Category Archives: Transport

Ill-mannered letters and other people’s whiplash is grinding me down

Angry Bird - like wot I am

In fact, it’s not just the paperwork, it’s the tone of the paperwork.

Having recently become self employed, there is an astonishing amount of paperwork required of me on an almost continual basis, mostly because there are lots of things that I now have to pay for which I didn’t before.  I am also constantly asked to account for myself to various bodies and, whilst I understand that this needs to be done, I come close to getting upset by the hectoring tones of many of these letters.

One letter, asking me for details of the work I have been doing has the penultimate paragraph in large, bold type, some of which is underlined, threatening that if I don’t provide this information within 15 days the payment in question will stop.  This is the first letter of its kind from them and I would mind less if it hadn’t, in fact, been sent to the wrong address.

I have two other ill-mannered letters this week.  The first one regarding Council Tax which is threatening me with court action if I don’t pay £27 which is 7 days overdue.  They informed me that I was  constantly falling into arrears in this financial year and that it simply would not do.  I only received the letter confirming my Council Tax bill three weeks ago.

The second made me want to spit blood with rage at the hypocrisy of it all.  For the first time in a very long while, I was overdrawn at the bank.  Overdrawn by £8 for a grand total of 4 days.  This meant that a direct debit was not paid and for which I was charged £8.  Fair enough.

What was not fair enough was the letter that I subsequently received from my bank lecturing me on the evils of being in debt, that it was totally unacceptable to overdraw without authority and would I like to see an advisor and go on a debt management course.

Do you know what?  I would like the banks to go on a debt management course.  Added to that, I would like the writers of these letters to think twice before assuming that everyone is a work-shy, backsliding criminal.

I just get angry, but I wonder what an elderly or vulnerable person would feel like if they received letters like these.

And whilst I’m on the subject of getting angry, I would like to share with you my entire morning spent trying to get a quote on my car insurance.  My insurance has gone up by over £250 since last year and that was the cheapest quote I could get.  I was expecting it to go up a little bit because I took someone’s wing mirror off back in July and, apparently foolishly, owned up on the flimsy grounds that it was categorically my fault.

I asked each insurer (I rather quaintly get my quotes from humans on telephones) why premiums had gone up so much.  Each one told me that a large factor was the no win no fee companies urging people to claim for whiplash.  Apparently the new trick is to get your friend to bang into your car from behind, you both claim on your insurance, then get a whopping payout for whiplash – the going rate is currently £2k.

When some stupid tart ran into the side of me a year ago (still not gone to court, incidentally) I was bombarded with calls from claims companies for weeks afterwards asking whether I was getting headaches or back pain. Several of them suggested that I was foolish not to claim as whiplash was virtually impossible to gainsay.  Needless to say, I refused to play the game, again on the frail excuse that I was not actually injured.

Nonetheless, my premiums have gone up by £250.

I am very, very cross.  I probably blame Thatcher.

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Filed under Life in general, Transport

Horror and achievement in equal quantities

Yesterday was a funny old day.  Despite several urgent administrative matters which reared their heads in the morning, I managed to complete my entire list of things to do, except the shelves.  These were not done because I ran out of red rawl plugs and I was buggered if I was going to drive five miles just to get some more – the TP  round the corner only sells them in batches of 20,000.

After I had done my jobs in the hall, I got the vacuum out to clean the carpets.  Because we are still hauling boxes and moving furniture, I have left a piece of off-cut carpet in the hall so the real carpet doesn’t get dirty.  I vacuumed the top and then lifted it up to vacuum underneath.

To my horror, the underside was absolutely crawling with maggots.  After the shock had worn off,  I tried to work out where they’d come from.  The carpet off-cut was relatively new and I had vacuumed under it recently, so it couldn’t be the carpet.  I checked for any rogue food which the boys might have dropped but there was nothing.

Then it dawned on me.  Last week we had very heavy rain and something organic and dead had been washed out of the gutter and, as I went out of the front door that night, the whole of the front step was covered with maggots.  I had poured boiling water on them and swept them up the next morning, but  clearly, some of them had got inside and snuggled up under my carpet.  Yuk. I would even go so far as to say ‘Eeooow’ in that slightly affected way of the Californian teenage girl.

