Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Praise for the insurance industry

The back of my car got driven into, on the A303, by a careless van driver. My rear bumper was badly dented, but the car was still driveable. We got off the road, exchanged details, I comforted him for his obvious distress, poor lad, drove on and had a great weekend in Devon.

As soon as I got home, I phoned Privilege Insurance, fully expecting to be told that a form would be in the (postal-stricken) post, and then, etc. Instead, Craig patiently took the details of the accident and said OK, obviously not your fault, shouldn't be any issues, our repair people will be in touch, all warranties unaffected etc. Ten minutes later the repair people phoned - we can pick up the car for repair next Wednesday, OK? Ten minutes after that, the phone rings again - a bunch called DriveAssist, anxious to provide me with a replacement car, OK, would you prefer automatic or manual? fine, we'll deliver it next Wednesday morning ...

7.30 this morning (Wednesday) the phone rings - DriveAssist, is it convenient to deliver your courtesy car in ten minutes time? OK, give me time to get my trousers on ... 8.00, Graem delivers Vauxhall Zafira (not quite a BMW 335, but it is manual). 11.00, repair people come and collect the BMW with its sad little dent - 'should take about a week, but phone next Monday if you haven't heard anything ... shame about this tank of a replacement car, lady last week checked in a Focus and got a Porsche' ... So now all I have to do is learn to drive the tank.

We're not at the end of this story yet, things still have time to go medieval on my ass and it's obviously just my experience, but it does seem to me that levels of service have got significantly better since the start of this so-called recession.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

So what time is it exactly?

Tonight, the clocks go back. Every autumn this event triggers a chorus of complaints, from Guardian journalists and farmers, usually along the lines of 'why can't we keep British Summer Time all the year round?' - sometimes embellished with fancies about something called 'Double Summer Time' in the summer, so that we can preserve the biannual ritual of searching the house for those sneaky little clocks, watches or electronic devices which have to be adjusted even though we probably won't look at or use them for another six months. Oh yes, and don't forget the ones that craftily adjust themselves - but you need to know who they are, otherwise you'll go and reset them yourself and your microwave will get all confused and go into some kind of temporal denial ...

The whole thing's nonsense, isn't it? 'Noon' is the moment at which the sun is at its zenith at any given meridian, and no amount of faffing about with our clocks is going to alter that astronomical fact. Similarly, sunrise and sunset are determined by season and latitude, and are equally beyond our control. In Britain, until the 1840s, everywhere had its own local time (Cornwall is about twenty minutes behind Greenwich, I'm told). But that became impractical with the coming of the railways, which couldn't be expected to run to some kind of infinitely variable timetable as you moved east or west - so GMT was invented, and it seems most people were happy to settle for that. Then some clever civil servant invented 'British Summer Time', to give the farmers an extra hour of daylight in the morning (which they would, of course, lose in the evening). Nobody asked: why don't they just get up when it gets light? Then we go back to normal in October, and everyone moans because, guess what, it's darker in the winter, so we'd better bugger about with the clocks again ... It's robbing Eve to pay Dawn.

It did, however, strike me, years ago on an aeroplane halfway across the Altantic, to wonder 'exactly what time is it now, really?' I expect I could get an app to tell me this on my iPhone, if I had one.

Anyway, I need to get up early tomorrow, to do the great clock hunt ... gosh, is that the time?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Unthanks - Here's The Tender Coming

The sole purpose of this slightly drunken late-night post is to instruct you all to acquire, by whatever means, this extraordinarily wonderful album, and listen to it over and over. My ears are full of it, and I want to go to Northumbria, now. Goodnight.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Rooks and crows

'If you see one rook, it's a crow. If you see more than one crow, they're rooks'.

The truth of this old bit of folk wisdom was brought home to me over the weekend. On Friday evening, as I was sitting in front of the caravan sipping the first aperitif, at least a hundred rooks suddenly wheeled in from the east, circling and cawing, lighting in the treetops then taking off again. Twenty or thirty of them perched on the power line which crosses the site between me and the sea. It seemed that they were all facing in my direction. I thought of 'The Birds' - Daphne du Maurier, not Hitchcock; at the time, I was the only person in White Park Farm ...

On my way home this morning, I encountered a single crow which was pecking at some roadkill in the fast lane of the A40, just before Carmarthen. There wasn't much traffic. As I approached, the carrion crow glanced up, and disdainfully stepped aside a couple of paces to let me pass.