Tuesday, September 8

I'm sure life is out to get me!

I've not posted for a while, so this might be a long one. If you're going to read it, grab a cuppa first.

Firstly, a nice positive note. Isabelle started full time school last Thursday. She has moved up from her morning Nursery session to full time school in reception class. I was a bit worried about how she'd cope going to school all day, but she absolutely loves it.

Isabelle is the kind of child that needs constant mental stimulation. She asks questions at 101 miles per hour. She isn't fobbed off with an answer either. She will question your answer and then question that answer until you get to a point where you run out of explanations or answers. She is and always has been, a very inquisitive child. She will even go as far as correcting you if you give her a half answer or a wrong answer. She's only 4!! But her school is aware of this and they are pretty good at catering for her and her abilities. I'm not saying she's a genius or a super intelligent child, she's just very competent. In fact, on her Nursery School Report at the end of the school year, one comment said that you could easily be fooled into thinking you were talking to an adult and that she has the ability to go to any level of conversation or discussion and will push for more. I'm happy that the school are aware of this, and I hope they don't try to stop her. It does become a pain in the bum when you're out shopping and she starts with questions like why are you buying that one instead of the other one... how will you cook it and why don't you do this instead? But on the whole, she is a pleasure to be around because she wants to know everything. More than that.. she retains the information and has an excellent memory to recall at any time. She shocks me sometimes. Mark is having to spend time learning plant names and bird names. This is something I have always known really because my mum is visually impared and so taught us as children to see for her and then pass information on. It's put me in good stead for adulthood because I have always been very visually and spacially aware of the things around us in life. We'd go out somewhere with Dad driving the car and mum would ask us what we could see. Then she'd ask us to look further away than that, and then further again. We grew up describing our suroundings and what we could see as far as the horizion. If we went somewhere we learned what plants were around. Mum could tell us what birds were about from their bird call, then we would describe what colour the bird was if we could see it etc. So my general nature knowledge is quite good. It's a good job, because Isabelle is VERY interested in the world around her and constantly wants to know more. She's like a little sponge and I love it. Mark didn't grow up the same way, and even now, as nice as his mum is, she has very little 'world around us' knowledge. So Mark is learning too. He's been getting books out of the library and has been researching on the internet and asking me.

She is also very good (for a 4 year old) at motorbike mechanics. She spends a lot of time in the garage with Mark when he's doing a bike up. She knows a lot of the bike parts and even surprised me when she said (pointing to a bike bit) that's a set of cams. She is Mark's little helper. He asks for a 12mm spanner and off she goes and gets one. 10mm socket? no problem, off she trots and fetches it. Obviously she's reading the numbers on the relevant tool, but she never gets it wrong. She knows the names of all the tools in the toolbox, and believe me, there are a few strange ones in there that I've never heard of LOL.. motorbike specific tools.. She loves helping Mark as is going to fix motorbikes when she's older and she's going to have a pink Kawasaki (apparently) and it will go 200 miles per hour. Bless her.

Here she is ready to go to school on her first day with her lunch box, which she's very proud of because it's pink and purple and has a kitty and a puppy on it LOL

OK, so now the groans.

Tiscali!!!!! These people are a bunch of incompetent bafoons!! I have been using Tiscali as my ISP for about 12 years. Several years ago they phoned me and asked if I wanted to have their cheap phone package aswell as the internet through them. I decided to give it a try. Gave all my card details etc for them to set up the direct debit and off we went. 4 months later I got a bill for almost £200. If I didn't pay they were going to suspend my account. I phoned and they said.. oops very sorry, we didn't instate your direct debit. I paid the bill with much disgust and gave them my details to set up a direct debit for monthly payment (AGAIN!) Almost two years down the line I was busy doing some banking paperwork and couldn't find out what date the Tiscali payment went out each month so I phoned them. The guy in billing told me that no payments were being taken, my account was in arrears of £675 and if I didn't pay it my account would be suspended. WHAT? I wanted to know how this bill had racked up. Someone would phone me back. Within an hour I couldn't connect to the internet or make phone calls. (I had Tiscali's phone re-route remember). I had to phone from my mobile phone to talk to Tiscali. They'd suspended my account because it was in arrears and I refused to pay. Legally, they are suposed to give a month's notice. It turns out that the billing department hadn't set up the direct debit payments once again. Tiscali hadn't noticed for 20 months that payments weren't being taken, it was only the fact that I phoned them that had alerted them to it. Because I had alerted them, they suspended my account. They wouldn't re-activate my account till they had at least half the arrears paid off. I couldn't phone anywhere for help or advice because I couldn't dial out because of the account suspension. I phoned BT the following morning and they de-activated the Tiscali re-route on my phone line as it was a BT line they had the power to do that. So I got back on the phone to Tiscali. I went through several different departments having to explain the situation each time despite me saying that I needed to speak to accounts. By the time I got through to accounts - having had to re-dial a different number each time because apparently they can't put you through to a different department... I was really angry. I asked to speak to the manager. He eventually said that Tiscali accepted liability for the arrears. I wanted to know how a direct debit hadn't been set up TWICE. I even knew the dates I'd given the details and he said that yes, he could see that on the computer. So why weren't they set up??? He couldn't explain. He again asked for £350 to re-activate my account. I refused and said I'd be taking legal advice and action about the situation. I got a phone call later apologising and my account would be re-activated within the next 24 hours. I asked then how on earth I was supposed to pay for my internet connection if Tiscali wasn't capable of collecting payments. They said someone would phone me each month for payments. Ha! now that's a laugh. If they can't set up a direct debit, how are they going to remember to phone me each month? About a week later I got a letter from a debt collection agency requesting that I pay £100 a month to clear the arrears I had accrued on my Tiscali account. hmmmm... straight on the phone to them. Explained the situation, told them I'm not working and couldn't pay that amount.. and oh, by the way, are you aware that I haven't run this debt up, Tiscali didn't take payments and didn't notice until I alerted them? Yes she said, Tiscali have accepted liability and are obliged to accept any payment offer that I made. More on principle than anything else, I told them I could only afford £10 a month. She said that would be fine. That was 8 months ago. Payments have been taken, and all is good... erm.. no!

