29-Mar-2015 After All These Years

Posted March 29th, 2015 by jivauk and filed in jiva

Would you believe it’s 13 years since we re-met (26th March 2002 at Doncaster railway station), having been apart for 30 years… March 26th has since then been a special anniversary date for us and, if we can, we like to take some time out of our busy schedule and occasionally have what we refer to as an ‘us day’ where we head off somewhere and leave behind the troubles and pressures that are a constant part of everyday life. So what better date to plan as an us day than that very special anniversary.

You may be aware that Jimmy has been a little under the weather recently (feeling better, but it’s slow going), but we had planned this ‘us day’ months ago and were determined to go ahead with it.

The day started with the alarm going off at 04:45 – yep, it was going to be a long day – and by 05:30 we were in the car heading for Newcastle Airport (it’s amazing how many people are out and about at that time of day, and we’re very thankful that we left the 9 to 5 behind when we were both made redundant in 2008). After clearing security (divesting ourselves of coats, shoes, cameras, mobile phones, money, keys, etc) we headed off to the Departures area where we killed time by mooching around the shops before boarding the plane. After an uneventful flight we touched down early at Belfast International where we headed off to pick up our hire car.

By the time we got to our destination (10:30) we were feeling somewhat peckish, having last eaten at 05:00 – so we headed for one of the cafĂ©/restaurants there and were tempted by an all day breakfast from the menu on the wall outside… nope, they didn’t open until 11:00 am (what kind of time is that to START serving breakfast?).

SAM_4968So we leisurely strolled along Queen’s Road to Titanic’s Dock and Pump House where we settled for a toastie and a coffee before taking in a tour of the facility. No glitzy computer generated interactive exhibits here, just genuine almost untouched history – almost cathedral like inside from certain angles – the original pumps and machinery used to drain and refill the dry dock, some very old world machinery with levers and wheels and dials that nowadays could be controlled by a smartwatch on the operator’s wrist. Then on – and into – the dry dock itself… the weather was very changeable and just a few minutes prior to our visit there had been a downpour, we had the whole thing to ourselves. Mind-bogglingly huge, this cavernous space once filled to overflowing with 46,000 tons of steel as Titanic rested on the keel blocks running the length of the dry dock.

After saying our thank yous to the staff we walked back (in between downpours) to the purpose built Titanic Belfast visitor experience centre – the sleek, modern, angular lines of steel, wood and glass in stark contrast to where we had been. Courtesy of Donal, a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, we were treated to a tour of the site taking in the drawing offices, the site of the slipway and some of the interior of the exhibition itself. This set us up perfectly for our own self-guided meander through the history of industry in Belfast, the dream of the Titanic, the realisation in building the largest and most luxurious ship in the world, launch day, the sea trials, through to the fateful maiden voyage across the Atlantic, and the legacy of the disaster. When we were through we took a walk outside to the windswept site of the slipway for a respectful walk around the line which marked the outline of where Titanic had been built and launched 103 years previously.

SAM_5075

By now we were starting to feel hungry again, so checked the online guide for places to eat and headed off down Queen’s Road again, this time in the opposite direction – the first place was closed (probably opening too late for us to eat and have plenty of time to drive back to the airport), the second place was a Bohemian/studenty kind of place where you brought your own food, ground your coffee beans (or whatever) and paid via an honesty box… all very cool and trendy, but no good for a 60+ couple who were looking to purchase meals rather than bring our own. So, back to the exhibition centre – we’d just have to make do with something there. Nope… the centre was closing soon and the eateries were shutting up shop too.

And that’s how we came to be driving back to the airport and returning the car well ahead of our departure time. After Val almost being run over by one of the boy-racer hire car returns staff we walked back to the departures area, submitting ourselves to the security clearance again (why does Jimmy always get stopped and searched?) we trudged wearily through the shopping mall and eventually found somewhere to sit down and have a bite to eat with red wine for Val and non-alcoholic lager for Jimmy. The soda bread pizza was surprisingly nice too, which is more than could be said for the two guys who came and sat opposite us (seems all they wanted was a particular seat where they could plug in and charge their mobile phones). Once charged, they set about having separate loud conversations (at that volume they didn’t really need the phones). So, refreshed from the food and drink but weary from the incessant noise we went back out to mooch the shops again until it was time to board our flight back to Newcastle and home. By the time our heads touched the pillows we had been up and about for 20 hours… zzz… zzz… a perfect end to a very special day.

But wait, there’s more.

The following morning we were heading off to Scotland so Digital Jimmy could do some investigative and resuscitative work on a laptop. Before setting off we received a phone call with the potential for a recording commission, a website commission and the possibility of re-forming a band from 35 years ago!

Life is good, even (or especially) after all these years.

