Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Revolting Consumer

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have developed a recent problem - I have become a rebellious consumer. I don't know why I've suddenly been struck with this deep seated need to be treated like a person, a human being, rather than an account number.

I don't want my human interaction to be dictated by a script. I want to be greeted by a cheerful voice on the end of the line, to have a bit of a laugh. To have lighted the load of having to part with my hard-earned cash with a bit of banter, or to access a necessary service.

It started with Virgin Media when I moved out to the Country. As they could not provide a service out in the sticks and as I was still in contract, they charged me for £200 for the pleasure. I'd been a loyal customer since way back, when they bought my custom from Cable and Wireless. Yes, that loyal. The fact that I would be returning to Norwich, probably within 12 months was of no interest. Then they insisted on my returning their equipment in a highly convoluted manner. They were willing to waive £50 if I recommended Virgin to the next owner of the flat. I told them to get stuffed. I recommend on basis of service, not bribery. I dropped off their equipment at the Virgin Shop as I told them I would and I will never be a Virgin Media customer again.

I just did some basic maths. If my annual payment for their service is £480 and assuming that I would still be accessing their service until I was say, 80 years old, not taking into account inflation and the 12 months when I wasn't their customer, they've kissed goodbye £17,280. You'd have thought that £200 would have been worth it for a loyal customer of 14 years.

A few years ago, I went to The Lemon Tree in Norwich for a massage, a facial that sort of stuff. I drifted off to somewhere else and then stopped frequenting beauty parlours. Four months ago I received a text from The Lemon Tree with a beauty offer. I'm sure some women would be pleased. I'm sure some people would shrug and just delete. 

My mobile phone is my personal communication device. I don't give it out to companies to contact me. I started carrying one with me when Boy first went to school, so I could always be reached. I am a member of the Telephone Preference Service for both my landline and my mobile phone. The cold caller who greeted me with the words "This is an urgent call for Ms Blackthorn, for your PPI claim..." got a tirade of abuse and suddenly couldn't manage to transfer me to her manager. 

I texted back The Lemon Tree and nicely asked them to take me off their lists. Both the number that had texted me and the number quoted in the text body. The next month, after I received their offer of the month, I went in and politely asked the girl on reception to remove my details from their marketing literature. The month after that, I emailed their info email account and said that it was going to be the last time I asked nicely for them to take me off their lists.

On Saturday, I lost my cool when I got their latest offer of the month. On Sunday, I amused myself by sending pictures of flags to the text given in the body of the text.

I started with Armenia, Afghanistan and Antarctica. Other people joined in. The next suggestion was Mauritius. 

Eventually, it was suggested I could block the number, which I did. But actually, I deeply resent.

I did not give the business my permission to use my number for marketing purposes. I asked nicely and politely to be removed from their marketing lists. Tell me, as a woman who wants to fee indulged by an experience in a beauty parlour, how is ignoring her wishes, good business practice? 

I'm sure as you read this you're thinking "bloody hell woman, just block the number and leave it", but how about this as thinking fodder:

Businesses are in business to provide product/service to their customers. I am a consumer, a customer. I would like to give my custom to people/businesses who are nice to me, who are fun to deal with and who provide a good product or service.

Virgin Media didn't treat me like a customer. They treated me like a number. An inconvenience. They didn't respect my long-term intention to remain a customer. My business wasn't that important to them. They have other customers.

The Lemon Tree, didn't listen to me. Another fundamental lack of respect. How could I put myself in their hands for a massage or a facial or waxing? Treatments which potentially put me in a vulnerable position in the first place. Am I exaggerating? How would you like to undress in front of someone, have their hands on your naked body, without trust and respect? A bikini wax? I understand their marketing person is not the beauty therapist. But here's the thing, they still represent their business.

National Flag of Mauritius

I am a marketing person. I understand the desire to reach out and engage with your customers. To promote your business. I really do get it. I understand how hard it is to turn your activities into direct sales. 

I know some reading this will say "get over it, it's the way that it is." But the fact of the matter is, it's not just business blatant disregard for their customers, this lack of respect exists throughout society and on a fundamental level in our government institutions as well. 

But I'm just a number, I don't count. My opinion doesn't amount to any change at all. I should lump it. Suck it up, Man Up and go spend some more money like a good little consumer.

Here's the thing, I have many numbers and they aren't me. I am committed to making a difference. I vote with my feet and my mouth. I talk to other people who vote with their feet and their mouths. The democratic process will only evolve, if we the voters, engage with it. By the way, if you haven't registered to vote, here's the link

If you don't vote, someone else will.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Spoilt Girl

It's true, I've been spoilt. These last seven days have been proof of this. I am a spoilt brat. In the last week, I have had cause to take to social media to have a middle-class rant, worthy of The Guardian newspaper.

