Why bother having a contact form if you can't answer?

I used the "contact us" form on the web site of a well-known financial institution. I said something of the form:
Subject: Web site technical fault

I cannot find the correct page to log in to my account. When I click on Login it takes me to a page that says "Sorry, we are reorganising our web site and you may have an out-of-date link stored in your favourites. Please navigate to [this page] and click the Login link there". However, clicking on the link provided just sends me round in circles. Could you please fix this? Thanks.

They replied:
Thank you for your email.

We want to help answer your query but as your query is regarding your account we can not help you further via this channel. In order to rectify this problem you must call the Internet helpdesk on 0844 (etc)


As it happens the web site is now working — perhaps it was just down for maintenance and they put up the wrong error message. But still.

baby puzzler

This is what they're teaching the kids these days

Yesterday, smallclanger brought home a word search on the theme of electrical items.

He's filled a bit of it in, and discovered an extra word "rice" which he's helpfully written in at the bottom, even though I don't think I've heard of electric rice.

But wait, what do we see towards the bottom left of the grid?

Surely no one would find that amusing. Snerk. Electric kites, what are they on about?…

car 2011, car

Glorious car in excelsis Deo

OK, let's get the advert out of the way first.

7 for 7.30pm on Saturday, featuring Vivaldi's Gloria and shorter items by Purcell, Bach and Mozart. Viewers within range of BBC Oxford may possibly see a glimpse of me on Friday's 6.30pm news on BBC1 in the background during a report about this event, because it's of local interest, this being [the descendant of] the choir that Ivor Setterfield picked out of a "deprived" East Oxford estate to go and sing at the Albert Hall.


Read more...Collapse )

Good points: seems to drive well (so far) and promises decent fuel efficiency. Is shiny and a good colour. Spare key. Air conditioning. Looks like a decent stereo (or "infotainment system", as the manual calls it) which will no longer have alien symbols instead of the numbers on the display like my last one. Heated mirrors, apparently (but still nothing for the front windscreen when starting from cold). The interior is actually pretty similar to that of the hire car I had over Christmas.

Minor disappointments: smallclanger has got used to having a light in the back so he can read during night drives, but this car doesn't have one. (He also wanted a sunroof, for no particular reason, but none of the cars I was looking at had one.) The car radio is FM/AM, not DAB, and it has long since been known that the Government intends to turn off analogue transmissions. The glovebox is only just big enough to hold the wheelnut kit and the car documentation and nothing else (although when you open it, as well as a space for a cup it has "card holder in cheque card format; pen holder; pocket torch holder". And there's a small retractable tray under the passenger seat). The back seat doesn't split for flexible luggage conveyance. It will probably be quite hard to get smallclanger's bike in and nearly impossible to get my bike in, but that's what you get for buying a small car. :-)

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    hyper vroom
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car 2011, car

If you don't want to know the result, look away now

Odd. My last post attracted two spam comments (you can't see them — they're screened and will probably get deleted soon) and neither of them was Japanese. The first one said "Great Post. I add this Post to my bookmarks." and the second one said "Прочитал этот пост. Сильно паригленулся. Добавил этот сайт в закладки! Администратор, продолжай в том же стиле!" which appears to be more or less the same in Russian. What's the point?

I rang up the car hire company at about 9am on Monday to find out if they wanted the car back. It went something like…

9am: You've got until the 14th, but if your claim is settled then the hire will end two days after that. The insurance company hasn't informed us yet. We'll let you know.

9.45am: The insurance company has informed us they issued a payment on Thursday, so I'm afraid we have to terminate your hire from midnight tonight and you won't be insured to drive the car after that. (When do you want the car back then?) They'll probably call you tomorrow.

10.30am: What's the postcode where the car is located? (When are you intending to come?) Some time between 12 and 3 today. (Er, that's not really possible I'm at work.) OK, will you be in between 8 and 12 tomorrow?


