Monday, 8 February 2016

Oh internet, where art thou?

Dear Reader,

It's said that it's unfair to kick a man when he's down, is the same true of a multi-billion pound earning internet service provider? No, especially when said provider has been failing to deliver consistent internet connectivity to my household since I moved house six months ago. In that situation you make sure your boots have got sharp toes.

Internet outages have become a commonplace occurrence in our household, particularly irritating as we both work from home and have no access to mobile phones signals, so no plan b. It should be noted, we haven't moved to Mars, just nearer to sheep and trees. As a result brushes with the customer service department of BT have become increasingly commonplace.

Communicating with BT is like communicating with the IT Crowd, they really want you to turn it off and turn it back on again.

I am regularly turning it off and turning it on again. The it in my case turns out to be the hub, the little box which connects to the phone line and then distributes the joy of the internet all around the house. 

Every time I call I learn a little more, (and possibly) navigate a step further through the flowchart of solutions available to the representative on the other end of the line. Some examples are required...

BT Person, (having quizzed me as to who I am): What is your problem sir?
Me, (having proved who I am): Internet connectivity is broken again.
BT Person: I am sorry to hear that, that can be very frustrating. Is the telephone line working?
Me: Yes...
BT Person: If you cannot make calls from the phone line...
BT Person: Thank you sir, let me just check a couple of things.

At this point I wonder what those checks might be. Does the BT person have to find another piece of paper with some more questions on? Does he also have to check which pieces of paper have been used before? 

BT Person: Have you tried taking the power out of the back of the hub for 10 seconds and then putting it back in again?
Me: Yes.

BT Person: Have you tried taking the power out of the back of the hub for 30 seconds and then putting it back in again?
Me: Erm, no. That will make a difference, will it?
BT Person: Yes, most assuredly, sir.

BT Person: Is it back up? I have been changing some settings in the meantime....
Me: What settings, and why weren't they set properly in the first place?

I am beginning to believe that the internet is in fact like telephone exchanges from the past where you phone an operator Just putting you though...
BT Person: Is it back up?
Me: Yes, it is back up.

Of course that wasn't the only conversation, there were many more and they were getting progressively more surreal.

BT Person: Have you tried taking the power out of the back of the hub for 10 seconds and then putting it back in again?
Me: Yes.
BT Person: Have you tried taking the power out of the back of the hub for 30 seconds and then putting it back in again?
Me: Yes.
BT Person: Have you tried taking the power out of the back of the hub for precisely 57 seconds whilst putting your finger in your ear and whistling Frere Jacque and then putting the power back in it again?
Me: Yes.
BT Person: Have you got a paperclip?
Me: What?
BT Person: A paperclip, so we can reset the hub.
Me: Of course, a paperclip why didn't I think of that, that must be the solution
BT Person: There is a small hole in the back which if you push a paperclip into for precisely 28 seconds then the hub will reset.
Me: Is that a different kind of reset than the reset that I get if I press the button labelled reset?
BT Person: This is a hard reset.
Me: Yes it is, it took me ages to find a bloody paperclip.

This carries on over the following weeks, I have been turning it off and turning it back on again everyday for the last two weeks and then this happened. We had another outage, only this time it wasn't just me, it was the entire customer base. When I phoned the helpline, bracing for another surreal instruction from customer service, all I got was an engaged tone, again and again and again. Apparently I wasn't the only one.

The reason for all of this, according to BT, was a faulty router. I have a faulty router. Could it be that my router is the cause of all this? Oh and one other thing, if you think the turning it on and off again advice is exaggerated, this tweet from BT Customer Services says it all.

On that note, I'm off. Off to the opposition that is. Bye bye BT, it's been emotional.

More soon Dear Reader.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Postcards from Australia Part 3 - Jet Lag and the 50th Shade of Unfashionable Lateness

Dear Reader, 

When I last left you, breatheless with excitement no doubt, I had just vented with regards to inappropriate queuing behaviour outside airplane toilets. You will be pleased to hear this post contains no toilet humour of any sort, honest.

Having arrived at out hotel in sunny Sydney (even in Winter) at 9am local time we were more than a little miffed to find that our room would not be ready until Midday. Just what we needed to hear having been travelling for the best part of thirty hours. We camped in reception, looking moody and homeless and eventually had a room ready for about 10, amazing what a little bit of righteous indignation can do.

Jet lag is an amazing thing. We were meeting friends in the evening who were hardened travellers. They advised sleep, but only a little bit, a couple of hours a most. We managed five and then ventured out into the Sydney night. After the pleasant sunshine of the morning we were a little shocked to find that the evening was bloody freezing. Oh well. 

After a pleasant evening we returned to our hotel and the miracle of jet lag and a mini bar ensured we were tucked up in bed by 4am, awakening fresh as a daisy by 7am. Something was not right, but we were awake. So we trooped to Taroonga Zoo, after an ill-conceived walk to the ferry. The sun may have been out but Sydney's Main Street to the ferry was wreathed in shade (bloody cold again) and much further away than expected. This, coupled with my initial bold strides in completely the wrong direction (albeit on the right road) didn't help matters. 

