Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 29/08/20

Bread, Buses, Bins, Bucks And..."Bollocks!"

The modern world seems to have been determined to confound me today. Let's take it in order:

Bread: I have a passive-aggressive toaster. This is a twin-slot Russell Hobbs model which I bought about three years ago because...well, I can't remember exactly why the old one needed replacing, but clearly it did.

The trouble is that when used in single-slice mode, it has a nasty habit of not so much 'popping-up' the bread when done, but hurling it out instead. Any bread placed in the rear slot therefore gets thrown at the wall behind it, and any in the forward aperture gets chucked either onto the worktop in front of it or onto the kitchen floor.

In this latter scenario, in order to try to spike the bastard's guns I have taken to putting a small plate directly in front of the toaster, so that at least the bread will land on something clean.

I did this this morning. When the bread was forcefully ejected from the machine, it flew sideways, completely missing the plate and nearly ending up down the side of the fridge.

Buses: Long-time readers will be aware that the nature of our bus services has long been a bugbear. The pandemic has not improved matters.

Prior to our little unseen invaders making their presence felt in every aspect of our lives, we had - Monday to Saturday daytime - four buses an hour, these being a 12 at the top of the hour, a 12A at twenty past, another 12 at twenty to and a 14 at five to the hour. In late April, this was reduced to one 14 at twenty-five past the hour and a 12 at five to. The 12A was withdrawn completely, which was a pest because that was the bus which went past Sainsbury's, and its removal has meant that I have had to catch the 14, get off by my old workplace at the pickle factory and walk some five hundred yards to the shop. And, of course, reverse the process when loaded down with my purchases.

Last Saturday morning at the bus stop which - conveniently for everything except the litter that people drop around it - stands outside my front gate, I got talking to a neighbour who said that she had heard that the buses were going back to normal from the end of this month. I said that I had seen nothing from Arriva to this effect, and put it down to what I call 'theyreckonism'.

Just out of curiosity, this morning I went onto Arriva Bus Wales' Twitter feed and saw that there was an announcement to that effect after all. Following the link provided took me to the company's new, handy-dandy website where - as is the case with all such 'improvements' - it was far more difficult to find any useful information than had been the case heretofore.

I tried using their all-singing, all-dancing journey planner, only to find that it wouldn't let me put in simply the name of the village as my starting point; it listed a number of bus stops in the bottom half of the village, but none up this end. So I just had to go with the nearest one. This was a bust, because the 14 doesn't go past any of the listed stops, so I was stuck with the 12 and 12A services.

(Yes, they are - if the information is to believed, and I reserve the right to scepticism on this point - restoring the 12A).

The planner gave the departure time for the 12A as being twenty past the hour from the nearest stop listed, which would probably mean a quarter past from the stop outside my gate. I say 'presumably', because since none of the stops up here is listed, it would be plausible to assume that the services weren't running up here at all. The 12 would run at ten to (or quarter to) the hour.

But what of the 14 (which I would prefer to take because it is less used, and that's important in these isolating days)?

I had to go back to the start of the journey planner and try again. Once more, the stops up here were not included as options, so I had to put in Tanyfron (the next village). The result that this produced suggests very strongly that the 14 service will no longer come up to any part of our village, and would now turn around some mile or so short of us and go straight back into town.

I went to the page which said that we could download timetables from it (desperately looking for something remotely coherent on the subject), and downloaded the timetable for 14...

...only to find that it was the timetable for the service up to today and not for the one which will start on Tuesday (because the 14 has never run on Sundays or bank holidays anyway).

Trying to work out which bus I would now need to catch to get home (five-hundred-yard walk included), I found that the 14 service appeared still to be coming up here after all, but half an hour out from the times it has been running for the last four months or so.

I am now deeply confused. The only way to get certainty will be for me to watch for which buses go past the house on Tuesday and when. Reality, when it comes down to it, trumps everything, even bus timetables.

Bins: The Council (that's the all-seeing, all-powerful lot, as Blaster Bates used to call them) empty our bins. We have five: a general one; a green one for garden waste; a plastic box for, well, plastics, tinfoil and the likes; another box for glass; and a little titchy one for food waste. All were collected on the same basis.

At the start of this year, some clever clogs down in the Guildhall discovered that the Council was not actually legally obliged to empty the garden waste one, and so - pleading poverty and unable to bring themselves to turn all those poor, starving middle-managers with which it is infested out onto the street - it was decreed that from the beginning of April anyone who wanted their garden waste removed would have to pay a charge of 25 for the delight (this is in addition to the council tax which has, once again, risen by well over the inflation rate this year).

Our old friend COVID-19 put a temporary hold on the implementation of this imposition, but changing circumstances and galloping avarice meant that the scheme has been set to recommence at the end of this month.

We were advised that we could pay it by calling the Council and doing the deal over the phone, but that an online payment system would be put in place 'within a few weeks'. 'A few weeks' are now 'within' and, sure enough, an online payment system is now there. However, when you go to pay the Grass Tax, you are required to sign up for something called 'MyAccount'. I don't know about you, but I'm sick of having to register for things which harvest my data and where the benefits accrue almost entirely to those on the other end of the transaction. On top of which, that's another ID and password for me to have to put in a Libre Office Calc file which I keep for the purpose; and, of course, another ID and password for me to lose or to not remember if I ever have to use my phone for it.

The thing is, I use the Council's website to pay my rent and council tax, and I've never needed a 'MyAccount' in the decade or so since I was left with no choice but to pay online after they closed all the cash offices. So why the fuck do I need one for this?

Bucks: When my mother died in 1998, I somehow acquired a Financial Adviser (or is it 'Advisor'?). The 'somehow' in this case being that he had been Mum's insurance collector, and had now gone into business on his own account. Amongst his advice was that I put the extra cash in my bank (what I suppose in macro-economic terminology would be deemed my 'current account surplus') into an ISA. In fact, he suggested I put all of it - some several thousand pounds - into an equity ISA but - my being properly wary of the arcana of the stock market - I demurred, and put most of it into a building society instead.

(The wisdom of my choice can be confirmed by the fact that the smallish amount I did put into shares is still worth somewhat less than what I put in in the first place).

In subsequent years, I put whatever spare money I had in my bank account into the building society ISA, and I would go down to the local branch in March every year to deposit the surplus and to have my passbook updated with the interest which had accrued since the previous March. But because I had been subject to pay 'rises' which either just about kept pace with inflation or, more frequently, were less (in other words, a pay cut), I hadn't been able to put anything into it for about seven years, so I didn't know how much was now in there. Given that the sum involved is going to be crucial to how I manage to survive the rest of my days (or at least until a possibly chimaeral state pension kicks in), I need to know exactly where I am.

Our viral chums having precluded a visit to the local branch (assuming I can find it; it moved a year or two back), I realised that I would have to sign up for online banking (I'd already had to do this with my bank, the name of which, by one of those happy chances, starts with the same six letters as that of my building society). So, I tried to register...

...to find that I couldn't, because the building society didn't have my mobile number or e-mail address. The thing is this; there was nowhere in the sign-up process for me to input that information (there had been with the bank). So instead, I have now had to ask them to send me a password and what-ave-yew by post, which somewhat defeats the object as far as I can see. So I will have to wait a week or so before I can find out how close to Queer Street I am.

And (finally)...

Bollocks!. Which is my considered response to all of the above.