The Blog of Zakspade
|February 2019 Archive||Contact me|
...as a Post?
Thursday 28 February, 2019
Faced with an irate client, the Brown & Merry head office, Rightmove, Zoopla, and the possibility that I might end up sat in their office having a very loud (not shouting) conversation within earshot of anyone who walked in the front door of their branch, the manager has actually listened.
Last night he listened. He hadn’t been apprised of the full picture. All he knew was what his staff had told him. And it seems that that staff hadn’t conveyed the degree of dissatisfaction that existed.
Whether it was an attempt to cover up what was plainly an unacceptable situation or a straightforward miscommunication of events – I cannot say, nor will I speculate.
However, once he had gone away and investigated and, presumably, asked questions of his staff based upon what was said to him, and evidenced in that letter, he came back and agreed to take down the Listings (done, thank you), and he waived the 28 days Notice – he terminated the Agreement with immediate effect, and that was in writing.
The branch was not totally deaf as a post – the branch manager certainly wasn’t.
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Wednesday 27 February, 2019
Brown and Merry, Leighton Buzzard. Not an estate agent to deal with, it appears.
On Saturday 23 February 2019, I handed a letter to the Residential Sales Valuer who signed us up in the first place. He opened the envelope and then read the letter as I stood there. The contents of the letter appear below (my italics to keep it distinct):
This letter is the required 28 days Notice to end any and all Agreements between [my wife and I] of the above address [contained in the letterhead], and Sequence (trading as Brown & Merry).
During this period, you are forbidden to display any marketing, or conduct any negotiation regarding the property which has effectively been withdrawn from sale.
He and I discussed the implementation of the letter contents. In addition I told him that if he and/or Sequence wish to hold me to the 28 days Notice period, rather than allow both sides to 'cut their losses,' then I would spend those 28 days making sure that I would dissuade as many prospective clients as possible.
I also let him know I was aware that just two lost clients was over £8,000 in lost trade, adding that if I didn't hear anything by Tuesday, I would assume that the 28 days is being enforced and I would act accordingly.
Our break from Brown and Merry, Leighton Buzzard was due to the inability of the agency to accept, or act on instructions; or have the politeness to return calls after a reply was promised. Basically their approach to communication shook our confidence in their ability to market our property properly.
The Notice was given THREE days after a Listing was supposed to Go Live, but over two weeks after the Agreement was signed. The Listing had gone online a week early (which rightly annoyed the estate agent engaged at that time), and only came down after a phone call from me. Then it went back up a day after the ‘Go Live’ date (which was very clearly known as it was in writing).
As of Tuesday evening (yesterday), nothing was heard from Brown and Merry.
And to rub salt into the wounds, as of Wednesday afternoon, our property is STILL Listed on Rightmove, Zoopla, and their own website. I rang Sequence head office (owner of Brown and Merry, and located in the same building as Connells head office) and asked them to have the Leighton Buzzard branch act on the letter because the reason we gave them Notice was precisely because of their inability to co-operate/take instructions, and as I had no wish to talk to a 'brick wall,' would they be so kind as to communicate our instruction?
There was no need to perform an identity check, or the veracity of that instruction – all that was needed was for the branch to be reminded to look at the letter already in their possession. It would be pleasing if the Listings were taken down, if only because the details are wrong and misleading (another reason for leaving them).
Two hours later, the Listings are still up. It seems the head office can’t get them to comply either. My wife just phoned the branch and spoke to the same person I handed the letter to last Saturday. She asked for the listings to be taken down. He assured her they would. She added, ‘With immediate effect.’ He agreed it would be so.
Investigation reveals that a Listing on Rightmove can be taken down (made invisible) within 10 seconds.
Brown and Merry, Leighton Buzzard – an estate agency to avoid, methinks.
Sunday 24 February, 2019
I think many have read, or been told, that moving is one of Life’s more stressful moments. Depending on the source, it is above, or below, or in the region of divorce, marriage, or becoming a parent. Estate agents are there to help us who wish to sell our properties and move on to pastures afresh.
