The big changeover

Many of you may remember my post ‘City Stress’, about when Julie and I went to Norwich, to change over our home telephone and broadband supplier.

Well, Monday the 16th was the big day, the day we were due to change over. We had the new router, delivered a few days earlier, and eagerly awaited the emails and text messages telling us how to get started. But of course, nothing happened.

We still had a phone line, and a broadband connection, but it was with our previous supplier, British Telecom. We heard nothing from EE (the new supplier) on Monday, and it seemed to be a case of ‘I told you so’, about changing companies, and nothing working as promised.

However, it all got going this morning, (Tuesday) albeit a day late. We were told to connect the new router, and to get ready for our faster fibre broadband connection. This involved me crawling around under the desk in the office, drowning in a sea of wires and cables, as I sought to disconnect everything from British Telecom, and set up the new system. Once it was all done, I switched on the new fancy router, and…nothing! We had a phone line, but no Internet connection.

I called the freephone number for EE, fearing the worst. But I was pleasantly surprised when an efficient young man, from a call centre in Bristol, managed to immediately diagnose our problem. British Telecom had failed to connect our new broadband at the exchange, he told me. Leave it an hour, unplug the router, and restart. I thanked him for his efficiency, but in the back of my mind, I thought ‘Yeah right, like that’s going to happen’.

But I was happy to eat my words, when it happened exactly as he had predicted. We soon had a great connection, faster Wi-Fi, and a good signal for all devices. Once the new passwords had been entered, Julie was able to connect all three tablets, and her smartphone. We have been flying away since, with a great speed broadband, and a reliable Wi-Fi signal too. So far, so good.

Isn’t it just great, when technology actually works?

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Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Hedges

The idea of these posts is to tell you all what I woke up thinking about, on the day when most people get to have a rest from the working week, hopefully relaxing and trying not to think about tomorrow. But this week, I woke up thinking about something very mundane. Hedges. I decided to share this with you anyway, as it says something about getting older, and facing up to physical limitations.

Our back garden is bordered on two sides by tall conifer hedges. We inherited these from the previous owner, and originally intended to have them removed, and replaced with something more manageable. However, the quotes for this job were much higher than we had ever expected, so the plan was scrapped. We also realised that they gave us a welcome degree of privacy from our neighbours’ houses, so on balance, thought it best to keep them.

In 2012, I bought some top-of-the-range cordless trimmers to tackle the job, and spent all weekend getting them nicely manicured, and looking neat. As they are ten feet high, and almost five feet deep, that was a difficult job, involving a lot of time spent on a ladder. I soon realised that this type of hedge grows very quickly too, and the annual trim became something of an unwanted chore. I left it one year, and as a result of my neglect, the central trunks and branches grew back thicker that ever. The next time I got around to cutting it, the trimmers could hardly cope, and I had to resort to using a saw as well. That made a boring job even more difficult.

When I had bad vertigo last year, I let them go again. 2016 seems to have been a record growth year though, and adding nine moths of this year to that, they are now very high and straggly. One of my neighbours from the street behind even knocked and advised me that they are cutting out the light from his garden, and asked me when I was going to cut them. I told him about the vertigo, and he was sympathetic, but it left me feeling guilty. I resolved to start the ‘big cut’ today, as it is forecast to stay dry. But then I woke up worrying about having to do it, and retreated into the office to deal with blogging matters instead.

We could pay someone to do it. We have the money, and there are plenty of companies offering the service. Something inside me says ‘no’. Once we pay someone to do routine jobs that do not require any skill, I am on the way to giving up. Before you know it, we will be paying someone to clean the house, and mow the lawn. I will happily pay someone to do electrical work, painting rooms, or fixing drains. I have no skill in those areas, and they are responsible for their work. But when I stop being able to stand on a ladder, holding a hedge trimmer, it will certainly be an admission of something I don’t want to accept.

So I am writing this, and drinking some coffee.When both are finished, I have an appointment with some hedges.

Not knowing

During our longer than expected break this week, I didn’t access the Internet. I didn’t read a national newspaper, watch the news, or bother about what was going on outside of the quiet peace of the Suffolk countryside. This from someone who has rolling 24-hour news on for most of the day, and spends hours reading political commentary posts online, as well as those posted by bloggers.

I chatted to my relatives about ‘the old days’, and caught up on family news that I didn’t know about.
We drove over to the coast, and wandered around a timeless seaside town that hasn’t changed much in my lifetime. We ate food together, had a few drinks, and played with the three dogs. The others enjoyed lounging around in the huge hot tub (not my thing) as I brought them drinks from inside the house. Then we strolled on the edges of the fields that surrounded the old farm, tucked away almost a mile from the main road, down a stony driveway.

