More walking about on Monday….I could get used to this! I extended my usual walk of two to three miles and did five instead, something more like the distances I used to do a couple of years back. I used to regularly walk eight to ten miles then but I was younger and was working many hours each week then. For many years I went running, doing four miles each day and often eight or sixteen miles each week too but I gave up running about eighteen years ago. Actually running isn’t as good as it is made out to be and isn’t good for the joints and spine. Brisk walking is safer and just as good for the heart and general health as far as exercise is concerned. Running certainly builds up stamina though and is good for improving blood circulation. I always found it exhilarating and I could feel the beneficial effects of a long run for many hours afterward. A brisk walk has a similar though lesser effect. Anyway, I was nearly finished my walk and noticed something on top of a perimeter wall surrounding a nearby apartment block. It was a debit card. I examined it and found it to be a recent issue so not an old one someone might have discarded, if indeed anyone would discard such a thing by leaving it on a wall. It was issued by the Santander Bank to someone addressed as ‘Miss…’.
No doubt she would have been terrified at the thought of someone using it illegally and emptying her account in the process. People should be more careful with their credit and debit cards and indeed all their financial affairs. I took it home and showed it to E. and we agreed to take the journey into town immediately and hand it in to the branch of that bank, the only one in the district. Bank branches are getting thinner on the ground and soon there might not be any at all! Having done our good deed for the day I took E out-of-town to lunch. We spent the remainder of the afternoon out on the patio whilst the sun was still shining. Tuesday promised rain once more.
There are few things which alone could destroy this world besides atomic bombs and disease and even one of those is within our capability to be rendered harmless. It is all about intention. Many years ago I purchased my first personal computer, a Commodore Vic 20, a very basic machine with less memory than a modern-day credit card! After a while I upgraded to a Commodore 64 but even that machine was very limited by today’s standards. The only great advance regarding computers at the time was that they had shrunk in size, they were far smaller than their predecessors and could now perhaps become a useful domestic device. Well that certainly happened as we all know. With each passing year the personal computer has gone from strength to strength. It was only with the introduction of The Internet though that the computer came into its own. Many households can now connect to the world in which we live, something only dreamt about years ago. It was around 1982 I bought that Vic 20 and two years later the 64. I had been attending a Methodist church at the time though I wasn’t at that time a Christian. That came in 1989. One day I had occasion to visit the then vicar of the church as I remember to help with a small electrical problem and the subject of computers entered our conversation. I always remember his reaction, ‘They are just toys’, he said. He was so right but I had yet to learn that. Toys they may be but they are powerful and have the capability to destroy the world if miss-used. Therein lies the problem. Because human beings are in control of their manufacture and use there is always the danger they will be used for all the wrong reasons. That is already happening and is slowly becoming a giant-sized problem to the world. Technological advancement has a down side and can be used against us in many ways. What does the future hold for us all if we have to rely on computers in order to live out our lives? Inevitably computers will control everything we do……..all we think, earn, spend, purchase will be recorded and can be manipulated. Should we buy into it all or does our conscience tell us to beware? To me it smacks of the ‘mark of the beast’ as described in Revelations………….you decide.
Well Tuesday lived up to the forecast it was given, wet, windy and cooler, a typical Autumn day. The season begins in earnest but I’ve an inkling the weather won’t stay that way for already the weather people are saying it will get milder for a while. It makes no difference to me, unless I wish to work outdoors but even then it would depend on what I wanted to do. I had no work for the day but had to go out anyway to make deposits and donations and to buy fuel for the van. I had intended to slip in a little shopping but I changed my mind and left that for another day. When I got back home I spent some time on the computer shuffling money about between accounts and at the same time I logged in to my credit card provider account to see how much I had spent. As I have a direct debit set up to make the payment I have to ensure money is available in the relevant current account when the card provider wants paying. Usually the procedure is straightforward but on this occasion I made one error when filling in a piece of information on the log-in page and immediately my access was denied. Now I am all for on-line security, it is absolutely necessary in these evil times but I wasn’t given the opportunity to re-submit the details. I had to make a telephone call to arrange for the account to be unblocked. That took some time but it was a frustrating few minutes trying to understand what they wanted of me but I finally got there. I don’t know how they have the patience! In essence I was given a new customer number and I had to input a new password number and verify it though I had to use the telephone I was using to connect with them to do that. They think of everything when it comes to possible fraud. Once that was done I had to erase old signing-in information and save the new information on my automatic data input site account. All that for making one small error when signing in. It was lunchtime but before I could have lunch the house phone rang. The call was from an elderly lady I had worked for in the past and she was calling to ask if I would do a small job for her. I arranged to go in the afternoon and after lunch.
