Monday 18 April 2016

BEFORE breakfast I go out and take the electricity meter readings. This is gonna be one of these days.

I go through all our electricity bills, and note all the peak and off-peak usage, kWh rates and other info in a spreadsheet and try and work out why (a) our bill has rocketed and (b) we use so much electricity.

Actually, it looks like we’ve used a similar amount in the same period last year, but to be charged over a grand for three months seems a bit excessive.

I call SSE Hydro and leave a call back request. The guy that calls back is helpful and offers a new plan with rates quite a lot lower than we’re paying. Now, in my book, long-standing, customers should be looked after and rewarded for their loyalty…not kept on excessive rates while new customers (who are likely to switch as soon as a cheaper offer comes along) get a better deal. It’d be like me charging folks who regulalrly turn up to my shows £10 a ticket, but giving first timers half-price entry. It’s all fucking wrong.

I politely query why I’d have been kept on a high rate when there’s lower ones available (still on Economy 10 and with the same provider!). While the bills state I could potentially save £40/£50 a year by switching plans at the risk of losing some other benefits, none have indicated I could save £7/800 a year! I’m given some waffle about these rates only being introduced in the last few days. I make my point, but no point in shooting the messenger…this guy has done nothing but help.

We switch to a different version of the same plan (!?!) with the same provider.

We’ll look at what we need to do to reduce our power consumption too. I go outside and vent some of my frustrations by thumping the swingball for five minutes then realise the wind is threatening to blow our new swing up the hill. I added some washers and spring washers to the canopy  screws to try and keep the thing from tilting at the slightest breeze but it’s not really worked. We unscrew the canopy and stick it in the office ’til the hurricanes subside.

Having calmed down somewhat I embark on the next to-do list nightmare. BT.

The promise of a response/follow-up to my call about broadband speed a fortnight ago hasn’t materialised and there’s no change in the up/download speed. As mentioned, we can live with the poor 6mb/sec download speed, but the 0.3mb/sec upload speed is pitiful. And I don’t really care that there’s no guarantees about upload speed, 0.3mb/sec is useless. Unfit for purpose. I was told there was an issue with the speed – it would be reported to the network team and they’d get back to me in 48 hours.

I phone and request a call back. I get no apology for the lack of response. The pleasant, but hard to understand, girl at the other end starts the whole process again and tells me she’ll ‘clear the traffic’ from the exchange. The whole process has me on the phone for ages and…no change. I’m told to call back tomorrow if there’s no improvement. Jeez. I don’t have time for this…

There’s another BT issue. Our monthly bill has jumped from £42.50 to £73.50. I’ve only just noticed this while sorting my accounts…they’ve been taking the extra since December. I check the BT website and work out the call/broadband/line rental monthly cost and it should be….£42.50!

I contact BT via the online chat this time…but they want to call me. OK. They call and tell me I’m being transferred to someone in the UK. Seems that my contract has expired. Erm…I’ve had no notice of contracts expiring by email or post. Turns out the stuff sent from BT has been stopped by my Spamarrest account and because BT’s emails are automated, they don’t respond to the ‘click here to prove you’re a real person’ responses.

So – I guess I have to accept some of ‘the blame’, but for fuck sake you’d expect when you sign up for a service it would run until you cancel…and if there’s a change in price you have to either accept it, or lose the service. Doubtless the ‘small print’ has BT’s get out clause but I reckon that’s unreasonable.

Once again, the reward for loyalty and staying with a service provider is being charged more.

Another analogy. BT’s approach would be like taking out a magazine subscription for a year…you pay the agreed amount of money, get the magazine for a year, but when your sub runs out, they don’t tell you and start taking nearly double the cover price (without your permission). That doesn’t happen, so how come BT can get away with this?

I get no empathy from the guy on the phone. I’m basically told it’s my problem and the onus is on me to renew my BT contract each year before it runs out or pay the penalty. And the broadband speeds are still shite.

So…an entire day wasted on trying to sort out utilities and billing instead of getting any important jobs done means I dont get a start on my accounts and US tour routing ’til after dinner. That’s our night sorted….

Nevermind, tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) I’ll be doing another Facebook Live stream direct on my Facebook Page with another unplugged preview of a track from the forthcoming EP, gig announcements and live Q&A/chat.


Tuesday 5 April 2016

Our pals Martyn and Louise come to the rescue letting us use their place for the Facebook Live stream....

