Another Moany Whingey Kind of Blog Post

This week there are a few things I need to get off my chest, so what better way than to throw them into a blog post and just get the whole lot out into the open.

Here we go then.

I really do hate the cold which is why Liz and I spend the summer heading to the warmer climes of France in our motorhome and jet off to Lanzarote in January. As winter is coming ever closer I decided to splash out a little cash and buy myself a new winter jacket. It’s a fleece lined jacket with a warm fleecy hood just perfect for keeping the cold out and the warmth in. The problem is that as I write this, which might be a few weeks before it is injected into the cyberworld, the weather here in the northwest of England is pretty mild. So mild that when I first wore the new jacket, I found myself boiling hot. Maybe I should just put it away for the really bad weather. Typical! I’m prepared for the cold weather but things have got warmer. OK, that’s my first moan out of the way.

I do hate this time of year, Hallowe’en especially. Strange people start knocking on my door asking for treats. I don’t mind treating friends or family but strangers? I don’t think so! I found myself this Hallowe’en hoping it would be cold and raining but the day started off really nice and the sun was out and there was me, sweltering in my new fleecy jacket.

Oh well, as soon as Hallowe’en is over then it’s bonfire night where suburbia turns into something resembling a battle zone with bangers and rockets going off at all times of the day and night.

This week I received a message from an old friend of mine, Gary. I’d not spoken to Gary for a long time and to be honest, Gary is more of an acquaintance than a friend. Anyway, Gary sent me a message asking about a claim I could make. What claim? What was he on about? Of course, Gary is a similar age to me and I thought that maybe he’d retired, knew that I was a fellow retiree and just wanted my advice. I answered his message which was a big mistake. It wasn’t Gary but someone who had created a fake Facebook identity in his name. I blocked the fake Gary and reported the scam to Facebook but answering that message had consequences. Almost straight away friends were contacting me to say they had received dubious messages supposedly from me so in those few minutes before I blocked the fake Gary, he had scanned through my page, copied my pictures, produced a fake Steve Higgins site and was trying to scam others.

I wasn’t amused and I wasn’t amused by the response from Facebook. It seems to me that the bigger the organisation involved, the harder it is to contact them. I had a problem over on YouTube a few years ago when they blocked one of my videos saying it was spam. Spam? It wasn’t spam at all, it was a short entertaining little piece lasting about forty seconds explaining the virtues of this very blog. It was a nightmare getting in touch with someone who wasn’t an automated bot at YouTube and in the end, I was getting absolutely nowhere so I gave up, deleted the video and just made a new one.

Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

Over on Facebook I found that to report a scam like this, it wasn’t possible to actually explain in detail what the issue was; no, you had to tick various boxes and it was a little difficult trying to find a box that exactly fit the situation that I was trying to report. I ticked a box for suspicious content which wasn’t exactly right.  Facebook later pinged into my inbox a short message saying they couldn’t find any issues with the content of Steve Higgins.

OK, stay calm, try again. The next time I seemed to have somehow reported myself rather than the fake but then I came across a button about fake identities. Yes, fake identity reporting. That was it! It would have been nice for a comments box to be available advising the details of the scam but clearly that looks like it was too much to ask for. Anyway, I think I finally managed to get through to Facebook but it wasn’t easy. Later when I did a Facebook search for Steve Higgins the fake account wasn’t there so presumably it had either been deleted or the scammer had given up and was looking at pastures new.

A similar thing happened with my car insurance, As usual the premiums have gone up. You might think as I’m no longer a regular commuter and have a lifetime of collision free driving behind me including a lot of years as a motorway traffic officer, you might think that my premiums might actually be going down. Of course not, so once again I’ve had to search the internet for a cheaper insurance supplier. I chose my deal, sent them the cash and advised my old company that I would no longer be needing their services. I downloaded my no claims certificate ready to upload to my new company. They mentioned when I purchased the insurance that they would contact me and ask for proof of the no claims. Well, they never asked! How could I send them my no claims letter anyway? Well, there is a contact us section on their web site, that leads us to the frequently asked questions page. Are these frequently asked questions what you wanted they ask? No. Click the contact us button and that takes us, yes, you’ve guessed it, back the FAQ page.

I reckon we’re up to moan number 4 now but what the heck, who’s counting? On Monday I popped into Asda for a few items, chief among them a bottle of tawny port. For some reason Asda was packed to the seams. I’m not sure why but the really annoying thing is that, like a lot of supermarkets, Asda seems to have cut down on staff manning their tills and increased the amount of self-service tills. Now I may be an seasoned internet blogger, an experienced iPad and laptop user, an editor of videos both on and offline and even a podcaster but one thing I will never understand is how to check out at a self service till.

Whenever I come close to one, I always get messages about things in the bagging area, things that should be there or shouldn’t be there and I always, always, have to call for assistance. Even if I don’t call for assistance something will go off advising me that assistance is on the way. Every time! It happened on my recent visit and then on the way out the alarms went off. Why? Well on bottles of alcohol, like port, they have this anti-theft thingy attached which one needs to have removed by calling for assistance. Self service supermarket tills, I hate them. Help to till 12 please! I need the device removing from my bottle of port.

