Tales From The River Bank


BT excelled themselves today. Readers will remember that on 18th December I had cancelled my useless Broadband package, and retained the landline, having to create a new account to include £5 per month to keep my e-mail address. I was told that this new account would be in my name. Even though the payment has come out of my bank account for years they have never been willing to substitute my name for that of Mrs Stockley, who is in any case now, once again, Mrs Knight.

The latest bill still includes the full package, so I went through the hoops and the wait to speak to a man with an Indian accent. He was very helpful. He assured me that there would be a refund on the next bill. But. That is still in the name of Mrs Stockley. It cannot be changed. I politely expressed my displeasure. Eventually the gentleman told me it could be changed at the cost of £50. I hit the roof, and demanded that this be lodged as a formal complaint. It took him a while, but he returned saying he had done so, and included  something to compensate for the ineffective Broadband. A manager will call me back within 48 hours. We will see.

Believe it or not, British Gas then capped this. I received, in the post, a bill for almost £700, including a sum of more than £650 I had paid by phone on 11th. I telephoned them. I went through more hoops. And another wait. I learned that the payment, like many others, had not gone through, because of a fault in their system. I was advised to check with my bank that this was so. I expressed displeasure at having to do this. The woman at British Gas offered to call me back in 20 minutes to check. My bank statement confirmed what she had said. She did ring me back. I paid the money and advised her that a simple letter of explanation enclosed with the bill would have been in the interests of customer service – something that her company could well do with.

Later, I decided to go on a long walk. Not, this time, literally. The trip was undertaken in July 2003 in a supportive fundraising effort for the epic row Sam was to undertake the following year. I have featured various anecdotes from the walk, the first appearing in ‘Nettle Rash’, before I had unearthed the negatives. I began to scan them today.

Sam took delivery of the specially designed rowing boat at Henley on Thames, and off we set on a fine Summer’s afternoon around the time of my 61st birthday. He and his friend James took the boat, whilst I walked along what I had hoped would be the footpath. I soon discovered that the banks of the River Thames and the Oxford Union canal were not as smooth and foliage free as that branch of London’s Regent’s Canal alongside which I had trained for the event.

Couple on riverbank 7.03

The stretch along which I followed this couple was plain sailing in comparison with what I had to battle through in the post highlighted above.

Lock gate 7.03

Elderly lock gates, green tresses dripping with possibly unsavoury water, were to be a regular feature of the journey. This was quite useful, as it gave me an opportunity to catch up.

Waterfowl 7.03

Waterfowl were plentiful;

Suckling goat 7.03

a woolly goat, or perhaps a sheep, suckled its young;


slightly older horse riders ambled leisurely along;

Lichen 7.03

and yellow ochre lichen clung to knobbly branches.


Numerous bridges were to be negotiated.

This house is one of those in which I enjoyed a peaceful overnight stay. The story of the most notable exception is told in ‘An Uncomfortable Night’.

These fields were probably located in the vicinity of the above house.

This evening, over dinner, we experienced more of faceless moneymakers’ scant regard for customer service. Our meal was taken at The Raj in Old Milton. On this Saturday night the carpark was virtually empty and, although the restaurant was doing brisk takeaway business, we were the only diners. The first thing we noticed was that, entering the parking area as usual we found ourselves passing through no entry sign. Then came the frequent notices stating that parking at any time, was only permitted for 20 minutes and anyone overstaying would be charged £100. Jackie parked in the street outside and I spoke to the  manager. Apparently, with no warning whatever to the row of shops fronting the parking area, the landlord of some of the buildings has implemented the restriction. Many of the outlets, including The Raj, are freeholders who bought their buildings with free parking included. The first owners of the Raj building did so in 1962. There are two other caterers in the block. None of their customers could eat and leave in 20 minutes. All the occupants of the block have joined in making a legal protest.

Jackie chose chicken sag; I chose king prawn khata; we shared a plain paratha and special fried rice, and both drank Cobra beer.

