April 30, 2008

People's theatre

They're playing the European chess championsips in Plovdiv. I've been there, in 1991: the amphitheatre in particular is superb, and you can actually see it.

You expect to, of course, that's what amphitheatres are for. Everywhere but Huesca. Two years ago they discovered an old Roman amphitheatre (Huesca originated as the Roman town of Osca) during the construction of flats inside a buolding just a few metres away from where I live. Experts came in and pronounced it a most promising architectural find, possibly extending a long way under the surrounding area, very important and exciting: the mayor came along to have his photograph taken with the excavators, to say how important the find was and how the Town Hall would assist the excavators' work. Then everybody went away again, the construction of the flats continued and nothing more was heard of the amphitheatre. The flats are finished now and they're for sale, competing with three million other unoccupied dwellings in Spain.

I suppose at least it's protected from graffiti - though not from other kinds of cultural vandalism - unlke Plovdiv, if the photos are anything to go by. I remember seeing graffiti on the walls when I was there: one of the messages said WEST BROM and another one said QPR.

April 26, 2008

What's in a name?

Radio Clásica were playing Vaughan Williams at breakfast this morning, Valiant for Truth sung by the Christ Church Cathedral Choir. I love sacred music on a weekend morning: it makes life seem more contemplative and more relaxed.

There was a teacher at my school whose parents called him Vaughan Williams, after the composer. He taught PE, and maths.

April 19, 2008

Miller's tale

There used to be a joke that an intellectual was somebody who could listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger. Perhaps a more contemporary version would be somebody who can hear the words The Crucible without thinking about snooker.

April 16, 2008

Everybody loves a Ryanair fax

To: Customer Service, Ryanair +353 1 8121230

Date: 15 April 2008

From: ejh

Routes: Zaragoza-Stansted, Stansted-Zaragoza

Dear Ryanair Customer Service

Some weeks ago, I booked two Ryanair flights: on Friday 2 May from Zaragoza to Stansted and on Wednesday 7 May from Stansted to Zaragoza. There is only one flight a day between these destinations.

On 27 March I received an email from Ryanair Schedule Change (info@ryanair-schedule-change.com) titled 1st Notification of a change in departure/arrival time of your flight informing me that the times of the flights had changed. I accepted these changes by clicking on the link provided and indicating my acceptance in the manner requested.

I expected to receive some sort of email confirmation: but none arrived. Instead, on 5 April I was surprised to receive a second email titled 2nd Notification of a change in departure/arrival time of your flight informing me of the same change that I had already been informed of and requesting that I carry out the same acceptance that I had performed already. I did so, and again, no confirmation arrived.

Today, 15 April, I received a third email, though it was in fact titled 2nd Notification of a change in departure/arrival time of your flight rather than 3rd as one might have expected. I have accepted as well, and again have received no confirmation.

By this stage I had become a little nervous that my acceptances were not being confirmed because they had not been received, and I therefore attempted to call Ryanair Customer Service in order to check that everything was in order. However, attempts to call these numbers were in vain. I have tried to call both your Great Britain number (0871 246 0000) and your Spain number (807 220 032) but each instance, after the message informing me of how much the call will cost, there is a voice telling me that the number is not recognised.

I therefore urgently need confirmation, by email, that my acceptance of your flight changes has been received. I find it extraordinary – and extraordinarily frustrating – that, when you can require a confirmation from me for a change which you yourselves have made, that you can continue to send requests after I have done precisely what has been asked of me, and that when I try to call yourselves about it – on lines that would not be cheap even if I could get through - the numbers are unavailable. It puts me in an impossible situation where I neither know whether I am going to be permitted to travel, nor can check. Could you please urgently send me a confirmation that I am a passenger on these flights and if possible see why your phone numbers are inoperative. Thank you.

April 10, 2008

Everybody loves a bank letter

Nat West
Collections Centre

0845 xxx xxxx

Dear ejh

Balance £266.53 DR
Limit £2000.00

As part of our continuing commitment to customer service we have taken the opportunity to review your account and note that there have been no credits to your account recently.

We shall be grateful if you wil ltelephhone us to discuss the situation. We would like to ensure that you are obtaining maximum benefit from your banking facilities. This may involve moving your borrowing onto a more appropriate lending product.

You can make payments into your account via our Internet payment facility. Log onto www.natwest.com/paybycard to make payments from your credit/debit card into your accounts.

If you have recently made a credit to your account, please ignore this letter.

Yours sincerely

Customer Service Manager

Dear Nat West

I am in receipt of your rather strange letter of 26 March observing that there have been no credits to my account recently and wondering whether I will telephone you to discuss the situation.

I do not think I will: in the first place, I live, as you are aware, outside the UK and unless you can assure me otherwise, my understanding is that such a call would be expensive for me to make. If you, on the other hand, wish to call me, you are of course welcome to do so and my numbers are appended below.

While I appreciate your aspiration to "ensure that you are obtaining maximum benefit from your banking facilities" I am perfectly satisfied with the present arrangement and do not remotely feel the need to move my "borrowing onto a more appropriate lending product". Indeed I am rather surprised that you raise the question at all. I am, by your own account, using only a small proportion of the overdraft facility which we mutually agreed would be appropriate: less than one-seventh, by my calculation. As your own figures above show, my balance remains at more than £1700 below the agreed overdraft limit.

Now, I don't actually recall making any agreement to make regular credits to my account. Not everybody who has a bank account is in receipt of a regular income and you were aware of that situation when we last agreed to renew my overdraft facility. I would not have requested its renewal had I not felt I might at some time need to use it and you would not have agreed to it had you not understood that this was possible.

This being the case, unless you're really under the impression that I propose to clean out my account to the full extent of my overdraft facility and disappear without trace – rather than, for instance, using a small proportion of an agreed overdraft facility with a degree of prudence and responsibility that could wisely be copied by many major financial institutions – would it be possible to cease troubling me with the suggestion that either my account or my financial conduct is in some way inappropriate?

I've been banking with NatWest for, I believe, a quarter of this century this coming October. If you think that's too long, then by all means say so.