Sunday, December 11, 2016

My Nipples Explode With Delight

There are days when everything goes right. There are other days when things all go wrong. Today was neither of these, yet was immensely frustrating nonetheless.

The irritation started yesterday with my Vodafone Hungary pre-paid account. First, there is no obvious way to top it up, and I have by repeated tries found that handing cash money over the counter at the Lotto shop (of all places!) achieves the required result: an increase in credit of exactly the same amount as the cash handed over. In separate enquiries involving repeated visits to the Vodafone shop, I have learned that connecting to the www.netinfo... website with the device results in a display of the amount of credit and what data remains to be used. Most of the time. Sometimes the website decides to send me through some stupid rigmarole involving registering my phone, and as it's entirely in Hungarian, where my hovercraft is full of eels, the exercise is frustraneous at best.

I discovered that my Budapest bank ATM includes a 'mobile phone top-up' option that I didn't dare use on a machine where "YES" and "NO" are an adventure in alien language. However, I found a similar thing on the bank's English (alhamdulillah :-) ) website, and I decided to avail myself of the facility.

I instructed 5000 to be moved from my bank account to the phone account and this all happened. I got an SMS from Vodafone confirming that my 5000 had become 5202 credit. Imagine my surprise and irritation then, when I received a second SMS stating that my credit balance was now 3048 after fees and charges! It should be noted that all of this SMS info came in Hungarian and had to be put through Google Translate. Blah, blah, hovercraft, eels.

So today, irritated at how most of my phone credit had seemingly been eaten in fees, I dropped into OTP Bank and, after a protracted wait, was kindly informed that the bank makes no charge for card transactions except ATM cash withdrawals.

Vodafone was less than helpful. After another interminable wait in the shop I was reliably informed that nobody had access to my account (lies), that they didn't know what fees were payable (possibly true but unlikely if the staff are competent), and that I had to call the telephone helpdesk because my showing Vodafone employees their own www.netinfo... web page and their own SMS texts merely demonstrated Jon Snowitis.

Wading through the Hungarian call tree eventually got me to the English menu with English speakers to talk to. Or not. "I am no speak English. I will not buy this record; it is scratched." Yes, I know this is Hungary, where they speak Hungarian. But this is the English service.

True to their word, Vodafone did phone me back. It turns out that there wasn't a massive fee deduction, but my particular package has a feature that when the credit exceeds 4000 the system immediately deducts 2000 in exchange for 1GB data. This does not happen when I add credit in the Lotto shop, but I was at this stage past arguing.

In summary: a charging structure that is so complicated that after several months and repeated personal visits to the shop I still get caught out by it suggests that Byzantine, if not Kafkaesque, tariffs are not useful for creating happy customers. Part of the problem is that the website is totally in incomprehensible Hungarian. There is an English version of the website, but clicking on it merely produces pictures of happy smiling people presumably yacking on their Vodafones and a load of marketing garbage. Attempts to navigate from this homepage also navigate away from English.

The icing on this particular cake is that Vodafone sent an SMS soliciting customer feedback, but owing to a 'server error', it is repeatedly impossible to provide any.

So I failed with Vodafone. Perhaps I'd have more success with IKEA.

Well, yes. Except that the bedside table I was interested in is probably a different colour from the one already in the flat. And it weighs 20kg, making it user unfriendly on the Metro and the walk home. I found a vast pile of Swedish Christmas goats in the remainders bin near the checkouts. It would seem that this year's colour is red and is not popular in Budapest. They're heavily discounted.

Unfortunately, the other thing I found near the IKEA checkouts was half the population of Budapest. I refused to queue for maybe an hour for one minor purchase; my next IKEA visit will doubtless be one morning in the middle of the week.

As it happens, the other half of Budapest's enormous population was at the Christmas market in the city centre. The place was a seething sea of shuffling shoppers. Busy is one thing, but the amusement factor of my repeated collisions with people who suddenly stop, reverse, or launch themselves out of shop doorways soon begins to wear very thin. Nose In Phone Syndrome doesn't help either. It is the Season of Goodwill, which is probably what helped me not to accidentally elbow anyone in the face.

Smoking in pubs is forbidden, so you typically get a group of lads standing outside on the narrow footway. Come on, guys. If you stood just slightly further apart you could block the footway entirely. And then at the next pub, the same again. And again. And again. And again. It's impossible to walk in the road because of traffic. Anyone who behaved in this way in a vehicle would be rightly lambasted as an ignorant arsehole. Yet when he's a pedestrian, the same manners are apparently perfectly acceptable.

I guess, because nothing is likely to change in the near future, that no-one should underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups.


Friday, December 09, 2016

Budapest VII

 There has been some significant development over the past couple of weeks. All the electrical conduits and power points have been installed, along with some of the cabling. The water and waste pipes are in and some have been buried in concrete. As plastering requires that the place isn't an ice box, the central heating boiler is installed and working, and all the radiators except the towel rail in the bathroom are warm. The radiators will of course have to come out again for final plastering and painting of the walls behind.

Let's see... Heating out, cold water in, hot water out, heating return, condensate
The boiler itself is a 'high-efficiency, fan-assisted, condensing' type, which means that it should be cheap to run. Exhaust fumes are physically blown up the chimney. There's no hot water tank; the boiler fires up on demand and is supposed to provide instant and practically unlimited hot water. A fresh-air intake was constructed within an existing ventilation duct, but this is going to need some finishing work so that it doesn't provide nesting space for the local avian wildlife.

I queried the rather basic boiler control panel, but the full set of controls are to be remotely attached to the wall in the living area where the main themostat is going.

Last look at the single huge room
 I anticipate the possibility of wall-mounted TV sets, so both sides of the plasterboard will have plywood backing to resist pull-out. I've had previous experience of the questionable strength of 20mm plywood to heavy objects affixed thereto. I'll keep careful record of where the plywood is located.

Those ceiling fans arrived four days after being ordered. These are sitting, boxed, in a different apartment until they can be fitted at the end of the renovation. A full set of bathroom fittings have been procured, except for a small wall-mounted sink for a vanity unit inside the main bedroom wardrobe. This will come from IKEA along with the wardrobes and indeed the kitchen.

The floor and wall tiles have arrived in Budapest and I paid for them. As the flat isn't yet ready for tiling, they're languishing in a warehouse. All the IKEA fixtures are similarly languishing, but these haven't yet been paid for. I'm assured no problem with any of the furniture as it's all definitely in stock, and if there's a sudden rush for SMØRGÅSÞÖERÐ reciprolating fondilators they can be obtained within a couple of working days.

And speaking of flooring, the wood floor for the main bedroom has been ordered. The rutted and wobbly parquet is up, and it turns out that levelling the floor is an easy fix. The floors in the flat consist of 300mm deep steel I beams with precast concrete forming the ceiling in the flat below. The void is filled with lightweight aggregate - slag - and surfaced with wooden planks. All the woodwork can come up and then be relaid at a more sensible single level.

Nasty underfloor planks need levelling
Bathroom with plumbing
I'm still waiting for the new entrance door and the windows; these are due for delivery on 14th December.

There remains an issue with the internal doors, in that no carpenter is interested in refurbishing the existing olde worlde woodwork.

I would prefer doors like this, but without the glass
I have found some 'classic' style modern doors, and await a price. I pointed out to the builder that the additional cost of the new doors should be offset against the time and labour cost of refinishing the old ones.


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