Vodafone: I don’t know when you went to internet billing and can only refund from when you make complaint.

Me: But it’s been well over two years since I went on internet billing.  Surely your system can confirm the date?

Vodafone: I don’t know when you went on internet billing.

Me: I’ve just told you, September 2011, check on your computer.

Vodafone: I can’t check that, how do you know that you haven’t been getting paper statements?

Me: Because I’m on internet billing.  I haven’t had paper bills for years!

Vodafone: Maybe they sent out a paper bill for the other phone with itemised billing so you can check what your other person using the phone has been doing.

Me: I don’t get any paper bills!  I haven’t had paper bills for years!


Vodafone: Can you prove that you haven’t had paper bills?

(I resisted the urge to call Royal Mail for a contact list of all our delivery people who have delivered mail here in the past twenty-six months so I could ask them to sign a document stating that they hadn’t delivered a Vodafone bill)

Me: I. DON’T. GET. PAPER. BILLS.  So what you’re actually telling me is that you aren’t going to refund the £36 that you’ve fraudulently billed me for?

Vodafone: There has been no fraud.

Me: You’ve been charging me for a service you haven’t been providing.  That’s fraud.

Vodafone: You should check your bill every month and ring if something’s wrong.

Me: When you changed me to internet billing that charge should’ve removed from the bill automatically, surely?  You removed it automatically from my part of the bill, why not that part?

Vodafone: It’s up to you to check your bill every month.

Me: So I’m not getting my £36 back that you’ve stolen?

Vodafone: I can only refund from when a complaint is made, I’ve refunded £1.54 to your account.

Me (having completely lost it now): It’s absolutely bloody disgraceful, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves, I’m going to suck up that £36 you stole and be thankful I don’t have to deal with your company again.  I’m going now, bye.

And with that I put the phone down.  To give you an idea of how bad her English was, the phonecall above took 15 minutes and 43 seconds, how long did it take you to read it?  Moments?

So ladies and gentlemen, I give you Vodafone, a company that not only avoids paying tax to the treasury but is only too happy to screw over the little people too.  A loyal customer who, over the last fourteen years, has paid them well in excess of five thousand pounds.  Like GG put it though, they’ve lost out on the future twelve grand they would’ve got from us over the next thirty years.

So fuck you and the horse you rode in on Vodafone!  Like I said on Twitter, I wouldn’t recommend you to paedophiles and axe-murderers much less my friends and family.  Maybe you should change the name of customer services to customer screw-overs then at least everybody would be clear what they’d get when they ring.

Snouts in troughs

I’ve been feeling irrationally angry recently.  It could be the onset of middle-aged lady problems, it could be the financial pressure that the Government is going to put me under in a couple of weeks, it could be that the gas and electric bills are going up 8.2% next month, it could be the vile actions of our unelected Government representatives but it’s most likely a combination of all of the above.  To say that I feel daunted by what’s about to happen would be an understatement.


On the 8th November the DWP will be stopping paying the grumpy gobshite’s Incapacity Benefit (or ESA or whatever the buggery they’ve rebranded it).  This is despite him winning his appeal at tribunal in April of this year.  The judge at that tribunal recommended that he not be tested again for twelve months from that date so the DWP have told him that his money will stop on the 8th November but he cannot reapply or be paid any ESA until April 2014.  They will, however, continue to pay his National Insurance contributions so that’s alright then.


