Pension companies need walloping!

I don’t know if it’s the pandemic but it seems every company I deal with is still using it as an excuse not to do things.

We have fewer staff they say, neglecting to be honest about the fact that their staff are working from home. Or shirking at home. Or lurking at home. But if they’re at home and working then why can’t simple administrative tasks get done.

Why can’t they send me the information I require?. Why can’t they email it to me?. They have my email address and we are corresponding by email but no, they insist it will be sent via snail mail. And then I wait six weeks for something I need today, only to find it never actually arrives.

Then they say they’ve sent it. And something does arrive, ten days later. And then it’s not what you need. And do you start again and get the same silence. They even ignored my complaint about them despite promising to respond within five working days. Or shirking, or lurking days.

On four occasions I have provided them with my death benefit nominee!. On four occasions, and yet where a name should be in my statement I see just a blank space because according to them they don’t know who it is. Four times! By letter, email and by witnessed form. I have even asked them and they have confirmed her name but then the statement arrives and she’s mysteriously vanished again.

The service is shockingly bad. No wonder the reviews are so awful these days. Customer service is not for the customer and can barely be called a service!. It just seems to be a dereliction of duty; an abandonment of the cause.

And we are the ones that suffer. It’s simply not good enough and heads should roll, but of course they won’t because the pandemic has become the great excuse, the reason why standards have slipped and service has deteriorated.

And that’s great isn’t it?.

Whisper

Photo by Ethan Jones on Pexels.com

The old man stopped and smiled at me,

His skin was mottled brown,

He leaned upon a walking stick,

He thrust into the ground,

His clothes were smeared with sweat and toil,

His sandals they were worn,

A man of few possessions,

Offered me an ear of corn.

The path was long and narrow,

Cross the top of dusty hills,

Low mist hung in the valley,

And the morning was so still,

He gauged of me a traveller,

Abroad in foreign lands,

We shared no common language,

Instead we took our hands,

Mine so white and fragile,

His coarse, with broken nails,

Mine spoke of western luxury,

And his of harsh travails.

Wordlessly we ate a while,

Of water we partook,

Clear and sweet and beautiful,

From a nearby brook,

Then with a smile and slightest bow,

A hand upon his heart,

He gathered all his meagre wares,

And turned then to depart,

And as he walked away from me,

A whisper touched my ear,

Twas though he stood right next to me,

I heard the voice so clear,

‘No words you need to share your time,

No words to share your food,

To drink in silent company,

Do nothing that is rude,

The sharing of the moment,

Means more than any words,

Respect and generosity,

Amongst lifes great absurds,

I wish you well, oh traveller,

May you find your way,

And perhaps our paths will cross again,

Break bread again that day’.

Organising my blog

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

After coming to realise that not a single on eof my 431 blog posts had been categorised I have now set about the Herculean task of doing so.

It’s a work in progress but one I will work on until I am happy with it. I apologise in advance if it takes a bit of time as it does get very tedious trying to sort them all out. My own fault entirely for not being more on the ball from the outset.

Anyway, we now have several distinct categories.

LIFE IN GENERAL – can be anything from mental health stuff, a bit of politics, a bit of religion, perhaps some sport but mainly just stuff about life and how I feel about things that I experience.

AUTISM – here I talk about the community on Twitter, my diagnosis, how things affect me because I am Autistic and therefore theres some crossover between life in general and work as well, also mental health struggles.

WORK – a lot of ranting lol. Problems at work, career choices; that sort of thing.

ENTERTAINMENT – my favourite books, films, tv etc. I really should have more posts in this section. Something to work on perhaps.

TRAVEL – posts about my travels to places as diverse as India and Iran. Flying, preparing to travel, booking things- basically anything thats travel related.

POETRY – I was surprised at how much I had written. A lot of it is dark and reflects my mental health at the time of writing but there are one or two more humorous pieces in there somewhere.

WRITING – usually apologising for not blogging enough. Some reflections on the writing process itself.

So thats it so far. I am working on adding tags to make things easier to find and doing that bit by bit.

I hope people find that helpful.

Johnny and Amber

When Johnny wins his case, as I am 99.9% certain he will, Amber will be vilified and subjected to a level of abuse that’s rarely seen. It’s already happening with the keyboard warriors who foam at the mouth every time she opens hers and have become experts in reading body language and how to tell if someone is telling lies.

I have read a huge amount of posts which have bordered on the truly vile and shocking. Posts from rational people, I’m sure, who cannot bear to believe that Darling Johnny ever did anything wrong. They leap to his defence and use every word they can think of to tell Amber exactly what they think of her. And then they add a few more just in case she doesn’t get the message.

I’m not saying she hasn’t lied. I’m not saying she hasn’t embellished or imagined or created incidents. But I think their therapist had it right when very early on he said that it was a ‘mutually abusive’ relationship. Amber has a temper. Johnny drinks too much and takes drugs. She takes drugs. It’s a volatile mixture and a relationship in which both sides could and should have behaved better.

