Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Alas poor Midlands Mainline mugged by East Midlands Trains.

Part I - outward bound

It's not often the delights of first class travel are dangled within the grasp of my greedy paws. But when they are, with both legs, I jump at the chance; especially after having an oil painted picture of linen clothed tables, table lights, serviced tables with complimentary refreshments (including the wine), wider seats with reclining chairs... you bet I jumped at it.

However, unbeknown to either of us. The franchise from London St. Pancras to Nottingham, had been lost by Midlands Mainline to East Midlands Train. And as soon as the journey from London towards the northern territories began, a series of events brought a coruscating tear of laughter gently cascading down my right cheek.

For the travelling occasion I turned out in a pair of chinos - with matching trainers, a nice snazzy but label free jumper, and a shaved head replete of any markings. Now, not been a veteran seasoned first class traveller, perhaps it was the way that I sat, or maybe my jib was incorrectly hoisted or even folded. Either way when other, obviously seasoned first class travellers embarked and started tuttling aloud whether, "is this first class?" whilst glaring at me before moving on, I began to wonder whether it's my attire or just my second head.

But if that wasn't bad enough, then had the train skivvy, I mean guard, sorry train manager; pop along hovering by the table clearing his throat and harrumphing. We both simultaneously deigned to hand over our tickets, forcing him to actually speak. Remarkably he brusquely finally manages to get out "tickets," without spitting. Yet when he sails further down the carriage, and comes across more customers, can clearly be heard asking them "tickets Sir" or "tickets Madam". However, the sickly smile he gave us after receiving our pristine first class tickets provided a scintilla of contended gratification.

Perhaps I have been watching too many black & white films, and those days of courtesy, service, and servitude have long disappeared. Either that or my non-Russian-billionaire status, is finally starting to work against me.

Part II - inward hell

Well the return trip on the inglorious East Midlands Trains train; complete with rude staff that suck, started off with the train been diverted without warning ten minutes after pulling out from the station. The buffet car with 1.5 hours remaining of the journey promptly closed, again without any warning. No skivvy, sorry guard, no, train manager popping along to clip, sorry inspect tickets - so first class was packed and riotous.

From boarding until half way into the journey, only one member of staff was seen.

Then the odd announcement, which held verbal longings for the last days of empire. A hankering for the old days of the blessed Midlands Mainline, quivered over tinny tannoy's. The whole sorry saga made me wonder whether the train manager was also the buffet bar manager, guard, and obviously in line with the new stakeholder's ideas of general cost cutting, also the driver.

I would recommend making the trip from London to Nottingham, if you eschew this particular train company, in a Trabant! It would be far more comfortable and you'd arrive refreshed, even if without style.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Oh Carling Brixton Academy

Where would we be without you, yes you of the award-winning live music fame. Where would we be without the noise, the low-level decibel vibrations throbbing through flats, the gig goers (invariably just out of nappies) throwing their rubbish over hedges and fences alike, throwing up in corners, even taking a leak by gates.

As a building designed and built in the 1920's, the Academy has gone through many incarnations from cinema and theatre (which closed at 11pm), to a venue for live acts. A shame that along the way, the ability of the venue to suppress noise appears to have been a very distant secondary, no, tertiary consideration. The fact that over 40 flats are less than 100-200ft. away from the venues rear seems to be missing from the radar of those in charge of the locale. But then the Skateboard Park, which should have been finished in September 2007, looks set for a spring unveiling - however, not quite sure yet which year.

What good is it having a noise inspector popping around in the afternoon, checking on the noise been generated when the gigs don't start until well into the evening and then go on till 11pm, or 2am, or 3am and sometimes even 6am; a lasting 10 hour tuning fork.

Never seen or heard a compactor at work before, but you can round here, and frequently.

And contacting the council environmental service to complain about the act's coaches parking right up outside, you are fobbed off with a there's nothing we can do. Which is strange considering that the road is on a red-route with a distinctive sign saying no parking between 7am-7pm. But from 9am in the morning until sometime well past midnight, the engine of a coach, less than 10 feet from ground floor windows, are left running. So if the vibrations pouring through don't make your head feel like exploding, the pollution pouring in through the ground level ventilation bricks will ensure carcinogens get you.

So, which councillor's been given freebies for votes!