It started innocently enough. Last Friday, I stopped off at a diner for something to eat. It looked like it would be good. The decor was 50's all baby pink and baby blue, with placard Elvises and Marilyns on the walls. But Ladies and Gentlemen, there were warning signs. 

In and amongst the 50's rock'n'roll atmosphere...they ruined it by playing the Tamla Motown hits from the 60's. I shit you not. It was 60's soul rocking the joint. Don't get me wrong, I like 60's soul. No such thing as too much Diana Ross. Worse! I spotted next to the triptych dedicated to Sandy and Danny...London 60's posters. Pfft. What can I tell you? I was surprised. But still, I ordered a burger and chips, telling myself these inconsistencies are easy to make. They don't matter.

Then the burger arrived. 

I'll just leave you with this: cheap roll that dissolved in the burger fat; gristly, greasey burger and styrofoam chips. I stopped eating half-way and left. I regretted spending the £8.20 and the 600 calories I ingested. Don't worry. The burger had it's revenge. I had heartburn for hours later.

Dave and I went to Warwick for the weekend. The UKBC's (that's UK Barista Championship.Coffee, not law) heat was being held at the University of Warwick and although Dave wasn't judging this year, he likes to keep involved. As for me, you know I'll turn up at the opening of an envelope. 

We trudged around historic Warwick in the damp and grey, which granted would make any UK city look as appealing as a regurgitated jelly fish. We declined the £6.00 carpark fee and £18.00 per adult entry fee to Warwick Castle and instead, walked around some more until we found the Tourist Information centre. 

Saturday night, university city...awesome. Live Music. Or so I thought. Or rather, hoped. If there was live music happening somewhere in Warwick last weekend, the two lovely women ringing round all the venues they could think of, couldn't find it. Not even in a smokey pub. We did however, have a lovely cuppa with matching china in a warm and cosy tea room. Which at 3.30 in the afternoon was the most buzzing aspect about the whole city. We left Warwick and Dave showed me Banbury and Stratford (and Shakespeare's old house, obv). I have to say I liked Banbury. I'd like to go and spend more time there in daylight. I wasn't too bothered about Stratford. I crossed it off my list.

I did have a lovely time away, despite my whinging. It was good to get out of Norfolk and experience a different way of being. It was also excellent to return.

The thing is, you can have a gourmet burger in Norwich for the same money as I paid in the diner. The homemade bread roll cuddling up to the handmade patty, chances are excellent that it actually would be cow (unless you asked for a different type of animal/vegetable). And knowing some of the places we frequent, the cow would have probably spent her time running around in a field with her mates all her life, only to come into the barn every night for her usual massage with Patchouli oil. 

We went to a gig on Wednesday night. It was great. We saw Clive Gregson at Bedfords. Don't know who he is? Here's a clip (not from the gig).

Did I mention he was then off to open for Jools Holland the next day? Click here if you fancy seeing a little bit more about the evening.

Yeah, okay. So perhaps I just needed a break from Norwich. I just needed to take stock and smell the M11. I've been spoilt in Norwich. Where there's fabulous live music being played most nights. Where there's great coffee and great food and you don't feel bullied into using chain restaurants because the other local alternatives are too expensive or too questionable. 

Last year, I floated the idea to Dave that we should spend every evening for a month, looking for live music in Norwich. I reckon there would be very few days without something happening. I think it would be a totally fun project to do next Spring, though it might become a bit expensive with the tickets etc. I'll leave that thought to simmer away on the back burner  for now. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to lose two days....

This weekend, I lost two days. A decade before, it might have happened because of a Saturday night gone wonderfully right - with merriment and lots of alcohol. I'd have been sitting on my arse, holding my head gingerly, trying to tell myself off. Not this weekend. This weekend, the most fun thing I did was contemplate the inside of my eyelids and hang on to my breakfast.

I know, original party-girl, right?

I have had a couple of migraines before. It's not a regular thing, thank goodness, or I'd be forced to think of amputation. Of all the ailments to have, it's got to be one of the most, frickin' tedious. I've decided of all the ailments I could possibly suffer from, the one that I'm not going to have again is that.

There are good drugs for migraines now. If you take them as they hit, they are supposed to stop it in its tracks. I'm told. If you get them regularly, they must be a God-send. I don't. All I had was my normal drugs and I didn't bother to take them. They wouldn't have hung around too long, so I had to be big and brave and tough it out.

Let me tell you, lying in a dark room with nothing to do, sucks. All of the stuff I like to do if I'm not going to get up and be productive: reading, watching crap tv...hurt. It's boring as fuck. 

My stomach still doesn't like me very much, my head doesn't care for me much either. Ya boo sucks to both of them. I'm so fed up of being fragile. A stiff wind blows and I collapse in a heap. I haven't moved for weeks now. I'm really struggling to do more than the necessary. But ya boo sucks to that too. 

