Carrying out business on-line should be easy and straightforward and it is for most of the time. However sometimes that hasn’t always been my experience. I remember the days I used to trudge along to the Post Office to pay the road fund licence for my vehicle and send off the remittance by cheque to the insurance company for my vehicle insurance cover. Not that this was a real inconvenience unless the weather was bad, I was feeling unwell or I simply couldn’t find the time. Now we have the wonderful (?) Internet whereby everything can be done from my armchair, well that is the theory anyway. Last year I paid my road fund licence fee over the Internet and at the same time arranged for the annual fee to be paid by Direct Debit from my main current account so this year and every year I don’t need to do anything unless things at my end change. I won’t know for a few days whether the DVLA have taken the fee so I shall have to wait and see.
As for the insurance, I went to my insurance company’s website to make my payment using the information they had sent me through the normal mail. I was told that the information I was submitting was inaccurate yet it was the information I had received from them! Naturally they provide a telephone number by which to communicate with them too and I had to resort to using that method. After a few minutes I had paid the fee using my debit card and it was done. I was offered no explanation as to why I was unable to carry out the transaction over the Internet. Why have a system that doesn’t work when required? I was thinking that the problem lay with their data not being updated before they sent out the proposal form. It was nevertheless a better way to pay my dues.
Over the Christmas period we discovered we had a leaking roof having seen the signs in the room below. We arranged for the insurance company to inspect it and hopefully sanction the repairs. Scaffolding was erected to a height of forty-foot (13 metres) in order to reach the roof as the house is that tall. We heard nothing for a couple of weeks until recently when someone came and took photos to submit to the insurance company. On Friday as I was driving off to do a job I saw the scaffolding company’s vehicle draw up. I phoned E to let her know and it turns out that they had come to dismantle and remove the scaffolding, but the repairs had not been done yet! After they had contacted the insurers to find out what was going on they told E that the works had not been sanctioned and we would not be able to claim for the repairs. I was at work when E informed me. I phoned the guy we use for our roof repairs and he will check the roof and what needs to be done next week. Now then the job I had been to was to install the circuitry for a cooker hood and fit the hood too. First of all I had difficulty in getting a good fixing to the wall but what really annoyed me was the design of the hood itself, the top fixing holes had been placed in such an awkward position as to be almost impossible to get at, just like the one I had fitted at home a few weeks ago. Why do manufacturers make their products so hard to fit? Finally it was in place and I had to channel out the wall for the electrical cable and the control unit. I remembered that there was a gas pipe buried in the wall near to where I had repositioned a power outlet on my previous visit two weeks ago. It had originally been located above the cooker and had to be moved sideways. That is when I discovered the pipe, so I had to be careful when fixing the hood in order to avoid it. I managed to do that but unfortunately forgot the pipe when cutting the channel! I pierced it! I had to dig out the wall and effect a repair using my gas torch and solder which fortunately I carry in my van. I hasten to add that I am not in the habit of piercing gas pipes! So I finished the work, got paid and drove home but I stopped along the way to buy a replacement gas canister for my torch and a special-sized metal box for the fitting of power outlets, switches or other items as I wanted one for installing a twin power outlet and a television outlet on the same box rather than fitting two separate boxes. Electricians will know what I mean. Whilst waiting in the plumbers merchant store for ten minutes I was told they didn’t stock the particular gas canister that I wanted. Why couldn’t he tell me that when I first walked in as I had the torch standing on the counter and it was obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that I wanted a replacement? That’s the way it goes sometimes. The guys had turned up to continue with the front steps and had started to build up a small retaining wall alongside the new steps but it looked horrible and out-of-place. I had to tell them to take it down and leave it at a lower height and they admitted it looked better but they had been instructed to build it high by E’s nephew, their boss. He should have asked us what we wanted in the first place. I spent a little time with E upstairs in the bedroom as she wanted to finish off the painting of the skirting boards with undercoat. She had been busy doing the work whilst I had been away from home. I don’t know what it is about builders but they leave everywhere so messy. The garage in which I park my van is full of their materials, tools, sheets and wheelbarrows. I shall be glad when all the work is complete and we can have our house back.
Tuesday was a very miserable day. The whole of this current week is forecasted as having poor weather, that is wet, windy and cold though not entirely cold. I had a couple of requests in the morning but they came to nothing and one of those nuisance calls most people are receiving these days regarding PPI (Payment Protection Insurance) claims. I was busy doing something on my computer when that call came in and I was caught off-guard thinking it might be a request for my electrical services. I glanced at the callers number and mistakenly thought it was someone living in the next town whose telephone prefix would be 01695 whereas in fact it was prefixed 0161. That prefix is for Manchester a city more than forty miles away and where I have no known contacts either for business or for personal reasons. It was the first three digits that threw me but I was not concentrating. A young girl began with a welcoming message and I had a little difficulty in stopping her as almost immediately I realised my error. I told her that I have never taken out a payment protection plan of any kind in the past and she then tried to persuade me otherwise. Too late! I had put down the receiver.
