Category Archives: Uncategorized

Olympic Stories

Is it that time already?

There’s something about the Olympics that tempts me into watching too much TV. I see that GB won a silver in the women’s weightlifting (the frightening 87+kg class) and I’m told by Number One Son that she used to be a shot putter at the athletics club when he was a member. We had a couple of women in the top ten earlier in the competition. An interesting thing in the various stories is the difficulty with funding. However, they seem to have put it all together and while the expensive efforts of the rowing team came to nothing (and seem to have ended in acrimony) the women weightlifters can all be proud of their efforts.

There have been some great stories in the is Olympics, as well as some lessons in the double-edged nature of investing heavily in sport.

It was interesting to read something by Dame Katherine Grainger on Lottery Funding for sport. She said that when she started in the rowing team in the lead up to the 2000 Olympics the rest of the team members all had jobs or overdrafts or family to help them live as they trained. She, from the outset, was funded from the National Lottery money. (I use the word Dame because it seems polite, not because I agree with our honours system or think that the current crop of titles handed out to Olympians is appropriate).

It was refreshing to find that some of our athletes, such as Bethany Shriever and Charlotte Worthington, have had proper jobs and have struggled to get to Tokyo.

Saturday morning and some time to spare

A blue tit is squeaking from somewhere near our neighbour’s roof. I  have seen or heard it several times and I have wondered if it might be nesting. There is a gap under the tiles and they have nested there before, though it seems a bit late in the season to be looking at a new site. According to naturalists on TV they have had a bad season this year, the cold spring preventing the flush of caterpillars that usually coincides with the hatching of their young. No food meant a poor success rate.  We tend not to feed the birds these days because it attracts squirrels, magpies and rats. None of them are particularly welcome. Several of the neighbours over-feed, and some even put food out for foxes. I’ve told them several times that this causes rats, but they ignore me. One even told me that it was my unkempt nature plot that caused the rat problem. Not true. Rats need to eat, and there is nothing for them here. Gardens that leave out food scraps and hard boiled eggs are the cause of the rat problem, and gardens with decking. The stories I could tell you about decking . . .

I have actually sat in a neighbour’s garden and watched rats, in daylight, emerge from under their shed and climb the bird table to feed. The neighbour treated it as if it were a nature documentary. It’s not the fault of the rats, it’s the fault of humans who don’t have the sense they were born with.

After a lifetime killing rats on farms, and knowing a man who caught Weil’s disease whilst fishing, I don’t take rats lightly. There’s something about a rat that riggers a murderous impulse in me. I have actually seen people playing with pet rats in public, and have felt myself wanting to go over and  kill it. Fancy rats, despite their colours and cute faces are just the same as the normal disease-ridden bird killing garden rat – they were originally bred from colour variations that Victorian ratcatchers found in sewers. Bear that in mind next time you see one.

Heroes of Lockdown

I did very well out of Covid – plenty of time off with pay and found the whole thing relaxing and productive. Others had a very different experience.

Here’s a few thoughts that go beyond the NHS and  teachers. Not saying that they aren’t heroes, but they do have a habit of telling us how hard they work, even in non-pandemic times and seem to have a well-tuned PR machine.

Bin men. Out is all weathers taking rubbish away. Take the bin men away for a month and you’d start to see rats in the streets and the breakdown of society.

Shop assistants. A couple of my sisters in law were in ASDA all through the pandemic, putting up with abuse from the public, risking infection every day and keeping us fed.

Bus drivers – several died from Covid as they kept our transport system going so people could get to work. Their deaths passed mostly unreported.

Postmen. Another profession that suffered Covid casualties but kept going through thick and thin. People were quarantining mail during lockdown because they were afraid of it bringing in germs, but the posties had to handle thousands of items a day. After the first lockdown, when we did close, they kept our eBay business going.

Street cleaners, meals on wheels, power workers, farm workers, police, firemen, railway staff. I’m afraid that I can’r even start to list everyone, because there are so many people who get taken for granted and I’m bound to have forgotten someone.

So, to all the people out there who kept the country running and didn’t get a proper thank you, I assure you I am grateful.

Finally, care workers. Not going to labour the point, but underpaid and unappreciated are words that definitely apply.

I did a bad thing today

You know how they say the customer is always right? I forgot that this morning.

The customer from last week rang to express his discontent that we still hadn’t sent him the details he needed and that he didn’t see why he should pay to return the goods and that it was all our fault . . .

I apologised for whatever it was that we had got wrong this time, expressed my surprise that it wasn’t proceeding smoothly and ascertained what the problem was. It was the same as last week – he has cocked it up again and pressed the wrong buttons, bringing the whole refund process to a halt. This, it appears is all my fault.

At that point I snapped and said “No!”

I explained that I was sorry that he hadn’t received what he wanted and that he hadn’t had his refund but said I was unwilling to carry on being told it was my fault. I have sent him the things he ordered and I have sent him what he needed to obtain a refund. He, on the other hand, ordered the wrong things and has failed to press the right buttons to obtain the refund. It is costing us money to correct his mistake and enough is enough.

