I lost that friend

I visited the hospice and the staff there were really fantastic, but as feared, my friend had already died, last weekend.

He had no next of kin, so I’m going to try to see what I can do with regards to the arrangements. Can’t let the council deal with things on their own. It’s not for me to pay for his funeral, but I would hate to think that there was no one there who knew him.

Time for a drink.

On potentially losing a friend

The Internet is an amazing resource, and one that has become completely ingrained into our lives in such a short period of time. I cannot think of another technology that has become ubiquitous and matured in such a short time before. Maybe the wheel. The coming of the railways in Britain happened over a similar period of time, but didn’t affect individuals’ lives in quite the same way as the Internet has. Obviously this blog wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the ‘net.

It is capable of remarkable things, of course, including introducing you to people who you couldn’t possibly ever have hoped to meet in a hundred lifetimes. The rise of social media, from what could now be described as “traditional” Internet forums to Twitter and Facebook and whatever this year’s latest model is, have meant that people can interact instantaneously with others all over the world. Whilst all new technologies such as this have their downsides, in general, I would think that the good is currently outweighing the bad for most people.

Over the years, on several (now defunct) Internet forums and via Twitter, I happened across a really interesting chap. He had a very good eye for a photograph and was a talented photographer himself. There wasn’t much he didn’t know about classic films, especially the really dark odd ones from sixties Sweden and, a man after my own heart, really appreciated the work of Stanley Kubrick. Despite not being British by birth, he was very keen on the UK leaving Europe and a big fan of Nigel Farage.

I met him a few times when I was in his town on business. We had coffee a couple of times and a lunch, and he was good company.

More recently, he has been pretty poorly, in and out of hospital for various treatments. Always praising the nursing and medical staff, he didn’t have much good to say about the NHS system itself, but they did seem to be getting a grip of some various problems that he had. Then, in the summer, he told me that he needed some radiotherapy for a cancer that he had in his abdomen. It was similar to what I was diagnosed with back in 2009, but he didn’t really go into specifics. I shared my experiences, good and bad, with him of course, and he seemed to be on the mend.

Then, about six weeks ago, he told me via a private message on Twitter, and without going into specifics, that he was going into a hospice. Now, this could have been just for some respite care and for a few days he was messaging to say that they were very good there, the staff were excellent and he even had a special bed that constantly moved you about to prevent pressure sores. He also mentioned that you could have a bottle of beer with your dinner if you wished. This pleased him.

As he was stuck in his room for the duration, he asked me whether I could buy him a £20 top-up for his phone, which I gladly did. “I will pay you next time I see you”, he said, which was fine by me.

Then, there were no messages. No Twitter posts, apart from the odd automated one that tells you how many new followers his account has. No response to texts on the phone. Nothing.

For several weeks.

He had told me the name of the hospice that he had been admitted to, so I called them to see if they could tell me anything.  They couldn’t even find me the right ward to speak to. I emailed them, with no response.

I am hoping that all this is just a case of a man too poorly to text, or Tweet, or who has run out of credit on his phone. And one who is suddenly going to reappear on Twitter and have a moan about Jeremy Corbyn. But, I have to confess that I fear the worst.

If that is the case, then I wish I had had the chance to say goodbye. But, that just isn’t possible, so I will have to be content to say here that I am glad to have known this man.

He is a good man. He will be missed.

It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there… indeed it is

One day, we will all just fade away and stop blogging and Tweeting. Let’s hope that someone notices.

Building the wall

Last weekend, I built a dry stone wall. Not single handedly, but with a group of others at the National Stone Centre, near Matlock in Derbyshire. 

I booked the weekend as a “gift” from my company for having been there 10 years and it was a really good experience. There were eight of us on the course, which was run by a lady who is a professional and champion waller, having done this for 25 years while running a farm at the same time. She was an excellent and patient teacher and everyone on the course thoroughly enjoyed themselves. 

Ages ranged from mid fifties down to nine and there were four women and four men (including the nine year old), none of whom had any experience of walling. 

We spent all day Saturday and Sunday on the wall and by the time we had finished, we had 6m of wall, about 1m high. This one will never win any awards, but for first timers, with the teacher’s help, I don’t think that we did too badly.

It was hard work but, surprisingly, I didn’t suffer too much for my efforts on returning home. I am looking forward to putting some of these new-found skills into action next spring when I get round to sorting out the patio area outside the kitchen.

Highly recommended.

A washed out Goodwood and other fun and games

The Goodwood Revival is a really enjoyable event at this time of year. The old motor racing circuit is opened to entries from cars that are contemporaneous to the track’s opening years, from around 1948 to about 1966. So, you can see old F1 cars from the 50s racing (and properly racing) against each other once again. Many people who attend the event dress up in period costume and it really is a fun weekend. Unless it’s raining and you can’t afford the £500 ticket for the corporate bit.

It was a complete washout this year, so much so that we left after lunch. There were few photographs to be had, little racing to be seen due to the rain and lots of people getting upset at clashes of umbrellas. Having now been on five occasions, and with this being the first that was a disaster weather-wise (Friday and Sunday were lovely though…), I have to count myself lucky. We did get to visit Winchester for the first time on that afternoon, though, so that was a bonus. a really nice, livable, city.

