Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Tele-Sales Tales

       I don’t like companies who get hold of my mobile number and then try and sell me something I don’t want, or pretend they know what I need or want.  My family know the routine – I might listen for a second or two, string them along for a good few minutes, and then tell them bluntly that they are frauds and liars!  Take the call I had a little while ago….

     “Hello, my name is So-And-So from Mumble Company.  I’d like to talk to you about the accident you had last year. We can get compensation for you.”

     “Oh, really?!” I ask incredulously, since I didn’t have an accident last year, or this year or any other year!

     “Yes, ma’am,” they’re always polite and calm, they obviously have a good anger management consultant.

     “Go on.”  Might as well hear what they think they know!

     “You had an accident in DooDah Road last year and we can arrange a sum in compensation for you.”

     That’s a bit scary, since I now know they have my mobile number and they know which road I live in.

    “Can you tell me where you got this information?” I ask politely, being the perfectly-within-her-rights polite customer – or that’s how it’s meant to come across.  The answer is mumbled and vague and the next statement on their list is proffered, something about another car which smashed into the back of my car.  Since I personally don’t own a car and haven’t driven the family car for over a year, I think I’m entitled to know what further information they think they have!

    “I’m sorry,” say I, apologetically and sounding as blonde as I can, “Can you just remind me what happened; it was a while ago and you know, one does tend to forget or block out bad experiences, plus it seems I may have developed a little amnesia as a result of the accident.” Ha-ha! Amnesia!  But this is said with all genuineness trying to prise out how this Mumble Company has come to the fantastical conclusion that I’ve had an accident!

    “I’m sorry ma’am, we are not given all the information, that is protected by Data Protection laws.”  Now that’s a laugh! And then I’m in for the kill!

   “Sorry, what was your name again?” I at least start politely. “So-And-So, I think you should know that I have never had an accident. The information you have is totally false. Maybe you are aware of this and you know that the company you work for is fraudulent and deceitful, which of course makes you fraudulent and deceitful.  But maybe you aren’t aware, so I am now enlightening you. Your company is lying to me, to other so called clients and maybe even to you. If you are aware of this, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you aren’t aware, you should now feel ashamed and get out and get a real job.  Goodbye.”  I wait a few seconds for the anger-management polite response of “I’m sorry, ma’am, thank you for your time,” before ending the call.

     Honestly do these people think we’re all so stupid? Maybe some are that stupid, but sometimes it’s the So-And-So who is really stupid!  Five minutes later my phone rings again.

     “Hello, my name is So-And-So from Mumble Company, I’d like to talk to you about the accident you had last year. We can get compensation for you.”

     For a couple of seconds I’m dumbstruck. If he was calling to apologise, I’m sure I wouldn’t have got the entire introductory sentence.

    “So-And-So, you spoke to me a couple of minutes ago! You know, the woman who ranted and raved and called you deceitful and a liar!” This time he put the phone down halfway through my rant!!

    Who would ever want to work in a tele-sales environment with invisible clients like me?!!! 

Friday, 22 April 2011

In the beginning ....

          A few years ago I bought a writers magazine for my daughter who was about to embark on a university course in creative writing. However, I found the mag fascinating and started putting pen to paper myself! One of the competitions in the mag was to write a short story based on a simple photograph. I remember the picture well – it was a woman with a red umbrella walking up some steps. I wrote the story but didn’t submit it. At least it was a beginning!

