……..or positive and negative. Tuesday was back to work day but I had no work to return to. It was the week to have my prescription re-ordered, two weeks before I would run out of medications. In the past I had to submit the prescription request slip at the doctor’s surgery and then collect it when it was authorised. Then it became possible for the chemist (druggist) to collect it on my behalf and all I then had to do was wait a few days before collecting the medication. A few weeks ago I registered to apply for my repeat prescriptions over the Internet using the Patient Access website. However, the medication I need has to be listed on the Internet request list pertaining to myself. When I first attempted to re-order my medications I was unable to because the surgery hadn’t placed the item’s description on the list. I had to make arrangements over the phone. I was informed that the next time I would have no problems ordering over the Internet. Well guess what? They still hadn’t put it on the list but this time I paid the surgery a visit and hopefully this time they will get it sorted. That was the negative side of the day. Soon after my return home I received a call from the electrical store where E and I had purchased two televisions for the bedrooms last week. The televisions were ready for collection. They had to be ordered from their main warehouse. So E and I drove to the store and collected them. Now you would think that these days an aerial lead would be included in the package but no, I had to buy two leads costing me another £18. We soon had them in place and working..
By now it was nearly time for lunch and just afterward I received a call requesting my electrical services for this coming Monday morning and yet another call informing me that the artificial turf would be getting delivered tomorrow, that was Wednesday last as you read this. Now the weather was forecast to be dry and sunny so we may get the opportunity for it to be laid. I didn’t lounge about in the afternoon, there was work to be done. I cleared out a blocked grid, watered the garden, removed some furniture from the large greenhouse putting two chairs in the house cellar and one of the two benches out in the garden in front of the patio, removed two of the four bicycles into a room in the cellar (we have five more bicycles in another room!), rolled up the old carpet we had removed from the small bedroom a couple of weeks ago ready for collection by the council on Thursday and created more space in the garage for the temporary storage of (the expected delivery of) the artificial turf on Wednesday, filled one of the green garden waste bins with a large amount of leaves I had swept up from around the greenhouse (they were holly leaves which seem to drop off at odd times in the year) and lots of other mundane but necessary tasks in and around the garden. Those were the positive things in the day. Meanwhile E had other duties involving driving her mom to a doctor’s appointment and shopping.
I am going through one of my phases lately and I know the real reason for it. I had been working all day on Wednesday and was feeling well and truly tired by the time I had come back home. After my evening meal and some quiet time I was feeling quite refreshed though when I finally did get to bed I found it no problem in getting to sleep. I had decided not to take on board any work for Thursday so that I could have some respite from it all. At the beginning of October I had arranged for the purchase of another thirteen weeks of advertising space in my local newspaper and was informed at the time that there would be an annual increase in the charge for that service applied on the first Wednesday in the month of November, five weeks later. I explained that the excess amount I would have to pay could be taken through my credit card as they have my details on record. The extra amount would be in the region of £14 or so for the eight weeks which fall under the new pricing. This Wednesday I received a call from the girl looking after advertising sales reminding me that she would be debiting my account for the extra charges. On Thursday evening I discovered that my credit card had been debited by £62. Obviously a mistake. I had to go shopping on Thursday morning for electrical materials for van stock and toiletries and undergarments for myself so after breakfast I drove to the newspaper offices to sort out the problem with my account. It had indeed been a simple mistake as the debit should only have been £14. They would credit my account for the £48 overpayments. It is just as well that I keep a watchful eye on my banks accounting and card accounts for I could easily have missed the overpayment. I left their offices and drove on to the electrical supplier to purchase what I needed. I left my van there and walked back into the town about a half-mile away to do my other shopping. Before returning to my vehicle I spent some time in a coffee-house over a large Cappuccino. It was almost lunchtime by the time I had returned home. After chatting with E about my morning she showed me a couple of movies she had taken of the rear garden from inside the house through the window. She had noticed a squirrel foraging for bedding materials and food and decided to catch it on her iPad. We have seen it a few times recently and it appears to have made a home for itself in the huge ivy-covered tree on the other side of the wall in a neighbour’s garden. We have a small oak tree which has been producing acorns for a couple of years so I am guessing the squirrels have noticed that. There is a plant pot or two in the corner of our garden which hold long-leafed plants that have died back for the winter. The dead leaves were being taken for bedding. Soon we were having lunch after which E went to do the weekly shopping with her mum. During lunch I mentioned that I was feeling bored and E looked at me as if to say ‘Don’t be thinking about working, you are supposed to be resting’. She didn’t say anything but I know she was thinking it! When she had left the house I went into the garden and swept over the newly laid path at the rear of the mound for something to do (you’ll have to read about the mound in my summertime posts). I then opened the back of my van to do some tidying up in there and to sort out all the materials I have acquired over the last few days. When I returned indoors I was still restless but ended up playing the guitar for a time to relieve the boredom. Trouble was that didn’t work! I find I get so bored doing nothing or next to nothing that I have to do something. I just cannot be bothered sitting about watching television or reading a book and even going shopping is a bore sometimes. All I really want to do is work at something at the moment. Well, the squirrel is busy why can’t I be? The calls still keep coming in.