Anyway, at 5am the next morning smallclanger was sick, so I had to keep him off school (although he was perfectly well the rest of the day) and worked at home. At 12:05 I was about to ring them to ask where they were when the doorbell rang and the car was duly taken away. smallclanger says "Can we get an i20?" It turns out the reason is while I was messing about looking at new i20s on a Hyundai web site he noticed that it said "USB and Aux connections" in the specs. He seems to be obsessed with USB at the moment, because I stuck a USB memory stick (freebie from an IT exhibition) in his Christmas stocking.

And the other thing that happened on Tuesday was two cheques arrived. They were both dated 10/1/2011, had been posted first class, and had consecutive numbers. So they were clearly printed and posted on Monday. Something a bit fishy going on there (I suspect it's that when they say "a cheque has been posted" they mean "the computer has been instructed to post a cheque" and they have no idea when it will actually come out of the system). So much for "payment issued on Thursday". But anyway, what's the point of having an insurance policy that offers a hire car if they are going to take it away again as soon as they think the claim is resolved? Since cheques take a day to arrive in the post and three days to clear, there is no way you'd have got a replacement car if you are relying on the insurance money to buy it.


I think the Autocar review is right. You buy the i20 because logic tells you it makes most sense, not because you always wanted to drive a Hyundai. However, you won't get more car for your money than the one I saw at the weekend (in fact it looks underpriced) and it comes with various kinds of gadgets that you won't get on a Corsa. And on balance it would be better not to spend the extra 1.5K.

Sadly, they sold that particular car on Monday. (Even though they added a photo to the listing on Tuesday.) So it's back to the hunt.
car 2011, car

Bored of cars yet?

I've been in Lancashire for the last week, seeing in the new year with my parents and a brother, and staying until a cousin from the US came for a visit, and other brother with his wife and child appeared also.

Sis-in-law asked me what I was thinking of doing about the car, so I said I was thinking of a Corsa. "Oh, they're great cars — I used to drive one."

After a very cold visit to a park (with added animals, which smallclanger decided he didn't want to see) and lunch at a pub-restaurant, we came back home yesterday.

So today I have been car-hunting.

Skip the details, but...Collapse )

Hyundai i20 1.2 Comfort, 59-reg with 8500 miles for £6,495

There must be something wrong with this car, surely? But The Independent and Honest John say not, while Autocar says it's good value for money even if it has some faults. The CO2 number doesn't quite beat the tax target, but at 124g does come in significantly lower than the petrol Corsa. And if that car goes, there's a similar one just round the corner with a few more miles on it.

So, um. Diesel Corsa with park assist and low tax band, or newer Hyundai with less miles for less money, but next tax band up. Still can't decide…
car 2011, car


I am getting an extra £450 off the insurer. Hoorah.

But they will now record that I've accepted the proposed settlement, which will cause a notification to be sent to the company supplying the hire car, and they will most likely ring me up in the morning to tell me when they want the car back, which according to the small print is within 48 hours of my claim being settled. Let's hope they're not open on Saturdays and will settle for Monday morning.

So. If it comes to a choice between a Corsa and a Micra (which it may not — it's still very much up in the air), does anyone have a strong opinion that I should avoid one (or both) of those?
car 2011, car

Still can't decide

An informant sez: "you could get a brand new petrol car for the price of that Corsa."

Which appears to be more or less true. Some more links:

Nissan Micra 1.2 Spirita (2007, 7K8 miles, £4,995)
Nissan Pixo 1.0i (2010, 6K4 miles, £5,995)
Renault Clio 1.2 TCE Dynamique (2007, 3K4 miles, £6,592)
Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 Life (2009, 4K6 miles, £7,495)
Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 Life (2009, 5K miles, £7,795)

The top one is walking distance from my house.