Most annoying are these cold calls but even more annoying that I should have been caught off-guard. What is particularly annoying is the fact that this company ( a law firm specialising in claims) thinks I have an outstanding claim of some sort. I haven’t. Where they get this information I am not sure but it only takes one error by someone who has not closed any case files and removed them from their system. As these companies exchange file data it means anything I have been involved in, even though it may have been resolved many years ago, is still on somebody’s books.
Although I had no electrical work to do on Tuesday I didn’t do any work at home either. Aside from the fact that we are still waiting for the delivery of a new cooker extractor hood which is holding back the kitchen project I really didn’t want to be working on anything anyway. Even working in the garden was not an option because of the lousy weather. My heart wasn’t in it and that is because my relationship with E has turned a little sour once again. It is a sad affair that keeps rearing its ugly head every now and then. I guess I should have left years ago but I know I would have suffered more had I done so. I am not the sort of person who gives up in the face of difficulty and besides which I love E dearly.
I got to thinking yesterday
That things were going not my way
The many plans I had in store
Grew wings and flew out of the door!
It seems to happen frequently
As if my life was jinxed for me
But other times it goes quite well
Then pleasant stories I can tell.
So life does have its ups and downs
And I must never wear a frown
I’ll take each moment as it comes
And praise The Lord for what He’s done.
Copyright Shirley Anne 15 Sept 2004
Two days ago I wrote about people who seem to think I will do their jobs for next to nothing, I don’t but I do sometimes lower the price under certain circumstances, not my own but those for whom I am working. That however doesn’t happen often. Very rarely will I charge absolutely nothing for the work I have done. Surprisingly this past week I have earned more than I thought I would because few had called for my services. It goes that way sometimes. I haven’t been at my best health-wise as I explained in previous posts but I am beginning to return to normal so I was glad about that by the end of the week and the fact that I have been able to get back to work too. On Saturday morning I was driving to my electrical supplier in order to purchase some cable I needed for a job I am doing at home when I received a call from someone living in a nearby town asking if I could do some work. I don’t normally work for others at the weekend but I asked what the job entailed. The lady told me she had bought a replacement oven but the supplier told her that the circuit needed a power outlet as the old oven had been hard-wired to the supply without a switch. It sounded a reasonably easy task so I offered to do it for her as soon as I’d been to the supplier. I arrived there forty minutes later. I needed to remove the old oven to get access to the wiring which was easy enough but I discovered that it had been connected to the supply behind the built-in refrigerator. I inched out the fridge to see the connection box but it was buried in the plaster. I noticed what I thought was the cable supplying it and thought it best to simply cut it off (rather than have the problem of trying to remove the fridge) and redirect it to where I was to fit the switch whilst at the same time disconnecting the oven cable by cutting that off too.. I fitted the switch and made the connections but here was no supply when I switched it back on. To my horror I discovered I’d made a terrible mistake by cutting what I’d thought was the supply cable but it was in fact supplying a hidden power outlet and had been connected to the same box behind the fridge. I therefore had to remove the fridge in order to get at the connection box to undo my mistake. In any event I had to remove the fridge anyway in order to add another power outlet for the new oven as the original cable on the oven would not have been long enough to use to wire the new power outlet where it had to be sited. Still with me? It all sounds simple but in fact it was a bit of a nightmare after I’d gotten the fridge out of the way. Firstly it was well and truly wedged in place and had been fitted on a small piece of timber to raise it off the floor and then screwed in place. I finally managed to get it out and was then able to get at the connection point that also needed replacing. It had been plastered into the wall and was broken so it needed replacing anyway and that was another reason the fridge had to be removed. All this work to connect an oven that hadn’t yet been delivered! I soon had the electrical part of the work done once that fridge had been removed but when it came to putting it back it became a problem. First of all it was jam-packed with that much food it weighed heavily. Secondly it needed two people to replace it. Fortunately assistance came from a neighbour for the man of the house couldn’t help me as he had only recently come home from hospital after he had suffered a heart attack. It took us more than an hour to get the fridge back under the worktop and the guy helping me was a little frustrated because it had been so awkward. I was just grateful for his help. It was then I discovered that the floor covering had been damaged during the process of removing it. On reflection I perhaps should have placed something on the floor but it would have had to have been plywood, not something likely to be on hand. That was the last straw for I had been there almost four hours doing a job that normally would have taken a little over one hour and to be frank I’d just about had enough! Naturally I will be billed for a replacement floor covering but fortunately the floor area is small. It should be covered by my public liability insurance so it won’t come out of my own pocket unless there is a clause where I have to pay the first couple of hundred pounds. I have had the insurance since I started working for myself and have never yet had a reason to make a claim, neither has anyone else but accidents can happen at any time. I felt awful nevertheless having inconvenienced those I had been working for and for damaging their floor covering. Hopefully at least they will have their new oven soon and a new covering for the floor. I didn’t bother doing any work at home after that episode, it was far too late in the day.