Johnny is far more popular. That’s why he will win. He is better known. That’s why he will win. This isn’t a case where truth will because I suggest the truth is hidden beneath layers of lies, false memories and the damage that drugs and alcohol do to a person in altering their reality. Does Johnny honestly recall what he did in every drink or drug fuelled binge?. I very much doubt it.

And for all Ambers lies and embellishments, what about Johnny and his ‘act’ in the witness box?. The nods, the winks, the smirks; the look at me, I’m famous and you love me; all what I would expect from an actor and in the same way I find Ambers tears cloying and false I get the impression that they are both acting and that parts of their evidence are very carefully ‘stage managed’ .

Only they know the truth of their relationship. That’s if they can actually remember it through the layers of substance abuse that both seem to have dabbled in.

I don’t side with either. I’d rather they went on with their lives and were happy together or apart without the necessity to air very dirty laundry in public.

But that’s just me. All I would say is that when Johnny wins, just remember that nothing good will come out of this. A rich person will get richer and a reputation will be damaged, perhaps irreparably. If the jury have any sense then whoever wins should just get a single cent but it’s America so that won’t happen.

I wish it hadn’t happened at all.

The aching heart

Buddha

The sun is out. It’s a strange thing really, at least for me. I love to see it and feel it on my skin yet it always invokes a pain, an aching in my heart for places where the sun shines longer and hotter and more frequently than it does in my corner of England.

I look at travel brochures and it is a painful exercise. So much temptation that is now more expensive than say, two or three years ago. A bit like house prices and food prices, the hikes have become noticeable and my wallet and credit card protest at the prospect of paying out so much.

I’m conscious of age as well and increasing infirmity. No, I’m not on my last legs just yet but Fibromyalgia is a frustrating companion with a kind of its own and some days it absolutely refuses to get out of bed or put the washing in so I have to accept there might be limitations on how much activity I can partake in.

I just miss it all. I miss the planning; counting the days, reviewing the hotels, researching places of interest, sorting out visas and money and car parking. Yes even the mundane stuff. I find it soothing and relaxing and these days I think that’s required more than ever.

Standing in the sun transports me back to the heady days. To Wadi Rum where I burned, to the Pyramids where I explored in narrow tunnels, to the bright lights of India and the vast empty deserts of Iran.

My heart aches.

I need to travel again. I do. And soon.

Treeing up the wrong bark!

It costs more if you want colour!.

Today I am inching closer to some sort of resolution concerning my work. I say that more in hope than expectation but by tomorrow evening I will have fulfilled my side of the bargain and taken the requisite advice from the pensions experts.

Then it will be down to work to decide on if they want to release me or what other options are available to me. They haven’t offered any thus far and I get the feeling that they are just waiting so they can let me go. There has been ample opportunity to reach out to me but they’ve not availed themselves of those opportunities and that’s fine, it’s their choice and I don’t know how I would feel if they did reach out, not now.

So, what comes next?

I’ve been asking myself that and basically struggling to come up with sensible answers. Apparently winning the lottery is not sensible.

There’s benefits to sort but then there’s also a question of employment or self-employment. If the former, what’s suitable for a 56 year old Autistic guy with ADHD?..if self-employed then what’s suitable for a 56 etc etc etc.

I’d love to write full time. But that needs to produce results and I need beta readers and editors and proof readers of which I have none. Or rather I have one but she’s very busy. And then there’s photography, something I’d love to be good at but am pretty useless at. Any good picture I take is very much luck over judgement.

Then there’s YouTube. My partner thinks I should start a channel reading my poetry or talking about Autism. Or there advocacy of some kind. Or this, or that, or something else. If I knew what I was actually good at then this wouldn’t be an issue at all.

But let’s get work sorted out first and then; then I’m open to suggestions.

So if anyone has any, please feel free. You’ll find me somewhere in the trees, daydreaming about what I could have been. Or still might be.

South India 17 : Reflections

Up with the lark this morning. We stretch and groan as we drag ourselves off the coach for one final bit of sightseeing before the long drive to Bangalore.

We are in the land of Tipu Sultan, a name I recall from childhood due to a musical box in the shape of a man being eaten by a tiger? Or did I imagine that?. More to the point, why would I imagine it?.

Summer

We are enjoying the delights of his Summer palace which is set in beautifully kept gardens, profuse with flowers and shrubs. It’s a pretty idyllic place to have a gentle stroll and the fact we have arrived at opening time has deprived us of the hordes. There are advantages to rising early!.

Dead end

We pass by the place where the sultans body was found after he was killed defending Sriringaptna Fort. There was such celebration at the news when it reached Great Britain, that a public holiday was announced. I don’t seem to recall a ‘Tipu’ day being part of our calendar these days.

The town is pleasant enough with its huge temple and decorated horses that seem to linger for no apparent reason other than to be seen..which is reason enough I suppose.

Horse
Temple

The town perused, we are soon on the road again and heading to Bangalore. There is one brief and bizarre stop when we have to pass through a police checkpoint and pay an admin charge we cannot pay due to not having the correct denomination notes. Therefore two of us have to go and speak with the police to persuade them that we tourists have countries to fly home to and would really appreciate being allowed to leave.