Which moron's given the go ahead for roughshod treatment of neighbours.

Yes Lambeth Council, you are the non-caring link.

But then what do they care about 40 flats when they have the likes of: Rammstein, Massive Attack, The Clash, The Prodigy, Arcade Fire, Nine Inch Nails, Bob Dylan, HARD-Fi and Sex Pistols... amongst many others all playing there and bringing lots of people descending on Brixton - leaving happy and going back to suburbia reporting that it's not to bad a place! Indeed, as long as you ignore the knife wielding maniacs, blue and yellow Met Police signs, kids trying to sell you grass clippings by the tube station and Iceland, as well as those who should really be supervised and not in the community!

But as with all thing's, it'll be fun seeing whether there are developments.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Tradesmen (18) vs. Homeowner (4)

With the influx of Eastern Europeans into the UK, especially into the melting pot that's London (at least now, you can say it is a place that is multicultural), you could be mistaken into believing that the oversupply of, if not necessarily adequate supply, of fully qualified tradesmen would bring about a levelling of the old demand vs. supply conundrum; to the advantage of those in need of a good servicing. Sadly, the past few weeks have put paid to that shining beacon of hope.

Seventeen different electrical companies over a three week period were called. The only brief, to come around and do nothing more than provide an estimate (preferably a quote), for a full flat re-wire. Nothing to large; just a modest sized two bedroomed ground floor flat, with easy parking - so no nasty traffic warden charges been added onto the final bill as extras - neighbours to die for, gorgeous flower gardens, the only fly (A380 size), most of the wiring dates back to the 1930's and the modern bits have been badly bodged, although not quite to the standard of the 1986 film; the Money Pit.

Initial thoughts had me chasing my own logic wondering whether it was worthwhile leafing through the Yellow Pages, the Phone Book or even the Thomson Directory, just to garner companies who's inclusion would prove some trailing history and not just flyby night operators. So it was, that after a brief flurry of activity, five numbers were called.

And that's were it all started going wrong.

People promising to come round or call back, but despite calls to them not neither bothering to come around nor call to say they weren't turning up. Forget the NICEIC, Trust Mark, Part P blurtings, I'm surprised any of them are allowed to carry the symbols or perhaps they need to be re-tested whilst having the inclusion of a new module titled 'how not to lose potential customers'.

So back to the drawing board and this time contacting another eight companies. To only go through the same procedure as with the first five. So 13 companies later, it was time to try a new tack and this time looked up a referral site, were you simply type in your requirements, contact details, then any interested parties would view and get in touch, but up to a maximum of four unless paid for membership – that should have instantly set of the clarions, but when in time of need. A smoking fuse box isn't to be sniffed at...

But to be fair out of four, all four turned up. All four arrived within their stated time, it was amazing, hope started to rise from burnt ashes. But that was the height of [%%] and from there it rapidly unravelled downhill.

After contacting 18 companies for re-wiring we are left with only 3 estimates and one quote, although when going through and spotting errors it necessitated an amendment and re-quote, that was done within a day! Sadly it was still the same quote with the same information. Either Electricians, whom I would have naturally viewed as forming a natural constituency of computer geekdom, are slightly less knowledgeable than the average person out there, or they think that every home owner's wet behind the ears and will more or less take everything at face-value and just sign the cheque at the end. Although I would be surprised if the last five which popped around had even begun wet-shaving!

But perhaps they aren't too bothered to earn (and from the three figures so far received it seems to be somewhere from £3,000 to a bit over £5,000) which been an estimate means it will probably come in at around £6,000. However, obviously £5k+ is not a sufficient enough carrot

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Environmental concerns

Most boring pompous clip in the name of a good cause, to help the environment, must go to:

Admittedly these behemoths aren't aimed at the average Joe/Mary on the street, who happens to live in a bedsit flat or tenament overlooking patchy roadworks and broken fences. The FAQ portion of the website does - to be factual - say that! So full marks to them for popping that particular bubble. Although I Would have enjoyed a couple of them placed on the roof whizzing around from sunset till dusk, cutting down on the every increasing energy costs. But perhaps they are better off somewhere sunnier with loads of hot air, like the Ghobi desert, Sahara, San Diego, Congress... in fact any sunny place which just has the few odd days of scudding cloud cover, which might otherwise spoil the party.

