Monday, April 27, 2015

A little co-operation from Co-operative Energy wouldn't go amiss

Back in February, our energy provider - Co-operative Energy - informed us that we could save £40-odd per month by switching to another tariff. Not surprisingly, I jumped at the chance, and after an exchange of emails, was told that the change had been requested on Feb 18. So you can imagine I was annoyed to find that the old, higher payment was taken by direct debit in March and April. Calls to Co-operative Energy were met with a long wait, mindless muzak, and a recorded male voice telling me that answers to many common questions were available online. But mine wasn't, and the phone queue grew inexorably. At the start of April, however, I chanced upon the name of a Customer Services manager, Andy Springall, and emailed him direct. Unfortunately, Mr Springall was on holiday, but took time out from his jollies to assure me that he would look into the matter on his return. While he promised to get back to me last Monday, this didn't happen - but I did receive an up-to-date bill, which, to add insult to injury, told me I could save money by... signing up for the very same tariff change I'd requested in February! I decided to give the phone one last try. This time, the call to the Co-op was answered after only a few minutes. Confusingly, I was then told that we had already been transferred to the cheaper tariff, but that the direct debit needed amending (which explained the higher figure payment, apparently). But this meant I would have to be transferred to Customer Services and provide both meter readings, and the call waiting time was a minimum of 19 minutes. Further questioning elicited the unhelpful response that the only way to change the direct debit was by phone - email or snail mail would be forced to wait considerably longer before the change could be actioned by Customer Services: 'it all has to be entered manually' was the reply - apparently they don't run to computers down there in Warwick. By now, my patience was wearing thin. After all, the delay/cock-up/sheer sodding ineptitude was down to the Co-op, so why should I have to hold the line until they could be arsed to arrange a refund of 3 months' overpayments? Then I remembered - Mr Springall. For anyone else caught up in a Co-op cock-up/ineptitude delay, here's the email for their go-to-guy Get yourself hot-foot down there Andy - can't wait for the refund!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Tory candidate, the sign and the land sale

Good to see that Craig Whittaker's team hasn't let the controversy over the sale of the former Lawson Road council offices deter them from putting his election posters on the site. However, it's to be hoped that the sale to Younger Homes has gone through - and that they've agreed to the signs being placed there, because if the sale has not yet completed, it would not be permitted for an election candidate to use council-owned land as the location for election material.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

No need for inverted commas

The BBC's response to the Armenian commemoration was interesting. In spite of growing acceptance of the word genocide to describe the mass killings, the headlines throughout April 24 placed the word in inverted commas, as if the broadcaster was trying to distance its editorial stance from that taken by the leaders of France and Germany, to name but two of the many who insist the evidence of ordered destruction - particularly evidence from then Ottoman Constantinople and Alleppo - that there was a degree of official sanction for the removal and killing that followed. Modern-day Turkish leaders would doubtless approve. President Erdogan even went so far as to move his country's Gallipoli commemoration forward by 24-hours in an attempt to detract from the events taking place in Yerevan; thereby politicising what should have been a solemn occasion, and one that was foreshadowed as such by the treatment it received from Mustafa Kemal - the leader of the Ottoman defence of the peninsular, and later, the founder and president of the secular Turkish republic. Ataturk wanted the memorial at Cape Heles to be for all who died, regardless of nationality. Erdogan's actions cast a shadow over that noble aspiration. There are those in Turkey who take a herioc stand against this officially-sanctioned state of denial. Turkey's leading author, Orhan Pamuk, said on the publication of his novel Snow that
'a million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in this country and I'm the only one who dares to talk about it'.
A remark that forced him into hiding and for which he was prosecuted. This state of denial sits oddly with the view of Mehmed VI, the last Ottoman sultan, who expressed his heartfelt sorrow at the mass killings and instituted an inquiry with the intention of prosecuting those responsible; his initiative foundered when he was forced to abdicate in the wake of Ottoman defeat. Erdogan's intrigues saw Princes Charles and Harry in their military finery commemorating Gallipoli a mere 99years and 364 days after the original, ill-fated landings

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Major Mayhem

Woke this morning to see the Tories have drafted in John Major to assist their Labour/SNP panic-stoking project. Strange choice: while Major warns this could cause 'mayhem', older voters will well remember the rather sordid deals he cut with the Ulster Unionists to keep his own minority administration on the rails from 1992 until his landslide defeat in '97. Still, there is one sage piece of advice Cameron could take from this Conservative colossus: 'when you back's against the wall, you turn around and fight' quite... History best remembers Major-Balls (actual family name) for such bold initiatives as the cones' hotline and freeing up planning regs to allow for more motorway services (best not to mention rail privatisation - that happened on his watch, too.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Buying up Brighouse

Now the truth is out about the sale of the former Laws on Road council offices to Younger Homes, perhaps we should celebrate the triumph of 'commercial confidentiality'  - and cherry tree removal - over local democracy.
This could easily be achieved by changing the Welcome to Brighouse signage. In addition to 'twinned with Ludenscheid'  we can now proclaim the town to be the proud location of Younger Homes' landbank and planning blight capital of Calderdale.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Plunged into Internet darkness

Just after 4.00 this afternoon, the router cut out. A quick call to the ISP revealed that the fault was 'external', ie between the exchange and my house.
A few minutes later, youngest son came home and said that a car had hit the green cabinet that houses the cables for the whole estate.
When I went out later, I saw a neighbour, rather sheepishly looking on as a breakdown crew retrieve his car from atop the remains of the metal cabinet.
As well he might, what are we going to do? 300-odd souls denied access to social media, Internet shopping, YouTube and porn; teenagers might end up having to talk to their families. It's the end of the world, save yourselves Bailiff Bridge...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pizza Express - min wage and zero hours in Cornwall

Visited Pizza Express in Falmouth on last night of our holiday and noticed an advert for summer staff. Offering 'up to £6.50 per hour', students at the new University wanting to stay on over the Summer, or who live in the town, have the exciting opportunity of being called in when the permanent staff are too busy to cope with the expected summer-time crowds. Being under 21, of course, Pizza Express will be able to get away with paying less than the minimum wage and claim the 'flexibility' of zero hours. A great example of an employer being able to have their pizza and eat it. Think on the terms of this 'exciting opportunity' when planning to dine out in Falmouth or Newquay this summer...

