Archive for February, 2011

It’s Started

Posted in The Big Society on February 25, 2011 by thecognitivekey

I must own up to not liking the concept of The Big Society. I don’t like David Cameron or his government either, but The Big Society seems to typify everything that is wrong with them and their thinking. It’s a means to justify the removal of hardworking people from their jobs to be replaced by free volunteers. Cut the costs regardless of the cost, is the message. Heartless and cruel. I would not be surprised if the poorhouse was introduced in our lifetime. The wealthy will be encouraged to do ‘good deeds’, the concept was reintroduced with the Good Causes of the National Lottery. We will be back in Victorian times in no time at all. I am against this, but that is for elsewhere in this blog.

On Saturday I was up at the QA Hospital to do a radio show, Pompey were playing at home so I was in to do the studio link job between commentators and patients. Without fail ever since I have been doing hospital radio there has been a receptionist on the desk to provide help for patients and visitors, every day of the week and at weekends. Not last Saturday. There was a volunteer wearing a How May I Help You badge. No receptionist, just a volunteer. He was in front of the desk so I guess not all the reception roles were being fulfilled, but I saw it as the start. The receptionist was back at the end of my show and was there on Sunday, so maybe it was just holiday or sickness. But the question is should permanent jobs be covered by volunteers? I think not. This is the thin end of the wedge.



Posted in Birds, Wildlife on February 25, 2011 by thecognitivekey

I have been feeding the wild birds in the garden for many years. Being in a small village surrounded by a good mix of fields, hedgerows and woodland means I get to see quite a variety of birds.

Goldfinches have been regular visitors to the bird bath for a quick drink. Usually in pairs they rarely stay very long. A quick sip and they are off.

Elizabeth had bought a nyjer seed feeder for her garden in the hope of encouraging more goldfinches to her garden. She has the odd goldfinch drinking at her bird bath. As you no doubt know, nyjer seeds are a favourite with goldfinches and the feeder is designed such that only goldfinches (or siskins) will feed at it. Elizabeth was having no luck, so I was given the feeder to try in my garden.

Within a day a pair of goldfinches were feeding, usually on opposite sides of the feeder. There are 4 feeding perches, two lower and two higher. The pairs of perches are 180 degrees apart. After a couple more days there were 4 goldfinches. But they were not using all the perches, only two goldfinches would feed at once. If another tried to land on a feeding perch a fight started immediately. It rather seems that goldfinches will only feed with their mate. Other goldfinches are driven off.

It was interesting to see these fights as the birds climb upwards in a spiral beating wings against each other, until one decides to leave the area. Many times a day there were fights.

Today I topped up the seeds and I noticed that the goldfinch is a messy feeder and drops a lot of seed on the ground. Oh no, more weeds to be removed.

Later, I noticed that there were 5 goldfinches. The usual fights ensued, then a sixth goldfinch arrived. Then for some reason a couple of the goldfinches moved to the grass and started eating the spilled seed there, they were joined by the other pair. So 2 goldfinches on the feeder and 4 on the ground. The odd thing was that the 4 on the ground didn’t mind each other’s company, had they been feeding or attempting to feed that close on the feeder there would have been a fight. So they can be social when the circumstances are right. Maybe there is no competition on the ground whereas they can see there are a limited number of feeding perches on the feeder. I don’t know the answer. But the goldfinch record for my garden currently stands at 6.

Odd sights

Posted in Walking on February 23, 2011 by thecognitivekey

Interesting things are walks, you can see all sorts of things going on.

On Sunday while on my short circular walk (just under 3 miles, out of the village and back) I saw a pair of jays. I do see the odd jay in the garden when I throw bread out, but this is the first time I have seen a pair.

Yesterday, while on the same short route, I was trying to spot a woodpecker which I could hear in the trees, when I came across a chap having a crap. I wouldn’t have noticed at all as he was deep in the undergrowth but my noisy walk must have disturbed him and so he was rushing to pull his trousers up, and it was the movement that announced his presence. He didn’t look my way and I wasn’t looking his way any longer. I just walked on past. What is the etiquette in these circumstances? A jolly, ‘Nice weather for it!’ or some other inanity or what. Poor chap must have been desperate as he could have driven his van into Wickham in 5 minutes and taken all the time in the world without interruption from walkers. Though I do hope he cleared up after him, it’s bad enough with the ignorant dog walkers leaving their mess everywhere.


Posted in Customer Service on February 22, 2011 by thecognitivekey

Actually as I typed the name Tiscali I thought, well it’s not really them who caused all this, but they are the ones who have hopefully resolved it.

It’s a long story and starts in August 2008 when I moved ito my present house. The telephone was with BT. Or it had been when I bought the house. BT disconnected the line the day I moved in, apparently because they hadn’t been told someone would be living in the house. Their engineers are a law unto themselves according to BT Customer Service. The bottom line was that if I wanted to have a telephone I would need to pay for a new line, currently £175 plus VAT and it would take 4 weeks.

