Firstly, apologies for not blogging last week. Let’s just say intentions were good, but time and motivation were severely lacking. Now my shifts have changed and some weeks I’m working Thursday, Friday, Saturday, it means I don’t have time to write my blog on a Saturday as I used to, and Wednesday feels too early in the week to even think about writing it, and how can I chat about the happenings in my week when the week has barely started?
Anyway, I’m here now, and after the couple of weeks I’ve had, boy do I feel a nice big rant a-brewing, so grab your Sunday beverage of choice and fasten your seatbelt.
Okay, so as you know I returned to work on the 15th of April, and oh my goodness, went straight back into madness. No gradual easing in, no dipping of the toe in the water. Nope. Waterbomb straight into the deep end. It was manic. Like Boxing Day and New Year’s Day sales, all rolled into one. I seriously don’t know where the people came from, but came they did, all with money they were desperate to spend. Which is good, I guess, both for the company and my pay packet, but a little spacing between the hoards would have been nice.
I’ve found it quite hard going back and I’m stressed and struggling to deal with the sheer people-ness of it. Going from living quiet days at home with only Miss F for company, to suddenly being plunged into having to put my people face on for eight hours at a time has been quite a culture shock. Also, there’s the whole charging around aspect again, as I dash from work and out to collect Miss F from her work, then home and trying to sort and cook dinner whilst unloading the dishwasher, fetching in washing, feeding a whinging cat, and trying to lay and light a fire, before collapsing on the sofa at seven with a plate of dinner and no intention of moving, or even thinking about moving, until I drag my weary carcass up to bed – now do you understand why I didn’t blog last week?
I know millions of people are in the same boat, and I bet I’m not the only one thinking wistfully of the gently paced days of lockdown. Still, it is what it is, so one must adapt and adjust. I’m working today and Monday, then I have four days off, then I’m working all weekend because the other part-timer is on holiday and then I’m on holiday. Yippee. A whole seven days off. So much planned, but I already know that the week will whizz by like a gazelle on speed.
Now, what’s been happening? Well, firstly, the insurance issue has raised its ugly head again. Yep, I thought that was all done and dusted as well, but nope. I received a letter from the underwriters, an identical letter, and a claim form to complete as the one I submitted at the beginning of February, stating that I needed to complete it to process my claim.
Huh? I thought, what are they drivelling on about? This is all done, finished, car fixed and paid for. So, I wrote that on the letter, stuck it in the pre-paid envelope and posted it back. Then thought no more of it until I got home from work on Thursday evening and Miss F said someone from the insurance company had left a message saying that they’d been trying to get in touch with me and that if I didn’t give them the information they needed, then my claim would be voided. Huh?! What?! Checking my phone, I saw that a text had come from them between my lunch break and me getting home. There was a link they wanted me to click on. Well, I don’t have a smartphone so good luck with that. I decided to call them in the morning. I generally find in situations like this it’s better to speak to an actual human being.
Friday was busy, but I managed to give them a call back on the number left on the answerphone and got through to Rory, who, judging by the noises off stage, was still working from home. Yes, I had already completed the form, he patiently explained, but I had completed it for the brokers, and they hadn’t passed it onto them, the underwriters. Well, why not? I demanded. Surely when they passed my case over to them, the brokers had included all information pertaining to it? He sighed, you’d think, wouldn’t you, was his comment, but no, it had to be done again so they could go after the Yodel delivery driver’s insurance company with as much information as possible. Apparently, the other company are being arses about it. My neighbour, who was a witness, didn’t actually SEE the collision. He answered the door and took the delivery, closed the door, thirty seconds later heard the big bang, and ran to the window to see the van reversing down the road at speed with me in hot pursuit, and the wing of my car hanging off. But the company are claiming that in the split seconds in-between another very large white van could have come from nowhere and smashed into the side of my car and then, just as mysteriously, disappeared.
Absolute horse crap!
So, Rory is going to send me another form which I must complete with as much detailed information as possible. Oh, I’ll give them details all right. I asked if I could use a separate page and was told I could use as many pages as I deemed necessary and draw as many pictures and take as many photos as possible to illustrate why I believe the accident was in no way my fault, and why I believe this toerag of a man should cough up the £250 it cost to mend my car. Talk about being cheap. You were careless mate; you damaged someone else’s property. Be a man about it, fess up to what you did, agree to let your insurance pay out and then we can all move on! Jeez, why do some people have to be like this? Isn’t there enough stress and angst in the world without this?
