“Everything in everything and place place for its a.”
“Everything in everything and place place for its a.”
Some clichés are more accurate than others, and one that is especially true is that it doesn’t take an awful lot to get the English talking about the weather, in fact it almost counts as a national pastime.
So it’s no surprise that one of the subjects for workplace small talk yesterday was the imminent arrival of a weather system so powerful that it warranted an amber weather warning from the meteorological office.
Yes, “storm Imogen” was coming.
The Met office began a project to name wind storms at the end of last year and Imogen was the latest system to arrive on our shores, (apparently we are soon to be battered by Jake, Katie and Lawrence) promising to spread 70 – 80mph winds, heavy rain, hail and general unpleasantness across the country from the early hours of Monday morning.
Well, they weren’t kidding.
Just a quick look out of the window at lunchtime was enough to establish that Imogen was indeed upon us and my first thought was; “I hope the gazebo is still securely tied down” because, as I mentioned in January, it nearly escaped from the garden the last time we had gale force winds.
I wasn’t too concerned though, I had made pretty certain it was rigidly anchored to as many solid objects as possible and it had remained intact so far.
However, I became progressively less confident as I drove home from work.
The first indication that all might not be well was the horrendous traffic gridlock that blocked every road going into Barnstaple, meaning that a journey which usually takes 15 – 20 minutes took nearly an hour.
Then, as I walked in the front door of the flats, our neighbour came out and informed me that the power was out and wasn’t due to be reconnected until 10p.m.
Great, no heating, no lights and no phone or internet.
Rhonda was away doing a training course and had been due to pick Audrey up from a friend’s house on her way home, but there was no sign of them and no way to contact them either, so I dug out some candles while it was still light enough to find them and went out to check on the gazebo.
Or should I say, the ex-gazebo…
Oh bollocks (again).
I guess I should be grateful that the canopy stayed tied to the fence, otherwise there’s no way of telling how far away the entire thing may have flown. As it was, I imagine that its death throes were quite spectacular to watch, because it really is completely destroyed this time.
I didn’t even bother attempting to resurrect it, I just left it in a sad little heap and went back in the warm.
Rhonda and Audrey finally arrived about an hour later, after getting trapped in traffic chaos due to an overturned truck and trailer blocking the main road.
Fortunately by then I’d found two sets of battery powered Christmas tree lights to go with the candles, so at least I could see to make a salad.
Audrey thought it was all terribly exciting and (on the understanding that it doesn’t happen too often) there was something quite pleasant about the two hours before the power came back, sitting quietly and chatting by candlelight.
I’ll still be glad of a hot meal tonight though.
Today I’ve been mucking about with Oscilab, the loop making app that I use to construct my sonic noodlings, like Janjot, the tune I came up with to mark the end of Just Jot It January last weekend.
Following encouraging comments from my old friend Ho and fellow blogger John Howell, I decided to continue experimenting with the original tune, or at least its component parts, to see if I could improve on it at all.
The result is a slightly darker, more atmospheric number, using a bass drone to add more drama and substance to the background, while the waves of twinkly noises and percussion wash over the top.
It’s a bit of an epic production and I’m rather pleased with it.
See what you think, you can hear it in all its glory by clicking the big blue link below the artwork.
It’s only just 4 p.m. on Saturday as I start writing this intro, so the chances of it actually being a Stream of consciousness SATURDAY this week are looking favourable, but you never know what might happen between now and the end of the post, so let’s get on with it.
Today’s prompt from Linda G Hill is a pointer, in more ways than one, to the next episode in the story of Hannah’s increasingly complicated life;
” “finger.” Use it any way you’d like. “
Well, despite being given the finger, I’m going to continue anyway…
The Wrong Stuff.
Part eleven – Reunions and revelations.
Hannah stared at Bronk, her mouth open in shock.
“His assistant? You? So Forrester is after you too, he must be.”
“No, I’m happy to say that he knows, or at least knew nothing of my involvement, although my absence may now have been noticed by one of his thugs,” he gestured to the right hand pocket of the shapeless black overcoat he wore, “may I?”
