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Eddie Mair | 06:34 UK time, Monday, 6 August 2007

Got something serious you want to talk about? THIS is the place...


  1. At 08:58 AM on 06 Aug 2007, Little Miss Poppy wrote:

    Morning Eddie,

    It is not every day that a man falls through your ceiling, right into your bedroom is it? Luckily I wasn't there when the workman slipped on the rafters and fell through. I can laugh about it now, but on Friday it seemed like a major tragedy.

    When you are a 25 something having the builders in to do jobs in your home is something you are simply not interested in. I would've much rather spend money on going out, buying clothes and music. Now I am a bit older and hopefully wiser, I am undergoing the ordeal of having work done in my house for the first time.

    Its not just the invasion of privacy and the fact they are ripping your home apart, it's the amount of mess, muck and rubble they create. And to add insult to injury, you have to pay them. Now builders everywhere will cry out saying that muck comes as part and parcel of having building work done.

    But I suppose from their point of view, I have asked them to carry out the work and I know the end result will be fantastic. I can't bear to think about the grimy,dirty footprints on my formerly gorgeous stripped and polished floors, which are now black and covered with a thick soot-like substance, as opposed to beautiful beech wood. The good news is that they will be saved and will clean up nicely, providing my mum helps me with her expert cleaning knowledge.

    When things go wrong, they really go wrong. I had begun to think it couldn't get any worse than it already was. Then on Friday one of the dozy workmen put his foot right through my bedroom ceiling while doing work in the loft. They told me when I got home from work with that "We've got something to tell you..." tone and I went into complete shock.

    Then after I had thought about it, I just wanted to cry. My home was in total chaos. The rubble and black lime soot from the old ceiling rafters had collapsed all over my wardrobe rail of clothes and dressing table, landing right on top of cosmetics and jewellery. Of course it is not ruined forever. Only until I clean everything thoroughly with hot, soapy water.

    This weekend I began to feel like I might have obsessive compulsive disorder as I started trying to rid the place of dirt. It was all in vain of course. When I finished cleaning one area it became dirty again within seconds.

    To make matters worse Eddie I woke up yesterday with a mouthful of black dust and black sooty eyes. Feeling wretched and as if a major tragedy had occurred, I somehow managed to drag myself to the shops, still in a zombie like state.

    Of course I realise that things like a workman falling through your ceiling into your bedroom do and can happen and it is not the end of the world. Better still, I am getting a brand new bedroom ceiling out of it, so as it turns out Eddie it's not so bad after all.


  2. At 09:40 AM on 06 Aug 2007, Anne P. wrote:

    Little Miss Poppy (1), it sounds quite horrendous.

    Are they the sort of builders you could persuade to pay for a professional cleaning service when they're done? Alternatively bribe a group of friends with drink - to be administered only after they have helped with the cleanup.

    In any case I really admire your optimism in being able to see the bright side. Best of luck with what remains to be done.

  3. At 10:20 AM on 06 Aug 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Like Anne, LMP, I hope you can get them to take their responsibilities serioulsy. Assuming they have the right insurance, they can reclaim their own additional costs, or get the work outsourced so they can claim on their policy.

    Coincidentally, I'm awaiting the delivery of a replacement piece of furniture from a store which is noted for its floral patterns and which is named after its founder. The piece in question, one of two, was found to be defective when it was fitted to its neighbour (the second piece we'd ordered). At first we were just glum and feeling somewhat shortchanged, but a complaint produced an excellent response from said company, who are not only replacing the piece but are also talkng of compensation - and that without any prompting from us.

    Another company which is a household name and is famous for its knickers were similarly proactive when a bed they delivered had a minor fault (though no talk of compensation).

    These instances make my heart light in an age where a great many companies don't take their responsibilities very seriously or make it extremely difficult for the customer to get any kind of satisfaction when they are put at a disadvantage.

  4. At 01:48 PM on 06 Aug 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Sorry to hear your tale Little Miss Poppy (1), hope all is well soon.

    Why does just knowing that it is Monday today make me sad?

  5. At 04:04 PM on 06 Aug 2007, Happy wrote:

    Are you still working?
    Otherwise I can't think of any good reason why Mondays should be sad

  6. At 08:20 PM on 06 Aug 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Little Miss Poppy @ 1, I have sympathy with anyone who has builders in. One can get bored with builders. Ours are nice enough blokes, but ... let's say, I didn't expect to be in a position to watch their children grow up, join the trade and start working here with their dads!

