LV Stands For Luncheon Vouchers Or…

If I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog recently it’s because Debbie and I were involved in a car accident last week and although we got through it mostly physically unscathed it’s taken time to get over the shock.

One thing that’s made the experience easier was that our insurance company LV= (London Victoria) has been excellent with the Freelander’s total loss figure of £3,600 offered being fair considering I paid £4,000 for it about 2 years ago and so yet another worry taken care of.

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In fact although I have a reputation of being a “complainer” lately, when firms get it right then it’s only fair they should be praised too.  After we got back home, thanks to a very friendly ambulance driver & paramedic that happened to be passing the scene of the accident, I called LV explaining what had happened and put in a claim.

They quickly got the facts of the case and offered us an automatic saloon hire car, not just a small hatch back, although truthfully I never drove it after Enterprise delivered it (again normally they just do pick up and drop off of the driver) as I was too shell shocked to drive an unfamiliar car and just wanted to get our Ford Galaxy (stored in our garage) back on the road after a MOT and service.

It reminded me that 2017 has been quite a year for insurance claims following the earlier cancellation of our trip to Pefkos, fully refunded less the excess by the free Nationwide European travel insurance thanks to our FlexAccount.

I had worried that “free” might mean “poor” but this wasn’t the case again.  On both occasions all forms were filled out via the internet and used email which certainly eased the burden, my only gripe was that the travel insurance settled using a cheque as opposed to the car insurance’s bank credit to our current account but a small matter.

So just over a week later I’m back driving again and yesterday we had our first swim and sauna in over a week, plus a visit to Aldi rather than the daily walk across to Waitrose which it has to be said drove up my Fitbit steps nicely.

The accident’s made me much more aware of the road traffic, but I’m thinking of investing in a dash cam as this was almost the first question asked by LV as there were no independent witnesses to the accident…

 

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Just installed by Halford’s Brynmawr!

Ironically having two cars was a bit of a waste (three if you include James’ Fiesta) and my original intention had been to run the Freelander into the ground while storing for probably at least a couple of years the Galaxy on SORN which probably wouldn’t have done it much good.

So in the end I’ve avoided the hassle of maintaining both and selling/scrapping the Land Rover once it became too expensive to keep going although I’ve had to splash out on yet another dog guard and floor mat for the Galaxy.  Now I’m driving a much newer more comfortable vehicle that’s a lot cheaper to run than the 4×4 so as they say, “all’s well that ends well”.

P.S. overnight we won £25 on the National Lottery! 🙂

LV Stands For Luncheon Vouchers Or…

Tragedies in Barcelona and Marseille

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Tonight I can really identify with two places that over the years have meant so much to me.

The first is Barcelona and the wider Catalunya region where I spent so much of my working life, first for Pfizer where I worked with my good friend Joan Baiget in Tarragona who introduced me to the Catalan “C” which I proudly displayed on the rear of my old Ford Sierra.

Joan not only welcomed me to the factory where I was visiting to help install local area networks and email, but embraced me into his family and vice versa in the late 1980’s.  I remember seeing human castles being built, a huge Roman amphitheatre and a richness of life and a proud heritage of the people that I’ve always felt a strong connection to.

In more recent times I have spent many days in Barcelona acting as host to many CIOs attending the Gartner Symposium and although the days were long and tiring the attraction of the city and its people has never faded.

Unfortunately the scenes being played out on TV today where the Catalan independence vote has been brutally repressed by the Spanish government makes me realise how lucky I am to be a British citizen & live in Wales.  For example I hoped Scotland would remain part of the UK in the recent referendum and so was pleased with the result.  I truly believe that democracy is all about permitting a vote and then respecting the outcome.  Something to ponder I think for the wider Europe.

Then just a few minutes ago after watching the climax to an uplifting BBC TV series on “Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?” (to which the answer for me is patently no) I saw on the news that two young women were murdered in a knife attack by a terrorist on the steps outside Marseille railway station leading down to the old town.   The same location where I aged 20/21 as a InterRail student twice sat in the early 1980’s pondering my next steps.

It was there where I met my future travelling companion one Manfred Kratzner from Munich, a fellow student who I remember was covered from head to foot in dust after a traumatic visit to Spain beforehand.  We became good friends and I often wonder what became of that tall, ever so lacking German.

Memories of so long ago and such happy times, so my heart reaches out to all those innocents caught up with the evils of the consequences of politics and religion seen today.  It only makes me more certain of the need for all of us to enjoy life and concentrate on what matters, namely family and friends, while we can.  Too much ambition and certainty that you’re right has always been a dangerous cocktail and I want no part in it.

