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.
Yesterday my van had its annual MOT test. It passed with flying colours but although I expected it to there was always a little doubt as to whether it would or not. The guy at the desk said there should be no problem as the van, now seven years old and registered in 2008, has only travelled 23800 miles, a mere dot in the ocean. My insurance premium quote for the van arrived a couple of days ago and at only £302 (fully comprehensive) I accepted and duly paid the fee. I received the new certificate yesterday too. My road fund licence will be paid automatically on 2nd March by direct debit then all will be alright for another year of driving. After I drove from the testing station I was able to do the only electrical job I had for the day and indeed the last one for the week. Again I have worked every normal working day this week. A few weeks ago we noticed some plaster had fallen off a wall and the ceiling in one of the top rooms of the house. Quite a large amount of plaster had come adrift and though we couldn’t actually see any water ingress the wall was slightly damp. A few years ago, June 2010 to be precise, we had some major work going on with replacement windows installation, a dormer being clad in plastic and some roof repairs all going on at the same time. The guy who did the roof did an excellent job so we called him to ask about the present problem. He told us he was busy and also had problems with his own van too but that he would call round as soon as he could. As the problem we have doesn’t require urgent attention we didn’t mind waiting. He told us he would call to see the problem a week ago last Saturday but he didn’t arrive. I didn’t want to put him under pressure for he had told us that he wouldn’t forget us. On Wednesday afternoon this week I was at home for an hour or so when the doorbell rang. It was our roofing guy. He apologised for not having been earlier but I told him it was alright. I took him upstairs to see the problem from the inside and then he tried to inspect the roof, actually the chimney stack which is the source of the problem, but with the roof being so high he couldn’t see properly without climbing up there. I went indoors and returned with a pair of binoculars. He exclaimed, ‘Wow, they’re good aren’t they’? He couldn’t understand why we were having problems for all seemed fine. However he did say that the stack itself might require re-pointing, not a big job but scaffolding would be required for it to be done. It is too dangerous to even think about working at that height without scaffolding and in any case I would insist on scaffolding being used. He advised us to wait until we get some heavy rain and then call him again for another inspection. So it looks like we will have to wait a while for the weather to change. Usually we wish for fine weather don’t we? Just the way it goes. That heavy rain is expected tomorrow according to the forecast.
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.
These last couple of weeks has seen me rather less active at work than I would like but it appears from what some of my acquaintances say, there isn’t much work to be had anyway. Strange as it may seem the beginning of the year has been quite profitable for me over the last few years despite people generally having spent a lot of money over the Christmas and New Year breaks and indeed January has been the same this year too even though I didn’t return to working till after the first week had passed. February thus far at least hasn’t been so good so I am wondering what the week ahead has in store for me work-wise that is. Today, Tuesday I have to take my van for its MOT early in the morning so I shan’t be available for a couple of hours. I am hoping it will sail through with no problems. We’ll see. On Friday I arranged payment for my road-fund licence or road tax via the Internet and on Saturday I received the reminder and a new proposal for the van’s insurance cover, which as it happens is actually about £65 less than it was last year! That’s a bit of a bonus isn’t it? The proposal was £409 for the fully comprehensive cover I normally take out (I pay the first £100 of any claim) and naturally I have accepted. I paid that over the Internet on receiving the proposal the same morning. To be honest I was expecting my cover to cost me more for two reasons, one, nothing ever usually drops in price and two, I had wondered if the new legislation to level-out male and female insurance contributions might have had an effect on mine but it appears not. The reason it went down I think was that my agent (Autonet, who specialise in commercial vehicle cover) decided that my previous insurance company wanted too much money so they found me another. It would be great if my van’s MOT could be done over the Internet too but of course that will always be impossible. So here I am almost ready for another year with my little van to do some more electrical work. I wonder if I’ll get any?
Update: The van passed the test with flying colours and just as I got back home I had a call to do a job which covered the cost of the test with plenty over. I’m just happy I don’t have to repeat all of this until next year!
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?