People who know me will tell you how placid I am so you can imagine how annoyed I was with this as I told BT what I thought of them and where they could stick their new line.

I did rather need a telephone. There are some very tempting offers from companies like Virgin, but the village doesn’t have cable. That is another story – first new village to be built in Hampshire for over a century, we have no cable, no mobile signal that will support a conversation, a Victorian sewerage works operating at above capacity…the list goes on.

Tiscali stood out amongst those who could provide a line. The line installation would be free and take just 10 days. I would have to pay them a line rental etc etc. OK I said go for it. They were as good as their word, eventually. Customer Service for Tiscali was India based, try calling them on a dodgy mobile line. We got there in the end, and after the initial set-up I never had to deal with the Customer Service as the service was OK. Broadband speed is not up to much, but then what do you expect in a village with no cable, sewerage works that does. The line is the fault of BT. The exchange is an old one and not due for upgrade until 2011. So for now we suffer 512 kbps. It’s like living in the past.

Tiscali were taken over by TalkTalk. No problem there, they run as separate companies. TalkTalk called me to offer me a better package. I said I was happy with what I had, but they said I could have free telephone calls all day for the same price. OK I said put it in place. They sent loads of paperwork, but nothing that had a date on it. After a few weeks I called them, ah yes, they said, you should get everything soon. A few more weeks, still nothing, so I called them, ah yes, they said, someone has cancelled the order. They didn’t know who or why. As patient as I am I told hem to stuff it. The order had been cancelled, let it stay that way. If TalkTalk can’t sort out a simple matter of an order then what chance something complex. No thank you I said, I’ll stay with Tiscali.

Things carried on. I was with Tiscali, on a BT line getting an OK telephone service and a crap broadband speed. Then someone pointed out a CashBack site. By changing supplier I could get around £100 back. The company offering this are BT. Plus I can get a further £30 by taking out their credit card. I was there like a shot. Signed up and everything put in place. I called BT Customer Service to ask if I needed to do anything, no nothing, though they suggested I call Tiscali to let them know which I did.

On the due day the BT equipment turned up, plugged in and it worked like a dream. Broadband speed is still crap, but I get free calls all day long.

Tiscali continued to bill me however and it took a couple of months for me to convince them that I was with BT and that they owed me money. Eventually they cottoned on and refunds were paid. I thought that was the end of it.

But no. Having left Tiscali in September last year I get a bill from TalkTalk for February this year. Over £30. Not only that but they have charged it to my credit card. There then followed the most extraordinary set of emails. I will detail them below…in order (apologies for the fonts):

I used to have an account with Tiscali – but shortly after Tiscali was taken over by TalkTalk I decided to change ISP and telephone provider because TalkTalk were giving me very poor service. I changed to BT in September 2010 I think it was.

Today I receive an email from you with a link to a February bill….see below. The reference at the top is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. I have not checked this bill as I no longer have an account with you. I sincerely hope you do
not try to extract money to cover this ‘bill’.

Thank you

Quite clear I thought. TalkTalk replied

Dear Mr Sculpher,

Thank you for your recent email regarding your Tiscali account.

From your account number, I have established that your account belongs to Tiscali. Unfortunately, you have come through to an email address that provides support for TalkTalk customers. TalkTalk and Tiscali use different billing systems, so I’m unable to access your account details.

You can contact Tiscali by email at Contact Us or by phone on 0871 222 3311. Telephone support is provided during the following hours:

Technical Support: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Billing and Customer Care enquiries: 8am to 9pm, 7 days a week
Calls are charged at 10p a minute from BT landlines, or 5p a minute from a TalkTalk landline. Calls from mobiles or other networks may vary.

Before you contact Tiscali, please visit the dedicated online Answers section where you can get answers to common questions that customers ask about Tiscali products.

I would advise you to contact them via telephone, as their email link redirects emails to TalkTalk.

Kind regards,

Simlindele Blessing Nene,

TalkTalk Customer Relations

Excellent. So the organisation which has billed me, TalkTalk, is blaming Tiscali. Plus they are telling me to telephone Tiscali on a premium number as email just redirects to TalkTalk. I think not.


Thank you for your prompt reply.

You may make a distinction between TalkTalk and Tiscali – I don’t. The name at the top of the email I have been sent is TalkTalk. Not Tiscali, TalkTalk. If you have divisions within TalkTalk that deal with different things then you should redirect the email.

I have no account with either TalkTalk or Tiscali. I don’t care how your company resolves this. All I am asking is that you ensure that I am not billed for an account I don’t have.

To advise me to telephone as the email for Tiscali will route to TalkTalk is truly bizarre. If the email routes to you then deal with it! Certainly I shall not be telephoning a premium rate number to get resolved a problem which has been caused by your company. I would rather see the issue resolved in court with the full public gaze on the ineffectiveness of TalkTalk to run an efficient business.

Please direct this email to some part of your organisation that cares and is able to help.

Thank you

By this time I had contacted my credit card to have the charge suspended. I could see this was going to take a while

Dear Mr Sculpher,

Thank you for your email regarding your Tiscali account issue.

