Saturday, 29 March 2008

Brit on a Wire

Did you know that the dreamy, tough, flawed, sexy, cop Jimmy McNulty on the HBO drama "The Wire" is played by a British actor? Not just British, but Eton and Trinity College educated? KerrBoom. That was the sound of my mind being blown when I picked up the copy of Telegraph Men's Style inside the newspaper today with the picture of Dominic West on the cover.

On the show, he seems totally American, all Baltimore, a hard-working cop who screws up his personal life with ease. And of course I knew he wasn't those things in real life -- except I never guessed he wasn't American. I was already impressed with his acting before, but to know that he was totally putting on that accent on top of all the other acting work is just amazing. He sounds perfect for the part, never slipping in his pronunciation. That's even more impressive than his smoldering gaze. Just barely.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Dreaming of a white ... Easter?

Snow is expected across much of England for Easter. The cold, wind and rain kept me indoors today.

Now that I'm addicted to bargain hunting (a hobby I need to curtail a bit as I may find deals, but I'm spending more than I would have on things that aren't really needed), it's hard to sit in the house when I went to be out! It's like I need a fix, and it's not as though I didn't go out several times last week. As far as I can tell, the country shuts down on Easter, so there'll be no shopping then, either. I wonder how you buy a Sunday paper with all the stores closed down (I've never seen a coin-operated paper box in this country)?

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Slam this

I may have been slammed. Very possibly it was just another example of gross inefficiency by a company, but it's hard to say. Slamming is "the practice of swapping a consumer's residential phone line over to a new company without their consent." Sounds highly illegal, but it's not.

I got a letter from Sky telling me it was sorry to hear I'm canceling it's Sky Talk service, which gives me unlimited calls to the U.S. for a flat rate this normally costs £5 a month, but which Sky had just agreed to give me for free for one year to keep my business, starting March 26. Which is exactly why I never would've dreamed of canceling service with them, yet their records show I have.

So I called Sky, and they said a third party has requested my phone service. Well, when I signed on for the free deal with Sky Talk, I also agreed to let Sky take over my line service from BT, saving £2 a month. I'm pretty sure the "third party" is Sky itself, their system just doesn't show it. It should, but this sort of thing has happened to me with other companies, where their systems are just crappy and the information isn't properly networked. So I asked the lady on the phone who the third party was, and she said she didn't know, that it just said "third party" and no name had to be given. A company can just contact your supplier, say they want your service, not tell you about it or even state who they are to the first company, and they can steal your phone service! Meaning if someone does steal our service in this way, we could make several calls to the States (or indeed the UK, as without Sky Talk you're charged per call here), and run up a huge bill without knowing our rates have changed! It's a huge con game!

So the lady tells me to call BT and find out who the third party is. I call BT, and they don't have a name, either! Holy crap, that's ridiculous! They then put me back through to Sky, and this time I got a man who said the system showed that I *wasn't* set to change over -- he said there were notes on the system from my previous call stating that I didn't want to change. But the first lady said if someone wants to take your service, you can't stop it! So I don't know what's going on. The supposed cancellation is due to take place March 27, and the 2nd Sky rep told me to call on the 24th to make sure there was no changeover. Except that the 24th is the day after Easter here, which I think is a holiday and I doubt they'll be in. Whenever I reach them, I'll call back on the 27th to make sure they really do still have my service so that I know my calls are free.

I do know, however, that no "third party" has sent me a "welcome" letter for joining their service, which presumably they would do. Which backs up my theory that the request to switch service came from Sky itself, which it what should have happened to change over my line service. This was all very stressful, very poor service and completely insane. Once it's all cleared up, I may call back to file a complaint, for what good it's worth. Maybe they'll give me a discount. They should.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Attacks on clergy

Hate ain't pretty. Clergy are now being attacked by drunk a-holes, apparently over religious differences (the attackers were Muslim). Here's the story from the Times, and below is the gist of it:

Canon Ainsworth, 57, who was wearing his clerical collar, was punched and kicked by two Asian youths while another shouted religious abuse outside St George’s on March 5. He suffered cuts, bruises and two black eyes. He was discharged from St Bartholomew’s hospital but later readmitted following complications to an injury.