I asked Rory what the worst-case scenario was if the driver refuses to admit fault and his insurance company won’t pay. Well, it seems I won’t get the £100 policy excess back, which won’t be the end of the world, and I will lose my no claims bonus status, which is appalling. I was in my house, my car was parked, in what fair or sane world can blame be pinned on me?! Life is all buggery bollocks sometimes.
Next thing on the crapola list – I’ve had to buy a new washing machine. Yes, my old one was about seven or eight years old, and I know they don’t make things to last anymore, but it’s yet one more niggling annoyance. Over the past month, my washing machine has been getting noisier and noisier. During the lockdown, I couldn’t do much about it, and it was still functioning, just … being a bit vocal about it. But now it sounds like a pneumatic drill is being used in the kitchen and when it hits the spin cycle the Challenger space shuttle taking off is quiet in comparison. My previous machine did the same thing, so I called in my appliance fixer guy. He looked at it, sucked in the air over his teeth, and told me it was the restraining bolts that hold the drum in place. Over the years and constant use, they become compromised until finally they snap, and nothing is restraining the drum, hence the noise. Once they go, he said, there is nothing to be done but replace the whole machine. He then packed up his box of toys, charged me a call-out fee and left.
So, when this machine began to do the same thing, I knew what it was. I also knew there was no point wasting my money on a call-out fee so I’ve been on the Argos website and ordered a new washing machine and it will be here next Thursday. Until then, we’ll need to wear noise-cancelling headphones every time I put a load on. The last time I bought a washing machine from Argos, they were offering a disposal and installation package for £50 which I thought wasn’t bad, so I took advantage of it. I do remember my dear old dad’s penny-pinching soul being outraged that I was paying £50 for someone to take my washing machine away. But when I asked if he was going to come and do it, there was silence down the phone. Guessing that’s a no then, dad.
I was hopeful they were offering the same service and was even prepared for it to cost more, after all, it had been eight years. But no, still £50, so I clicked on the button and added it to my order. Now, my washing machine is in an awkward position, so I am hoping that the delivery team who come this time are as obliging as the last ones. The machine is located in a cupboard in a narrow passageway so getting it out is difficult. I mean, washing machines aren’t exactly light and having to walk one out of a very confining space and manhandle it out of the passageway is hard enough. Then there is the whole issue of unplugging it, unhooking it from the pipes behind it and installing the new one. Above the washing machine is a sturdy shelf on which sits the tumble drier. Both machines are plugged in behind the drier, so it must be eased forward enough to get an arm in, and the washing machine plug pulled out and dropped down through the hole in the shelf. And then, of course, when installing the new one, the drier has to be eased forward again, and the washing machine plug fed up through the hole – all whilst holding a drier on your chest. Are you beginning to understand why I think it’s worth £50 of anyone’s money? They will also test the machine and take away all the packaging. Why would you not say yes to this service?
All in all, the whole situation was a niggle, but not a particularly annoying one, unlike the ongoing one I have with my utility supplier. A couple of months ago, they emailed me informing me that they were putting my monthly direct debit up from £88 to £155! A huge jump and an unnecessary one. Yes, I was in debt to them by about £150, but we were coming out of winter and I’m always in debt at that time of year. The debt is then cleared in the spring, and credit builds up in the account over the summer to help carry me through the winter which is the most expensive time for gas and electricity. Every utility company I’ve ever been with has understood this but not Green Supplier. Instead, I get a somewhat hysterical email acting as if I were thousands of pounds in debt with no way of ever clearing it.
I immediately contacted them through the chat option on their website – couldn’t find a customer helpline number, my preferred mode of communication – and explained the situation to them. Not only are we coming into warmer weather, I typed, when the heating is going on less frequently, but with drier weather, I wouldn’t be using the tumble drier as much. Nights were drawing out, so lights were going on later. Plus, as the lockdown was over and we had returned to work, we were no longer home all day using devices. I received a somewhat confusing email back stating that all direct debits were calculated to ensure their customers never ended up in debt, but they would take on board my comments and investigate it. I heard nothing further, but when my next direct debit came out, I checked my account and, sure enough, I was now over £100 in credit with them.
