Friday, 9 November 2012

I'm hovering.  How is this possible?

I'm looking across the city that I love but seeing it from a brand new perspective.  The people below me are going about their lives, oblivious to or disinterested in my presence as they scurry to and from their intended destinations.  Is this normal?  Nobody seems startled or alarmed.  I don't remember being able to do this before and it seems at once both strange and completely natural.

I look left and see a large multi-coloured wing.  To my right, yep there's another one.  I don't feel like I'm doing anything, but they seem to be keeping me in the air. 

My arms hang loose by my sides.  Slowly I raise my right arm - bit of a wobble there but I'm still upright.  Now I lift my left arm, and suddenly feel a bit silly - hanging here with my arms above my head.  Still no wobble though.

From my unique (to me at least) vantage point I can see over some of the buildings nearby but not all of them.  "How do I get a bit higher?"  As I realised I'd have that thought, I started to ascend slowly: now I can see over a few more buildings.

"Hmmm, that seems easy enough.  Now, how do I turn?"

Slowly I start to rotate.  The tallest building is behind me now and I'm seeing crystal-clear blue sky and the lazy river stretching across my field of vision with its network of road and foot bridges teaming with rush-hour cars and pedestrians.  "Well, I don't know how this has happened but I don't think I want it to stop."  Still nobody seems perturbed.  There's nobody else up here either, just me and the birds.

"Aw wait a minute!  Did I die and get reincarnated?  Calm down, do any of the other birds have arms and legs?"

I decide to try something.  Rotating slowly till I face the tallest building, I lean forward.  Not bending at the waist, but moving slowly from the vertical to the horizontal planes, I start drifting towards that building.  I hover over the building, then gingerly touch down on the roof of it.

"So, this flying stuff isn't so hard, right?".  I spend a few minutes drinking in my latest view, and marvelling at my new-found view over the city's historic west-end, towards the university that's what, 700 years old?  Suddenly I have a crazy thought and leap from the edge of the building - as I start to fall, I catch myself and hover directly outside the office block's windows - I can see in and nobody is concerned.  I can also see my own reflection, and it's definitely me alright, albeit with these magnificent wings.  I swoop over to the motorway overpass, executing a graceful landing before taking off once more, bound for the roof of the library.  This is so much fun.  I wish my wife was here.

My wife?

I'm lying next to her - she has most of the covers whilst I've got the bed sheet that I need.  The room is bathed in sunshine and I'm late for work...

Friday, 19 October 2012

Banks (or Why Today Sucked!) Part 2

I thought I should perhaps give you a quick update on how this panned out.  Not because I feel the banks deserve equal representation, but in case you’re interested.

A few days after I posted that previous blog entry, I got a phone call from someone at the customer complaints team.  They’d been trying to contact me all day but because I was buried in work I couldn’t take the call.  Anyway, the gentleman I spoke to seemed genuinely concerned with my issue, and seemed to understand why I was so pissed off.  I’ve worked on-line in call-centres and I know the training you get for talking difficult customers down so perhaps he was just flannelling to mollify me – either way I wasn’t actually that agro at the time so it was fine.  Anyway, he asked me what I wanted to get from my complaint and I told him that I wanted a written apology and a guarantee that the issue would be looked into.  Who was I kidding?  A written apology MIGHT happen, but investigation into the issue wouldn’t happen.

The written apology DID happen.  About a week after I spoke to that guy, I got a letter through apologising profusely for my inconvenience and promising to investigate my complaint in more depth.  Also as a token gesture (their words not mine), they would be crediting my account with a small amount by way of an apology.  Since no charges were levied against my account (I was largely complaining because of the possibility of charges rather than the appearance of them), I’m going to take the receipt of £35 as a personal victory.

So there you are people: if you’ve got a complaint about your bank, don’t bitch at your partner (which I did) or your workmates (yeah, did that too).  Instead, bitch at your bank.  If you can keep the language fairly civil (insulting but not abusive which is unusual for me), you’ll stand a good chance of being heard.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

To the 96

We witnessed the carnage, we saw the devastation
We read about drunkenness, blame and The Truth
At long last we know what we've always believed
That the Bizzies were corrupt, all the way  to the roof

The 96 sleep and they'll never return
The families can cheer, have their day in the sun
The guilty should rot and Fourth Estate burn
And Kelvin MacKenzie should turn round and run

Monday, 10 September 2012

Banks (or Why Today Sucked!)

For a long time I’ve known that I hated banks.  I don’t know when I came to know this, but the banks in this country never fail to annoy me.