“You may not!” Hannah raised the hand holding the gun, “What’s in there anyway?”
“I thought you might be hungry,” said Bronk with a wry smile, “I’m guessing you didn’t have time for breakfast, or dinner last night, for that matter.”
At the thought of food, Hannah’s stomach gave a loud growl and Bronk laughed. “It sounds like that’s a “yes” then?”
“Slowly,” she warned him, “with your left hand.”
“A very wise precaution, Ms Meredith, but I promise you, I mean you no harm.”
Bronk reached awkwardly across his body and reached into the pocket, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on Hannah, bringing out a paper bag, held between finger and thumb, which he laid on the reception desk and sat back in his chair.
“After you,” said Hannah, “let’s see what’s on the menu.”
“Oh, really, you still don’t trust me?” he shrugged, “That’s ok, you’ve no reason to, I suppose.”
He leaned forward and carefully ripped the edge of the bag, which had Howell’s the Bakers printed on the front, opening it up to reveal two large Danish pastries, causing Hannah’s stomach to make another audible protest.
Bronk tore a small chunk from each pastry and ate them one after the other.
“There, happy now?” he asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow.
Hannah hesitated for about two seconds, then grabbed the nearest Danish and bit off a huge mouthful.
“Sod it, at least I won’t die hungry.” She swallowed, paused, apparently decided she hadn’t been poisoned and made short work of the rest of it.
Bronk sat in silence, a look of amusement on his face, until she finished eating, then reached over and pushed the remaining pastry towards her.
“You don’t want it?” Hannah asked.
“I already ate,” replied Bronk, “besides, I reckon you need all the energy you can get, you’ve had a rough night, from what I can tell.” He nodded down at his other pocket, “I have coffee. A flask in my coat.”
“Coffee? I might be starting to like you, Mr Bronk.”
Hannah motioned to him and he slipped off his coat and hung it over the chair, pulling a plastic Thermos from his pocket and placing it on the desk. He unscrewed the lid and poured steaming black coffee into it. “It’s Bronk, Ms Meredith, just Bronk is fine.”
She picked up the coffee and smelled it, the rich aroma alone making her feel better. She took a sip and studied the man in front of her.
“Ok then, and I suppose you had better call me Hannah. But only on the condition that you tell me how the hell you found me and how you managed to stay off Forrester’s radar.”
Bronk looked at his watch, glanced out at the grey morning beyond the windows, then back at Hannah.
“Alright, I think we’re safe enough for now, but we’ll need to talk to Marvin before too long.” He lowered his head, seeming to collect his thoughts for a few moments, then began to talk in a calm measured voice.
“I’d been working with Marvin in his workshop, helping him perfect the design for his steam turbine, when he received a call from the government, asking for his help on a secret project…”
Bronk went on to confirm the story Marvin Calderwood had told her, including the discovery of the wormhole, created by the giant generators, but at this point his story diverged from Marvin’s version of events;
“…we were taking readings at the edge of the rift, when I thought I saw movement on the other side,” Bronk shook his head, remembering, “I reached out for it without thinking; a reflex, nothing more, but that was all it took. The next thing I knew, I was lying in the garden of a large house on the outskirts of London,” he looked straight into Hannah’s eyes, “in 1976!”
“But that’s the same year Marvin arrived,” said Hannah, “did he follow you then? I still don’t understand why he never told me about you, you must have both been here at the same time.”
She was having trouble getting her head round this time travel business and the fact that Calderwood hadn’t mentioned Bronk made her suspicious.
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work like that,” Bronk grimaced, “it appears it was several weeks before Marvin worked out that I’d been drawn through the rift and when he followed, this end of the rift had moved, in space if not in time, and he found himself here, many miles away from where I had ended up. So even if we had arrived at the exact same minute, despite leaving our own time weeks apart, we would not have known about it.”
Bronk went on to relate a similar tale of disorientation and dislocation to the one she’d heard from Marvin, this one with a less dramatic ending, but no less astonishing for all that.
