Feb 252013

Recently we experienced a fault on our phone line. We hardly ever use a landline phone these days as everyone we know carries a mobile phone. I suspect that many households are like ours and the only reason we still have a landline at all is for our internet connection.

Like many things, it’s not until something breaks that you realise how much you have come to rely on it. It’s not just our PC’s connecting to the web. There’s also on demand TV, Internet Radio, Skype, Supermarket Shopping and suchlike. There’s even fridges that connect via Wi-Fi and send you a message when you’re running low on milk. An internet connection is becoming as much of a utility as a Gas or Water supply.

When the phone line went dead the first task was to report it. I’ve never had a phone line fault before so didn’t know how to do that. Whenever I’m faced with such a problem my first point of reference nowadays is to Google it. But the internet supply to the house was down.

Thankfully I have a smartphone, which gave us an alternative route to get on-line and I googled “BT phone fault reporting”. The first result I looked at gave me a freephone number to call, which of course isn’t free from a mobile phone. However further down was a link to an online fault reporting and tracking tool.

I did all the checks at the master socket as the site advised before attempting to log the fault. The on-line tool was certainly not mobile phone friendly but after much scrolling and zooming in and out I finally managed to log the fault. You’d think someone at BT would have had the foresight to consider people reporting a fault with their phone may have to resort to a small form factor device to do so and created a mobile friendly page.

While I was there a spotted a link to the BT customer charter which informed me that they aim to solve all connection issues within three days, which seemed both reasonable and comforting.

The next day I received a text message informing that my line had been tested and that it had a fault on it (duh!) which was somewhere near to my house. This was accompanied by dire warnings that if the engineer found the fault was with my equipment I’d have to fork out a hundred pounds for the visit. 


The next thing that happened was I received a call on my mobile from a nice Indian lady wanting t arrange for an engineer to visit. Once again her script was full of dire warnings about the potential cost and she asked if I wanted her to go ahead and arrange the visit. I resisted the temptation to say “No” and “I want to carry on paying for a service that doesn’t work.” I wasn’t sure that such sarcasm would be fully appreciated in India.

I asked her to proceed, only to be reminded once more about the dreaded charges which could be inflicted upon me. “Was I really sure?” she asked again as if trying to scare me off. I realise it wasn’t her fault and she has a script she has to go through, so I did my best to hide the building frustration in the voice as I once again asked her to go ahead and arrange the engineers visit.

The fault tracker was promptly updated with an estimated repair date which was four working days after the reported date. So much for the customer charter.


I checked the online fault tracker each day but there were no further updates. The estimated repair date passed by and still there was no update. I fired up the smartphone once more and googled “BT fault complaints”, which took me to a web form where I asked for an update on the tracker as I now had no idea if and when my fault would be fixed.

I eventually received a call on my mobile from Christine, who apologised for the delay but all the engineers are ever so busy, blah, blah. Totally missing the point that I wasn’t interested in how busy they are, I just want to know when they will fix my line. If it’s going to be week, a month or whatever, at least be honest and tell me. Instead all I got was a message put on the line to advise callers the line wasn’t working and a promise that they’d assign an engineer as soon as possible.


Eleven working days after the original report the tracker showed that an engineer had been allocated to resolve the fault. The engineer told us the fault was at the exchange and not near my home as initially reported. I later received a text to say the fault had been cleared and I would just need to reboot my router to restore my broadband connection. The call was closed on the tracker and the fault message removed.


I called home on the landline and passed on the good news to my wife. I looked forward to getting back on-line after work that evening, but before then my daughter tried rebooting the router without success and called me back. I reopened the fault on the tracker to report that broadband was still not working.


The following morning things had got worse, we not only didn’t we have broadband. The phone was dead again too. I updated the tracker and waited. Christine called… Another engineer would be sent out. The new engineer duly arrived the next day and over two days found and repaired the line fault. It was near the house after all.


However my internet connection was still not working. Christine explained that this was because they had removed my broadband providers TAG from the line, which they were allowed to do to restore a service but they could not replace it without permission. I would have to chase my broadband provider to get my internet connection restored.

I was reluctant to close the BT fault as my internet still wasn’t working. I suspected this was the first ‘fix’ at the exchange, which turned out not to be the problem anyway. Christine agreed to leave the call open but I would still have to chase my internet provider to resolve it.