I’ve been a customer with the Bank of Scotland for more years than I like to count.  In that time I’ve had numerous arguments with them about my bank accounts.  Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not some sort of financial whiz, but I like to think I’ve got a fairly tight rein on my own finances.  When Bank of Scotland merged with Halifax Building Society and then were later taken over by Lloyds TSB, I’d rather hoped that their ability to handle money would be improved.  How wrong was I?

Anyway, not to give away too much information about my personal finances I have three accounts with The Bank of Scotland, one of which is used to pay all of my regular monthly Standing Orders and Direct Debits.  One of those Standing Orders goes to my ex-wife and it’s caused me trouble in the past when that money hasn’t been transferred when expected.

Last year, my ex-wife got in touch with me to let me know that she hadn’t had the money she was expecting.  She wasn’t angry per se, but wanted me to try and get the issue sorted out.  After a bit of back & forth with the bank, it transpired that because the Standing Order that credits my bill payment account couldn’t go through until the Monday morning (3rd) and the bank won’t honour the outgoing Standing Orders until the day AFTER the cash has credited my account.  So in the end, I arranged that if my money gets transferred IN on the 1st of the month, the money to my ex-wife won’t go out until the 2nd of the month.  Stick with this, it gets better.

This morning I got a call from Cat to say that I’d had a letter from the bank advising non-payment of the Standing Order to Carla.  After no fewer than FORTY MINUTES, I had established that the Bank of Scotland actually makes up the rules as it goes along.  First of all they tried to tell me that they don’t transfer money between accounts at a weekend, despite evidence that I was able to provide that contradicted this.  Also, they’ve tried to tell me that the payment to my ex-wife was never scheduled to happen on the 2nd of the month, basically that I’d never changed the Standing Order instruction.  However the same person was at a loss to explain how there had been a period of about 5 months where the money HAD been taken on the 2nd of that month.  The response to this was that the 1st must have been a holiday Monday, but that stopped when I rhymed off the months where the 1st of the month was a mid-week.

The upshot of all this?  The girl at the end of the phone finally took the hint and lodged a complaint with the complaints department.  I spent 40 minutes on hold with the bank while the call handler consulted with the complaints department rather than transferring the call.  People, I’ve worked for more than 18 years in the Call-centre industry and I can tell you, I’ve had some angry customers on the phone.  I always found that the best way of mollifying a customer was to transfer him/her to someone that could deal with the complaint.  If nothing else, it got them off MY back.

Watch this space.  I’ve given the bank 7 (calendar) days to come back to me and explain what gives them the right to alter my bank account arrangements without my express permission.  I may have thrown in a few choice insults about Victorian banking methods and the fact that they seem to switch their bank systems off on a Friday evening.  Either way, let’s wait and see.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Yay, the Olympics are finished!!!

Ok, I’m prepared to believe that I might be the only person in the country that’s glad that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are over.  I’m not a killjoy, nor am I a totally cold-hearted individual, but here’s my thing:

As most people that will know me will attest, I’m not a fan of sport.  I used to play football with some of the guys from work once a week and I’ve been a member of a gym for the past 7 years, but I’m really not into team sports, especially not watching it.  So imagine the hell I’ve had to put up with this year – almost from the moment the Scottish football season ended, we had Euro 2012.  No sooner did that end than we were headlong into the Olympic Games that already feels as if it’s been on since this time last year.  Then a fortnight’s break and we have the Paralympics. 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the obsession with sport.  I don’t subscribe to it, but I understand it.  For some people, their sport is like my music and television.

To finish, I’d like to cite Adam Hills.  As many of you who HAVE followed the Paralympic coverage will know, he hosted a show on Channel 4 called The Last Leg (presumably named as a play on words around his own prosthetic limb).  They used to run a segment on Twitter entitled “Is it wrong to…?”.  So, in that tradition, is it wrong to see the closing ceremony of the Paralympics on the TV and think “Thank God!!”?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

In Memory Of…. Alec “The Producer” Cooper

Just a quick post tonight.  Earlier on today, a good (I’m not going to say “old” because he’s 18 months younger than me) friend posted a message on Facebook inviting people to join him for a drink this evening and mark the day 11 years ago when a friend passed away.

In all honesty, my first reaction was one of disbelief at the length of time involved, although when I sat for a second and thought about where I was living and working at the time, I realised that it was 11 years right enough.  Shit.

I came to know Alec Cooper through my friendship with Alan.  Alec was a part-time DJ who used to love mixing music for his friends and revelling in their enjoyment of his sometimes really eclectic and random mixes.  He wasn’t much for going out clubbing but when we could persuade him to, he’d be the life and soul.  My memory of him is as a really funny guy.  Not a comedian per se, but just someone who could deliver a dry one-liner and have everyone in stitches. 