I cleared up and carried on with my tasks.  Hooks were hung, steps were scrubbed, windows cleaned, ‘phone calls made, Boy the Younger was collected from school. I then went out to pick up Boy the Elder from the bus stop.  It’s only a ten minute drive and the first part is along a narrow road where one has to drive slowly because of parked cars.  20-25mph is about as fast as you can go.

As I came round a wide bend, I saw a group of little girls standing at the side of the road.  I slowed down a bit more, just in case, but they saw me and stepped back from the kerb.  Then, just before I drew level with the girls, two of them suddenly made a dash for it and ran straight out in front of my car.

I slammed on the brakes and literally, and I mean literally, stopped short of  the girl at the back by about four inches.  I stopped the car and got out, shaking.  Both sets of girls were stock still at the side of the road, obviously terrified that I was going to give them a bollocking.

I didn’t shout.  I checked that they were ok and then gave them a very serious but gentle lecture about crossing the road and how important it is to look both ways, twice, before crossing the road, looking and listening all the time.  The girls who didn’t cross were very upset and full of apologies.  The girl who I nearly hit just kept saying “I didn’t see you, I didn’t see you”.  Absolutely horrible.

I had a dear friend once who accidentally killed someone in a car and he never got over it.  He was driving down a main road and he saw a car coming out of a gateway and he slowed down just in case it pulled out.  The other driver saw him and pulled back.  But then, inexplicably, just as my friend was about to drive past, the car pulled out at speed and my friend ploughed into the driver’s side killing him instantly.  Fortunately the little girl who was in the passenger seat was unharmed.  My friend developed a crippling stammer which never left him.

Drive safely all of you.  And clean out your guttering.

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Filed under Children, Cleaning, Family and Friends, General DIY, Life in general, Transport

In which my entire family manages to miss a funeral

Unfortunately I was on the other carriageway *

It’s been a hectic day.  On the 11th August a much loved elderly relative died having suffered from Alzheimer’s for the past five or six years.  She was nearly ninety and, in a way, it was a second bereavement as she was effectively lost to us some time ago.

The Aged Parent, Sister the Second and her husband came up yesterday and we all set off to Derby for the funeral.  The first problem was trying to get six people out of a house on time, bearing in mind that one of them is 83 and a congenital ditherer and two of them are young boys; this was no mean feat, and unsurprisingly we didn’t manage it.  Two cars set off, armed with satnavs and grim expressions.

Secondly, I needed petrol and felt sure that I would find a petrol station before I hit the M1.  But not one was to be found and I dared not join the motorway as I didn’t know whether the first filling station was two or fifteen miles away, so I had to turn back and find a country filling station which was charging around £200 per fluid ounce of sans plomb.

The third lost sock in the laundremat of oblivion was the torrential rain which hit the East Midlands around mid-day.  This caused the M1 to be reduced to an unbearable, low-visibility crawl, with occasional walls of water hitting my De Havilland Escort as lorries on the opposite carriageway ploughed through puddles like the parting of the Red Sea.

We eventually arrived at the crematorium over an hour late, having missed the service entirely and just in time to catch the last stragglers from whom to get direction to the Wake.  Deep sigh.

We got there, awash with apologies, but then settled down to a couple of hours of pleasurable conversation with other friends and family members, enhanced by sherry and sandwiches and the odd gasper with the ‘naughty’ girls and boys under the Corinthian Columns of the Masonic Hall.

For many years, and for viable but regrettable reasons, we completely lost touch with that side of the family.  Six or seven years ago, I started researching our family history on my mother’s side and tracked down all the long lost cousins of various, now deceased, great uncles and aunts.

I was lucky enough to make contact, by ‘phone, letter or visiting, with four of the oldest members of the tribe and to hear something of their lives.  They are all gone now and I’m so, so happy that I had the chance to connect with them and, through them, to establish valuable friendships with their children.  I now have a greatly extended family, all of whom are people that I like and admire and, with whom, if I met them at a party (rather than them being my relatives),  I would want to be friends.

