Leftie is now blocked and finished, ta dah! I still can’t muster the enthusiasm to carry on with the Nanook cardigan because there’s a strong possibility I’ll have to pull it out and re-knit the back with fewer increases. But I need something to keep my hands busy while watching TV of an evening so I’ve started knitting a reindeer trophy head using a couple of the cones of yarn I turned up in last week’s rummage through the spare bedroom’s cupboards.
No-animals-were-harmed trophy heads
Quirky trophy heads have been popping up in all sorts of places for the last year or two, whether knitted, made of fabric or assembled from slices of laser-cut fibreboard or cardboard. The version I am knitting is from the Dot Pebbles blog and is called My Deer. The head, ears and antlers are all knitted separately and then stuffed before being lightly felted and shrunk in the washing machine. Only then do you attach the antlers. I will add a red nose and my homage to Rudolph and all things festive will have pride of place on the chimney breast over the Christmas period.
To start with, Rudolph looked far from promising. The head on its own, just off the needles, was very sock-like. It began to look a bit less like a sock when I stuffed it, but more otter or greyhound than deer. It seems to have fattened out a little in the washing machine and is presently hung up to dry. I may need to give it another go in the machine to close up the knitted fabric some more.
It’s been a bad few weeks for our utility supplies. First, we suffered a month with one of our two telephone lines out of action, thanks to BT’s incompetence. We’ve had intermittent faults on one or other line for the last couple of years, during which BT personnel have turned up, scratched their heads and then gone away again after either a) saying they can’t find anything much wrong, or b) changing the master socket in the hope that might remedy the problem. On one famous occasion, the BT “engineer” (a technician, at best – as a chartered engineer myself I refuse to bestow the honourable title of engineer on an ill-trained idiot) was unable to ring his supervisor on the faulty line because it was so noisy that communication down it was impossible, yet he explained that he wasn’t allowed to repair a noisy line unless his supervisor agreed, having heard it, that a repair was needed.
After yet another half-baked attempt at remedying the fault, BT applied an outgoing call-bar that we hadn’t asked for, which meant people could ring us but we couldn’t dial out. Numerous lengthy conversations with Indian call centres followed, over a period of a fortnight. Each time, we had to explain the issue from scratch and were assured that the problem would be resolved within the next 48 hours as the call-bar hadn’t been removed correctly, so the solution was to re-apply it and then remove it again, and each of those actions could only be performed overnight. We were warned that “the computer” would charge us for the repeated imposition of a call-bar and, once it was all over, we’d have to speak to BT’s billing department to get the charges removed. Eventually, the problem was solved when we did speak to the billing department, concerned that a large bill would arrive before the phone was even working properly again. The billing clerk (who was thankfully UK-based, which certainly aided communication) immediately recognised that the origin of the problem was an idiosyncrasy of the billing system and was able to get the mysteriously sticky call-bar lifted immediately.
But that wasn’t an end to the matter. Now we were once again able to make calls on that line, it was apparent that it was still intermittently noisy and occasionally dropped out altogether. In desperation, after this had been going on for a month, I wrote a polite letter of complaint, detailing all the problems and the inept attempts to rectify them, and making a claim for compensation. More in hope than expectation, I uploaded it via BT’s website to the customer service department. The effect was near-miraculous. I received an email and then a call from a sensible, UK-based individual who arranged for a visit from a competent BT technician who quickly diagnosed a fault in the cables between the house and the pole in the road outside and replaced them. Then, after a bit of haggling, we got a refund of our line rental for the month plus an extra sum which, while welcome, was in no way proportionate to the hours we’d both spent on the phone to the sub-continent or the hassle of having to wait in for repair men. Thank goodness it is all over now.
Mad fool that I am, this experience didn’t dissuade me from changing the supplier of our gas and electricity last month. Seeing as the UK’s gas supply is, at least in part, dependent on the whims and actions of Vladimir Putin, moving to a company offering a tariff that is both competitive now and fixed for 18 months must be a good idea, mustn’t it? The only problem is, our previous supplier is disputing our closing electricity meter reading. Since we installed photovoltaic panels three years ago, our electricity consumption is substantially lower than average and they won’t believe it. This is despite the fact that the last “official” reading was only 6 months ago and our average daily consumption since then has been almost identical to the same period last year. Now that the transfer date has passed we have no direct relationship with the previous supplier and are having to try to convince them, via the new supplier, that we took an accurate reading. This has involved, amongst other things, emailing a photo of the electricity meter to show that its current reading is still not massively more than the closing reading we took a couple of months ago, just before we went on holiday. Again, more hassle. It’s no wonder that British consumers are reluctant to change energy suppliers.
They say problems come in threes, and we now have an issue with Yorkshire Water. In 2007 we had a water meter installed, voluntarily, and are still paying less per annum today than we did when our water charges were based on the house’s rateable value. So that was a good move. The meter had to go in a hole in the pavement outside the house, there being no room under the kitchen sink. It could have gone in the front garden, but the installers were mystified by the multitude of signals they got from their cable-tracer device and didn’t dare dig in case they hit a cable or pipe. As the meter isn’t on our property and requires some effort to read – a tool to open the metal flap in the pavement, then squatting on the ground while peering down a damp hole with a torch – we only look at it once or twice a year. The last time we did, we noticed that it had been fitted with a remote-reading device which obscures the dial and makes manual reading impossible. We weren’t too concerned, we’ve had the meter for long enough to know what our consumption ought to be and felt we would be able to check our water bills were about right.
Well, the latest water bill has just arrived and it shows that our consumption over the last 12 months, based on actual (not estimated) meter readings, is a big round zero. The meter reading, according to this bill, hasn’t changed since October 2013. You would think that the water company’s computer would have spotted that either the meter, or the remote-reading device attached to it, is faulty, but no. Dear husband went online and had a webchat with Yorkshire Water who were surprised to learn that we hadn’t stopped using water and are going to send someone round to peer in the hole. At least the static reading is being recorded. Some years ago we were threatened by British Gas with forced entry to the house using bailiffs because the LCD display on their super-duper new digital gas meter went completely blank when the battery ran out. Meter readers kept coming, looking at it and then not entering anything in the relevant boxes on their form, because there were no digits to enter. “The computer” interpreted this lack of data as the householder repeatedly refusing access to the meter readers, hence the decision to use their powers of entry under the Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act 1954. Hey ho.