Abbotts Ann Wood

Isn’t it beautiful? Spring is most definitely on the way to Abbotts Ann.

The photo has nothing to do with the post, I took it walking the dog this morning.

Happy Mothers Day to all you Mums – and especially to mine – Pat.

I always have a thought today for those not lucky enough to still have their Mum’s around. I am sure that they must all miss them a little more today.

After my recent much up with Sky (see here) I thought I had the measure of the communications giants. Then, my phone line stopped working.

I work from home, so we have two landlines. One for corporate-cobra use and the other for personal calls. It was my corporate one that was not working. There was no dial tone at all. Strangely, the broadband on that line was working fine. A distinct advantage of having two lines is that I was able to take the handset from the line that was working, and swap it with the one on the line that wasn’t. This eliminated the handset as the cause of the problem.

At this point, I channelled my highly technical training in IT Problem Resolution. Yes, I turned everything off, unplugged everything, had a cup of tea, reconnected everything and turned them on. No change. As everyone knows, an IT issue that survives the ‘turnitoffandturnitonagain’ treatment is truly serious.

Undaunted, I turned to the internet and British Telecom’s (BT) troubleshooting pages. Just as an aside – I think that BT may in fact be 35% of the internet. Their website is GIGANTIC. It is impressive that such a massive thing could be so singularly crap.

Where was I?

Ah yes. I went through the online troubleshooter. Essentially I told it the number I was concerned about and clicked ‘fire’, then the page crashed. After four or five repetitions, both the computer and I got bored. I turned everything off and on again. I tried the line test again.

“Not a clue mate. Get in touch.” I am not sure that was exactly the wording used, but it was the gist of it.

I clicked on ‘chat to us online’ and relayed my problem to the dialogue box. A response came through.

“Please wait. I’ll test the line.”

“Sorry for the delay – the test is taking a while.”

“Sorry to keep you”

“Hmm. The test doesn’t seem to be working”

I am 99% certain that the helpful fellow had been hitting the exact same ‘fire’ button as I had. Still, he was not to be deterred.

“Could you switch everything off and then on again?”

“I have tried that. Doesn’t help.”

“Oh. Perhaps I could telephone you and we could check some things together? Do you have a mobile?”

“Its OK, you can call me on my landline. The number is…”

“No sir. Your landline isn’t working. I need to call you on..”

“I have two landlines.”


“Yes. Two.”

“Two? In the same place?”

“Yes. One of work and one for personal use. I suspect that I am not unique.”

There was a pause.


Now, my cheery friend and I were able to chat on the phone across thousands of miles.

“We need to see if the problem is with your hardware..”

“Let me stop you there. I swapped the phones over – and the phone which I am currently talking to you on, does not work when connected to the other line. So, it’s not the hardware.”

A lengthy pause.

“You have a spare phone?”

“Not spare exactly. It is the home phone, the one attached to the line that we have for personal use.”

“You have two lines?”

“Yes. I have two lines.”

“In the same house?”

The conversation was reminding me of a Monty Python sketch.

“Shall we just agree that it is not the hardware? What next?”

I’ll spare you a line by line account, but the process rambled on – with my correspondent struggling anytime I gave an answer not covered in the script in front of him. Overall, he should be commended though. He reached, and possibly even surpassed, the standard of utter uselessness required by BT – and, in his second language too. Good man.

At one point, I was unscrewing the faceplate from sockets under his instruction. When I asked what hourly rate I should invoice BT for my work, there was the familiar quizzical silence.

The call ended thus. I paraphrase.

“I have made an appointment for an engineer to visit you. I must remind you that if the fault turns out to be caused by storm damage, building work, we are and tear, psychotic mice or anything else within the boundaries of your property, BT will add a charge of £129 to your phone bill for this visit. Is that OK?”

“Certainly. In the spirit of fairness, I apply the reverse of those terms to BT. That is to say, if the fault is outside of my property, I will deduct a £129 from my phone bill.”

“Ummm…I’m not sure that…”

“Never mind. Send the engineer.”