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.
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.
I don’t need much sleep so when I go to bed it is as late as possible or I go early and get up early. That works for me for if I have an early appointment I know I’ll have no problems pushing back the bedclothes. I set an alarm if I have to get up early or at any particular time but it is only a safeguard just in case I do sleep in too long. Invariably I am already lying there awake before any alarm sounds. Currently I use the alarm feature on my phone. It is probably the only other useful feature on the phone aside from the phone itself. I don’t need the rest of the garbage the manufacturers think I need. My life isn’t ruled or controlled by a gadget. I used to use a mechanical alarm clock until it gave up the ghost several years ago. As the phone had an alarm I didn’t bother buying a new clock. I don’t wear a wrist watch for the same reason. I had occasion to pay a debt recently to the sum of £5200 but I had already paid some of it as a deposit, £500. I paid that partly by cash and partly by debit card. Having decided later to pay the remainder, £4700, I tried to pay using the Internet as I had the recipient’s banking details. When I made the attempt I kept hitting a brick wall. My bank failed to recognise their account. Eventually I gave up trying and was going to ask the recipient if they would accept a credit card payment instead. However it was Saturday and I couldn’t contact them. I had to go into town anyway on Saturday morning to do some shopping and to make a cash deposit into my account. Whilst at the bank I went to the help desk to discuss the problems I had experienced trying to pay my debt. I have three accounts at this bank, a current account, an instant saver account and a web saver account. I don’t keep a large amount of cash in the current account and the instant saver account rarely has more than £2000 in it. I use this account mainly for my business requirements, repairs to my vehicle, tax and so on. The majority of my savings are in the web account and it was from that account I had wished to pay this debt. Well I discovered why I couldn’t, I needed to transfer the monies to the current account first and pay from that account. How ridiculous I thought as I am able to use to instant saver to transfer cash too. It is only the web saver account from which I cannot make a payment it seems yet on the banks website there is no indication of that. As I had decided to pay by card if allowed to I didn’t pay the debt there and then. I will do that using a card once I know I can. There is a reason for using the card, I get a 0.5 or 1.0% cash back on all transactions depending on which card I use. I should have paid the whole amount in the first place I suppose. I sometimes think that if I had a brain or one that was awake when needed I would be very dangerous indeed! Whilst out shopping I called into the indoor market and was visiting the toilet in there when I passed by an empty stall outside of which where two men chatting to one another. One of the men made eye contact and smiled. I usually respond and did so. I stopped in front of them and said, ‘Gosh you have some lovely things in there for sale’. The second guy turned back to look inside the stall but the first guy couldn’t stop laughing, partly because of what I had said and partly because his mate turned round to look at the empty area which he must have known to be empty. I guess he wasn’t as awake as he perhaps should have been either.
Update: I did try to make the payment by transferring the monies to the current account at the same bank but again it didn’t work. I still don’t know why. In the meantime I contacted the recipient but after learning from them that I would be charged 2% more if I used either of my credit cards I decided to transfer the cash to an account I have in another bank then made payment from there. It worked! The mind boggles.
