Internet woes be gone!

I asked on Facebook back in April for advice as how best to get away from Virgin Media who provide our TV, landline, and internet since, in their wisdom, they had decided they deserved a huge pay rise. I disagreed that such an increase was due and so was looking around for other options.

Since then, the process of changing internet providers has exceeded my expectations of how painful it would be. And those expectations were pretty damn high. As I’d been warned, Virgin are by far the fastest with at least 130 Mbps and – as it turns out where I live – the only ones able to provide full fibre and therefore full fibre speeds. Sky was the next fastest at around 30 Mbps.

I therefore sat on it for a while because I do work from home a lot and depend on the internet. But I finally snapped when I saw that Virgin over and above the recent price hike were, and indeed are, planning to give themselves annual pay rises of RPI plus 3.9% every April forevermore (unbe-effing-lievable isn’t it?) and that Sky were doing an OK offer at £39pm for TV, phone, and internet and after investigation convinced myself that 30 Mbps should be just about OK for what I need. It also included basic Netflix for free which I was already paying £6pm for.

So I took that contract with Sky – but didn’t cancel Virgin at that point in case there were “issues” with Sky. This cynicism unfortunately proved very fortuitous.

The TV dongle thingy arrived very quickly and we were quite pleased with it. The Sky programming isn’t in the Virgin basic TV package so we weren’t used to it – and it was surprisingly good. We like “From” very much, and “Poker face” is the best series we have seen in a long long time. Love it. Love Natasha Lyonne. Cannot WAIT for another series. Just go and watch it. The main drawback was that there was no “record for later” facility like you get with Virgin and you had to pay £5 a month more to skip ads. I actually saw the lack of record as a positive as you just end up with a huge backlog to get through. The ads were annoying but Graham decided the skip price was worth it and so picked that cost up.

The fly in the ointment was the internet. First of all it took them over two weeks to come and install it. The engineer arrived at the crack of dawn (fine with me – let’s get it done), said that everything looked super simple as the phone connection box was just along the road and easily accessible, and he evidenced his confidence by installing a Sky socket in our wall via the phone line in readiness to pipe the internet in (Virgin monopolises the fast fibre connection so all other suppliers have to piggy-back on the slower phone connection). He tried to turn it on, and nothing happened. He disappeared for a while. I saw him pacing around and talking on the phone a lot. He came back and said that it turned out the phone line didn’t come from the accessible cabinet but was up a telegraph pole. Normally he could climb a telegraph pole, but this particular one had been decommissioned as dangerous and he had to wait for a cherry-picker to come and lift him up. It would be here in a couple of hours.

Time passed. I watched said engineer rise up in a cherry-picker with another man to the top of the pole where they started work. And worked. And worked. About an hour and a half later he came back and said that he could not locate my phone line. He could detect it from our house as far as the telegraph pole at which point it disappeared. He opined that since we had been with Virgin so long and not needing the allocated phone line that this had probably been misallocated to a building being split into flats, although this should not happen. The fact that if this was the answer then it was his company that misallocated it did not seem to occur to him. He said there was nothing more he could do and another engineer would have to come to put in a line underground. No, he could not give a time frame.

Time passed, a couple of weeks or so. An engineer arrived. I explained what I had been told by the previous engineer. She said that was nonsense and couldn’t understand what he was talking about, and that we had a strong phone line coming from a cabinet just up the road, and that she’d just go and turn it on. She disappeared for about an hour or so. She returned and said that in fact our phone line went to a telegraph pole and that that pole had been decommissioned and she was waiting for a cherry picker to take her up to the top where she could activate the line. I suggested that she might find that when she got to the top of the telegraph pole that she couldn’t find the line dedicated to our house, and that it had probably already been misallocated to a newly created flat. She said that never happened.

Time passed, a couple of hours or so. She returned and said she’d been up to the top of the pole and that she couldn’t trace the phone line past the telegraph pole. She pretended not to hear me when I suggested the line had been misallocated elsewhere but let me know that someone would be out to sort it out, probably the next day. “There is always a way!” she cheerfully chimed as she drove off.

Time passed, a couple of weeks or so. I received a text from Sky saying that Openreach (the firm that looks after the phone infrastructure) were having staffing issues and I would get advised of the date of a new visit in 3 days time.

