Thursday, February 25, 2016

TalkTalk - Service with a smile . . . or maybe not!

For much too long a time, I've been with TalkTalk as my internet provider.

This wasn't actually my original choice of providers, as I had first registered with AOL, and they had been providing me with a reasonable service - one that did fine for me, given that, at that time, I had only just started to learn about computers and the internet, and was ready to apply to the Open University, in order to study for a BA in Literature and Creative Writing - which necessitated in me having internet to the house.

For the six years it took me to take my BA, AOL did a grand job of providing me with that necessary link, and I managed to get through it all with only one small glitch - which was my own fault, through lack of knowledge where computers were concerned - and one major glitch, caused by who knows what, where my laptop was fried (forunately, I'd learned by the small glitch to back up everything by then!), and so I had to get a new laptop, which had a much bigger memory, and even a built-in webcam, which meant I could talk face-to-face with my daughter, who travelled all over the world with her work! Wonderful!

Unfortunately, and without my prior knowledge, AOL was taken over by TalkTalk, and I only learned of this after the fact, when I got an email, then a following letter, telling me that my service, and the cost of it, would remain exactly the same.

Fortunately, everything seemed just as they'd told me, and it all seemed the same - I could still stream the occasional movie from Amazon as I had done previously; I could still talk on Skype to family and friends; and my internet usage as a whole seemed fine but, slowly and surely, all of this seemed to degrade over the months, until it started to take an age to do anything on line, and I became hauntingly familiar to the 'wheel of doom', as I named that buffering circle that would appear, every time I tried watching anything online!


After having my new laptop and router checked by a local computer engineer, who assured me that it was working fine, I started to phone TalkTalk with my complaints, all the while talking to someone different every time, and knowing that they were in a call center somewhere abroad - and each one would ask me to do certain tests with ethernet cables, and various other things that sounded so complicated that I couldn't understand the instructions, let alone know how to do them, even if my health had been better!

I told them, time after time that, even if I understood what it was they were asking me to do, all of it would be impossible for me, given that I was housebound, and virtually 100% bed-bound, and with a husband who was a total technophobe!

And so the ever-decreasing circle started between us, of me asking for an engineer, and them promising me that the 'glitch' would be fixed, as long as I did the tests required first - which, as I told them time and time again, was a physical impossibility for me and so, having no choice, I would persevere with the problem, as I was told by another internet provider that I couldn't change providers until the problem was fixed!

I sat there so many times, hoping against hope that it would improve - which it occasionally did - and, being ever the optimist, this kept me from going elsewhere, especially as one advisor after another told me that it was actually the area where I lived that was at fault; it was the phone lines; there was a temporary fault on the line that would be dealt with as soon as possible, etc., etc., etc.

Now, during all of this, I had been (and still am) battling various health problems that are only getting worse, and so fighting TalkTalk was becoming such a stress on my health, and what energy I had, that I just left things as they were - until December 2015, when my internet became so bad, that the only way I could get online, was if I phoned somebody (or they phoned me), and we stayed on the phone while I did what was needed, such as checking my bank account, or putting in a shopping list - it had got so bad that this was all I was able to do!


And so I phoned TalkTalk yet again - but this time I lost all patience with their excuses, and told them that they should send an engineer to my property to investigate something that should have been fixed many months ago! I told them that I was fed up of paying for a service I'd very rarely had, and if they didn't do something soon, then I would let the world know about it.

They promised me an engineer on the 2nd January!

When the day came, the BT engineer appeared. He checked my  equipment via a laptop/tablet thingy (I'm sooo technical, aren't I? lol), and assured me it had nothing to do with the fault - that whatever the problem was, it was outside the house, and had something to do with the telephone lines near the house. He promised that someone else would be sent to fix the problem, as his only remit was to check for a fault, and not to fix anything. He then left.

Later on that day TalkTalk actually phoned me (a real rarity), and told me an engineer would be coming on the 8th of January, to fix the problem. The 8th came, and nobody knocked on the door but, later that afternoon, my internet access improved very slightly - well, enough that I had access for more than a few moments at a time.

