Dear Amazon

I ordered something from you on the 10th December which I intended to give to my wife for her Christmas Present. It’s now almost 2 weeks later and my last day at work before Christmas and it still hasn’t turned up. I have seen all of the apologies on your website about how there is a backlog due to the snow but I still think the delivery time has been unacceptable. Let me explain why!

At the beginning of December I won a 2011 Grateful Dead calendar in a competition on Facebook. This was posted to me from Chicago and it has arrived.

A day or two earlier I bought a microphone from ebay which was sent – postage free – from Hong Kong – this has also arrived.

Based on the above I have to ask the question – where is your warehouse? Mars?

Also in that time my wife has bought a pair of boots from ebay, returned them as they were faulty and received the replacement pair. If all of these companies can manage to get their deliveries out why can’t you?

I won’t now get this item until the start of January, luckily for me my wife’s birthday just after Christmas so I can give this to her as a birthday present instead – do you think you can manage to get it to me by the 24th?

I have to say it has been fun watching your company commit business suicide this Christmas and I hope you manage to stay open long enough for us to spend the vouchers that my brother-in-law has sent us – and of course the refund you will no doubt be giving me as compensation for your appalling service this December.

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Looking after your world

Our world is very cold at the moment.

This is the second time our world has been very cold in the past few weeks.

We are now in our third day without any heating.

Who is looking after our world?

That’s right – British Gas – we have a Homecare package with them.

On Sunday we went out to do some shopping and when we returned we noticed that the heating wasn’t on. On closer inspection the pilot light had gone out. We tried to relight it and after a few tries the automatic ignition kicked in. About half an hour later we noticed the radiators had gone cold again so we tried to relight it again but to no avail. Since then we have had no heating or hot water at all.

At this point I would like to take you back a couple of weeks to the beginning of December when the first big snowfall happened. We got up one morning and noticed that the heating wasn’t on and we couldn’t get the pilot light to come one so we called British Gas. Once we got through we were informed that the earliest they could get an engineer to us was the following day between 8am and 1pm. This was despite the advert they had been running a few weeks earlier:

We did however give them the benefit of the doubt as there was a foot of snow outside and we hadn’t been anywhere for a day or two ourselves. So we sat and shivered with our only source of heat being an oil filled radiator that I’d got off Freecycle originally for the garage at the Big Blue House. There was one niggling annoyance going round in my head though…..

A few weeks earlier we had called out British Gas when we discovered a wet patch on the bedroom ceiling and they had sent someone round to find the source of the leak. When we booked the call the person in the call centre advised us that our boiler was due a service and would we like the engineer to do it while he was round. We said yes but when the man came he told us that it wasn’t due until January 2011 so he wasn’t going to do it. The question spinning round in my head was – if he had serviced it would it have failed? I guess we will never know.

Anyway when the Gas people turned up the following day scraping in with minutes to go before 1pm they informed us that the problem was due to a seized fan which they then set about lubricating and thankfully it was soon fixed and the house began to warm up. We did notice shortly after they went that the fan was making a funny noise but we assumed it would be ok. Which it was for about 2 weeks.

So on Sunday when it failed again we rang up to get the engineer to come out again, however the first problem was getting them to answer their phone. It was over half an hour before someone finally answered. They informed us that the earliest they could get someone out was Tuesday – so much for their service promise again. Sarah pointed out that we have a 5 year old and shouldn’t we be a priority – she was informed that this was a priority call! This time they could only give us the time the engineer would call as being between 8am and 6pm which makes further nonsense of their advertising and service level promises.

To let you get on with your day!!! The timescale they gave us meant that Sarah would effectively be stuck in till they came which could, in all likelihood, be at 5:55 pm! Luckily the man came at about 11am but without a phonecall – you know the one their engineers are committed to – good job she hadn’t gone out to “get on with her day”.

After inspecting the system he advised us that the fan should have been replaced on the last visit as he always replaced them – this made us feel better!! The bad news was that he didn’t have one on the van – you would think that given the fact they were called out 2 weeks after having a problem with the fan they would have thought about it and made sure that he had one with him – maybe that’s too simple! Anyway he would have to come back…………tomorrow! So we now have another 24 hours without heating or hot water.

So before I started to write this blog I decided to search on the web to find the images of the adverts that I’ve used above and my first point of call was the British gas Website. As the page opened I saw this;

So for amusement I decided to click on the link and see what excuses they were using and when I did this was what I got:

Should I have expected anything else from a company I once said that I would rather gnaw my own arm off than have them as my supplier again! In fact while we were sitting there freezing, the first time,  we had a man from British gas ring us up to try and get us to change to them for our gas and electric supply. He said he could save us money, despite this being only a few days after British Gas had announced a 7% rise in their prices. I then asked what their unit costs were and this he struggled to give me which made me wonder how he could guarantee to save me money without knowing how much their prices were or indeed how much we were currently paying or indeed actually using!