Interesting use of the word, help I hear some of you mutter. And indeed, I can’t disagree.
One particular estate agent in the area in which my wife and I are looking, engages in a practise that I personally find abhorrent: they list properties that are either, Sold Subject to Contract, or Under Offer as being freely on the market. Their name? Keenans Estate Agents.
But don’t they all do that?
Well, I can’t say for sure, but estate agents sometimes appear a little tardy in changing the description of the properties they are offering. The reason is that anyone contacting them to enquire about a particular property can be steered towards an alternative. It is no different to a shop displaying goods in their windows and when potential customers walk in, members of staff tell them that the items are not available, and offer them an alternative.
Consumer laws exist to protect the Public from that sort of thing but, sadly, it doesn’t apply to estate agents.
Unfortunately I haven’t kept a full log of the antics of this particular estate agency chain because it was a while before I realised that I wasn’t just unlucky to be showing interest in something that was sold just as I enquired. After an exchange over a particular property, caused by my being annoyed to again have missed something, I received an email from them that explained the following:
We do regularly update the marketing
on our website alongside the other portals that we use including
Rightmove and Zoopla. However, we only mark the properties as
'sold' once the survey is back and both parties are committed to
proceed, this way anybody who enquires whilst the property is showing as
available can have their details added to the file in the case the sale
I can see how that works, but if buyers take over six weeks to arrange a survey, then I think I would be telling them to go away and bother someone else. In addition, said estate agents (Keenans – remember?) seem to be unaware that a survey, result or undertaking, is not a binding commitment in any form whatsoever. As the law stands at present in England, a buyer can pull out up to the point of Exchange of Contracts, without penalty.
The matter was taken up with Rightmove and The Property Ombudsman. The former doesn’t (at the moment) have any T&Cs that the estate agent has breached because, as Rightmove explained to me, they have never experienced such behaviour with an estate agent, and nor had they anticipated it because it is a poor practise only likely to annoy potential customers.
Agreed, but only if it is spotted – and I spotted it. Keenans estate agents even outlined it in writing to me. Result!
While it may not breach any of the T&Cs in place at Rightmove, they have agreed that said estate agents (Keenans) are guilty under the 2013 Act of misdescribing properties through wilfully mislabelling their status to the market.
I am watching to see what happens next...
Z200: My Story of Ownership
Monday 18 February, 2019
Written in 1988 (gosh, over 30 years ago!) and published in a motorcycle magazine in 1989, 30 years ago this month, under the title, Z200 Education.
It was the first piece I ever wrote and submitted for publication, but because of a lack of understanding over lead-in times, and the like, a long delay hearing back had me rewrite it in first person from the motorcycle’s point of view. That went into print in a different magazine just ahead of this version as, Kawasaki Z200: An Autobiography.
It creaks; it groans; it grates, but it was The First.
- o - O - o -
Now, I’m the sort of motorcyclist that likes to ride nice bikes, but even superbike riders fall on hard times – I was wiped out by a drunk driver and left desperate for transport to commute to work.
Enter the Z200. It wasn’t quite that easy. In fact, I was so fed up with old hacks at inflated prices that by the time I saw the Z200 I took in the nice condition and elderly owner and bought it without a close inspection.
Well, it only cost £110 and had a new MOT, but the forks were as pitted as the average spotty 15 year-old because the crafty bugger had turned the stanchions around in the yokes.
The chain sounded a bit dry even though it was well oiled and it could be pulled right off the sprocket. Amazing what you can do when you remove a few links. The rear tyre was a square section Avon Speedmaster.
Despite all this, the first three months
were trouble-free. Then the bike sounded throaty. It looked like,
‘bye-bye exhaust,’ until a friend came to the rescue with some welding
equipment and a steady hand. Apparently, all Z200s rot behind the rear
mounting plate. This is almost impossible to weld and you need to
fabricate small plates to turn the mounting plate into a box, thereby
caging in those nasty hydrocarbons.
Unique to my bike, as far as I can gather, the Z200 slips out of fourth gear when held on to up hills, or two-up. Getting around this problem involves accepting a top speed of 50-55mph two-up, into headwinds, or up slopes. No real problem.