    In the twenty-five years we've lived here, we've had about three without *something* having to be done -- the roof, the foundations, a damp-course, central heating, the windows two or three at a time, the wiring, the front falling off, the side falling off, two ceilings falling in, the kitchen collapsing, the bathroom floor trying to let the bath down into the hall... so far the stairs haven't tried to escape, but I live in hourly expectation, because they are about the only thing so far that *hasn't* gone wrong. And one of those three years that the builders weren't here, the other half of the semi was being rebuilt from about six feet below the ground up.

    oh yes, and if I utter the words "dry rot" how many other froggers start to scream?

  7. At 08:40 PM on 06 Aug 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Happy (5), I have now stopped working and Monday is on its way to being over so I have cheered up lots, ta.

  8. At 02:11 PM on 07 Aug 2007, helter shelter wrote:

    An idea for Yvette Cooper.

    Why not build local authority retirement villages on the coast?

    No land scarcity problems and it frees up huge volumes of property in the cities.

    1. There are such places where in effec thats what the private sector has provided. The bungalows are much sort after.

    2. Some support workers like the coastal environment so they would become self sufficient.

    3. Add in the care homes build there and you have huge land + buildings release in the cities.

    4. Family visits could work well.

    5. If we went for add - ons to exisiting resorts there'd be a revitalisation on account of the grey spending power

    Is it done already? If so how successful is it?

  9. At 03:51 PM on 07 Aug 2007, tosh wrote:

    My old muckker Tucker after 20 years (I kid you not) unemployment and being on benefits and all, copped a packet from an uncle who died and was supposed to be completely boracic.

    The money had just been growing in Uncle Jim's bank accounts.

    Its just enough for my mate Tucker to be living at exactly the same standard of living as he was on benefits, but now as a rent boy. (Or rentyer or something like that. I mean he lives off the interest).

    Now he doesn't trouble the tax payers and everyone is glad he isn't a social security scrounger any more.

    But he spends exactly the same amounts on exactly the same things as before.

    So he's imposing on the people who produce the goods he buys in exactly the same way as before. And by consuming those goods he's depriving other people in exactly the same way as before.

    So why is what he's doing now kushtie but before he was a scmuck?

    Believe me he was doing his damnest to get a job all that time.

    Jack and his mate George retired last year.
    George worked all his life on the track. Jack worked in an office, a manager.

    Who do you think is doing most to keep the wheels turning due to his spending power?

  10. At 06:35 PM on 07 Aug 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Is there anyone here from the banking industry? I'm having problems with my bank and I'd like to know if they're being difficult or if it's run-of-the-mill.

    I hate telephones. I avoid them like the plague. I am unforgivably rude to people who suggest I get a mobile one. I really detest having to talk to someone when I can't see their face and all the intonation has been squashed out of their voice.

    So when I got a letter from the bank asking me to 'phone them - without any hint of what they wanted to talk to me about - I wrote a nice letter back explaining that I avoid 'phones, but here was my e-mail address and a time that I could come and see them in person on my next day off.

    I came home today to find a message insisting that I telephone to make an appointment - still no comment on what the matter was about.

    Aren't I a customer? Isn't my business valuable? Shouldn't I be able to ask them to contact me in a manner of my own choosing? Could it be bank policy not to contact their customers by e-mail?

    Or is this society just so 'phone centric that they can't conceive of someone who is extremely uncomfortable using one of those rotten devices?

  11. At 08:31 PM on 07 Aug 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    SSC, that's outrageous.

    They are being unreasonable, and they deserve to be treated according. (Have you contemplated changing your bank?)

    The disability legislation must mean that they are capable of communicating with someone who is deaf, so they cannot insist on telephone communication.

    Are they leaving messages on an answerphone? If not, tell them you don't have a telephone! If so, get someone to use your phone and ring them up, and then pretend s/he can't hear them at all. Just keeping on saying "sorry, I can't hear you. Are you there? Hello? Hello?" and eventually "Oh, this is hopeless! I'll come in to the branch on my day off" ought to get through to them the idea that the phone is not a way to communicate with you.

    If this is run-of-the-mill rudeness, it ought not to be and they ought not to get away with it.

  12. At 09:42 PM on 07 Aug 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    It's probably not really the bank, but the credit card lot trying to tell you you haven't paid your monthly minimum. I keep getting calls asking me to prove my identity before they'll tell me what it's about. Just tell them to bugger off and you'll damn well pay when you feel like it.

