NICE TO BE WANTED

Update on utility provider: https://menhir1.wordpress.com/2019/07/12/what-price-loyalty/#comment-16574 for anyone who has not following this, the link will tell all.

Today I have been contacted three times by the electricity supplier I am leaving. I was offered a super exclusive deal for a one year fix….but, it wasn’t. It was close, but not better and there were strings. I had to agree to consider having a smart meter.  Yes, they had a two year fixed deal, it was way off the scale!!  No competition there then. The last caller from the company said they’d love to have me back anytime, even tomorrow!

My angst with the smart meters is that they have not been universal, other than in their requirement to try to control how we use fuel.  We have been encouraged, nay, exhorted by government to shop around for ‘best deals’ and the companies have been prevailed upon to get everyone on smart meters.  Each supplier used their own preferred technology. So, how could you move seamlessly between suppliers. They would not necessarily accept the smart meter you had. This was a nonsensical situation. I could talk about the distraction from fuel poverty, structural failures in the supply chain, their causes and other costly politics, but I won’t.

Series two smart meters are meant to ease the way to seeking and obtaining the best deals by being a universal for suppliers and customers. I intend to wait for the evidence. It will be sometime coming because the advertised universal meters are only just now being rolled out, and then only because the majority of customers refused to install version one.

The two year fix I am taking is with a company called Green Network Energy (GNE).  The website was intuitive and I requested a quote, but only after I had looked at the comparison websites. The difference between my supplier and GNE for a two year fix was off the scale!!!  I can only say at this early point in the change process, that communication with GNE has been straightforward by phone and online. The account will be online. I started the switch through the Moneysavingexpert site.

 

 

You may make additional savings on your prices with suppliers if you have dual fuel supplies and you don’t live where I do. We have higher prices to contend with.

So, guys, there you have it.  I’ll let you know how it all flows at some future date.  Just a note here; I did go through an awful lot of reviews for GNE on Trust Pilot. On the whole,they were pretty good, just the odd one of dissatisfaction. Don’t just take my word for it, have a look at Trust Pilot. As I said, it is too soon for me to make a judgement of my own. My every digit is crossed though.  🙂

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WHAT PRICE LOYALTY?

 

The yearly hunt for new utility suppliers and insurers has been in full swing. Loyalty is costly, there is no value to the customer, you and me,  in being loyal to any utility and insurance company.  I noticed one company was lauding its plans for offering loyalty to its customers. Attractive though it sounded, on further investigation, the primary up front costs were not competitive in order to give it a try.  With terms and conditions always changing – the requirements of the underwriters, or because of taxes, are the stock reasons to date – there’s no confidence, nor is there any evidence on which to base this offering.  The annual research of the market is wearisome, but made totally necessary, if you want to keep budgets within personal means. Service companies, (including banks) rely on inertia. Many signals have indicated for some time that people are being priced out of the insurance market. There is already significant fuel and food poverty here in the U.K.

My suppliers’ fuel quote for a 1 year fixed price tariff has changed in four days and not to my advantage. A quick review of a number of companies I had considered demonstrated that the increase was across the board. What was not general, were the amounts by which prices had increased. My energy supplier wanted about £108 per annum more than their original quotation.

In general, increases with the other companies of interest ranged from about £13 – £24 per annum for a one year fixed price tariff.  Then, I tripped across an attractive two years fixed price deal at a very similar increase to one of the other competing providers.  It was described today as the cheapest two year fix on the market. Considering the volatility of the times we are living in on so many fronts, including international fuel supplies, it goes without saying, after hair-raising experiences with a previous supplier that I checked a lot of reviews on this company.

 

 

Two years peace of mind and one less concern next year is very tempting…….

 

EUREKA MOMENT IN THE MEADOW

For the last three years I have been attempting to cultivate a difficult corner in our ‘meadow’.  It is a very uncultivated  area of grassland, apart from mowing, which is a slalom that hubs undertakes, not me. I cannot handle the petrol mower. He’s glad of it I believe, as it’s a task that is uniquely his own. I don’t mind at all!

Why is grass-cutting a slalom? About the time of year when you have to decide to do a cut, our wild orchids burst forth and flower. They are prettily  multiplying. Last year we discovered amongst the ‘crop’ of Orchids one that was a bit different. To my surprise, research threw up that it is known as the Common Spotted Orchid.  The spots are on the leaves. These Orchids are becoming hard to find.  Anyway, hubs carefully mows around all of the Orchids. How he manages to control that heavy bit of machinery to such a fine art, I do not know.  It’s paying off though, as this year I saw that we had increased our Common Spotted Orchids by 100%: we now have two!  One is at the front of the house and the other one is near the whirly washing line at the back of the house.