Now I’m a very hard worker.  I get paid quite well for what I do, not a massive amount of money and nowhere near what those plastic-faced twats in Government think is the average earnings of the average person.  But, in addition to GG’s medical pension and the IB/ESA we can just about get by.  His ESA is £108.45 a week but apparently he’s a scrounger for claiming that £5639.40 a year.  Quite laughable when you think that he was paying in well over that amount every year for twelve years when he last worked.  We don’t receive any other public assistance because I work, no tax credits, no council tax relief and no housing benefit.  It pisses me off especially to hear about loose-legged baby-machines raking in the equivalent of a £60k salary on benefits who’ve never worked and whose spawn are probably destined to continue the lifestyle cycle now that they’ve seen how well mummy does out of it.  Those people though are a rarity, despite the tabloid press trying to convince us otherwise.  The £470 a month that we will be losing means that I now have to make a decision to either eat or pay the mortgage.  After the royal screwing-over from the Prison Service ten years ago we are still paying the credit card debts that we had to incur between the time he was sacked on the grounds of medical inefficiency and we managed to sell the house and move back up north.  GG has got himself onto a scheme to try to help him find some form of employment so I’ve got my fingers crossed for that but am not holding my breath if I’m honest.  It seems that every time we start feeling like we may be winning something comes along that kicks the chair from under us and we’re hung again.  Obviously I’m going to do my best to get by and we are luckier than a lot of people who’ve traversed the vile ATOS WCA assessment process in that I’m working and, as far as I’m aware, my job is safe for the moment.  This Government is despicable.  How they have the audacity to stand up and say that the problems in this country are caused by the benefit bill, and have the general public believing them, is beyond me.  I don’t feel proud to be British any more.  I feel like our Government is screwing us for every penny they can get, everything is aimed at increasing their personal fortunes.  They say that there’s no more money in one breath but give themselves a payrise with the next!  I can’t claim for home to office travel, I can’t claim for my work clothes, I can’t claim for my lunches at work but they do all of that in addition to claiming for their little sprogs to travel to London first class on the train!  I can’t even set off the unused £5k of GG’s tax allowance against my wages even though I’m keeping him because they won’t!  I’ve been thinking recently that I’d like a paddock, I don’t have a pony to put on it but does that matter?  There’s a small park behind my house that would do very nicely.  Their latest soundbite is that foodbanks are making people even lazier!  As if they have a clue about the kinds of food that foodbanks give out – you aren’t getting your five a day from it, it’s cheap packet and tinned stuff that fills stomachs!  It’s like saying that wheelchairs will make people lose the use of their legs.  This Government is a bunch of privileged tosspots who are happy to lie and cheat to achieve their own twisted agenda.  Stories abound on a daily basis of their “jobs for the boys” attitude and how they look after their very good buddies who are bankers and shareholders in large tax-avoiding companies.  They are just pigs with their snouts firmly stuck into the trough, noshing what they can while they can and stuff the rest of us.


Rant over.  For now.

Dreaming of a bedroom fit for a princess …

Silentnight are running a competition called The Spring Bedroom Makeover Challenge.  They want people to blog about their bedroom and how they’d create their perfect sleeping environment given the chance.  It’s one of those questions isn’t it, what would you do if you won ten million quid on the lottery? I wouldn’t normally dream of entering this kind of competition but after thinking about what I’d do I decided to enter anyway, after all what have I got to lose?

This blog post is part of the Silentnight Spring Bedroom Makeover Challenge

In our house any bedroom makeover would certainly be a challenge of epic proportions.  When we bought the house it was a little bit on a whim.  That whim was the lovely big kitchen, utility room and downstairs toilet in an extension built on the back of the house.  We’d only had one day to view several potential houses before we traipsed the 200 miles back to Hertfordshire.  By the time we viewed this house my head was spinning and all I could see was the kitchen, the big kitchen, with its plethora of cupboard space and built-in cooker, oven and hood.  And the cupboards, did I mention the cupboards?  Oh so many lovely cupboards.  Cursory glances were passed over the upstairs rooms and they seemed alright but I’d already decided that I was having that kitchen, the bedrooms weren’t really of any consequence to me in my jaded get-it-over-and-done-with state.  Biggest impulse-buy of my life!

Fast-forward three months to moving-in day, we hadn’t been back since viewing day.

“I didn’t realise the bedrooms were so small and strangely laid out”

 “Where’s the airing-cupboard?  Was there even an airing-cupboard when we viewed?”

 “Were the bedrooms done in these hideous colours when we looked around?”

 “The spare room’s only six foot nine wide, and three feet of that is boxed-off because it has stairs underneath!  It didn’t look that small with furniture in.”

It’s been nine years now since we moved in and I have to admit that the only decorating done to any of those three bedrooms was in the spawn’s room.  The reason will soon become apparent with the pictures to follow.  Here’s how it was before:






Now do you see where the hideous colours comment came in?  I couldn’t force an eleven year old girl to sleep in that room, not after all the upheaval we’d put her through, moving her 200 miles away and leaving all of the friends she’d grown up with.  I mean, each to their own and everything, but bright blue with random yellow rectangles?  Really?!  Methinks somebody watched far too many of those self-help house-decoration reality programmes.  It took five coats of white emulsion to cover the blue “son” on the edge of the ceiling, two coats of white and then two coats of the lilac stuff on top of the white to cover the walls.  It wasn’t just that room either; don’t get me started on the cupboard-full kitchen because this is a bedroom blog!