I assumed that the company would see this, acknowledge that I had been correct, and keep my direct debit at its normal rate. That was very stupid of me. Upon checking my bank statement earlier in the week, I found to my horror that they had whipped £155 out, so now I’m almost £300 in credit with them. I’m annoyed about this, why didn’t they listen to me? I can’t afford to be paying so much each month unnecessarily, and it means they will owe me hundreds of pounds, and yes, I know I will probably get that back, but that could take weeks, and now I have to go through the whole rigmarole of contacting them again, explaining the whole situation again, and hoping this time I will connect with someone whose brains aren’t located in their anal region and will LISTEN to me and see the logic in what I’m saying. My contract with this company expires in August, I have no plans to stay with them because of this, so I want this sorted now. The last thing I want is to be chasing a company I’m no longer with for money they owe me – I have a feeling that’s a chase I might not win.
And now we come to Sky. We have a Sky account but only have the most basic TV package you can have with them. What with having Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV, and Disney Plus, we don’t need Sky TV – and besides, they are seriously behind in the quality of programmes they offer. So, I pay £35 a month for the basic package, unlimited broadband, plus use of landline but I do get charged for any calls I make on there so I tend not to call anyone if I can possibly help it. I also pay an extra £10 a month for Miss F’s mobile phone to be with them. So, £45 in all. This has been the situation for years. But, when I checked my bank account, I saw that for no reason whatsoever, Sky had doubled my monthly payment to £75! No warning, no discussion, no negotiation, no reason given. Nope, they just plundered my bank account and took what they wanted, probably hoping I wouldn’t notice.
Not on Sky, not bloody on. But it means I now must try and contact them, and I know it’s an absolute ball-ache trying to get hold of anyone in customer services in Sky, I know it’s going to take time I don’t have, and patience I no longer possess. And I know that I’m going to have to throw all my toys out of my pram, pout, stamp my feet, threaten to leave and really mean it, before they will probably play ball and put the monthly rate back down to something sensible.
If they don’t play ball, I will leave, but that will be a pain in the arse as well. Having to find another broadband provider, having to change my email address everywhere!! Having to shift Miss F’s mobile account to another company, and the whole cockamamie hoops we’ll have to jump through to move her number. Yes, it’s doable, and yes, I will do it, if I must, rather than bow to Sky bully boy tactics and stay with them if they don’t reduce the payment, but oh, I don’t want to. It’s yet more time, more stress, more phone calls, more headache-inducing angst. Why is life never simple? You get straight, you think – right, that’s everything sorted – then two seconds later, bam, the shit hits the fan again and you grind your teeth in sheer bloody frustration at how buggery bollocking annoying everything is.
Then, we’ve had the whole thorny issue of student finance. As you know, Miss F has been accepted at her dream university. It’s what she desperately wants, it’s all she’s been dreaming of for years and I really want it for her. But it’s expensive and without the very generous student loan she is entitled to, it would be an impossible dream. So, as soon as applications for the upcoming year were allowed, we carefully went through the form online, completed it all, sent them whatever bits of paper they needed, and considered it done. Because I earn diddly squat, she is entitled to her tuition fees paid in their entirety and almost £10,000 a year in living expenses. Which, as I told her, if she can’t live on that then she seriously has a problem, as I’m paying a mortgage, running a whole house, and feeding two of us plus a cat on not much more.
We thought it was all done and going through the system. Then Miss F was invited to take part in an online discussion and information forum on her new university, and one of the subjects they talked about was student finance. Our ears pricked up at the news that there is a small bursary that she would be entitled to of £1000 per year. It’s for students from low-income households and will automatically be awarded so long as she has ticked the box on the form giving the Student Finance people permission for her details to be shared with her university.
Miss F pulled a panicked face. She had seen no such box on her form, and she had gone through it minutely so was confident if it had been there, she would have seen it and ticked it. She typed the question about it. The tutor said it should have been on the form, but she was to phone student finance and speak to them about it.
So, yesterday, Miss F settled down with the phone number, her application number, and what she needed to ask and called Student Finance. We timed how long she was on hold. 56 minutes! Almost an hour of nonstop elevator, do your head in, shopping made easy muzak, and reassurances that her call was important to them, but had she looked on their website for any answers to any queries she might have? She hung on and hung on until finally, the call was answered. Miss F explained the situation. At first, the guy seemed unable to grasp the problem but then said there was a sliding button on the form that she needed to switch to grant sharing permission. Miss F said she hadn’t seen it, was he sure it was on there? Oh yes, he assured her, it was there, she had obviously missed it. But, whilst she was on, he was looking at her application and could see it was on the verge of being rejected because there was a discrepancy between the amount of income I had stated, and the amount of income H.M. Revenue & Customs had confirmed.