I don’t know if you have ever had to telephone your bank to query something but the experience can be very frustrating. I have accounts with three banks and am in possession of three debit cards two credit cards. The credit cards both operate on the same account, that is they give me credit from the same pot of money, my allowance or credit limit. One card gives me a 1% cash-back payment whilst the other only 1/2%. I didn’t know they were in actual fact two credit cards when I was given them a couple of weeks ago to replace the single credit card that I had on the account. I was under the impression that one of the cards, the one with the lower return, was in fact a debit card! I had never heard of an account with two distinct and separate cards using the one account before. When I went to use the one I thought was a debit card to pay a large bill the card was refused twice. I didn’t wish to use the other card which I knew to be a credit card as I also knew a surcharge would be added which would negate any cash-back reward I might have received. There didn’t seem to be a valid reason for the card being blocked but later I was told that because the amount was so large it had flagged up on their security fraud prevention system and it was blocked accordingly. That is fine in some respects but it proved an inconvenience to me at the time. In the end I used one of the three other debit cards I have and paid the cash from another bank current account. The following day I went on the Internet to check my credit card account and saw that I had been debited a small amount of money (£2.46) though I hadn’t spent anything using the card since my last bill was paid. Although it was only a small amount I wanted to check it out and at first I tried doing that whilst on-line. If you are familiar with the way many businesses use the Internet for answering queries you will know just how frustrating the experience in getting an answer can be. I call it the run-around because you often end up in the place you started without really getting the query answered, or you end up pages away from where you are supposed to be! I must have had half a dozen tabs open on my computer trying to follow the on-line information. In the end I resorted to the trusty telephone. Did I say trusty? Ha! I telephoned the organisation and was answered by an automatic system. A male voice asked several questions in turn regarding security, cards details and other things but I replied only when asked my age. I knew I would eventually get to talk to a person in real-time which is exactly what I wanted. Well I waited a full 35 minutes and still waited to be connected. I hung up the phone and immediately tried again. I was faced with the same procedure but this time I waited twenty-five minutes and was connected to a guy in a call centre in India. When I first called I could have remained on the phone all day long as it was a toll-free number but I was fed up to the teeth having to listen to an advertisement continuously being piped down my ear-hole! Unfortunately I had to call the second time else not resolve my query. The guy was very helpful and eventually told me that the charges to my account would be dropped as I hadn’t actually used the cards. There was no explanation as to why the charges were there in the first place though. It pays to keep tabs on your accounts for incidences like these could go unnoticed and you could end up paying for services not rendered. I was satisfied with the information I received and ended the conversation. I was asked if it would be alright for customer relations to call me later to have a chat and I agreed. About an hour later I received the call and a woman answered. She was very apologetic that I should have had problems in using my new cards and she was one who told me that the two cards were in fact credit cards. I told her it would be unlikely therefore that I would use the card with the lower reward cash-back and wondered why they had issued it in the first place. She told me there might be a situation whereby the other card might be useful. I spoke to her about having to wait so long on the phone and having to listen to the incessant advert the whole time. She replied that all customer complaints would be collated and used to improve their system. Well I do hope she was being honest about that one! About the advert? The male voice telling me that if I wanted to add a service to my account I could do it easily on-line was followed directly by him saying that I could get information about my account much easier on my ‘smart phone’ by downloading the ‘app’ from the relevant source. Well isn’t that just dandy? I haven’t got a smart phone and I never want to check my bank accounts using one. Oh how I hate technology and the brainwashing attempts to use it all the time wherever we are.
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.
I had a couple of small jobs to do on Monday but had nothing planned after that until Thursday, which will be today as you read this. I had another sleep-in on Tuesday, something I am finding I do often these days, either it’s because I work hard or am just getting old, probably both theories are correct! So there I was sitting at home when I got a call for help. Someone I had done work for in the past and for her daughter and friend too called to say that she needed my services as she had lost all power in her house. I told her I would be there within a half hour as she only lives about ten miles away. It had been raining rather hard for the previous couple of days and was still raining hard when I left home. I took the road which cuts across country rather than the main trunk route which I know is undergoing resurfacing at the moment with all the unavoidable delays that result. The roads I took to however were severely flooded in parts and I might have been better off using a canoe! I got to her house and soon discovered which circuit was causing the problem and I isolated it. Unfortunately it was the circuit supplying all the power points. Splitting the circuit into two halves quickly pointed to which area the fault lay and further analysis pointed to a junction box up in the loft area. I discovered the faulty cable and disconnected it. I had to locate where it was going but it wasn’t connected to any of the power points I could see. At that moment the lady told me that she had a power point behind the fireplace that she had forgotten about! I removed the fire to find a single socket that appeared wet. I removed it and tested the cable which I found to be alright. It was the same cable I’d disconnected in the loft. I tested the socket, now removed, and found it to be faulty, this was due to the fact that water had gotten inside. It was then that she told me that the chimney stack had been leaking water and that someone was waiting for the weather to change so that it could be repaired! Had I been given that information in the first place I could have solved the problem much sooner and it wouldn’t have cost her half the amount I was obliged to charge her.