A week or so passed with no message, and so did my patience. Luckily in all this I had not cancelled Virgin so could happily cancel Sky summarily without risking being without internet.

So I phoned up to cancel. I had to pick whether I was cancelling TV or internet so although I wanted to cancel both I picked internet (as the offending service). The guy I spoke to fully understood why I wanted to cancel when he saw how long it was taking and that there was no resolution in sight. However, he also said that he could only deal with the internet side of things and that after cancelling that he would need to pass me on to another team to cancel the TV and that since this was under another contract, and since I had been happily receiving that service for over a month and past the cooling-off period, there would be a cancellation fee for that service.

Well, I really really rarely bother getting annoyed with customer-facing staff. There’s just no point – they didn’t cause your problem and can’t fix your problem, but probably could if they put their mind to it make your problem ten times worse. But by this point I have to admit there was more than a hint of antagonism in my tone when I told him that I had been sold both services together, that the price for both services was dependent on taking both, and that swapping to a reasonably comparable offer with a competitor was dependent on taking both services together and I was not interested in his opinion as to whether they were two separate contracts or not. I was of the opinion that they represent one contract that Sky had not fulfilled and if any termination fee should appear it would be cancelled on the credit card and reported as fraud.

He transferred me. He transferred me to the nicest customer service telephone rep I have ever spoken to. I gave her the bare bones of the issue and she said, “Of course we would never charge you a termination fee in such circumstances! To hear that we’ve been so bad that you intend to go back to Virgin tells me all I need to know about how awful we must have been! I’ll go ahead and terminate both services for you now and there will be no termination fee. You’ve suffered enough.”

I went on hold for 15 minutes or so. She came back and said that because the service had been running so long she couldn’t cancel it as she had thought but would need to transfer me to another team! But, she was quick to point out, she would stay on the line and explain everything to them so that I wouldn’t have to and that they could then cancel the service. Please hold.

Time passed. About an hour. Listening to music that faded in and out just enough to taunt you into thinking your call had been answered when it hadn’t. Eventually some guy answered, “Hello! How can I help you?” “Er, hello?” I said, expecting the first woman to take over. “Er your colleague said she was staying on the line to explain everything – has she not?” “No, I’m afraid not. Perhaps you could run through it”.

So I did. And he agreed at least it should be terminated at no cost. But was unable to do so. The service had been running so long you see. Yes, I saw. He would have to escalate it. It should be fine and sorted by the technical team in a few days. So as long as it wasn’t activated in the meantime all should be well. No he wasn’t able to email that assurance to me – but he could send a text message confirming it? “Fine,” I said. The will to carry on breathing was ebbing out of me by this point so I decided just to assume it will be sorted soon.

Having largely navigated the leaving of Sky I turned my attention to getting a reduction out of Virgin without letting on I was effectively a captive audience.

This process was as much fun as you can probably imagine so I will spare you the minutiae and go for the highlights:

  • On the Virgin Media site I see an offer providing all the services I currently have *plus* those Sky TV programmes we’ve now grown used to at a special price of £38.50 a month! No, that’s for new customers only. (You see why I want to leave Virgin – they are just a huge FU to their existing customers). I’d almost rather pay more for the same service from someone else just so they don’t get my money.
  • Ok, if I sign up for a contract what can you do for me for the services I currently get. £67pm? No, too expensive. £62pm with your personal discount? No, I spoke to someone the other day and they offered it for £37 a month (I lie).
  • You can do it for £40? Ok deal.

This was yesterday.

Fast forward to 8 a.m. today and a knock at the door. I open it to find a beaming rather grubby-looking man in reflective-orange overalls and the air of someone who has recently been up in a cherry-picker. “Good news! We have connected your Sky internet and your service is all up and running!” His smile somewhat dimmed on viewing the appalled expression on our faces…

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I hate dealing with internet providers, and Virgin Media in particular!

Kitchen calamity

Falafel salad200

Workplace perfidy inspired this. With apologies to Babes in the Wood.


My dears do you know – sad tale of woe!
How a salad of falafel and avocado
Was left in a fridge on a warm Thursday eve
To be enjoyed the next day, or so I believed.