I urge you to take the opportunity to talk to the old people in your family.  They will have so many stories to tell and once they’ve gone, the stories are lost forever.  The Aged Parent is 83 and although I’ve spent time asking her about her life, there are still tales which come up that I have never heard before and I find it somewhat exhilarating to say to someone you think you know inside out, “Gosh, I never knew that!”.

We are all the product of all those who have gone before us; their experiences and lives impact on who we have become.  Find out who they are, and you’ll get some unexpected insights into why you are.

God bless you Aunty Olive.

With thanks to Theology 21 Magazine, whose permission I did not get to use this picture.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Transport

What to do if you have a car accident

In which the Wartime Housewife describes what to do if you have a car accident and how you should conduct yourself and deal with insurance companies.

Nowadays there is absolutely no guarantee that if you are involved in a collision with another vehicle, even if it is clearly their fault, that they are going to behave honourably and admit liability.  Even if they admit liability at the scene of the accident, this is no indication that the version of events reported to their insurers will bear any resemblance to the actual events.  Remember that the health and safety of you and your passengers is more important than your car.

I would suggest printing off a copy of this article and keeping it in your car as a checklist.

It is absolutely essential that you:-

  • Try to keep calm at all times and speak authoritatively and reassuringly to the people round you
  • Check to see if anyone in your car is hurt
  • If anyone is hurt, ring the Emergency Services – administer First Aid if safe and appropriate
  • If anyone has a pain in the neck or back, do not move them
  • Make sure that the vehicle is in a safe place if you have to leave it
  • Put your hazard lights on and erect warning triangles if you have them and it is safe to do so
  • Where possible, get everyone out of the car and take them to a place of safety eg the pavement, hard shoulder behind the barrier etc
  • Ring the Police and give them an accurate location and brief details of the incident
  • Try to find an independent witness – the passengers in your car will not be allowed to act as witnesses
  • Don’t admit fault or liability at the time of the accident – you may have misunderstood the situation or you may be bullied into thinking it’s your fault when it isn’t.  Just exchange details, tell your insurance company the truth about what happened and allow them to sort it out

Carry the following things in the car with you at all times:-

A mobile ‘phone that is fully charged and with adequate credit in the event of a problem.  However, you can always dial 999 even if you have no credit 

A camera –  take photographs of the other vehicle(s) involved, making sure to record details of damage, number plates, the make of car and the people involved if you can.  Photograph any damage to your own car.  If your camera has a video camera on it, get one of your passengers to record everything that happens if possible

A notebook and pen

·         Record the names, addresses, contact numbers and other details of the people involved.  Remember it is an offence to refuse to give details if there has been an injury or damage to you vehicle or property

·         Make a careful note of the other car’s details – make, model, colour, identifying marks etc

·         Make a sketch of the accident with positions of vehicles – you will be asked for this later and you may not remember as well as you might think

·         Make a note of what the other driver looked like and how many other people were in the car – in case they drive off

·         If the other party is in a company car, get the employment details as well

·         It is also worth making a note of driving conditions, weather, visibility and street lighting and any tyre marks on the road

  •  If the Police attend, make a note of the ‘collar number’ and name of the attending officer

 Ways to help your insurance company – and yourself:-

If you are in a built up area, car park or forecourt, there may be CCTV. Make sure your insurance company approaches the relevant authority for CCTV footage.  Remember that many companies record over tapes after a month

Return any paperwork to them, filled in accurately, by return of post

Keep a careful record of all paperwork, including telephone conversations, with dates and who you spoke to.  Type up a list of all the people involved, with contact numbers and claim references.  Make sure you put your claim reference on all correspondence

Be truthful – all our insurance premiums are going up because people make false claims and pretend that they have sustained injuries, particularly whiplash, when they haven’t

If you have genuinely sustained whiplash or another injury which may not have immediately manifested symptoms, see a doctor as soon as symptoms occur and provide your insurance company with the name of the doctor you saw

If you’ve had an accident, what did you do?  Please share any other helpful information or experience you have had in an accident situation.