WTF?! I grabbed the phone from her, told the guy I was her mother, and what exactly did he mean? After much discussion and toing and froing, we think we’ve figured out what happened. I had to insert my income figure from the P60 issued on 6 April 2020, which I did, but my total income figure wasn’t a round number, there was a rogue 25p. We tried to enter the whole amount, but it wouldn’t accept the pence so all we could do was put the pounds. But of course, this doesn’t tally exactly with what H.M. Revenue & Customs have on their form, so the figures are out by 25p.
Now, wouldn’t you think someone would have the sense to realise that the form doesn’t accept pence, look at the two figures and go, okay, it’s only 25p. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t make an iota of difference. The household income must be below £25,000 per year to qualify for this level of finance and my income is well below that, so it’s not as if that 25p would push me over some sort of band. No, as usual, it is red tape, algorithms, and people being unbelievably petty and creating yet more angst, stress, worry, and work for everyone involved. So, following the guy’s advice we have now uploaded my P60 for the period required to them, and, as per his further advice, uploaded my P60 for the 6 April 2021 as well, just in case.
I hope this has sorted the issue. If they reject her Student Finance, I will kick up such a stink they’ll be able to see it from space. Miss F qualifies on every level so there is no reason for such a thing to happen. Don’t worry, the guy reassured us, this happens all the time. Well, if it happens all the time, fix the buggery bollocking issue! Either change the income box on the form to include any pence or put a little line explaining that if there are any pence it is crucial to round the sum up to the nearest pound, not down (as we did).
Hopefully, by manually submitted the actual P60s we have sorted the issue. I’ll keep you posted.
So, then Miss F went back onto the Student Finance website, pulled up her application form and together we scrutinised it inch by smegging inch, and you know what, she was correct, there is no box, button, or slider that we must click to allow sharing permission. It’s simply not there. We spent an hour going over and over the form. By this time, Miss F was stressed out of her head and sporting the beginnings of an anxiety migraine so bad she had to call off work. The only option we have is to call Student Finances again and get them to stay on the line whilst they tell us whereabouts on this bloody form this mythical, non-existent button is! But by now it was late Friday afternoon, and neither of us fancied another hour sitting on the phone feeling our brains leak from our ears as we listened to that never-ending, soul-destroying muzak.
Why is life so hard? Miss F howled at one point. And what could I say? Welcome to the world of adulting, honey, it’s shite and it only gets shittier the older you get. It’s an endless round of petty inconveniences that in themselves don’t amount to much but piled on top of all the other shitty things you must deal with daily, add up to a constant barrage of annoying buggery bollocks that will slowly drive you demented and drain the will to live from your soul.
Right, I think that’s it for my whining and ranting … let’s see … work, insurance, washing machine, utilities, Sky, Student Finance … yep, I think that’s it. Thank you for putting up with my rant.
Okay, so let’s try to end on a positive note. Kiss & Tell, book four of the Blackwood Family Saga is scheduled to be published on Wednesday and everything is looking set for a smooth, hitch free launch – but, this is life, and, as we all know, life can be a bit shite, so I’m braced for problems. To celebrate the launch of my twelfth book I’ve decided to do something I’ve never done before and offer one of my books as a free download.
That’s right, this is an exclusive heads-up for the nine of you who read my blog. On the 12th, 13th, and 14th of May, book one of the Blackwood Family Saga, Lost & Found, will be free to download. That’s right, completely, and utterly free! Not only that, but book two in the saga, Fixtures & Fittings, will be only 99p (or local currency equivalent). What with Kiss & Tell currently only being £2.99 (or local currency equivalent) to pre-order that means if you wish to snag the first four books of the Saga, instead of it costing you £15.96, it will cost you only £7.97. What an absolute bargain! So why not click on the Kiss & Tell link on my books page and book your pre-order at the sale price, then look out on the 12th and grab the other three books in the series. At these prices, you’d be crazy not to.
But hurry, on the stroke of midnight on the morning of the 15th all prices will go back up to their normal levels and this amazing deal will be over.
As most of you know, I have never run a free offer on any of my books before and I have never run a sale at 99p and, depending on how many downloads it generates, I may never do it again, so this may be your only chance to grab four Julia Blake books at a remarkable cut-throat price.
Now I need to go, there is laundry to do, beds to make, a fire to lay, shopping to do, and a dinner to prep. At least, you got a nice girthy blog to make up for missing last week, which I hope you enjoyed even though is was mainly a good grumble and a rant.
Take care and try not to let life grind you down.