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Friday, 29 August 2008

Catching up on celeb gossip

Just got back from my lovely local hairdressers after a delicious wash and blowdry. They have nice sinks where you don't get up with your spine cracked in three places, and the 12 year old hairdressing assistant doesn't scald and freeze your head alternately before sighing and saying: "Where you goin' on holiday?" She just shuts up and washes your hair. Neither do they specialise in giving you vile head massages that leave you feeling your skull is in a vice.

I love sitting in my chair, drinking tea, letting Carrie do magic things to my hair (ie make it look presentable. I can't do a proper blowdry and that's that. I'm not an eight armed Hindu Goddess which is what you have to be to hold the hairdryer - but enough of that). I love to catch up on the celeb magazines. Apparently Kerry Katona is bankrupt! Blimey - she earned £750,000 on Iceland ads and £400,000 on a magazine column. (What magazine column? Where?) And still, she's as poor as a second term student. And that husband of hers - he looks exactly like a Toby Jug. Maybe that's why he's always buying cars. Oh and Demi Moore once squirted breast milk (her own I presume) at a group of lesbians. Also Danielle Lloyd (one of the bullies in Celebrity Big Brother) is on the up because her boyfriend bought her an expensive handbag. Nice to know you can carry your self-esteem on your arm. And there's loads of tips on how to get a Hot Body. Apparently it has nothing to do with taking Ketamine and diet pills but eating lots of egg white omelettes, fish and vegetables.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

How to Write Jokes

Scroll down to find a great step by step guide to writing jokes, from comedian Jo Caulfield's blog. It's nice when successful comedians share their tips. Forces you to rethink the offheld notion that all comics are mean spirited depressives who'd rather lose a kidney than acknowledge anyone else's talent.


We have fleas! Those fucking useless shitty gravied chunk guzzling kittens have brought them home from the cat hotel where they've been lazing around for the last couple of weeks. Despite dripping them with toxic anti-flea medication before and after, several suspicious little black things jumped off my leg yesterday. "You're obviously not very nutritious" said a friend of mine who obviously doesn't have fleas so felt compelled to give me advice and laugh at me. I wanted to send him a few in an envelope. I bet, like cockroaches - cat fleas would survive a nuclear holocaust.

ARRGGGH!!!!!!!!!!! Even as I type this, having sprinkled powder everywhere, boiled bedding and vacuumed (all while the BOY snored in bed) I'm itching.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Abridge too Far

One thing I do sometimes is to abridge books for Radio 4. It's a slightly more grown up version of school precis. You just cut down the words. But when you cut a book for Book at Bedtime or Book of the Week, it's slashing the entire thing from about 70,000 to 11,000 to fit into five episodes. The very first one I did was Pierre Boulle's Planet of the Apes. It was easy to abridge because the hero keeps wandering off on philosophical musings as to the nature of man and ape. 'Yeah Yeah' I'd mutter, slashing page after page of rambling ape thoughts, anxious to get back to gorillas chasing the hero round the field. I've learned that the better written a book, the harder it is to abridge because there's so little fat on it.

This time I was abridging a new thriller called Perfect Night by Peter Grimsdale who's married to a close friend. So it would have been very embarrassing if he'd hated what I did to his book. Especially as despite him being allowed ten episodes instead of the usual five, I didn't do so much a nip and tuck as a full Frankenstein job, slashing, cutting, and restitching; desperately hoping the joins didn't show. Or the end result wasn't slow and stumbling with a bolt in the neck. If it had been a crap book, full of blithering and blah, it would have been a piece of piss. But Peter wrote a very tight, pacey narrative and it was a total arse to abridge. I would cut a bit, then realise my decision impacted in about five separate chapters, like ripples in a pond.

Jamie Glover's reading it, and doing a damn fine job. Imagine reading a story to your kids which goes on and on and on, and you have to do about ten different voices, really subtly. It's really hard! I listened to him delicately colouring the text and suddenly having to read The Smelly Book to my daughter for the ten millionth time didn't seem so tough.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

There is a God!!!

I read today that the head of HBOS, Andy Hornby had his account ransacked, and 7K neatly removed. Staff had the unenviable task of phoning him on holiday to say his accounts had been frozen. There is a God!

However, I doubt that Mr Hornby will have to deal with Nick at the Halifax Call Centre telling him that his account "has been fraudulentleh accessed" and by the way they've lost his Fraud Claim form and can he send in another. Bitter? Moi?

Saturday, 16 August 2008

RIP Sydney

We had our very old cat Sydney (nineteen) put down this morning. This was for several reasons.
1. He had arthritis
2. He had stopped grooming himself properly and his fur had matted into dreads.
3. He was beginning to poo all over the house.