Moving on up. I'm bored with the whinge. I'm missing out on the good stuff. Great opportunities have passed me by and it's not good enough. Onward and upward.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Life as a journey

It's funny, I'm 44, technically (statistically) I'm at the mid-point in my life. I lost the first 20 years of my life growing up, doing school things, leaving home. The last 24 years has been a bit of a mish-mash really as I managed to fly in the face of any kind of life-stage planning. I really did things in a mixed up manner: left home, got a job, got married, had Boy, started a degree, got divorced, finished degree, got a job, hated job, started a degree, got a job.

My work in marketing at Insight has been the longest I've ever worked anywhere and it's fast getting to the point whereby I'll have been there longer than I was married! The only constant in my adult life has been Boy. The flat was a constant for 15 years and I'm not at all sorry to be shot of it. I'm only sorry I didn't get shot of it when I first moved out, I could have used the money to invest in another property. But there you go. It's easy to say that in hindsight. I obviously wasn't ready to let it go at that point. I still had romantic illusions about it as a home. I can't wait for it to be sold. I've been told that's likely to be in 3-4 weeks time. I don't see it myself, but it will go. That's all that matters right now. It will go. 

Driving home today, I realised I'm quite excited about the future. I'm looking forward to next year, even though it's a big, blank sheet of paper. I think that's why I'm so excited. I don't know the way Life will unfold, it's just a bud right now.

2014 sucked arse. It really did. It's got another few weeks before it permanently buggers off, to bite me again, but I'm keeping it on a short leash with a stick close to hand. I think about that amazing New Year party we went to and how I'd think with such a great start the year would have been awesome. But no. 

On the whole, I have few regrets, remarkably few experiences that make me cringe. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, that's not a bad thing at all. Especially since I'm not going to get a do-over.

I attacked my monobrow this afternoon. The magnifying mirror might be a necessity for tackling the caterpillar above my nose, but it doesn't half show off the wrinkles and parts of my skin that are struggling with gravity. It seems I'm no longer 21. Who'd have thought eh? Hah!

As the years go by, I realise how comfortable I am being me. I don't have a typical Life Path and I certainly couldn't cope with it, even if I'd have had a serious opportunity to do Normal. In fact, I'm not sure what "normal" is anymore. Perhaps there are some "normal" people out there...I bet they don't blog.

Anyway, after having spent the majority of my day writing, I'm going to blitz my soup and see if anyone wants to share. I don't intend to get dressed tomorrow, therefore, if you don't like onesies, don't call round!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Notes from the mid-Life Crisis

These are just a few of the thoughts I've had recently, in no particular order, because that's pretty much the way I think...

  • I like living in the country. I like the silence and the darkness.
  • It's funny, but apart from the deer, I see exactly the same species here, as I saw at home. I prefer being here.
  • I'm not enjoying the commute. 
  • I try to leave the house at 7.30. I am usually not successful. 
  • If I leave 5 minutes late, it adds another 15 minutes to my journey. If I leave at 8 am, I still arrive at work at 9 am. Go figure.
  • My intention is to have that extra half an hour in bed tomorrow.
  • It's been a challenge to figure out how to continue to shop cheaply. The nearest big shop is a Co-op, which adds at least another £10.00 to my weekly shop. 
  • Calling into Lidl, my discount supermarket of choice, after work requires a lot of will power. I'm usually so knackered after my working day.
  • However, if I do that, the traffic has a chance to clear a bit. 

  • I called round the flat. I picked up a few bits. Locked up and left.
  • I don't miss it.
  • I don't regret leaving there.
  • Technically, I'm living in a bungalow.
  • That's like living in a flat on the ground. But with lots more space than I had before.
  • I definitely like it. I didn't think I would like living in a bungalow. But I do. 
  • I'm beginning to think past my year here. Wondering where I'd like to go next. 
  • I'm not sure I'll be ready to move back into Norwich. 
  • However, as I don't know what I'll be feeling like in 11 months time, I'm keeping an open mind about things. 
  • It's good to have options. 

  • I ran the other day. 
  • It was so good to move again.
  • My back has hated me since. It seems I have to work on building up the strength in my muscles before I can go back to running.
  • I look like a bright lemon knob when I run.
  • Don't care. I don't want to be flattened running on country roads.
  • Besides, it's not like I look wonderful when I run anyway.
  • I have started on my 5-a-day diet again. Once I've got that sorted, I'll start upping it. My aim is for 9-a-day. You know I like a challenge.
  • I am also trying to cut down sugar.
  • I had an iced donut at work today. It tasted magnificent, but it left me feeling very weird for hours after. 
  • Fatigue is still dogging my heels. 
  • This weekend, I am starting my fitness routines again.
  • My aim is to start off very gently and build up to my previous levels.
  • I also want to get into meditating regularly. I'm still very sporadic with my meditation practice.
I took a quiz in The Guardian this week. It turns out that I'm neither happy, nor unhappy. Neutral, describes my results. I felt that was pretty accurate. I've lost that awful trapped/claustrophobic feeling. I wake up every morning and feel blessed. I am truly grateful for the life I lead. I've been very lucky. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Some thoughts about living in the country