         Soon afterwards I read a novel which began with someone describing photographs to a blind girl. There was a story in everything she described: the reason why the caravan was at an angle, the weather, the tree, the Spring flowers. This inspired me to start building a family story book on the photos I have in biscuit tins and ice-cream tubs. It was like stepping into a time machine with every picture; I recalled the occasion, the place, the people, the laughs, and the tears.  Needless to say this can leave one in a rather quiet and melancholic state of mind. I have written short stories and poetry, but I don’t have the patience to carry an entire novel. 
        When my mother turned 70, we bought her a lever-arch file, a pad of paper and a brand new pen and instructed her to write down her life story! She was always saying things like: “When we were kids….”, or “Your Granddad used to….”.  She enjoyed the experience and we now have a lovely story of her childhood, early days of marriage, travels to a far away country, fears and aspirations. Although I’m nowhere near 70, I decided I needed to at least start on my own life story – for my children and still-to-come grandchildren!  I’ve got 67 pages, with a few photos, and haven’t yet got to the part of meeting my darling husband!
       Fortunately I’m a diary writer. For my first Christmas after finishing school, my sister gave me a very small page-by-page diary to record my first impressions of working life. The following year I continued on note-pads – which are now falling apart and almost out of date order! Apart from quite a gap when my children were very small – which would probably have been good fun and the most interesting parts of a diary – I’ve sat each morning over coffee and breakfast and recorded frustrations, the weather, and family news, so it was easy to start writing a life-story, but it’s possibly also a life-long task!
       And then to blogs ….. And a family website ….. And an internet-published story …. And a real published poem! 
      Come to think of it, I have a vague memory of saying I was “writing a story” as a 9 or 10 year old, so maybe the beginning was earlier than I thought!?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Ghosts of Grandad's Past!

There is always the danger, when researching a family history, of finding the proverbial ‘skeleton in the cupboard’. Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve found anything too serious yet!  But through the numerous contacts family history researchers build up, we often get some vital information and sometimes -  photographs!


Last week I received a photo of the KELLAND great grandfather – Francis Arthur Kelland. He’s the one who left Dartmouth some time after 1871 to settle in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa.  Since there was a business in East London called “Kelland & Booth”  (painters, decorators, coach trimmers) established in 1880, it seems he may have returned to his home country a little while afterwards and married Annie Jane Gillard in November 1882 in Dartmouth. He might have left her a few years earlier promising to set up a business and then come back for her – which he did!  The photo comes from the archives of the East London Municipality (South Africa), where he was a town councillor from 1889 – 1895.

Also last week I had an email from the Northampton Museum (UK) saying they had received a pair of early 19th century shoes with a very clear label inside.  To H.R.H. Princess Augusta” above the Lion & Unicorn coat of arms and “Holesgrove Boot & Shue Maker, 67 Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly” clearly printed with scroll sides beneath.  (The Northampton Museum & Art Gallery is said to be “the home of the World Famous Show Collection” - http://www.northampton.gov.uk/museums)

Granny Crossley – Violet Maud – was born a Holesgrove in 1894. Her Great Great Grandfather William was a Boot & Shoe Maker at Burlington Arcade, in the Piccadilly or Kensington/Chelsea area, as was her Great Grandfather William Holesgrove!  Which means that the shoes that the Northampton Museum have, were made by the current Kelland’s maternal Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather!! (See an earlier blog for more on the Chelsea Holesgrove's)

The lady at the Museum very kindly provided some information on the type of shoe:  The shoes date to 1820’s-1830’s. They are typical of the style for women at the time sporting a square toe, flat sole and look very like ballet shoes. They are satin lined with white kid leather and have blue kid leather toe caps.”

And in case you’re wondering how she got hold of me …. she obviously used faithful Google and found our family website!!

Final words come from my dear sister-in-law in response to my Facebook status announcing the Shoe Find: "Just to remind people, don't have any skeletons in the cupboard; someone, somewhere, some era, will find them!"

(Thanks to Keith Tankard for the photo of F.A. Kelland, and "Mrs King" via Rebecca Shawcross of the Northampton Museum & Art Gallery for allowing me to use the picture of the shoes.)

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Follow up to London Traffic!

This is a follow up to "Argghgh! London Traffic!"

So the first trip to destination 8.9 miles from home through London at 10am Sunday took approximately 35 minutes to drive.  The return trip starting at 12.45pm took 75 minutes.  The second trip to the same destination leaving home at 5.15pm took 66 minutes and the return trip at 8pm took 33minutes!!!

I said I'd count the traffic lights : 8.9 miles, 66minutes driving we went through 52 traffic and pedestrian lights! 30 were pedestrian lights, 22 traffic lights. Of these 22 we had to come to a stop at 8. (Londonders being 'polite' to buses and allowing long station wagons to do U-turns in the middle of the busy road, being the main reasons for slow progress!)

Driving in London is just not fun!  But I did get home with a bunch of flowers (benefits of being the preacher's wife), had a scrumptious bacon buttie (bacon sandwich for the non-Brits!), and watched the last strains of the PGA - yep! I watched golf!

