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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Be nice to people on your way up, because you’ll meet them on your way down!


I’m not totally sure of the origin of that quote. I personally remember it from one of David Niven’s classic books about the golden age of Hollywood but when I looked it up it is attributed to quite a few people, Walter Winchell, Jimmy Durante or even George Raft for instance so who really said it first I can’t say.

Many years ago I used to be a bus driver. In fact I started work on the buses at the very tail end of the driver and conductor years and one of my colleagues was a guy called Neil. Now Neil was a nice fella but he was also a very rum turkey indeed. Way back then there were conductors like me who were honest, well reasonably honest. There was always the passenger who paid right at the last minute as he was getting off the bus and there wouldn’t be time to snap off a ticket. Those few pence went into the drivers’ and conductors’ brew fund and when we stopped at the next canteen (back in the late seventies and early eighties there was always another canteen on the horizon) I’d get the brews in with those few pence. Of course there were conductors who made a habit of approaching customers who were just getting off the bus and they made a regular brew fund out of those last minute bus fares. Others, those more dishonest ones, and I am sad to say Neil fell into that category, went out of their way not to give out tickets or even issued blank tickets. 

One day Neil got his hands burned. He’d issued a blank ticket to a customer and who should board the bus but the fraud squad. They checked the tickets and pulled Neil up regarding the blank ticket. Neil went to a tribunal where he was accused and faced the sack but an incredible stroke of luck came his way. The fraud squad lost the evidence. They’d misplaced the offending blank ticket and Neil managed to hang onto his job with a stern warning. The fraud squad Inspector, a not very pleasant chap nicknamed Himmler, came up to Neil and told him in no uncertain terms, he had him in his sights and one day he’d get him.

Well, Neil went on to become a driver and then a one man driver and by then, as far as I know, he had left his nefarious past behind him. Still, you never could tell. Some busmen took fare fiddling to a fine art form and it wasn’t always the ones like Neil who were the perpetrators. One guy, I’ll call him Arthur, spent a pretty uneventful life working for the bus company. He never upset anyone, was always on time and was rarely off sick. He was very good with money, and apparently invested his bus driving pay packet well. Of course he was one of the first one man drivers and on a good wage. Anyway, he did really well for himself and owned a nice holiday home in Prestatyn. Good on him you might think. Then he dropped dead one day of a heart attack and a few weeks later his widow came into the depot with Arthur’s spare ticket machine. Spare ticket machine? What spare ticket machine? Nobody had a spare ticket machine! Has the penny has dropped yet? Arthur was issuing tickets and taking fares for himself! Somewhere along the way Arthur had ‘acquired’ another ticket machine. Nice scam. No wonder he had a holiday home in Prestatyn! At least the Depot Inspectors didn’t tell the wife.

Anyway, back to Neil although before going completely to Neil I have to tell you this, Just on the A6 in Levenshulme, we had a small busmen’s canteen. The thing about this canteen was that if you were on the Manchester to Hazel Grove or Stockport route you usually stopped here for your breakfast or lunch. Now if you were going towards Stockport the canteen was actually just by two double yellow lines. Just past the canteen was a turn in to the bus parking bays but if you were due for a meal break and your bus was carrying on to Stockport you had to go through the traffic lights and stop in the lay by, leave your bus and then walk back to the canteen. Now, what most people did was stop on the double yellows then shout into the canteen for the new crew. It was wrong but that’s what we did and no one made a fuss. Anyway, one day an Inspector’s job came available. Various people applied but the guy who got the job was Neil and he decided that his first order of business as an Inspector was to stop buses parking on those double yellow lines! He did so and made himself a very unpopular fellow indeed. He’d wait by the canteen door and ‘book’ any driver stopping on the yellow lines and plenty of times myself and other crews would be coming along, ready to stop and we’d see Neil waving us on so we’d carry on, through the lights and on to the layby.

Now here’s where Neil’s past caught up with him. In those days a new appointment was probationary for six months and Neil went along to an Inspectors’ meeting chaired by one of the senior Inspectors who just happened to be, yes you’ve guessed it, it was Himmler. Now Himmler took Neil to one side. Asked what he was doing in Inspector’s uniform and by the end of the week Neil was back driving his bus and someone else was in charge at Lloyd road.

Neil of course, had upset many people in his short term as an Inspector and he had forgotten the golden rule: Be nice to people on the way up because, well, you know the rest. No one ever spoke to Neil again and he cut a sad figure, shunned by his workmates and always sitting alone in the canteen. Shortly after he packed the job in.

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