Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The hole truth

Beloved Wife and I were awoken at dawn on Saturday 9th January by a curious knocking sound. I put it down to next door’s Damage It Yourself activities, but this turned out to be wrong. What had actually come to pass is that DEWA was installing a new water main in the footway outside the Crumbling Villa. When we attempted to get the car off the property following breakfast, this proved impossible owing to an impassable trench right across our frontage. Just as well then that the Goatmobile was outside. It was now surrounded by large wobbly piles of concrete blocks that formerly composed the footway and drive.

It wasn’t only the Crumbling Villa. The whole street was being done, so by the end of the day the trench stretched nearly half a kilometre.

To be fair, the guys doing the work did backfill the trench reasonably swiftly, although the entire street now resembled a building site with piles of sand and concrete block paving as far as the eye could see. At least there was driveway access.

And then... nothing happened.

Still nothing a fortnight later.

Until yesterday, when I rang DEWA. The woman at the DEWA end of the phone line directed me to call another number. I did so, and was regaled with variations on a theme of ‘number unobtainable’, ‘engaged’, ‘not in service’, and ‘ringing for twenty – yes, twenty – minutes’. In any event, nobody picked up. So much for Customer Service. I was disappointed but not actually surprised.

Ringing DEWA’s main switchboard number again (04/324 4444 if you’re feeling lucky), this time I launched with, “I wish to register a complaint. There is an enormous hole in front of my house,” which is nearly true. I was then given the emergency number: 04 991.

Anyway, 04 991 was answered within two rings. I explained the whole problem with access to property, the mess, and that there had been no activity for two weeks. The helpful and apologetic man from DEWA told me that the evident delay was caused by DEWA not being allowed to replace interlock blocks because this had to be done by the Municipality (who of course aren’t even approached by DEWA until the trench and pipe works have been finished...) He took the DEWA reference number of the Crumbling Villa, my phone number, he gave me a complaint number, and he promised to call me back.

Yeah, right.

And, less than an hour later, he called me back! I was amazed and pleasantly surprised.

It wasn’t DEWA who had done the trench work, apparently. It was DEWA’s subcontractor, working for DEWA, under specific DEWA instructions. And this makes all the difference. Furthermore, I was told that the final resurfacing would be carried out within the next day or two.

Now, this may be coincidence, but by the time I got home last night it was only seven hours since my phone call, and the driveway to the Crumbling Villa had been finished. Nobody else’s. Just mine.

This morning there was interlock paving in progress just a few doors up the road. With a bit of luck and a fair wind, the job might indeed be finished as DEWA’s representative had advised: within a day or two.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blue is the new green

Picture of Neytiri nicked from Wikipedia
Blog post title nicked from Jax.

I loved Avatar. The story held me captivated for the complete duration of the film, and for a couple of hours I completely forgot that it was almost all special effects. Apart from the creatures, the indigenous Na’vi and the Hallelujah Mountains, I appreciated the high-tech VTOL aircraft and head-up 3D displays.

On the subject of 3D, I did see the film in 3D. It was well worth it. Fortunately the third dimension was used to immerse the viewer in the world of Pandora, rather than to provide a succession of hostile beasts leering into the auditorium.

Among the said hostile beasts were a kind of hammerheaded rhinoceros, a ‘panther from hell’, a ‘six-legged alien Clydesdale’, and the Great Leonopteryx: the top of the airborne food chain and a brightly-coloured, four-winged, dragon-like beast. And the giant Christmas tree worms will be eerily familiar to anyone who’s dived on a coral reef, as will the bioluminescence.

It would appear from this Daily Telegraph article that the film is overly realistic. It’s not only the Na’vi who are feeling blue by the time the credits roll. It Isn’t Real, people! It’s Pretend! It’s Been Made Up! Are these the same people, I wonder, who spend their spare time investigating the backs of apple-wood wardrobes, or asserting that there is no spoon?

Anyway, unless you hate and detest Sci-Fi or fantasy, I’d certainly recommend seeing the film; if possible the 3D version, and maybe even the IMAX.

I came out of the cinema awed, but with what the Germans call an Ohrwurm: an earworm: that tune in your head that is impossible to shift. Failing humming the entirety of Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme (which is normally an effective remedy) I have written down my earworm. Caution: Here may be spoilers.

Locals are hostile. You’re
Dodging arrows while you’re
Mining unobtainium.
Displace all the natives;
Helping them is racist:
‘White Messiah’ just ain’t done.

Jarheads gonna hate ya
When you link with nature,
Ten feet tall and painted blue.
Wanna fight and and frag ’em
Airborne on a dragon?
There is something you must do:

Join the Na’vi!
You will need an avatar
’cos the Na’vi
Live on planet Pandora.
But you’re human
And you can’t get thah from hyah.
They’re the Na’vi.
They’re the Na’vi.

In the Na’vi
You can breathe the atmosphere,
And the Na’vi
’gainst warmongers show no fear.
’cos the Na’vi
Hold the ecosystem dear.
That’s the Na’vi.
That’s the Na’vi.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Only happy when I'm moaning

After noting Alexander’s warning about the new chequebook thing over at Fake Plastic Souks, I got on line to my favourite group of bankers and ordered a new chequebook. A couple of hours later, Red Triangles Bank sent me an SMS to confirm that the chequebook had been dispatched to a courier whom I shall call Are-A-Mess for reasons that will shortly become apparent, and here was the tracking number. Then, a day later, the courier phoned me on my mobile to find out where I was located. The package was duly delivered a day after that.