Argghh! London traffic!

Today it took us 75 minutes to drive 8.9 miles (14.3km)! That’s about from our old home in Howick, South Africa, to my daughter’s home in Hilton – normally no more than 15 minutes drive (I think!, but definitely nowhere near over an hour.) In 75 minutes I could have driven from Howick to Durban!

 But this is London. It took us about 35 minutes to get to our destination and 75 minutes to get back! It was a sunny day, all Londoners came out to play! In their cars! They don’t use their cars during the week. They use public transport to get to work – busses, trains and tubes – so Sunday is the day to give the car a little run – uhm, maybe a crawl, not even a walk.

Why did it take so long, apart from the fact that the roads are so congested? I think a lot of the blame lies in the road system itself - in the road layout. I have never ever seen such chaotic road systems as one finds in the central London area! You'll be travelling along quite reasonably at 20mph (32kph), if you're lucky, (speed limit is 30mph - 48kph), -  but it's not often you get a road clear enough to go at such a breakneck speed! - on a two-lane, two-way road. You will have to stop at one of the trillion traffic lights, and then discover that just on the other side of the lights, the lane you're in disappears, quite suddenly! Just to be clear, it doesn't matter whether you're in the left or right hand lane, that is the one which will disappear and you'll have to indicate that you're barging into the traffic alongside. By the time you've done this, the road has become two lanes again and you're at the next traffic light, and the lane will again disappear across the intersection, usually the opposite lane to the one previously!

Visitors have been heard to say that Londoners are so polite on the road: they always allow drivers from side roads to come in to the stream of traffic. Well, yes, you’re going so slowly that it’s just downright rude not to let the poor soul in – but then again, some drivers are just downright rude! On the other hand there are so many yellow zig-zag lines with “Keep Clear” across intersections, that the side roads just take advantage and feed in anyway – slowing down the main stream of traffic immensely.

And talking of road layout, it’s quite common to have to cross all three or four lanes of traffic to get to the next section of your route.
It’s almost unimaginable, but if you picture a snail’s trail across your paving on a misty morning - very few straight lines, criss-crossing, sharp turns, bends and corners - that is what the London road system looks like!  “Someone” said the English had designed their roads like this to confuse the Germans during the war – only the English can understand, and explain the logic of, their road system!

So we travelled home at a sedate 10 miles per hour, feeling quite windblown when for ten yards we managed to get to 20mph. That would be when we were first at the red traffic light – and we caught nearly every one of the 100 or so on this particular trip – and had open space to catch up to the bottle-neck from the previous red-lighters!
And don’t forget the bus lanes – can we or can’t we drive in the bus lane today? Some are marked “Mon-Sat”, some are marked “Mon – Sun”, some are marked “Mon – Sun 7am-7pm”. You just have to read the little blue signs while edging closer to the car in front and not getting hooted at for taking so long to close the gap, and watching the bicycles or motorbikes take your side mirror off as they whizz past, and the pedestrian stepping off the pavement – was that a pedestrian crossing? Was it a Zebra crossing or a Pelican crossing? Or maybe a Puffin crossing or Toucan crossing? Or was it a Pegasus crossing?!! (Oh my goodness, I see that they call the lights at a railway
crossing “Wig-Wags”!!)  And before you know it you’re at another traffic light!

Some bright spark in 2007 said that there were too many traffic lights in London and that they were responsible for increased congestion! Doesn’t seem that the powers-that-be read that article!  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/road-safety/2743688/Rip-them-out.html
is a good read. It’s a 2006 article but nothing’s changed!

I am going to try and remember to count the traffic lights we have to go through tonight – same trip as this morning – red lights, green
lights, amber lights, if it’s a traffic light I’ll count it – if I remember! 

Oh dear, I didn't get to the motorway overhead speed restriction signs which seem totally and utterly pointless except that someone in a control room somewhere can't count past 50 cars and so presses the "go slow" button, or perhaps they knock it by accident while reaching for their coffee! And I didn't get to write about the parking and how that causes congestion and irritation and frustration and ............. It's not the traffic, Mr London Mayor, it's the systems!  Arggghgh! London traffic! Get me out of here!

(And you wonder why the English are so stressed?!!!)