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London – Part 2: The West End

Now before we go any further, if you are planning a cultural / sightseeing/ shopping trip to a big city, and money is at all limited, the first thing you must do is to pack a picnic.  As I mentioned yesterday, eating at the site of an accepted landmark is reckless and foolhardy.  Their sole purpose is to fleece hapless tourists of their hard earned euros / dollars/ yen and no amount of weeping and cries of “I’m not a Tourist, I’m a Free Man!” will melt their hardened capitalist hearts.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.  Backpack, picnic, flask of cocoa; thirty quid more in your pocket to spend on fridge magnets and fudge.  That was Top Tip No. 1

Oxford StreetWe left St Paul’s and headed along the Central Line to Oxford Circus, where we emerged into a throng of more people than I have ever seen in my life, despite being a Londoner by birth.  Apparently, last Saturday is the busiest Saturday of the year.  Top Tip No. 2 – do not visit the West End of London on this day. 

In the past, Selfridges department store has had the most fabulous window displays; marvellous dioramas of fairy tales or children’s stories, or cats or something, all with moving figures and sparkly stuff.  This year there were groovily arranged piles of merchandise with mannequins with Betty Boop style heads on.   Boy the Younger liked it because it was bright and colourful, but Boy the Elder and I felt that we’d walked a sod of a long way to see a Shrine to Mammon.  We wandered around the store for a few minutes but were totally overwhelmed by the people and the stench of perfume nearly set my asthma off.

We went back into Oxford Street and walked slowly along, looking at all the shops and enjoying a variety of people you simply don’t get in Market Harborough.  Remind me another time to talk about hats.  A lot of the shops were having a fun with their displays and there were loads of hospitality girls and demonstrations going on.  Debenhams had a fashion show in their main window which was brilliant, hosted by a really gregarious and attractive person who, whilst showing off some really nice gear, nevertheless had his tongue firmly in his cheek. 

Window display at HamelysWe bought some freshly baked triple chocolate cookies from a tiny shop in an arcade and proceeded with all speed to Regent Street for the Hamleys experience.  The windows there were really lovely; huge bears in clothes doing baking and moving about.  That’s more like it.  There were so many people trying to get in, that there were security staff on every door, stairwell and escalator and they were letting the shoppers in in batches when enough other people had left.

It was completely overwhelming and again, although the boys loved it, there was none of the sense of ‘specialness’ that one used to get in Hamleys, the feeling that you were in a special place full of special toys.  We have a toyshop in Leicester called Dominos which is equally good and considerably cheaper.  I gave the chaps £5 each to spend as they saw fit; BTE bought an Airfix model and BTY found a Lego figure which he adores … which was lucky as there was precious little else they could have afforded.  Top Tip No. 3 – support your local toy shop, if you are still fortunate enough to have such a thing.

Regent Street lights

Home beckoned, and we sauntered down Regent Street, enjoying the ‘Narnia’ themed lights, to Piccadilly Circus.  It was quite touching how excited BTE was to see the huge flashing advertising board on the corner in real life and to see Eros silhouetted against it.  We fought our way onto the tube and settled into the inevitable monologue of BTY reading out every single station name and counting the number of stops left until Hatton Cross.

We arrived back at the Aged Parent’s at about 7 o’clock, to be greeted with steaming plates of sausages and mash, tired but thoroughly excited by our day.  When Granny asked the boys what had been their favourite bit, I was hugely gratified when they answered (with absolutely no prompting from me) that it had been St Paul’s.  With the triple chocolate cookies coming a very close second.

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Filed under Community and shopping, Family and Friends, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Transport

Focus on Fun

I was going to put a warming winter recipe on tonight but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow.  It was the Foxton Firework Display tonight – proceeds divided between the Scouts, Cricket Club & Playgroup.  Although it was a super display, it poured with rain throughout and we got soaked to the skin.  Hot baths and warming pasta all round on our return, but we were nevertheless tired boys and girls and I couldn’t be bothered to type up a long and complicated recipe.