 

 

Tragedies in Barcelona and Marseille

You Can’t Get Quicker Than A Fitbit Tracker

Apologies to Kwik Fit for the pun, but the Shores’ family has recently acquired three “Fitbit Flex 2” trackers to monitor walks, swims and indeed sleeps across Emma, Debbie and myself.

These little beauties are encased in a plastic wrist band with Emma’s being black, Debbie’s magenta and I think you’d call mine lilac – but I’m not 100% sure!

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To set them up you configure an app on a paired bluetooth iPhone entering your weight, height, sex and numerous goals such as (for me) 10,000 steps daily and the loss of a further 1 1/2 stone in weight.

We shall see…  To be honest I’m more concerned about being fit than losing weight but given the old adage “you can manage what you don’t measure” this seems like a good first step (please force the pun)!

Just as interesting to me though is the monitoring of your night’s sleep, my target was 8 hours and I reached  7 1/2 but with frequent tossing and turning and getting up in the night.  Not as bad as when I was working two years ago but something to “work” on for sure as it was more than I’d realised in retrospect.

The swimming pool in Abergavenny is 25 metres long I discovered, information needed when setting up that function in the app, although by the time the three of us got back from the “long” canal walk with the hounds we’d completed 10,000 steps and decided to go swimming tomorrow.

 

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You Can’t Get Quicker Than A Fitbit Tracker

Reverb

Now I’m a big fan of Amazon’s Alexa and own the first generation Echo which plays music and radio in the kitchen and occasionally acts as a timer and controls the nearby lamp.  The three 2nd generation Echo Dots spread round the house are in our bedroom, living room and snug.  The bedroom device is largely used for radio, news and a clock.  The living room to turn the lamp and the plug controlling the TV, Bose speaker and BluRay player on and off (but not Sky+ & Vodafone router) while the snug device controls the lamp and plays me TMS on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra!

Now being a retired “gent” funds are not as plentiful as they once were and I can’t justify buying more Echo Dots for the top floor of the house where the two iMacs reside (den and guest bedroom).  Fortunately for my bank account I read the other day about an app called “Reverb” which you can install on iMacs and iPhones that act as a software only Alexa device.

Now there are some limitations as Amazon only allow you to play music through Alexa when there is a hardware device present.  Also the listening for the wake up call “Alexa” is disabled and you have to hold a mouse click on the “blue ring” to activate it’s capability.  This can be a blessing when mischievous Phillip Scofield activates devices with glee across the UK whenever they on his TV program “This Morning

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Click, listening, thinking, verbal answer!

Still, it’s free and despite some negative reviews on the app I think it’s great on my 2 iMacs and iPhone 6!

Reverb

A Good Day Yesterday…

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I don’t believe it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been quite a busy time recently for “Mr Complaints” as my wife affectionately calls me. Personally I prefer Victor Meldrew, but there’s no accounting for taste.  I guess this moniker is a result of having far too much time on my hands to do things like complain – I prefer to call it follow up to try and affect change…

A good example of this would be my two published letters to the Abergavenny Chronicle which both had pleasing outcomes.

The first was when my Freelander tyre got ruined by  raised ironworks in the road without any warning notices en route to the local “tip” where I got a cheque from the developers in full compensation.

The second was a rather nicely worded sarcastic piece about the lack of activity in terms of the new Morrison’s supermarket years overdue after promises by the CEO of Monmouthshire County Council  that it was imminent.  The groundworks and steelworks are now nicely progressed…

Morrison’s take shape at last!

So yesterday we’ve had three bits of good news, the first concerning James who seemed to have a good half day work trial at a local business near Llanddewi Skirrid.  This was brokered by our daughter in law Emily from London, so I can’t claim any input (or complaint) on this one, apart from the fact that I helped navigate James to the farm while he drove!

The next good news was a call from the Nationwide that our recent travel insurance claim would be settled in full despite numerous delays in processing and me chasing.  This annual insurance cover is the one that comes free with the Nationwide FlexAccount and I have to say I’m rather pleased with the result – although the cheque could still get “lost in the post” of course!

Third and last (but not least) was the news from David Wilson homes that the final groundworks to finish the kiddies playground in the central “courtyard” of homes and the roads surrounding it will be started early next week and be completed in three.  In the absence of any information after ten days of inactivity I got a text from Andrew Potter the regional director who sorted out my expansion tank cylinder problems previously…

Result – I don’t believe it!  Which explains why I always say “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”!

A Good Day Yesterday…

Granddaughter Reunited

Back in March 2013 I got a Facebook Messenger from a second cousin I’d never met called Prue Karsenbarg.  It transpired that my great uncle Reginald Hall was her maternal grandfather, husband to Hilda Hall, nee Hart (and later Dewson when she remarried)!