But it was still awful. Sydney has always hated travelling by car, and on the way to the vet, he let out a bone chilling yowwwllllll that nearly made Husband crash the car. Once there, the vet pointed out that he would have to shave Sydney's leg before injecting the vial-ful of blue liquid into him. Sydney did not appreciate being shaved and yelled his head off, baring his teeth in yellow-hued rage. I just stood there, stroking his head and crying great snotty tears. Eventually the vet gave him a sedative. Sydney dribbled all over the table and then threw up his breakfast (gourmet cat food; we'd been giving him the sort of cat dinners that don't make you gag when you open the tin).

I came up very close to Sydney, tickled him behind the ears and whispered "Goodbye." And then he was gone.

He was a great cat. The Perfect Cat. Friendly but not needy. When the Boy was born, he would sit by his baby seat, purring. He allowed the Boy to pull him about with incredible grace. Even when the Boy went too far and pulled his tail, Sydney politely retreated his claws before giving the Boy a quick biff with his paw. Everyone on the street knew him. He would lie on the ground, like a huge furry speed hump, so anyone passing by would have to bend down and give him a pat. I would often look out the window and see crowds of children gathered round him, stroking him while he wriggled about, furrily, revelling in the attention.

Now he's gone. Even though it was the right thing to do it hurts terribly. We're going to scatter his ashes under his favorite tree.

RIP Syndey.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Halifax Bank - The Tenth Circle of Hell

I haven't written much recently because my life has been eaten by a series of multiple frauds on my account. This has resulted in a series of phone calls where I trembling on the brink of hysteria explain over and over and over and over again to a call centre person that my debit card needs to be cancelled and then I hear a voice on the phone informing me that: "Your account has possibleh been fraudulentleh accessed." NO SHIT SHERLOCK.

Whoo-hoooo-hoooo-wavy lines to indicate going back a few weeks . . . .

On 24 July I logged onto my account to find that some thieving bastard had somehow stolen £1000 from my account. I cancelled the card immediately having been told that "my account has been fraudulentleh accessed".

A week later I got my new card and a crime declaration form which I filled in and photocopied. (NOTE - When dealing with banks always always photocopy stuff and always send it back recorded delivery. That way the incompetent twunts can't pretend they didn't receive it)

And something else! If some thieving cunt ransacks your account you have to arrange an overdraft with the fraud department. Not the call centre - they apparently can't do it! And the fraud department is only open till 5pm and shuts at the weekend. That's good because fraud never occurs after 5pm or at the weekend does it?

And then on 1st August, after arranging an overdraft with the Fraud department of £1000 – (the same amount that had been fraudulently removed from my account) I was puzzled to hear that although I had about £200 in my account I was unable to take out any more money. Again, I phoned the Halifax to discover that I had GONE OVER the £1000 overdraft! Because once more my account had been plundered and I had several Debits waiting to come out of my account – NONE of which I knew anything about! And weird amounts like £70.09 to Autoglass and £43.15 to Tmobile.

I had just been sent a claim form for the previous £1000, and while filling it in I noticed it said: CARDHOLDERS NAME: Ms L C Purcell. My name is Jane Purcell and it always has been. Where did the L C come from? Another account?

I then spoke to Sophia at the Fraud department who was very helpful, but she couldn’t find a Ms L C Purcell. Again, nobody knew why this could have happened or why at the top of my claim form had the words:

Account holder name: Ms Jane Purcell
Cardholders name: Ms L C Purcell

Sophia was as baffled as I. "However, I have to say that unfortunateleh your account appaears to have been used fraudulentleh." You don't say.

On Saturday 2 August I checked my account again to discover there were MORE fraudulent transactions and when I phoned up again, learned there were yet more pending!

This time I spoke to Donna who told me that I had shedloads of transactions about to go through on my account. We worked through all of them and they amounted to nearly a thousand quid. This on top of the £1000 that had already disappeared. But nobody could explain why a card that I had cancelled on 24 July, still had fraudulent transactions coming thorough on it a week later. Donna at least said she was very "sorreh".

On Aug 2nd I filled in the Crime Declaration form which had been sent by the Halifax fraud dept.

It said on the second page that if there were any additional frauds, I should add them on. As by then there had been at least seven more, in addition to the original 2 x £500 frauds, I printed out a copy of my recent statements with all the frauds clearly ringed. I added a letter to this explaining what was happening, and took copies before sending it all back to the Halifax Fraud dept.

On 11 August I phoned the Fraud Department, hoping that my fraud claim had been received and processed. This time I spoke to Nick who pulled up my details on screen and said the claim hadn’t been received. His exact words were: “We haven’t received it.” followed by a long silence. I had no idea what to do and while I’d kept a copy, noted that it said at the bottom that if Halifax hadn’t received it within 14 days the claim could be cancelled. What was I meant to do? Nick said I could re-send it or fax it and “they only put the threat in to make the customer get a move on.” Sadly no such system exists for Halifax staff. He was spectacularly unhelpful, and monosyllabic. He was a little shit frankly.

