We’ve been moving house – again! (*** mini rant alert x 2 ***)

OFFICEI went AWOL again, didn’t I? Sorry about that. All is well, we’ve just been moving house again, and I had a lot to do before the internet was switched off at the old house, and then they went and switched it off a day early. By the time it came back up, I had another lot to do. But now I think I might be catching up a little.

We’re spread between 2 houses at the moment. We thought it might be a good idea to keep both properties on at the same time and move in gradually. But now I’m not so sure that was the best thing. It seems to be dragging out the process rather than getting it all done in one go.

The first priority, as ever, was to get my office up and running. So even before we had the keys we had to go and choose office furniture. The office has been in action for almost 2 weeks now. We just need to fetch some curtains over to finish it off. I’m on the ground floor again, quite close to the front door, with a beautiful view across the garden to the farm we’ll be living on.

My old office furniture has gone into the poet’s new studio and his computer followed. We still have to bring the studio/music equipment over and that may be happening this evening. Then we had to get his computer connected to the internet as well, and that’s what we did last week.

We moved the spare bed over (in pieces) so we could sleep over if we needed to, but the fridge-freezer is still at the old place and when we came to use the cooker at the new place, the thermostat wasn’t working. Result – burnt dinner and a melted tray (it was a shop-bought lasagne). So last Friday we also went out and bought a new cooker and hob …

… are we ready for a mini rant?

<mini rant>
So we were in Curry’s, looking at ceramic hobs and the assistant asked if we had any questions. I asked if our lovely copper-bottom stainless-steel practically brand new Prestige pan set would work on the ceramic hob. She not only said that yes it would, but then went on to talk us into buying an induction hob instead.

We arrived home with our brand new cooker and hob, which the poet fitted (he’s also an electrician). But when we came to test the hob, OUR PANS DIDN’T WORK.

I did a bit of a Google and discovered that induction hobs really don’t like the copper bottoms, and it was a well-known issue amongst induction-hob-owners the world over.

To say I was a bit livid is putting it mildly, and had I NOT asked the question in the first place, I would have kicked myself. But I DID ask, and I WAS told that YES, my pans would work on all of their hobs.
</mini rant>*

On Saturday, then, we had to go out and buy a complete set of new pans. We had to be back at the new place by 1pm, though, as Sky was coming to fit our new telly. We were going from Sky HD+ to Sky Q 

… and guess what … I have another mini rant!

<mini rant #2>
When I was talking to Sky on the phone, the one question I asked was “will we still be able to watch our recorded problems when we have Sky Q?” The answer was not only a resounding “Yes!”, but we were also talked out of having another mini Q box fitted at this time with the discount included because our old box would still work.

Now this discount is worth about sixty quid. So we discussed it and decided we’d pay the full installation amount if we found we needed the extra box in the future, i.e. after we’d finished watching everything on our old box.

When the engineers arrived, they offered to take our box back so we’d get a further £10 discount. But we said we were going to keep it and use it alongside our new Q.

“Er, no you’re not,” said one. “You have a new Sky dish. There’s no connection for the old box …”

Diane (politely but icily): “Excuse me?”

He repeated himself and I’m afraid I had to leave the room. I mean, I’d ASKED again!
</mini rant #2>

It really is me, isn’t it?

Anyway, we now have Sky Q working beautifully at the new house and Sky HD working at the old house, and we’re frantically watching what we can before this Saturday, when everything moves to the new house.

But I tested the oven yesterday with some old staples, and very successfully baked a dozen cherry buns and a dozen white choc chip cookies (the poet said they even tasted like cookies …). Then the poet tested the hob yesterday evening and made a chicken dinner, frying the chicken breasts in one of the new frying pans as we didn’t have any foil to bake it in at the new house.

We settled down to watch a film on the telly too, and he was delighted to find that the new Q links to his YouTube account so he can now watch his subscribed videos on the big telly instead of on his mobile phone.

So all is well, but we still have a lot to do. We move the big stuff over this Saturday, and then we have a week to bring over anything that’s left and to give the old house a good clean.

If I disappear again, you know why. 🙂

*<mini rant> and </mini rant> nicked quite blatantly from Twitter, Facebook and NaNoWriMo mate Steven Chapman.