56 responses to “Tales From The River Bank”

  1. The idiocies of your corpratic/bureaucratic world almost out-do the quintessentially Englishness of some of these photos. The header photo is stunning and I love the reflected bridge too. I wish you well with your ongoing battles – sometimes a bit of righteous anger can actually bring about satisfactory results……

  2. It seems that sometimes the only way we get any ‘service’ from these ‘service centers’ is to shout, both figuratively and literally at them. Your stamina is impressive. 🙂

  3. Keep up the good fight, Derrick. The squeaky wheel does eventually get the oil. My father fought with his home builder for over a year concerning a drainage issue on their lot. Last week, they finally acknowledged his complaint and have begun to address the problem. That bridge photo is amazing!

  4. When I moved to Melbourne I found for the first time that I had a water usage bill. So I paid it. Next quarter I received a bill and I paid that. It seemed to me that I was paying an awful lot so I rang the company and they told me I was in credit and I should have read the very tiny words that said “Do not pay this amount.” These words were reasonably close to the large “Amount payable” notice. After 2 years I am still in credit and they still send me an account marked “Amount payable.” I have written to them every time asking for a refund of the amount I have over payed, but I am told that their system doesn’t have an system for refunds.

  5. I do get a sense of schadenfreude when I read about someone who has similar troubles as my own with customer services, particularly when these are over the telephone. All compensated for by the pleasure derived from your great photo-journalism. Thank you, Derrick.

  6. I find so much of my time is wasted by poor service in business staffed by idiots. It took me 4 hours to oder a fridge and set up shipping for a friend, then they botched the shipping. Glad you escaped to salvage part of the day.

  7. I thought there were only Ten Commandments Derrick, our societies seemed to have over burdened our lives with an over-abundance of trivial rules and regulations, that would definitely NOT fit in a book the size of our bible………

  8. Excellent choice of compositions, and quite the tale to go with them. The title immediately took me back to childhood and the whimsical & surreal adventures of Hammy Hamster & his friends. Did you know that it was initially done as a pilot by a Canadian for CBC ? The CBC in their wisdom turned it down, so he crossed the pond and got it made in England.

    The chicken sag also has an interesting personal connection – Alex, our son, was up over the holidays and prepared his version of curried chicken & spinach for our anniversary.

    Thanks for the lovely post – I will now have Hammy Hamster, Alex’s meal, and your wonderful captured river scenes linked in my memory. 🙂

    The less said about the frustrating bureaucracies of current service providers the better. I should relate the tale of our previous dishwasher one day – full of laughter and tears, mostly tears – but we are now slowly getting over the trauma, and do not wish for any flashbacks. 😀

  9. I gave up trying to get a credit from my previous telecommunications company as the amount was relatively little in comparison to the hours I was spending chasing it. AND I had several years of problems with the gas company. Seems these guys have implemented a world-wide policy of bumbling bureaucracy. Reminds me of a poster we used to have in the foyer of one of my previous employers (in the days when you could joke at work) – “It’s not that we’re inefficient, it’s just that the secrecy of our job prevents us from knowing what we are doing.”

  10. Service companies tend to be really bad when they are government related or quasi GR. Hopefully your issues will be solved soon. Good you could console yourself with the beautiful photography of 2003 and delight us with the same

  11. I don’t know if it’s comforting or disheartening to know that corporations and bureaucracies are the same all over the world. Keep on complaining and fighting, Derrick! We are all cheering you on.
    My siblings and I have been dealing with the healthcare system and government for my mom’s care. The process to get her assistants and assistance paid for is going to take months–no matter that she is already 95.

    The bridge photos is stunning.

  12. Oh Derrick I so sympathise with you my friend, I so know what going through those Hoops takes as we hang on and press this button then that on our phones to be connected and then you get no further when speaking directly with someone.
    I wish you luck with your BT my friend and have dealings with British Gas myself.. xx
    No wonder you needed some Calm time by a river xx 🙂

  13. I feel for you and Jackie, dealing with bureaucracy of all kinds over there. Not unlike what we have at times experienced over here. What I have found sometimes works, and I am about to do here with another vexing corporation, is to draft a letter to the CEO of the company. The CEOs and Board members do not like these kind of letters, expecting those below to take of problems. One sometimes has to dig, but the information on corporate HQ should be online, somewhere. Good luck, and may The Force be with you! 🙂

  14. The fields harvested in golden tones and that perfectly reflected bridge were gorgeous captures, Derrick.
    I’m so glad when you turned 61, you had an outing with Sam and his friend James. Boating is quite relaxing on what appears to be a slow moving River Thames. 🌞

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