The summer of ’87 wasn’t noted for its drought conditions and on a few occasions the Z had to carry rider and pillion (25 stone) on 80-100 mile trips in downpours in search of a ‘proper’ bike.
Only once did the bike let us down. On the motorway there was a ticking sound from the rear and I edged over to the hard shoulder, whereupon the sound ceased. However, as soon as I began to accelerate back onto the main carriageway, the noise would return.
I pulled onto the hard shoulder we got off the bike. We couldn’t see anything obviously wrong with it, so I put it on the centre stand and ran it up through the gears. And upon engaging top gear, the chain shot off the back. Well, I hadn’t actually replaced the chain and examination revealed broken side-plates.
Z200s are easy to push.
Vibration isn’t intrusive but it does eat
headlamp bulbs. They only seem to last 1,500-2,000 miles. The rear
Skidmaster has covered 11,000 miles under my hand and had travelled
done 2,000-3,000 miles when I bought the bike. The tyre’s left on
because, amazingly, it doesn’t upset the handling too much! The original
Jap front tyre was thrown away at 19,000 miles when it started to rot.
The front brake is a cable operated disc and only squeals the front tyre
under extreme madman type braking over fields of mice. Pads therefore
last a long time.
Neither front nor rear suspension has much damping left, and I’ve fitted gaiters on the front forks to keep what little oil remains off the front tyre. Despite this, the chosen line usually remains the chosen line. The bike feels quite sure-footed and you can annoy riders on much larger and more expensive bikes.
A break in the wiring loom at the headstock caused a few curses to fill the air, resulting in no lights. The points wore sufficiently by 17,500 miles to cause a misfire, however, a strip down enabled me to grind the faces flat and they were finally replaced at 20,000 miles for £3.
General maintenance is easy enough as long as you can undo the screws that hold on the various covers. The timing is set by on-the-road experimentation: set points gap, leaving cover off; ride bike up slight gradient, changing up at 5,000rpm until top gear; select braking point; note revs in top gear at this point. Alter timing slightly each time until maximum speed is achieved. Strangely, this doesn’t match up with the timing marks when using a strobe (Editorial note: – engines produce more power the more advanced the timing, the hotter the engine gets thus the more likely a holed piston!)
Kawasaki claim 18hp and contemporary
magazines quote 14hp at the back wheel. Those same mags managed a true
80mph out of the little OHC single, so it’s powerful enough to keep all
those restricted 125s in their proper place.
My misfortune at being skint at a time when I needed a cheap mode of transport opened my eyes to a solid, dependable little mount. I’ve proved to myself that you don’t have to think big to have fun on motorcycles, but it didn’t stop me buying a Yamaha YPVS.
On that Editorial note: the timing according to the marks was RETARDED and not advanced. However, when I wrote the piece, I never made that clear. A lesson learnt.
Saturday 16 February, 2019
With a big rugger footing-the-ball event currently taking place, now is the time to post this.
It was written in 2002 and appeared in print in an anthology, 2005 as the, The Box.
- o - O - o -
Today I’m going to leave you,
Thursday 14 February, 2019
My last Blog entry threatened a longer piece of poetry, and here it is!
It doesn’t seem to read silently very well, but works more as a piece of ‘performance poetry’ – but as I can’t claim to be a poet, I’ll not pass judgement.
Originally written in 1993, it was 2002 before I let anyone see or hear it. It found itself being ‘performed’ at a variety of groups before being sold for publication in an anthology of poems in 2005.
- o - O - o -
You relaxed this evening; you enjoyed your meal,
He escorted you home, to keep you safe,
You asked him in to say, ‘thank you’ and, ‘goodnight’,
With this in mind, you led him there,
By now you had taken fright,
From that moment you lost control,
Panicking now, thinking as he started,
As he got firmly set in his stride,
And, how do I know what you did tonight,
Tuesday 12 February, 2019
Although I tell people that I publish articles, essays and general prose, I tend to forget to say I write poetry from time to time as well.