I have now sent him a stamped addressed envelope and look forward to seeing if he manages to work that without mishap.

Now I feel guilty, because I have told a customer he is wrong, but I just couldn’t take it any more. Even if it were my fault, there’s no need for the constant chorus of blame, but some people just like to blame somebody for their misfortune, and it’s never their fault, or the product of blind chance.

Bad Start to the Week

Sorry, I fell asleep in the chair last night so did’t post. Then tonight I decided to shake up my routine by not using the computer until late. I got that wrong – got carried away watching TV and suddenly it’s late and I still have a blog to write and sandwiches to make..

So here I am.

Not much to report.

I injured my foot this morning in a rather foolish pedicure accident. As  a result of the Warfarin it took just over an hour to stop the bleeding. I would normally gloss over this sort of stupidity, but if this is to b a warts and all diary I need to tell the truth. I am irredeemably stupid, don’t have the sense I was born with and can’t be trusted to put my socks on without incident. That;s not me being self-deprecating, that’s a direct quote from the Court of Enquiry hosted by Julia when I had to call for help. She wasn’t amused, and that First Aid Course she did last week appears to have skimped on information about pedicure incidents.

I’ve been watertight for the last 17 hours, so the repair seems to have held. With all the excitement I couldn’t take Julia in to work and had to take my breakfast to the shop. Not the best start to the day for either of us. I should have fitted in a blood test this morning too, but had to miss it. Ironic, as I could have provided plenty, and all without needing a needle.

We have  a severe weather warning with thunder and lightning tomorrow, which is OK for people like me who work indoors. Not quite so good for Julia, who will be out in the gardens with her group. She says she will take a coat. I think they’d be better cancelling the session. You can do without that sort of stuff when you are out in the garden and all the shelter you have is either a steel portacabin or a polytunnel with steel hoops. I keep thinking of lightning conductors . . .


Customer Service and a Tale of Two Morons

I read a post yesterday, which referred to “customer service” as an oxymoron. Not at our shop – we always try to come achieve a satisfactory solution when there is a problem. With eBay being so skewed towards the customer it’s actually hard not to get to a satisfactory solution for the customer, even stupid or dishonest ones.

How about this for an example.

A customer ordered an item last week, then rang to complain that he had received an X when he had ordered a Z. I replied that I couldn’t understand what had happened, as he had definitely ordered an X according to our eBay screen. (No, we don’t sell capital letters, I’m just trying to protect the identity of an idiot). He added, “You always do this. I ordered  a P a Q and an X last time and you sent me three Xs. It’s all the fault of your system, it’s difficult to use and it’s not very clear.”

We agreed that we didn’t want him to have things he didn’t require, but that all the others were out of stock, so he would have to ring the next day to speak to the owner, who could make decisions on this that I couldn’t make.

Alarm bells were, to put it mildly, ringing.

I checked his last order. He had ordered Three Xs and that was what we had supplied.

So, according to me and eBay he had ordered four Xs and we had, quickly and accurately, supplied exactly that.

The problem is that he isn’t very good with technology, and he isn’t very good at listening. He has pressed the “buy” button four times and tried to order things that are no longer in stock (and are clearly marked as “out of stock”). He’s also clearly no good at listening, when I try to explain. And he doesn’t understand eBay – it’s a standard drop-down menu as used by everyone on eBay. It is not our system as he seems to think. Nobody else has ever had this problem.

Now, I’m happy to take things back, and we are going to help him out, but I do object to him claiming that it is our fault, and I do object to him costing us money when he is the one at fault.r fault, particularly when he could have told us there was a problem after the first lot.

What we are doing is paying for him to send them back and then giving him a refund. The cost to us will be about £7 in postage and £5 in time spent sorting the return out. Next time we sell the goods for £20, the eBay fees of £3 plus the £7 and the £5 all have to be taken from the £20. That leaves us £5 to pay for the stock, our premises and our wages. It is not, as we retail professionals say, a sustainable model.

So there you go, a tale of modern customer service. Not actually the story of an oxymoron, more the story of an actual moron.

Dignity v Whining

I’ve just been watching a news item on TV about electric scooters. One man described how his elderly brother died as result of falling when trying to move a badly parked scooter, another, partially-sighted, man told of his several near miss experiences.

I don’t particularly like the things and think that a lot needs doing about the way they are used and left all over the place, but I have to admit that they seem popular and may be doing something useful. I actually doubt that they are useful, because the people who are using them don’t seem of an age where they would be using a car instead. They seem to be of an age where they would be using buses or skateboards.

On Wednesday Julia was the victim of a near miss when she walked into a supermarket and two youths on electric scooters entered the shop on scooters. She felt the wind of their passing (no social distancing either). They clearly aren’t suitable for shops but in the absence of a sudden appearance of brains or manners, it looks like this will become more common. I didn’t mention it at the time because it simply isn’t possible to rant about every single thing that annoys me.

My point? That it’s possible to go on TV and deliver a point in a dignified manner without demanding “answers” and “justice”. See yesterday’s post, and some of the comments made about my use of the word “whining”.