Our pals Martyn and Louise come to the rescue letting us use their place for the Facebook Live stream….if you missed it, click the pic and watch the replay on my Facebook page.

AFTER yesterday’s experiment with Facebook Live video streaming I plan a more organised stream for this evening…a new song, some chat and some Q&A at 7.30pm. I spread the word via Facebook, Twitter etc.

Messing about with my iPhone and Facebook’s Mentions app which handles the live streaming, I find out internet copnnection’s ‘too slow’ to run the app. Uh-oh. I install the app on Margaret’s phone to see if her newer iPhone and higher specc’d wifi connectivity will help. Nope.

I run a speed check on our connection and find we have a 6.9 meg download speed. Crap by many standards, but workable. Upload is a measly 0.3 meg. Now that is nothing short of shite…and is clearly why Facebook Live ain’t gonna work.

I try direct wired connections between the laptop and various modem setups (including the crappy BT Homehub), but to no avail. With an hour already wasted, I try and online chat with BT. Takes 25 minutes to get an ‘agent’ on the other end who tells me ‘we don’t guarantee upload speeds’. I explain I don’t really care what they do or don’t guarantee….the service is unworkable. And expensive. ‘Nothing I can do’ they say…I ask who can and am offered the customer service number.

The response there is quicker and the experience a little more conducive to solving the problem. After then minutes or so of testing and to-ing and fro-ing I’m told there does seem to be a problem with the line/service and it’ll be passed onto the network team. Could be 48 hours ’til we see an improvement (if any).

I call my pal Martyn along the road. We got it working at his place yesterday so, if he’s around and not busy, maybe we could impose ourselves and do the stream from his place. He’s totally up for it, so we arrange to head along just after 7pm…we’ve some pulled pork out the freezer, so offer to take it along for dinner by way of a thank you.

Facebook Live under control, I get on with a website I’m developing for someone and manage to get it finished. I let them know – they have a look and request a few minor changes and we arrange to meet tomorrow so I can show them how to update the content.

At 7pm we head along to Martyn and Louise’s. A quick check and the internet connection;s still good…we set up and go live…fifteen minutes of chat, a new song and responses to comments/questions coming in and we’re done. It’s easy, informal and fun….lots of viewers, interaction and we deem the exercise a great success. You can replay the video on my Facebook page.

We drink beer, eat then enjoy a dram before we finally head home a good while later than we intended!


Saturday 2 April 2016

Rab plays a fantastic show at Gartmore Village Hall

Rab plays a fantastic show at Gartmore Village Hall

WE have a pretty lazy morning…I still haven’t quite shaken off the lurgy, so maybe a bit of a rest’s a good thing.

After a late breakfast I pick up a guitar and run through a bunch of songs I haven’t played in ages. It feels good. Margaret asks me about the new song I’ve been messing with in the studio…I explain I couldn’t ‘find’ the vocal melody and it was all over the place when i tried to record it yesterday.

I pick up the guitar and run through it. Works pretty good and sounds fine. So what was the problem in the studio? I think it’s because I was overdubbing the vocals rather than playing the song live….somethingI rarely – actually never – do and that reminds why. I need to play the guitar and sing at the same time, That’s just the way it is.

After the recent interruptions in internet service, I investigate possible causes. We have a fancy-assed Netgear router which doesn’t have a built-in ADSL modem (ie: for ‘normal’ BT Broadband). To get round that, we used our old BT Homehub as a modem and disabled the wireless router…the Homehub, though, I think is goosed…plus, running through two devices could be causing sporadic IP conflcts.

I go onto Amazon and find a cheap ADSL modem for a tenner and  a ethernet switch to plug all our ‘internet enabled’ devices into – they should be here tomorrow (Sunday) with free delivery courtesy of Amazon Prime.

Meantime, Margaret prepares a roast and knocks up a big pile of Yorkshire puddings. Catriona’s coming to stay tonight and we’re having an early dinner so we can get to Gartmore in good time for my pal Rab’s gig there tonight.

Catriona is driving and we get there with time to chat to our friends from the village then settle down and enjoy the show. Gartmore Hall has (fairly) recently been renovated and it;s a nice space for gig. Rab, of course, plays a blinder mixing some of his older material with tracks from his latest I’m Walking Here album. Great songs, engaging performance and an incredibly assured and strong guitar playing.

We bid farewell and head home for a snack, a few glasses of wine and plenty chat before bed.

Margaret's Yorkies are amazing!

Margaret’s Yorkies are amazing!



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