Monday, 31 December 2007

Virgin Media Customer Service

First, a traditional merry Yuletide joke:

Q. What, pray, is the difference between Virgin Media's Customer Service effort, and a bucket of sh*t?

A. The bucket. (Aha, haha, ahaha: Your Grace is more than witty this fine afternoon.)

And what, you ask, has brought this on?

Why, when my aristocratic breeding demands good manners, am I writing the Dreadful Anglo-Saxon Poo-Word with a mere asterisk to (hardly) spare the blushes of my more delicate readers?

Well: would you like a blow-by-blow, line-by-line, minute-by-minute account of why I am so cheesed off with Mr Branson and his fine, fine company? Would you, perhaps, like me to tell you where exactly - with regard to the person of Mr Branson - I would currently like to put his undoubtedly splendid V+ box?

No, me neither. So let us instead retire to the Bullet Point Conservatory and dismiss the matter briefly over a pleasant cup of tea:

  • Broken appointments and major time wasting for my family and me;
  • Lots and lots and lots of very, very annoying phone calls;
  • Something which may be lies but it might be more courteous to describe as a tendency towards chronic inaccuracy;
  • I can teach a Border Collie to stick its head through a gap in the stairs on the command "Gargoyle!" In fact it was quite easy. I cannot, however, teach Virgin Media to call me on the correct telephone number, no matter how much effort I expend. Perhaps I am using the wrong sort of biscuits?
  • Most people there to whom I speak to seem to be pleasant enough and perhaps aware that they are not, actually, providing me with a good service. Indeed one apologized this morning, which was an exciting first. Thank you - that really was much appreciated.
  • Others, though, are pathetic and defensive and hide behind their company's dreadful inefficient procedures, or what they claim are those procedures. It would be nice to think that such people could be rooted out and sacked but in reality they are probably more likely to be promoted.
  • The nice and competent-sounding person to whom I spoke second today has arranged the second attempt at an installation, which - assuming it takes place as planned - will be a mere fortnight after my family started wasting its time and my blood pressure started its present climb.
  • The first person to whom I spoke today - well, I diskard her, as Molesworth sa.
  • Finally, a moment of light relief which cheered me up immensely. This morning while hanging around in Telephone Purgatory I was told (by Not Good Helpline Person) that I was being put through to the right people to help. A silence then ensued, then a strange recorded announcement, about quotas, which was clearly not meant for my ears. Finally a man answered with something technical and incomprehensible and asked if he could help me. I explained my quest. There was a thoughtful silence then, in tones of almost radiant wonderment, "are you a Member of the Public?"

Great stuff. I do of course look forward to seeing this exciting device in and working - though not all that soon - but, frankly, if I had a real choice I would not touch this company again with a long, disinfected, Teflon-coated bargepole.

But do please have another cuppa, and try the Christmas cake: it is rather fine. And a very good afternoon to you, too.


Update on 13th January: well, the machine in question is now in and working. The appointment made by the second customer services person did work out, hurrah, and a really nice engineer came on Friday and fitted the box. The whole business of the complaints procedure and so on has never really worked out. They've rung up once or twice (having finally understood how to do so) and said they would call back when I was in, but it has not happened. In a sense I can't really see how this would now benefit me - they already cut the price in half as a result of their error and I cannot imagine they are offering me anything more than that, so it would just be the satisfaction of hearing them say sorry, and I can probably live without that. The box, by the way, is superb. So I will give them two rousing cheers for the bits that went well and for how good their device is, and one rousing raspberry for their uselessness in other ways, and call it quits.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Van Hire Heroes

Let us just suppose that your Christmas arrangements had become a "touch complicated", and that, due to the brilliance of a certain local government person called Sally, your eldest daughter, who may or may not be a Crown Princess, is getting a four night midweek away weekend super duper intercity boutique accommodation winter break in the very swish Highgate Nursing Home over the said festival of jollity.

Let us further suppose that, while the Manchester-London trip is laid on and delivered courtesy of two utterly fabulous blokes from the North West Ambulance Service, the return trip cannot be provided in the same way.

Let us further further suppose that the Crown Princess in question isn't going to be too thrilled if, having gone as far as reaching Hornsey Lane, she's then stuck there. Not unreasonably, she might like to visit Schloss Neustadt and indeed the Grandparental Mansion, which is where the Monster Extended Family Christmas Dinner will take place. Which is about x % of the whole point, really. Where x is a positive integer - quite a big one, ack'shly.

Let us further further further suppose that the family car is not up to the present task. Despite its fine performance in Ingestre (qv) it can't accommodate a wheelchair with person in it, and even if in some alternate reality it could, I'd still cheerfully bet you a Christmas pud that this particular wheelchair, being something of a long wheelbase model, would defeat pretty much anything you could arrange that involved something that looked even a touch like a family car.

So, basically, everything is fine, but everything is about to fall apart without the right vehicle.

Who ya gonna call?