My house phone is very seldom used for outgoing calls and even incoming calls are few unless someone is requesting my services. In the past I received many nuisance calls usually from businesses doing cold calls but that has mostly ceased though the occasional caller gets through. I can tell when the call is from such businesses as soon as I pick up the phone. If I answer then I receive an automated advertising message presumably because the computer sending out the messages recognizes that a voice has spoken. Sometimes there is complete silence before I can hear the background noise often associated with a call centre. In either case the phone is immediately returned to its holder and the call is ended. With my mobile phone it is different. Businesses have resorted to withholding their number in many cases so I have no idea if the caller is genuine, that is they wish to speak to me about a job or engage in a private conversation. Regular callers are added to my contacts list so I can recognize them immediately and in most cases they do not withhold their number anyway. If I answer a call from a withheld number it is often from a business advertising themselves. I can block such callers however with the phone’s security program application, for my phone I use Kaspersky. However, sneaky as these business companies are they now often send a text message which is easily dispatched to the deleted items bin or worse still they leave a recorded message. Because again, I have no idea who sent the message when I retrieve my recorded messages those messages reach my ear. Of course I immediately delete the message. If there is one thing I hate most about modern technology it this persistent pestering by companies wishing to tell me I may be entitled to compensation for miss-sold PPIs or I may be due for compensation after an automobile accident which wasn’t my fault. Aside from the fact that I have neither I think it is such an imposition and a down right nuisance to have to put up with these things especially as I have no interest in them whatsoever. The only way to stop receiving these cold calls is to stop using the phones it seems because legislation if it exists, is as weak as a kitten.
On Monday morning we should have had the tiler start the tiling of the walls and floor in the bathroom but at 8.30 in the morning he phoned to ask if it was alright if he could start the following day instead. He mentioned something about family and a problem but I told didn’t need an explanation and it would be alright to start on Tuesday instead. I didn’t have a choice in the matter and it didn’t matter either. Though it was something of a disappointment to us his problem required attention and we couldn’t object. I have had to let people down once or twice due to circumstances beyond my control and there is nothing that can be done about it. It was more of an inconvenience in that I had refused work for Monday so that I could be at home when the tiler arrived and to sort out any problems there may have been which might have interfered with his work. My first job of the week was scheduled for Wednesday but there was a job scheduled for Thursday which I wanted to assess beforehand so I took the opportunity of calling my client to see if she was at home with the prospect of doing that. Fortunately she was at home and I could pay her a visit which I did. I discovered that the job was small enough to be done immediately if she was in agreement, all I required was one small part which I purchased locally. So at least the day wasn’t wasted doing nothing. Now E and I also had the opportunity to dine out as I had no more work scheduled or anything urgent to do at home either. Normally we go on Tuesday if we can but this Tuesday wouldn’t have been possible with us having the bathroom tiled. I had work to do on Friday so it was unlikely we could dine out then. The tiling we were told would take three days or thereabouts. One thing about my job and indeed for anyone who is self-employed is that we have to be reliable and flexible, nothing is set in stone and we can rearrange schedules as necessary but sometimes doing that can be an inconvenience both to ourselves and to those we work for. Notwithstanding any unforeseen circumstances though, appointments should be kept, it is bad for business and reputation if they are not.