A couple of days later, it went right back to me having to make a phone call to get internet access, but I was so ill at the time, I couldn't do a thing about it.

February came, and my health improved enough that I wanted to go online again - only to face the same problems so, once again, I phoned TalkTalk, and explained everything that had happened, and that I needed the engineer to call again, as the problem was still with me.

I was told that it couldn't be the same problem, because engineers had fixed it. I asked when, they told me an engineer had called at my home on the 8th - to which I replied that nobody had called at the house that day! The person I spoke to practically called me a liar at this point - and so I lost my temper!

I admit to feeling bad about this, but to be called a liar, when I knew for a fact that nobody had come to the house that day (we had deliberately made sure we were awake early, and had sat in the house all day, waiting!), made me mad!

The operator told me that the only way an engineer would call, would be if we paid for it! I asked that, as I had been paying them for a service I hadn't had for months - if not years - then surely I was entitled to an engineer calling to finally fix the problem? But they insisted that, the only way they'd send an engineer, was if I paid for it! At that point I really lost it, and said 'So, in fact, you are holding me hostage - you won't fix this problem, unless I pay you even more money?'

At that point, they put the phone down on me!

By this time I was at my wit's end! I had been putting up with such a shoddy service for so long, that I really didn't know what to do - then, that evening, my hubby was watching TV, and he called out to me that a firm called Plusnet, who were based in England, were advertising, and that they seemed like a good service (not that hubby would know one, if it bit him on the nose, bless him! Lol)

At this point, I should add that the only way I had figured getting online without constantly disturbing family and friends, was by phoning my hubby's mobile phone, which, because there was no mobile signal in our part of the village, would go onto answerphone, and so open up the telephone lines enough to get internet access, so this is what I did to get online, and look up Plusnet.

The deals they had seemed really good and, being a British firm, I hoped it would help where customer service was concerned, and so I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained, and filled in the forms to apply to them, paid the initial fee, and waited.

I heard almost immediately by email - which told me I would be transferred to them on the 16th February and a week later received the router I'd need, along with a booklet with comprehensive, and easy to understand, details on how to get the router working! Compared to the instructions I'd been given by TalkTalk, it seemed even I could manage to do this and so, on the day stated, I got into the living room with my laptop and the equipment and, between us both, hubby and I managed to get everything working!

And it was working!

I actually got online without having to use the phone to do so!

Admittedly, there was a crackling noise on the phone when we used it, but I was actually getting online!

For the next few days, I went online a couple of times, to do my usual bank checks and shopping for food, but wasn't well enough to do much more, but my husband told me the noise on the phone was getting worse, and so I went onto Plusnet's site, signed into my account, and looked for something on there to see if it could be fixed.

There was actually a test that I could do from my laptop, to check my line and, when it finished, a page came up, telling me to contact Plusnet on the number provided, and so I did, with my heart sinking, as I expected the same old go-around that I'd had with TalkTalk.


To my wonderful surprise, I had a great chat with the person who answered, explained my situation to him, and he asked if it was okay if he did some tests on my line, and then phoned me back with the results! Of course I was okay with that! So I put the phone down and, 15 minutes later, it rang, and the chap I'd spoken to told me that there was definitely a problem, and would I mind if an engineer called on my home the next day to see what the problem was!


I was gobsmacked that they were that quick and so, of course, said 'yes, that would be fine'! :)

The next afternoon, as promised, 2 telephone engineers called, and did a thorough check on my eqipment, then told me there was definitely a fault on the line outside my home.

I expected them to tell me that somebody would come sometime to fix it, but the 2 chaps immediately went outside to check the lines. After about half an hour, they knocked on the door again and, when they came in, told me that they'd found the fault - a connector had literally fallen to pieces in one of the engineer's hands as he checked it, and so he had replaced the connector, and they asked if it was okay for them to check to see if the fault had been fixed by using my telephone.

