EHIC fiasco

February 11, 2016

EHIC

EHIC

EHIC, or what was E111 card, is a card that in theory entitles to free health care when travelling in Europe. In practice you may found it is not accepted and have to pay or rely upon travel insurance.

My EHIC requires renewal, it expired in January.

I call the number on the card. I get a robot. I wanted a human, I got a robot.

Sometimes it is yes or no, sometimes say what I want, sometimes press a number.

Date of birth a problem, eventually get around that.

Message tells me have to hand National Insurance Number or NHS number. I am asked for EHIC number.

So far so good, until my address.

Robot fails to understand my address. My address could not be simpler.

Several attempts, the robots gets it wrong each time, then passes me to a human. It passes me to a dead line.

I try again. This time I ask the robot for more options. One option is a human. Once again robot passes me to a dead line. I am cut off.

I try their website.

Although I use a password using the mix of characters specified, it fails as non-compliant. We go through this several times. Eventually it accepts my password.

Now, e-mail to be sent to confirm.

No e-mail sent. Several hours later no e-mail recieved.

A QR code is shown, to download EHIC app. I try this. I scan with Kaspersky QR scanner. The link it provides is not valid.

I again try calling. Same problem with robot. It cannot understand my addresses, offers to pass me to a human. Passes me to a dead line, then I am cut off.

I try downloading the EHIC app from Google play. Why does it require access to my photos?

App downloaded and installed and opened. It then starts downloading data. I have never known this happen before. What is this data, nearly 12Mb of data, far larger than the app itself? Data download restarts. Error message, data corrupt, contact developer. I try one more time. Data downloads, all systems go. It beggars belief, all the app does is send me back to the webpage where I started.

The only use for the app would be to apply for or renew EHIC, to display once obtained. These are the very things it does not do.

In the meantime, I send a message to EHIC via facebook. I detail the problems, ask that they call me or e-mail me. They say they reply within the hour. They do not. A reply a couple of hours later. I am told to look in a junk folder as that is where it will be. I had already told them no e-mail received. They do not call me back as I had requested.

Warning: There are a lot of bogus websites that charge for obtaining EHIC. It sis free.

Early daffodils

February 11, 2016

 

early daffodil

early daffodil

Last weekend, one solitary daffodil out in flower. At a guess, in flower several days earlier.

Since the weekend, several other daffodils in bud.

Very early for daffodils. Usually towards the end of March.

A few crocuses in flower.

At the weekend, strong winds, even though there had been heavy rain overnight, meant the grass could be mowed, though it was still muddy underfoot.

Since the weekend, grass spiked, a little every couple of days. Hard work.

Today, as it was sunny, though hard frost earlier, more grass spiked.

Early Onward peas sowed.

I would usually dig the ground. Not today, raked off the leaves, in went the peas.

I would also have sowed the broad beans I picked up from Infinity Foods, but could not find them.

Grass seed sowed.

Aldershot: A sign of the times

February 10, 2016
99p Stores closing down

99p Stores closing down

In Revolution, Russell Brand talks of Greys, a run down town in Essex, boarded-up shops, betting shops, charity shops, junk food outlets, pound shops. It could be any run down town.  It could be Aldershot.

Paul Mason holds the same conversation in PostCapitalism.

When the pound shop is closing down, you know things are bad.

Workers used to have money jangling in their pockets, money to spend. Now they are in precarious work, part-time, temporary, zero-hours McShit jobs. If they have money, it is from the pay day lender at extortionate interest rate.

When a government imposes a Bedroom Tax on the poor, it is not only the individual households that are hit, it is money drained out of the local economy.

Aldershot today was dead. It was never busy, but not as bad as today.

Speaking to a few local businesses, they agreed. it was dead, but added, it had been like this every day since the beginning of the year.

End of last year, M&S pulled out, they saw no future in the town. Neither does anyone else.

There are three pound shops in the town. There is not the demand to support three pound shops.

99p Stores is closing, but in a few weeks, following renovation, it will re-open as Poundland.

It would have closed, a new landlord wanted to jack up the rent. Poundland have dictated the rent. Either we pay what is realistic for this dead town, or we pull out, take it or leave it.

Many of the market stalls have pulled out. One of the  market stalls has relocated to  the grotty shopping centre for three days a week, for the rent they were paying the local council for one day in the street.

What has destroyed Aldershot is decades of bad planning, lack of understanding of what constitutes good town centre planning, and lack of understanding of how local economies function.

Something very wrong with Stagecoach bus service

February 10, 2016

 

bus stop display

bus stop display

Last Saturday waiting around half an hour for a bus when a bus is supposed to run every ten minutes.

On my return journey I found the bus times had changed. There was no notice on the bus advising of change, no timetables.

Yesterday, I found the bus times had changed. No timetables on the bus, no notice on the bus advising of timetable changes. Luckily when asked, the driver was able to give me one from his bag.

