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)

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)

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.


  • 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…


  • 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)

01-Mar-2015 Just Don’t

Posted March 1st, 2015 by jivauk and filed in jiva

The PC issue is still not sorted – so be it. Time to take some direct action on that one. Taking control of life is good, it’s certainly better than sitting back and letting life dictate.

just-dontMost of you will know that one of our mantras, taglines, catchphrases, philosophies (call them what you will) is “Just do it” – and we do, sometimes we just get on and do things… as long as no one gets hurt or suffers by our actions we stop dithering and what-if-ing and just get on and do it. Another thing we normally do is see things through – sort of “We’ve started, so we’ll finish”… and that sometimes turns out to be really hard work – uninspiring, unfulfilling and sometimes downright depressing. So we’ve decided that we need to make room for a “Just Don’t Do It” alternative, and we’ve done it (or stopped doing it) once already.

Astute readers of our monthly Muse Update may have noticed a reference to “Wot – No College“. Well spotted if you did. Having completed a Songwriting course we signed up for the Singing and Vocal Coaching course at the same establishment. The prospectus promised all manner of goodies and benefits including the opportunity for “One On One sessions with our professional vocal coach” – that seemed just the thing for us, we’re always looking to improve in our crafts/skills of writing and performing. Unfortunately the reality did not live up to the expectations in that there was no “one on one” anything and we started each evening in a large disparate group trying to do the exercises with no feedback on whether we were doing it right or not, then the group moved to a performance studio where we all stood around singing songs that we didn’t like in keys that were difficult for many of us, being divided into men on one side and women on the other and being told when and what to sing with no real plan or target in sight.

We carried on up until half term in the hope that things might get better after the break – but no, things were re-arranged and in danger of getting even worse. So we filled in our course assessment booklets trying to combine honesty and diplomacy and quit on the spot. Once we’ve started something we find it very difficult to not see it through to the end, but in this instance we decided that rescuing those Tuesday evenings and also the time spent on cogitating the fact we weren’t getting anywhere was much more valuable than persevering with it.

And, d’you know what? It felt liberating to release some of the ties that bind us.

Life is good, but sometimes it needs a bit of extra effort and the strength to Just Not Do It.

Jimmy & Val (jiva)