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Last Month's Newsletter

July 2006

Dear Visitor,

I said I hoped I wouldn’t disappear again, and then I left it until after the middle of July before I wrote. I’m sorry. And I haven’t really got much of an excuse this time – Wimbledon and the World Cup had a lot to do with it, and then stuff happened. I couldn’t really tell you what stuff – it was just that every time I thought how I really must do the work on the website, something happened to interfere with my good intentions. Story of my life, really.

But what’s happening now is old, familiar territory to those of you who have braved the vagaries of this website over the years. The broadband saga has produced a sequel – Broadband 2: The Curse of BT.

I don’t expect you to remember, but when I got broadband at first it was awful. It was never on for more than a few minutes, and then it would go off for hours. After eight months of breathtaking action sequences – engineers coming with little gizmos and shaking their heads – I finally qualified for what seems to be known as a Sisko plate. The spelling is optional, but I know that Sisko has something to do with something, because they sponsored the golf World Matchplay championships.

(I have to point out here that my sporting activities are entirely armchair bound and always have been. I have never picked up a racquet, bat, ball or any other piece of sporting equipment for any reason other than to move it from one place to the other. Despite this, I have managed over the years to get tennis elbow and tendonitis – don’t ask me how. Anyway, I watch all these things, which is why I think Sisko is probably spelt like that rather than as in the Cisco Kid.)

The Sisko plate isolates the broadband signal so you can only get it through the main telephone socket, and it doesn’t matter what you’ve got on the extensions, because nothing can interfere with the signal. It’s really for large businesses, I was told, with lots of broadband traffic, but I could have one because I needed it, being on the very edge of the signal availability.

And for two years, this worked beautifully. Well – almost two years, and almost beautifully. When my broadband speed was updated automatically to 1 megabyte, - it should have been 2, but I am on the very edge of…etc. - it did start dropping out again, but only very occasionally, and I could reconnect immediately. But this month, it all began again, so I rang BT.

I went through the rigmarole of pressing buttons and entering the telephone number twice, then spoke to someone who wanted my name, address, postcode and broadband telephone number (which anyone who’s bothering to read this will know I had already keyed in). He then said I was through to the wrong department. He put me through to the right department, and I pressed buttons, entered the telephone number and spoke to someone who wanted my name, address… Then he put me on hold, played music at me, and finally came back to say he would report the fault. That took half an hour altogether. Then yesterday an engineer rang me and left a number for me to ring. A different number from the original, but nonetheless I had to go through the whole rigmarole again, twice.

I then spoke to someone who wanted to know my name, address… and who then announced that he was unable to find me as a BT Broadband customer at all. That didn’t go down awfully well with me, and I scared him into finding me on his system, which he did. He triumphantly said I had Sky TV on an extension, and it wasn’t possible to do that with broadband. If I took off the Sky TV, the broadband would work. I told him that was nonsense, and that the whole point of broadband was that you could have other things on the extensions. Besides which, I had had Sky TV on the extension for two years and it had worked perfectly. So if it was interfering now, it wasn’t the solution – it was the problem.

He agreed, but said that as he wasn’t an engineer, he couldn’t help. I said I had to speak to an engineer, preferably one who understood about Sisko plates. He said the engineer had rung me, but I wasn’t there, so he had left a message. Yes, I said, he did. The message was to ring this number, and since that was no good, where did we go from there? He said an engineer would ring me that evening or this afternoon. So did that come to pass? What do you think?

Tomorrow, I will go through the rigmarole again however many times they require me to, and, some day, this might just get posted on the website.

It’s a funny thing, the Internet. You manage without it for the first fifty years of your life, and then suddenly not having it on tap makes you feel bereft. I feel especially so because of my tendency to work at night. Having what amounts to the biggest library in the world open twenty-four hours a day has been a godsend, and when I don’t have it, I pine.

But it’s not just work-related. I ask the Internet anything and everything I need to know, especially if my memory needs jogging. Years and years ago my sister Una was suddenly reminded of a song, part of whose verse was ‘Venus de Milo was noted for her charms/But strictly between us, you’re cuter than Venus/And what’s more, you’ve got arms’. The words were right. We both knew the tune. But neither of us could remember which song it was. We spent months racking our brains, asking everyone we knew – practically stopping strangers in the street to sing to them. Eventually, one of us heard it on the radio, and we were put out of our misery. Now – I agree that nothing quite equates to the sheer relief and triumph of that moment, but it really is so much easier just to type the words you do know into Google and get the answer in seconds! It’s ‘Love is just around the Corner’, if you want to know.

And not being able to download my e-mail makes me fret. I know that despite my junk mail sentinel, it will still include e-mails from Nigerians who have unaccountably come into vast fortunes that they even more unaccountably want to share with me, or people selling me everything from university degrees to dubious medicines and even more dubious Rolex watches, but that doesn’t matter.

There will be some from people I really do want to hear from, not least of which is you, so do please keep writing to me. If I don’t respond within a reasonable time it will be one of three things. 1) I can’t download my e-mails, or 2) I can, but I can’t send out the replies, or 3) I’m glued to some sporting occasion on TV, and neglecting my duties. But I always respond in the end, so don’t give up on me!

Don’t forget you can enter the competition, and though I have e-mailed them individually, I’d like to apologise again for the long delay in getting out the prizes to those winners of the last competition who requested the Shred of Evidence video. There will be less of a delay if any future winners opt for the now possible DVD version – see the competition page. But – a word of warning – the DVD will also be recorded in the PAL format, so non-European entrants should be aware of that.

See you next time – hopefully around the middle of August. In the meantime, it’s the British Open. Now…where did I put my golf clubs?


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