Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Once upon a time (about ten years ago) in a land far, far away called Wilt Shire, we needed to get some assistance from NTL in relation to our digital service. From this distance, I can’t recall exactly what the issue was, but I tried first a call to their free help line for the area. Waiting time was said to be about 45 minutes, but turned out to be over an hour. When I did get through, I was passed between departments three times and eventually told I should call the digital service desk in Birmingham, on a national rate geographic number. Oh, sure, I am dead happy to hold for 45 minutes on a trunk call!
I called back – waited for over an hour (on a free line – not my problem), was passed from the southern help desk to one in Glasgow, where I was given some useful information, then back again and, after a few more transfers, to someone who told me to call Birmingham. At that stage, I had, as they say, had enough. I suggested to this person that my contract was with NTL; not with NTL’s Birmingham office, or their Glasgow office or any other, but with the company of whom he was a representative. As such, when I made the request to him, I made it to NTL. How NTL chose to organise and compartmentalise their business was of no concern to me. I had asked the question of NTL and expected a reply from NTL. I also used the ‘e’ word (escalate) which always seems to help. Ultimately, I had a call back from Birmingham, which addressed my issue.
I always believed that NTL’s technology was pretty good, but their administration was abysmal - that’s why I chuckled when I learned that a proposed alliance between NTL and Virgin to provide a mobile phone service would use Virgin technology and NTL administration, but that’s by the bye.
Back to the present day. The service we receive from Orange in France is generally pretty good. The ADSL line is as stable as most, particularly bearing in mind our out of the way location and, although we have coverage issues here, are some distance from the nearest 3G signal and light-years from 4G (as from fibre internet), the technology performs at an acceptable level.
Would that it were so with the administration!
You will recall from this post in May, 2011, that our Livebox lost its ability to connect to the internet following a thunderstorm, and that Orange were so spectacularly unhelpful that I went and bought one in the supermarket whilst doing the weekly shop.
When we changed to a new contract last October, I took the opportunity to return the sick Livebox and tell the guy I didn’t need a replacement, as I have my own. Did that stop them charging me 3€ per month for Livebox rental? Did it … no, it didn’t!
I used the form on their web site (I find them most unhelpful on the phone) to tell them that they were charging me a the Livebox that I don’t have, that I am using one I bought myself, so can they please stop charging me. They replied (from a ‘do not reply to’ email address) asking me to send them, by snail mail, a photocopy of the invoice for the one I bought. Back to the web form, where all I can enter is my account number and a message of no more than 1000 characters. I told them that, as it was bought from a supermarket with normal shopping, all we ever had was the checkout receipt and, after 2 years, we can’t put our hands on that. I gave them the serial number of the box I bought, which I assumed would enable them to confirm from their records was not one of their supply. The reponse? “Thanks you for this information, what do you want us to do with it?”. Back on the form, I said I wanted them to stop charging me for rental of my own kit. Their latest reply was to say they could only do that if I send them a receipt to prove it was one I bought.
And so it goes on. Hence the question – is Orange the new NTL?
Rant over – for now.
We have been doing a lot of walking recently. Our daily walk with the hellhounds has increased from about 2 Kms to just over 5 Kms, including a very steep hill – about an hour’s walk at a reasonable pace. Lately, we have taken to walking a modified route that, whilst not including the big, bad, mean, evil hill, is a little longer. It gives the dogs a great deal more off-lead time and involves walking around a small fishing lake. We shall continue to do that until the fishermen reappear, at which time, big, bad, mean, evil hill – here we come again. Jan and Lieve came around with their dog on Friday and asked if we wished to join them on their walk. It was a route we didn’t even know existed. Quite hilly, as is everything in this area, it was about 50% longer than our regular routes and took a little over 90 minutes. We may try it again.
On these walks, Trevor probably runs, and runs hard, at least twice as far as we walk – and we walk about five and a half kilometres on the regular routes and nearly eight kilometres on the Jan & Lieve route. I mention only Trevor, as Ulysse has become something of a goal scrounger, not wanting to be far from the lady with the sweeties. Trevor has a reward sometimes, but not always, when he comes back to a call. He is so athletic now. It is a joy to see him running at full stretch for a couple of hundred metres, then stopping dead and sitting patiently if a reward is offered.
His weight has dropped from over 9½ Kgs, at which the vet said he was overweight, to less than 8½ Kgs, which we think is getting towards as low as we want him to go. His muscle definition is excellent, he is as fit as a fiddle and he seems indefatigable.
However, as the picture shows, he does know how to relax, in regal style!
Trevor is not the only one losing unwanted bulk. I am very happy to say that, as of today, at 77.5 Kg (12 stone 3 lbs) I am less than one kilogramme above a BMI in the ‘healthy’ range, having started last August in the ‘obese’ range. I am almost at the weight at which I hope to stabilise – somewhere between 74 Kg (11 stone 9 lbs) and 76 Kg (12 stone 0 lbs). Clare’s weight is also dropping nicely although, for various reasons (see this link), it is generally acknowledged to be much easier for a man to lose weight than for a woman. It will be a longer and harder job for her, even though she had less to lose. Clare does exercise more than I do, swimming a couple of times each week as well as doing the walks, so I am confident that she will reach her target.