AVH Ltd, that's who. (Adapted Vehicle Hire, geddit?) They are:

Adapted Vehicle Hire Ltd,
Stanford House, Station Approach
0845 257 1670

This wonderful, genius company does exactly what it says on the tin: it hires out adapted vehicles. If you look at the website you'll see that they do vehicles with driver adaptations; but this was not what we were after in this particular case. So they hired us a massive great VW Transporter van with wheelchair tiedowns and a tail-lift. This was just superb. And I thought that the lift would be all "attach trunnion A to bearing bracket B" and "tighten clamp P before installing torque dihedral flange Q" - but, er, no. It has an on/off switch and then four buttons on a wired hand control - deploy - down - up - stow. And that's yer lot.

The van seemed pretty much brand new and drove like a dream. I quite like driving big vehicles so that was OK (though the parking at Highgate was pretty scary, requiring much threading through backwards in a car-park sometimes terrifyingly full of semirandomly parked cars - no straight lines). The van did many local trips, including facilitating the all-important dinner on December 25th, and then we used it for the return trip to Manchester on Thursday.

It's not cheap and AVH is not a charity. But you get what you pay for and what we got here is superb people, vehicle and service. If/when I need this kind of hire again I will be straight back to this brilliant company without a moment's hesitation.

Finally, my Inner Nerd insists that I point out to you that it's exciting because it's based right next to Greenford station. Greenford has Central Line tube and national rail trains to Paddington. It's interesting because it has what seems to be the last remaining wooden escalator on the whole network. Oh and the BR (or whatever) trains come into a weird little terminus platform in a bay between the two Tube tracks going through. Satisfyingly odd. Oh yes I mean it has good access from London too, sure, so it is nice and convenient for here, but that's not what the nerd in me liked so much. Ahem indeed no.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Getting there

Well, I got the main news file in for print last night, on (the much-revised) schedule as agreed. And now I've just sent in an extra file with two late stories. It would be lovely to think I am finished, but I am still not quite there:

  • My friend and neighbour JF may sooner or later send me a line or two to add to an obituary. If this happens soonish then I still want to try to add it to the print version
  • I still have to do the photos for print, but that's easy

When these two things are resolved, that's the current news file pretty much done. Woo, etc.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Jabnaas - just a blog not an authoritative source

Or, how to learn to relax and go with the jabnaas.

JABNAAS - just a blog not an authoritative source. Since shortly after its first known appearance in December 2007 it has tended to be used in all-lowercase, thus: jabnaas.


  1. To remind the reader that a blog is, after all, just a blog. Unless it makes very clear and verifiable claims to some sort of authority, it is not to be taken too seriously on such subjects as:
  • Meissen porcelain
  • French painting
  • Bartók’s string quartets
  • Satellites
  • Ant and Dec
  • William Harvey
  • Anything at all
  1. To remind the blogger of much the same thing: to wit, it will not directly and immediately cause the Thames to freeze over, and ninety-six species of butterfly to become extinct, if you leave some fact unverified or indeed unknown. In fact, it will cause not even the merest ripple in the basic rate of income tax should you get Ant's birthday or Dec's shoe size wrong, and not bother to check it, and it then stays wrong for a decade or more till someone with real OCD checks, or someone who knows happens along, or maybe Ant and/or Dec pop in to say hello and enlighten blogger and blogreader alike.

So: Jabnaas - leave it, get over it, it doesn't matter that much. (Yes Vogel, pay attention, I am talking to you dear boy.)

You see, ever since the tragic disappointment of "blognorance", I've been racking my several remaining brain cells trying to think of a witty neologism, partly as a shorthand for use in the blog, and partly (well more so really, to be honest) to try to make myself feel better over the previous debacle and the 83 gun-jumping swine (now there's an interestingly mixed metaphor) who have selfishly and irresponsibly used my word, without a care for my feelings, before, er, I thought of it.

I wanted, as I say, a witty neologism but jabnaas is what I got instead. Oh well. It'll have to do. Maybe I will grow to love it, like Brussels sprouts. I sort-of concluded that acrostic or acronym (or whatever - jabnaas!) was probably the only way to go, short of just plucking a word absolutely out of thin air, because all the cleverisms like blognorance or bloglectful had been bagsied years ago. And anyway there's only so much pleasure to be had from flogging a dead horse and this one seems pretty much all flogged out, poor old thing.

I did look at some other possibilities:

  • jabasynteb
    just a blog about strawberry yoghurt not the Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • jabnteb
    just a blog not the Encyclopædia Britannica
  • jabnae
    just a blog not an encyclopædia
  • jabnarf
    just a blog not a reference library

- and their fouler-mouthed variants (cover your ears, Tamsin):

  • jabasyntefb
  • jabntefb
  • jabnafe
  • jabnafrf

- but as you see they are all a bit rubbish (OK, quite a lot rubbish), and jabnaas, the best of a bad bunch, at least has the advantage that it is almost pronounceable, that it sounds vaguely funny, and that it might, seen in the right light, be a slightly threatening description in some English dialect of, perhaps, a medical procedure of some sort – who knows?