I called my internet provider, and after sitting and listening to old pop songs interspersed with apologies for my wait I eventually spoke to a surprisingly cheerful sounding Kieran who did all the usual line checks and had me reset my router and go through all my settings even though nothing had changed at my end.

I told him what BT had said about removing the TAG from the line but he insisted the TAG was present, everything at their end looked correct but he couldn’t fathom why I wasn’t connecting. He would have to escalate the problem to the next line of support.


Two days later I received the following message from a different support engineer.


I told them the fault had been fixed and reminded them what BT had said about the TAG.


Later that day Christine called again too. I reluctantly agreed that BT could close the fault (four weeks after I reported it). I still had no internet but now it was my problem, not theirs. 

What makes this story so much more frustrating is that in 2006 my internet provider was bought out by none other than BT.



Two days later I was again asked by yet another support engineer to check my router settings. I pointed out that I had already been through this during my original call with Kieran and asked them again to contact my exchange.



Two days later and yet again I was asked by yet another support engineer to check my router settings.


Albert Einstein once said; “The true definition of madness is repeating the same action, over and over, hoping for a different result.”

I can attest to the truth of this statement as each time they asked me to check my router I got a little madder. I suggested to them that despite being with them for many years the quickest solution may be to change providers.


Later that afternoon, my router connected.


Yeah right!

Aug 172012

Welsh FlagI recently experienced a fortnight’s holiday in Wales. I’d been to Wales before, but mainly stayed in North and Mid Wales. This time we headed further south towards the Gower Peninsula. South Wales has the reputation of being the heart of the country and we were looking forward to experiencing the Welsh culture first hand. As we turned off the M6 we noticed the first indications that you’re in Wales. Massive road signs full of consonants and as we wound our way south the vowels became less and less.

It was great fun listening to our sat-nav trying to keep up with the turn by turn instructions containing place names like Llanddeusant. It’s probably why it gave up with about seventy miles to go and we ended up having to buy a new sat-nav.

Unfortunately that’s as Welsh as it got. With the exception of public signage and official leaflets, Welsh was never used. Advertising was all in English, Newsagents were full of English papers and Magazines, Menus were English as were the Polish waiters and shop assistants. The local people we met admitted to us that they didn’t speak Welsh.

Laugharne Castle

Laugharne Castle

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of Welsh heritage to absorb. Our first excursion was to Dylan Thomas’s Boathouse at Laugharne. IT was a great place with a Castle to visit and great scenery too. Highly recommended if you’re in the area. As you tour Laugharne Castle you trigger audio sequences where voices from the past tell tales from the castles history, in English only.

During our stay our quest for Welsh culture took us to the Rhonda Valley and a tour of a coal-mine. How Welsh can you get? As we descended into the pit our guide asked each member of the group where we were from. There was a young family from Germany and the father was translating what the guide was saying for his young son. There was also a mature couple on holiday from. “Oh dear”, joked the guide, “Can anyone translate into Welsh?” No one could, not even the couple from Bangor.

During the first half of the twentieth century it became apparent that Welsh was a dying language and a movement began to preserve it. Yet over the twentieth century the total number of speakers of Welsh remained pretty much constant in the face of a sharp rise in the population. It’s now believed that all those who do speak Welsh are bi-lingual.

The long-term prospects must be pretty bleak for any particular language with a small community of speakers, and particularly one like Welsh which is both devoid of great concentrations of speakers, and is surrounded by the particularly aggressive culture of the American and English-speaking world.

Welsh is still a dying language, and it’s dying for reason. No one ‘needs’ to use it. Producing all this dual language signage, government literature etc is both expensive and unnecessary. If people want to preserve the Welsh language, record it and put it in a museum with the rest of the countries great heritage.

Apr 012012
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Feb 162012
Das Washing Machine

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Jan 182012
The Evolution Of TV

Our aged Sky+ box has been skipping and freezing for a while and it finally gave up recently and died with a pop, it’s an ex-Sky+ box, it has ceased to be.  We’ve had a high-definition TV for some time and had always intended to upgrade at some point so this became that point and a new HD Sky+ box was duly ordered. This resulted in us having to survive a whole day with just the standard Freeview channels. Before anyone starts saying “I remember when I was a lad…” I know this alone is a great leap forward from [More…]