Thursday, 29 March 2012

Don't panic Captain Mainwaring

The tanker drivers are threatening a strike.  We're all on tenterhooks waiting for the seven day strike warning whilst draining petrol stations of their supplies.

It's a lesson in how to afford to strike.

You don't get paid when you're on strike.  You can get strike pay from the Union but it's not as much as the wage.

So how do people who claim to be underpaid, afford to go on strike?

If you're a tanker driver it works like this:

  • Threaten to strike but don't set a date.
  • Get the Government so scared that they advocate panic buying.
  • People then panic buy draining petrol stations who will call their suppliers requesting more deliveries
  • Tanker drivers will then be asked to do overtime, at premium rates, to keep up with demand.
  • Everyone will eventually have a full tank of fuel, making a strike ineffective.
  • Wait a bit until people have forgotten about the strike.
  • Leak a confidential report advocating imminent strike.  This whips the nation into panic buying again promoting the same cycle of demand prompting overtime.
  • Don't strike on date in confidential leaked report "because it was leaked."
  • When you have earned enough to weather a strike then choose a juicy bank holiday weekend to wreak havoc.

Of course I could be wrong...

Monday, 19 March 2012

Never mind talking, are you listening?

Blah blah

It all started with an automated message.

TalkTalk wanted us to call them and they requested that we do this by leaving an automated message on our answer phone. By automated I mean pre-recorded.  The message was not left by a human being that had called, it was left by an automated dialler.

Husband picked up another couple of these messages and we ignored them, but they annoyed me and so I told TalkTalk using my favourite medium for initial contact with a company, Twitter.

TalkTalk responded asking whether it was a sales call.  I clearly didn't know because I refuse to respond to a robot.  If TalkTalk want to contact me they can use a real person to make contact.

TalkTalk then sent me, via Twitter, a form requiring name, address, customer account, phone number, e-mail address, mobile number and bank details.  Although it was a pain to look this up, I did because I wanted to follow through on my complaint.

The next contact was an e-mail saying the details I supplied didn't match the records they had.  I presumed this was confusion over my first name and the middle name I use on a daily basis.

It irritated me that, despite having the account details they needed to investigate my complaint, they refused to do so because there was one tiny discrepancy.  They had sent through the form for me to complete again.  I didn't know for sure which field or fields didn't match their records and didn't look forward to the prospect of multiple attempts at form filling.  It might be worth pointing out that the request that came in with the original form didn't ask me to "Please complete this form…" it just said "Can you complete this form…".  It's a small thing but manners cost nothing.

At this point I'm not viewing TalkTalk favourably.  This is unfortunate for the poor man in the TalkTalk call centre who chose exactly that time to call (just five minutes before I have to leave the house for the school run.)

I think that during this call I realised why TalkTalk had been trying to make contact.  The call with the unfortunate man went something like this:


"Is that Mrs Cardus?"

"Yes, who's calling?"

"It's TalkTalk"

"What do you want?"

"I need to take you through security."

At this point it's tempting to shout "YOU CALLED ME.  WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU CALLED?" but I didn't.  I "went through security".

"There's a problem with payment on your account."

"What's the problem."

"Your account needs paying."

"It's on Direct Debit so there shouldn't be a problem."

"There's a problem with the Direct Debit."

"Well there shouldn't be because it comes out of our bank account which is linked to our mortgage and I know there are sufficient funds available to make payments."

"The Direct Debit has been cancelled."

"Not by me it's not.  Who's cancelled the Direct Debit?"

"*coughs* It's been cancelled by someone at TalkTalk by accident."

"Right.  Send me a new Direct Debit form and I'll complete it and send it back."

"But your account will be overdue."

"Not my fault, you cancelled the Direct Debit."

"But if your account is overdue then we might cut you off."

"Well I hope you wouldn't given that it's your fault the account is overdue."

"If I could just take payment by card."

"I don't think so."

and on and on and on until

"I can put you through to Customer Service."

"No you can't because I have to go.  Get them to call me."


Lessons for TalkTalk from this experience:

  1. Don't leave automated messages because they are impersonal and they are entirely inappropriate when dealing with a situation relating to finance and an error on the part of TalkTalk.
  2. Improve your customer issue handling and don't make the customer do all the work.
  3. Say sorry, please and thank you where appropriate.
  4. When a TalkTalk error has created an issue then don't threaten the customer
  5. If you do cut off our service we will leave and you will never see us again.




Friday, 16 March 2012

Smashing belief

Hannah announced this evening "I know your little secret."

I didn't know what to say.  Depending on your point of view I either have a lifetime of little secrets or none at all and I didn't know what Hannah's angle was.

She'd worked out there was no tooth fairy.  She'd found a box containing teeth.  I know this sounds grim but where should children's teeth end up?

I didn't confirm or deny anything.

Hannah asked if she could have a financial reward for the latest tooth to fall out.  I had to explain that only children who believe in the tooth fairy benefit financially from tooth loss.  I felt bad but this was uncharted territory and I was winging it.

Should I have a rethink in the morning?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Lemon drizzle traybake

The best bit of a lemon drizzle cake is the lemon drizzle.  Frankly, the cake is nothing without the drizzle.

I've often felt that there is not enough drizzle for the average lemon drizzle cake, but happily I have found a solution.

This is Andrea's recipe but she freely admits she stole it from the wonderful Mary Berry.


  • 225g margarine (I use olive spread)
  • 225g sugar (granulated or caster)
  • 275g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsps. baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsps. milk
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • For the crunchy topping: 175g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons


  • Line 30cm x 23cm traybake tin with baking parchment
  • Heat oven to 160’ C/325’ F/ Gas Mark 3
  • Beat margarine and sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add the eggs 2 at a time with a spoonful of the SR flour to stop the mixture curdling. Continue adding the flour and baking powder, mixing well after each addition
  • Add the milk and the lemon zest, mixing in well so it is evenly distributed
  • Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top gently with the back of a spatula
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the traybake springs back when pressed lightly with a finger in the centre and is beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tin
  • To make the crunchy topping, mix the granulated sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl to give a runny consistency
  • Spoon this mixture evenly over the traybake while it is still just warm
  • Cut into squares when cold
  • Eat

If you have struggled, as I have, to find a suitable tray bake tin, then I recommend you invest in a Silverwood tin which gives you all sorts of cake size options and is also good for those strapped for storage space.