Earlier in the week I paid a visit to my local pub and didn’t get home till very late. During the evening I had been approached by several people who engaged me in conversation before they either decided to speak with someone else or they simply left for home or wherever they were going. One guy came over and quickly mentioned that someone had told him that I was an electrician and asked if I would help him with a problem. He jotted down all the information I needed to pay him a visit at the place where the problem was and mentioned that he would be there between the hours of 12 noon until four in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. I was given to understand that he was engaged in some charitable event so I told him my services would be free but of course I was only providing advice. If I was to carry out a lot of work I would have to consider how much time I was prepared to donate of course. I hadn’t given much further thought on his request until Saturday morning. I arose a little later than usual and spent some time on my treadmill and whilst I was cooling off I prepared what was going to be an early lunch as I had missed out on breakfast yet again. It was then that I remembered my promise so at one o’clock, after my lunch and after I’d bathed and dressed of course, I drove into town and headed for the new hotel on the promenade. I found the underground car park beneath the hotel and was met and taken upstairs to the ground floor, which was at street level. I discovered that the guy had organised and set up an art gallery as a social community venture and although it had the backing and support of the local authority it wasn’t really a charity in the true sense of the word. He had been given three very large rooms rent-free for the project and had installed power circuits to supply the large lighting units needed for viewing the artwork. The problem he had was that the circuits kept tripping and that was due to the excess load put on them and although the installation was safe enough and the fact that it wasn’t done professionally it was serving its purpose in the interim. I surveyed the installation and gave him a plan of action but it would entail a more serious approach to put things right. He would need a sub-main supply to the main room and from there he would have to rewire his power circuits, this time using the proper materials and circuit design. I told him the job needed to be done by a professional but I guess that suggestion fell on deaf ears. Considering the public will have access to the gallery he needs to ensure the job meets all the health and safety requirements not to mention compliance with current regulations. He may be, in fact he will be liable for any mishaps and I am sure the insurance company, if he has one, will not underwrite the project or pay out compensation for any accidents ensuing should he do it wrong. Why anyone would put themselves and others at risk is beyond my comprehension, in fact I am sure the legal aspect of the project hasn’t been given much consideration by those letting out the space. I spent around a half hour before driving back home. I was a little thirsty and as I was driving past my local pub to get home I called in for a couple of soft drinks. No alcohol, I was driving! The place was packed, there was hardly a seat to be had but I found one and sat there a spell. I decided to take my vehicle home and return on foot about an hour later and so that’s what I did. I met and chatted with three different people over the course of a few hours and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation I had with each of them. The first person, a guy, happened to be an artist who was already known to me and naturally we talked about the gallery I had just visited. The second person, also a guy and also known to me chatted about guitars and music. I tried to arrange a guitar session, a jam session if you will but as yet he hasn’t agreed. I think he feels he isn’t proficient enough a player or he simply lacks confidence in his ability. He had to go home and left without committing himself. Oh well, maybe next time. The third person was a woman, someone I had met about twelve months ago and who lived very near to the pub but someone I hadn’t seen since. She had been out drinking during the afternoon and had reached that stage whereby she was feeling a little merry but not quite drunk. Big hugs all round and she settled down next to me and we chatted away like two long-lost sisters. I had the remains of a bottle of red wine and really did not want to drink any more as I have promised myself to cut back on what I drink. Before I could decline her offer to ‘buy me another’ it was there in front of me! A glass of the same wine I’d been drinking. I was determined not to drink any more so I made that glass last a long time! She said the funniest thing when she came over to me, she said ‘Have you seen my husband, I’ve lost him’! I didn’t see her husband at all and I am certain he hadn’t come in with her because I was sitting close to the entrance he would have used. Her husband is wheelchair bound and can only come through the one door as the other entrance isn’t wheelchair friendly. I think he must have gone directly home without her noticing, that is if he was with her in the first place! I don’t remember her saying anything about her relationship with her husband or about his condition at our first meeting but she sure told me about them on Saturday night. They have been married for 28 years and are still deeply in love. I asked about her husband and how he came to be in a wheelchair. She told me that he’d fallen off a horse only five weeks into their marriage all those years ago and that she had stuck by him through thick and thin. I could see the love in her eyes and I really felt for her and what she’d endured because of their shared love. It is truly amazing how some people manage their lives when disaster strikes yet others just fall apart at the first signs of trouble. My evening was made delightful because of her company. I hope it isn’t another twelve months before I can chat with her again. Yes, Saturday was certainly different.
……..Or making hay while the sun shines! Recently I bought myself a new bicycle and so far have spent quite a few hours riding it. The weather has been fine but I’ve not always had the opportunity to get out on the bike because of my work schedule. However my workload has taken yet another dive so now I am finding that I have more free time to get on the bike. Unfortunately the weather is taking a turn for the worse and has now become more showery. I won’t deliberately go riding if the forecast is rain, for one thing I haven’t any suitable rain wear that I can put on for riding a bicycle and two, why get unnecessarily wet? It was different when I went running in the rain, it didn’t matter and I quite liked it but riding in the wet can be quite hazardous. So I will ride my bike whenever the opportunity allows, I can always exercise on the treadmill at other times. I have the same attitude to work too, I will continue as long as I am able though not as often. Recently my youngest son found himself short of funds to have the brakes repaired on his car and asked if I could help, which I did, naturally. A couple of days ago he was involved in an accident. He reversed his car out onto the road and hit a parked vehicle causing damage to both vehicles. He has to pay the first £450 of any costs incurred, the insurance company will pay the balance. He chose that amount as an excess in order to keep his insurance premiums low of course in the hope that he would remain accident free! Of course he hasn’t that kind of money available and so he reluctantly asked me if I could help him again. I will of course do that, not because I think I ought to but because he has no alternative. Since leaving university he has struggled to pay off his outstanding loan from the bank and it wasn’t until fairly recently that he has been able to start reducing that debt but there is very little spare cash by which he can start saving. Things are improving though and hopefully his circumstances will get better soon. I am trying to save too and I manage to do that which is just as well, I never know if someone will need it!
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.