Canon Ainsworth moved to St George’s at the end of last year after his wife was appointed as the first female chief education officer for the Church of England. Mrs Ainsworth said: “Normally community relations here are very good. We have had very strong messages of support from the East London Mosque and Tower Hamlets Mosque, with whom we’ve got good relations.

“Clearly, the Muslim community is very shocked. These individuals were under the influence and this was a random act, but it may well be that some good can come out of it.


Nick Tolson, a former police officer who set up the National Churchwatch safety scheme, said that there had been an increase in faith hate attacks on clergy.

“The harassment is usually coming from young Asian men – often, but not exclusively, Muslim,” he said. “The police and prosecutors will classify an attack on a mosque or Muslim as a hate crime but not if it is a church or a vicar. These aren’t targeted attacks, they are spontaneous, but [the victims] are being singled out because of their faith and should be dealt with in the same way as other members of the community.”

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Customer service? What's that?

On hold for 15 minutes with BT phone service this morning, only to be cut off as soon as I talked to a service rep. He had already taken my phone number; will he be calling back? Nope, doesn't look like it.

Also, I need to call Sky satellite TV service as they had just offered me a year free of Sky talk. And then sent me a letter saying "sorry to hear you are canceling Sky talk" and as of March 26 the service that lets me call the U.S. for free will be cut off! WTF? This is England, y'all, and these are the type of stupid problems brought about by inefficiency and not caring about customer service that people deal with on a very regular basis here. These problems are actually quite mild compared to most of the stuff I deal with, but it's constant problems and cock-ups here. That's England -- premium prices, crap service. Urgh!!!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Lost, my American-flavored guilty pleasure

I love Lost, and wonderfully enough, it airs only three days behind new episodes in the States (as compared to many other shows that are months or even a year or so behind -- like How I Met Your Mother and 30 Rock).

Anyhoo, for any other Lost-ites out there, I just read a really interesting theory of what the heck may be going in that show. Check it out here.

Friday, 7 March 2008

A truly tasty bargain

I finally found a good deal at a restaurant with great food. And I'm amazed by that fact. England is the land of high prices, and that definitely includes eating out. At a very basic fast-foodish place in London called the Hamburger Hamlet last year, we spent $25 on two burgers, one order of fries and one cola (not being a big drinker and avoiding caffeine, I stuck with tap water, per usual). And the food was nothing special, believe me. That's why we almost never go out, and when we do it's to the very basic Back of Beyond, and even then only when socializing with friends.

But tonight we had a date, just us. And it was no more costly than having a burger and fries at the Back of Beyond. We spent about $24 on two scrumptious orders of Sicilian Chicken served on a bed of potatoes in a spiced tomato and red pepper sauce. We also had desserts -- a yummy chocolate "pudding" (sponge cake with hot chocolate sauce inside) served with ice cream for Hubby and an order of iced winter berries in an amazing hot white chocolate sauce for me. AND Hubby had a beer (that alone was $6.40). We got all that here in Reading at the Slug and Lettuce for a bargain price because I'd clipped a coupon from the newspaper that gave us half price on all food orders at the restaurant. My bargain hunting is paying off!

The presentation was wonderful and the food tasted even better than it looked. I was duly impressed. They could've turned down the throbbing music a bit to make it perfect, and having extra wait staff to help out the two-overworked souls bringing out the food would've been nice. But I can't complain when the food is that good AND that inexpensive. We'll definitely be going back (because I have another coupon -- I'm still not down with paying full price, though I must say, it would be worth it).

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Ex-cons need GPs, too

I was in the waiting room to see my GP where I heard two others waiting to see a doc comparing notes about their time in prison. They met at the doctor's office; it was apparent they didn't come in together and didn't know each other beforehand. What are the odds?

Saturday, 1 March 2008

A Holly Jolly Wal-Mart Christmas

That's what my husband called his haul of stuff he got on a recent visit to the States, land of lovely prices at Wal-Mart. I tossed some of it in a basket as I emptied his suitcase.