Some days you know you should have stayed in bed!
I always knew that I would be working on Monday morning. My last job was on Friday and I had nothing planned or scheduled after that but as usual the calls kept coming in over the weekend and I had something to do. Two jobs for Monday and one for Thursday so enough at least to pay for my advertisement in the paper. Actually one job is more than sufficient for that as my minimum charge exceeds that of the cost of the advert for one week. Anything more than that is all profit. Whilst at the first job however I received another call for work which I did after I’d finished the first two. It was after one o’clock by the time I’d done all three and I was about twenty miles from home. Having not eaten since seven-thirty I was beginning to feel hungry so I decided to stop at a restaurant/pub on the way home, one that was only a couple of miles away from where I was and one that E and I sometimes visit when dining out. The meal was delicious, lamb’s liver with strips of bacon in a tasty gravy together with mashed potatoes, and three vegetables, broccoli, cabbage and carrots. Only a soft drink with the meal though as one, I no longer drink alcohol and two, I was driving. I paid a visit to the electrical supplier first thing in the morning after which I drove through the country lanes to the first job. Along the way on a stretch of road which passes through a small village I could see in the distance the unmistakable yellow and blue stripes of a police van parked up. The speed limit along the road is 30 mph and naturally I was driving below that speed! They were doing a routine check on speed and most probably trying to catch uninsured drivers. I think uninsured drivers are the lowest of the low, often causing accidents and not being liable for them afterward. Legitimate drivers have to fork out for any repairs that ensue if an uninsured driver causes damage. That is only a part of it as you can understand so I am happy to see the police out doing their job, the more the better. Anyway after my lunch I came across another police van doing the same. I drove into my home town and stopped at a filling station for fuel, alongside a bright yellow Porsche Carrera GT convertible. An old guy was filling her up and he was wearing a bright yellow jacket, by coincidence I learned later. My van is grey in colour and I was wearing a grey coloured top. I mentioned to him that we were both colour co-ordinated with our vehicles and he chuckled. I asked if we might exchange vehicles and he smiled saying, ‘Yours is probably a lot cheaper to run’! LOL. Just as I was driving off I received yet another call for work (I have a hands-free system in the van) but I had to turn it down as it was too far to travel to it. By the time I reached home I’d received another call, also too far for me to travel to. I set a limit as to how far I will travel to do a job especially if they are small jobs, it just isn’t cost-effective. That limit is around twenty miles from home. So I am asking myself where are all the other electricians? Is it only me they are asking? Even over the weekend I was turning jobs down not only because of the distance but also because of the size of the job too. I am simply too old to take on too large a job these days, except at home of course where I can take my time.
About a week ago I purchased a ‘dashcam’ for my van. It arrived on Saturday afternoon so I installed it and E and I went for a short test drive to see if we had set it up correctly, I say we but in fact it was E who set it up for me whilst I sang out the instructions. The resulting video is below. It shows a clip from the video where we drove through ‘The Village’ before returning home to play it on the computer. I have video editing software on the computer so I can save files in another more condensed format thereby saving space. Naturally I wouldn’t be saving files as a matter of course but only if the data was required for official reasons. The camera cost a mere £55 which included delivery. It can hold 24 hours of video and when the card is full it begins to overwrite previous recordings. Everything recorded is timed and dated for reference. In the event of an accident the data could prove very useful to my vehicle insurers if I needed to make a claim or indeed any false claims made against myself from a third party. The quality of the recording is adequately reasonable though in this clip I had inadvertently left a sheet of white paper on the dashboard the reflection of which shows up occasionally in the bright sunshine. See what you think. By the way my speed never rose above 30mph during the trip even though it does seem faster at times!
For those who might be interested: After the first right-hand turn you will see a parked car. It stands outside the building of the Identity and Passport Service and General Register Office. It occupies the corner around the next turn left leading up to the level crossing. This particular crossing is notorious for suicides in Southport, there having been one there only last week.