Bronk had also used his engineering skills to make a living in this unfamiliar future world he had been stranded in, travelling around doing mechanical repairs and casual labour until he’d landed a job with the auction house, assessing speciality equipment for the owners, helping them to determine its resale value.
It was this piece of luck, coincidence, fate, call it what you will, which first brought him into contact with members of the mysterious cabal, revealing the millionaire businessmen’s obsession with finding Marvin’s device.
“When I realised that the estate I’d been sent to assess was that of Marvin Calderwood, I couldn’t believe my luck,” Bronk laughed at the memory, “that’s where I met Paul Forrester for the first time. He was perfectly charming to start with, then, when he couldn’t find what he wanted at the auction, I saw his true face and it isn’t something I want to experience again any time soon. He was furious, started screaming that he’d been cheated and ranting about traitors in his inner circle, it was frightening.”
Hannah watched Bronk as he told his story and had to admit that he was pretty convincing.
“So,” she said, “say I believe you, how are you going to help me? It sounds as though you’re just as likely to be on Forrester’s shit-list as I am.”
“I know how to replicate the generator Marvin designed, which would again anchor the rift in one place, enabling us to travel back and forth in safety, even allowing us to bring Marvin back to the here and now with us, should he wish to return, but I need to speak to him first.”
“I was about to contact him when you arrived with breakfast,” said Hannah, swigging the now-cold remains of her coffee and nodding at the timephone with its trailing cable, “it should plug into that floor socket, now it has the adaptor attached to it.”
Bronk bent down and clicked the adaptor into the phone socket, plugged the switchboard unit back in and turned on Marvin’s extraordinary device.
They listened to the metallic hiss for what seemed like ages, then;
“Hello?…hello, is that you Hannah?”
“Hello Marvin, I’m here,” Hannah was surprisingly relieved to hear his voice again, after all the trouble he’d caused her, “and I have someone who is very keen to speak to you.”
“Oh my dear young lady, I’m so glad you are safe. Did you escape from the clutches of that evil monster, Forrester, or does he have you calling me under duress?”
“I’m fine, although I think your friend Paul may have a bit of a headache this morning. No, I think you’ll be surprised when I tell you who I’ve been having breakfast with today.” She looked at Bronk, shrugged and poured herself the last of the coffee, “I’ll hand you over.”
“Good morning Marvin, or maybe it’s afternoon there now,” said Bronk, grinning up at Hannah, “depending on whether you ever got those magnetic field dampers working properly…”
“What?…wait, who is that? Bronk, is that you?” Marvin sounded like he was going to faint, “But, but, you..you vanished!”
“I’m sorry Marvin, it’s a rather long story and we are somewhat short of time, I’ll explain later, for now, we need your advice…”
To be continued (using next week’s prompt)…
I’m afraid you’re going to have to bear with me while I rant.
There is a cliché which suggests that, when faced with unsatisfactory customer service; whether it’s rude waiters, incompetent engineers, brainwashed telesales operators or obstructive and intractable bureaucrats, the English consumer tends to capitulate under the weight of generations of ingrained politeness and good manners, irrespective of the odds of their complaint being successful.
This may surprise you, (although I somehow doubt it) but I have never been one to conform to that stereotype.
I’ve had Samsung smartphones on contract ever since they first came out a few years ago and I’ve always been very happy with them, but last year I bought Rhonda a basic pay as you go model because her American contract phone isn’t compatible for use in the UK.
It cost £30.
The phone worked fine for about six months, until the first operating system update automatically downloaded one day, then it just ceased to function.
It wouldn’t turn on, we couldn’t charge it and to all intents and purposes, it was completely dead.
Naturally I took it back to the store where I bought it, but was told that, because it was still under the manufacturer’s warrantee, I would need to return it to Samsung for repair.
So I rang their customer service line and arranged to send it back to them.
A week later the phone was back and working fine again, although they neglected to return the proof of purchase receipt that I had enclosed, (at their insistence) showing that it was still well within the warrantee period.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and Rhonda tries to charge her phone.
Same fault, exactly.
So I ring Samsung and inform them that I want a replacement, since this is obviously a specific problem with this particular model of phone, only to be told that they aren’t authorised to give replacements but would be happy for us to return it again, for them to repair.