The broccoli was verdant, the pomegranate inviting,
The hue of the beetroot was frankly quite frightening.
And on a bed of brown rice laid lovingly down
Two turmeric falafels – the jewels in the crown!

But when Friday came round, so sad was the sound
Of soft lunch-time crying and sorrow unbound.
For swift in the night and with malice unbeaten
The salad was opened. The salad was eaten.

So ends a sad tale of a kitchen amiss
And if we learn something please let it be this:
To use a work fridge and to keep from a shock,
First place food in a lunchbox, then secure with a lock!

Facing Facebook Book Recommendations

A while ago I asked my Facebook friends if they had to recommend one book (an almost impossible task, I know) which it would be. As I am aiming to increase the variety of what I read I summarised the responses and am slowly working through them (not to the exclusion of my usual choices though). What a great list it is turning out to be – which is no surprise given the erudition of my friends who span the globe. I thought others might like to see the list too. I hope I didn’t miss any, apologies if so.

Oh and my desert island book? That would have to be I, Claudius by Robert Graves. Anyway, here is the list (in no particular order):

cover title author
The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig
Post Captain
Iacocca: An Autobiography


The End of the Affair
The Painted Veil
The Great Gatsby
The English Patient
How To Be A Brit
Three Men in a Boat (Three Men, #1)
Isle of Passion
Death Comes for the Archbishop
Oscar et la dame rose
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Fountain Overflows
The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge, #1)
The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas
Odd John
Star Maker
Pilgrim's Inn (Eliots of Damerosehay, #2)
Jane Eyre
Don Quixote
Mémoires d'Hadrien
A Christmas Memory
Cold Mountain
Death and the Penguin
Il cavaliere e la morte
cover title author
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1)
Dune (Dune Chronicles #1)
Master and Commander (Aubrey & Maturin, #1)
The Sirian Experiments

Late-night Shopping

Multi-coloured clothes pegs

He shivered at my door
And in his hand he held
Multi-coloured clothes pegs which belied
The black around his tired eyes and
The whiteness of the knuckles that gripped them in desperation.

It was his final sales round he said –
As if we might imagine that door-to-door sales of clothes pegs
Hadn’t ended in 1979 with the garish caravans and bridled ponies that brought them.

He was sorry to knock so late.
He knew folk didn’t care to be disturbed after nine,
But it was our last chance for he was off to sell his wares in Orpington tomorrow.
Or was it Neasden?
He couldn’t remember but was concerned we might miss out
On an offer we couldn’t refuse.

He had lap-top screen cleaners too and,
Naturally, zip-lock bags. Everything you might need
At ten o’clock on a Monday evening.

My heart was full that night and
I had already been counting my blessings and taking the liberty
Of counting those of my friends and my loved-ones and
I had held Graham particularly close when we kissed goodbye that morning.

I said that the marker-pens in his bag looked especially lovely
And a large grin split his thin face as his pigeon-chest puffed out
With pride at the goods he had undoubtedly chanced upon
Hours earlier.

They were his favourite and he could certainly do us a deal
If I wanted the lot – although it would be hard to part with such items
At such a price. I had a kind face and it was late and his family was waiting.
For the move to London, I presumed.

I gave him a note, too big for the price, and as I passed it to him
Our fingers touched briefly and in that moment I knew
That he knew and he knew that I knew.
And I hope he knew that I wished him luck.

Toe trauma

Stubbed toe

You rushed along,
You were too quick!
Your toe stuck out a little bit.

Your foot missed its mark
And caught the frame.
That bloody floor-polish was to blame.

You see toe strike.
You feel sick.
The clock holds back its final tick.

You stare in horror
As time slows down.
The air grows thick and close around.

You see toe crumple
At a monstrous angle.
Bits of nail appear to dangle.

You grit your teeth.
Blood at temple pounds
Blotting out all other sounds.

You know what’s coming
But all stays still.
Can pain be deferred by pure act of will?

A second’s grace
Seems to stretch for hours
As you invoke your superpowers.

But a clock’s second-hand
Won’t long be stayed
And the next minute thereby is now displayed.

As pain explodes
Your tears are streaming.
You’re surprised to note some distant screaming.

One single thought
Now ousts all others;
A piece of sagely advice of Mother’s.