Then after a further day or two, Are-A-Mess phoned me on my mobile to advise that there was another package - a new plastic card - from the same bank, which they wished to deliver. And they did so, less than 24 hours later.

So just when I thought it was all working...

Last Thursday I rang Red Triangles Bank, the bank that is both local and global:

Goat: Hi. I have my new credit card, thank you very much. Where is the other one?

Bank: It’s with Are-A-Mess. We sent it to them on 15 December. Here’s the tracking number.

Goat: OK, thanks. I’ll chase Are-A-Mess to get it delivered.

I rang Are-A-Mess, purveyors of Shop&Ship and also Red Triangles’ courier of preference:

Goat: With reference to this tracking number, where’s my package?

AAM: We’ve been sitting on this since 15 December. RTB didn’t give us your mobile phone number.

Goat: Well here it is.

AAM: Oh, no, Mr Goat. We have to be given your phone number by the bank.

Goat: And you contacted the bank to obtain my number…?

AAM: Certainly not. Policy is to wait until an irate customer calls, then he has to contact the bank.

Rang the bank again. Got cut off several times. Eventually:

Goat: Are-A-Mess needs you to tell them my mobile phone number. Then they can call me to arrange delivery.

Bank: We’ll contact Are-A-Mess and call you back.

Time passes. Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.

Bank: We called Are-A-Mess, and they’ll phone you on Saturday, or Sunday at the latest, to arrange delivery by Sunday.

Goat: Huzzah!

Sunday afternoon:

Goat: Hi. You didn’t call me. This is the tracking number. Where’s my package?

AAM: Please tell us your location, and we can deliver it tomorrow. Is this your landline number?

Goat: Yes it is. Would it help to use my mobile in case I’m ‘not on my seat’ when you ring?

AAM: We only have your landline number. We’ve had it since December. But not the mobile. You have to get the bank to tell us your mobile.

Goat: So if you had my number why didn’t you call? It’s my firm’s main switchboard, so don’t try to tell me that there was no answer. The only way to fail to get an answer during office hours is not to dial the number!

So who is lying?
  • Are-A-Mess for telling me that they had no contact number when they had it last December?

  • Are-A-Mess for telling me that they’ve had my number since December, when they only got it last Thursday?

  • Red Triangles Bank for telling me that they told Are-A-Mess my mobile number when they didn’t?

  • Red Triangles Bank for telling Are-A-Mess my office landline number and then telling me they gave out the mobile?

  • Are-A-Mess for telling me that the Bank hadn’t given them my mobile number?

I don’t know who has a tenuous grasp on the truth, but for sure it’s at least one of the above.

Meanwhile, Muggins is stuck like flat-nosed curly-tailed dog in the middle, refereeing between Are-A-Mess and Red Triangles Bank. Both of these organisations (for a given value of ‘organised’) are stuck behind call trees, so being a referee is a time-consuming exercise in frustration and futility. “Press 1 to be ignored; Press 2 to listen to our annoying hold music; Press 3 to get cut off, etc”


Thursday, January 07, 2010


One of the wonderful things about living in the Lands of the Sand is that it’s possible to go and picnic or camp in the desert pretty much wherever and whenever you like. The seriously equipped 4x4 fraternity might go so far off the beaten track that they’re almost off the edge of the map where “there be monsters!” Others can and do simply pull off the edge of the road and have their picnic and campfire right next to the motorway.

I’ve never really understood the allure of sitting on a sand dune about ten metres off the slow lane of the Barracuda Expressway and having a picnic with traffic roaring past. Surely, people, you could find a quiet road and sit ten metres away from that?

But the thing that gets right up my nose is the monstrous mound of miasmic mess that invariably seems to get left behind. I was appalled recently to drive past a group of picnickers in the desert one day, and then to see the unspeakable quantity of garbage that they’d left behind when I drove past a day later. As a desert camper, I am fully aware of how much effort it takes to stick litter in a plastic bag, take that bag back to civilisation, and dump it in a roadside wheelie bin on the way home. That’s in, please, not next to. There really is no excuse for leaving paper and plastic plates, cutlery, tins, bottles, broken tents and crash-damaged kites in the desert where they were dropped. Laziness (with a possible hint of stupidity and a soupçon of arrogance) are reasons; they’re not excuses, and certainly not justification.

I guess there’s an ingrained “someone else will tidy it up” philosophy. This works fine in town where legions of Men In Orange fight the constant battle against fag packets, drink cans and plastic bags that have, for one reason or another, failed to find their way into dustbins. But this doesn’t work in the desert. Bizarrely, some picnickers bag up the rubbish and then leave it behind. Why? Do they expect the binmen to scour the open desert on the off-chance that they’ll find a black bag to collect? Or will some animal find it, open it and then choke to death on a polythene bag?

And then we have periodic “Desert Clean-Up” campaigns in which groups of concerned people show up with the laudable intention of denuding an area of beach or dunes of all rubbish. And thus “someone else will tidy it up” becomes true, which confirms that it’s OK to leave trash lying around.

If a Clean-Up produces a truckful of trash, the event is hailed as a huge success. It isn’t. The fact that the trash was lying around proves the message that “littering is unacceptable” is not getting through. A huge success is when, at the end of the day, the volunteer litter-pickers all come up empty-handed.

I’m not holding my breath.


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