I will never forget the night eleven years ago when Alan phoned me to say that Cooper was dead.  He’d committed suicide and none of us had seen it coming.  He was clearly burdened and didn’t feel that he could turn to anyone, so took what he felt was the only way out.

Whatever it was that troubled Cooper, he will undoubtedly have ended up in a better place as a result of his death.  I like to think that wherever he is, there’s an amazing party in progress, and he’s smiling his enormous smile.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Tuesday 22nd February 2011

Don’t worry dear reader, you haven’t lost a day somewhere along the lines.  I didn’t write anything yesterday for a variety of reasons, primary of which was that I couldn’t motivate myself to do it.  I’ve decided to rethink my approach to this blog a little bit: if I can’t be motivated to write then I won’t.  That may seem lazy, but I’m concerned that if I force myself to post something, I’ll end up posting something dull.

Besides, other than the fact that it was Monday (always a drag in my head) there wasn’t a lot going on.  Cat was working until later because she teaches on a Monday night so I was only in the house about 40 minutes when she phoned to tell me which train she’d be on.

Off on a quick tangent here: when I woke up on Sunday I had a ringing in my ears.  This isn’t terribly unusual: we’ve all had raucous Saturday nights out in a club and woken up on a Sunday to discover that our eardrums haven’t forgiven us yet.  The thing is though, although I was out on Saturday night, I wouldn’t have described the pub as particularly noisy.  Anyway, Cat was in the kitchen last night whistling, and the noise hurt my ears so I decided to make an appointment to see my local GP.  I’m not generally one for running to the doctor’s: in fact, I used to joke about seeing the doctor once a year whether I needed to or not.  Maybe that’s a guy thing, I don’t know.  Anyway, I rang my GP this morning and got an appointment for tonight (got lucky there – registered with a practice that runs early and late appointments once a week for those of us that work.  Didn’t know THAT when I joined them).  According to my GP, I have slightly swollen eardrums (possibly due to a mild infection) and the potential for fluid build-up in the auditory canals.  I’m not on antibiotics for it, so hopefully the ringing will stop and my hearing will improve. 

Something interesting (and I think funny) just occurred to me.  When you’re a smoker, everyone who either has never smoked or who has quit will queue up to point out the damage that you’re doing to yourself.  And they are of course right (he says, staking his claim for the moral high-ground).  I’ve now been a reformed smoker for more than five years and wouldn’t go back to it for all the money in the world.  Actually, given what they charge now for a 20-deck, you’d need all the money in the world to support that habit.  Here’s the kicker though: when I was a smoker I was horribly prone to catching colds.  Usually by the time I got to the end of March, I would have had 3 or 4 colds since the previous Christmas.  I’d wake up, spend 3 or 4 days walking around like a human snot-ball and then it would clear up.  These days, I get one cold a year but the downside is that I spent about 3 months “building up” to getting a cold, then I get a bit blocked up and think I’ve got away with it, and then it hits me like an express train when I’m not looking.  Last year, I felt a bit crap about a week before my birthday, recovered in time for my birthday and then spent about 3 days on the couch (during my time off work of course) unable to function properly.

I’ve heard it said that most men are lousy patients.  I try not to agree with such (normally feminist) sentiment but on this occasion it’s right.  Because I don’t get ill very often, it tends to hit me hard when I do and yes, I’m a whinger. 

By the way, I’ve always liked the phrase “reformed smoker”.  Back when I started driving taxis in late-1998, I generally only drove for one person and she was militantly anti-smoking.  She would never miss an opportunity to give someone grief about smoking and of course, she would NEVER allow someone to smoke in her car.  Anyway, I did a couple of shifts for someone else and one night I was sitting on the rank when a girl I knew approached the car from the back and climbed in.  She asked me if she could smoke and when I hesitated, unsure about how to answer this, she told me that Roger (the owner of the car) would normally let her.  So I decided to let her smoke but made a mental note to check this with the man himself when I took the car back.  Besides, it meant that I could have one with her.

When I took the car home to Roger, I asked him what his position was on passengers smoking in his car.  His response was that he’d been a reformed smoker for 20 years and that smokers are basically like alcoholics: a man that drinks a bottle of scotch a day would be considered an alcoholic.  If that man then got clean and never touched a drop for the rest of his life he would still be considered to be an alcoholic, albeit a reformed one.  According to Roger, although he’d been off the fags for 20 years he was still a smoker, it had just been a long time since his last one!

Good night.