BT Fibre Broadband Nightmare

By The Curious Scribbler

Why haven’t I posted a single interesting blog in the last eight weeks?

Well it has quite a lot to do with the arrival, on the pole opposite my house, of a lovely green box, what BT call a Cabinet, bringing fibre optic cable from the exchange.

The Cabinet outside my house attached to an optic fibre line

The Cabinet outside my house attached to an optic fibre line

Having endured years of download speeds of 1 MBPS  I was excited.  I placed an order for BT Infinity broadband.  I even bought a Smart TV.

Engineers came and connected  the cabinet to a new optic fibre cable joined  to  a box on the outside of my house.  Another engineer came and attached it to a pretty Openreach router which he installed inside the house.  One little problem, a light showed red, indicating no connection to the exchange.

My OpenReach modem. Three pretty lights but no action

My OpenReach modem. Three pretty lights but no action

After 3 weeks the red light went green, and spirits soared. The helpful Openreach engineer came back and confirmed it was now working.  But it needed an activation code.  All I needed to do now was get it activated.

I have spent much of the last 10 weeks trying to get it activated.  BT Faults thinks I have copper wire slow broadband which works.  BT billing is charging me for installation of the fibre and the new expensive contract which they are not providing. BT Orders won’t let me cancel and re-order because the order is “Pending”.  All routes lead eventually to the FTTP team ( Fibre to the Premises) who can only be spoken to after you’ve listened to 150 repeats of the “We are very busy at the moment, your call will be answered as soon as possible” messageOften , after an hour or two the line goes dead, unanswered.

I’ve spent 19 hours on the phone to various departments.  I’ve been promised connection dates and callbacks which are never delivered.

And don’t underestimate the mind draining effect of the repetitive BT musak after an hour or two.

Today I took to Twitter to protest.  You’ll find the strand on @BTCare if you tweet.  I don’t know if BT has any skilled engineers or decisionmakers, but they obviously have a roomful of young people called Ash, Stephen, ClaireC, Alana, Kevin, and Pete, highly trained in emitting pointless platitudes in 140 characters.

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A belated return to my blog

by The Curious Scribbler

Who writes a blog when there's a baby to play with?

Who writes a blog when there’s a baby to play with?

Where have I been and what have I been doing since mid November, my regular readers may well ask?   Well nothing really out of the ordinary: a very busy Christmas with the house bursting with guests, a daughter moving house to Bristol, an enchanting one year old grandchild to play with, a nasty bronchial cold, and the fallout from the collapse of a fellow local historian’s book on the very brink of its publication by a small Trust.  This last event occurred as if in illustration of an article by Matthew Parris in the Spectator entitled “Why are volunteers so mean to one another?”  Parris wrote ” What is it about voluntarism, what is it about organisations composed of public spirited people giving of their own time and money for some purpose larger and nobler than themselves, that breeds the poisonous atmosphere that so often chokes their deliberations?” .  In an attempt to answer this question he posits a new explanation.  When people ‘give up their own free time’  for no remuneration, they become very difficult to command. Volunteers consider themselves released from the usual rules of the workplace.  In the case in question, a volunteer steering committee, having engaged a volunteer author, decided, two years later, that they wanted a different book.  Had the publication been driven for profit, the outcome might have been very different. As Parris remarks – the pursuit of principle is an infinitely more corrupting thing.

My own last regular printed output has also come to an end in January  but it was a bloodless end, the death of the magazine Cambria came because it simply could not afford to continue without Welsh Books Council grant aid.  And committees  don’t wish to fund ‘more of the same’ indefinitely.  Cambria has existed for 18 years and for most of them I have been its garden correspondent.  It seldom could afford to pay me, but I was rewarded in other ways;  my copy was never hacked about by an insensitive editor, my pictures were reproduced handsomely, my picture captions emerged correct.  These are virtues which cannot be taken for granted in the world of magazines.  The choice of topics was invariably mine, and my final piece was an account of a visit to the immaculately restored and recreated Allt-y-bela.  The story had first appeared on this blog, in July 2014.  As a final bonus, the magazine has long enjoyed a special status in the catalogues of the National Library of Wales.  So for every article in Cambria, I have been awarded an author-indexed entry in their catalogue, as I would be for articles in more heavy-duty scholarly publications about Wales.

The last issues of Cambria magazine

The last issues of Cambria magazine

But blogs too may earn their immortality and I was gratified to be asked by the NLW for permission to copy and index my blogs relating to the remarkable sculpture by Mario Rutelli on the Aberystwyth war memorial.  This topic continues to develop, leading blog readers to make the pilgrimage to Via Quattro Fontane in Rome to verify the identity of the original bronze, and report back their findings.  Keeping a foot in both the electronic and the printed camps, I propose to write up the story of Aberystwyth’s ‘Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War’ for a printed journal this year.