But seriously, climate change is coming up fast on the inside lane as one of the most destructive series of events that might bring about the demise of many species, and take us down to the level of sticks and creaky parchment. Either that, or the gathering together of a global network of terrorists bent on world domination, or bio-weapons unleashed by desperate nations as resources get scarcer; and of course how could we forget the holy grail of hot-headed despots everywhere, with fingers itching to unleash their WMD's!

But, on a somewhat more serious note, how many disasters would it take before electricity, gas, water supplies in a few key countries are knocked out with the ensuing turmoil of food scarcity, resultant upsurge in population migrations? How long before the comforts and luxury's, so many of us in the 'developed' (sic) world take for granted, evaporate like clarity in a blizzard.

If we (or rather the Politicians) don't plan for it, make effective (efficient) use of renewables, with the knowledge of what's (possibly) just around the corner then we deserve our fate. A shame that the greedy billionaires out there are more concerned with feathering their own nests, looking out for number one without remembering that for the world to survive it's not a single horse race.

We are social animals and in general, when under direct or indirect stress, are more inclined towards selfishness, deviousness, battening down the hatches and thinking of oneself.

So if things are bad now, and we only have to look at the increasing number of disasters over the past few years to see how some sections of the population would behave, just imagine how much worse it will be when disasters are more frequent and on a far larger scale!

Time to watch those Mad Max films again, or maybe just a Marx Brothers film with a fine selection of chocolates flown in specially, from around the world!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Burning Olympic dustbins.

It's been a fun day, starting late in the morning with the burning down of a bus depot in east London. Part of the slowly growing 2012 Olympic area. Luckily, at this stage, no one appears to be hurt!

The only depressing bit occurred whilst watching every other scrolling news report, strap-lining across the bottom of the screen saying, "not thought to be an act of terrorism", as if every incident, scorched bit of earth, is down to a bunch of huddled terrorists in the eastern borders of Pakistan plotting (even if they are) to do everything in their power to down the democracies of the west.

More likely its a contractor not wishing to fork out the exorbitant cost of having to legally dispose of all that crap. What better way of saving a fortune whilst also collecting a bit of insurance by having the whole lot go skyward, instead of to recycling.

Here's a few ground level pictures from roughly, 9.3 miles away...

Monday, 5 November 2007

Customer service - the elusive fleece.

In this, the speeded age of the fulsome broadband experience, more and more people are getting used to quick replies, instant-action-purchasing (even if the goods might take a couple of weeks to arrive), browsing the globe; instant gratification all at the click of an anonymous button! 

Many companies (good and illicit) are out there, searching for the best way of making money – and anyone who has worked in an Investment Bank above the level of cleaner will know that most of the massaged figures and egos that need soothing, mean that they have to work harder chasing us for our dollars, pounds, euros or yen, eager to part us from our cash, whether hard earned or not.  

So with an eye on the virtual world, the activity of venturing into 'real life' establishments usually;
  a) sends me scurrying back to the keyboard,
  b) leaves me amazed at how far behind so many real world (bricks & mortar) businesses are,
  c) how badly most are failing, in relation to their customer service,
  d) constantly wondering why so many people still stick with them - inertia!
  e) is it me, or have people been taking to much notice of reality shows.

The main incidents which brought home the disparate ability of companies to get things right are Nationwide, Amazon.co.uk, Sainsbury's, Curry's .digital, and finally Holland & Barrett. I shall go through a brief run-down of the varying experiences.

Nationwide – Online, remarkably good service. Far better than the Co-operative Bank, HSBC, or Lloyds TSB offerings. Sadly most of that effort appears to have come at the expense of the retail arm and its high street offerings. Offline - going into the door, you are greeted by a forest of people, slowly moving shuffling forward. Two receptionists, one sitting the other standing are both talking, proactive isn't the first term that springs to mind. Friend goes over to the counter and commenced the 20 minute wait to be seen by (considering the queue is nearly out the door and it's way past lunchtime) the only cashier which is open out of three. After 10 minutes the chatting receptionists turn to the growing sitting group which has been patiently gathering and finally asks “does anyone want to be seen?”. Nationwide had taken over the Portman Building Society in August 2007, and as just goes to show that the accountants bottom final swish of the quill carries far more weight than customers having to wait half an hour. In one particular location the bigger Portman Branch had been closed, whilst a much smaller Nationwide branch (less than 30 seconds walk) remained open and which now services three times the customers. As the cashier said in sad resignation, “It's always this busy since we took over Portman, there's just no extra staff!”. Surprised there hasn't been a riot.