Common spotted Orchid-a rarity

The difficult corner is a nice sunny corner where I have seen plants thriving then suddenly horribly wilt and die.  Hubs was creating a bund there between us, the chain link fence and our neighbouring farm. When the sheep are milling around behind the fence, there is likely to be all sorts of temporary run off courtesy of them. In addition, to keeping unwanted nettles and other grassy weeds under control there is the occasional farm spraying just in that location, usually broadened out by the prevailing winds.  My Lamium and other hardy plants couldn’t cope with it. Yesterday, with some difficulty, I pulled out the Lamium. Talk about networks of roots.  They would have been ideal to hold the soil in position, if the circumstances had been right.  Meantime, I put on my thinking cap. Question; what grows easily and well forward of that corner? Looking around me I had a eureka moment. Of course, grass grows no problem.  So, I have planted a small cluster of evergreen ornamental grasses and for good measure, I have put a fascinating evergreen Curry Plant in the mix.

This was the only plant that thrived in ‘the corner’ patch last year. It came from a seed dropped courtesy of birds I suppose.  At its peak, supported by a pair of my tights, which were tied to the fence,  it stood at approximately  5ft.7″ high. We let it seed, sadly, there is no sign of it this year.

AND SO WITH A SMILEY….

I felt guilty about posting my bits of relative trivia when there are so many seriously, serious life events unfolding all around me. I don’t mean navel-gazing, though if you think about it, with the various muddles and crises going on in our own back yard here in the UK, it would be very easy to navel-gaze and shut out the rest of the world.  The ‘life must go on’ adage keeps popping into my head, paradoxically, adding to my hesitation to write. I do not really have any idea what writer’s block is. I assume that it would be different for every writer and maybe, this is mine.  Ho hum.

 

Am I okay to say I wrapped up the first Christmas parcel for 2019 a couple weeks ago; or, a visit to my dentist left me with neck-ache! I’m seeing him again tomorrow.  Also, I have been following Deacon Gilly’s Lenten determination to place negativity on the shelf in ‘my daily doings’. That’s proving to be a hard one, much more than I expected it to be. The corollary is working through it and to see and hear things that lift my spirits through the more positive spirits of others. What about, “I whistle a happy tune so no-one will suspect…’, except, people would run a mile hearing me try to whistle.  Better still, where I live, people make eye contact and smile at one another in greeting; you don’t have to know them. (There are the exceptions). However, just wandering around and sharing smiles I find can be uplifting.

So, with a smiley….TTFN    🙂

 

JUST ANOTHER WAIT

We are sorry, we are ever so busy with a high volume of calls. Your wait could be up to twenty-five minutes“.  Sub text: it is a late evening call- they do say they are contactable up till 10pm -and what the recorded message probably means, is, that there is a skeleton staff working. I half wish this was entirely true, but, I have to admit, I have waited on occasion equally as long and much longer during usual daytime business hours, whichever department I tapped through the menus to contact.

The digital  auto message voice is quite nice; the heavy metal noise has been replaced by something with two or three repetitive music phrases that it is possible to switch your ears off from while you think about things. Tonight, I promised myself I will not wait twenty-five minutes. I bet though, if I phone tomorrow morning, there will be a repeat performance. (Sigh).

Just For Me

Nearly fifteen minutes in, I have disconnected the phone. Just as well I am able to call with a freephone (toll free) number.

WEST TO EAST AND EAST TO WEST

I think, Yes, I am pretty sure, I have sorted all the festive mailings, both terrestrial and cyber. I do know I haven’t yet hovered over the Eastern Orthodox Christmas greetings for January. A few friends who do celebrate it, seem very happy to be greeted twice, from west to east and east to west.

My cards, packing and parcelling were started later than usual. I really do like to have a couple of weeks total breathing space from it before the actual festivities. I have kind of caught up but, it has been too intensive for me. The energy of youth is not in its first bloom from where I am sitting.

Storm Deidre barrelled through here and was extraordinarily bad from Saturday afternoon and also fearsome throughout the night. There will have been major disruption. 

The idea of relaxing in the calm after the storm, (literally) and what felt like Mrs Clause’ marathon without the assistance helpful wee elves, is not easy to adjust to. I must accept that I can give myself permission to sit and read my neglected books. Yay!!!

 

🙂

 

 

AN UNLOVED NECESSITY

Keeping ahead of the game.  I wrote about it here .  Fuel suppliers are an unloved necessity.  I thought I had eventually got my totally frustrating fuel provider trained and I was swithering about whether to stay with them at the end of the contract.

I re-contracted and billing horrors renewed apace.  The fuel provider went into seige mode.  Online notice boards and review sites were buzzing with irate and unhappy customers. A few got to speak to an unhelpful operator after an hour or more. I waited fifty-nine minutes and forty-five minutes respectively, during one day.  The company also switched off its auto-acknowledgment of emails.  Thus, there was no way of communicating.  This firm was in lock-down.