This afternoon, I missed a  bus at 1335. If running every ten minutes, then should be another bus at 1345.  If ignore the school bus at  1455, the display at the bus stop showed buses at 1524 and 1532, not exactly every 1o minutes.

A bus turned up at 1550, 15 minutes after the last bus that has passed by, not the service claimed of every ten minutes or more frequent.

To add insult to injury, there may not be a poster on the bus advising of timetable changes, there is one claiming bus punctuality of better than 75%.

Lunch and afternoon coffee at Turn Fit Deli

February 9, 2016
cappuccino at Turn Fit Deli

cappuccino at Turn Fit Deli

Excellent lunch at Turn Fit Deli. Vegetarian, or was it vegan, Shepherd’s Pie. It sounded disgusting. It bore absolutely no resemblance to shepherd’s pie. A vegetable casserole or stew, mushrooms, maybe carrots, I do do not know what else, served with rice. It was very tasty.  I would though prefer to have served on a plate or in a bowl, not in a paper pot.

I popped back later and had a cappuccino and cookie. Cappuccino excellent, but then I expect no better from what is now the No 1 coffee spot in Guildford.

Cappuccino served in cups not paper takeaway, though no saucers.

I stayed long after closing. It had been cold all afternoon, now it was raining.

Turn Fit Deli is highly recommended for both lunch and afternoon coffee.

Afternoon in Guildford

February 9, 2016
River Wey

River Wey

River Wey

River Wey

A very cold afternoon in Guildford.

I did not fancy walking to the nearest station, and I would have arrived early and had to wait in the cold. Instead catch a bus, then a train.

I see one bus go by, ten minutes wait for next bus. Luckily one comes along in five minutes.

On leaving the house, money yes, keys yes. As bus turns up, I realise, bus pass, rail card, no. Lucky I did not walk to the station,

Back, to the house, now too late to walk to rail station, though I could have caught the next train. Now I am risk of missing the train if I catch the bus.

I have to run to catch the bus. Luckily the driver stops when I flag him down. Often they drive past. Catch the train with a  few minutes to spare.

Walking along the River Wey in Guildford, running high and fast.

The Keystone once again blocking public highway with a sign. When you think The Keystone cannot get any worse, they had a bar billiard machine (very rare), now a pool table.

Excellent lunch at Turn Fit Deli. Vegetarian, or was it vegan, Shepherd’s Pie. It sounded disgusting. It bore absolutely no resemblance to shepherd’s pie. A vegetable casserole or stew, mushrooms, maybe carrots, I do do not know what else, served with rice. It was very tasty.  I would though prefer to have served on a plate or in a bowl, not in a paper pot.

I popped back later and had a cappuccino and cookie. Cappuccino excellent, but then I expect no better from what is now the No 1 coffee spot in Guildford.

Very cold all afternoon, now it was raining.

Met up with friends. They suggested Waitrose for coffee. Not good, main problem it was being made too hot.

Train to Aldershot, then bus.

As on Saturday, I find the bus times have changed. Now, instead of leaving at 2105, bus leaves at 2100. It meant I had five minutes less to wait in the cold, and as the bus was already there, was able to hop on the bus. But, no timetables on the bus,  no mention on the bus, no  poster advising of timetable changes. I asked the driver.  He handed me a new timetable from his bag.

2100 is when the bus used to leave, until they changed it to 2105. Coming up from Alton, this gave a couple of minutes to leap off the train, run out of the station and catch the bus.  Now it means a half hour wait in the cold, unless the buses are running more frequent, every twenty minutes.

The Phone Co-op appalling service

February 8, 2016
free sim card from The Phone Co-op

free sim card from The Phone Co-op

Not knowing, if Three would be working, during the day, a voucher for both Three and The Phone Co-op.

No problem with voucher for Three, but The Phone Co-op big problem.

No one has heard of The Phone Co-op.

Co-op Mobile? I assume so and say yes.

With Three voucher from PayPoint, large typeface, code the numbers in blocks of four. One reason why I do not top up in a supermarket, printed out on till receipt, illegible,  tiny typeface, 16 digits in a row, nigh impossible to type in without making a mistake.

Where is the code? I see no large numbers in blocks of four.

Guy in the shop looks, points to tiny type face, no separation into blocks of four.

I query this, why is it not like Three? Guy says it is the phone company, not PayPoint.

Whilst in Waitrose drinking my free coffee, I dial 1250.

  1. check balance
  2. top up with voucher —> type in the digits, followed by a hash
  3. top up with credit or debit card

I type in the numbers. It fails, incorrect code. I try three times, each time it fails, incorrect code.

No option for help.

On the bus I scroll through a long text message, received when the sim card was registered, and find I can dial 500 for help.