What did she say
When we were nippers?
Do not run, and wear your slippers!

Yogi Eulogy

Yogi Bear

A eulogy for JOLINIQUE Yogi Bear, 29 November 2001 to 2 March 2017.
He came to us as a tortured soul, but left loved and loving.

The day Cats Protection dropped Yogi Bear and his sister Yasmin off to us at the relatively tender age of 3, Yogi prowled around the room inquisitively sniffing the new surroundings. “That’s unusual,” Beverly the Cats Protection lady said, “he’s been hiding in corners the whole time he was at the foster home. He must be coming out of his shell!”

He wasn’t. We barely saw him for the next 5 years or so. He took up residence behind the sofa in the spare room (with a convenient radiator behind it) and there he stayed. After a year we might see him come down in the evening to eat and drink, or use the litter tray, but this generally happened during the day when we were at work, or during the night. The only evidence that we had a cat, other than his more gregarious sister, during that time was a poo on the wooden floor in the corner of the kitchen. Or occasionally in front of the TV or, just to keep you on your toes, in front of the bathroom door. We started leaving lights on at night to ensure safe passage from bed to loo to avoid treading in any evidence of Yogi’s existence. Luckily he always pooed on a wooden surface which was easy to clean, and never weed anywhere other than in his tray. If he had weed with the gay abandon with which he pooed our relationship such as it was would have come to a very abrupt and early end. His name evolved from Yogi Bear to Pooh Bear to Yogi Poo. He would answer to all three, or not, as was more usually the case.

We saw more of him in years 2 to 5, but the slightest noise from the outside would send him scurrying to hide (he had a particular horror of crying babies, but I think we can all forgive him that). Given that we live on a busy road and our front door opens straight onto the pavement, this happened a lot. If anyone should so much as knock at the front door, much less enter, he would not only hide but not reappear for a good 24 hours. People thought that we had made our other cat up.

He and his sister had never been close. When we first had them they were so scared that they would hide in a corner and literally lie one on top of the other so they could squeeze into as small a space as possible. We had assumed from this that they got on. However, it soon became apparent that they couldn’t stand each other. Other than the nightly spot-the-poo competition, the other main evidence of his existence was clumps of fur sticking out of Yasmin or a new scratch on her nose. He was a bully in almost the full human meaning of the word. Cowardly in his own interactions with the world, he was jealous of his more confident, smaller sister and punished her for the love and attention she received that could have been his for the asking.

After 5 years when he was around 8 years old he started to mellow a little bit. We saw more of him in the evenings and he would sometimes sit in close proximity – never touching us – but near enough to join in with the family vibe. A knock at the door would still send him scurrying to hide but he would reappear within hours rather than days (unless the guest stayed – people outside of the family would still not believe we owned a second cat). He became more affectionate towards us and we discovered that he loved kisses rained down on the top of his head – much as you might imagine an 18th century lothario repeatedly kissing the back of his beloved’s hand. He became very vocal and had the loudest miaow of any cat I have ever owned, particularly if he wanted Dreamie treats which were his favourite.

Although he seemed to enjoy being stroked for a short while, he could never stand being brushed. For a short-hair cat his fur was long, but personal grooming was never top of his priorities and his fur grew matted and clumped. During a check-up with the vet when he was around 12 we asked if the vet could help with this and she suggested shaving him. We agreed, and when she finished the pile of fur removed easily towered higher than the rat-like cat that shivered beside it. We hadn’t timed this well and the weather was cold. Yogi therefore discovered for the first time the benefit of getting beneath a duvet. He couldn’t work out the difference between the edge of the duvet and a wrinkle in the top and would paw randomly at the cover until either he was able to flip it up to get his head under or we held it up for him. Spooning with a purring cat was an unexpected experience but he seemed to enjoy it and his temperament improved further. I hate to think that for all those years at least some of his grumpiness could have been down to matted fur (which can irritate the skin beneath) but we’ll never know.