On to Monday morning and no internet connection once again. I phoned Tiscali. My account has been suspended again. They want £350 to re-connect and then the outstanding balance cleared within 4 months. Unless I agree to this, my account will remain in suspension. WHAT? You caused all this, it isn't my fault, I've tried to pay you, I am re-paying the debt you accrued because although I didn't run the bill up myself, I have had the service and I therefore have to pay for it (legal advice kindly told me that). I have had no notice of suspension again, it's just been cut off. How on earth, when I've been paying the arrears off, has it all of a sudden changed at Tiscali's end of the deal? The only reply to any question I asked was "I'm sorry we can't re-activate your account until £350 has been paid and we reach an agreement to clear the outstanding balance within 4 months. I asked again, how has the agreement been reversed without my knowledge even though I've been paying as agreed.. again, I got the same answser. Frustrated and furious I told them I'd be taking legal advice and further action about this matter... "I'm sorry we can't re-activate.... " click.. I hung up. So, no internet and no way of signing up with anyone else unless Tiscali released my MAC code. I thought this would be highly unlikely given current circumstances. Due to modern technology coming on in leaps and bounds, I had the option of buying a dongle to give me an internet connection. It was going to cost me money and you only have a limited amount of data transfer per £10. It's a bit like a mobile phone top up. You buy the dongle and add credit to it. Pay as you go internet access providing I can get a signal at my house. Our mobile phone signal is terrible here.. but it was my only option. So the next morning I decided PC world would get a visit.

Before I left for PC world, I phoned Tiscali. There was an option to press 3 to request a MAC code, so I did. The girl on the end of the phone asked why I was changing my ISP.. I really needed that MAC code so I couldn't say because you are all a bunch of incompetent arseholes.. so I fibbed. She said, you do realise that your account is in suspension at the moment? I told her yes I was aware of that and I was dealing with it with the billing department. OK, she said, give me a minute to process the MAC code. She put me on hold for ages and I was ready for her to come back and say I'm sorry we can't issue the code because of your account supension, but she didn't. She said, ok that's gone through. It will take 5 days to process and will be posted to your home address. Did I want her to email the code through to me. Erm.. I have no internet access.. you already told me my account is suspended! doh! She said, oh, I can text it to you if you like. I was shocked.. it came through within 10 minutes. So I phoned BT, and requested a broadband connection. Everything will be delivered on Thursday this week between 7am and 7pm. Nothing like narrowing the delivery time down eh? But that means that I will be able to connect back to the internet whenever I want after Thursday without worrying about how much data has been transferred. I managed to get a dongle from PC world. 3 Gig data transfer. Apparently 1 Gig would give 2 hours of internet access for a month. erm.. not in this house LOL. But 3 Gig would definately last us a week if Mark didn't sit viewing the iplayer to watch the motorbike racing, because video's eat data transfer apparently.

So I got home and tried to install the dongle. No go. It just wouldn't work. So I had to phone their helpline. Oh god.. not more! The lady on the phone was lovely, if a little hard to understand. It beats me why they have to have tech support in India. I am not racist in any way, shape or form, but when you're trying to get technical support and you can't understand what's being said, it really does add to your frustrations. But that said, the lady was lovely and told me (something that the lad in PC World forgot to tell me) it would take 24 hours for the sim card in the dongle to be activated! Oh good grief... why is everyone so incompetent?? So, 24 hours later, the dongle connected and I had the internet again. This was on Thursday tea time.

One thing that has come from this entire episode, apart from a few grey hairs and a lot of stress and frustration, is that how much we rely on the internet in our house. Stupid things like needing a recipe for a white sauce, telephone number for BT to order their broadband and the complete lack of communication with my family and the outside world, which is all done via email and the internet. I felt very cut off. How do people who don't have the internet manage? It seems that a large part of my world is inside the computer. Most of my friends are inside the computer. Everything I need to know is inside the computer and I have been cut off from it. What an extremely sad way to live. Perhaps I need to do something about it? It seemed strange having a break and a cup of coffee and not sitting at the computer to see what's going on in the world. I haven't been able to check the news headlines. I don't read newspapers or (generally) don't watch the news on TV. I like to be selective in what news I read. I get depressed with all the doom and gloom on the news, so I only read the bits I'm interested in. Perhaps I need to re-organise my life a bit so it doesn't rely on an internet connection so much.