Northern Rail (***rant alert***)

The poet (in the hat) with our friends Sam and Steve at Tramlines (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Tramlines 2015 started on Friday evening in Sheffield, and we had tickets for the whole weekend. We jumped on a train in Dodworth and in just half an hour, and for just £11.60 (apx $18) for both of us return, we were there.

We thought that was excellent value, especially when you take into account the price of petrol and parking, and – of course – vehicular wear and tear. And we wondered why so many people complain about the price of rail fares …

We went to City Hall to collect our wristbands, and it was actually quite hilarious. It wasn’t very busy yet at all, but the organisers still had us walking in in single file, queuing at the right desk, and then exiting via a different door … all 2 of us …

Most of the roads around the festival stages were closed, and quite rightly too, but we were able to get a taxi to the main stage area and pick up 2 of our friends on the way. We’d only gone to see The Charlatans, and they were excellent – my very first time. I recognised the lead singer, Tim Burgess, and when I said to the poet, “That’s the only one I know,” he thought I was being funny … I didn’t realise one of their famous songs was The Only One I Know

It was great to see Sam and Steve, and the rain stopped before we were all drenched, but we had to dash to catch our train back and we had no idea how to get to the station. We were eventually directed to the nearest tram stop and got back to the station in time for a Burger King supper too.

The next day we wanted to see more of our friends, Bang Bang Romeo. The bass player is the son of the bass player in Monkey Dust and the poet has pretty much watched him grow up. This time, however, we were very disappointed with the trains … so here’s that …

*** rant ***

On a Saturday there is one train per hour going from Huddersfield to Sheffield stopping at all of the stations, which is fair enough if people aren’t using them. However, everyone knew there was a major festival happening in Sheffield. Everyone, it seems, except for Northern Rail. Did they put on extra trains for this huge event? No. Did they add extra carriages to the existing trains? No. And I’d like to know why.

Hundreds of people bought their tickets in advance to attend the festival. We had to. They sold out very quickly. And this is a city centre event with lots of venues and outdoor arenas, not just one venue.

We got on the train at an unmanned station, which means that we won’t get arrested for not buying our ticket at the station. There are lots of unmanned stations between Huddersfield and Sheffield. That means lots of passengers get on the trains and buy their tickets from the conductors.

Because there was only one train per hour stopping at these unmanned stations, and because no one thought to add any extra carriages to existing trains already going that way, the 2 coaches were rammed.

They were so rammed, hundreds of passengers didn’t manage to get on – loss of potential revenue #1.

They were so rammed, the conductors couldn’t get through to sell tickets to those hundreds of passengers who had managed to get on – loss of potential revenue #2.

There were no ticket staff installed at any of the usually-unmanned stations – loss of potential revenue #3.

There are no ticket barriers at Sheffield Station – loss of potential revenue #4.

And those who did buy rail tickets in advance and then didn’t get on their train will be reclaiming their fares – redemption of revenue.

Now, I’m not a rocket scientist (no really, I’m not), but even I can see where Northern Rail passed up an amazing opportunity to earn (and keep) money. So many passengers would have got through on those trains completely free of charge. And because no one was policing it, they’ll get away with it too.

If they didn’t have the staff, they could have hired temporary staff. If they didn’t have the rolling stock (excellent excuse usually rolled out), they could have hired temporary stock.

Not only did Northern Rail lose revenue themselves, they also lost Sheffield city centre and the Tramlines festival all of that custom from those who didn’t make it. Not to mention disappointed fans who couldn’t get there in time to see their favourite bands.

The festival itself was excellent, very well organised, very well laid out, very well catered, very well attended. It was a joy to join in. So why didn’t Northern Rail (and others) cash in on that success?

*** end of rant ***

Bang Bang Romeo sounded, looked and were great – the best we’ve ever seen them. We were also able to watch another band straight after them, who we didn’t know, and we had another few hours with Sam and Steve before they headed back to Nottinghamshire. We were close enough to walk back to the station this time and were half an hour early for our train …

*** rant #2 ***

So there we sat, on the designated platform (1b), where our 16:36 train was “on time”. There were 3 other trains at this platform in the time we waited, but they were all previously late trains. At 16:30 we were told over the tannoy that the next train to arrive at platform 1b was, indeed, the 16:36 to Huddersfield …

… only it wasn’t. It was the delayed 16:something-or-other to Doncaster.