It’s also possible, as we can see on many blogs, to discuss the challenges of life in a thoughtful and dignified manner. Part of this might be because it’s easier to do this in writing, where the TV is not such an easy medium (though they did mange it this morning).

I’m off to work now, see you later.

A Grand Day Out, Social Distancing and a Poem

We had a pleasant day out, pottering up through Sherwood Forest and looping round into Derbyshire. It was particularly pleasant as we were had air-conditioning. Air-con was an option I never knew I wanted until I had it in my previous VW. After that it became a necessity. That, I suppose was how Rome fell, as luxury became necessity and civilisation grew soft.

I would like to say I came back refreshed and full of poetic ideas, but I didn’t. However, I did come back refreshed, so one out of two will have to do. There are a lot of wild flowers about, which was nice, but everywhere was crowded and all the views were hazy. I’m still not at a stage where I want to walk through streets that are crowded with maskless strangers. It might be, as I have seen written in various places, that we have to get back to normal, but this is generally written by healthy people.

I have the choice of taking pills that dial down my immune system, or having useless arthritic hands. I prefer the former. I dropped the pills for a couple of weeks round the time of my vaccination as this seems to give a better chance of effective vaccination. I took three weeks off and spent four weeks struggling to dress myself or write. When the time came for the second dose I carried on with the pills. I’d rather risk Covid than have arthritis.

However, when I weigh up the pros and cons of Covid versus walking down a street full of maskless strangers, I think I’ll stay in the car and wear a mask if I ned to get out.

It’s a question of risk. I have buildings insurance because the consequences could be severe if I don’t.  I don’t have contents insurance because I’m prepared to take the risk on that. When I was gardening, I had insurance for Public Liability, but not for long term illness or injury. Again, it’s a question of how much risk you are prepared to take on.

I don’t feel the need to mingle and a mask isn’t going to kill me, so I’ll carry on living a quiet life and wearing the mask. If anyone wants to offer me advice on this, as seems to have happened here, i hope I can come up with a witty reply. Experience suggests that although I will find a stinging riposte, it will be ten minutes too late. I may start thinking of them now.

I may even write them a poem.

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
Darwin was right,
about people
like you.



Marmalade Hoverfly


I rose at 6.30, handed my car over for MOT at 6.45, decided to use my time wisely (reading blogs) and just went to answer a knock on the door. It was the car – returned with its new MOT Certificate. That is what I call service. If you ever need a car fixing in Nottingham, try Hillcrest Garage. I’ve been using them for years, and though they recently had to move, they are still a great garage.

I’m feeling a lot more alert than I was last night but have hit a new challenge -now that the car is back, should we go for a drive in the countryside or should I stay and write. I know what I should do, but Julia deserves a day out and we do have air conditioning in the car, which is more than we do in the house.

Decisions, decisions . . .

That was easy. We’re going out.First stop – McDonalds for breakfast, then I’m not sure what. If we go anywhere too nice it will be full people. If we go somewhere that isn’t crowded it’s probably not worth the trouble of visiting.

With six submissions in the pipeline I deserve a day out, but if we all took that sort of view nothing would ever get done. I have another submission in the bag and then there will be a bit of a struggle getting more done by the end of the month. I’ve been a bit lazy and haven’t kept up with the haibun writing – just done the haiku and the tanka.

Ah well, off for breakfast now – see you later.

Hot and tired

Not much to say. I’m very tired after several nights where it’s been too hot to sleep. I simply cannot keep myself awake long enough to write anything. It’s very tempting just to pack it up and not bother posting, but he habit is strong and the lure of another blue sticker is addictive.

I’m sure that hot weather didn’t used to cause me any problem when I was younger.  A few years ago I found that winter was causing me problems, and now summer is too. That only leaves spring and autumn, and I’m fairly sure that autumn will become less pleasant as I become more arthritic. That’s going to leave me with a mere three months of enjoyment in a year.

I now have six sets of submissions out and am feeling virtuous, though writing poetry isn’t really the same thing as work.  I still have three more possible homes for more submissions but I may not be productive enough to manage them all. I have the day off tomorrow, and the car will be in the garage for its annual MOT test, so I am going nowhere. It’s very tempting just to plan for sitting in front of a fan all day.

Time to put a spurt on – it’s 23.48 and things are going slowly.

What else can I say about the day? It was hot, the shop was airless and I entered 27 medallions on our eBay site, though I did come close to falling asleep a couple of times.Several bad nights, lack of oxygen and a dull task – it’s definitely a recipe for trouble. I think that’s enough fro tonight. My general moan about the state of the world will have to wait a few days until I feel industrious enough to write it. That’s jhow tired I am, to tired to moan. It’s a good thing I don’t live anywhere that is really hot, as I’m sure you are queuing up to tell me, as i’m sure most of my readers are actually a lot hotter than the UK. It’s like snow – we are ahppy while it’s cold and damp, or moderately warm, but we just aren’t prepared for snow or heat. No snowploughs. No air conditioning.

23.57. Just made it.