Jimmy & Val (jiva)
www.jiva.co.uk


22-Mar-2015 Indisposed

Posted March 22nd, 2015 by jivauk and filed in jiva

Warning: this week’s blog is not for the faint-hearted or squeamish…

yoyoJimmy has been feeling a bit like a yo-yo of late – a bit up and down. Being accustomed to rude health (why do they call good health ‘rude’) he does not take easily to being indisposed. Indisposed to the point of having to miss driving to Guisborough to see Anthony John Clarke, indisposed to the point of having to cancel/postpone/re-schedule jiva gigs, indisposed to the point of ‘having a lie down’ in the afternoon (and sometimes in the evening too), indisposed to the point of only getting a good night’s sleep once in a blue moon – mostly snatching an hour before being awake and unable to find a comfortable position for sleep.

Well you get the picture – or maybe you don’t… we certainly don’t. GP check-ups, various tests, gastroscopy (camera tube thingy – yeauch! don’t ask), CT scan, various prescription medications… it’s getting boring, and we have little to show for it so far except a small sliding hiatus hernia and some enlarged blood vessels in the gut, another GP appointment an ultrasound scan, a follow up appointment at the endoscopy/gastroscopy specialist and [yawn] probably more to come.

There comes a time when rest and recuperation are the best way forward, so you’ll probably see less of us over the next few weeks until this gets sorted.

Life is good, a bit painful right now, but it’s just a temporary setback…

Jimmy & Val (jiva)
www.jiva.co.uk


15-Mar-2015 What’s Past Is Past

Posted March 15th, 2015 by jivauk and filed in jiva

They say things come in threes – well, this past week has shown this to be true… rewind to two previous items from recent weeks… uncharacteristically, we decided that enough was enough with regards to the Singing and Vocal Coaching course we’d been attending; and also we managed to return Jimmy’s ill-fated desktop PC after much frustration with its reliability.

swap-ne-smallThis week brought about another passing… after much consideration we decided to wind up the Song Writers And Performers – North East group (SWAP-NE). Following a successful songwriting symposium in August 2013 we set up the group to aid and encourage development in songwriting and performing for all levels from novice to experienced. After almost two years we felt that it wasn’t offering enough to keep everyone interested/committed, and dwindling attendance following the turning of the year (2015) meant it really wasn’t viable to continue.

We’d like to go on record in thanking everyone for their support – read the SWAP-NE blog www.swap-ne.co.uk/2015/03/fond-farewell/ for more detail and also the comments from members… it’s humbling and comforting to know that SWAP-NE was enjoyable and of benefit, but we know in our hearts that we made the right decision.

On a lighter note there’ve been a couple of other past items – a band reunion and a visit to our old stamping ground where romance blossomed.

Figurines 01After The Bomb was a concept prog rock album recorded by Xonique in 1979/1980. The band was Paul (keyboards, electronics, vocals), Richard (electric guitar, bass guitar, acoustic guitar and vocals), and Jimmy (drums, acoustic guitar and vocals) – we liked to think that we were the local answer to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Heady days, youthful dreamers learning the craft. Paul, Richard, Jimmy and Val met up at a local Chinese restauarant for a very satisfying meal before heading back to the jiva Blue Room to record an interview about the album and the band… coming to a podcast near you soon once the mixing and jiva magic dust has been applied.

The Parish Hall in Prudhoe holds many happy memories for us – we used to run the church youth club tuck shop, we played table tennis there (staging a 24-hour playathon to raise funds), Jimmy even cut his teeth as a drummer with his kit up there on the stage performing in various different line-ups…. wind forward 45 years and jiva played two gigs for the 2014 Prudhoe Arts Week (one in the Tory Club and one in the Fuse), and we’ve been invited back for 2015 to play at the festival in May and also at a fundraiser event on 24th April at the Glenside and have attended a couple of committee meetings too. Well, can you imagine our delight when an email popped into our inbox announcing the next meeting was to be at the very same Parish Hall… how could we resist? Not at all.

The stage is no longer there – it’s now the meeting room, so it was fitting for our nostalgic trip down memory lane.

What’s past is past, but there are happy memories – life is too short to dwell on the negatives…
life is good and, in the end, all things must pass.

 

Jimmy & Val (jiva)
www.jiva.co.uk


08-Mar-2015 Chalk And Cheese

Posted March 8th, 2015 by jivauk and filed in jiva

chalk-cheeseWhich would you rather have? Well, that probably depends on whether you’re a teacher or a mouse. And why am I writing this blog on my “old” spare backup PC? All will be revealed…

There are two scenarios, each one will be summarised truthfully below, no embellishments… let’s tell it exactly as it happened. Starting at the beginning.

My Dell desktop PC had for a long time been proving problematic with playing back audio and also video, whether local files, network server files or streaming from the internet – burping and spitting somewhat too often for comfort. So, after much research we plumped for a beast of a machine – at that time the term ‘beast’ was a complimentary nod at the impressive specifications… latest generation powerful processor, loads of RAM, massive hard drive, separate graphics card with lots of onboard memory… seemingly perfect for video editing, audio editing and the plethora of less strenuous CPU tasks such as graphics editing, web design and publishing and all manner of office related stuff such as documents, spreadsheets, presentations, email, internet browsing, etc etc etc. Add a second hard drive for audio and video related data and program-generated files and sure enough it seemed to fit the bill.

