Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Hallé Fireworks & Light Spectacular

It was our wedding anniversary last weekend and Dave bought us tickets to see the Halle Orchestra who were performing at an open air concert at Tatton Park last Saturday.

I made a special picnic for the two of us, candles, bubbly, the works. After trekking across what seemed to be half the county from the car park to the lakeside, we joined the other 10,000 spectators for an intimate supper a deux and had a fabulous time. The music was excellent, the crowds were all in fine form, and the conductor, John Wilson really entered into the spirit of things. The highlight of the night for me was the firework display set to the music of Swan Lake, sounds naff but it was really cleverly done with the display matching the music to a tee.

Dave will have to start planning soon for our 30th Anniversary next year if he wants to top this!!

Chocks Away Chaps

For Dave's last birthday I bought him a flying lesson and last Saturday the weather was kind enough to let him get airborne.

The lesson was at 8.30am at Liverpool Flying School. They started with a brief 'briefing' and then it was straight into a very little plane for a 30 minute taster lesson. It might just be me, but I thought that it was a little too breezey for a first attempt in such a little plane, but needless to say, Dave had a brilliant time. I'm not sure if he wants to take a full course of lessons to try and get his Pilots Licence but I do know that he wants a longer lesson booked for when we get back off holiday.

What is it they say about big boy's toys?

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Sent to Coventry

I have been sent to Coventry, Billy isn't talking to me.

He wasn't amused when I told him that he needed a bath and even less amused when I told him that he had to take his bath on the drive. Well what is the point in a having a large sunny drive and not taking advantage of it. It wasn't as if I was making him bath in cold water, I had made sure that it was just the right temperature and that I had plenty of his favourite coconut shampoo but still he sulked.

He has now taken himself off to bed and won't even look at me..................I am definitely in the dog house well at least until dinner time.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Mystery Shopping

I used to be a Mystery Shopper, what's that? I can hear you thinking. Well once upon a time, when customer service meant something, organisations would employ a Market Research Company to send 'Virtual Customers' to their shops, banks, garages etc to test the service given by their employees.

For instance when we were looking at Banks we had to note (surreptitiously) how many people where in the Banking Hall, how many Tills were open, how long we had to wait in the queue to be served, whether the cashier used our name,were polite etc. At the end of the day a report was then sent to the Bank's Head Office detailing the service received around the country at their Branches. This information was then used to inform the training given to Bank employees and also to praise those Branches which had 'scored' well on our visits.

During the time I worked for the company I looked at Fast Food outlets, quality Car Sale rooms, top of the range designer jewellery outlets, electrical retailers, Bingo Halls (one of the funniest nights of my life) and of course a number of high street Banks.

Are these 'Virtual Customers' still around? well if my experience yesterday in Warrington are anything to go by, the answer is a resounding NO. I may be picky and probably overcritical at times but when I see bad customer service it really annoys me.

In Boots the Chemist for example their machine wouldn't accept Lesley's Advantage Card. Was she given an apology or explanation, No, she was just told to 'go and see that blond girl on the Number 7 counter, she can put the points on' I'm sorry but that isn't good enough, we had spent over £50 in this shop and the impression we were left with was that they didn't give a damn if we shopped with them or not, especially as the only words from the 'blond girl' were OK. That's right OK, no sorry for the inconvenience, no explanation of why in a brand new store the machines were broken, nothing, just OK.

The next shop we went into, H&M, had only one cashier open. Lesley only wanted to buy a hair clip costing 99p. She waited about 7 minutes to be served and there was only one customer in front of her. Bad enough, but when she was finally served there was no apology for the wait, no friendly banter, no thank you, nothing just give me your money and get on your way!!!!!!!!!

I think that it is time to Name and Shame these stores. Why should they get away with treating us, their customers as if we were an inconvenience? Not that I blame the staff, they are only doing what they are told or trained to do. I blame the lack of leadership in these organisations. I blame the Managers, who obviously don't know how to manage or motivate their staff.

I think that my message to these organisations s BRING BACK MYSTERY SHOPPERS you know it make sense.

Monday, 16 July 2007

John lights up the sky in Liverpool

I couldn't believe it when I saw the weather forecast for last Saturday, Warm and Sunny. After weeks of miserable rain, the day of Annita and John's retirement party was set for fine!!!

This has been a bumper year for parties in Lynwood Road. Starting with David's first communion, followed by Mike's 40th Birthday and now, to end the party season on a bang, Annita and John's retirement do.

Everyone had a fabulous afternoon and evening and the weather was so fine that we were able to stay out in the garden the whole time. Annita had gone to a lot of trouble to set the atmosphere , fairy lights around the fence, beautiful candles on all the tables and the food, well what can I say that hasn't been said before, truly scrumptious...............