Later on back home on Hallowe’en night, I realised that the two digital clocks in the house were showing the wrong time. The hour had gone back that week to Daylight Saving Time and even though my iPad and mobile phone automatically change time, older things like digital clocks, need to be manually updated which in itself is quite annoying. It was dark then by 5:30 and I had the curtains closed and the lights turned down as I was thinking that I wasn’t even going to open the door to Hallowe’en trick or treaters this year. I could eat my tea in the kitchen rather than on a tray while watching TV and soon Hallowe’en would be just a distant memory.

Round about six I heard something outside. Not people knocking on the door, not voices, no! It was a torrential downpour, a complete washout and all those annoying kids asking for treats had gone; they had all rushed home to escape from the rain.

Hey, Hallowe’en wasn’t such a bad day after all!


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The ups and downs of the Internet

quotescover-JPG-11As you can guess if you’ve read any of my other blogs, I just love the digital age. It’s enabled me to do so many things; share my writing with everyone here on wordpress, share my pictures on Tumblr and Flickr and my videos on you tube.

What’s been a highlight in particular is that I’ve been a motor racing fan since I was a school boy and when I was younger I spent a lot of time at my local circuit, Oulton Park in Cheshire, watching motor races and taking pictures. I had a whole mountain of pictures that had only been seen by me and have been sitting in an album upstairs in my back room for years. Now Flickr has enabled me to share them with other race fans and my Oulton Park collection has had hundreds of views, when a few years back it was just one.

image courtesy everystockphoto.com

image courtesy everystockphoto.com

Social networking is so interesting and varied. The main social sites are probably Facebook and Twitter. I’m on both of those sites but they are very different. Twitter is in a lot of ways a real-time web site. Many people comment on sport and TV shows while the shows or events are still in progress but personally if I’m trying to comment on an F1 race I feel as though I’m missing the action whilst I’m tweeting. I suppose in that way Twitter is ideal for the smart phone whereas Facebook is somewhere you can post your status and then come back another time and respond to further comments. On Twitter most of my friends are pure internet acquaintances, especially now as I’ve been promoting my work heavily on that site. I get other authors asking me to like their pages and posts and in return I like their pages and posts so we both benefit with extra web exposure.

The same thing has been starting to happen on Facebook with increasing traffic from non-friends, people who just like my blogs, so I’ve had to create a Facebook page for myself as a writer so that I can keep separate my business and personal friends.

Another aspect of the internet is that it enables you to check out your old and long-lost friends and a site like Friends Reunited started a trend for connecting with old friends. Friends Reunited was one of the early success stories of the internet but in the last few years it fell by the wayside, it’s popularity overtaken by sites like the aforementioned Twitter and Facebook. Now the site has been taken down and it’s web address is just a dead link.

I’ve traced quite a few of my old school friends thanks to Friends Reunited, for instance one of my primary school pals that I have made contact with emigrated to Canada, was successful in the computer industry and now lives in semi-retirement on an island off the west Canadian coast. Pretty good for a lad from a Wythenshawe council estate. That was an interesting find and my friend Paul and I have exchanged a fair few e-mails. Both of us are happy and literate writers, perhaps we’re really old-fashioned letter writers now turned to e-mails but I find that today it’s easy, at least for some people, to fall into a kind of text speak even on social media that sometimes slips over into e-mail messages.

I had one e-mail a while ago from an old school friend asking if I was the same Steve Higgins who he knew at school. I replied back that yes I was and added a good few paragraphs about my life, what I had been up to in the intervening years and what I was doing now. Nothing came back for months and when I wrote again to say ‘did you get my e-mail’ a reply finally arrived. ‘Yes, great to hear from you LOL.’

That particular friend I’ve not seen for over thirty-five years and I’m none the wiser about him now, despite him wanting to contact me! Oh well, that’s the internet for you.

One more area of life that’s been revolutionised by the Internet is shopping. Yes, from the comfort of your own home you can search the Internet for all those tricky Christmas presents. There’s Amazon, and E-bay, and all the big stores have their own web sites and many frequently e-mail us about some great bargain. I had one a while ago offering me thirty razor blades ‘compatible’ with my Wilkinson’s razor at a very cheap price indeed. Blades are pretty pricey these days, so, OK, I clicked on the link, bought my voucher, then went to the razor blade site, and added my voucher code. OK so far but then I had to add a few quid for postage. Not happy! That extra money was eating into my savings. Anyway, eventually the blades arrived at my door. Not sure what kind of service was used but one wonders if a camel or even a tortoise was involved. OK, I get the blades but then there’s another problem: They won’t fit on my razor! Now, things get confusing because there are so many razors available these days. There’s the Hydro, the Quattro, the Quattro Titanium, and a shed load of others I couldn’t even begin to name. The blades were for a Hydro which I didn’t have but guess what? Someone on E-bay was selling one for a pound with free postage. Not only that, I had mentioned to Liz the previous day about some of the things I had noticed being sold on E-bay. A used razor for a pound? What plonker would even think of buying that?

Yes, that would be me . .


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