Anyway, for better or worse, jabnaas it now is. I intend to refer frequently to this page in the course of trying to save myself from a nervous breakdown while obsessing about how much to put in about the West Coast Main Line or (depending on definitions) which car · I · owned · first. Jabnaas.

As of right now, Googling it does not work. Hurrah, huzzah, a half-holiday and a commemorative basket for the peasant children.

Remember: jabnaas - just a blog not an authoritative source.

You know it makes sense. (Perhaps)

I know it makes sense. (Almost definitely.)

Ant and Dec - well, they probably don't care. Hah - more fools them.


Monday, 10 December 2007


Service is a wee bit slow at present: sorry. I've written a few little things but I need some time to finish off, sort out photos, and the like, and this "time" is what I don't currently have, hence the backlog.

I am having a Trumpet News Deadline Crisis (TNDC) right now but once it is over - in a day or two, nervous breakdowns permitting - I will try to get back to the blog a bit.

Note that the current TNDC is the second-and-a-halfth-last ever: I have another one due February 1st but after that I hand the half-cooked file, betwixt deadlines, to my successors. along with the web pages, and lots of goodwill and positive thought-beaming.

Yay and woo, ahem yes. It's now 123 days to go.

Onwards and upwards!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Christmas List (tragic)

I have just had the sad (in both the trad and pejorative modern senses) realization that one of the things I'd really like for Christmas is:

Four days alone in the office, no-one knows I am here, phone and internet disconnected, doing nothing but RUTHLESS tidying up till there are no piles of anything anywhere and just clear surfaces as far as the eye can see.

I can't tell you how sad it makes me feel that this is something I really rather covet and would prefer to several nice jumpers and pairs of socks. (But not a train set.)

Of course, this is not the only thing on my list. There are, believe me, larger and smaller things, more and less tangible both, but as you know this blog avoids serious thought at all costs so we shall stick to trivia. And I am here right now and this is what suddenly occurred to me as something I'd really quite love. The reason this came up now is I am on leave but in the office, because I am on my way to Manchester to see the Crown Princess, but my train goes a bit later so I came in early and have sneakily been working for a while with no-one knowing I am here, and it is marvellous.

Basically, there is something wrong with pretty much my entire Weltanschauung, really, isn't there? Oh well.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Blognorance, and the Software of the Blogging; the splendidnosity of the technical installation


Dammit! I thought I had perhaps invented the term "blognorance" but Googling it brings up 83 references already. Probably about 82 of those people think they invented it too: indeed you can even see such a claim in one of the teeny random Google summaries ("we show you bits of random misleading text in order to save you time on getting randomly confused on the interwebnet - get randomly confused faster and better on one page!")

Sigh. Is there nothing new under the sun?
(Answer = no, lard boy, there is not.)


Othergates: Windows Live Writer, despite its being a Micro$oft product, is something I have rather liked. Now, however, I can no longer save drafts to the online blogging server computer box device: it says it's saving a draft but it actually publishes it, which is a bit dirty-washing-in-public, if you ask me; oh you didn't, well never mind. (Update on 1st January: they have fixed this so save-draft-to-server now once more works like a charm. Hurrah.)

In the profound depths of my ignorance (would've-been blognorance, tsk) I do not know whether this is WLW or the server side playing up, nor do I know how I would find out. But one thing that strikes me is that my depending only on WLW or the web interface is going to help preserve this state of ignorance well past its sell-by date because I have no alternative to check against.

So ... what other blog client PC software, that would work well with this blog, should I look at? It doesn't have to be free, it does have to be good. Idiot-proof would be handy, too, as I work in computers and am therefore disgracefully and utterly rubbish with them. All suggestions gratefully read, and rewarded with chocolate where practicable and affordable. (Exceptions may apply, offer not available in all territories, your mileage may vary, close cover before striking.)

Note: I also did not invent "othergates", though I love it very much. I am pretty sure, though, that I know who did: it was my slowly mutating, interesting and amusing (and occasionally worrying) friend Verlaine from LiveJournal and before that from Monochrome, eee them were t'days. But if you think you invented "othergates" please do not hesitate not to write and tell me about it, ever.

... Update: of course, I am wrong, and it was an older word that went out of favour. Maybe Verlaine has reintroduced it? Sigh - I don't know, and certainly don't have time to research it. Isn't it annoying the way almost everything you "know" turns out, sooner or later, to be incorrect?

Splendidnosity of the technical installation

Some nice chaps are drilling holes at the office. Eventually this will lead - next week I think - to the installation of permanent LCD projectors for the seminar rooms. This in turn leads to the death - three rousing cheers - of the practices of grovelling around on the floor, running cable, installing safety strips and other bl**dy ludicrous wastes of time. I know it sounds trivial but I have spent HOURS - not one of them pleasurable, satisfying or worthwhile - doing this over the last almost-decade and it's a great pleasure to think that we will in future be perhaps just that tiny bit more professional and sorted. This is all the initiative of Jonathan, IT geezer for the cancer folk next door, and I would hug him were it not likely to be embarrassing. Yup, yup and yuppity yoooo!