I was absolutely delighted to say yes, and they did another thorough check, and stayed until they were certain the fault was fixed, even going online to check that, too :)

One of the engineers told me that it might be a few days before my line settled down, as the internet was really low, but, if it didn't get better within a couple of weeks, to contact Plusnet again, and they would sort that out, too!


Well, a week later, and I am actually able to get online whenever I feel well enough to. It's not super-speedy or anything, but it's the best it's been since before TalkTalk took over so, until Fibre Optics comes to our neck of the woods, I'll be a happy bunny to use the access I have now.

As for TalkTalk, they actually had somebody phone me a few days ago, asking about the complaint I'd made! I asked if I was going to get any compensation for all the grief I'd been through, to a hurried, 'I can't authorise that' as a response - the chap who phoned wasn't even aware that I'd left TalkTalk, even though they'd been informed!

As far as Plusnet are concerned, I couldn't have asked for a better firm to go to. They were so quick to respond to my problem, the engineers who called couldn't have been kinder, or more helpful where fixing the problem was concerned, and I know I can get back to them, and any problem I have will be dealt with quickly, with courtesy, and treating me as if I am a real person, and not just a bother to them.

Well done, Plusnet!


As for my blogging - I can now start letting you know all that I've been doing since the problems getting online started, and I promise to start that within the next day or so :)






Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year for 2016

I've been absent most of the year, with health problems, operations, bereivements, and other stuff that tends to put a block on a person but, with just under an hour to go before 2016 starts, I figured it was time enough to wish everyone who calls on my blog a Very Happy New Year :)

I hope to be a good girl, and start posting again in the new year, especially as I haven't actually stopped crocheting over this last year, so I've lots to show you :)

So, until my next post, I wish you every joy, happiness, and the peacefulness that comes with these things, for the new year to come :)

Friday, January 09, 2015

A New Year and, hopefully, a new start . . .


Once again it has been some time since I posted anything on here. 

To be fair, because of yet another flair-up of the Fibro and ME, I've had a lot of problems with staying awake, plus I'm still coping with the gall bladder problem (which is probably why everything else is playing up), as it turns out my blood platelets are far too low for the surgeons to risk operating on me, at least until they get to a reasonable level and, as I've been informed that only my bone marrow can boost this aspect of my blood, it's a case of waiting, and hoping, that it will get on with it :(

It turns out that I can't even have a gall bladder problem, without it becoming something even worse, which is a pain, both physically, and mentally, as I'd - just for once - like to quickly get over something that goes wrong with me!

But, as far as crafting goes, I haven't exactly been totally idle, as there were plenty of times, normally at silly O'clock in the morning, when pain would wake me up, and I needed to do something to distract myself - I thank God that I was given the chance to learn how to crochet, as it has been such a blessing for me this way :)

Anyhoo, my parents and brother came for a visit in September and, due to both of my parents being in bad health themselves (Mum has a variety of health problems, including a weak heart, plus was diagnosed with cancer last year, and Dad has Parkinsons), I decided that, to make them more comfortable when they sit down, I would make a foot stool of some kind. We already had one, which I knew would be great for Dad to use, but I wanted one for mum, too. So I looked through my stash, and came across a box full of bits and pieces left over from other projects, and so I decided to use them to crochet up something bright and cheerful for her :)

I hadn't got a pattern for anything like this so, as I tend to in this position, I immediately went to Ravelry, to see what I could find - and what I found was this lovely, and free, pattern from Sonea Delvon Designs - Sitting Bag which seemed like the perfect thing :)

I used the pattern as the basic start, then just let myself enjoy the act of creating something both pretty and colourful, but also useful:


 






I hadn't thought much about how I was going to stuff this, especially as it was quite big but, fortunately, we had just replaced an old sofa for a couple of armchairs, and so I used the seat pads, cut into rounds, to fill most of it, then used a sleeping bag whose zip had broken to make a nice and soft padding on top. Fortunately, I also had a lovely set of plain wooden buttons in my button stash, and so I used them as fasteners around the lid, so that I can easily wash the cover when needed. I was quite pleased with the results :)