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Rising Ground: a search for the spirit of place - Philip Marsden

I first discovered Philip Marsden when reading The Crossing Place: Journey Among the Armenians and was caught up in his infectious enthusiasm for research and discovery, which adds depth and dimension to his travel writing. In Rising Ground he brings his by now trademark depth of learning much closer to home, travelling from his native Somerset to his adopted Cornwall, he examines the topography and history of places, ranging from Glastonbury to the Fal valley, the clay country round St Austell, to the far west of Penwith and out to the Scillies. My reading coincided with a hastily planned family holiday in Falmouth, so it was an added pleasure to read Marsden's take on Porthleven after an afternoon's visit to the first place I even stayed in Cornwall with my then 6 month-old son. Now a hulking great 16 year-old, he too was entranced by the place in a way that Marsden would doubtless approve. This book is for those who enjoy the feel and history and tradition of 'place' - things that reach above the material nature of landscape and mere 'real estate' but touch the essence and spirituality of the land and connect us with those who have gone before.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A great day for good light in Cornwall

Light through Marazion cafe window
St Michael's Mount
Energetically getting Energetic ready for sea in Porthleven - the female gig crew's final preparations.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Noggin the viking, apparently

Awoke to the sound of helicopters and a military bank. Fearing that Cameron had dispensed with the last pretence of democracy and imposed martial law to subvert the need for an election on May 7, I dashed to the seaview window to learn that it was the official welcome home for RFA Argus. Spent the rest of the day at the National Maritime Museum (NMM). I like boats and all things nautical and had wanted to visit for some time. However, this is a museum that takes inclusiveness and the whole 'mission to explain' malarkey very seriously. As a result, there are a lot of lowest common denominator displays and interactive doodahs; all seemingly intended to enthuse and captivate a bus load of over-active five-year-olds. This was particularly the case with the Viking Voyagers exhibition: while the popular myths surrounding horned helmets and burning boat burials were comprehensively debunked (although a plastic horned helmet is available from the gift shop, should feel the need), the displays had a rather artificial feel - as exemplified by the addition of Noggin the Nog to a glass case that was adjacent to one illustrating the fact that the Normans were descendants of the vikings, which must make for some interesting family discussions on the return home, along with endless repeated warnings not to a) take the horned helmet thing seriously or b) take your sibling's eye out with the accompanying plastic sword. Welcome home Argus - hope there's a great run ashore going on tonight down there in old Falmouth town.

Monday, April 06, 2015

A kebab for the Turkish Navy

Falmouth's playing host to a 10-strong minesweeper flotilla, made up of ships from a number of NATO countries, including the TCG Anamur of the Turkish Navy. Walking through town earlier today, I came across some of the crews who were enjoying the warm weather and Cornish hospitality. Down on Church St, I passed a kebab shop and couldn't help but wonder how the conversation might pan out if some of the Anamur's crew feel like a taste of home after a run ashore in Falmouth. The name's the only thing that stays the same. Hope the guys understand that the Brits just don't give Turkish food the respect it deserves. There's no backlava here, and Turcse Cava has yet to achieve the status it deserves here in the South West

Emasculated Cornish hipster

Falmouth seems to be hipster central; they're everywhere. Encountered one 'folically' challenged individual. With compulsory square-cut facial fuzz, he looked like his head was on upside down. The tight, and way too short trousers, completed the intriguing oh so hip ensemble. Cough and he'd find to small spherical objects in his turnups.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

A qualified, unqualified teacher

Righry, pat attention at the back. Yes, you -lazy scribblers. Now, I have a PGCE, which entitles me to teach Law to post-16 year-olds. However, this only applies if I work in an FE college or independent sixth form college. The minute I walk into  school-based sixth form, I'm classed as 'unqualified' (I can upgrade to Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills -QTLS - status if I join the Education and Training Foundation quango and pay them £480.00 to submit a portfolio for validation).
All this is in direct contradiction to Gove's promise that it would be easier for FE staff to work in schools. Teachers warn of unqualified staff - article on BBC website doesn't cover this anomaly, perhaps it could be raised during the Easter teaching union conference season?

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A camp in the woods

Dropped eldest son at scout camp this afternoon. The Explorer section, aged 15-28, were trying to work out where to pitch the tents and how they were going to manage to cook as no-one had organised the camping gas needed for the cookers. Be prepared, as someone once said. Happy camping. There's much to be said for the comforts of home. Collecting him on Saturday lunchtime, hope he'll have had some hot food by then.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Marketing Heaven

Called into a cafe in Ripon for lunch and noticed a sign in the window advertising a job vacancy. Half through my food, a young woman came in to inquire about the work. They explained to her that she wouldn't be working in the cafe itself, but that the job involved walking around with a board and handing out fliers. Marketing of a sort, but I don't think the putative applicant was that impressed by the terms and conditions...