November 15, 2014

NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION

cat flap3

Having got Daisy back safe and sound from the neighbour and back to full health we then had to think hard about her future.  I was very worried that if she remained an outdoor cat he could steal her again.

So she became an indoor cat with outdoor options.

We took her to the vet and got her all the regular vaccinations plus a rabies vaccination and an identity chip, so that we could bring her home to the UK when we returned for a long spell.

The rabies vaccination was not done soon enough to bring her with us this time so we were faced with having to leave her in France for two weeks.  Our friends Tim and Pauline had offered to cat sit – to call regularly and keep her company, play with her, make sure she’s ok and keep the cat feeder topped up. 

We felt very strongly that she would be less vulnerable to the neighbour’s uninvited attention if she could get into the house where it was safe and warm whenever she liked, rather than having to find shelter in the draughty barn.  We needed a cat flap!

cat flap5

The problem was, where to fit one?  All the doors into the house are made of full length glass, something we’re very pleased with as it makes the most of what light comes into the house at the front - as a typical longère there are no windows at the back and the front is currently shaded by an overly large lime tree.  Whilst it is possible to fit a cat flap into an existing glass door (I enquired once we got back to the UK) we hadn’t got the time to get that organised in France before we came away.

cat flap

So we improvised!

Tim and Pauline loaned us their spare cat flap and Tim made a wooden insert that fits the utility room window.  We constructed a cat ladder from a pile of logs and with a bit of encouragement Daisy soon learned how to go in and out. 

cat flap2

By which I mean that she learned how to climb in very quickly, because we started to keep her bed and food inside, but needed a little more coaxing to get the hang of going out.  We took the magnet off the closing mechanism as the door seemed quite hard for a kitten to push, and that helped.

The going out through the cat flap learning process was assisted by Lulu.  We were in the habit of giving Lulu her dinner outside the front door – she prefers to dine al fresco – and a race soon developed between the dog and cat as to who could get to it first.  Daisy would shoot out of the cat flap and down the ladder and we would sneakily open the door to make sure Lulu got there just ahead of her!

cat flap6

For the last two weeks Tim and Pauline have been keeping us up to date with her progress and sending photos.  She is thriving without us, it seems!  She has grown, her eyes have turned a gorgeous green, she is keeping the mouse population down and enjoys playing with the kitchen sponge and teatowel.  Which tells me that it didn’t take her long to work out how to get onto the kitchen worktops via the spiral staircase and the top of the fridge.  She’s a clever and fearless little thing.

  cat flap4 I knew that three-seater sofa would come in handy!

So we’ll soon be back in France and are looking forward to seeing how she’s got on without us.  Pretty good, I suspect!

Bon weekend !!

November 11, 2014

THE MISSING JUMPER

So the BT engineer finally came and seemed to know what he was doing.  He used his fancy equipment to work out that our line was totally dead and that the fault was a very short distance away, at a nearby junction box, only a few hundred metres from the house.  (635 metres to be precise!)  Of he trotted to see what was wrong and returned in a short time saying that the problem was a missing jumper.  This is something fairly crucial that had been removed in error or by accident when some other work was being carried out.  Without it we had no telephone line.  He replaced the jumper and hey presto, the phone and internet were working again.

The whole process took less than an hour once we had someone sensible to talk to.  I don’t know whether to be happy or cross, but at least normal service has been restored.  If BT could have sent this bloke to sort the job out straight away we could have been saved from a lot of angst and aggravation, not to mention inconvenience.

November 7, 2014

REFLECTIONS ON TECHNOLOGY AND SERVICE

We are currently in the UK for a short visit, the main purpose of which was to bring my dad back home after his stay with us in October.

When Nick came to fetch him on 16th October he found that our phone and internet weren't working. A call to BT (thank goodness for mobile phones) revealed "a fault at the exchange" and he was told they would send an engineer to check it out in five days' time - not much use to him as he was only staying home for two days!

We arrived back home on 2nd November to find we still had no phone or internet.  Another call to BT revealed the same "fault at the exchange", but only after they tried to blame our equipment or internal wiring. We have no wiring. The line comes into the house and our phone plugs straight into the socket - the one that was installed by BT only four months ago.    We also checked it out using an old fashioned phone that doesn't require an electricity supply - one that we keep for emergency use such as in a power cut. That doesn't work either, suggesting a fault with the line.  BT said they would send an engineer to the exchange on 6th November - a wait of another four days.

By mid afternoon on 6th November we still had no phone. Another call to BT revealed that an engineer had been to the exchange and found no fault..........the previous day! So we were no further forward and they hadn't had the courtesy to inform us of the outcome.

I admire Nick for his calm and patience. I suppose decades of getting to the bottom of problems and getting the most out of people when they have failed to come up to scratch must be good training for dealing with a large company whose systems and processes for resolving problems are hopeless. Plus the fact that the person you have to speak to at the call centre is doing his or her best but probably doesn't give a toss or is already thoroughly demoralised. I would have found it very hard not to lose my rag.

We now apparently need an engineer to come and check it out at the house, which will be - in another four days.

This leads me to reflect on the current state of service and technology. The technology is fantastic but the service is awful. How did that come about? Why is it that these days the customer has to do not only his own quality control but also his own project management when things go wrong?

You can't actually get to deal face to face or even talk to someone who really seems to care or whose job depends on getting things done right.  Maybe that's the problem - large companies have great ways of getting your business through marketing but nobody takes any pride in doing a good job, whether it's the person in the call centre dealing with angry and frustrated customers, or the people who devise the processes for resolving problems. They seem to think that a refund of  a month's charge for the lack of service should make us happy.

However, Nick opened his iPad to find that we are connected after all using BT Wifi - and presumably the service of one of our neighbours. So at least we have the ability to check emails if not use the phone. If I pop round to my dad's house, log on to his internet and download the right app on my own iPad, I shall be able to do the same............

Meanwhile, we await the next instalment in the saga of getting our phone line fixed. At the current rate of four day intervals between each step in the process, and having to do our own project management, we'll be very lucky indeed if it's fixed by the time we go back to France!