And the operator says…

In my early days working in the International Telecommunications part of the GPO (a bit that would later be hived off to become part of the new British Telecommunications) there were huge buildings in central London which delivered the international telephone operator services functions. They housed thousands of operators (mostly women and a surprisingly large number of gay men) who worked in shifts 24/7 to deal with callers’ queries and helping connect them through to overseas destinations. They were also the most militant centres of union activism in the early 70’s (the Communication Workers Union made the miners look like Sunday school teachers at times).

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spare me from call centres

So, regular readers will recall that for simplicity’s sake we opted for an all-in package from Virgin media covering our tv, broadband and home phone service. We would probably have preferred to go with Sky but there are restrictions on the use of dishes on the front of our house. Life with Virgin has been a sorry affair right from the installation process (see posting, Customer Service, of 12 November 2009) and throughout our service history. There cannot be a single month that has gone by without us losing our broadband connection or occasionally the TV service. But the worst thing of all was their appalling customer care service  when they’d ask me to switch the computer off and on or try and fob us off with excuses or blame things on our Apple computer equipment or fail to deliver on their endless promises to send an engineer round to sort out our problems. My exasperated wife C called me when I was up with the kids last week to say that she had just endured one unhelpful and difficult conversation too many with the Virgin customer service team and had cancelled our service. It felt like such a relief. All we had to do was find another service provider…..

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raise ya, why aye like

Paul S and I did a few great ‘arts for all’ nights at the Baltic arts centre on Tyneside. We couldn’t convince the company to do a ‘Tate Up North’ kinda deal so we had a smallish hospitality arrangement with the Baltic gallery which we loved to be honest. It was the combination of an iconic building (a former flour mill), a great location – over the beautiful blinking-eye bridge from the Tyne quayside, an extraordinarily free-form art policy and the brilliant girls who managed the commercial side of things then, J and F. They were just lovely. Plus, say it quietly, we really liked the Finance Director, AL, who was so supportive. If you’ve never been to Baltic go there. You’ll find the art fascinating. If you don’t like art, try the top floor restaurant; if you don’t like good food try the amazing high level bar; if you just want to meet lots of cool men/women try the ground floor bar; if you just like looking at something iconic – take some pictures from the Newcastle side of the quay; if you can’t be bothered with any of that, stay indoors and watch Brookside saddo.

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England v South Africa… not again please

Looking forward to the big game in the RWC tonight England v S Africa? Not sure I am to be honest – they seem to be the rugby equivalent of Germany, our bogey team. Let’s face it the England cause is not helped by the absence of Vickery, Wilkinson and Barclay but at least we have Catty and Farrell at 10 and 12 or is it inside centre and outside half? And we’ll need their kicking skills too. Farrell I read has scored 7 points for Saracens with his boot since moving from RLeague. That should be troubling Percy Montgomery who has only scored 797 points at test level for S Africa. Continue reading

hooked on rugby (and its world cups!)

How great to see Argentina do Les Bleus last night. I’ve got a strange relationship with rugby union. I’ve never ever played it, nor even passed nor kicked a rugby ball and I still don’t understand the majority of its laws. Football’s always been my game. But at Cellnet in the late 80’s I was invited to my first match at Twickenham. One look round the west car park told me how affluent the rugby fan base was compared with football. We were involved in motorsport sponsorship but from those first impressions I figured that rugby might prove to be a better sporting association with which to market mobile phones. Let’s face it the only people who could realistically afford over £2000 for a phone which is what they cost then, were senior business guys and an awful lot of them were sat there singing ‘swing low’ (which by the way is truly dirgeful and would never get sung at a football ground). Continue reading