After my parents went back home, and I had recovered somewhat from the visit, I started to feel restless again and, after making Sam the gardening Squirrel, as mentioned in my last post, I then made the Elf Coat for my daughter to wear - and it was just a few days after finishing it, that I was rushed to hospital with a badly inflamed gall bladder thing - and my health went rapidly downhill again :(

It was quite strange for me that, although I then spent the next 10 days in hospital on a permanent drip of antibiotics, I didn't miss my laptop too much, but I really missed my crochet work! Lol

Unfortunately, poor Mr Night Owl was too worried about me to be able to work out what project I might like to work on (I always have several things on the go at once), and so I made do without my usual comfort, and it took a good week after I was able to come home again before I felt able to choose which item I would work on next.

As it happens, I still had plenty of that wonderful Stylecraft Trendsetter Chunky yarn left, and so, as I mentioned in my previous post, I made my daughter two pairs of fingerless gloves - one pair in the Ebony, and the other in the Lilac, then I used both colours to make some striped legwarmers to match:




After that, I wanted something quick and easy to make, and so I decided to make an earring and brooch set for a dear friend of mine, who happened to be visiting my corner of the world for a few weeks, and so I settled on a lovely pattern I had come across only a few weeks before on the Red Heart.com site.

These were called Rosebud Earrings.

I didn't have any of the crochet thread needed in my stash, so I searched out the thinnest yarn that I could, and used that instead. Once I had made the earrings, it only took a short while to make 3 more rosebuds, then I glued some green felt onto a brooch back, and sewed the 3 rosebuds on top - and here is the result of my labours:






After that, I made a toy for my little friend, Harry :)

I'd come across a free stacking toy pattern, on the Lion Brand site, that I thought he would enjoy, as it was made up of a frog in the centre, then a stack consisting of a Bee, a Ladybird (or Ladybug to our friends over the Pond), and then a Dragonfly on top - and here's the link to the pdf download:



 http://www.lionbrand.com/printablePatterns/90075AD.pdf





I enjoyed making this, as I'd not done anything like it before, and I could also use up some of my large stash of yarn that always seems to build up from other projects I do :)

Now, being bed-bound so much of the time, and feeling the cold quite badly, I'd often wished for something that I could snuggle into to keep warm, and so, after finishing Harry's present, I decided, for the very first time since I started to crochet, that I'd make myself something - preferably a lovely warm shawl - and I decided to use a wonderful yarn that my Mum had given me as a gift, as I knew this was something I'd enjoy for a long time to come. Unfortunately, I can't remember the brand name of the yarn, but it was a 400g ball, a Tweed Aran, that Mum had bought from her local Aldi's store.

I looked through my shawl patterns, and I found one, by a wonderful designer called Kathy Lashley, who has a crochet Blog, 
called Elk Studio, which is just filled with the most amazing patterns, and just appealed to me no end - it was the Dixie Charm Shawl. That decided, I took yarn and hook, and started on the pattern there and then.

Here's a ink to the pattern: 

Dixie Charm Shawl - Elk Studio

and here's the results of my work:





My cat, Kushka :)


About this time, our daughter informed us that she'd be able to visit us for 6 days at the beginning of December, so I then looked through my yarn stash, to make her something pretty, and came across a lovely, sparkly, purple yarn that I knew she would like - unfortunately, there wasn't a label on it, and I can't remember where I got it from, but I knew she'd enjoy anything made with it. I looked through my patterns, then finally settled on a really pretty shrug pattern that I'd found a while back. The design is called the Sweet Spring Shrug, and was designed by Michelle of The Painted Hinge. As soon as I saw it I knew my daughter would love it, and didn't have anything like this, so I went ahead and made it, and had just enough of the yarn to complete it, with not much left over! Lol

Here's the link to the free pattern: 