So, questions for the good people in LJ-land: what is a Nissan Pixo? Will I feel cramped in a Micra? What are these 1.0 and 1.2 litre cars like to drive? These all claim 48 to 50 mpg which is a bit lower than the claimed mpg of the Xsara diesel (claimed: 53; actual: 48 — mind you, info I can find on the Saxo 1.4 says its mpg is 41, and I got 46 out of it).
car 2011, car

Of cars

Today smallclanger and I texted "film" to 241 on my Mum's Orange phone and went to see Megamind, an interesting and funny animated flick with slightly more than the usual amount of philosophy about the nature of good and evil.

I turned my phone back on on the way out, and within a couple of minutes was rung by the insurance company. Phone battery was nearly empty and I was chasing SC out into the car park so I said it wasn't convenient at that time.

Rang back in the evening to discover that my file handler has valued the car at £1,200 and already posted a cheque for £890 (which is after deducting the policy excess). I'll be disputing this, of course, but apparently I can cash the cheque without prejudice — or could, if I were not still Up North. I'm not quite sure what consequence this has on them wanting the hire car back.

Similar cars to mine on sale at Autotrader at the moment: £1,195 £1,279 £1,595 £1,695 £1,750 £2,499 £2,649 £2,695 £2,795. The more expensive ones have fewer miles, of course, but not by that much (mileage of my car was 83,670 and it was 02-reg).

(Link for £1,750 doesn't work but was copied directly off the search results; I guess either it'll come back or it's been sold)

What Car says I should expect to pay £1,720 £1,675 for this car at a dealer or £1,455 £1,420 in a private sale (darn, it's the new year and figures have gone down since I requested them, which I swear was only yesterday), and the insurance company is basically offering me the part-exchange value of the car. But my car had a fair amount of new parts that you wouldn't necessarily get by buying a car of this age at a dealership.

On the previous post there were two recommendations for Corsas and two for Nissans (or anything Japanese). So far in the car hunt, we have:

Nissan Micra 1.5dCi Visia (2009, 29K miles, £5,495).
Peugeot 407 SE 2.0 HDI (2005, 58K miles, £5,399).
Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTi ecoFlex Active (2009, 11K miles, £7,990).

The Nissan looks good but is a basic model (lacks air conditioning, which I may well miss after having it in the Xsara). The 407 is very local, but probably too high-end for my needs. The Corsa is very very tempting (and comes with a Network Q warranty) but would require quite a bit of shuffling to get the cash together (and when I say cash, I really mean debt, since I have very little liquid cash to speak of).
car 2011, car

New year, new model

I am Up North with smallclanger, who is having some quality time with his grandparents. His ambition seems to be to go through the shelf of games in the back room and try out each one once, and so far we've played Ratrace, Mhing and In One Word in addition to Game of Life which he's seen before, Fluxx which by now is an old favourite, and Escape From Atlantis, which is one of his Christmas presents from me (after I mentioned to him that I had played it elsewhere and he asked me to look for it on eBay).

He's also completed three construction projects with varying degrees of help: TechnoRobot (a robot with moving arms and wheels, based on a plastic motorised mechanism with an outer cardboard body and head), a crane lorry in not-quite-Lego, and a gingerbread house.

Meanwhile, we have a temporary 60-reg Astra 1.8 Club in silver with not much more than 1K miles on the clock. I managed to post a refund form with my tax disc (11 months left to run) on the 29th, then rang the insurance company to read them some numbers and sort out what documents to post. Just then, a letter arrived confirming my hire of the temporary car and pointing out that I have to return it within 48 hours when the insurance company pays me a settlement of my claim (or in any case within 21 days). So it seems to be in my interest to stall just now, and — oh, darn it, I missed the post office on Dec 31st and now I bet they are all closed till Jan 4th.

So now I have to look for a car. Recommendations?Collapse )


Le repas

As an aside, why do people write the menu in French at posh meals? To show off? To make sure you've no idea what you are eating?

Saumon teinté à la betterave rouge
sauce gravadlax

Poitrine de faisan mitonnée aux poireaux grillés et champignons marinés

Gelée aux canneberges, oranges et Porto, et biscuit à la mandarine.

La hure de sanglier à la sauce Robert

Le dessert