Here are the “just after” pictures, not exactly professional quality but a massive improvement:




So here’s a quick walkthrough of her bedroom(s)* as they are now, just to give you an idea of how tiny and badly laid out they are.

*her room and the spare room where half of her possessions have to live

(sorry it’s a link – I’m in no way tech-savvy enough to insert a video – pictures I can do, just not film)

So what would I do, given that money and time were limitless?  The first thing I’d do would be to get one of those small slimline radiators, remove the hideous, hulking reconditioned thing that’s barely hanging on to the inside plasterboard wall and relocate the little one to underneath the window in the spawn’s room, where radiators should be.  After the floorboards are down again, after moving the water pipes, I’d put down some luxurious deep-pile carpet, rich pink or lilac.  You know the stuff that your toes sink into in the morning and feels really lush?  I’d replace the harsh double spotlight ceiling fitting with something smaller and more feminine – I’m thinking a lovely oyster-shell shade to diffuse the light giving a softer, more relaxing feel to the room.

Next I’d get rid of the giant wardrobe and replace it with something slightly smaller that had self-contained, integral drawers and a matching bookcase/storage/media unit that would reach across the back wall.  She could put her clothes in the wardrobe and drawers (instead of strewn on the floor) and also have her computer, university books, TV, CDs, DVDs and stereo on it – all to hand in one place rather than shared between the spare room and her room.  She currently has a three-quarter bed because the room, as it’s laid out at the moment, it’s a bit too small for a double.  I’d like to find some kind of headboard with a built-in bedside cabinet on the left-hand side for her reading lamp and other girlie accoutrements, a double would fit then.  I’d like the headboardy-thing to be nice polished light-coloured wood with vertical slats I think.  A Silentnight double bed would also be better for her when her 6 foot 4 boyfriend stayed over – after all, the whole Silentnight advertising hook is a hippo and a duck – big on one side and little on the other but no roll-together.

Most of the things I’d like for her bedroom are cosmetic and maybe some of the storage solutions don’t even exist save for in my head but it’s been an interesting couple of hours sitting and dreaming of what I’d do if I had the time, money and, most importantly, the inclination.  Not as nice as when I daydream about my pink and purple pearlescent Pagani Zonda F that I’m going to buy when I win the Euromillions, but it’s close.


Teenagers, who’d have ’em?

Last night, after shopping at Tesco in Walkden I decided to grab our tea from McDonalds and KFC outside the Ellesmere Centre.  As we left Tesco the foyer upstairs and down contained about thirty teenagers – they weren’t being an annoyance but they were playing around with the lift buttons and riding up and down.  The spawn was with me, we loaded up the shopping into the car and drove from the Tesco carpark to the little carpark where McDs and KFC are.

We walked over to McDs where the pavement outside the entrance was occupied by perhaps fifteen teenagers, mostly girls, and the entrance was blocked by a bouncer.  Yes, a bouncer.  This is what the world’s come to, all the namby-pamby tiptoeing round the feelings of scumbags has reduced shopkeepers to paying for and putting bouncers on takeaway food shops’ doors.  And they are little scumbags, probably the same as their parents who obviously don’t give a shit what their daughter or son is doing on a Saturday night.  We got our food and exited the building.  As the pathway between the shop-front and railings is only wide enough for two people to stand side-by-side there was a bit of a jam so I said, quite loudly, “excuse me” which was ignored.  That was my cue to just barge through the little bastards regardless of the consequences, which I did.  One little bitch almost commented but then obviously thought better of it on seeing the look on my face.  It’s lucky that she did, poor bint has probably never had a proper telling-off in her life and it’s quite clear that she’s never been taught manners.  So off we trotted to KFC to get the grumpy gobshite’s chicken, arrived at the door to be met by two bouncers, went in, bought the food and left.  Nothing more happened as we got into the car and left other than the Tesco teenagers leaving and joining the other ones.