Why was this not on the PayPoint voucher? Why is their no option for help on 1250?

I call 500. I try several times. All I get is a dead line.

I try option 3, credit or debit card. This works, but why 1 for £10, 2 for £20? Why not 10 for ten pounds, 20 for twenty pounds?

Now I have a problem. I want to buy a data bundle, but how? If I use data, I will be charged some extortionate charge.

A confirmation text is sent. I click on it. It takes me to what appears to be a scam, a site selling Chinese website addresses.

I try 500 later. This time I get someone. He tells me no mobile help, they went home at three. I ask what is he, if it is a helpline. Landlines and broadband.

I ask what are the data bundles? He tells me 500MB £5, 1GB £7-50.

This is taking the piss.

During a previous call, I asked why are they selling FairPhone II, a 4G phone when they are only offering a 3G sim. The person I spoke with, could not grasp the logic of my question.

I asked when was their mobile support. Try Monday. It is Saturday.  No one available after three o’clock.  No one available on Sunday. Try Monday.

I need access to the internet, with great reluctance I decide to buy 1GB at £7-50. It is not possible to do on the phone with a link. Nor can I do it when I go to their website. I have to send a text to 1250 with BUNDLE DATA 1000. I receive no confirmation text.

I try connecting.

It is slow, unbelievably slow. I thought Three was slow, this makes Three look fast.

Although nothing to indicate I had received a text, when I check later, I find I have a text. I also find, I have spent over a pound, in addition to the rip-off £7-50 for data. Where did this go? I assume extortionate data costs before I bought the bundle, and that was only accessing to discover how to purchase the bundle to avoid such cost. No calls have been made, other than 500 for help, no texts sent.

This was Saturday. Sunday, I found data was somewhat faster but taking long time to connect.

The Phone Co-op is giving co-ops a bad name. They really need to get their act together.

Useless Thomson

February 8, 2016

Thomson is not a company I would willingly use, if there were available options. Their holiday representatives are useless, flights cooped up with drunks and screaming out-of-control kids. I prefer to book my own hotels and flights, but sometimes these options are not available, hotels stuck in the Dark Ages, blissfully unaware of the existence of the internet or quote silly prices when you try to book direct.

If you fly, it is necessary to provide Air Passenger Information at least 24 hours before you fly. All airlines require this, advise will be denied the flight if not provided.

Thomson is no exception. Their paperwork is quite explicit, even highlighted in bold, that API is required, will be denied a flight if not provided, and directs to a webpage. Only when you go to the webpage, it only provides information, directed to another webpage to sign in, then directed to yet another page to provide the information, and that is where the problems begin.

Asked to provided name, e-mail address, booking reference and date of flight.

For a security check, would expect to send an e-mail, click on a link (or maybe enter a code), but no, simply accepts the e-mail address. Nor is a password required.

Buttons for various things, but button for API greyed out.

Number on booking paperwork called. This turns out to be a local Thomson Travel Agency, so why give an 0845 number, rather than the number of the local office?

They are told of the problem, they say have to confirm the flights, click on active button Check in & Book Last-Minute Extras and then click continue, cack-handed and bad design to say the least.

This is tried, it does not work. An error message is generated with an error code. It remains on the same page.

They are told of the problem, and that they need to inform their IT people they have a problem with their web server.

No, there is no problem, as they are not experiencing a problem and they would have been told if there was a problem.

Er, I am telling you there is a problem.

They refuse to inform their IT people, on the grounds there is no problem, and if there was, they would already know.

I tried later, and it did work.

That was Friday.

Try again Sunday, two days later, and as Friday, taken to map of plane, and find I have been pre-allocated a seat. I never picked this seat. Friday I was allocated seat 38D. Sunday 39D.

This is one of the scams Thomson run. Have to pay for seat allocation, £9-50 a seat. Then there is the luggage scam.  Allocated 15kG, less than the international norm of 20kg, then have to pay a premium to ‘upgrade’ to 20kg.

Why no levy for fat people?

Then have to click continue again, to extras.

I do not want any extras, another excuse to take more money off passengers.

Click continue and finally taken to where API, or as they term it, Add Travel Documents.

Clearly stated (at top of the page):

Thomson Airways (and all other airlines) are required to collect and provide additional passenger details to government authorities for the purpose of border control and security. This includes information contained within your passport or travel document and flight information. This is applicable for passengers travelling to any destination. In addition to this, passengers travelling to the U.S and some other countries are required to provide further details. A full list of the required information is available on our API information page. It is a condition of your booking that this data is provided. Failure to provide this information will result in you being unable to travel.

When I called the local office, they falsely told me I do not need to provide this information. I pointed out it was emphasised on the travel paperwork (with refused travel if not provided),  was on the webpage I was directed to (I never got this far). I had two people, including an idiot called Ben, who told me no, you do not have to provide.  Ben even claimed, you will have no problem, you will be allowed to travel even if you have not provided this information.