Your query requires that your account be located and accessed, a task I cannot complete as I do not have access to Tiscali’s billing system.

Please be advised that I do not have a facility where I can forward your email to Tiscali, which is why I advised you to contact them. The only contact details I have for them I have already made available to you.

Please click here for details on contacting Tiscali.

Kind regards,

Simlindele Blessing Nene,
TalkTalk Customer Relations.

The link for contacting Tiscali was – this is just a file which lists useful information, it isn’t part of the TalkTalk or Tiscali organisation. But I followed it and found an email address for Tiscali.

This is the first time I have written to you at Tiscali about this but I have written twice to TalkTalk. They tell me they are unable to help…a state I find incredible

The complaint I have is that I have received an email telling me I have a bill ready to view for February – this has been sent to

I haven’t had an account with Tiscali since August 2010. I do not appreciate getting bills for closed accounts. I am unable to see the bill as the account no longer allows access to me.

Below is the email trace between me and TalkTalk. TalkTalk are very polite, which is an improvement but they are unable to help.

Sort it please.

And a quick reply from Tiscali from a new name: Miriam Matouskova

Dear Mr Sculpher,

Thank you for your email concerning your billing issue, the contents of which have been noted.

Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience which may have been caused as a result of the issue which you are experiencing.

As per our records this issue is currently under investigation.

I can advise you to contact us again within next 72 hours for an update.

We thank you for your patience and assistance in this matter.
Kind regards,

Tiscali Customer Relations

Not sure about the part of me contacting them, but it does say they are investigating. Then another email from Tiscali:

Since responding to your support request a few days ago, we have not heard back from you. If you are still having problems, please let us know immediately and we will continue to try and resolve your issue. If your problem has been resolved, you do not need to respond to this message, we will automatically close the case we have open for you.

Hmm. I am not sure they understand, so try again:


I am sorry you think the problem has been resolved. I was under the impression that you were investigating the issue. I would expect you to come to me with an update
Let me restate the issue:
In September 2010 I closed my Tiscali account
In February 2011 I received an e-mail from TalkTalk stating that there is a bill for February available. On the 8th Feb my credit card was debited almost £36.
Neither Tiscali nor TalkTalk are providing a service to me. The charge against my credit card is incorrect. I do not understand what authority you are using to charge my credit card as I have no account with you.
I am expecting you to remove the charge from my credit card.
I hope this makes things clear.
Thank you

Then a reply from the TalkTalk Customer Service, another new name: Mark Cummins:

Dear Mr. Sculpher,

Thank you for your email.

I do apologise for the bad experience you received with us please be assured TalkTalk endeavours to provide our customers with an efficient and professional service and to resolve those issues brought to our attention in a timely manner. When a customer feels we have fallen below this standard and received poor customer service, this is a situation that we regret and we endeavour to take on board all comments made with a view to improving our services. In this case our current procedures have failed to deliver the service you required. Please accept our apologies for this and be assured that we are constantly adapting our methods in an effort to remedy any failures which become apparent.

I have requested a refund for £32.52, please allow up to 10 working days for the refund to be processed back to your credit card.

I assure you the account is cancelled and the billing account closed.

If you have any further issues, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We thank you for your patience and assistance in this matter.

Kind regards,

Mark Cummins
Talk Talk Customer Relations

Hurrah, we appear to be getting somewhere. Then from TalkTalk…

Since responding to your support request a few days ago, we have not heard back from you. If you are still having problems, please let us know immediately and we will continue to try and resolve your issue. If your problem has been resolved, you do not need to respond to this message, we will automatically close the case we have open for you.

So…I replied

Thank you for your note. In your note before this one you said that you would process a refund to my credit card – this will take 10 working days you said. I shall not consider this issue closed until I have seen the refund processed onto my credit card account.

You can close the issue if your procedures demand it be closed, however I reserve the right to reopen the issue if the promised resolution does not happen within the published timescale
Thank you

Let us hope it is at an end now. I fear I shall not be using TalkTalk in the future.

Where to start?

Posted in General on February 21, 2011 by thecognitivekey

Starting is the hard part. There are things I want to write about but the difficulty is just sitting down and writing about it. Maybe it’s something that will just develop with time. I hope so.

Areas I want to write about (maybe listing them will encourage me to write before the trail gets too cold):

  • Customer service with TalkTalk
  • The modern appraisal process at work
  • The Big Society
  • The proposed Fareham ghetto

Oh no! It’s starting to look like a whole list of complaints. I am sure there are things which are good to write about too, it’s just that nothing springs to mind right this minute. I could mention the goldfinches feeding in the garden, the book I am reading. There are loads of things which aren’t a moan. I guess the blog will end up as a mix of glad tidings and groans. Only time will tell.

The First Post

Posted in General on February 19, 2011 by thecognitivekey

This is the First Post in this new blog…as such it is one of the shortest posts I shall make. The Last Post is something completely different