I am not sure I can do much about these strange goings on in my local freebie newspaper but I am not well pleased with them at the moment. I advertise my business in one of the two free newspaper groups we have in town and have been with them for more than sixteen years. Initially I purchased the advertisements in batches of six months, that is twenty-six weeks at a time but more recently say in the last three years I switched to purchasing thirteen weeks at a time. I pay by credit card and they have the card details. A week before the next payment is due they phone me or sometimes I phone them to verify consent for the payment to be made. This way payment is made in advance thereby ensuring continuity of my advert being included. I receive an electronic invoice via email on a weekly basis and I save it to a folder on my computer. Each folder contains or will contain thirteen invoices which I number one to thirteen. Occasionally I will cancel my advert temporarily because I might be on vacation or it might be a public holiday such as Christmas. I last cancelled the advert whilst I was in Vienna a couple of months ago but they failed to action that request and the advert was printed anyway. I complained to them explaining that I had paid for an advert that I didn’t want publishing because I was out of the country. They apologised and credited me with an extra week free of charge which meant that I would only have to pay for twelve weeks of advertisements when I purchased my next batch of thirteen. So far so good. On the Wednesday just past the final advert from the previous thirteen was due to be printed but when I looked in the newspaper it wasn’t there! Now I could have made allowances for the mistake but I had only visited their office two days before to sort out my next payment and to ensure I would only be paying for twelve as they had promised and also iron out any problems or issues. I had checked my credit card statement and it verified the correct debit. Now I was again finding myself without an advert in the paper having already paid for it, it being the last one of the previous thirteen. The next batch of thirteen will run from Wednesday next week. Naturally I phoned their office to speak with the girl who deals with my account explaining that my advert had not been included. I have agreed to allow them to reimburse me for the lost week by crediting my card account. I will check the credit card account to make certain they have done so. As I explained to the girl it isn’t so much that a mistake has been made which is bothersome, it is the potential loss of business which at this time of year could cost me a lot of potential earnings. As it happens I have work already booked for the coming week and hopefully when the advert is re-instated mid-week the requests will resume as usual.
Sitting at home on Wednesday after lunch I browsed my email in-boxes and discovered that the newspaper group I advertise with had sent me my weekly invoice electronically. I have been receiving my invoices this way for a couple of years now but although I pay in advance for all my weekly adverts in one go buying thirteen weeks worth at a time they send out the invoices weekly. I simple save them in a folder amongst my documents for reference. I wasn’t expecting an invoice this week because I had cancelled it for just the one week due to my being out of the country for a few days. The mistake is on their part and as such I felt they should simply waive the cost and give me the week free. I only say that because this has happened once or twice before and I was left paying for an advert I had cancelled when they had forgotten to stop it. I was informed last time that I had to pay and I reluctantly let it go but this time I was going to insist I don’t. It isn’t as if it is only a couple of pound, the weekly advert costs me £33.79 and I don’t see why I should have to pay for another of their mistakes. Naturally I gave them a call but the girl who usually handles my account was busy with another caller so I was asked if I minded her calling me when she was free. Ten minutes later she called and was full of apologies. She admitted her mistake of cancelling the wrong week and told me not to worry as I would only have to pay for twelve of the next batch of thirteen week I buy which will be nine or ten weeks from now. She told me that I was a valued customer of the newspaper and they wanted to reassure me that it will be sorted. I have advertised with them almost exactly 16 years.
I found myself wandering about in the halls and corridors of the group of buildings where I used to work. I had the words of a song in my thoughts but I knew my companion wasn’t comfortable with them. She was a girl I know who works in a bar. For the purposes of this story I will call her K. Now K took my hand as we took to the various levels that made up this sprawling establishment and it was as though she was trying to shield me from my youngest sister J who appeared to be someone in authority working on the second floor of the main building. It seemed we had to avoid contact with her at all costs. All I wanted to do was to be able to sing the song without anyone making a fuss but I knew I would be breaking the rules if I sung what I knew to be the correct words. Everyone else it seemed insisted that the words should be shorter. K was desperate that we should keep on moving in case we were caught. Unfortunately on our travels we came across J who began to wield her authority but somehow we managed to escape her onslaught. We found ourselves rapidly descending the stairs of the tallest building in the block and as we went I let go from my nether regions! ‘You stink’, screamed K. ‘No I don’t’, I replied, ‘I can’t help it’. We ran down the stairs and out of the building, partly to escape but also to get some fresh air! I couldn’t understand all the fuss that was being made over the words of a song and for an organisation whose sole existence and purpose was to thwart my attempts sing what I knew was right. I woke up realising it was all a dream!