Letter from Aberystwyth will continue, for the most part as a vehicle for overlooked or long forgotten fragments of our local history.

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Service but no smile.

The day started well, the weather was dry and it being a Monday I thought I’d do a few long overdue errands in the town.  Not that it’s that bustling these days.  The last few weeks have seen the disappearance of two more retail opportunities, Millets has closed down and gone, and Monsoon – which along with New Look and Dorothy Perkins used to constitute the Aberystwyth window on current high street fashion, has quietly transformed itself into an Accessorize.  Presumably the depleted town is more likely to buy scarves and earrings than to actually choose an entire outfit.

First stop was the bank (funnily enough we still have lots of those).  I pulled into part of the extensive empty space in Stryd y Popty to run down to the cashpoint.  The parking sign allowed 30 minutes parking after 1pm.  The time was 12.35pm.  And the 60 seconds I was away was sufficient time for one of the numerous traffic wardens to appear.  I suppose it was really nice of him to just give me a polite telling off for infringing the law so briefly in an empty road. But my morning dis-improved.  I confessed to him that, having got the money, it was my ambition to take a bundle of curtains from my car into the dry cleaners 30 yards away before driving off.  But no, he wasn’t as nice as to allow that.

I eventually walked from a legitimate spot to the drycleaners, bearing a pair of heavy cotton William Morris print curtains.  I knew they were the real deal.  I bought the material myself nearly 30 years ago in a very upmarket curtain shop and sewed them, fully lined, myself.  But what was I thinking of all those years ago?  No fabric care label!

I had gone hoping to be advised by the professionals – wash or dry clean?  What would they recommend for traditional cotton?  What do other people do? (obviously they clean  their curtains more often than I do for a  start!)  But the young assistant only wanted to know whether I had an International Care Label, and it not being present recited a warning that my curtains might shrink, run, or stain during cleaning.  Not only did I have to pay in advance but sign a disclaimer taking full responsibility for any such disaster.  What was missing though, and would have been welcome, was the professional opinion of someone in the dry cleaning trade.  But he wasn’t as forthcoming as that.

So after spending a good four minutes in my legal one hour parking spot under they eye of the roaming wardens I set off for Morrisons supermarket. Here one can park without hindrance. I completed my shopping and queued at the till behind a newly delivered mother and her 10 day old baby.  The child was sleeping determinedly in a bucket shaped car seat balanced at the top of a huge supermarket trolley.  Mother had come prepared, her body wrapped in a baby sling into which she could transfer the child if it fretted.  She looked as if she was laying in supplies for a fortnight.  Quite possibly it was some considerable distance to her rural home. She also looked tired.

Any woman who can shop with such efficiency with her new baby gets my respect.  And everything went fine until the check out operator reached her two little packets of 16 paracetamol and two little packets of 16 ibuprufen.  And here the operator nicely explained to the the purchaser of some £200 worth of food and household necessities that she wasn’t allowed to buy more than one packet, worth just pence, of each!

There is many a newly delivered mother who is advised by her midwife to take these two medicines while she recovers from the birth and its attendant aches and pains.  But store policy takes precedence over customer convenience. The young woman accepted the confiscation without argument and departed with her meagre supply.  She will have to go out shopping again sooner than she planned.

In each of these interactions a politely robotic employee has been trained  to thwart the customer by performing their duties without a trace of helpfulness or empathy.  Not a heart warming experience.



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Network Rail disrespects Welsh passengers

by The Curious Scribbler

The Scribbler made a rare excursion to London this weekend and travelled home on Sunday evening, from Euston to Abersytwyth.

At Birmingham New Street I spent 40 minutes, bought a cup of tea and fell into brief conversation with another passenger in the concourse.  She was a fashionably tweedy woman with a medium sized suitcase, accompanied by two well behaved gentle-eyed dogs and a child who carried a white pet rat in a red topped plastic travelling box. I don’t know where they had travelled from but it had already involved other trains.  She remarked that fellow travellers had been nice to them, and indeed that more people spoke to them than she would have expected were she alone. Like me she was travelling westward. For lack of a real name I shall call her ‘Mrs Weasley’.

The Arriva 18-24 service to Aberystwyth was on time and expected on Platform 5A.  Dog’s claws are at risk on escalators and some ten minutes early we shared a ride in the lift to platform level.  There was already a dense crowd assembled for the train and she and I took up separate waiting points where we could find a space in the crowd.  I favoured the front row near where the front of the train might be expected.  With her animals, she took up a position further down the platform and farther from the edge.