My inspiration was the sight of a hirsute friend of mine trying to feed his son in a high chair. The efforts the little chap made to evade the spoon had to be seen to be believed.
Not the longest piece I've written, but I've more and longer to come...
Hairy Fingers was written in 2002 and was published in a book of poetry in 2003.
- o - O - o -
Hairy fingers feeding me,
What Makes a Classic Motorcycle?
Sunday 10 February, 2019
Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth’s surface, I used to write mainly for motorcycle magazines. This article came about after a friend commented upon having read a book seemingly written by someone who had swallowed a dictionary.
As we were in the pub, an alcohol-linked idea came to me and the result was, What Makes a Classic Motorcycle? The by-line came about because an author called Salman Rushdie wrote a novel called The Satanic Verses. He and his publicist over-egged it and upset religious fundamentalists who made threats against his life. He made a mint from the book, but it cost the Taxpayer millions of pounds for the security the state generously provided, while their sales lined his pockets.
Long story, short: I chose to write under the name, Simon Rusty.
* The (what? Ed) only appeared when published at the end of October 1990, and isn’t me.
- o - O - o -
What makes a classic motorcycle? What is it that makes perfectly sane, normal people go out and buy a motorcycle – wreck or otherwise – purely on the strength of what it is, rather than what it can do, or how well it can (or can’t) do it?
An answer can be found in any place that motorcyclists gather to worship in the presence of that great mentor, nay, god – that omnipotent being – Alcohol!
Many a night has seen the same answer given to the faithful: a classic motorcycle possesses character.
But should we take Alcohol’s answer at face value or should we delve deeper into the word itself to see if there is a hidden message? Indeed I feel we should, even if it means that the less enlightened amongst us, who feel we should practise Alcoholism with a closed mind, leap up at our throats to chide us for our blasphemy. Surely it is the more open minded amongst us, not the bigots, who will ultimately further the teachings of the Great Alcohol.
But I digress. Let us look closer at the word character, for this is the specific word offered as explanation to our question. I am indebted to the 1949 edition of the Browne & Nolan Dictionary for the following definition of the word character. This obscure edition was procured with the intention of thwarting those with a propensity toward querulous etymological argument.
Character. (ka-). Noun. What does this tell us? Not a lot, other than it is a noun and that the pronunciation of the ch is not as in the word chair but as in c in the word cat. But lo! There is more, and lest I am accused of prolixity, I shall progress.
Messers Browne & Nolan continue thus, a letter, sign or any distinctive mark. Hmm, does this mean that all motorcycles are classics? After all, Hondas bear a distinctive pair of wings on the flanks of some of their machines’ petrol tanks, as Yamaha do with their tuning fork motif. Is the FS1E moped really a classic? I saw a Honda H100 parked in the street the other day with a dent in its tank. A distinctive mark wouldn’t you say? Was that particular Honda a classic motorcycle? Wait! Listen to what Messers Browne & Nolan have written in addition to what has already been quoted before you make a judgement.
An essential feature, continues the definition, thus reinforcing the incongruous conclusion already arrived at, being that all motorcycles are classics. This, through logical, inexpugnable (what? Ed)* argument, reasons that since all motorcycles require wheels (an essential feature, although I am willing to admit that there might be a few of you out there who disagree), it follows that all motorcycles, with wheels at least, are classics.
So far, it is hard to escape the fact that maybe the great Alcohol, (praish be hish name), doesn’t agree with the ideas of some of the faithful who would have it written that some bikes are more classic that others. Indeed, it seems inescapable, other than to the pachyderms amongst us, the idea that Alcohol’s teachings (wisdom aninlightomunt innis wurds) are directed at the fact that all motorcycles are equal, and therefore equally classic. It must be pellucid to the open-minded follower that this is so.
Let us escape from this tedious tautology and continue with the definition, nature, the innate (inborn) or essential qualities of a thing. This goes totally against what we have been led to believe makes a classic bike. Surely some of today’s classics contain no inborn qualities worth mentioning! The total of qualities making up an individuality, seems to suggest that classics, by the convention applied by collectors to these beasts, should be rogues. Is there a suggestion, perhaps, that all motorcycles are unreliable rogues through equality, as by definition so far, all motorcycles are classics.