On Wednesday last week E and I went out for lunch to the same place we went the week before. We sometimes do that but more often we visit different places each week on a sort of open rota. I just fancied returning to this particular establishment and I am very glad I did for we had a great time. We tend to eat late in the afternoon so the restaurants are less crowded and we can spend more time chatting with the staff or rather they have more time to spend chatting with us! Some of the staff at this particular pub/restaurant/carvery are ‘Scousers‘, Liverpudlians, and as we hail from there we tend to get on like a house on fire! The staff are always left in no doubt that we have visited them and I like the idea that we have brightened up their day, not that we are the only ones doing so of course. We each had a two course meal, soft drinks followed by Cappuccino coffee and all for £25.04! Can’t be bad. When we returned home after a slight diversion, I found the local free newspaper in the letterbox. this is the one in which I place my advertisement. I usually look for my advert there each week just to ensure it is there but this time I discovered that it wasn’t! It was too late in the day to contact them so I left a message and called in to see them the next day. When I first advertised with them I paid in advance for 26 weeks but in the last few years I have only paid for 13 weeks in advance. I do this so that I can make retiring completely less awkward for myself, if it ever comes! As it stood at the time of writing, Wednesday last week, I was awaiting my electronic invoice via email which is delivered every Wednesday each week but I didn’t receive it. It represented week number 13, the final invoice of my current batch as it were. When I receive each invoice I place a number in brackets at the end of the invoice number as sent before saving it on my computer so that I can keep track of which week I am in. Furthermore I place each batch of thirteen invoices I have paid for in a new folder so there can be no doubt as to how many I have paid for and received. I had telephoned the newspaper office the previous day to arrange payment for the next 13 adverts which should have started this Wednesday (15th) but now has been put back to Wednesday 22nd. I had forgotten that I had cancelled my advert for last week because I had taken an extended weekend break! I am daft sometimes, well I am past my sell-by date and my shelf-life expired ages ago…..LOL
The subscriptions for my business advertisement were due next week and as I was in town I decided to pop into the offices of the newspaper in which my advertisement is displayed and pay in person. Usually they telephone me or I them to renew using my credit card. They have the card details so all they require is verbal confirmation from me for them to proceed. The girl who deals with the advertisements was surprised but very pleased to see me. We had a good chat whilst she dealt with my request as this time I wished to pay using cash as I had £500 with me. I have the advertisement run for 13 weeks at a time which costs me £439 so I had cash left for other things. By now it was almost 3 o’clock and I had missed lunch because of the morning’s business I had to attend to and my visit to the newspaper office. Another visit to the pub which at that time was surprisingly empty save for a few groups of people dining. I didn’t stay long, about two hours before I went on home. This time of year (February) I begin dealing with vehicle tax, insurance, MOT, vehicle servicing and usually arranging to pay my for my advert. Last week it was paying my subscription to the AA. With other minor subscriptions to pay for it soon mounts up but then I have a respite until my advertisement subscription is required again. Around and around we go again, each year just the same but I must say I am just happy to still be able to do it all, I mean I could be pushing up daisies couldn’t I?
I often think about my life and my achievements and wonder what my life would have been like had I chosen a different career. I have been in the same business or career now for just over fifty years and have enjoyed all aspects of it. For much of that time I have been working in the public eye and have met many interesting people along the way. I have met some nasty people too, thankfully not many in that category. There have been very few incidents in my career where I have not been involved with other people. I wonder if I’d have had the same opportunity in meeting so many people in my working life whilst following a different path. Many people spend their whole working lives in one place or another and never get the opportunity for change or getting out into the world. That kind of working lifestyle is definitely not my thing although at one time I did spend almost twenty-one years working in the same establishment but it was a large complex with many buildings so I had some freedom of movement within the organisation which at that time had over three thousand people working there. However even such a place imposes quite a restriction compared to the outside world. When I became self-employed over fifteen years ago I began to realise and experience a freedom I had never before experienced and more than that, I had complete control of what I wanted to do and when I was to do it. There are many occupations which allow that sort of freedom and I suppose many would be as enjoyable as the one I chose. Thinking about your own situation, your likes and dislikes, your abilities and such, what other occupation might you have chosen that would have given you the same or a better enjoyment? Would another occupation have resulted in you being happier than you are now or had been whilst you were working? What, if anything, prevented you from making a career change? Do you have any regrets for not having made any changes or at least giving it a go? If you did make a change, was it for the better?