What’s wrong with this society that we can’t or won’t effectively teach our children to respect their elders and the property of others?  I was taught it, grumpy gobshite was taught it and the spawn has been taught it.  So why the breakdown?  There is a whole generation of belligerent teenagers whose first port of call when called out on their behaviour or foul language is to retort with more foul language accompanied by “I can do what I want, you can’t touch me!” (that’s if you’re lucky and don’t get stabbed by them).  And it’s true, the little bleeders get away with their antisocial behaviour scot-free.  Did it start with the anti-smacking brigade?  Did it start with the explosion of single mothers producing kids for cash benefits?

I know that teenagers have always been pains in the arse, I was one once and older people probably thought I was a pain in the arse.  The difference was that we respected authority, knowing a neighbour would happily give us a clip round the ear if we needed it or, even worse, march us home to tell our parents what we’d been up to.  The local beat bobby knew us and who we belonged to conversely we also knew that if we had a problem we could go to him for help.  Not any more, I can’t remember the last time I saw a proper bobby on the beat, it’s been months seen I’ve even seen a … I have no idea what their title is now … plastic plod.  Community officer?  Special Constable?  The constant rebranding of those unpaid volunteers doesn’t help but, rest assured, the scrotey teenagers know they have as little power as the man on the street to sort them out.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are plenty of perfectly lovely teenagers out there, I know quite a few myself – I just hate this particular group of them.  So finally have a watch and listen to one of my favourite songs from My Chemical Romance and chill out!

(credit to lifeXonXtheMCRScene for uploading the video to YouTube, not sure whether it’s the done thing for me to share it but I’m happy to remove it if asked)

The annual festive trip to the sorting office

Well the festive season is upon us and no festive season would be complete without the obligatory trip to the Royal Mail sorting office to collect an item of underpaid/delayed/too-large-for-the-postman-so-he-left-it-there-and-just-brought-the-“you were out”-card mail.  I took my trip today and was attended to by an absolutely horrible, rude, belligerent excuse for a woman who had her own agenda and was not going to deviate from that path no matter what was said to her.  Not only did she consistently interrupt me when I was explaining the problem but she actually thought it was good customer service to make snide comments about me loudly to the other staff when she went round the corner, out of view of the poor saps herded like cattle into a tiny waiting room.  Very professional of her, I was really impressed.  She said it to them loud enough for all of us to hear, she knew that we could hear and she was blatantly trying to get a rise out of me so she could pull the “we won’t accept abuse, verbal or physical, towards our staff” card.  The worst part of her infantile behaviour is that she is the public face of the Royal Mail and there are now thirty people in the Bolton area who know what a pathetic character she is.

Don’t get me wrong here, I think the Royal Mail is a wonderful service.  The envy of the world.  Our postmen and women tramp the streets on a daily basis, in all weathers (which in Bolton is usually means some kind of rain ranging from heavy drizzle to torrential), to deliver our letters, cards, parcels and junk mail and I don’t suppose they’re paid handsomely for it.  Where else in the world can you post a letter with a 60p stamp on it and it will arrive at its destination letterbox hundreds of miles away mere hours later?

Back to the story.  On Tuesday of this week, 18th December, I posted a Christmas parcel to my best friend who lives in Hertfordshire.  On Wednesday she texted me to say the parcel had arrived and asked whether I’d got the one that she sent yet.  I texted back that I hadn’t had it yet.  I wasn’t too worried, it’s the Christmas season and we all know that everything takes a little longer due to the increase in mail at that time of year.  My parcel had cost a bargainous £2.70 to send first class and arrived less than twenty hours later at its destination 200 miles away.  On Thursday (20th) I received a phonecall at work from the grumpy gobshite, he said that the postman had put a card through saying I had to pay £6.30 and collect a parcel from the Calvin Street sorting office.  At that point I had a little bit of a mental to myself because I was also expecting a book from Canada so I assumed it was some kind of duty on that.  I did a bit of research on the HMRC website about import duty and import VAT and discovered that there shouldn’t be any of those so I rang GG who rang customer services at the Royal Mail and they told him it was £5.30 underpaid postage plus a £1 handling fee.  Then I went on Royal Mail’s website and looked what would cost £5.30 to post – something weighing up to 2kg sent by Royal Mail parcels.  So I knew it was the parcel from my friend.  I texted her “This may be a daft question but did my parcel cost you £5.30?  I’ve had a card from the postman saying I have to pay £6.30 to get a box because there was no postage on it but I know you’ll have paid because the post office wouldn’t take it otherwise would they?” and she texted back “Yes it cost £5.30 and I have the receipt!  Shall I scan and email it to you?  Sorry it’s ended up being a right pain, I posted it on the 13th”.  She scanned it and emailed it over and I printed it off, along with the email that it was attached to.  The receipt is actually a certificate of posting which has the house number and postcode on it and specifies that £5.30 has been paid.