The only reason we have the Homecare package with them is that we inherited it when we moved into the Big Blue House and kind of kept it on when we moved. In fact this situation of having to call them out several times for the same problem is not new. At the big Blue House we had to call them out 4 times for a problem where the hot water would just stop. On the fourth visit the engineer asked us “has anyone been up to the attic to look at the tank?”. They hadn’t because if they had they would have discovered the inlet ballcock was sticking and stopping the header tank filling up.

And talking of header tanks we had a problem with the heating a while back and I discovered the reason. The previous British gas engineer had turned off the supply to the central heating header tank to fix a leak and hadn’t turned it back on which meant the system was slowly running out of water. The engineers seem to cause more problems than they actually solve. If the engineers could solve the problems on their first visits it would save the company a fortune and maybe they wouldn’t have so many people calling them up with problems at the coldest times of the year. Oh and one final question – if they know they are going to be busy at this time of the year why don’t they gear up for it instead of just letting their system get overwhelmed?

I think we shall be reviewing this contract very closely when it come up for renewal – that’s assuming we don’t ask for compensation first!

There is a green hill far away

It’s Christmas Eve and the farmer strides across the snow covered field followed by two other figures hunched against the elements. As he comes into view we see he is a hardened country figure dressed in work worn corduroy trousers which are tucked into his wellingtons. A huge woolen scarf round his neck almost obscurs his face especially as his cloth cap sits perched on top of his head. The other two figures, by comparison, are not country folk which is obvious by the way they are dressed as they stumble and slip their way towards their intended destination.

They are making their way towards a solitary tree which stands at the centre of the field alone and bent against the prevailing winds. As they reach the tree the farmer takes a pipe out of his pocket and as he stuffs it with tobacco he points with it towards the tree and says to his two companions “this be the holy thorn”. The three stand in silence for a few minutes and slowly they are joined by other people who have make the trek up the hill through the snow to the site of the tree.

As the number grow the people tell the story of the tree, which they say, has stood alone in this field for almost 2000 years. the legend is that Joseph of Arimathea had traveled to England after the death of his nephew Jesus and had thrust his staff into the ground and it had turned into the tree that now stood before the group. There were other stories that the infant Jesus had also traveled to this spot with his uncle many years before and that the golden challice that had been used at Christ’s last supper had also been buried somewhere in the area.

After some time the distant clanging of a church bell is heard signalling that it is now Christmas day and as the bell tolls the tree suddenly starts to blossom shining out in the middle of a bleak winters day.

This all happened 40 years ago but not in a snowy field but on stage at my junior school. I played the farmer on whose land the Holy Thorn stood. I wore my Grandad’s old cloth cap and the pipe belonged to my father although it was long unused after a brief flirtation my father had had a few years earlier with the idea of smoking one! I’m not even sure I remembered to get it out of my pocket during the play but I like to think it was there as a prop!

The story was of course about the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury which as I already mentioned is said to have sprung from a staff that Joseph planted in the ground on a hill overlooking the town. The tree in the play was just a fake Christmas tree with lights that came on when it was supposed to blossom but the story is based on an actual tree which has stood in and around the town for as long as anyone can remember. It even survived being chopped down during the English Civil war by Puritans but survived by people planting cuttings around the town and was eventually replanted back on it’s original spot. It flowers at Easter and Christmas and cuttings have been sent from one of the descendants of the original tree every Christmas to decorate the King or Queens table for almost 100 years.

Obviously on that night in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s I had no idea how much the town of Glastonbury would figure in my future – I had barely heard of popular music and hippies and music festivals would have been an alien concept. In fact the first Glastonbury festival probably hadn’t even taken place! And even though I started going to the festival in 1984 it wouldn’t be for a few years more that I actually made it down the road and into the town itself. Over the next ten or so years we were regular visitors and it was only after a while that the story told in the school play and the story of the Glastonbury thorn actually resolved itself in my head.

It was therefore quite sad to hear the news this week that the tree had been vandalised and had all of it’s branches cut off on Wednesday night. This mindless act has angered so many people especially the locals and those who see the tree as holy. No one knows why the tree was targeted but some have seen it as an anti-Christian act while others wonder if it was a vendetta against the landowner whose company just went bust owing millions. It could of course be just a mindless act of vandalism.

I hope that the tree can recover or if not then it can be regrown from a cutting from one of its relatives around the area such as the one that grows in the grounds of St. John’s Church in the high street from which the annual cutting for her majesty is taken every year. Glastonbury is a place loved by many people for many different reasons and it’s sad that something like this can devastate the community there.