About Me

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I write well researched but readable historical and contemporary novels and some non-fiction. I live in a Scottish country cottage with my artist husband. I love gardening and I also collect the fascinating antique textiles that often find their way into my fiction. This blog is about all these things and more!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Computers and Call Centre Hell

As any writer will tell you, changing computers is the single most dreaded event. You put it off as long as possible, you back-up and compulsively print out, you think 'I won't do it this week, I'll wait a bit' and whichever way you look at it, you know it's going to be pure hell. It always is.
I've just done it, and it was pure hell and the ramifications are still rumbling on, causing me to waste time, tear out my hair, and call upon God to witness that I have never done anything to deserve such pain and angst. Let nobody, not even PC World (the main culprits in this instance) tell you that they will make the transition smooth and pain free. They won't and they haven't. The actual events - though I have them written out in full for my own records - are too vastly complicated to be anything but boring, so I won't list them here. Save to say that I wanted (a) a new PC with Vista and Office 2007 and (b) a full data transfer from my old PC, as well as a health check, and whatever needed doing to make it run properly. It's an elderly (hmm, well, 5 years) HP and a good computer, and I wanted to be able to use it as a word processor, unconnected to the internet. Let me say right from the start that the old PC, bought from PC World has never given me a moment's trouble. Well hardly any. And the new one seems to be working pretty well too. And I like Office 2007 very much indeed, even though I have to make sure I save documents in the old format when I'm attaching them to emails, since most people's older versions can't read them without downloading something else. But these are minor points. No, what happened with PC World was that for about two weeks they didn't do what they said they would do and never phoned me to let me know what was going on. I spent a fortnight running back and forth to the store, to the extent that they have just, very kindly, sent me a cheque for £50 to cover my unneccessary petrol expenses. I spent what in retrospect seems like hours speaking to polite young men in call centres (in Sheffield, so they told me. We got quite friendly.) On more than one occasion I was forced to take a couple of Kalms. You know that feeling you get when you would like to go out and smash something? Possibly a computer.
The old PC is up and running again after a fashion, but seems sluggish and unhappy, and faintly off colour, like somebody recovering from the flu. Also they succeeded in corrupting a heap of files, so I have had to re-install all kinds of things. The old, old, old PC with its old old version of Word, which I have been using for word processing for some time, was wonderful, fast, clear, easy. I long for its return, and eye it as it sits forlornly in a corner of the room, waiting to be formatted and taken to the saleroom. It has never been online, and it doesn't really have any private data on it. Unfortunately, it only had an old fashioned floppy drive, and even that didn't seem to be working properly, so whatever you put on it was precarious to say the least. Otherwise, I would be using it yet.
But PC World weren't the only culprits. No, Orange weren't exactly angels either. More polite young men tried to get my broadband to work with Vista. I have been on and off the phone to them as well, and on and offline more times than I care to recall, and yesterday I had to try fiddling with it myself, in an effort to get it to work. (Which, eventually, I'm pleased to say, it did although not thanks to any of the helpful young men at Orange.) I'm writing this from elsewhere, so I'm still not sure if my solution is permanent or temporary, which for someone trying to run an internet business is challenging to say the least.
I am seriously thinking of reverting to Pen and Paper.
Meanwhile, this week, the Bank got a standing order wrong, and paid my accountant twice over.
Yesterday, Sky phoned me to offer me a month's free trial of films and sport. The only snag was that you had to set it up, and then if you didn't want to continue with it permanently, you had to let them know within 24 hours. You mean, I asked the bright young woman on the end of the line, you mean I have to phone Sky? (press one for... press two for...)
Well yes, she said.
In that case, thank-you very much but I don't think I'll bother, I said.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Torchwood, Norman Wisdom and a Bit of Jamie

I spent most of yesterday evening sitting on the couch like a slug and watching TV in between playing with the new PC and finding out some of what Vista can do. (quite a lot as it turns out, and very elegantly, but sometimes the speed of my typing causes it to throw a bit of a wobbly) so here's a little TV review.
Torchwood is back - I never quite got into it the way I got into wonderful Doctor Who, but this new series seemed watchable, and entertaining, if only for the sight of Buffy's Spike (for whom I must confess I had a very soft spot in his previous vampire incarnation) dressed like an escapee from Pirates of The Caribbean, kissing Captain Jack. This lead me to a bit of mild speculation as to why it's OK for heterosexual men, and gays of either sex to incorporate their fantasies into their writing - and don't get me wrong - they often do it very well indeed! - but when us middle aged heterosexual women try to do it, we are roundly slated for being romantic or sentimental or both. This is not, incidentally a criticism of those who get away with it. More a plea that all of us should be allowed to do it and when we do it well, accorded the same leeway as the rest of you.
After that, and mainly because by that stage I couldn't bear to leave the fireside for the relative chill of the study, I watched a programme about an aged Norman Wisdom and his family's problems in finding suitable care for him. I found this a distasteful and exploitative little programme, masquerading as public service broadcasting - what do we do with our old folk? As one who sometimes feels that she is hurtling through life at twice the speed of light, it should have been interesting and thought provoking but it was simply undignified and embarrassing and depressing, and the most depressing thing about it was that his family had allowed it to be made at all.
It was, however, Jamie Oliver who eventually drove me back to the PC. Chickens are one thing, and I know we're all getting fatter, (especially while watching television in a wintry stupor) but sitting people in baths of oil while a scrawny doctor reduces them to tears by implying that they are going to DIE VERY SOON, all so that Jamie can be solicitous and offer a solution - well, it quickly became unwatchable. In fact curiously enough, while the programme about chickens would almost certainly have made people look at the alternative to the miserable battery farmed option, this week's offering probably had people rushing for the crisps and coke through sheer misery and panic. If the programme about Norman Wisdom was a wee knock, this was full on car crash television. Better by far to watch kissing time agents and get a vicarious thrill out of it. At least that may have given some of us an aerobic lift.