Amazon – Online, excellent exemplary service when ordering and for delivery. If your goods are electrical then sadly that's where things can start to go wrong and fall down. That's were the problems start, as they try fobbing you off by saying you need to return the item back to the manufacturer when in fact if the goods are defective they should replace or refund. However books and Cd's have always been delivered in full functional order.

Sainsbury's – Online, as Amazon and Nationwide, very good and easily navigable, but somehow manage not to have what you order in stock on the actual day of delivery, so they either don't send anything or if the do, the substitute is not acceptable.  Offline - usually the queue in one little local is around 20 people strong, with it been positioned so close to the tube station. But more often than not, all the tills will be open and the staff, speedily conducting customers, purchases.  Speedy, friendly and very efficient.  But to the experience... popping into my local to obtain some mince pies, double cream and bread; hadn't realised it had been a long time since I'd set foot through the doors and was somewhat confused.  In the end had three members of staff finding me the cream, taking me to the bread, and showing me the location of the mince pies.  Couldn't ask for better service.  Shopping would be so much more an enjoyable experience, if we all received the same treatment.

Curry's .digital: Offline, pop into the store and as you wonder around aimlessly (practically devoid of shoppers just after lunch time - with over six members of staff), it takes five minutes for one store assistant to simply look along the aisle and make sure no items were been lifted or touched, before another store assistant finally pipes up and queries if any assistance was required.  Online, very good.  

Moss Bros: Offline, you wouldn't wish this slovenly (their bearing as opposed to dress) bunch of depressing shop fitters on Imelda Marcos, let alone wishing to help in the purchase/hiring of any item.  Online, too much time spent trying to navigate around.

Holland & Barrett: Offline, pleasant and courteous staff.  Within seconds of entering the store greeted and asked whether they can be of help.  Highly recommended.  Online, what can I say but excellent.

With the Christmas season (for those who believe or just enjoy the festivities) there will, no doubt, be people wishing to purchase a whole hoard of goodies, whilst paying the least number of pennies. So here is the OFT website (for those based in the UK), which should be thoroughly scanned to ensure you are aware of your rights, whilst avoiding the spivs, scams and schemers.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Blissful awareness.

At the age of six, I had my first sexual experience. At the age of nine I attempted to incorporate a bank whilst in junior school for the benefit of fellow classmates; but that, was soon lanced!

When my becoming a banker scheme was discovered, teachers - in concert with a large high street competitor - allowed the opening of kids accounts. Parents, who obviously couldn't recognise a bargain when it slapped them around the face before dropping into their lap, naturally consented. I was even going to offer an incentive, 1.5% above the bank base rate. Sadly all the initial takers dropped by the wayside and suffice to say I, reluctantly, conceded defeat.

But been young, full of it, and at the time un-cowed by the slightest knock back; I flitted through the next batch of hatch-able plans.

So it was, that by the age of 11 whilst coming up with some exceptionally moribund prose, I helped out in the local Tandy store, a mere five minutes leisurely stroll from the front porch. Nothing illegal, I eagerly threw my services at them. First befriending, by popping in on a daily basis, and informing them of how geeky and into Computers I was, and then after a couple of months, what could I do to possibly help? Well the thought of possibly getting a recommendation from the Manager for employment in the chain at some future stage, floated across my eyes like a mirage.

Amazing how much practical knowledge can be gained by working in an electrical store, so boxes were unpacked, things placed on shelves or arms, and in return they allowed me to use brand new computers which came in-store with the odd break for soliquid refreshments.

Before that particular plan had a proper conception, it come to an abrupt end! Namely in the form of a new manager and assistants – personally, It was more a case of not wanting an 11 year old with more knowledge showing them up over the rubbish they started selling. But with the knowledge gained, I eventually badgered my parents into purchasing a Sinclair ZX-81, still shudder at the thought of that monstrosity. Very surprised it never melted, and as for the printer paper...