    Then write to the bank chairman and remind him just who's working for who!

    Meanwhile, a part of our continuing service

    The last few lines should give a bit of anticipated schadenfruede!

    P.S. Recent inactivity due to going gnewsense - hard-won freedom!

  13. At 10:58 PM on 07 Aug 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    SSCat (10), After a farce involving telephones and my bank some years ago I mentionned in a letter of complaint that I would not be prepared to deal with it by telephone any more. In its reply to my complaint it advised that it had removed my telephone number from its records and would always contact me in writing in future. (I didn't believe it but have moved house now anyway.) I have had no telephone call from said bank over the past four years. Thus, in my experince a phone-free relationship can be achieved, but it may require the writing of a cross and pompous letter.

  14. At 01:17 AM on 08 Aug 2007, Postman Pepys wrote:

    Hello Eddie.

    How about a full analysis of the postal dispute, which is continuing this week, having started over a month ago?

    Royal Mail is no longer important in this electronic age, perhaps? The Internet has actually given a boost to packet post (ebay, Amazon). And, judging by the quantity of letters that Royal Mail still handles, it will be many years before the letter post is no longer needed, although it will of course be the poorest people who will continue to rely on it for longest. Not to mention the fact that Royal Mail is, I believe, the second largest employer in the UK (after the NHS).

    So, it's little more than a simple pay dispute? Hardly. Royal Mail's competitors are being allowed to cream-off the profitable business post, which they're doing very successfully because they have lower costs. This is largely due to the fact that Royal Mail is obliged to maintain the Universal Service (a service to every address in the country for a uniform price), which requires a major infrastructure and is therefore expensive to run. Domestic mail makes little or no money for Royal Mail, so the profits from business post have effectively cross-subsidised the Universal Service. What happens if these profits are all taken from Royal Mail? Ask TNT or DHL if they would even consider taking over the Universal Service!

    In an attempt to cut costs, Royal Mail is starting to reduce the service, and is offering its staff a below-inflation pay settlement, which is effectively a pay-cut. Rather than expecting Royal Mail employees to literally pay the price for unfair competition, perhaps rival companies should contribute to the costs of the Universal Service. After all, they do use it. As I understand it, none of them can actually finish the job by delivering their letters, so Royal Mail has even been forced to do this for them.

  15. At 06:17 AM on 08 Aug 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Chris (11):

    Yes, I'm seriously considering changing my bank, I'm just worried that this behaviour may be endemic these days.

    Ed (12):

    More likely it's the bank trying to sell me a credit card, since I don't currently have one. (Nor do I want one.)

    Aperitif (13):

    That sounds hopeful. As I say, if this isn't something important like money disappearing from my account there will be cross words on the telephone today.

  16. At 09:20 AM on 08 Aug 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Me (15):

    Gah. Two minutes after 'phoning the bank. My hands are shaking and I'm in a cold sweat. I *hate* telephones.

    It *was* just a "customer chat" they were trying to arrange, but the lass had at least tried to e-mail me - it turns out only internal e-mails are allowed at the bank. She's agreed to write to me from now on so I wasn't - I think - too grumpy.

  17. At 12:52 PM on 08 Aug 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    SSC, congratulations on managing to do what was obviously horrible for you. My hat is off to you for it. I hope the brutes really have got the message, and never put you through this again.

  18. At 08:13 PM on 08 Aug 2007, David Williams wrote:

    Today there was a report about child unfriendly hotels and the cost of holidays in Britain. I am a UK citizen living in Germany and I can only confirm the truth of holiday costs in Britain. As a rough guide accommodation, food, restaurants and transport are around 30% more expensive in the UK. In the cast of hotels and guest houses the main difference is that British hotels and guest houses charge on the basis of the number of people occupying a room; in most European countries you pay a charge for the room and it is immaterial how many people are in it. Restaurants - taking Germany as an example, last week I took two friends out to dinner with me and my wife for which the bill (including wine) was 175 Euros (£110) - what would an average UK restaurent charge nowadays? Our last ICE (high speed) train journey (Stuttgart to Frankfurt, c.200 km) cost €208 - our last journey from London to Birmingham also about the same distance cost 3 times as much. Not to mention when we shop in a British supermarket we pay some 30% more than we do here at home!

  19. At 03:32 PM on 09 Aug 2007, Boiling Blood wrote:

    British Gas,

    I have had two of your 'salesmen' here, along with my neighbours.