Not once did I concern myself about the EU, the antics of Mr Trump, weather disasters, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, or the in-fighting in our own government. I didn’t catch sight of the buffoon of a Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, or the maligned Socialist opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn. For three whole days, I was cut off from my normal life, and the events in the world that usually consume my every waking moment.

And nothing happened. There wasn’t a nuclear war anywhere, and America didn’t invade a single country. We continued to argue with the EU, and the Prime Minister stayed the same, without being ousted. No famous actors died, and we didn’t have any serious coastal erosion, or weather events here in Britain. On the smaller scale, there were no family dramas. Nobody ended up in hospital, or contacted us on mobile phones in a panic. In fact, there wasn’t so much as a head cold to worry about. I started to realise why people used to live the life of a hermit, and I came to a conclusion. When you don’t know about what’s going on, nothing goes on. You are better off not knowing, it would seem

I should go away more often.

I have finally got to the end of ten pages of emails. If I missed any of your comments, or didn’t get to one of your posts, I apologise. For the time being, beetleypete is back to normal.

City Stress

I didn’t get time to write a ‘Thinking Aloud’ post last Sunday. I had to go out, a rarity for me on a Sunday, I assure you. But I did wake up thinking about something. I was thinking about having to drive into Norwich, something that stresses me out a great deal. Considering I lived in central London for sixty years, you might think that driving into a provincial city would be a breeze after that. But I have lived in a village, close to the small town of Dereham, for over five years now. So a trip into what counts as the ‘Big City’, is something I have come to dread.

We had to go in though. The intention was to change our telephone line and broadband supplier, and we had to visit the shop to sign the contracts. It also had to be done that day, or we would miss the window of the available ‘special offer’. I would have preferred to go in by bus. I get free travel as a pensioner, and the bus service to and from the city is very good. But we had to travel on somewhere after that, so the car it was.

The first seventeen miles of the journey, on the A47 major road, are reasonably easy. Once you turn off and head into the city though, you are soon aware that this small city (population 135,000) was never built to cope with the influx of people from over half of Norfolk, and parts of Suffolk too. There are four main car parks, but three were already full by lunchtime. The rest of us were funnelled into the more expensive NCP car park, close to the busy bus station. After the usual hassles of going into a dead end that had no spaces, followed by a tricky reverse to get out, and back onto the up ramp, we found a space two floors up, and headed off to the phone shop in the large Chapelfield Mall.

Since shops started opening on Sundays, it has proved a very popular day for shoppers to congregate. As they are only open from 11 until 5, the lunchtime period is definitely one of the busiest of the week. Once in the phone shop, we made contact with the young man we had an appointment with, and waited patiently until he was free from his previous customers. The shop mainly deals in mobile phones, but the company has recently been able to offer good deals on home phones and broadband too. It was very busy, and the young men who work there were literally rushed off their feet. People love mobile phones, they really do. Best of all, they like to change them frequently, always keen to get the latest model, or the best deal. A steady stream of customers came and went, making me very glad that we had managed to get a definite appointment.

A quick look around confirmed that I am definitely not in the target market for such a shop. Mostly younger people, being served by very young men. The sort of young men who seem to have incredibly thin legs, wearing trousers that look impossible to get on and off. Young men with spiky hair, tattoos, and mostly in need of a shave. Until a lady came in with a walking frame, I was definitely the oldest person in there, by a mile. Our young advisor eventually got to us. He efficiently explained the benefits of changing suppliers, and countered my many probing questions with a calm professionalism. This lad knew his stuff, that was obvious. Despite my initial reservations, I could find no flaws in his argument. We signed up for the contract, and will enjoy an immediate saving of more than £30 a month, on current bills. We will also get unlimited Internet access, and a fibre connection too. This is a better deal than our current ADSL connection, with its ‘Fair Use’ policy limiting broadband usage.

Two hours after arriving at the car park, we were heading out. I couldn’t get my seat belt done up, then had to reach too far to insert my pre-paid ticket into the machine to be able to leave the cramped car park. That sent me into a small but out of proportion rage. I wanted out of the place, and as quick as possible. Once back onto the main road, well out of Norwich, I could feel myself calming down. The stress of the city was behind me, until next time.

The new modem should arrive soon, and the switch over is due to happen on the 16th. So if you don’t hear from me after that, you can presume it didn’t work as promised, and I am sitting in a corner, quietly fuming.

Technology. Isn’t it wonderful?

The sad howling dog

Although I write this blog from Beetley, I have no idea how many people who live here actually read it. I have been approached by a few dog-walkers in the past who tell me that they do read it, but as over half of my readers are from America, and more than ten percent from other countries, I cannot say with any certainty that more than three residents of Beetley are regular readers.