Sweet Spring Shrug - Michelle of The Painted Hinge




Fortunately, I was right, and my daughter loved it - and it fitted her perfectly :)

While Brex visited, she mentioned that a close friend loved Dachshunds, or Sausage Dogs as they're commonly known (or Weiner Dogs to our American friends) and, as I had only just come across some Amigurumi patterns of some, I asked if she'd like me to make one - and so I did :)

I really enjoyed making this. It wasn't too difficult, and I'd not made an amigurumi dog before, so it challenged me in that respect. Brex was delighted with the result, and so I was, too :)

I got the free pattern from the Lion Brand site, and here's the pdf link:

Amigurumi Weiner Dog Pattern Number: 70579AD





Now, what with all the holidays, and my health being so poor, I've only just got around to posting all these pics, but I will have some more to show you soon, as I've kept myself busy making a few more items for my daughter. Once I've had the opportunity to give them to her, I'll post the pics on here :)

Until then, I hope you've all had plenty of opportunities to create your own things, too :)





Sunday, November 02, 2014

Oh dear - has it really been that long?


I admit that, when I finally got around to looking at my Blog today, I couldn't believe just how long it had been since I posted anything!

Due to unforeseen circumstances, including serious illness, and hospital stays, for both myself, my mum, and my dad, I'd got into a real fug where creativity was concerned, and my output dropped accordingly. But I'm slowly, but surely, getting back into the swing of things, and so have a few items to show for all the time I've been silent :)

First of all, I've finally got some more pictures of the fancy dress outfits I'd made for a friend's gorgeous little boy (I'd made them in June), so here they are:


Here's Harry in his Frog outfit - and thoroughly enjoying it, too :)





And here he is in his Fox outfit:




. . . with a back view, showing his bushy Fox tail! Lol





Here's another occasion Harry wore the Fox outfit - and looking extra cute doing so:





Here's Harry wearing his Bee outfit:




. . . and with a back view of his folded wings (as with all the other main outfits, I didn't have a pattern for this, and so used Google to find some close-up pics of bees, then made up the shape, using the pictures).



And here's a lovely picture of one of Harry's best friends, wearing the Bee outfit - can you see the sting I made? Lol



There are still a couple of outfits that Harry hasn't worn yet so, when he does, I'll show them here, too :)

As for the things I've been making since my last post in July, as I mentioned in that post, I had been working on a gift for Mr Night Owl. I had bought a wonderful book, published by amigurumipatterns.net, called Amigurumi Animals at Work



You can find it in the list of books for sale, here:

 Amigurumi Animals at Work


The book has 14 of the cutest, and very different, patterns of various animals, all dressed up in their work clothes - and the pattern that brought my attention to this wonderfully creative book, was the design I fell in love with, which was by one of my favourite designers, Moji-Moji Design.

Her Cyril the Squirrel, all dressed up as a gardener, with his own wheelbarrow, was just so cute, and also very relevant for Mr Night Owl, that I had to make a start on it straight away!

As it happened, I had a huge plastic box, full of partial skeins of various yarns, that I'd used for different projects, so I thought this a wonderful opportunity to use some of it up. I wanted this to be a complete surprise for Hubby, and so found myself working on it at the oddest times of the day and night. I guess that, in actual hours, it didn't take too very long to make but, due to the secrecy, it was actually a couple of weeks before I'd managed to finish it :)

So, here he is - one Sam the Gardening Squirrel! Lol




I had a lot of fun making this, as I needed to source some tiny items to go with it, such as the seed packets in Sam's waistcoat pocket, and some gardening tools, for the wheelbarrow. I was fortunate enough to find a seller on eBay who deals with Doll House items, and so managed to get what I wanted from him - Mr Night Owl was so chuffed to receive Sam, and he now stands in pride of place on a shelf in our living room :)

I've made a couple of items, for my brother's new dog, Sheba. The first was a bone I crocheted with pure cotton, and a 2.5mm hook,so that it would crochet really tight, as she is renowned for chewing up her toys! So far, she still hasn't made a dent in it, which I'm happy about but, unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it before she got a hold of it - but I used a pattern that I had bought from Crochet Spot, created by Rachel Choi, which gives 3 different sizes of bone to crochet.