Five minutes later I rang Halifax again (the call centre, not the fraud dept) and spoke to Claire. I asked if there was any chance if my fraud claim had ended up in the wrong file and with a little judicious searching she said that it had been. Because I had included a letter and a printout of my account with all the fraudulent transactions ringed, along with my fraud claim, it had been filed in the ‘complaint file’ instead. In a few minutes Claire found that my fraud claim HAD in fact been received and put through on the system. I had this conversation literally five minutes after speaking to Nick who told me that the fraud claim had NOT been received. I don’t believe that he would have had less access to my details than a call centre member of staff. So why couldn’t he click a few numbers and find out what had happened to my claim? It's not my fault that he hates his job and is very short (probably).

Claire also said that there was another card in circulation ending in a 00 which had ‘now been cancelled’. This was news to me. I had never received such a card.

As far as I was aware I had a card ending in 3601 which had been used in the original fraud and had been cancelled on 24 July, and then I was sent another card ending 3608 which I now use. I had never received a card ending in 00. Had it been sent out to me and intercepted somehow?

Could this be linked the mysterious L.C Purcell? Nobody could tell me. Claire put a note on my account, (whoo-hoo another note! I’ve had a series of notes on my account, variously saying – ‘urgent’ ‘really urgent’ ‘even more urgent’) and was about to put me through to the Fraud dept but it was then 5pm, so they were closed.

On 12 August I phoned the Fraud department again to find out whether they had my Crime Declaration form (as Claire said) or not, (as Nick said.)

This time I spoke to Andrew. He told me that they had received my Crime Declaration Form, but it had been put in the ‘complaint’ queue instead of the ‘fraud’ queue. I asked: “Could you move it to the fraud queue instead?” Andrew then said that the only frauds they had marked down were the two £500 frauds to Mint Classic. We had a conversation that went as follows:

Me: But what about the list of other frauds? I sent you a list with them all circled. There have been at least TEN other frauds on my account since 24th July.

Andrew: Yes but the only ones on the crime declaration form are the two £500 Mint Classic Frauds.

Me: But it says clearly on the Crime Declaration form that if there are any other frauds, to add them. Which I have. Didn’t you get them?

Andrew: Er yes. We’ve got your letter, and your printout of statements with the frauds ringed.

Me: So why haven’t they been included?

Andrew: I don’t know. I’m going to have to send you another Crime Declaration Form.

So here I am on 12 August right back at square one. Waiting for another crime declaration form. I can only hope that this time it will include all the multiple frauds on my account. But given the track level of incompetence so far, I’m not holding my breath.

I’ve had no explanation AT ALL as to why this happened, or why there seem to be two cards floating about with my name, or who is this mysterious L C Purcell. Neither have I received any money back. My direct debits have been thrown into chaos.

The very worst thing is that although I haven’t done anything wrong here, it’s me that has to chase, constantly ask questions, and repeat the same story over and over again to a succession of call centre staff.

There has been multiple fraud on my account and it has been handled with utter incompetence and obfuscation at every level. Nobody can seemingly do anything except ‘put a note’ on my account and send me forms with other people’s names at the top, which then get filed in the wrong place.

So BEWARE. Keep copies of everything and send all your correspondence by recorded delivery.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Not Guilty

Really sane and balanced piece in the Guardian actually written BY a working mother rather than a) a harpie who is spouting whatever her editor is telling her to spout or b) a non-working mother whose corporate megabucks earning husband can afford to keep her in cashmere and vitriol.

Melissa Deanes gives us the upside of working and mothering. That it can be FUN. Oh yes - the joy of earning your own money can't be understated. That working outside the home can make you a more interesting person. And that no, your brains don't turn to mush after having a baby. It's bollocks.

So is the tiresome cliche about working mothers feeling guilty. I've always worked, full time and now freelance. It's been really knackering sometimes. But I've never felt guilty. Been told and read often enough that I'm meant to feel guilty. I haven't. Never.

The women who are anti-working mothers have a curled lip attitude towards us. They speak of 'career women' and 'selfishness' and 'If we want a career why can't we be childminders'. (Actual quote). Hah! I think they see us as having it both ways and if they didn't why should we? They can all fuck off.

All the working mothers I know do their very best for their families, and work to pay mortgages and put food on the table. Also it's nice that they don't have to ask their partners for money to buy a lipstick, like a child asking daddy.

As can the men who are anti working mothers. This breed are always the conservative types who also believe that cooking and cleaning have nothing to do with them. They're the ones who need women to 'look after them' and minister to their grandiose egos. I went out with one of these types once, years and years ago. He believed strongly that a woman's place was in the home. He was also shit in bed.

My daughter seems fine so far and as for The Boy, I barely see him these days. Occasionally I peek into his room in case the smell of his own feet has rendered him unconcious, but am usually reassured by a friendly grunt.

It all boils down to the fact that if you earn your own living, nobody can tell you what to do. As Dostoevsky said, 'money is coined freedom.'