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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ING Direct 

I’ve had an account with ING Direct for many years. In better times they paid a decent amount of interest and were easy to work with.

A few years ago I took advantage of one of their new accounts and opened something called a Guaranteed Investment Account which promised to pay interest proportional to any rises in the FTSE index.  Unfortunately, since I opened the account the stock market has done nothing but fall and my £500 has sat in the account doing absolutely nothing.

So I thought I would be better off closing the account and taking my money elsewhere. That’s when the problems started.

It appears that these accounts have two “exit windows” a year when you can close the account: Mar 31st and September 30th. Miss the window and you have to wait for the next one.

The procedure is that you need to call BEFORE the exit window to give notice that you want to close the account and then call again on the day to actually do it.

However, the staff taking the calls don’t know this and tell you to call on the day of the exit window only. If you do that, the person taking your call will attempt to close the account but it won’t work.

I was only told this a month after I asked for the account to be closed when I noticed that I still had money in the account. I was told by an extremely snooty and patronising woman who became very annoyed when I suggested that her staff had lied.

Anyway, here’s the letter of complaint that I have sent them. I’m posting it here in case anyone else is struggling to find a way to close their ING GIA account. You can see the procedure as it was related to me and you can have the complaints address.

Hopefully the letter isn’t too ranty but I was very annoyed about this:

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Savings and mortgages

ING Direct

FREEPOST NATW1784

Reading

Berkshire

RG6 1BR

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: Guaranteed Investment Account ######## / Customer number #########

I have a complaint regarding my Guaranteed Investment Account and the attempts I have made to close it.

Some months ago I decided that I wanted to close the account and remove the money. To that end, I called your customer services department and asked to close the account. I was told that I could only close the account on one of two exit windows per year and that the next one would be on March 31st.

I asked if I needed to give any sort of formal notice and I was told that I did not and that I had to call on the exit window to have the account closed. Actually, your operator changed her mind just before the end of the call and told me to call on March 30th but she did not explain why.

I made a note to call on March 30th to close the account. When I called on that date I was told that I would have to call again the following day on the date of the window. I did this and was told that the account would be closed and the £500 I have in the account would be made available to me.

I checked my account this morning, nearly a month later, and found that the account had not been closed.

I called customer services again. After a very lengthy series of button presses I eventually spoke to someone who noted that I had asked for the account to be closed and passed me on to someone else. He was the wrong person. He tried to put me through to someone who could help and, after a very long wait, I was eventually put through to a very patronising and unhelpful woman who informed me that I should have given notice before the exit window that I wish to close the account. She apologised that I had been misinformed but would offer me no further assistance.

This is disgraceful! You, and therefore your staff, have a moral obligation to give your customers information that is accurate and timely. To apologise and say that the information was incorrect is unacceptable. To to refuse to let me close the account now despite having done everything I had been told to do by YOUR staff is arrogant in the extreme.

I wanted to retrieve this money several months ago and now I cannot get at it until September at the earliest. Let me be clear now: I WANT TO BE ABLE TO CLOSE BOTH MY ACCOUNTS WITH YOU AS SOON AS I POSSIBLY CAN. If I need to give notice for whatever arbitrary exit window you have chosen then consider this letter as sufficient notice. I would prefer to have the money sooner than that. I consider it YOUR fault that I was not given the correct information about closing the account. I would have hoped that you would be more accommodating about this and let me close the account NOW. Please inform me if this is possible.

Assuming that this will not happen, I have made a note to call at the beginning of September to give notice again. If necessary I shall call every day in September to make sure that your people KNOW that I want to close the account.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Windows Live Mail 

I've just deleted Windows Live Mail after getting very annoyed with its habit of letting me delete mail, then downloading it again and giving me an error message when I try to delete the new copy.

I was only using it to read my home emails at work but I shall find another way to do that from now on.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cornwall 

This originally started as a blog about meeting with Richard and Sue. Then I decided it needed a little background about my holiday with David in Cornwall and now it is longer than I intended, a full multi-media spectacular with pictures.

Anyway ... Cornwall.

Cornwall is one of our favourite holiday destinations along with Snowdonia and Buxton. We generally take our holidays in the UK and like places that have plenty of lush gardens and good food. If the gardens are National Trust or Royal Horticultural Society properties then that's all the better as we get in for free!

We also like to stay in tried and tested hotels and guest houses as a rule. Last year we took a gamble on a hotel we found on the Internet and were very impressed with the Tremarne Hotel in Mevagissey. Not only was it clean and spacious but every meal-time seemed to be filled with laughter and friendly faces. It's no surprise, in that case, that we booked it again this year without hesitation. The hotel was as clean and comfortable as ever and the staff, as well as our fellow guests, were friendly and fun.

We visited a lot of gardens this year. It's about the right time for camelias (below-upper left and lower-right), magnolias (below-middle left) and rhodedendrons (below-middle right) to come into flower. We also saw some odd little heart-shaped flowers (below-upper right) in Heligan and some lovely curled-up ferns (lower left) just beginning to spring into action.

                     Camelia at Heligan Heart-shaped flowers at Heligan

Last year we went in June  and were a bit late for most of the flowers. There was tons of greenery but little colour.

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This year was different and all the gardens we visited blazed with red, pink, purple and yellow and each one seemed to echo with the tinny shrieks of peacocks.

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We saw six gardens in total:

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

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The gardens fell into disrepair and became overgrown after most of its gardeners went off to fight in the First World War and subsequent owners of the land were unable to maintain all of it. Then someone rediscovered it in the 90s. It's a lovely place and well worth a visit.