The tannoy rang out, confirming that the next train to arrive at Platform 5A would be the Arriva Wales service.  But it was not.  Instead, in rolled a London Midland special train packed to capacity with returning football fans. It did not even pull forward to the unoccupied platform 5B.  Instead it stopped exactly at Platform 5A where we stood waiting already crowded five deep.  The tannoy spoke again, to tell us that this London Midland train was in special service and no one was to get aboard it. Instead its passengers disembarked into our midst and jostled their way towards the escalators.

The train was a long one and every seat was taken with many more standing.  Probably as many as a thousand men and boys eased their way in several strands through our crowd, one strand moving along the platform edge were constantly impeded by further disembarkers, other strands formed a conga and pushed their way single file through the body of our crowd.  Toes collided with our feet and our suitcases, rucksacks swung in our faces.  There was no spare capacity on the platform, and every fan from the back carriages had to push through the entire throng of Arriva passengers to reach the exit. It must have been horrible for the dogs, though they were too mannerly to make a sound.

After some minutes of this onslaught the flow of departing passengers slowed, and soon, we imagined, the special train would depart and make way for ours.  The time was just after 18-24.  The tannoy spoke again.  The 18-24 would depart from platform 2A.  No doubt it was already there, but Network Rail had, till now, omitted to inform us of the fact.

So I and the Wales-bound crowd turned en masse and struggled hastily to join the flow of ambling supporters who had been pushing through our midst.  We queued for the escalator or fought our way up the stairs.  We ran along the concourse and descended to platform 2.  I squeezed onto the first carriage and secured a remaining reserved seat.  And as I was about to sit I saw ‘Mrs Weasley’ and the child, and the dogs running to press the ‘Open’ button on the then-closing door of our carriage.  Perhaps she should have stuck her foot in the closing gap.  As it was, the door continued to close and the train dispatcher stood by with a walkie-talkie, unmoved by Mrs Weasley’s furious protests.  The train started on its way.  Arriva Wales has a schedule to keep, and they will doubtless say it was not their fault that Network Rail (who run the station) had wilfully separated the Wales-bound passengers from their train.

As for the other travellers with slower mobility, – the parents with buggies, the old lady with swollen legs and a small terrier peeping out of a large handbag, the man in a wheelchair, all of whom I noticed on Platform 5A.  Well, I guess we left them behind too.  They’d be waiting another two hours for a train to Wales.

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Hospital is no place for the old

I listened to Anne Clwyd MP on the radio the other day, describing the conditions of disinterest and neglect ( like a battery hen)  which marked her husband’s death in hospital in Cardiff.  In the wake of the Mid Staffordshire inquiry, she has been appointed to a government committee to advise on how NHS hospitals should handle complaints.

She has been inundated with correspondence from people from all over the UK whose relatives received little care or compassion on NHS wards. But perhaps most shocking is that while individuals regularly make the same observations, it is widely recognised  among professionals that hospital is no place for the old.

I was responsible for managing my nonagerarian mother’s care and experience in a nursing home in the last five years of her life. About 3 years ago she became severely dehydrated as the result of prolonged diarrhoea.  In need of rehydration the GP assigned her to hospital.

I say assigned because, although the distance was less than a mile it took four hours for her to be admitted.  Those four hours were spent in an ambulance on the tarmac outside A&E, parked alongside three other ambulances containing elderly non-urgent patients.  It was a a freezing cold, brilliantly sunny, January day.  Only two ambulances remained in service, I was told, to deal with emergencies in the entire county!

This part of the care was, however, very good to my mother.  While an IV saline drip cannot (for reasons of arcane regulation)  be provided in a nursing home, she was promptly attached to one in the ambulance.  The heating in the van was excellent, and for nearly four hours she lay quietly rehydrating, attended by the paramedic, the driver, a young care assistant from the care home and myself.  If only, after the four hours, she could have been taken back to her nursing home!

She was at last processed in A&E and eventually admitted to a ward within the target waiting time (not including the ambulance-blocking hours, which do not count towards the target).  It was there that the inadequacies of care became seriously apparent.  Placed in a side ward she was left alone for long periods and not provided with a call bell.  Anti nausea medicine prescribed by the doctor took more than seven hours to appear from the pharmacy.  Simple comforts like tea appeared seldom, ( certainly not on request) while meals were served during “protected mealtimes” when witnessing relatives were banished from the ward. Nursing staff were sullen and uncommunicative.

‘Is she eating anything?’ I asked at the nursing station on my daily visits.

‘Oh we’re very keen on food.’ was the evasive reply.

But evidence there was none.  Full plates were cleared away untouched.  Food and fluid  intake charts were not filled in.  Although quite able to stand my mother was manhandled with a hoist and wheelchair to visit her en suite loo.  No one sought to find out what her physical abilities were. In her own words, she felt she was handled like a piece of meat. Over a week she became more and more deeply miserable.On the sixth day, without explanation, or recording in the notes, she was put onto a glucose drip.  Perhaps they finally noticed she wasn’t eating anything?