The fun with Mercedes continues, I’m afraid. I completed their questionnaire from last week and within an hour or so had an email from their Customer Service Manager at head office, asking why I had only given them 3 out of 5 stars. I explained…

I also had a very nice letter from an assistant to the Chief Exec on Friday, telling me how pleased they were that a resolution to my problems has been found. That’s news to me. Nothing has been done and nothing has been resolved.

The car is now back at the dealer, for an indefinite stay. They have given me a courtesy car and I have explained that they are not having it back until the satnav, broken by them, is put back into full working order, whether this takes a day, a week or a six months. The courtesy car is actually better than mine, so I really don’t care how long they keep mine for, provided I can have it back in May so that I can terminate thew agreement.

This must, however, be costing them a fortune, so it does make me wonder whether they really have their priorities right.

Oh well.


The end of the road. Is coming. 

That’s that then.

Have just got off the phone with the dealer principal and there is nothing more that he can do for me with regards to a replacement car. The deal that was offered on Saturday is the very best that they can do, so the car is with me for the duration.

He has promised to get one of his service staff to call me (1) to book the car in to have the sat-nav looked at again. It seems that the problem now lies with the fact that they replaced some hardware in the dashboard and the software that they updated at the same time is incompatible with the new hardware. I have suggested that it would be a good idea to have the software reverted to a previous version and, with a bit of luck, this is what they will be doing.

I said that I would leave the car with them for as long as it takes to fix it, be that a day, a week or six months. I actually regret collecting the car, unfixed, 10 days ago, but that’s hindsight for you.

I have actually begun to question my sanity over this whole 18 months. Was I being unreasonable in expecting a dealer to tell me the truth about a part of a car, for which I paid extra money? Was it unreasonable to repeatedly take the car back to the dealer for software updates (some of which I am convinced were never done)?

Was it unreasonable to complain about the dashboard crashing? Was it unreasonable to have to wait 9 months before they found a fix?

Was it unreasonable to be annoyed when the dealer actually broke the sat-nav so that they took away the limited traffic information that it actually used to have?

Was it unreasonable to be further annoyed when they said that they couldn’t fix it?

Finally, was it unreasonable to expect a deal from a car salesperson, who fully empathised with my situation and actually said that he would be annoyed with it if he were in my position, which would actually sort out the problem without a great expense to me?

I don’t know.

But I do know this.

Never again will I buy a Mercedes Benz. I will be counting down the days until I can hand it back.

Currently at 268…


(1) Edit: No call received 5 hours later

This is not going well

At last, I thought. I have found someone in the organisation who understands my frustration, empathises and is willing to actually do something about it.

I had a good chat on Wednesday with the manager who explained that there were three options open to us (him).

  1. They would take my car back and write off the finance package
  2. They would take my car in part-exchange against a new one, for which they would do the very best deal open to them
  3. I can keep the car until I can hand it back next summer and they would pay me some compensation for my aggravation and the fact that they have broken it.

By Friday afternoon, only two options remained. MB refuse to consider me handing back the car now with no penalty – this I am not surprised at. The difference between the outstanding finance and the trade in value is too great. But, disappointing.

Saturday morning see us sitting with one of their top salesmen – for about two minutes – before he went to deal with other customers. This meeting was pre-arranged with the manager, and the salesman knew most of my history with my car. We were left with a very nice lady who knew the spec of the cars inside and out and we went for a decent test-drive in a saloon version of mine (I no longer need an estate), in a car that had the better spec sat-nav. There was a huge difference in its functionality, display and added benefits. The car also had stiffer suspension, which was an added bonus.

However, when we got back, she went off to the salesman who “ran some numbers” for me. Without leaving me with a quote to examine, their solution to my problem was for me to leave a deposit 3x the size of the one I used to buy my car 18 months ago, rent it for half the number of miles I do at the moment (a mileage which is just about right) and then for me to pay an extra £100 per month in PCP rental. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the actual salesman again as he was “very busy with other customers”. Jeez.

So, it looks like I am stuck with an unfixable faulty car for the next nine months, unless I can speak with the manager and convey my incredulity at what was offered. HE was the one who suggested the spec of the car that I drove. HE was the one who suggested that a deal was possible.

Today, I am going to head Liverpool, to a different MB dealer not in the same group as the first, armed with the spec of the car that was quoted for me yesterday and see what a new PCP would be, if MB were not sorting out my current contract. Somewhere in there, there must have been a hidden charge to deal with the finance shortfall, but without a print of the quote, I cannot tell where. We will see.

Will also pay the BMW dealer next door a call, to get a PCP quote on a similarly spec’d 3-Series saloon.

To add to what has been a highly frustrating weekend, I was texted on Friday to let me know that the flights I have booked for our trip to Milos next month, to take photographs for a friend, had been cancelled. I have had to re-arrange the flights for the following day out and the previous day back, so we have about a day and a half less time on the island. We also have to spend two nights at Athens airport – which does allow us time to visit the city itself, which we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise – and I have had to re-arrange the flight back to London for a day earlier than planned.

Fortunately, the travel insurance with the bank will cover most if not all of the cost, but this airline has just cost someone about £500. They must have known at the time that we booked that they would be changing their timetable on the weekend before we were to fly.

Just sheer incompetence.