Passport details provided, begs the question: why grey out, why cannot provide, as for example British Airways or easyJet, without all this rigmarole?

Click continue.

Then taken to a page of what I can and cannot take. Standard stuff.

Tick that you have read. I find that it is already ticked.

A boarding pass generated and I am taken back to original page.

I would have expected the Boarding Pass to have been e-mailed to me, or at least an option to do so.

Check in, is now greyed out. Add travel documents still greyed out. What if mistake made? No means to correct. Print boarding pass now live. I do not have a printer.

Three gets worse

February 8, 2016

Three gets worse, if that was at all possible.

Three offer 2GB of data for £5. Or did.

I checked, now 500MB for £5.

Not happy, I called Three. Yes, we do offer, but we are having problems, you have to call us. Well if not, you are going to have a lot of customers changing networks.

I checked in the evening, it was still 500MB for £5. I called, it was a little before 8pm. Already closed down.

That was Saturday, I tried calling again Sunday. A helpful young Indian lady (makes a change for Three call centre).

She confirmed they still have problems, and that yes, 2GB for £5-00.

Connection speed appears to have improved from last year. Maybe they have finally addressed the problem of mast lacking the capacity.

Cold wet afternoon in Farnham

February 7, 2016
riverside walk

riverside walk

Gostrey Meadow

Gostrey Meadow

Saturday a very cold wet afternoon in Farnham. Cold wind blowing, then it rained.

Half an hour wait for a bus to Aldershot, a bus service that allegedly runs every ten minutes.

Bus to Farnham at least 15 mutes late.

Walk along the riverside walk, through to Gostrey Meadow and up into Downing Street.

A row of crocuses along the river bank. Early? I have never seen before. Maybe only recently planted. Very bad how they have been planted. It would have been better to have walked along, thrown into the air, planted where they landed. It would have looked far more natural.

Crossing the road from riverside walk to Gostrey Meadow, white lines recently painted telling motorists not to obstruct. Why not a crossing, as cries out for a crossing? As does from Gostrey Meadow into Downing Street.

Last year, one by one, shops have been closing in Downing Street, making Downing Street look very desolate, leading to the eventual collapse of Downing Street. Each time a shop closes, one less reason to visit.

Krema Artisan Coffee House

Krema Artisan Coffee House

Barista Lounge 00

Barista Lounge

It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find, not one, but two quality coffee shops have opened, Krema Artisan Coffee House and Barista Lounge. Not only opened but very busy.  Two coffee shops to look forward to trying on a future visit. Both previously were failed tea shops.

Krema Artisan Coffee House serves Horsham Coffee, beans from a quality roaster.

A Deli is about to open, in what was the photographic shop.

But the fashion shop has finally closed.

The greengrocer was very busy. Coffee shops bringing in extra trade?

I cannot see Loaf surviving. They serve neither quality tea nor coffee.

Yellow flashes have appeared on the curbs in Downing Street. According to local businesses overnight and all around the town. I can see why, as idiots park in the street, blocking the traffic. The local businesses are very angry, as they cannot load or unload. It is illustrative of the failure of the local council. There has been no consulation. No notices in the street, no notices to local businesses in the street. It is not for the local council to dictate what happens in the town. It is for local businesses, townsfolk and visitors to decide what is best.

In the churchyard, snowdrops in flower. Sadly in clumps. It would have been better if randomly scattered as looks natural.

In the Parish Church, Farnham Youth Choir practising. They were surprisingly very good.

Tax-dodging Starbucks, in contrast with the indie coffee shops in Downing Street, was empty.

In Waitrose, once again I notice they are struggling with a blunt knife on the cooked meat counter. At the checkout, the girl quite literally pocketed the change. I advised the helpful lady on information, that they have a potential problem, but did not say which girl.

Does Stagecoach hate passengers? On the bus to Farnham, no timetable. Not knowing bus times, and not wishing to have a long wait in the cold and wet, I sat in Waitrose drinking coffee and caught the 1847 bus. It was cold and wet, I would have caught an earlier bus, had I a timetable.

At Aldershot, just missed the 1900 bus, next bus 1915. Odd, I thought every twenty minutes, therefore should be 1920. Maybe display wrong. Bus turned up at 1914. I asked the man waiting, did he miss the 1900. To learn, timetable had changed, now 1855, then 1915. He said in the week no change. Why change Saturday? Why no notice on the bus advising of timetable change? Why no new timetables on the bus?

The bus from Farnham changed sometime last year, running five minutes later. Meaning I was always lucky if I caught the bus from Aldershot, as bus from Farnham arrives at same time the Aldershot bus leaves. Now with the bus from Aldershot leaving five minutes earlier, I am guaranteed to miss.


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