At the tender age of 12, I produced my first batch of gunpowder – with ingredients purchased from Boots, and made small sachets which I sold at a profit to fellow schoolmates, but I wanted more. Sadly when the form bully got hold of some and didn't pay, the nasty thoughts which deluged through my mind made me hastily decide to call it a day. Before something happened, that I would have later regretted.

It was all downhill from then on, until I reached the ripe old age of 18. But it was at 19, with another set of dismal exam results clutched before me, that I started work on my first symphony. Then in the maelstrom of moving over the following two years, the finished piece my pride and glowing joy, I'd misplaced – and with the memory of a fruit fly as much as I tried, could never re-create the full piece. But every now and then, odd haunting bars bubble up, so perhaps one day it will make another appearance.

Did, films, photography, acting, holidaying, even running a club. Kept up to date with the mad technological flow of the InterWeb. Sort of held down jobs, but as I've found out over the years, there is nothing more dispiriting than working for people who really shouldn't be given given the slightest sniff at power - let alone put anywhere near a 'managerial' role - and who if exhibiting any form of hankering for climbing up the greasy pole of careerism, be given nothing more satisfying, than a good Tasering.

Now, for some happy pictures...

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Morning radio, sunny shine.

Waking up and listening to Radio Four's Today programme is one of the few pleasures I have remaining in life. Which, without much effort on the part of Messrs Humphrys, Naughtie, Stourton, and Mademoiselles Montague and Quinn, manages to bring me to the brink of over brimming.

It's strengths lay in its contented fuddy-duddy dusty old slippers role one minute, to whip-cracking firebrand-politician-beating-outrider, the next and I wouldn't want it any other way!

So where's the moan. Well, even I start to yawn when that favourite old chestnut of the home-counties, incorrect grammar - as opposed to that other chestnut of immigration – is brought into play due to the lack of anything else more news worthy. Even it it does bring a lighter air to proceedings. If I really want to know whether a diphthong's more classy than a pure thong, I'll consult the online or real life oracle and come to an appropriate decision. For those of us with diminished and diminishing memory sticks, its far better putting them to use remembering when that last pint was consumed or, even more importantly, when its time for that next meal!

For those who were up at the crack of lunch time, they'd have been greeted to the sights of hoary-frosted bearded clouds lazily meandering across clearing horizons, sadly this would be over powered by the increasing level of vehicle exhaust working in concert, with the growing levels of sunlight tethered smog! So why not move and stop moaning? That's all well and good, but the draw of a 24hr shop nearby, a tube station that is only five minutes walk, buses for every destination within three minutes walk, a cinema, bars, good restaurants, a fully functioning market, even a M&S (no don't work for, have anything to do, or receive any vouchers from them) on the doorstep, I can put up with the probable life-shortening experience I'm going through, for at least one or two more years. But then, there'll be that nice little cottage in the country - or some other country – miles away from anywhere or anyone... Maybe I'll just buy some sturdy earplugs!

But in the meantime, here's a few pictures of the glorious few odd days, of sunny bliss.

Birds in flight, a wee copse....

and a couple more, showing a glorious autumnal day!

Linux vs. WinMacTel

I have, for years, been a reluctant but stalwart user of Microsoft products. From Windows 1.0 - 98/ME a collection of nightmares on any dark rainy night.

Then came XP, and XP SP1 (Service Pack 1), which were on a completely different level of operability and usability. For a while I even liked using it and stopped trying out alternative Operating Systems (OSs). Not that the infant Linux, wobbling OS/2 or BeOS who, were any worse, it was just not been able to use the printer, or modem, or something else which I'd just purchased so it was back to the monolith.

But as with all things Microsoft, they had to go and shoot themselves in the foot. The second service pack came out, and everything had to be authenticated and validated, and briefly I managed to toy with XP SP2.

Then one day, my home built machine decided to come to blows with XP SP2 and up popped the infamous BSoD (Blue Screen of Death) raspberry and it refused to restart in any mode let alone Safe.

As much as I hated doing it, I called it a day and began the dreaded reinstall process. Not only of the OS, but the myriad other programs cluttering up my 20GB (partitioned) drive, effectively rendering me incommunicado, unable to do anything for 48 wasted hours, whilst I also tried to find that slip of paper which had the order that applications should be re-installed as well as whether they should be upgraded before continuing onto the next.