We eventually arrived at the zoo cold and grumpy. A mood which was shared by the animals, most of whom were either asleep or hiding away.

The ferry terminal is bracketed on side by that venerable Australian landmark, the Sydney Opera House. Having set eyes on it close up for the first time, I realised it is much like a polar bear... I may need to explain. From a distance a polar bear looks pearly white and shiny, get up close (not too close) and the polar bear has a distinctly yellow tinge. The Opera House is much the same. Every photo I had ever seen portrays a brilliant white Opera House. Up close it is yellow, definitely yellow. Anyhoo...

At about 3pm we returned to our apartments, shattered and needing sleep. This was a little unfortunate, as we had to be in North Sydney for 7pm for a pre-wedding get together. 

We had a little snooze and woke up before 7pm, but only just. Jet lag had us in it's grip. Getting ready was a little bit like running through treacle, slow and sticky. 

Eventually we made it out into the Sydney night and arrived at the venue at 9.30pm. This gave us ample time to meet all the relatives of the happy couple as they were leaving.

Following this the Dear Lady Wife and I were treated to a night out in North Sydney with the lucky groom and one of the groomsman. Much fun was had as we were accosted in a pub by a man who thought he had solved the worlds problems by inventing an iPhone cover! This iPhone cover would change the world by reflecting microwave radiation generated by mobile phones away from the user. My suspicion was that he spent time at home with his head covered in tin foil (just for testing purposes). 

An amusing photo opportunity presented itself, unfortunately photos are a bit of a challenge in the dark but you get the idea...

Groom, Dear Lady Wife and Groomsman in spitroast shocker.
Infantile, I know, but there are some photos that you just can't resist. For some reason this amused me as well. Details for the caption competition will be disclosed shortly.

Insert caption here...
More soon Dear Reader.


Thursday, 29 August 2013

Postcards from Australia Part 2 - The Flight

Dear Reader,

When I last left you I had cleared security and boarded a flight to Australia. This was largely un-eventful with the exception of one issue which I refuse to let pass. Sadly this post involves toilet humour.

Strangely, just like the last post, this is in fact a queuing issue. So, at the back of our plane where we are sat there are two toilets. As the plane is wide, there is a middle bank of seats, resulting in queues naturally forming for the toilets on either side of the plane. These queues are managed by an old-fashioned thing called good manners. If you are at the front of your queue, then you are facing the leader of the other queue across the width of the plane. If a toilet becomes free then either you, or the person you are facing grabs a toilet, depending which of you was there first. Does any of the above sound like rocket-science beyond the grasp of the average tool-wielding chimp, let alone human?

The Nirvana we dreamed of

I have reached the front of the queue on my side of the plane. This position is by an exit door, so I spend my time watching nothing in particular whilst I wait for nature to take it's course in front of me. The lady facing me who shall be named Superbitch Lady A is, based on the system outlined above is after me. All is well in the world.

At this point the toilet in question becomes vacant. The door opens, someone leaves, avoiding the carnage that is about to ensue. Superbitch Lady A stares down Supermegabitchfacefromhell Lady B. Words are exchanged. Superbitch Lady A wins the war of words, taking the cubicle with her. Supermegabitchfacefromhell Lady B, remains stoically in front of me, intending to take the second available cubicle.

This is too much, at this point I have choices. I could make a scene, which would be a much larger scene as she has no intention of backing down twice, or back down. I choose a third option, being that we are close to landing, which is to wake the Dear Lady Wife from a deep slumber to tell her all about it. She is not amused.

Supermegabitchfacefromhell Lady B has not finished with me yet. When the plane lands it transpires that Supermegabitchfacefromhell Lady B is only sat a couple of rows in front of me. I am in the process of dis-embarking, about to pass the seat where Supermegabitchfacefromhell Lady B resides. She has not as yet retrieved here hand-baggage (which I presume to be a broom-stick and a very angry black cat) from the overhead storage lockers. Undoubtedly spying me with her third eye, she decides to start this process whilst I am parallel with her. She does this by throwing her not inconsidable body mass in my direction, propelling me into the right hand row of seats as she retrieves her items.

When I recover, and rejoin the shuffling ranks exiting the plane, I find myself behind her and her family. She only stops to talk for ten minutes to each flight attendant she passes on the way out of the plane, deploying that body mass in such a manner that means she won't be passed. I wonder whether urinating down her skirt is unacceptable behaviour on a long-haul flight, as I still haven't been.

Ah, this will be the luggage

Eventually we clear Supermegabitchfacefromhell Lady B and security and spot her and her brood once more awaiting the arrival of the luggage. Our cases emerge first, a small victory, but you have to hold on to what you can. As I leave the baggage area I spy a long item of luggage which definitely isn't a case wrapped in brown paper retrieved by Supermegabitchfacefromhell Lady B... Yep that'll be the broomstick.


Myself and the DLW are now in Australia. Who knows what will happen next. More soon Dear Reader.



Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Postcards from Australia Part 1 - The Journey

Dear Reader,

A dear friend is getting hitched in Australia, which provided enough excuse for me and the Dear Lady Wife to finally make the journey from the UK to Sydney. This was an interesting journey, dotted with notable events, some of which I will attempt to recapture here.