Moral qualities; the reputation of possessing them. Certainly, it is a belief that certain British bikes are classics. Is this because they have no morals when deciding to break down at the most inopportune moment? Some British bikes definitely have a reputation for this quality and I can only suppose that this is why the label of classic has been applied. Obviously, Alcohol (his spirit ish evryrare) is wiser than we think or can even start to imagine.
A person noted for eccentricity. If one can modify this to: a thing noted for eccentricity, then certainly a lot of the bikes regarded to be classics fit the bill. Indeed, quite a few lemons fit this criteria too.
Now let us reflect upon what has been said upon the definition of character. To say that a bike possesses character is to say that it has a name, mark or logo of a distinctive nature upon it belonging, possibly a manufacturer’s badge or an overly close passing of an errant Volvo. The classic motorcycle will have wheels. It will be unreliable and/or have a habit of being unpredictable in its nature. It should be known by all that the bike possesses these strange qualities. It should be an eccentric curiosity.
So it would seem that, according to the elucidatory teachings of Alcohol (may he f’ever bring shweetnesh shof breath), that to be seen to be riding around on a classic machine is to be seen riding an unreliable heap of junk with wheels and the guilty manufacturer’s name on the tank.
It is with great sagacity that I have decided to make this know to the faithful. I feel qualified to do so as I consider myself to be close to the great Alcohol. Indeed, you may consider me to be one of his greatest disciples – an Alcoholic under the influence of his Master – hic – cheers!
Darwin and Smoking
Friday 8 February, 2019
Darwin’s piece appeared in my local paper in June 2016.
He isn’t old enough to remember the smoking beagle laboratories back in 1975. Naturally, I am not old enough either (ahem!), but I read more than he does – that’s how I know.
- o - O - o -
Apparently, I’m not good on a lead.
Not exactly sure what that means, but what I do know is that whenever I am in town and attached by a line to my owner, he tends to keep tugging me. He reckons it wouldn’t be the problem it is if it wasn’t for the narrow paths alongside some of the roads running through Leighton Buzzard.
Personally I don’t have a problem with narrow pathways as it means that anyone coming the other way is forced to come close enough to me to be licked and slobbered over, except ... my owner reins me in close and keeps me to the far side and away from whoever is coming our way.
I guess it isn’t all bad as when we get home my owner gives me treats for not jumping on people or pulling him into the road.
Most times when we walk through town, people stop and talk to my owner in order to admire and make a fuss of me. Sometimes my admirers are smokers. I know this because I am a beagle. We are known for our acute sense of smell in addition to our incredible good looks and intelligence.
It doesn’t bother me when a smoker scratches me behind the ear because it saves me having to roll in anything I find in the park and so saves my owner yelling at me.
However, my owner, being much taller than I am, has him complaining to me about the fad smokers seem to have for walking along with their lit cigarettes held at thigh height and away from their body. I reckon they think it stops their arms smelling of cigarette smoke, but my nose knows different.
Why is being taller than me a problem?
Well, I walk under held out cigarettes while my owner has to dodge around them when we come across a walking smoker on a narrow footpath.
Frankly, I think he worries too much. It doesn’t bother me, although the chap whose cigarette ash fell off onto the top of my head while he and my owner talked, really ought to have given me a tasty treat by way of an apology.
Wednesday 6 February, 2019
The telecoms company, TalkTalk, created an account in my mother’s name in error. They assured everyone that this was impossible.
After many communications, TalkTalk understood that my mother didn’t want their service, they ended it – and charged her an Early Termination Fee.
And so began the fun of taking TalkTalk to a tribunal so as to stop them bullying and harassing my mother. Their threats and demands for payment were becoming a joke – but markedly less so when they continued during the appeal process – which, according to the Regulator meant they were in breach of their legal obligations.
TalkTalk proved throughout the process that they had a very limited grasp of the truth – something very clearly illustrated by my being party to their defence documents which were totally at odds with their own words held by me in the very large file of correspondence I kept during their concerted period of dishonesty.