Believe me there have been many occasions over the years, I have felt like invoicing Microsoft (and other companies that sell exceptionally buggy software) for so effectively wasting time.

If, for example, banks can charge exorbitant amounts for sending out a computerised letter, I don't see why we the end users, can't charge big business for wasting of our time. Especially when there are no real alternatives.

After the reinstall and activation, it seemed as if things were getting back onto the right track. Then came the validation, and it failed! So dialing the Validation number (thankfully a free phone number) and going through the process, I am informed that it's not a valid copy of XP. I said it was, before it had fallen over; I had installed, activated and validated it only six months ago. But no they were not having any of it, and refused to validate. Fumingly I headed back to the now very much hated XP.

That was it, I was almost there. Ubuntu 6.04 popped its head onto the scene; except the mouse wouldn't work properly, jumping to the top or bottom of the screen. The brief time that it did, it never found my two external drives, neither was I able to log onto the internet. Then version seven arrived, which I promptly downloaded a couple of weeks ago, but never thought it would be worth it, just to create another drinks coaster.

So I waited, and sure enough Windows, yet again, started playing up. So on a system restart I loaded the Ubuntu CD and waited...

The improvement! The difference! I think I'm in love! Everything works! All my peripherals were seen, found. Even logged onto the net without me realising I'd been logged on without a security breach. No annoying anything popping up asking for this, querying that. It was velvety nice and straightforward but more importantly, usable straight from a bootable CD. It was also fast from the CD, as fast as XP using the hard drive. Can't imagine how much faster it will be once installed on the hard-drive, with a much nicer GUI than XP any day of the week.

Suffice to say, I shall not be upgrading to SP2 of XP, neither shall I be getting Vista in any of its myriad expensive flavours. If I do purchase an upgraded laptop you can rest assured it will be Linux based. If I do need to run a program, and the only thing I can think of, at this moment, is my one vice of Eve-Online, then I'll just stick the game on a laptop with an emulation program and run it from there – although must check there is one.

Over the years it has been a fraught and overall a very unsatisfying relationship with the Redmond giant, which I'll glad to see the back of, and shall not be renewing, ever again!

So finally adieu and farewell to you Microsoft, as I tap away using OpenOffice, upload to the blog using Firefox (hopefully via an Apache based server). Make a backup of all my data, format the C:\ drive and finally install Ubuntu...

But Microsoft isn't the only technological behemoth out there, in danger of losing its crown (it will happen). Well look at the situation now, yes Microsoft's a behemoth, but a behemoth beset by problems, with most people cursing the day they have to use their software. So was it a missed opportunity for IBM all those years ago? With that good old rear vision, probably not. Google on the other hand, are in danger of losing their plucky little underdog image and turn into another corporate monolithic entity, which will have just as many snipers, detractors, saboteurs and in the end people will just stop using them. In droves they will peer eagerly towards the horizon for the next new thing.

So Google and the Linux, continue to innovate, don't attempt to stifle criticism (especially if well deserved), there's a wealth of talented people wishing you to succeed and wanting to have an alternative to the WinMacTel alliance!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Waking daises twenty-four seven.

Waking up and listening to the Radio Four's Today programme is one of the few pleasures I have remaining in life. Which, without much effort on the part of Messers Humphrys, Montague, Naughtie, Quinn and Stourton, always brings me to the brink of over brimming.

Its strengths lay in its contented fuddy-duddy dusty old slippers role one minute, to whip-crackling firebrand-politician-beating-outrider the next, and I wouldn't want it any other way!

So where's the moan. Well, even I start to yawn when that favourite old chestnut of the home-counties (incorrect grammar), as opposed to that other chestnut of immigration, is brought into play due to the lack of anything else more news worthy. Even it it does bring a lighter air to proceedings. If I really want to know whether a diphthong's more classy than a pure thong, I'll consult the online or real life oracle and come to an appropriate decision. For those of us with diminished and diminishing memory sticks, its far better putting them to use remembering when that last pint was consumed or, even more importantly, when its time for that next meal!