It was great meeting their friends and work colleagues but the highlight for me was being able to spend the time with (most) of my nieces and nephews. They are all scattered around the country and it is hard to get everyone together at the same time but I was thrilled that Roni and Carl were able to make the party. It was lovely catching up with them and I know that some of their younger cousins, who only remember them from photos, really enjoyed seeing them.

During the evening I was chatting to Helen's Mum and she said something quite profound, we are so lucky with our families. Our kid's are a happy and well adjusted lot who have grown up knowing that they are part of a loving extended family. Well I would like to put it on record that I agree. Looking at some of the photos that Sue had decorated the house with, made you stop and realise that we have so many happy memories to share and I'm not sure if we all take the time to count our blessings often enough.

So here's a toast.....................Annita and John we all wish you a long, healthy and happy retirement together...............all our love.................THE FAMILY

James' Graduation

Last Friday we had another trip to Aberystwyth in the pouring rain but this time we are not complaining..........it was for James' graduation ceremony. I am sure, that given the option, he wouldn't have wanted to wear the fancy dress and parade on stage in front of hundreds of tearful parents but let's face it, he didn't have any say in the matter............Dave, Lesley and I were so proud when he found out that he had gained a 2.1 BSc (Hons) in Physics and Planetary and Space Physics. All his hard work had paid off and we were looking forward to 'seeing' him graduate. The whole day was very well organised and ran like clockwork. Lesley and I felt that it was just a shame that they didn't walk off the stage with some kind of certificate, apparently this will be sent out later in the summer. But that aside we were as proud as punch and no gentle reader, I didn't cry, well not till after the ceremony when James was out of sight!

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

A change of plan

Those of you who have been following the saga of our proposed move down to Cornwall will know how frustrating it has been trying to sell the family home. A quick search on Google will show you that there are 44 similar priced houses for sale at the moment in Runcorn and at least 10 of them are in Norton Cross. I think that we have all had the same idea and tried to get our houses registered with Estate Agents before the introduction of the Home Improvement Packs and its £600 fee.

The problem is the Government, god bless them, have decided that we are making too much money from house sales and to curb inflation they are having to put up interest rates to slow the market down. Five rate rises in a year has meant that many people wanting to move up the housing ladder can't now afford the interest rate charges. I believe that there are plenty of people who would love to move but are worried that another rate rise could tip them over the edge financially.

So Dave and I revised our plans and we are now going to keep our family home and look for a holiday home by the sea. How lucky are we. .............the best of both worlds!!!!!!

We are planning on another recce to Cornwall in August (before we set off on our trip to Spain/Portugal) to view some likely candidates. I will keep you posted.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Lesley's Home

I can't believe how busy the past few weeks have been.

The conservatory roof has finally been replaced, at long last. After all the site visits from the builders I am now on first name terms with them all, know all about their partners and kids and have learnt more about racing pigeons than is healthy for any woman.

Luckily they made a very good job of the roof because since they finished it hasn't stopped raining...........I'm not moaning though, at least we haven't been washed away like the poor folk in Sheffield.

On the day of the floods I was in York visiting Lesley. Needless to say we got absolutely drenched walking around but at least we had a good excuse to have a long lunch in a very nice little pub. The problems started when I went to the station to get the train home. York station was in meltdown. Crowds of people were milling around the information desk trying to find out if there were any trains running to anywhere. The short answer was NO and we were all advised to try and find a hotel room for the night. So my little shopping trip to York turned into sleep-over, not complaining, we had a great time and can heartily recommend Weatherspoons breakfasts, great value and very tasty.

Dave and I had spent the weekend before my York extravaganza in the van on Anglesey. We were lucky with the weather and only had rain overnight. This did however, highlight an issue with the van, we discovered that in a storm the side door leaks. I woke about 3 o'clock in the morning thinking that I had wet the bed.................We are getting this fixed asap!!!

James drove over to York on Saturday to collect Lesley and move some of her stuff to her new flat. Dave and I spent the time hurriedly making room in the garage for the rest of her things. It took a while before we were able to unload the car as they had brought the Yorkshire rain along the M62 with them. But she is all unpacked and settled in now. It is strange having a full house again, but lovely to see the kids (sorry young people) back home, if only for the summer.

I don't know how James managed to get up so early on Saturday morning as we had been to Mike's 40th Birthday party the night before. It was a smashing party and I know that James enjoyed catching up with his cousins, it was just a shame that Elaine, after managing to find an escape route out of Sheffield, was poorly and couldn't make the party.

I am only sorry that I missed David's speech. By all accounts it was one of the highlights of the evening, but for my money you couldn't beat the floor show. It was truly inspired to have Mike recreating the 70s by Disco dancing to Abba and The Monkees. I was just a bit disappointed that he didn't get a chance to wear his white suit for a John Travolta tribute but he certainly gave the Eileen Phillips dancers a run for their money......................Just waiting for Sue to send the photos.....................

(P.S As usual Sue, ably assisted by Nita and Helen, prepared a wonderful buffet, they really should think about doing it professionally)