Kicking Against the Pricks

Now don’t get me wrong I love my Android phone – I won’t join the sheep and sell my soul to Apple for an iphone which does half of what my Android can do but costs twice as much. But……I had a problem. Eighteen months ago I signed up to a two year contract with my HTC magic phone and for most of that time I’ve been really really happy. Until a few months ago.

My HTC Magic had been running Android V1.6 and as such was a lovely little phone. Then suddenly, out of the blue, Vodafone released an upgrade for Magic users which took the phone up to the latest version which was 2.2 or Froyo as it was widely known. In retrospect this was a mistake which I will explain shortly but I think Vodafone had been under a lot of pressure to release the upgrade and for a long time it looked as if they were dragging their feet. However looking back they were actually being quite sensible. The problem would appear to be that the Magic just simply wasn’t powerful enough or had enough memory to run the new software.

Not that anyone at Vodafaone would actually admit that out loud but it did leave me with a problem. The phone became very sluggish and crashed every so often – usually when you really needed it to work. I use the phone as a camera a lot and when you have to wait 2 minutes for the camera function to start up it can be a bit embarrassing – especially when everyone else has taken the shot and you’re still standing there saying “Oh sorry can you just hang on a minute!” It also locked when phonecalls came in and meant I had to call people back. It was getting to the point where it was almost getting chucked with fustration!”

So a week ago I was walking past the Vodafone shop and saw the Sumsung Tablet as shown in the picture above) so I popped in to have a look. While I was standing there one of the assistants came over and asked if he could help. I explained that I was just looking and that I was tied to a 24 month contact that still had a while to run. He told me that I could upgrade 6 months early and when he checked the new date I could upgrade was 16th April. I made a note in my diary and took his name just in case! I also picked up a copy of the brochure so I could peruse the phones and decide which on to go for.

So after another frustrating day I e-mailed Vodafone to see if I could speed up the process and on the Tuesday I got a message which now said I could upgrade on the 4th April which was moving in the right direction. I decided to call them and see if I could push this further but their customer service department was awful. I don’t know where it’s based but none of the staff seem to have been taught how to empathise with customers, it’s all very deadpan and matter of fact. After arguing with the guy for a few minutes and trying to get across to him that simply repeating what he had just said doesn’t constitue explaining something he put me on hold to speak to technical services. While I was waiting the line went dead.

I decided to wait before calling back and while I waited I got a text saying my order had been dispatched!!!! What order!! So I phoned back and spoke to another deadpan individual who informed me that the technical people had said that the problem was most likely to be the sim card and they were sending me another one. I told him that I didn’t think that was the problem and hung up – shortly afterwards I got an e-mail in rather poor English telling me the same thing.

The card arrived on Thursday and as I had come to expect from Vodafone there was no instructions as to what I should do. So I called up and spoke to the same call centre who once again had no customer empathy and were less than helpful. I eventually got it out of them what I should do and hung up. A few minutes later I got an automated call asking me to rank the service I had just recieved so I gave them 2 out of 5 for service and gave them one for would I recommend Vodafone to a friend. A few minutes later a call back – I told him that I was driving and asked him to call back 10 minutes later which he did but I couldn’t answer the call because the bloody phone had locked up! Needless to say the sim card didn’t make any difference.

As far as I was concerned they had seriously pissed me off and this wasn’t over. Ideally what I would have liked to do was  ride out the contract and then move my business elsewhere but with a phone that the thought of having to wait 2 weeks to upgrade was not pleasing then the thought of waiting 6 months was a nightmare. I decided to go back to the shop on Saturday and try again only this time face to face. I wanted to look at phones anyway as I couldn’t make my mind up between the Nexus S and the Desire HD.

So on Saturday I went into the shop and was disappointed that the guy I’d spoken to the previous week wasn’t there. They were very busy and I had to wait a while. Then luckily for me the guy suddenly appeared and I told him my whole tale of woe. He was very apologetic about the service that I had received and suggested that I complain. Curiously some of the things he said were the exact opposite of what I’d been told online/phone. I said to him that it was like dealing with two different companies and that it appeared that the shops and online/phone parts of Vodafone were in competition with each other, and that they used that to play customers off.

At first he said that there was nothing he could do but as we talked he asked me if I would mind a new telephone number. I said that it wouldn’t be the end of the world so he made a suggestion. He said he would reduce my current price paln down to the bare minimum – £10 a month. Then he would give me the phone on a 24 month contract but would give me the first two months free (That’s a £60 refund to cover the cost of the 6 months at £10 a month). That sounded good to me – especially as the two contracts would run together for the first 6 months so that I would end up with the new 24 month contract starting in October when the current one finished effectively making it a 30 month contract. (I’d been told that this wouldn’t happen by the man on the phone but didn’t believe it for one second.)

So all I had to do was decide which of the two phones to go for! I eventually went for the Desire HD because the Nexus doesn’t have a memory card slot and although it had a massive 16GB of storage if anything happened to the phone I wouldn’t be able to retrieve the data. So the man went out the back to get me a phone and guess what – they’d run out!! So I have to wait till tomorrow to get my hands on it.

It just goes to show that if you kick hard enough against big corporations eventually you’ll get what you want!

In my time of dying

I spent a great deal of time during my father’s last days at the Hospice where he had been admitted when his condition deteriorated. I got a phonecall on the Monday evening to say that he wasn’t expected to last the week so I went straight up to Sunderland but by the time I got there on Tuesday afternoon he had already slipped into unconsciousness and the prognosis was that he wouldn’t last the night. I spent the first night at the Hospice and he did make it through until the morning and indeed I would spend two more nights at his bedside before he finally passed away.