I remember years ago, actually 1967, when I bought my first little car, a Hillman Imp, a lovely little car that used very little fuel, which at that time was only 3 shillings and 3 pence per GALLON. Ah, the good old days!
In today’s money that amounts to around 16 new pence. We cannot even buy a litre of fuel for that price today! Progress I suppose. I must admit to have been quite a novice in those days when it came to buying cars and insuring and taxing them. The MOT wasn’t required in those days either but that soon changed when they realised the amount of very poorly maintained vehicles that were being driven on the roads and to be honest, in a very dangerous condition in many cases. Although all these things were sometimes a bit of an inconvenience to organise and pay for it was and still is of course, a necessity. Another good thing to come from more recent legislation is the SORN (statutory off-road notification) declaration. If a vehicle is not going to be used for a long time it has to be declared as being ‘off road’ so that no tax will be demanded. This is to prevent abuse of the system and the driving of uninsured and untaxed vehicles. People still abuse the system though and many take a chance and drive around with no insurance to the detriment of others they may literally ‘bump’ into. Stern measures are in place to deal with anyone caught driving illegally. Anyway that brings me to the point of this post. My little van needs its road-fund licence renewing (tax) and its MOT renewing too else at the beginning of next month I will not be able to continue working! This used to mean a trip to the Post Office with the renewal form, the old MOT certificate, the insurance certificate and a means of paying by cash or debit card. Now it can all be done on the Internet! I don’t need to move from my armchair. I used the system last year for the first time and clicked on the site again today (Thursday) and completed the transaction. My new tax disk will be sent by post early next week. Before they issue the disk they check whether my MOT and insurance are valid for the date on the tax disk. They are, but they too need renewing. I know my insurance company will be sending me the usual reminder in the next few days and I can deal with that without having to leave home but I have to take the vehicle to the testing station for its MOT of course. I have arranged that to be done early on Tuesday morning. I don’t envisage any problems as the van hasn’t done more than four and a half thousand miles since the last test but you never know. If there are any problems I’ll quickly arrange for them to be dealt with. Sometime in the near future though I know my two front tyres will need replacing but at the moment I think there is enough tread for a couple of thousand miles wear yet so that shouldn’t be an issue. Again, you never know! I don’t much visit the bank, preferring to only go there when I have a considerable amount to deposit. I had accumulated such an amount and so I walked into town to make the deposit after driving half the distance there and parking just outside the meter zone as I usually do. It is almost impossible to find somewhere reasonably close to the bank anyway so it makes sense to walk in. One day I suppose we won’t need to actually visit a bank in order to deposit cash.
I don’t know about you but I have always been the sort of person who, if I am in need of a service that someone provides I make enquiries accordingly. If I am out shopping I like to browse before I make any decision to buy. So my feathers become somewhat ruffled if I am approached without my asking. I am sick and tired of hearing the phrase ‘You could be eligible for reimbursement from a miss-sold PPI (payment protection insurance)’, more especially as I have never taken one out! My mobile phone constantly receives messages from companies willing to get me any compensation that is due to me. If I reply with a ‘STOP’ it makes no difference, the next company along the line makes the same claim and I get another message. The problem is that there are hundreds of these companies all seeking a piece of the action and no doubt I will still be receiving unwanted and unmerited messages for the next ten years! I could scream!
I hate it when out shopping I get pestered by pushy sales persons who ask ‘Can I be of assistance’? ‘Well no you can’t, I just want to see what is on offer all by myself thank you very much’, is what I am thinking but have to reply with a ‘No thank you, I am just browsing’. They may be on commission but they will never get me to buy something I do not want or persuade me that something else might be suitable when I am told they haven’t got what I want. If I cannot see what I want I ask, simple! I don’t wish to but a substitute thank you very much!
In today’s world we are bombarded with sales talk, sales pitch, leaflet drops, junk mail, unwanted phone calls and text messages, television adverts, even radio adverts. I cannot use the Internet without coming across an advert. One of the most annoying traits by advertisers these days is to have dynamic adverts flashing away to one side of the screen whilst emails are being read. Another favourite of theirs is to have an advert preceding a short video you have clicked on to watch and you are obliged to watch it before you can watch the content you clicked to see. They usually last around thirty seconds so I look away until the advert is finished. Don’t like adverts, never have, they don’t influence me one bit. If I want a product I will buy it after checking it out myself. Adverts tell lies anyway. How many of you have seen the adverts for face creams all claiming to reduce ‘the effect’ of ageing in older women and then show younger women with flawless skin as if they had been using it! They obviously don’t need it in the first place. The best adverts for me are the ones I cannot see or hear!