I explained (I thought, with considerable restraint) that I wasn’t overly thrilled at the idea of having to send the bloody thing back to be fixed every two months, especially since the warrantee would eventually expire and leave us with a useless phone.
To which the cheerfully relaxed bloke on the other end of the line replied;
“Oh well, if it keeps going wrong, then obviously we will look at replacing it.”
Oh Samsung, you are spoiling us with your concern, I’m honoured that you would even dream of inconveniencing yourselves so much on our behalf.
Not wishing to give them any excuse to wriggle out of their obligations, when the packaging arrived to send them the phone, I rang them again to let them know I no longer had proof of purchase, (due to their inability to keep track of a piece of paper) so could they please check their records to confirm the warrantee date?
They told me not to worry, it would still be covered, just return it as before.
Which I did, last week.
At this point I should reiterate that; at no point had anyone from Samsung contacted me and the phone had not left the house or been damaged in any way.
Rhonda’s phone was delivered back to us by courier, just before she left for work yesterday evening, meaning that she didn’t open the package until this morning.
Here is the letter that accompanied it…
“…we recently contacted you with a quote………you have told us you would prefer not to pay…….returning your device un-repaired.”
You have to be fucking kidding!
So I took the letter to work with me and stewed for an hour until their “customer care line” (ha fucking ha) opened and I finally managed to speak to someone.
The gist of the conversation was as follows:
Me – Hello, I’d like to know why it is that you’ve sent me a letter concerning my phone repair that appears not to contain a single accurate piece of information.
Them – I’m sorry sir, do you have a reference number on that letter?
Me – I do, although I have no way of knowing whether or not that is also a figment of someone’s imagination.
Them – Ah, I think I see the problem sir, we don’t seem to have an e-mail address for you.
Me – Oh, how stupid of me, I didn’t realise I was only supposed to get fiction by e-mail, I suppose I should be grateful you took the trouble to lie to me by post.
Them – No sir, what I meant was, we would have contacted you before returning your device, but we had no e-mail address.
Me – What? So, because you didn’t have my e-mail, you just made something up and posted it to me, how the hell does that make sense?
Them (obviously confused) – I’m not sure what you mean sir.
Me – At no point have you contacted me, in fact, I called you.
Them – Ah, I think I understand, that was a generic letter we sent you sir, because we couldn’t contact you by e-mail.
Me (through gritted teeth) – But there is no damage to the phone that would void the warrantee, it’s an identical fault to the last time we returned it.
Them (suddenly cheerful) – Oh no sir, our engineers say there is liquid damage to the device’s charging port, and that isn’t covered by the warrantee…
Me – Oh no you don’t! I know for sure that there is no damage to that phone, it doesn’t even leave the house, my wife only uses it for emergencies.
Them – Well I can only go on what the engineers tell me sir, if you hang on, I’ll find out what the quote was.
Me – Oh yes, the quote you claim to have sent me, the one you say I declined, despite never having got it. Go on then, surprise me.
Them – The quote for that repair is £96 sir.
Me – Hahaha, you can’t be serious, I only paid £30 for it, brand new.
Them – (smugly) I can only pass on what the engineers tell me sir, that’s the quote they have placed on the repair. I can e-mail you a photo of the liquid damage, if you like?
Me – But you don’t have my e-mail, do you? Tell me, do many people take you up on your offer to pay three times the cost of a new phone for a repair that should be free?
Them – I couldn’t possibly say sir, that’s not my department.
Them (I imagine) – Hello?…hello..? Ah, another satisfied customer.
If you work for the service department of a company like Samsung and you’re reading this, tell me; do they employ people whose job it is to sit there with a syringe, injecting water into electronic devices for the sole purpose of voiding their responsibilities, because if so, they’re doing a great job.
From dusk until dawn, there’s always a spectacle in the sky over Exmoor at this time of year.
Here are some recent examples from the latest post on my photo-blog, Photo Sans Frontiers; if you haven’t visited it yet, pop over and check it out…