One of the things I was most concious of during the nights I spent there was that time when a person is said to be at their lowest ebb between the hours of 2am and 4am. In fact I was awake during the whole of this period for the first two nights and I noticed something very odd. At 2am each morning I would hear a bird singing outside the window of my father’s room and then again just after 4am there would be more birdsong. Apart from these two times I don’t recall hearing birds singing at any other time. It was as if the first call was a warning to me and the second like the all clear being sounded!

At about 11:30 on the third and final night I became worried about my dad’s breathing as it had become very shallow so I buzzed for the nurses who came but assured me that he still had a very strong pulse so I phoned Sarah and settled down on the sofabed which I had positioned so I could see him when I was lying down. I must have been very tired as I dropped off into a very deep sleep and slept for the longest time since I arrived. I awoke with a start at 3:30 as my subconscious told me that something was wrong. I sat up and realised his breathing had become laboured and again I buzzed for the nurse. She arrived and took his pulse which she said had become quite week, I asked if she thought I should ring my step mum and she said it was a good idea but she also offered to do it for me.

She arrived a few minutes later with my two step sisters and we were informed that he probably only had a few hours left so I moved aside to let my Step mum sit next to my Dad and I went to sit on a chair beside the door where I could see him. We sat there and waited for him to slip away. What happened next was most unexpected and has changed my outlook on death considerably and it helped me when the end came for I knew he had gone to a good place. Let me explain.

The room was very quiet as we sat around his bed but I suddenly became aware of the blinds and door rattling even though the window was closed. I looked around the room and as I did I suddenly started to feel a change in the atmosphere. It was as if the room was suddenly filled with a great energy, I could feel it running right through me and it felt as if it was going to lift me off the seat I was on. I felt a great upward pressure and as the energy coursed through me I started to become quite warm. I looked around to see if any of the others could feel it but they were all starting to complain about how it had suddenly gone cold.

It would be great if at this point I could say that I knew it was my mum or someone else but it wasn’t like a singular person but just an over whelming feeling of what I can only describe as love filling the room. Then quite out of the blue I felt something resting on my right leg, almost like someone had put a hand there to comfort me. I moved my left hand and placed it over where I could feel the pressure. My dad’s breathing faltered – he took a huge breath which seemed as if it were going to be his last but after what seemed like a very long time he started to breath again and I felt the energy dissipate as quickly as it had arrived.

A few minutes later a bird started to sing outside the window as I felt the energy coming back again. The feeling was the same as before, it started in my abdomen before starting to spread throughout the room and I felt the same upward pressure that I did before as if I was going to fly up out of my seat. This time however I felt like someone had placed a hand on my right shoulder and again I reached out as if to take it. I sat there with my left hand on my shoulder while once again my father’s breathing faltered and then returned. As it did the energy faded away as quickly as it had come.

Once again I sat there watching my dad and I fully expected that the energy would come back again but as we sat there it was as if the light had returned and as the sunshine flooded into the room I knew that the energy had gone for the time being and that my dad had got past the danger point. I looked around and it was as if everyone else knew that the danger had passed but I don’t know if they had felt the same thing as me but there was an unspoken belief that he was no longer about to pass on. I broke the silence eventually by saying “I think he’s changed his mind”.

Over the next few hours I could still feel the energy inside me, not to the extent that I had before but it was still making my body buzz. I feel very claustrophobic and restless in my dad’s room and had to get out and either sit in the kitchen or the conservatory. The energy slowly dissipated from my body but the feeling of well being stayed with me and in some respects is still with me now more than a week after my dad finally passed away. The really odd thing was that the last place on my body from which the energy left was my left hand – the hand I had touched the energy with when I felt it touching me.

I know that it’s possible that I imagined all of this but I don’t think I did – and even if I did there must have been a reason for all of this to have happened. I’m sure that for a few brief seconds I was touched by what lies beyond death. I don’t know why my dad didn’t go then, I wasn’t the only one who commented that they thought he was about to leave us on two occasions that morning. It’s possible that the earthly love for him in that room held him back when the energy came for him or maybe, given that he eventually went when he was on his own, he resisted because we were there.

There was one other thing that I thought I saw and this one could be my imagination but as the energy left the second time I thought I saw a small silver thread just around his abdomen. At first I thought it was leaving his body but as I watched in the half light I was sure it was actually returning. The reason I say I’m not sure about this is twofold – firstly it was quite dark at that point and I was a short distance away and it could have simply been a trick of the light. The second reason is that when my dad had sat with my mum as she died he told us later that he had seen two small silver threads leaving her body so the idea could have been implanted in my head. Alternatively I could have witnessed his spirit or soul returning to his body after a near death experience.

So it has taken me some time to write this down as the whole experience felt very personal at the time and there was no way I could have spoken this out loud. The upshot of my experience that morning was that I wasn’t frightened for him anymore. I said to him as he lay there that I had felt the love that was waiting for him and I knew he had felt it too. I joked that when we were kids he always used to say that where we went on holiday depended on which way he turned when we reached the top of the street and that he still couldn’t decide which way to go!

One other thing I had said to him as I sat next to him in silence one morning was that he always knew exactly what to say in most situations (it wasn’t always what you wanted to hear but he was never stuck for words) – I said to him that I wished that I knew what to say. The curious thing is from the moment we found him passed away I seem to have inherited this trait from him ( I hope it stays). I certainly have gained some strength that I haven’t had for a long time since he died so maybe he has passed something on to me.