We begin at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3. We have arrived unfashionably early, as we have many important supplies to acquire at the airport. The intention being to breeze through check-in and security leaving us two hours to eat and purchase the essentials for the trip.


Problems started almost immediately. We tried to check-in automatically, using the machine provided for the task. After what the machine described as a moment, but was in fact a string of moments joined together to form an eternity, our attempt failed. This excluded us from the short bag drop queue. The much longer check-in queue beckoned. This queue snaked towards the entrance of the departures hall. Apparently this was a problem to our airline, who came up with a novel solution. Solutions which sprung to my mind included opening more check-in desks, staffing the existing check-in desks with humans who possessed the ability to do the job and so on. The airline was way ahead of me though.

You may have encountered a device like before, it is called the tensabarrier. This device, linked to a huge number of it's friends are deployed in airports throughout the world to control tired and irritable travellers at check-in and security to stop riots from occurring. Sometimes, they are deployed for a bit of a laugh, which was the approach of the airline here. So, the check-in queue, which already resembles the world's largest conga line has spilled beyond the control of the tensabarrier colony currently deployed. We are currently queuing in the "beyond the conga line" part of the queue. A representative of the airline addresses the area "beyond the conga line", excited we think more of the numerous currently empty check-booths to our left will be opened and this is where we were going. We were wrong. A new colony of tensabarriers had been hastily assembled to control the area "beyond the conga line". We were now part of the "outer conga line". There is a gap of a couple of metres to the "inner conga line", this is the "conga-less zone", an area so riddled with unseen danger and peril that an airline attendant has to guide people across it. You can imagine my amusement.

Several months pass, during which time we cross the "conga-less zone" without incident, and approach the end of the "inner conga zone". At that point another attendant of the airline asks if anyone on the several flights preceding ours are in the queue. Several people behind us stick up their hands. I initially presume they are going to be told that they are too late for their flight and settle in for the wailing, shouting and fighting to ensue. Image my horror when it transpires they were being allowed to "conga line jump", thus further delaying our journey. By this point I was ready to have them shot.

A mere week later and the queue jumpers have been shot checked-in. We made the front of the line. As always, at this point all check-in desks are populated by family groups spanning five generations, all of whom have, unbelievably, considering how long they have been in the "inner conga line", not got their documentation to hand. I wonder whether tossing imaginary hand-grenades in an airport is an act of terrorism.


Then a gap, and we check-in. This takes less than a minute, which leads to question it was taking so long to check everyone else in. Never mind, we are through, to security, anyway.


I wish I could say this bit was easier, but I am not that good a liar. The signs on the walls make it quite clear what you must do before going through security. Strip down to bare essentials, no belts, shoes, whips, concealed hand-guns etc. Also no liquids, everyone clear on what a liquid is? It is the sloshy stuff that isn't solid. Why am I always waiting for someone to throw away three gallons of the sloshy stuff? Why do they always have to re-pack their hand luggage as a result of doing this? We clear security, leaving only twelve minutes to board. Just about enough time to have a meal and buy some magazines and make last call for boarding feeling thoroughly sweaty and bedraggled. It can only get better.


More soon Dear Reader.


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Car Park Wars Part Deux

Dear Reader,

When I left you yesterday, I left a cliffhanger. For those who can't be arsed to read yesterday  a bulletpoint summary below. This is a little like the bit at the start of a TV series episode which if you are watching in sequence you don't need to see. I fast-forward to get a minute of my life back, on this occasion if you are dialled-in as it where, skip the bullets and go straight to the plot. Otherwise, you will need read the bullets. So,   
  • Dear Lady Wife (from this point forward DLW) has parked in a car park on a Monday, purchasing a weekly ticket. She has a fractious history with the car parking attendant
  • DLW departing car park on Monday on a hot day with windows open encounters a mischievous gust of wind, ticket flies out of window. All should be good, as the receipt has not suffered the same fate
  • On Tuesday DLW displays the receipt, assuming that this would be sufficient proof of ticket purchase.
  • Receives a parking contravention ticket.
  • On Wednesday DLW displays the receipt again, assuming that this would be sufficient proof of ticket purchase.
  • Receives a parking contravention ticket.
Things are a tad fraut when I return on Wednesday, crockery has been broken, there is a cat dangling from the lamp shade, which can only mean one thing, DLW is NOT HAPPY. A letter has been written, a blog must be written and a solution planned. The solution involves A4 paper and blu-tack. Now the fool that evaluates DLW's car everyday cannot fail to miss the proof of purchase. See below...

Come on, do your worst!
I was very excited when this very evening my DLW walked to the car. I was actually, live to her, via satellite to ascertain what the status of the car was. The previous sentence sounds like I had a news team waiting by the car, helicopters overhead and other stuff to catch the latest, which isn't true. I phoned, DLW approached the car and the truth was revealed.

So, what was this truth? 





Keep going





So, a battle has been won but the war is not over. We still have two days parking to reclaim. We have a letter to file. This matter is not over until a lady of significant physical presence sings.

More soon Dear Reader.