Laundry is a reponsibility of the visiting relatives, and on each day I would be provided with a bag of dirties to take home.  Because the reason for her bowel problem remained undiagnosed she was receiving ” barrier nursing”.  How then did the bags I took home prove to contain other patients’ labelled clothing?  When I called to point this out the staff nurse told me that that the two owners of the nightdresses had died, and that I should throw these items away.  A little research proved this to untrue.  One of the ladies was back at my mother’s nursing home, and I eventually returned her freshly laundered nightdress!  I failed to trace the other. But it summed up the attitude on that ward.  Old women with a nursing home tag on their admission bracelet were not seen as individuals.  They were a generic nuisance.

Eventually I wrote a letter to the consultant ( whom I never saw) requesting that she be discharged, whether they knew what was wrong with her or not. I refused permission for invasive tests, which she would have experienced as nothing short of an assault.

In the course of that week I realised then that hospital is just too harsh an environment for a frail nonagenarian.  And that the quality of care is lowest for this category of patient. In her subsequent management I always pointed out to GPs responsible for her care that hospital was not an appropriate destination for the very old.  No one ever disagreed, or suggested that the benefits could outweigh the de-merits of hospital admission.





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The Trials of Spam

by The Curious Scribbler

As a blogger it is really exciting to get a reply or  email from a real reader adding to a story, like Tone’s account of how the Welsh Nationalist students  tried to sever the bronze head of the first Vice Chancellor of the University because he was an English king ( albeit briefly)  Edward VIII.  Or Kate’s link to Robert Parnall  of Llanstephan,  one of her ancestors in Carmarthenshire. Or indeed nice comments from people with nothing to sell.

But there is a blight upon bloggers which makes one foam at the mouth.  The parasites, trying to get publicity for their dodgy merchandising sites, too idle or illiterate even to write a relevant sentence as a vehicle to which to attach the website address of their wares.

Some send in a generic comment which appears badly written but superficially flattering:

You made some decent points there. I looked on the net for the problem and discovered most individuals will go along with your site.
You have a terrific blog here! would you like to create some invite posts on my blog?


Nice post. I find out something more difficult on unique blogs everyday. It’s going to often be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice just a little something from their store. I’d prefer to use some with the content on my blog no matter whether you do not mind. Natually I’ll give you a link on your web weblog. Thanks for sharing.

These were both in response to the post ‘What is a Lhasa Apso?’ A bit odd, but believable, until you realise the correspondent is actually peddling a link selling American football jerseys!

A regular offender wants you to buy cheap Ugg boots in the USA and Argentina:

This seriously answered my issue, thank you!

I discovered your weblog web-site on google and check some of your early posts. Continue to maintain up the extremely great operation. 

Time and again I consign this author to trash.

Or having read about the Aberystwyth war memorial another ‘reader’ replies

I enjoy these black a pair of glasses. These are generally safe and sound, fancy and superb simultaneously. They provide an extremely contemporary look at and travelling within a comfy daytime it is a good selection. fake oakleys

Possibly the fake branded sunglasses are so black the author can neither read nor write!

And in the complete gibberish category comes this:

Stay above clothes. I would say some sort of added benefits of perhaps may be two-Flip the; You’ll not be be trying late deal for garments to pack it and you could not be posting mafia among solely 1 set of training pants resulting in nil stockings.


You will not even need to take moth golf tennis baseprojectiles of keeping pestilence removed from your material, Several portable content since the event could be gives people like and/or snaps. When you purchase fluids above the protection gate, You should bring regarding on the airplane.

Both of which comments would give links to Louis Vuitton Bags  and Emporio Armani Watch Mall.

Less easy to spot was Phillip, who wrote

Your post, 1807 entry pass for David Lewis | Letter from Aberystwyth, is really well written and insightful. Glad I found your website, warm regards from Phillip!

Who wouldn’t experience a momentary warm glow?  But to approve this comment would furnish my readers with nine links to American social networking, job seeking, brand buying, property selling and joke purveying sites.  Nine of them in all.  Phillip, I will survive without your fake praise!

Why do they keep on sending this nonsense, when it never reaches the readership?  Surely they understand that the author of a blog can approve, or reject any comment?  What the author cannot do is to expurgate their comment and remove the marketing content.  But I can clip out their comments and republish them in my own blog, for the enjoyment of those who would wish to remind themselves how many fools there are in the digital world. And I have found in the dross a valuable expression  –  a single phrase from the multitude which describes exactly what I am doing – “keeping pestilence removed from my material.”


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