The Ombudsman Service (Energy) assured me the fuel provider was still trading, though one weary advisor said they were getting daily calls.  That prompted me to put in a formal complaint. (The Ombudsman Service,  provides a negotiation and remediation service).  I have now had two complaints against this company found in my favour within a year.

 

Where am I now?  The company have been able to complete two of the agreed remedies, the remainder, which would allow me to smoothly switch supplier without a contract exit penalty and within a specific period of time, are being frustrated.  Why?  

I started the switch process; it stopped because my gas meter was linked up to a different address on the industry’s main database for the gas supply !!!  My current supplier is obliged to ‘update’ the industry database.

I’ve emailed the company.  Their auto acknowledgment feature is switched on again.  It tells you there is a ten day response time.  Previously, it was five days.  The Ombudsman Investigator has now got the case back.

 

GLASGOW’S UNDERGROUND WORLD

When in Glasgow:
Visit the underground world of Glasgow Central Station. The unique guide and major enthusiast, in his retirement, is otherwise employed as Network Rail’s Historian and Archivist.  He used to manage this station. During his career he also managed several other major stations in London, U.K, however, he always returned to his home (and station) Glasgow Central.

Lovely Victorian Supporting Pillars

Descending into Glasgow’s historic and present transport underworld made for a tremendously engaging and educational visit, the guide, bringing to life with his words this major, solid, surviving transport hub. He spoke of the hustle and bustle of transport, for and with all sorts of people, now and in previous times. Peering into the pitch black, eyes following the slim line of a torch beam, it felt like we were intruders into someone else’s world. We saw the outline of places on platforms that were still intact where men could not go, and neither could we. Women of the 19th century waiting for trains in that gloom had the ‘comfort’ of separated waiting areas.  Our way was barred for reasons of safety, which pertained to present day use.

A Disused Line

In a lower street level goods entry, (Glasgow is a city of hills) there were still signs of horse drawn transport. The resting places for the horses still exist.

Like many stations, the ‘streets’ under Glasgow Central station were put to stark use in the two major wars, (WW1 and WWII).  The guide did not mince his words about many elements of the nineteenth century social history associated with this station. He felt very strongly the roles of womenfolk in life and death in this station, was and had been, totally ignored… he was definitely intent on correcting with his words what he felt was a grave neglect and a major injustice.

Preserver Of  Industrial/Social Heritage

While we were in the depths exploring some unused tunnelling and were in our joint reveries sensing the spirits of the past, on a nearby spur an underground train whizzed through.

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW….

Allotments: they do seem to take a variation of shapes and sizes and growing practices, according, it seems, to the managing ethos of any particular place. The one common theme is that they exist for the soil to be worked and to produce. They offer a community gardening experience and a common social interest amongst the people who make the allotments thrive. With flat dwelling providing limited opportunity for gardening creativity, allotments gardening can provide an alternative.

The many ‘urban gardens’ pictured, in central Vienna, Austria, run quite some distance. They are set back from a main road.

The pictures show only half their length.  The fencing is made from responsibly sourced wood, (I always wonder what that means)  from state forests. The urban gardeners were taking their responsibility seriously and were investing a great deal of thought, time and money into their allotted plots. The ethos here was evidently, grow-your-own food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of sight there is a major park and within it, in a more unkempt spot, was a different kind of garden with allotted spaces grown with flowers and looking like cottage gardens. Moving on, an opening in a high hedge presented you with a wide rectangular space surrounded by trees.  Around the edges were generously wide and deep boxes filled with soil, essentially raised gardening beds.  Each of these boxes were ‘rented’ to people with a specific interest; many were experimenting, they were interested in the process rather than harvesting the finished product. This, I was told, was this urban garden group ethos.

£££’s – KEEPING AHEAD OF THE GAME.

The domestic fuel provider hunt is on here in M’s household. I hate it!  There is no reward for loyalty. You have try to keep ahead of the game.  In commerce loyalty is seen as valuable commercial inertia.

A drain

The research into domestic fuel suppliers does demand focus.  The offers in the competitive market place require analysing, understanding and then an applied arithmetical brain work out.

number cruncher

The various and numerous  consumer comparison sites quite often do not agree with each other as to what’s truly best for you or me.  They too, are running a business.  One consumer web site is very transparent about its commissions from recommendations.  They also ensure their site shows other market provider options, from which they do not gain pecuniary advantage .

The best offers with all the suppliers are usually  available on the web. There are domestic fuel supplier names I have never heard of,  young businesses that are building up their customer base, trying to grow quickly with very competitive offers but without appropriate customer infrastructure in place. Caveat emptor.

My experience last year with a new kid on the block that metamorphosed into a total unknown during the transfer process, got to tear your hair out proportions:  My current contract with them is ending,  just as I have got them trained.