So Friday morning rolls around, the 21st December, getting a bit close to Christmas now.  I went into work, then at about 10.15am I set out for the sorting office with the copy of the receipt, my little grey card and my driving licence for ID.  The pre-Christmas sorting office visit is an annual affair so I was in no doubt it would be a case of fighting for a parking space then shuffling along in a queue of about two hundred people.  What a lovely surprise when I arrived and there were multitudes of parking spaces and only two people in the queue in front of me!  My turn arrived and I had all my paperwork and ID ready in my hand so as not to unnecessarily delay proceedings.  Let’s face it we all get silently irate when the old biddy at the front of the queue starts emptying the contents of her handbag on the counter despite waiting ten minutes in the queue.  Remember people: the six P’s!  Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.  If we all lived by this mantra the world would be a much more efficient place.  But I digress.  I arrived at the window, guff in hand, said hello then said that I’d got this card saying I had to pay £6.30 because the sender hadn’t put postage on the item but I’ve brought this copy of the receipt from the sender proving that she had paid and the label probably fell off or something.  The lady (and I use that term in its loosest sense) took the paperwork off me, gave it a cursory glance and said I needed the receipt where the sender had paid online so she could look up a number (think she said a cat number but not sure).  I said that she didn’t pay online, she’d taken the parcel to the post office in Hertfordshire where she lives and paid for it then – this was the receipt from the post office, look, it has my house number and postcode on it.  At that point she interrupted me mid-sentence and told me I wasn’t listening, she needed the internet receipt.  Did I not understand what she was saying?  Actually, no I didn’t because what she was saying was making no sense whatsoever and it was her who wasn’t listening to me (I didn’t say it but I thought it).  Again I tried to tell her that it was posted at a post office and she’d paid at the post office, at which point she grabbed the paperwork and stomped off into the back of the office without another word.  I stood there while the other people in the queue behind me sighed and tutted, I even felt the need to apologise to them.  The man next to me agreed that post offices don’t take a parcel off somebody and put it in the post without postage being paid.  After a few minutes the lady came back with the box that my friend had posted.  She then proceeded to tell me look, it has no postage on it.  There’s a yellow sticker on it too because there’s no postage on it.  So I said that the postage sticker could have fallen off but she was insistent that it hadn’t,  it’s never had any postage on it, even going as far as to tell me that, had it ever had a postage sticker from the post office it would have had a red stripe over the top.  At that point I was getting more frustrated with her, the queue was now out of the door and I felt like I may as well be banging my head against a brick wall for all the good this nonsense conversation was doing so I said “look, can I just pay for it and reclaim the money then?”.  She replied yes and took my £10 note, walked into the back again and complained to her colleagues, ensuring there was enough volume in her voice for everybody to hear about “people coming in here shouting and giving abuse and they think you’re going to help them” then muttering something quietly which was probably an insult she didn’t want us to hear.  At which point my blood pressure shot through the roof and I replied loud enough for her to hear “I haven’t shouted yet but I can do if you want love” which raised titters from the tutters in the queue.  The audacity of her!  I’d been polite all the way through the conversation, used my pleases and thankyous – unlike her, kept my voice pleasant as I tried to explain and didn’t even pull her up on her rude interruptions and tone of voice purely because it’s a busy time of year and she’s probably under a lot of pressure.  Yet she treated me like something she had stood in on the street.  When she came back around the corner with my change I asked how I reclaim the money, she gave me an orange card and told me to ring customer services and gave me my change.  I had to ask for a receipt and yes I did say please, she scribbled one out and shoved it through the window at me, I said thankyou and left.

So yes, I’ll be using a courier from now on just so I don’t have to deal with Neanderthal customer service staff, jumped-up ignorant gobshites with no social graces at all.  Either that or I’ll send GG in to collect the parcel next time.  He’s good at persuading people to revise their attitudes.