It is pressure from all sides. It seems we are unable to live our lives without the support of a ‘smart phone’ these days. They can do all sorts of wonderful things using the applications they have installed in them, many of the ‘better’ ones of course come with a price-tag. The phones themselves often cost a small fortune too. Now I use my mobile phone but infrequently, usually to answer voice calls or messages for work and little else. I don’t wish to spend my whole life looking at a screen with my fingers frantically pushing little buttons. I was in the pub the other day and quite a few folk in there were doing just that. Well I went there for a few drinks and company, you know, actually speaking with people! I could scream. I know people who don’t use the Internet, haven’t even got a computer, don’t have the latest phone but carry a simple one ‘in case of emergencies’. I would think that is sensible. However people are gradually being coerced into having computers and one day none of us will be able to conduct business of any kind unless we do it through the Internet. It’s happening already. I heard recently that people wishing to pay their gas or electricity bill by any other method than by ‘Direct Debit‘ are charged more for the privilege. Furthermore if they have to set up a Direct Debit they have to do it over the Internet because they are restricted from doing it over the phone with an actual human being! It doesn’t come as a surprise to me though because this is intimated in Scripture along with so many other things that the ‘blind’ cannot see. I could do without it all. Give me the quiet life any day. Do you suppose there is a reason for people to say that if they came into a lot of money they would go and live on a tropical island away from it all?
When is insurance a waste of time? We insure many things in life, vehicles, possessions, loss of limbs, loss of earnings, fire damage, flooding and leaks, family, pets and almost anything that you can think of. Insurance companies must be one of the most successful and lucrative businesses to be involved in. It’s as though they have a licence to print money. Not many of us would say that insurance is value for money when we come to pay for the service. The thing is many of our insurance policies can be a nightmare to understand and we might find that the cover we think we have is not quite what we think it is. When we come to make a claim we can find that what is written in the small print excludes us from being successful. Some minor clause or infringement will deny us the restitution we think we are entitled to. In many cases the insurance policy is not worth the paper it is written on and if we analyse things we might conclude that we are wasting money having a policy in the first place. Take household contents insurance for instance, unless we itemise all of our possessions when we come to make any claim against loss or damage of an item we might discover that our premiums only provided cover to a certain level and that by having possessions that increase the total value of all of what we own, even by a small amount, will make any payment void. This means that we should provide cover above the total value of our possessions. If the value comes to £40,000 we should take out insurance for £45,000 or more. If we had insurance cover for the lower amount and then bought goods which raised the total value above that amount we wouldn’t be covered for any loss. Sometimes it just isn’t worth having the insurance in the first place. Sometimes the premiums we pay would be sufficient to replace any losses that might be incurred. Certain types of insurance are necessary of course, vehicles and bricks and mortar for instance. Liability insurance is probably one of the most important and essential insurances we can take out. I have home insurance (the building itself against fire and other damage), contents insurance, public liability insurance, life insurance, vehicle insurance but I do not bother with individual items such as mobile phones and other minor possessions. Another kind of insurance is the one that is disguised as an extended guarantee for new electrical goods. If the goods become faulty within the guarantee period there is no need to take out insurance against it being faulty during that period and with most electronic goods if they are going to fail it will be inside of the first twelve months else they won’t become faulty for years. Any insurance payments would cover the cost of replacing most things by the time they need replacing. So insurance is a good thing but it can be a waste of money if it is not essential or if it is the wrong type of policy. Before forking out the cash it is wise to assess the real need for cover and only pay for it if it is absolutely necessary.
At this time of year my thoughts turn towards the tasks I have to do annually. These are, ensuring my subscription to the AA goes through even though it is supposed to be an automatic affair, arranging for a date to have my vehicle checked for its annual MOT test, arranging to continue my vehicle insurance and having my road-fund licence renewed. Thankfully this year my advertising renewal payment has been offset a little. Having cancelled a few weeks of the current block of adverts I have 13 weeks still left. The treadmill of life keeps turning and we go through our annual journeys of events trying to keep up with it all. Falling foul isn’t an option if we wish to stay above the law but thankfully we do get reminded when things require our attention. I remember one year though when my bank failed to pay the AA their fee for my membership and I hadn’t routinely checked if they had received it. Later that same year I had the misfortune to be locked out of my van’s storage area in the rear as the door lock had broken. I needed access because I was in the middle of carrying out some electrical work in a client’s house. I called for help and that was when I discovered that my membership had lapsed. They came out to fix the problem of access but I had to pay my renewal fee first. This is where having a credit card comes in useful. As we get older there is a greater tendency for some of us to forget to do things so it is good to be reminded. It is the time of year when I need to remember that certain things need my attention.