As the weeks wore on there were occasional glitches either on bootup or shortly afterward. As the weeks turned into months the glitches became regular occurrences – first boot every morning would produce a crash or hang very soon after logging on. Virus checking, malware scanning and hardware tests showed nothing untoward, but something was obviously wrong. OK then, time for action… Tech support? Customer Services? Twitter? Facebook? Google+?

If you don’t want to share the frustration we experienced, you should scroll down to Scenario 2 – it’s a much more refreshing and uplifting read.

SCENARIO 1

  • Checked website – no way to contact Customer Services, no phone number, no email, no live chat. Set up an online ticket with Tech Support – no direct email and no live online chat, but I did want a record of the communication so opted not to phone them (yet).
  • A few days later got an email allocating me a customer number and giving instructions to download, install and run hardware testing software. I duly did this and emailed them the results of the hardware scan.
  • Silence – no response to my email.
  • So after 7 days I phoned Tech Support who advised me to download, install and run hardware testing software… naturally, I referred them to my email with the results of the scan. “Ah, yes, I see… hmmm… if there’s no hardware problem identified it must be an underlying software issue. Suggest you do a factory reset of the PC and start again – shall I do that now while you’re on the line?” NO!!! I want to back up my stuff before doing that.
  • It was two weeks later before I had a window of opportunity where I could devote two consecutive days to the task. So I duly backed everything up to external media and did a total factory reset. Left the machine overnight… booted up the following morning… same problem… no change. So I emailed them an update on my progress.
  • I also posted on their forum to see if anyone could help with the problem.
  • Silence – no response to my email and no response on the forum. So I joined the Google+ community and posted there… they suggested the forum would probably yield quicker results. I asked on their Twitter why no one was responding to my emails.
  • Silence – no response to anything.
  • So after seven days I phoned Tech Support again… guess what? They advised me to download, install and run hardware testing software… naturally, I referred them to my email with the results of the scan and also my follow up email regarding the factory reset and re-install of Windows 8.1. “Ah, yes… hmmm… might possibly be a hardware problem after all”. At this point I re-iterated what I said in my email, that the machine was unfit for purpose and that as per the email, I requested a full refund.
  • The response was definitely no, even though it was still under warranty, I’d had the computer for too long and should have requested a refund much earlier. I asked what were my options and was told to return the PC and they would look at it and decide whether it was genuinely faulty and they would then decide at their discretion whether to fix it or replace it. The timescales would be:
  • In 2 to 3 days they would write to me enclosing a pre-paid shipping label
  • I was then to contact the courier to schedule a pickup date
  • The courier would pick up the package and ship it to the workshops in Germany
  • I should allow 10 to 15 business days for the PC to be diagnostically checked out
  • I would then be told what they believe the problem is or was
  • If faulty they would decide whether to fix or replace
  • If no fault found I would have to pay a service charge and be charged for shipment back to me
  • If they believe the fault is user error or changed configuration they would quote me for any remedial work they thought necessary
  • If I accept the quote they would schedule repairs and bill me for repairs and shipping
  • After payment the unit would be shipped back to me
  • Looking at this I suggested that I might be without a PC for a month or more, and was told that might be the case or it might be quicker. I asked for a phone number for Customer Services – none. I then asked for an email address for Customer Services – none. Somewhat exasperated by now I asked was there a bricks and mortar address I could write to. “You mean, you want to send a complaint? Well, here’s the address and post code”.
  • So I thanked for his time, and for the address, and that it was nothing personal against him – after all, he was just doing his job according to their procedures. If there really was no alternative would he send me the pre-paid shipping label etc… while waiting for it to arrive I would explore other avenues to see if I could get this sorted to my satisfaction.

Well that was Scenario 1 – not exactly what I had hoped for. However I did promise you another scenario, and here it is…

SCENARIO 2

  • Log on to the online retailer where I bought the PC.
  • Explained the situation.
  • Their response? “No problem. Send it back for immediate full refund. We’ll organise a courier to come and pick it up.”
  • Next morning, DPD van turns up for the package.
  • Two days later an email from the retailer… “We have received your return and have issued a full refund.”
  • In fact they refunded me too much – they had refunded postage costs when, in fact, I never paid any postage… they had arranged everything.
  • I logged on to live chat and told them about refunding me too much – “Thanks for letting us know, sorry for the inconvenience… as a gesture of goodwill please keep the additional amount we refunded.”

And that was Scenario 2 – and a day or so later, guess what? A letter from Scenario 1 arrived with the shipping sticker and instructions and potential costs involved for diagnostics, fix and shipping!

So which companies were involved in the two scenarios? Amazon UK and Lenovo, not necessarily in that order… we’ll let you decide which was which.

All’s well that ends well – we have cut another tie that binds us, but the hunt goes on for a new PC… and this time it has to be right!

Life is good, surprisingly good at times.

Jimmy & Val (jiva)
www.jiva.co.uk