Monthly Archives: November 2012

First Direct: excellent bank but iniquitous cashpoint charge

I’ve been banking with First Direct for something approaching 20 years, and let me say up front that I am very, very happy with them. They don’t charge for current-account activity, they let me link my savings and mortgage, and most amazing of all, their customer service is friendly and efficient. Any time, day or night, I can call them (08456 100 100), they’ll pick up within three or four rings, and I’ll be instantly speaking to a cheerful, knowledgeable human.

Against that very positive backdrop, I have one complaint.

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James Bond movies, part 5: Timothy Dalton

By the time A View to a Kill came out, the Bond-makers recognised not only that Roger Moore’s time was up, but that something radically different was required to prevent the series sliding progressively into self-parody. (It’s notable that when Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery came out, nearly all of its references were to Sean Connery’s films: evidently Mike Myers realised that the Moore films were beyond parody.)

That something radically different was not only a new and younger Bond, but a change of style. Continue reading

My review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine


James Bond movies, part 4: Sean Connery returns again

As Roger Moore’s sequence of Bond Films settled into its increasingly frivolous nature, Sean Connery — who has famously said “Never again” after filming his comeback Bond-movie Diamonds Are Forever — was persuaded to return once more twelve years later.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

This came out in the same year as Octopussy, which I consider the nadir of Moore’s efforts. Tiring of Moore, I watched Never Say Never Again between For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy, and found myself liking it a lot more than I expected to. Connery is clearly too old for role at 53 — but that’s still three years younger than Moore was in his offering of the same year. More importantly, Connery had retained his charisma — if anything, he emits even more of an alpha-male vibe in 1983 than he had in 1971. And that alone makes the film work.

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James Bond movies, part 3: Roger Moore

[Read part 1 and part 2 first]

Left: youngish Roger, 1973 (Live and Let Die). Right: older Roger, 1985, somewhat tarted up (A View to a Kill)

It’s not by accident that I left the Roger Moore films till last in my rather eccentric viewing order. I never found him very convincing when I saw his films in the past, even though he is the Bond I grew up with — his tenure took me from age five to 17. It seems appropriate to me that he is Alan Partridge’s favourite Bond. But would I find more to enjoy on returning to these films thirty years later?

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James Bond movies, part 2: George Lazenby, and Connery returns

[Start with part 1]

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Famously, the only outing of the second official Bond, George Lazenby — a man who was offered a seven-movie deal but walked away after one, only to sink without trace. Which is a shame, because he could have been good. Continue reading

James Bond movies, part 1: Sean Connery

For reasons that are not really clear to me, I’ve recently watched all 22 of the pre-Skyfall official James Bond movies. I also watched Never Say Never Again, and made a fairly serious attempt to watch the non-EON 1967 Casino Royale with David Niven, but couldn’t force myself to watch that one all the way through.

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Dear Vodafone, are you lying thieving cheats, or just incompetent?

My eldest son has a mobile phone, which he uses only for contacting us in emergencies. Happily, he hasn’t needed to use it for for more than six months. Then yesterday he was delayed getting home from school and tried to call us. His phone didn’t work.

At the same time, we were trying to call him. The call didn’t go through, and we were told that the number was invalid.

(He got home safely not long after this, so that’s all right. That’s not the point of the story.)

My wife called Vodafone, the service provider, to ask what had happened. The rep explained that when a Vodafone mobile phone is unused for six months they shut down the account, effectively bricking it, and reassign the number to someone else. (That last bit is evidently untrue, since the number is now invalid rather than going to a different phone.) Shortly before the six months expired, they apparently warned us that this was going to happen: by a text sent to the very phone that wasn’t being used, rather then for example an email or a call to our land line or a letter or frankly any method of communication that didn’t involve the very phone whose lack of use was the reason for the message.

This was a pay-as-you-go phone. I am sure no-one will be too surprised when I tell you that when they closed down the phone they kept the balance in the account.

So what can we do from here? Apparently if our son wants to start using the phone again, he has to get a new SIM card, which of course means that he loses his address book (and anyone who had his number will no longer be able to use it).

So my feeling is that Vodafone should have (A) not bricked the phone at all; or failing that, (B) informed us by some sane method that they were going to do that; or both (C1) not stolen our money, and (C2) not junked the old SIM. In short, is it really too much to ask that they not behave like turds?

You know, the market for service companies that simply aren’t horrible is wide open. It’s not going to hard to win customers’ loyalty when this sort of craptacular behaviour is routine among their competitors.


Dear Network Solutions, are you lying thieving cheats, or just incompetent?

Let’s go through this slowly and carefully, shall we?

After a long, tedious process in which you did not allow me to cancel my domains online, I finally received your email requesting me to confirm what I had told you by phone:

And here is the reply that I sent, 22 minutes later, confirming that yes, I do wish to delete both of the named domains:

This you then confirmed to me, three hours later:

Let me just quote that back to you, in case you didn’t actually read what you said: The domain names PROPERTYTRIANGLE.CO.UK and PROPERTYTRIANGLE.COM have been deleted.

Imagine my surprise, then at finding this notification in my inbox this morning, six weeks later:

So you have stolen $35.98 from me to renew a domain that I cancelled, and whose cancellation you acknowledged six weeks ago.

So I have three questions for you:

  1. Is this the grotesque dishonesty that it appears to be, or is it merely grotesque incompetence?
  2. Will you credit the stolen amount back to my card immediately?
  3. Will you please now actually delete the deleted domains?

Needless to say, I will not be “continuing to give you the opportunity to help me meet my online needs.


Classic rock for Fundamentalists: the whole story

Here they are, all together in a single post for ease of linking.