And so we sat and waited patiently for that one to clear, and when it did, at the same time that another announcement came over the tannoy, we saw our train … at another platform. At precisely 16:36 we were told that the train now leaving platform 2b was the 16:36 to Huddersfield … and we had to get up the stairs, over the track and down the other side before the doors closed.

Fortunately we weren’t the only ones and the conductor had the decency to make sure there was no one else over on platform 1b. But oh, what a shambles! And our next train wasn’t for another hour.

To say we were disappointed with Northern Rail by the end of the weekend is an understatement, and now maybe we know why there are so many complaints.

*** end of rant #2 ***

We didn’t make it ourselves to the Sunday. We wanted to see Buzzcocks and more of our friends, The Kavaliers (the drummer is the son of the drummer in Monkey Dust … do you see a theme here?). But heavy rain – and the difficulty of getting there on a Sunday, if Saturday was anything to go by – put us off.

Instead we had a trip to Meadowhall where we replaced a silver chain of the poet’s and some sleepers of mine. Then we were home to a pork casserole with parsley dumplings for tea (made in the slow cooker by himself) (and the dumplings – his first ever) (and our own parsley from the garden!), and an evening in front of the telly.

This week, at work, I’ve knocked one of my daily “tasks” on the head – the daily competitions (again). I’ve not won anything for ages, and that half hour I’d sooner spend writing or reading or something else now I’m so busy with work. I still have plenty to be going on with, with several short stories to edit, another technical paper, and 2 books.

I think I have a pretty normal, straightforward week ahead.

No wonder they’re closing stores … (*** rant alert ***)

So we had another busy weekend, with a trip planned to Birmingham and to Doncaster on Saturday. On our way we stopped at Tesco for petrol and B&Q for a barbecue and a parasol (our other one has disintegrated) (the parasol not the bbq …).

We were in a bit of a hurry but we couldn’t see anywhere on the parasol the diameter of the pole, and we couldn’t see anywhere on the parasol base any minimum or maximum pole size. So, as you do, we asked.

The person on garden furniture was so busy he really didn’t have time to talk to us, but we insisted – after all, we’re customers. And so he very hurriedly said: “Oh yes, all of those bases are universal.” I also asked if the parasol needed a table with a hole in to hold it up, but he insisted the base would be sufficient.

So, aside from being brushed off very quickly by quite a rude floorperson, we were then tapped on the shoulder and told we couldn’t have the dog in the store and would I kindly leave the premises.

Now then, I’ve been taking Rufus into that store ever since he was a puppy. He used to ride in the trolleys and everyone used to fuss him. Even on Saturday morning, a lot of the staff had fussed him too. And, as it’s a building and garden centre and not a food hall, why would he suddenly be not allowed? There weren’t any signs on the door, which I pointed out to her.

“Oh yes there are,” she argued.

“Erm, I think you’ll find there aren’t,” I replied.

“Oh yes there is,” she insisted. “It clearly says ‘guide dogs only’.”

“Show me,” I smiled.

And when she showed me … and saw that there wasn’t any such sign on the door, she said: “Oh, it must be new policy. We’re having a staff meeting this afternoon, I’ll make sure there’s a sign on the door.”

“Okay,” I said, “but we’re going now anyway,” and we started to head for the tills.

“No,” she said, “you have to go out through this door. I can’t let you walk through the store.

“We’ve been in the store for half an hour,” I pointed out. But she still tried to manhandle me from the store, which – I believe – is assault.

But anyway, off we tootled with our purchases in the car, and we visited the parents. When we got home, the poet assembled the parasol base … and the parasol didn’t fit. So that meant on Sunday morning we had to take time out of one of our very rare days off to take the parasol and base back.

When we got there, I waited in the car with the dog. But the poet checked the door and there were still no “no dogs” signs anywhere. He went to see customer services to return the parasol base, and when the most senior person there “owned” the mistake, saying it was probably she who had told us the base was universal, he disagreed and indicated the person actually responsible.

The person actually responsible (PAR) came over and started to treat the poet in a derogatory manner, saying the bases were all universal and all we had to do was tighten the screw. When the poet pointed out that there was no tightening screw, the PAR argued the toss until the poet said, like me, “Show me.” So off he toddled to get another box, in case the box we had was missing the crucial part, and very arrogantly and patronisingly indeed started to “show him”.