    1) They do not introduce themselves. They wear ID.
    2) They say they want to give us new electric keys and gas quantum cards for our pre-payment meters.
    3) On inspection of the pre -payment key, they say they wish to replace them due to recent price reductions and to clear the rental. THEY DO NOT AT ALL SAY THEY ARE GETTING YOU TO SWITCH COMPANIES. They stare blindly at the meter, and proceed to take details that, if i were a customer, they should have.
    4) Your web-site kept reporting a 'system error' and would not submit my complaint.
    5) We are following them around the estate now as they are preying on the vunerable. There will be some people's justice.

  20. At 05:27 PM on 10 Aug 2007, Peej wrote:

    Apologies if you've already picked this up on the programme and I missed it, but there was an opinion poll in the Belfast Telegraph last night which showed DUP supporters giving ex-IRA commander and now deputy first minister Martin McGuinness a 50%+ approval rating, and equally unbelievably Ian Paisley gets 58% from SInn Fein voters. Northern Ireland through the looking glass or what? Might make an interesting piece?

  21. At 09:51 PM on 10 Aug 2007, KEITH FLETT wrote:

    A FEW hundred thousand people disadvantaged by floods in middle England - front page news for days.

    Many millions threatened with destitution as a result of floods in south Asia as a result of floods - a mention in other news.

    Good to know that the media's August news values remain much as they ever were.

  22. At 12:41 PM on 11 Aug 2007, JimmyGiro wrote:

    I might have seen the Space Shuttle Endeavor last night.

    At about 11pm (plus or minus 10 minutes) GMT August 10th, I was walking back from a firework display at Cowes Isle of Wight, along the Newport - Cowes cycleway.

    I was constantly looking up for meteors and satellites, when I saw the brightest satellite I've ever seen, with unusual trajectory of west to east (normally they go w.n.west to e.s.east).

    I mused at the time that it had to be the shuttle because it had all that white heat-shield stuff. But it also has a dark less reflective coating on the belly of the craft!?

    Anyhoo, this morning I saw this and put two and two together:


    Does anybody here know any source to verify if it was Endeavour?

  23. At 05:46 PM on 11 Aug 2007, Count....J wrote:

    WHAT kind of low-life wretches could stoop so low as to threaten a 103-year-old woman with eviction unless they were given an extra £100 a week for nursing care?

    And, having succeeded in blackmailing the local council into coughing up the extra money, what kind of soulless scumbags would press ahead with the eviction anyway?

    The answer, of course, is the management of a privatised care home, which sees the elderly and vulnerable as a means of self-enrichment.

    Esme Collins is said by her family to have coped with the move to another home well, but why should she have had to endure such disruption at her age?

    Her daughter Esme Simpson pays tribute to the kindness of many of the staff at the Abbeymoor Nursing Home in Worksop, but her thoughts about the owners, who appear to have cash registers where their hearts should be, are unlikely to be so charitable.

    They stand accused of treating residents as ciphers on a balance sheet instead of human beings with special needs.

    But why should we be surprised that such profiteers have been let loose on elderly people who can no longer care for themselves?

    The way that old people are treated in Britain is nothing short of scandalous.

    Instead of being regarded as an asset, with a world of experience to impart, or accorded due respect for their earlier contribution in raising current generations and building up the prosperity of the country, older people are too often treated as superfluous appendages.

    And successive governments have encouraged such negative attitudes.

    They have eroded the value of the state pension, putting to one side the reliable, efficient and guaranteed state insurance system and forcing working people into the grasping hands of the private pension companies, all in the name of self-reliance.

    The government's dogmatic collusion with the profits-obsessed finance sector has brought vast wealth to insurance company shareholders and a growing gulf in living standards between the fortunate minority and those attempting to survive on the state pension.

    Similarly, with care homes, both main parties are agreed on the neoliberal priority of trimming service provision by the state.

    This has meant selling off local authority care homes to those who see care as a cash cow and forcing people who own their own homes to sell them as a means of paying off the exorbitant fees charged by the private sector.

    Government subservience to the profits sector has no more telling proof than the fact that private care homes are exempt from the Human Rights Act.

    But simply extending the Act to private care homes is not enough.

    The government has a duty to take care of the elderly out of the sphere of profits maximisation and to finance the re-establishment of a network of local authority homes.

    This would enable elderly residents to remain close to their families and to live without the constant fear of making ends meet.