We spent an entire day here.

The picture is, I think, some pear blossom although I could easily be wrong.
Caerhays Castle Garden

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This holds a magnificent and very impressive collection of magnolias that are hidden away in long walks around the gardens.

The picture is a close-up of a magnolia bud.
Lanhydrock

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Unfortunately, we spent a very short amount of time here as we decided to visit on the day we had heavy rain. We had lunch and a very brisk walk around the grounds before heading back to the hotel and dry clothes.

I did get this picture (actually two that have been merged) of one of the formal gardens by hiding under David's umbrella.
Glendurgan

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We tired ourselves out here by trying to walk from Glendurgan to next door Trebah but one way was barred by a gate with a padlock and the other by large slippery rocks. This year we didn't try the maze (picture). We were way too tired after all the walking and climbing.
Trelissick

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We have been here before. There are the obligatory rhodedendrons, camelias (see picture) and magnolias as well as views of the sea.
Trevarno

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I think this one was my favourite. Despite being very well hidden it was very popular and justly so. The gardens were very colourful and boasted a lake with a boat house.
 

Another favourite place of mine in Cornwall is St Michael's Mount. I love the idea of being able to walk to an island when the tide is out. It appeals to the five-year-old in my head. We went there this year and managed not only to walk over to the island and back before the tide came back but also to walk up the short but steep hill that dominates the island and admire the view from the top. I have visited there a few times in the past but this was the first time I had been up the hill. It was also the first time I visited the island just before the tide closed in. We got back to the mainland just as the sea breached the sides of the path at its lowest point.

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There were more than a few people who had left their departure just that little bit too late and got their feet wet.

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Amazingly, people were actually making their way to the island as the tide was coming in. I guess they planned to return by boat or stay there. I prefer to walk back with dry feet.

As I mentioned at the start, this posting was originally intended to be about our meeting with Richard and Sue.

Now, I have to confess that I am not the most gregarious of people and I find social events or even just meeting friends a bit nerve-wracking. That is simplifying things a great deal. I usually enjoy myself when I meet people or when I go to a party. I enjoyed myself at Hyperspace, for instance, although I did have an awkward first few hours where I knew no-one and everyone seemed to know each other. I suppose I am just not that good with people. I have been plagued with shyness ever since I was a child and haven't really been able to conquer it yet, even at 44.

So, when Richard saw that I was going to be in Cornwall over Easter and suggested on TPDIS that I drop in, I was a bit apprehensive. Would we get on? Would a shared interest in The Tomorrow People be enough to talk about?

I needn't have worried. It was like meeting old friends; friends I had known for years but somehow I didn't know I knew. It helped a great deal that we have a lot in common (anyone who likes Battlestar Galactica is alright by me). Having a shared love of the Tomorrow People, particularly Nigel Fairs's inspired adult interpretation of the concept and the characters in the audio series was a joy and being able to talk with someone about the latest goings-on in TP fandom was brilliant. There is only so much you can say in mailing list emails.

We talked and talked and I could have talked for a lot longer but we had to go. It was a shame that we could only stay a relatively short while. We had to get back to the hotel. It was our last evening and I wanted to make sure I was rested before the long drive back. And my satnav usually insisted on sending me down the tiniest of lanes and I didn't fancy that very much at night.

It would be great to see them both again, whether they come to London or there is another TP do at any point or, most likely, the creatures of habit that David and I are will be making our way down to Cornwall next year.

One final note: we've developed a tradition (in only two years!) of dropping in on Montacute in Somerset on the way back from Cornwall. We found a tea-room combined with a TV & Radio Toy Museum and shop there. We have lunch or a snack there and browse the shop to look at all the marvelous TV inspired toys and games that I used to own years back or would have liked to have owned had they been available. We still haven't made it round the museum but we'll give that a try next year. It's a lovely place to visit.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Book early for Christmas! 

I’ve just had an email advertising a Christmas pantomime at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley.

The panto starts on December 4th.

Less than nine months … book now to avoid disappointment!

I’d better put the sprouts on.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

I hate tourists! 

Yes, I know. If I were in another city I would be a tourist. And I also know that each and every one of the little darlings brings in much needed cash to the UK. But …

… do they have to wander round Oxford Street in packs of 15?

… do they all have to get on the same tube train at once?

… do they need to look straight at me walking towards them and then stop, in my path, while they look at another map?

… do they have to shout at each other at the tops of their voices?

… do they have to stand around, getting their bearings in the busiest places, like where the pavement narrows because of some roadworks or because another batch of tourists is blocking the path?

I have visited foreign cities. I have been lost. I have travelled with tour groups. I have also realised that being on holiday does not mean I can leave consideration for others at home.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

G20 

Regular readers will know that I work in London. Today and tomorrow we host the G20 summit where leaders of twenty countries will meet to discuss the world’s ills and try to find solutions. Or at least that’s the plan.

I think if solutions are to be found to the world’s economic problems, and that is a big IF it has to be said, then I don’t think they will be found in one or even two days. It will take a lot more than that.

My own opinion, for what it’s worth, is that any solution will involve great and very drastic change and it won’t be pretty. It will probably be quite violent as well.

There are hoards of protestors mostly congregating in Docklands at the moment and there is a rally supposed to be wending its way through town as I am typing this.

For the rest of London, however, it appears to be a nice relaxed day. The tourists are still here, enjoying the sunshine and those of us that are here enjoyed a rather journey into work than normal.

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