Only there wasn’t one there. Just like we said. His response? To say how rubbish the parasol base manufacturing company was.

The only alternative they could offer the poet was either a more expensive umbrella that would fit the base, or a more expensive base that did, indeed, have the tightening screw we needed. And when he asked who was going to pay for our petrol, time and inconvenience, they did in fact meet him half way on the difference in price.

While the poet was in the queue, there were 3 other customers returning goods to the store that staff had mis-sold them. And while I was in the car with the dog, the dog barked at 2 little Pomeranian terriers waiting outside the store, and THREE LITTLE WEST HIGHLAND TERRIERS (aka DOGS) coming OUT of the store.

We are so disappointed in this store that we very much doubt we’ll ever go back. But you would think that when a store chain is in so much trouble and stores are at risk of closure, they’d try a little harder to stay open and retain loyal customers.

As advised, I’ve written to the CEO of the parent company regarding both of these complaints. I doubt they’ll do anything about it but will let you know.

It’s my understanding that if a dog is not allowed, then there should be a sign up. It’s also my understanding that if dogs are not allowed, then that should include all dogs and not just on the whim of whoever’s in charge that day. If hygiene is a concern, then we’ve seen dirtier children. The company’s slant should be clearly visible to customers. If it was a food establishment, then I wouldn’t take him in anyway. But a building/gardening centre? Ideas above their station, perhaps.

What are your thoughts?

Diva authors (Ahem! Slight rant alert …)

I’ve often been known as one of the original renegade writers. I always seemed to do things slightly wrong, yet still managed to get the job.

This doesn’t change the fact that I was still taught to be the best I possibly could – the best freelance so that editors would come to me time and time again because my work was so close to brief they didn’t have to do a single thing to it, other than just drop it into place.

I was still taught that as an author I should be bloody grateful if a publisher took me on, if a publisher was prepared to put time and effort into promoting me as a writer, if a publisher would pay me an advance and even a royalty.

I was still taught that my work should be polished until it shines before I even think of submitting it anywhere, and that I shouldn’t expect the hired help to knock it into shape.

I’ve been working this way since 1985, striving to do exactly what’s asked of me and trying to be very easy to work with.

I’ve been doing that for 30 years.

So, is it me? Is this the old-fashioned way of doing things? Do editors and publishers no longer respect you if you try your hardest to be the best damned writer they ever had?

As an editor and a proofreader I freelance for several publishers of both fiction and non-fiction, historical and contemporary. And, most of the time, in fact around 99% of the time, I have some wonderful people to work with. Even with my own private clients they’re usually very nice to work with and for.

But every so often I seem to get what I call the diva author, the author who thinks the historical relationship between publisher and author should be the other way around, the author who thinks publishers should be bloody damned grateful that they’ve sent in their work.

If an editor asks for 1,000 words, 25,000 words, 40,000 words, whatever, I don’t then send in 1,500 words, 30,000 words, 150,000 words (yes, really). And even if I did, I wouldn’t then argue till the cows come home that they need my 1,500 words, 30,000 words, 150,000 words. I’d apologise, take it back, and work with it until it was right (only it would have been more right in the first place had it been me …).

If a publisher says they want, say, 25 end-notes to fit in with the rest of the series, I don’t then send them 50 end-notes or 0 end-notes. And when a publisher says 0 end-notes, I don’t send in 40,000 words-worth of end-notes (yes, really …).

If a publisher uses their regular artist to design the jacket and their regular typesetter to design the inside, I don’t then start to tell said artist and said typesetter how to do their jobs, just like I don’t tell the publicist how to market my work or the editor how to edit my work.

And I certainly don’t ask them 20 questions when we’re already well into production, threatening to pull the work if their demands (yes, really!) aren’t met.

How dare they throw their toys out of their prams like that? How dare they be so rude and presumptuous? How dare they be so precious? What’s so bloody special about them? And when, otherwise, their work is, actually, quite good beneath it all. I just don’t understand the attitude.

If they’re going to do all of that, why not just have done with it and vanity- or self-publish? If they’re so cock-sure and clever and experienced, why don’t they do it themselves? If they’re so bloody good, how come they haven’t already been snapped up by some of the very big publishing houses?

So I ask again. Is it me?

Answers in the usual place. Thank you.

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