For those who were up at the crack of lunch time, they'd have been greeted to the sights of hoary-frosted bearded clouds lazily meandering across clearing horizons, sadly this would be over powered by the increasing level of vehicle exhaust slipperely working in concert, with the growing levels of sunlight tethered smog! So why not move and stop moaning? That's all well and good, but the draw of a 24hr shop nearby, a tube station that is only five minutes walk, buses - for every destination - within three minutes walk, a cinema, bars, good restaurants, a fully functioning market, even a M&S (no don't work for, have anything to do, or receive any vouchers from them) on the doorstep, I can put up with the probable life-shortening experience I'm going through, for at least one or two more years. But then, there'll be that nice little cottage in the country - or some other country – miles away from anywhere or anyone...

Maybe I'll just buy some sturdy earplugs!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Noisy neighbours from the hellish side?

One of the many problems with London; which scores so highly on the many 'things you hate most about your city' surveys is, that hardy annual: Neighbouritis. Yes a made up nonce word of Neighbour (British spelling) and courtesy of old Grecian – a time when men were men and up for doing it - 'itis', but better than saying Neighbour-from-hell- who-drives-your- grandmother-to-an-early-grave!

Unless you live in a nice secluded area, i.e. wealthy and rich, then it's more than likely you will have come up against the perennial problem of Neighbour-noise-ism! Yes how many times have you felt like killing your fellow neighbour or at least hoping they get run over by the number 36 bus as it hurtles its way down the High Street, just because the bass sound on their latest purchased - although nowadays downloaded or streamed - techno track, or they have somehow taken with a strange but firm grasp some twisted bit of logic that they should be the ones on X-Factor and not the current crop of munters, is driving you insane.

All those greedy sods who turned old houses into nasty noise traps, that governments really didn't bother doing anything about to legally ensure people didn't get on each others nerves, are now long gone and dead. But, hopefully, their off-spring are living under the same tortuous circumstances as the rest of us.

Most of the old properties had wall-to-wall carpet covered flooring, which when based on a family of six plus, living over three floors was fine. But then the prospectors moved in and converted said three storey houses into at least six small poky flats, sometimes, even more. If living in London and on, or below the poverty line, there is a 90% probability during your moving life, that you will be subject – especially if living below someone else – to unacceptable noise levels and at logger-heads over the best courses of action to take.

Sometimes this will be nothing more than the pair of you just turning up the noise. Sadly it will be to such levels, that neither of you will be able to think properly, let alone properly hear what you're listening to or what the other is listening to.

But that feeling of satisfaction will be wonderful, if short lived. Both of you will feel wonderful thinking that you've pissed the other off, not realising that it's only really your hearing that's been damaged. But you exchange pleasantries when briefly meeting, saying all's well with the world, secretly wondering why the other doesn't have a life threatening allergy to peanuts, so you can offer a peanut tainted cup at the next village jamboree.

And life goes on, for days on end it's nice and quiet – as they have gone away on holiday without telling you! Sometimes you just have to sit there spending the hours idly, playing with the volume button. On other occasions you just decide to go out for a walk or just to meet friends, eventually returning home slightly the worse for alcohol, put the stereo on and wake up in the morning with music blasting out and a sour note pushed through the letter box expressing extreme displeasure, bordering contempt.

Looking into the anti-social noise laws, including that of leases, most have some provision with regard for this, yet hardly anything seems to be done about it. Environmental health will only do something after 22:30hrs! Leases say noise – likely to disrupt fellow neighbours - should cease after 23:00hrs, and before then, that people should have consideration for their fellow flat dwellers.

Sadly even when letters are sent out reminding inhabitants of their contractual obligations, scant notice is given to them and things go on as usual.

So what recourse is there available to those under noise-siege? At this moment in time, it's a long hard slog through, ineffective management companies, useless housing associations, non-caring councils, solicitors, lawyers, courts etc. Which if you want a really quick result isn't much in the way of comfort, but will be of benefit once you've reached the end of the tunnel; well until the next person moves in.

The following is an excerpt from an environmental services website, and do take note of the last paragraph...

What is noise nuisance?

Our service aims to tackle unreasonable noise disturbance and reduce its impact on the quality of people's lives in the borough...

The general consensus – as unsatisfactory as it is - seems to be... just whack your own noise levels up; so you can hear what it is you're listening to. Either that or suffer the stress and frustration of living with an inconsiderate, arsehole, of a neighbour... on the otherhand, where's that bus!