I was engaged in a very small job on Monday and was asked if I had anything else to do. I replied that I hadn’t and that is quite usual for me. I often find that I have one small job at the beginning of the week and nothing else booked but as the week progresses things change and I often find myself inundated with requests. Being self-employed is sometimes a difficult road to travel as you find you cannot find time to relax unless you specifically take it. During the normal working week you have to be available for spur-of-the-moment calls or lose the prospect of a job. When younger this isn’t a problem, more energy, more enthusiasm and probably more strength too! If I fancy having a glass of wine in the afternoon I either have one or leave it until evening depending on whether I want to take calls or not. I don’t know why it is but some people, knowing they want some work doing, often leave it till the last-minute before calling and expect you will be available for them. If it took them so much time to contact me another day won’t make any difference. I have been to remote locations in the morning and had to return home with nothing else to do and then get a call from such a person who happened to live in the same area! I could have done their job in the afternoon when they called. Unless it is an emergency such jobs are put off till the next day or whatever day suits the caller. I never know from one minute to the next if I will get work or not and what I do get is always different from day-to-day. This is what makes my work fascinating and enjoyable. No wonder I am reluctant to give it up just yet. One day I will have to, you never know!
No idea where this saying originated but it fits the bill another saying I’ve no idea its origin either. We use these kind of sayings all the time, so much so we hardly think about it. I digress. I am tired of receiving often automated calls over the phone about the PPI’s I don’t actually have and how I can claim the payments back with the help of the caller of course. The callers being firms of solicitors who are paid either through the courts or by a percentage of what they can claw back for you if you allow them to proceed. All very well but I do not have a PPI and have never been sold one by any bank or organisation. They do not know that of course but they are fishing for business and that is what annoys me the most. Another area is one in which I am told that the caller has been trying to contact me for weeks usually getting that message through a text and informing me that I have an outstanding claim for a motoring accident. I am even told how much I am entitled to which is over £3000. This is because my van (I wasn’t in it at the time) was involved in an accident caused by someone driving their vehicle into it and thereby wrecking it beyond repair. That accident happened more than four years ago and has long since been settled!
If I want work I place an advert and wait for replies. I do not telephone people and pester them for work. If I need any service I will ask for it. If I wish to change my service provider I will make the call. I am constantly bombarded with advertising leaflets crammed inside of the local free newspapers that I get every week. Why can’t they place their adverts with the newspaper rather than cluttering my letterbox with heaps of paper which only goes directly into the recycle bin. I should be able to read the advert printed in the newspaper if I wish to. Cold-calling door-to-door is slowly becoming illegal but more needs to be done to block unwanted literature and cold-call telephone calls as far as I am concerned. The words written in the picture above say it all for me.
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.
When somebody talks about dangerous places we tend to have pre-conceived ideas of where they are and what they are. There are places of course that are obviously dangerous and even skilled and experienced people get hurt or killed because of them. Swimming in rough seas, mountain climbing, driving, walking on ice, the list is enormous. We can be caught out so easily if we are not careful in life but there is one area that perhaps many people don’t think about as being dangerous. The danger in this case is not one of physical harm but nevertheless can harm us in other ways and it is the vehicle by which this blog post is transported, it is the Internet. The Internet has only been in existence for a short time and it is a wonderful tool that can be used for our benefit but it is also the vehicle that can work to our detriment. Good things earn a reputation for being evil when they are miss used. The Internet is a case in point. It is so easy to get caught out by a fraudster when using the Internet if we are not careful and although many of us are getting wiser to fraudulent activity there are still many who are duped. In fact fraud is probably the biggest and fastest growing criminal activity these days because it has become far easier for the fraudtser to peddle his trade on the Internet. Fraudulent businesses can be set up so easily and so quickly and can just as easily be closed down before the authorities catch up with them. It is harder to catch a digital rougue than a flesh and bone one! The Internet, powerful as it is already, is still in its infancy and it may well be that current problems associated with it may not exist in the future. In the meantime it pays to watch out for danger whether digital or something more solid.