I saw something that made me laugh this afternoon and I thought I’d share it with you.  As I was picking up Boy the Elder from school, I saw this car parked at the side of the road.  These suped up Ford Focuses are tremendous fun, being very fast, accelerate like billy-o and come in bright metallic green or orange , although I’ve never seen a green one.  I have driven one of these and I can tell you here and now that it was an absolute blast. 

Unfortunately, they have developed something of a reputation for being bought by wedged up Chavs and are known colloquially as the Ford ASBO.  For those of you in the former colonies, ASBO stands for Anti Social Behaviour Order which was a feeble and misguided penalty imposed upon unruly elements in society by the last government.  Unfortunately, these ASBOs became a ‘badge of honour’ amongst miscreants and the acronym has slunk into modern slang as shorthand for badly dressed, badly behaved, inarticulate youngsters.

Imagine my joy when I saw this parked outside my son’s school.

Fiendishly Fast Ford Focus

Now look closer.

What fun.

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Filed under Crime, Leisure, Life in general, Transport

Prang!!!!!

Well, it never rains but it bloody pours.

Tonight, Irish Alice (I.A) and her daughter, Yippee I.A., joined us for a trip to the pictures.  Boy the Elder and Yippee have been friends since they were four and we often join forces for cinema trips.  We went to Pizza Hut for a feed and then the three children went to see ‘Despicable Me’ in 3D while I.A. and I slipped into the pub next door for a glass of something white and chilled. Everybody happy.

As we left, I decided to pop into Tesco for some petrol to save time in the morning.  I was just driving off the forecourt when, completely unbidden, a black Vauxhall Astra ploughed, with some force, into my front wing.  I jumped out to inspect the damage and speak sternly to the other driver just in time to see my front bumper crash to the ground, lightly frosted with the remains of my headlight.

The other driver was a young girl who was sobbing hysterically at the wheel and it was her boyfriend who got out and talked to me.  They both admitted it was her fault, but he explained that her hysteria was entirely justified as she had hit another car only two weeks previously. 

The staff at the Tesco garage were absolutely brilliant.  They immediately came out, cleared up, coned off the area, took the girl inside while her boyfriend parked the car, gave my children a drink and kept everyone calm while we exchanged details.  I was actually completely calm as there is no point in being anything else; these things happen and will undoubtedly happen again.  I told the girl this would make her a better driver as she would be a lot more careful in future.  I’m sure that was a great comfort.

I called the AA, confident of a rescue; after all, I had upgraded at huge expense when my car broke down in Norfolk in the Spring.  But no.  Apparently the small print in my contact says they won’t rescue me if I’m in a car accident, but if I paid another £114 there and then, they would rescue me with pleasure.  When I’d stopped shouting at him in Anglo Saxon, I told him he could shove his policy up his useless arse.  There seems to be no end to the list of reasons why the AA don’t want to rescue me.

Now this is the amazing bit.  Tesco have an arrangement with the RAC that if anyone breaks down on their premises, an RAC vehicle will come out free of charge and sort you out, including taking you home within a 10 mile radius.  A rescue vehicle arrived within 15 minutes.  He assessed my car, which was driveable, taped it up to make it safe and recommended that I should take it, slowly,  to my garage immediately.  He was confident that my insurance company (broker?  The AA – hurrah) would consider it a write off.

I love my car.  It is an X-reg Ford Escort – the last of its kind before they switched to making the Focus instead and it has a wicked sound system.  My mechanic (in whom I am well pleased) also loves my car because it’s mechanical with real machinery that whirrs and chugs and, more importantly, he can mend it with ease.  More importantly still, I have no means with which to buy another car.  Mr RAC was quite reassuring though, because he assessed that the damage was all bodywork and that my insurance company is likely to give me the money and my car back which will mean that I can afford to repair it.  Fingers crossed.

Yet again, The Father of My Children came to my rescue and brought us home from the garage.  We now have a day off as I can’t take the children to school or do any of my own activities. Boy the Elder is delighted.

I will also have to cancel taking Jeremiah to the vet to be spayed.  As it happens, I suspect that she is already pregnant, as she started the day by wee-ing on my bed at seven o’clock this morning and she appears to be eating for ten cats. 

One day at a time…..

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Filed under Animals, Life in general, Transport