E had been waiting for her car to be repaired but by the time I returned home around three o’clock they had not called her to say it was done. I needed to visit my wholesaler for the materials I needed for today’s little job so I asked E if she would come along with me and afterwards visit the repair depot which is only a half-mile from the wholesaler. We saw her car on the forecourt meaning that it had been repaired but they still hadn’t phoned her to let her know! They had repaired the fault but said that there was another issue that needed investigating but would cost more money for it to be done. We couldn’t understand why, when testing for the other fault on the same diagnostic computer they couldn’t have checked for this new one at the same time but they made some excuse why they couldn’t do that. We were told that this ‘new fault’ would not cause the car to break down but it was more of an irritation rather than a serious problem. We were shown the invoice and found they had added an extra £18 to their original quote and for no apparent reason so we questioned that and had the bill reduced to the original quotation. However, it wasn’t the £800 I had originally thought it was. Although E had told me how much I had misunderstood, the cost amounted to £894 approximately! Definitely more than I’d thought
I used my credit card to pay, at least I will be credited with a small refund as my card operator offers ‘cash back’ on all purchases. I pay off my credit card by Direct Debit from one of my current accounts so I only have to ensure the money is available. I do not run up credit card debts but always pay them off in full when they are due. You can now see why continuing in work is still a good idea so it is a good thing that actually like work!
Following on from my post on Monday. I had occasion to read something posted on someone else’s blog regarding the subject of the rise in credit and debit cards. Over the last few years we have seen an increase in the use of debit and credit cards resulting in many people falling foul of running up huge debts. When we use cash we can only spend what we have in our hands and getting into debt is never a problem but in a modern society which runs on what it produces there is a need to encourage spending. That being the case credit becomes easily available so that the economy can continue to develop. This however is only the tip of a giant iceberg. There is another evil behind the demise of cash as a currency and the lack of being able to buy things anonymously. Only being able to buy and sell using cards means that control is taken away from us as individuals, moreover transactions carried out using cards can be and are monitored by the authorities. In some ways this is a good thing as it prevents things like fraud and tax evasion but in other ways it can be an evil tool. In a cashless society it will be impossible to buy or sell anything, including food, without a card. Anyone in business could only trade in the same way thus forcing everyone into submission in using cards. If nobody can trade with you, you cannot stay in business. This means that anyone who doesn’t have a card doesn’t have anything. It will of course promote an underground black market system and possibly cause an increase in crime too. Theft would no doubt be more commonplace and difficult to deal with. Now all of this seems a little pie-in-the-sky and fanciful but in reality is is happening all around us even now. Did you know for instance that some western countries are now deliberately not printing bank notes as they once did? Many well established companies have already laid down the ground rules by refusing purchases using cash and many only trade over the Internet thus eliminating the need for cash transactions. It can only get worse. None of all this however is news to those who read their Bibles, for in there are prophecies covering this very subject, prophecies which were written down around two thousand years ago and more than two and a half thousand years ago. Like many of the prophecies in the Bible, they are mis-understood, not believed or simply ignored. The truth is that they will all become fact. Many have done already so it is only a matter of time before this one takes everyone by surprise. It doesn’t matter how often some people are told of such things they will still remain unbelieving. For those who are of a more inquisitive mind here’s what the Bible has to say about it all….
1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea.
The Beast out of the Sea
And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. 4Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”
5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
9He who has an ear, let him hear.
10 If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. 14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.