Here are just a few thoughts I've had over the last couple of weeks living in the country:
  • I really like it, even though I'm not country-folk tough
  • I really like it, even if it means I have to leave the house bang on 7.40 to get to work at 8.30
  • If I am even just 5 mins later than that, the 45 minute commute, turns into an hour + (I shit you not)
  • Poringland is the Hotel California of Norfolk villages. You can drive through, but you can never leave. I didn't leave quick enough one morning, I sat for half an hour creeping through this small village
  • Plumbers are popular men around here. The soonest I could get a plumber was four weeks from my call, i.e. middle of November
  • I ended up calling a large company to sort out the boiler issue and my Norwich plumber for the rest
  • People are really friendly, everyone really does know everyone else
  • It's kind of weird, kind of comforting
  • I've seen a lot of wildlife since being here:

  • Dave noticed this little guy munching his way through the hedge. He took no notice of us tapping the windows or anything
  • He is a muntjack, an import from China that escaped. They are about the size of a large dog or a medium sized goat
  • I've never seen one this close before
  • I've seen several pheasants, jays, magpies, crows, pigeons, deer and lots of cows
  • There's a diary up the road

  • This is the milk they sell and that I have taken to drinking

  • These are the cows the milk I drink came from. Aren't they gorgeous? They were so curious when they saw us standing by the gate
  • I am ridiculously excited by the fact that I've seen the beasts my food comes from and the money I put into the machine to get the milk, goes straight to the farmer
  • The farmer, who I've met and who makes an awesome brie (don't know if it can be called a brie if it's made on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, but you get the picture)

  • I used my workout area for the first time today. It's perfect. For the first time I've got enough space to move in and I can keep all my stuff out
  • I watch my exercise DVDs on my laptop to remind me what to do
  • It was really hard going
  • I still feel really tired
  • I still feel really happy I moved here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Moving on up!

It is done. I have moved. Or rather, it would be more true to say, I have been moved. Frankly, from here on in, that's the only way I'm going to move, unless everything fits into the back of my car. The most stressful thing about the entire experience of moving, was waiting for the removal men. 

I got most of my boxes unpacked the weekend after the move. It has very quickly gone from The Cottage to feeling like home. The rooms are large and airy, with all our things in them, it's so comfy and cosy. I love opening the curtains in the morning. I never know what I'll see. Granted on the days I work in Norwich, I don't see very much at all because it's dark. But this morning there were two hen pheasants perched on my fence looking a bit disgruntled at my interrupting their chat. 

Living out in the Sticks, there's a lot to get used to. The nearest shop is over a mile away. I will have to go even further afield for my larger weekly shops. I've been told there is a Morrisons and Tescos in Beccles, which isn't that far from here. I'm going to have to do a bit of research to see if I can get my hair, nails and eyebrow seen to locally, rather than have to troop up to Norwich just for that. 

The most challenging thing was lack of internet. I'm not bothered about television and haven't missed that at all. No Facebook? OMG! How did I cope?

Actually, the break from my online life was good for me as well. It made me re-think my morning routine and I realised how much time I spent on social media, when I started being far more productive round the house. Nevertheless, I really missed it.

Yesterday, I came home to find my new kit waiting here for me. I expected it to be incredibly complicated to set up. Hell no. The most complicated part of the whole process has been figuring out the best place to put the router. Happily, the xbox can connect wirelessly, so no more cable trailing across the floor and it's not like I'm gaming online so I need to eek out every extra millibyte of speed. 

This morning, I unpacked four more boxes and set up my study. That makes me especially happy, I have to say. I've got the last three boxes of books to go, but they can wait until tomorrow. Right now, I'm enjoying sitting at my desk, staring at the hedge laden with rose-hips and the field beyond it. I may indulge in an afternoon nap. 

That's the one thing I haven't enjoyed about the experience - the weariness. I'm bone tired. I've got dark marks under my eyes and I've got that lovely grey tinge to my complexion at the moment. I am just so tired. Having said that, I'm sleeping better. And as the days pass and I enjoy the routine at work and come back to my new abode, I feel lighter. Much lighter.

I'm so glad I did this. It was such a good thing to do. I'm so incredibly lucky to have the friendship and support from Z, who's been such a star. Boy came home last weekend. He seems far more comfortable here. He couldn't wait to take Z's dog out for a walk and explore. I'm really looking forward to him coming home for the festive season. It's going to be so much fun. 

All in all, I'm doing okay. Less strung out, chilling out more. In fact...I think it's time for a quick nap...