Despite this fact, I am going to appeal to any Beetley readers for information about the sad howling dog. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been woken in the early morning by the mournful howling of a dog, in a nearby house. It sounds like a wolf in one of those old films, and can howl for more than an hour at a time. On occasion, this has lasted well into the day, and also started much earlier in the evening. It is very upsetting to hear, and makes us most concerned about the poor animal, which is either shut in alone inside, or left outdoors for long periods.

Locating the source of this canine lament is not as easy as you might think. Despite being a relatively small area there are many houses around, and some side streets to investigate too. Then there is the nature of how sound travels. Sometimes, it seems as if the sad dog is howling from a house behind our back garden. But if I go outside, the sound appears to be from the other direction, across the road at the front of the house. Even wandering around as the howling can be heard is of little help, as when I think I might have located the place of origin, the source of the howling changes to come from behind me. Sound is a strange thing indeed.

So, if anyone knows what is going on with this dog, and its heartbreaking cries, please let me know.

Mirrored Memories

Being a man of a certain age, I am lucky that I don’t have to look into a mirror that often. I do like to shave though, and brush what is left of my hair into something not resembling a floppy hedgehog. So at least once a day, looking into a mirror at my face is a necessity.

There are recent photos of course. But something about that two-dimensional image is never quite as disturbing as what looks back at me, from the bathroom mirror on the wall above the hand-basin. The sagging neck, jowls where cheeks once flourished, and bags forming on the bags already under my eyes. Ears slowly growing larger, lips drooping perceptibly. It’s getting harder to separate neck from chin, and the backs of the hands holding the razor and keeping the skin taut look like someone else is shaving my face.

There was a time when I looked into mirrors to check on things. Was my tie straight, and my hair parted correctly? A brief smile to check that I was still on form, a pat of the after-shave onto my firm cheeks, and off I went. Sometimes, I try to remember that face from not so long ago. The face that looked back at me, not the flat one in youthful photos. I can no longer recall the detail, or the differences from what I see now.

I have grown into a face that has reflected my past, and the excesses of youth. The years of work, some times of worry and stress, and many hours of happy smiles. It is my face, and I am stuck with it.

But I wish it didn’t look like someone else. Someone not me.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Transgender fish

I read about this many years ago now, but it popped into my head again this morning.

Ever since the rise in popularity of the contraceptive pill, two female sex hormones, Oestrogen and Progestin, have been released into our water supply in huge quantities. Even diluted down into small amounts, we all must ingest some of these; in our daily drinks, and when we wash, or brush our teeth. As a result, men began to take in female hormones at a young age for the first time, and women reintroduced them into their bodies, adding to those already present.

I read an article in a Sunday newspaper decades ago now, about how fish travelling along waterways were changing sex. Male fish tagged at one spot were discovered to have become female, when caught and reexamined later. Female fish had developed male characteristics, in the same study. It seems that a constant intake of these hormones means that female fish begin to develop more Testosterone, a male hormone. As for the males, the female hormones begin to reduce the existing Testosterone in their bodies, leading to a gradual change in body shape, and an eventual gender transformation.

The article speculated that this could well affect humans exposed to the same changes in the water supply over long periods, especially with birth-control drugs becoming more popular, and more concentrated.

Fast forward a few decades, and what do we see?

‘Man Boobs’, or ‘Moobs’. Do you ever recall seeing men with these, before 1960? I don’t. Do you notice them in old photographs? I don’t. Have you ever heard of men being emotionally labile, or in touch with their feminine side, during say the 1950s? I haven’t. Did men have ‘hips’, when you were a child? I never noticed any. Before the first contraceptive pills were widely issued for use in 1962, men had little or no presence of female hormones in their bodies, at least until Oestrogen became present as they got older. So the balance of nature was dramatically upset, as every male of any age was ingesting these hormones from birth.

What about women? When I was young, I rarely if ever saw a woman with a bald head, or receding hair. Except for ladies from certain ethnic groups, I also never saw them with noticeable facial hair, excessive arm hair, or random hairs on their breasts and chest. Since the late 1960s, many women have been subject to excessive levels of Testosterone in their bodies, as their intake of Oestrogen increased. Given the right circumstances, and a certain genetic predisposition, some women began to experience male pattern baldness, as well as beard growth on their face and upper lip. It is also possible that the same causes led to an increase in infertility, and the ability to carry a child to full term. There have been increases in the instances of Womb Endometriosis too, and debatable psychological changes in the way that some women behave in a more aggressive manner than they once did.

I offer no scientific link, and no firm proof. Just that old story about the fish, and my own observations. Then you can throw all the hormones given to animals like cows and pigs into the mix, and the hormonal balance of humans has been irrevocably upset. Write it all off as a conspiracy theory, if you choose to do so. But the next time you see a man with discernible boobs, accompanied by his prematurely balding wife, think again.