At the age of 13 his sister died suddenly (probably from cancer but it was so quick there was no investigation). We were told that Yogi might go into decline at the sudden loss of his companion. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Almost overnight he became much calmer, more loving, and much more confident. A knock at the door would send him to the stairs (a pivotal point from which to continue to flee if the visitor turned out to be the cat-attacking sort) but he would soon come down and ask for food or use his tray. Guests were amazed to find out that Yogi Bear really did exist and was not simply a figment of our fevered imagination. Over the next year it got to the point where a knock at the door would do nothing more than make him raise his head to see who might be coming in – after 11 or so years of the scardiest cat I’ve ever known the difference was startling. The death of poor Yasmin really was the start of life for Yogi.

During this time he was diagnosed with pancreatitis. This manifested itself generally in vomiting. Since much of our house is wooden-floored, and we were used to the poo situation, we took this in our stride. Literally. Scoop, spray, wipe was second nature to us by now and since we had a loving, attentive cat to show for the effort we didn’t resent it. However, Yogi’s weight slowly but inexorably went down – much as the weight of the other members of the house went up. Yogi had always been a fussy eater but he started begging for food, eating a tiny amount, and then begging for more a few hours later – constantly and throughout the night. He would walk around licking the floor and the French windows and became bedraggled-looking and rather forlorn. Graham took him to the vet’s and the nurse felt a small lump in his abdomen. He would need to go back the next day for an ultra-sound which the vet would need to perform. Best case scenario was that it was poo (which would have been ironic). Worse case was… well, clearly cancer.

That was today.

The ultra-sound showed that it was a tumour situated by the pancreas. The pancreatitis, the weight-loss, the neurotic licking behaviour, everything indicated pancreatic cancer. Only opening him up could confirm this for sure – but we decided that even if it were cancer we wouldn’t go for chemo-therapy. It wouldn’t have been kind at his age. Pancreatic cancer is aggressive and painful and the palliative care itself unpleasant. So we made the hardest decision we’ve had to make, and made the call to have Yogi Bear put to sleep. The decision to end the life of a being that would, at least, have had days, maybe weeks, possibly months of OK life – but also likely have had a time of uncomfortable treatment and unhappiness – tore us apart. Was it for our comfort and convenience or his? We agonized but made that call. And now, several hours and rivers of tears later, it feels right. So right that I can draft this eulogy for the tortured soul that had been Yogi Bear and for the loving, comforting, and joyful companion that Yogi Poo became.

Flying low

Fly down

I was walking past a sex shop today when a brisk wind alerted me that my fly was down. I quickly turned to the wall (of the sex shop) to adjust it and turned back to make direct eye contact with a neighbour walking the other way.

Let’s just say…awkward.

Graham’s pet life


There was a little baby,
His parents called him Graham.
He had a mop of chestnut hair
And dimples that would slay ’em.

His parents taught him right from wrong
And how to say his prayers.
But that didn’t stay his hand that day
When he threw the cat right down the stairs.

He didn’t know that this was cruel
And cried when he realised.
So when the cat made to run away
He wasn’t quite surprised.

A tortoise was the recompense
And Tommy was his name.
And though Tommy didn’t play that much
Graham loved him just the same.

Tommy rather liked to sleep
And would stay snug in his shell.
So when some git stole the little guy
It was rather hard to tell.

When the pain had at long last passed
The family took in a dog.
Candy was a well-named beast
Since on doughnuts she would hog.

Graham tried to help the mite
And swapped the doughnut for jam tart.
But the harm had sadly now been done
And so stopped Candy’s heart.

After this his own was broken
And quite numbed through from grief.
He then swore he’d have pets no more
And pet-shops sighed back in relief.

Yet many years passed, and later
He took in two rescue cats.
They got love and care and dreamie treats
And hessian-tough scratching mats.

He loved those two sweet pussies
Who turned round and loved him back.
He doted on their every need
And put their lives right back on track.

And so the curse was lifted
And love filled a happy house.
The only soul here with something to fear
Was a timid little mouse.

Naked jogging

Bum crack

Top life hack. Buy tracksuit bottoms that are slightly too long in the leg for you and you’re treading on the ends.

When you climb the stairs to bed you will find that the bottoms have removed themselves for you along with your pants, saving time in getting straight into bed.

If it ain’t broke…


When I was buying my lunch I saw a bottle of apple flavoured Jim Beam behind the counter, and was tempted.

Just had a little tipple and bleurgh!! Another bottle to sit in the cupboard until a late night gathering runs later than the off-licence closing time!