    The treatment of Esme Collins has been nothing less than barbaric, especially in a country that boasts the fourth or fifth biggest economy in the world.

    It's time to take our old and infirm out of the grip of the predators.

  24. At 11:55 PM on 11 Aug 2007, mac wrote:

    If, and I'm sure I'm one of the most guilty treating it so, The Glass Booth is often for intense argument......

    and the Beach for frivolity......

    and this 'ere for the bright idea...

    what about a dedicated thread to things we've noticed and wondered about.....but not at all necessarily on PM...Purely wondered, with no heavy import.

    Can I give you an instance?

    Today I watched Animal Park. (Repeat).

    Kate Humble conducted a really useful interview in front of Titian's 'Flight into Egypt' with the art curator of the Longleat stately pile.

    (She asked about technique, the curator talked about effect, then how it was done. She got good stuff on composition versus use of colour (I assume it was kosher, it sounded kushtie anyway).)

    Then to end (the painting had been stolen a good few years ago and recovered with full media coverage) she addressed the painting itself and said across the curator (a kindly sincere woman not boasting a PR identity)
    'Its like meeting a celebrity, it really is'.

    Now Kate H is renowned for coping with wild things and Bill Oddie (she's nature's very own version of Hazel Irvine who brings an air of the salubrious to snooker halls) and she is clearly a nice lady (as is Hazel I, I think).

    So I'm not trying to pick on her, or pick a fight or anything like.

    But she IS a celebrity in her own right - if anyone is who has been so called in the media this year!!!

    I stress again, I'm not trying to carp or whatever.

    Why did she say that? Does it sound worthy of remark to you? What do you think?

    The only sense I can make of it was that she was so overwhelmed by the painting that she forgot who she was and why she came to be looking at the painting.

    I remember now.

    I went to see the Sistine Chapel a good few years ago (non - Catholic, I). We went in through a door we had to bow heads to get through.

    Somehow we all looked up simultaneously. There was a monk perched on a little stone staircase in one corner of the room.

    As we saw the ceiling every one of us in that crowded room broke out into a sort of paean of praise and surprise, half amazement, half laughter, half awe, half excitement. We just all had to say how.........

    The monk's job was to remind us where we were and who we were before we went into a full song and dance (literally) of ecstasy.

    There...I started typing this not knowing why Kate said what she did. Now I know, I think. Hope you didn't mind my sorting that out like this.

    So that's the sort of thing I mean. Something that struck you - the sort of thing that otherwise would have remained unresolved or indeed is still unresolved but still interesting enough to you to talk about it on the stream I'm suggesting.

    Since we're worried about language aquisition could it be called VAGUE (?!?) in company to Beach?
    Good idea or....????

  25. At 06:28 PM on 12 Aug 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Mac (24) : I think the Furrowed Brow is the perfect place for what you suggest.

    Thank you for sharing such a complicated and interesting thought process with us.

    I don't often have time to drop in here. And SSSCat's experience has made me so angry I could spit!

    But you have restored my belief that there are thoughtful people who hang out around the PM programme.

    Good on ya, mate.



  26. At 08:58 PM on 12 Aug 2007, Not so Happy wrote:

    Count ...J ,totally agree with all your comments.
    Here in Staffordshire the Labour Council are "consulting" on the closure of local authority homes.
    We would all agree that people should have the chance to stay in their own homes independently but
    if they need a high level of care,communal living can be cost effective and ideal IF that is their CHOICE.

  27. At 11:08 PM on 12 Aug 2007, mac wrote:

    (25) why, thank you kindly missi fi-fi.

    Personally I think A Bridge too Far by your band on the sound track at your link is the most perceptive thing on the blog there is.

    But you see these old people fit and hale but needing a little support to stay at home going into care (sometimes being nabbed by the SS).

    Then they're refused exercise 'cos its labour intensive for supporting nurses. And the old people might do the nurses a damage in a fall(!!!!???!!!!). Then they're coralled into wheel chair semi circles.
    Thus they sit there for YEARS and lose mobility. If they get upset about it or try to exercise secretly they get the liquid cosh

    But there's no going back to that CHOICE you talk about that they didn't really have in the first place. 'Cos no one really believes things can be as bad as they are IN EVERY BLOOMING CASE when they 'sign up' for 'care' (if they do)

    Cost effective? It's what people say when they haven't properly accounted the cost to their victims (sorry, I mean care home based elderly) which is HUGE.

    It is hell on earth in those places.

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