Bangalore banking

Bangalore is a riot of noise and colour. There are long queues at the banks and the pavements are death traps that threaten to snap your ankles. We get ripped off in a shop but it matters not as the shopkeeper happily accepts those notes we have been unable to exchange and we are well rid of them.

One final dash to the airport which is magical in its timing as dusk descends and the city is bathed in a pale orange glow and then it’s another flight, another long flight to home and all that we are left with once more are memories of a fabulous journey in an amazing country.

Let’s do it again sometime, eh?.

South India 16 : I came, Mysore, I conquered

There is no denying the charms of Mysore. It’s getting there that can be difficult. The amount of security checks can be tedious to endure and some of the driving on this stretch of highway is less than stellar. But we do make it in one piece.

Palace

Mysore Palace is undeniably beautiful with its mixture of Islamic and Hindu decoration. It is astonishingly colourful, a real feast for the eyes but one which, alas you cannot share with others, as photography is forbidden. It’s really quite frustrating when that happens because the rooms are spectacular with their columns and doorways and ceilings but you will just have to imagine them or look them up online. Sorry about that.

Temple thing

We drive up Chamundi Hill. There a temple at the top which is covered in scaffolding and a strange warlike figure holding a big sword. It’s here we find one of the largest bulls in India and, as you know I like bull, I take some pictures in the increasingly gloomy light.

Nandi

It’s a warm but gloomy evening, overcast and hazy. The lights of Mysore begin to shine through the gloom as we look down upon the city. I hate this; hate that we are so close to going home. I love holidays but the last few days are always so difficult to endure. It’s like slow torture but we must make the best of what we have.

Mysore in the gloom

The city is throbbing with activity and life as we meet rush hour head on. The palace is brightly illuminated by thousands of bulbs and we catch glimpses of it as we wend our way back to our hotel. Tomorrow is our last full day in India, a last chance to absorb some more of this astonishing culture.

Stay tuned.

South India 15 : Taking in the view

We leave Ooty behind. The former British hill station fades from view as we descend once more to ground level, a descent every bit as perilous as our ascent. Signs warn us not to urinate or defecate by the roadside and we are more than happy to oblige given that you would have to be quite mad to even attempt such a thing on this narrow, windy road.

Plenty of these

It’s a cooler day today and the coach is quiet. This is the home stretch now and I always find that people become more reserved when the just few days of the holiday are upon us. Perhaps they don’t want it to end?. I don’t. I’d quite happily spend another month here and in that time 8 might actually dispose of the 500 rupee notes now burning a hole in my wallet!.

We see some elephants by the roadside. This is a National park although I don’t recall seeing any signs informing me of such and the elephants look quite tame as they cried about a hut and help themselves to whatever tasty food lies within.

Heffalump!.

There are also some deer and we do a little animal spotting, searching for the elusive tiger that is supposed to be out there somewhere. Needless to say, not a single one is seen.

Deer me!.

Our destination is Mysore. The city, closely related to Tipu Sultan, lies in Karnataka state and was once the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore, home of the Wadiyar dynasty. I look forward to seeing its wonderful palace but for now it’s simply feet up and chill as the coach takes us ever onwards towards the inevitable end of our holiday.

South India 14 : Money Matters

Two things have happened overnight. Donald Trump has been elected in America (much to the disgust of two American women we met at the hotel) and of more pressing concern is that the Indian government has decided that 500 and 1000 rupee notes are no longer valid currency and is taking them out of circulation unless you can pay them into your Indian bank account. And I don’t have one.

It’s a stressful start to the day. Speaking to our travel agent (who later denies any such conversation took place- despite me having it in front of twenty witnesses) and then trying to work out what currency we have that we can use to pay for things.

It’s fine in hotels who can pay the notes into their bank account but outside amongst the market traders who live on cash received and don’t care for such things, getting rid of the notes or swapping them for lower denominations is going to be difficult. Not what we needed.

I don’t like carrots!.

There’s nothing we can do so set off for the day, sightseeing at the lake and church. It’s a cool day with plenty of low slung cloud and we are denied entry to the botanical garden due to having insufficient low denomination notes to pay the entry fee. This day is going so well!.

Looks a bit cold.
Sound advice!.

The mood isn’t despondent but just a little frustrated. The timing sucks and for tourists, of which India has many, it’s going to be a difficult time. There was no warning and no time to prepare and even our guide is taken aback at the suddenness of the decision.

St Stephens …and he wants it back!.

The church is lovely and a good place to calm frayed nerves. Churches have that sort of vibe don’t they? Even if you aren’t religious there’s a sense of peace and calm and people lower their voices and act all respectful. The stained glass is beautiful.

‘What do you mean, this is the queue for the bank?. Sheesh, the government and their daft ideas!. I’ll just wait here then!.’

We are off again tomorrow, another town, another hotel, another day wondering if we can find anywhere to take our money. Oh well, it keeps things interesting I suppose?.