BT... grrrrrr

I've been spending quite a lot of time helping my mum sort out her finances. A lot of this work involves the sad but necessary step of changing account names from my dad's name or joint names, to just her. Doing this has been an exercise in discovering how companies really feel about their customers. The good news is that almost every company I have dealt with has been efficient and sympathetic. If my mum had been left to do this on her own she might just have managed (she's in her mid eighties and doesn't have a lot of expereince with form filling and voicemail options).

The exception, by quite a long way, is BT. Actually getting a human being to answer the helpline has been an ongoing effort of mine for over a week now. After numerous diversions I often end up in a cue, which never ends. They have a call back service, but no one has yet ever called me back.

So, I Googled their head office addres and wrote the follwoing letter. I'll post the reply, if and when it arrives. Let's look on this as an experiment...

"Dear BT,


I am writing in order to raise two points.

Firstly, after the death of my father at the end of last year I took over my mum’s finances. I have been calling all the companies (water, gas, etc.) to get account names changed and to generally update her details. In every case I got through to a person who was sympathetic and efficient. Except with BT. I have now been attempting, for over a week, to get a human being on the telephone and have got precisely nowhere. Even the service that is supposed to call me back within an hour to save me cueing hasn’t worked. If my mum (in her 80s) had had to deal with this on her own I can imagine it would have left her feeling even more frustrated than I have been.

Secondly, does anyone at BT understand how annoying it is to watch countless adverts offering deals to new customers while current customers are ignored?  The impression this gives is ‘once we’ve got you, we no longer care about you.’

I do want to stay with BT and have been with BT Internet (now broadband) since the very early days of the net. But when your help lines and your non-available special offers both give off a sense of rejection, where’s the incentive?

I hope someone does actually read my letter and replies to it without recourse to a form letter. This, BT, is your chance to come across like a company who cares about your customers."


New releases

While I haven’t managed a lot of getting together with my musical pals this year, I have been listening to a ton of good music.

In the ‘nobody wants to call it fusion but it’s hard to describe it as anything else’ world there have been two stand out releases. Scott Henderson, Jeff berlin and Dennis Chambers have put their energy into music rather than imaginative album titles with ‘HBC’ which makes them sound like a bank. This is an album of mostly covers from the genre known as ‘nobody wants to call it fusion but it’s hard to describe it as anything else’ reimagined for bass, drums and guitar. As an album it positively burns from the first note.

The incredible talent of John McLaughlin and his Fourth Dimension band have brought out the grammatically suspect ‘Now Here This’. Maybe it’s a tribute to Oasis. No, of course it’s not. This is more music that, if you must classify things belongs to ‘nobody wants to call it fusion but it’s hard to describe it as anything else’. What’s great about this album is that the phenomenal technique doesn’t get in the way of the feel. You can listen, be blown away by what these guys can do, then listen again. Not all albums pass that test.

Thanks to writer and e-pal Sid Smith’s excellent podcast I discovered a Belgian group called Aranis and their album ‘Made in Belgium’. Complex, mostly acoustic and seriously hard to classify so let’s not even go there music is what Aranis have made and they’ve inspired me to check out their back-catalogue. I love it for its almost endless twists and turns and the way obviously very difficult interplay is made to sound effortless. While the other two albums inspire me to air bass (or indeed real bass, if I’m feeling brave) ‘Made in Belgium’ makes me want to jig around the kitchen.

For now though it’s time for me to get back in the woodshed.



Today, after being haunted by it for the last few weeks, I wrote the final poem in a collection I hope to release next month. There was an image and an idea, not to mention quite a bit of emotion) to process. But when I gave myself time to sit down and write it out, I found the words falling in to place almost automatically. I have spent so long working on structure and rhythm that there was space for the words without any great re-writes or even horrified re-readings. I sincerely hope that someone other than me will enjoy this work.

Snow, again

It’s been harder than I thought to get the main musical projects off the ground. I had been working hard to sort out the repercussion of losing my dad; which meant helping my mum with her finances and making sure all the loose ends were tied up. I still have a few items on the tick list but most of the difficult things are settled.

Then we had trouble with the neighbours, which seems to have been settled without recourse to heavy weaponry of lawyers.

And then the snow came down.

I live in a country where snow is a regular visitor but whose arrival always surprises everyone. No one has snow tyres, there are no grit/salt bins at the roadside (at least not where I live) and it only takes a few inches of the white stuff to close schools and shut roads. It doesn’t help that many motorists seem to see snow and ice as a signal to drive faster.

So, all plans to meet up, write songs and finish albums have been pushed back. Again. Grrr.

Maybe next week.



Last year I undertook a personal challenge of the writing kind. It was both interrupted and (in a strange way) assisted by my dad’s illness and death. The writing is now finished and now the hard part begins. I’ve a stack of paper that needs to be edited, ordered and corrected so, in keeping with my arbitrary challenges, I’m giving myself January to get it all done. In theory then, February will see something new, and I hope you like it.


Tory, Tory Night

Just before Christmas I had a dream where I was trying to sort out tickets to a free event in London. Things were not going well and the person on the end of the helpline I had called was Norman Tebbit. In the dream he was most helpful and I woke with a sense of surprise.

On Christmas Eve I was dreaming again and in my slumber MichaelPortillo had arrived to deliver some books. This time when I woke up and began wondering what I must have been eating that created helpful dream-state version of ex Tory ministers. There have been no further sightings but one of my Christmas presents from my thoughtful mother-in-law was a copy of the original Bradshaw’s Guide. This wonderful book aimed to show the British Isles off to the then new breed of railway passenger/tourists. There was a television series based around the guide, fronted by Michael Portillo. Maybe it was the blue cheese.


Up, down and up again

I watched the Pixar movie, ‘Up’ last night. The opening sequence, showing the relationship of the main character and his wife going from meeting as children, through marriage, dreams, troubles and death was a little too close to the bone for me. When, after all their experiences together, one of them is left behind with just a house full of mementoes and a head full of memories I couldn’t help but think of my mum , alone in her house. I was choked up and noticed how silent J and Freya were. Jude, however, looked up and me and said in his sing-song voice, “that’s funny!”