She mentioned that all she had relatively little contact over the years, but had visited her twice in Canada and introduced as her uncle rather than grandfather.  She’d always wondered about him more though and was surprised when she found his diary that Debbie and Alex had transcribed for my 40th birthday through Google!  She’d read references in it to Hilda her grandma and her “showing” in January 1916, when she was obviously pregnant with her mother.

At the time she asked to get in touch and from memory I think I asked Debbie to respond on my behalf, as I’d just been told that my father had been diagnosed with the stomach cancer, that sadly he was eventually to die of nine months later.  Alas we never did get in touch and I’d not used Facebook messenger for some time until recently when up popped a message from Prue again suggesting we get in touch.

We eventually agreed to a call on the 22nd September at 6pm by Messenger where I told her that I would post off to her address in Southsea Hampshire, Reginald’s original diaries, his GPO long service medal which has his name engraved on the curved edge and his East Yorkshire Regiment army cap badge.  I’m sure he would have wanted her to have them.

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Rightfully reunited

We had a fascinating talk and I’m very pleased to report the above package arrived safely the next day.  Prue also plans to visit Yorkshire and visit Auntie Dorothy living in the Old Coach House home in Hessle, who is probably the last surviving relative that remembers Reginald well.    She also plans to visit her grandfather’s grave who’s buried with my own grandparents (Charles and Hilda Shores) and his sister Daisy in Western Cemetery in Chanterlands Avenue, Hull.

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The Hall family grave
Granddaughter Reunited

Eating (Fewer) Animals

I weighed myself after a shower this morning and got a shock when it registered 13 stone 9 1/2 pounds!  This is 4 pounds, or two bags of sugar I like to think of it, lighter than when I weighed about two weeks ago…  Now I do walk the dogs a lot more and climb the Brecon Beacons occasionally with Debbie (who is the slimmest I can remember in 27 years of marriage) but that can’t be the full story.

No, it seems that Emma coming home from Glasgow has triggered off more than just frequent trips to the leisure centre for swimming and sauna for me dear readers.  It’s also led to a fundamental change in my eating and drinking habits so let me explain.

When I was still working, over two years ago now, I got into the habit of drinking wine to relax every night & unwind.  I don’t think I was alone either as I’m sure that I’ve read somewhere that Runnymede in Surrey has the highest incidence of hazardous home drinking in the UK.  Moving to Wales on a retirement income curtailed somewhat the excesses but not entirely.

However in the same way that I stopped smoking almost overnight years ago when I married Debbie, I’ve now limited my drinking to the odd pint of beer when out of the house and we plan to drink at home only for celebrations such as Christmas or the New Year.

I’ve also started going to the local library in recent months too, something I’ve not done since leaving university.  Now I’m a creature of habit when it comes to books and tend to stick with a regular diet of my favourite authors like Tolkien (Frodo Baggins) or MC Beaton (Hamish Macbeth)!  However on a recent occasion Emma borrowed “Eating Animals” and recommended I read it.

In all honesty I found it hard going on multiple levels given I knew its likely content but had consciously chosen to blank out from my conscious thought.  The game changer for me however having listened to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recently was remembering  his answers to the question if there was anything he wouldn’t eat.

Remember Hugh’s nickname is “Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All” but he replied he wouldn’t knowingly eat factory farmed chicken and pork.  Indeed when looking at Mr Foer’s book there was an endorsement at the bottom of the front page from Hugh recommending the book to all “flesh eaters”.

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Reading the way these living creatures are treated so cruel in life and death yet largely within the law I have resolved to do the same.  Hugh still eats meat and fish but is aiming to reduce it significantly and I plan to do the same.  I think me giving up seafood would be tricky given my lifelong love of shellfish and crustaceans, but maybe I can avoid factory farmed fish and those from non sustainable sources.

To be transparent I’m really looking forward to our Christmas Day organic turkey from the local farm at Raglan.  However the days of “all day breakfast”, ready meals or buying chicken and pork are over for me, at least for now, while I see if I can make the change.

Interestingly, both Debbie and I had already reduced hugely the amount of beef & lamb we were eating, perhaps as a result of her low fat diet that she’s followed since moving back to Wales.   She loves fresh vegetables too so I think there is a chance I can succeed become mostly vegetarian, although I would never impose my choice on anyone else for sure!

So there we have it, a call based 50% on health and 50% conscience.  I don’t think I could go vegan permanently and eliminate milk and eggs but you never know, so watch this space for further weight updates and see how I do!

Eating (Fewer) Animals