You can find it here, if you're interested:

 http://www.crochetspot.com/store

I've also got another, nearly finished, toy that I'm making for Sheba. It is a Star Ball, and the pattern was created by another of my favourite designers Dedri Uys, whose Blog, Look at What I Made, has a plethora of amazing patterns to try out :)

The ball was actually designed for a child, but I figured that, if I did as I had with the bone pattern, and used a tough cotton yarn, with a smaller hook size than normal, then I'd get another Sheba-proof toy! Lol

Unfortunately, a spell in hospital set me back, and I've still got a little bit more to finish up before it's done but, as soon as it is, I'll try to remember to take a picture to show you - and, in the meantime, here's the link to the pattern, if you'd like to give it a try:

Crocheted Star Ball – A Crochet Amish Puzzle Ball Pattern


The one item that has really taken up most of my time though - when I was well enough to wield a crochet hook - was a coat that I made for my daughter, something that would be thick enough to keep her really warm in the winter.

I got the idea after I'd purchased a wonderful pattern from Ravelry - it was a set of 3 patterns, designed by Sylvie Damey, that I'd bought recently, due to the wonderful detailing of her patterns - she'd created Elf Hoods, and that was just the look I wanted. So, selecting the Jehanne Hooded Cardigan, which can be found here:

Jehanne Hooded Cardigan


I then looked at my stash for a suitable yarn, but couldn't find anything there jazzy enough to suit my daughter's wonderfully outgoing personality - which then drove me to look at all my favourite online sites, to see if I could find something I liked. Fortunately, I came across a wonderfully sparkling yarn at the Deramores site. It was called Stylecraft Trendsetter Chunky, and came in a variety of colours, but the ones I fell in love with, and knew would suit my daughter to perfection, were the Ebony (1685), and the Lilac Cloud (1688). The yarn was, and still is at the moment, on sale, and so I couldn't resist getting it :)

 
Here's a link for you to see the gorgeousness of the yarns:

Stylecraft Trendsetter Chunky

Now, as I said, the pattern was for a hooded cardigan but, as I crocheted away, and got to the point where a change in pattern came, I realised that it would look great, and be more suitable for my daughter, as a coat, rather than a cardigan so, going back online, I bought some more of the yarn, then made my first real attempt to adapt a pattern to something else. I made some adjustment to the hood as I went along, making it a lot longer than the pattern specified, due to my daughter having very long dreads, and the skirt part of the coat was made in A-line panels, that I crocheted together after completing them all. I then went back to following the pattern to make the edging specified.

This coat was to be a complete surprise for my girl, as she was due to come for a visit with us, to celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary in October so, as soon as I completed it, using a set of buttons that I'd had in my button stash for ages, and adding some shell stars to the tip of the hood, and around the bottom edge of the coat, I made a granny square belt, using the square used within the pattern.

I then hung the coat in my wardrobe, waiting eagerly for my daughter to appear.

Unfortunately, a couple of days after I finished the coat, I was rushed into hospital with a badly inflamed gallbladder, and was kept in for almost a fortnight, which meant we had to cancel our anniversary plans :(

My daughter came rushing from Bristol to Wales while I was still in the hospital, and so it was her Dad who gave her the coat - thankfully, it fitted her to perfection, and she wore it to the hospital to show me but, because of that, I hadn't taken any photos of it, and so had to wait for my daughter to get some taken - which she sent to me a few days ago! :)

So here it is:




I've now almost finished a couple of pairs of fingerless gloves to match the coat, one pair in the Ebony, and the other in the Lilac Cloud, and then I want to use up the last of the yarn to make some legwarmers and, if there's enough after that, maybe a scarf to match!

At least I know my girl will be warm this winter! Lol