For instance, this was in their defence
lodged with CISAS 07/12/2018:
And this if an extract from a TalkTalk
letter dated 17/07/2018 in which a TalkTalk Customer Relations
operative (Zakithi Kweyama) claims my mother was trying to evade payment
by feigning ignorance:
The grammar is precisely as it appeared in the letter and isn’t merely a transcription error on my part as it was copied to be displayed up here.
My mother moved into the property Friday 20/04/2018.
In the end, the case against them was proven, and they were ordered to do a number of things – one of them was to write a letter of apology to my mother. This they did after the deadline had passed and I had lodged a Non-compliance Notice against them.
Even then, TalkTalk managed to demonstrate their inability to adhere to anything like the truth. They apologised for not carrying out my mother’s order properly. That wasn’t the issue and the ruling against them very clearly stated that TalkTalk had created an account that was not ordered and not required, in error.
On top of that they have kept the £12.71 they stole from my mother when they took payment for the bogus account. The option presented to her is to take the matter to the Small Claims Court. The whole thing would probably end up costing TalkTalk somewhere in the region of £200 just to refund the money they owed to my mother. However, there is an alternative.
Instead of claiming the money back my mother will let them keep it in return for our telling as many people as possible what TalkTalk did to her. TalkTalk manage a profit of about 9.25% on turnover, before taxes and write-downs etc. With a £25 monthly package and an 18 month tie-in, that means an expected £41.63 per contract/customer. If, between us, we actively dissuade ten people from taking up with TalkTalk, then it comes to over £400. I intend to log the amount as it increases and communicate it to TalkTalk along the way.
That’s the plan.
Archie and Water
Friday 1 February, 2019
The question that arose was: Why should Darwin Beagle – a mere dog – be thought of as a wordsmith, when I – a cat – can do better?
And so, back in 2016 Archie Cat ended up writing for my local newspaper.
In November 2018, this appeared as, We cats are not afraid of water!
- o - O - o -
It is one of those Great Truths that cats either don’t like water, or are afraid of it. The real truth is that it depends on circumstances.
If someone picks me up and drops me off the roof of a house into a small puddle then I will be decidedly unhappy. My guess is that the same would be true for all cats – dogs as well, I’d wager. When it is raining and I am outside, I will shelter from it and normally can be found under a parked car, or in a doorway.
It is usually a question of comfort.
There is another reason I seek to avoid becoming wet, and it is nothing to do with being afraid. Have you seen the mess made by water on a well groomed fur coat? Why on earth would I want to be seen all wet and bedraggled? The image we cats have is that of well coiffed, refined beings, with impeccable taste and style.
That’s the image. The reality is that we are well coiffed, refined beings, with impeccable taste and style.
Add water to just about anything and the result tends to be messy, although one possible exception is that of fish. They look so tasty and inviting as they glide through water. Just the thought of one effortlessly swimming along make me think of extending my claws so that I may... No, not fish. I’m not talking about fish. I’m beyond fish. I’m bigger than mere fish. I am a superior form of life, with better coiffed fur.
And fish don’t have fur. That’s how much lower down the ladder of life they are than us cats.
Water is otherwise my friend. If I am thirsty, I will drink it. In fact, the dogs in my house always allow me to drink their water. That said, if I had thumbs, I wouldn’t bother with tap water. I would only drink the finest mineral water: an expensive brand that reflects my status. I feel sure that the human who thinks of herself as being my owner would be happy to buy me as many bottles as I desire.
I wouldn’t let the dogs near it. They don’t have the same level of refinement that I do; consequently they wouldn’t be able to appreciate it.
If the leaders of this country were to see sense they would give us cats more freedom and rights. We would have The Vote and be in receipt of bottled water for life. And, due to the tiny shortcoming of having no opposable digits, humans would be assigned to each of us to open our bottles.
The fact is that cats embrace water. Not literally, you understand, unless it was frozen, and then we wouldn’t try because it would be too cold. But water is a good thing – as long as we are not suffering because of it.
So, as you can see, we neither dislike nor fear water.