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  1. Dear Lloyds TSB – a bank holiday story

    August 27, 2012 by admin

    Let me tell you a story, a true story, so  maybe not a story..anyway, like a good story it starts with a prologue:

    Last Summer 2011

    In 2008 I got married, and took my husband’s name and added it to my own name. If I knew now what trouble it would become, maybe I shouldn’t have bothered. In 2011 my husband was making remarks that I hadn’t yet changed my bank cards to the new name, so I thought as I had been married for 3 years it was about time. 2 out of 3 cards where rather painless. My Lloyds TSB mastercard however wasn’t. It took 7 failed cards before they could get it right. My name was too long for the card, I would either be Elena (not Helena) or Alexande (not Alexander) so time and time again I asked for just my initials and my two surnames. It took 7 attempt and just as many trips to the bank to get it done. It was very silly but little was I to know it was about to get sillier…

    April 2012

    On my sons’ birthday 24 of April, I noticed that my purse containing all my cards had gone missing. Sometime during the previous day it had either gotten stolen or I lost it. Annoyed I went online to get all numbers to cancel cards. I called Nationwide who I got 2 cards with and Lloyds who I also have two cards with.  I was promised all cards would be replaced within 10 working days.

    May 2012

    I had gotten my 2 cards from Nationwide and my debit card from Lloyds, but still missing my credit card. To make matters worse I noticed that in my online banking my credit card was gone. I could no longer see what I had left to pay off.

    May – July 2012

    Now starts copious amounts of calls to Lloyds TSB credit card phone-line. I never counted how many. But I had the phone put down on me once, was told I could go into a branch to sort it out (in the branch I was told to use the telephone at the front desk to phone. About 5 times I was told the same thing “oh so sorry Mrs Alexander (with a R at the end I am sure they didn’t call me Mrs Alexande) we will lift the block on the account and send the card out within 10 working days.  Each time I called the more and more grumpy I was. Last time I called I asked for the persons name, to make sure I had a name next time I had to call. Alex (not Alexander) told me he was very sorry about what had happened, and that he understood my frustration, he was even going to remove 10 pounds from my credit card bill as a show of gratitude (this came out on the 10 of July). My card was going to be sent out straight away I would have it by Thursday next week. I didn’t, so I walked into the branch, not being able to face the telephone again. In the branch the customer Service manager was very nice and called up, and it seems the card was indeed sent out, I just had to wait. 3 days later the card showed up. I just put it to the side, thinking “finally”!

    A few days later I opened the card letter, only to see I was once again Alexande not Alexander. I threw the card across the room, and thought “sod it”

    August 2012

    I realised that this will just go on forever so I might as well just be Alexade, and called up to activate my card. As I was typing in the credit card number and expiry date, I started laughing. The card was valid from the 7/12 and expired the 7/12.   It was now August so the card was no longer valid. But the card was sent out in July, so they have actually sent out an expired card. As the automated voice said you’ll be put through a customer service adviser, I hung up, no way could I face this one more time.

    So the conclusion, 3 months to send out my replacement card, which is now expired, and has got the wrong name. I don’t think I have ever encountered a worse service.

    I have been banking with Lloyds for over 13 years, but I feel it won’t be much longer now. Because this is just painful, what I would call an epic fail on your behalf Lloyds TSB!



  2. 50 Shades of smut

    June 28, 2012 by admin

    A few days ago on twitter I confessed I quite wanted to read 50 shades of grey, a book which unless you have been living under a rock seems to be everywhere. I think I am not lying when I’ll say about 40% of my facebook friends are reading it at the moment. People who I trust dearly when it comes to things such as book or films, told me to run for the hills. The book is so badly written, and no not so bad it is good. This was last year, but now with so many people reading it and swooning over it I wanted to see what all the fuss was over.

    So a kind soul gave me a copy of the book. Now you can probably quite easily finish this book in one day, unless you are distracted by real life. I wouldn’t say it is an easy read, because it is indeed badly written. But the story, ermm I have to stop, not so much of a story more descriptions and stream of words and thoughts, with some added “tricky words” that don’t really fit in with the rest of the language, anyway it makes you keep on reading. The same way a pop song comes on the radio and you think “wow this is rubbish” yet you find yourself singing along to it the rest of the day.

    It reads like poorly written slash fan fiction, and after reading it I looked it up on wiki and found out it was. It started out as Twilight fan fiction.  I guess this is the part that amazes me and even impresses me. E.L James is making millions from slash fiction. Something only fan girls and boys really would indulge in has been made so mainstream it is close to becoming one of the most sold books ever.

    So why is this people ask? Why are people so in love with this smutty story about a CEO and a virgin jumping into a BDSM relationship? Well why wouldn’t they be? It is acceptable porn. Something everyone is reading so you don’t need to be ashamed of it. Funny thing is, even if you don’t see everyone reading smut, chances are that they mostly likely are anyway.

    10 years ago I worked at Yahoo as a surfer. We went through search logs and indexed sites, looked through submissions to the website directory, i.e. we looked at and saw a lot…a LOT of websites, and a lot of smut. Heck three weeks into my training starting out I had “sex training” to understand what sex sites went into what categories, what was legal, what wasn’t. Oh I learnt a lot. Did you know what Vore * was for example? Or that there are people who has a fetish for sneezing?

    I digress… what I wanted to talk about was people’s searches. Every week we produced lists of top 10 searches, for all countries that Yahoo! were in. As I worked on Yahoo Sweden, every week I ploughed through tonnes of searches of filth, porn, smut, dirt that would almost make you want to wash your eyes out. So when I produced the nice top ten list, omitting the porn searches it became rather mundane, like cars, houses, Britney Spears (leaving out the naked Brit searches). Basically people use search engines to search for sex related stuff, it is the same in all countries I dare say. It is safe to say I became a bit immune towards porn during my two and a half years there. Biggest shock was when I saw someone I knew on an “amateur” site. But again, proving the point people love smut!

    So instead of opening a Google Chrome incognito window and search for smut people now go and get a copy of 50 shades of grey. The sad thing about that, which a Twitter follower pointed out to me, is that there is a lot of well written Erotica out there. And if 50 shades really floats your boat, there is lots and lots of free fan fiction out there, just Google it. First time I was introduced to fan fiction was at Y! as well. As I was Swedish I was drafted in to look at a few Yahoo! Groups that were secret and in Swedish, but that were under suspicion for maybe being a bit dodgy or illegal. I didn’t see anything illegal, but I did come across a group of English housewives dedicated to writing smutty stories about Boyzone. And I can tell you now, those stories were far raunchier than 50 shades. There really is fan fiction out there about most things.

    Meanwhile back in the analogue world, when I was about 12 I was playing in a summer house owned by some friends of my parents. The man and wife had separate bedrooms next to each other, identical rooms apart from the fact that next to the man’s bed was a pile of the Swedish equivalent to Playboy, next to the woman’s was a huge pile of Barbara Cartland books. Even back then I found this rather amusing. Again smut galore kept privately away from prying eyes.

    So who knows, maybe the huge success that is 50 shades of Grey could result in people admitting to the fact that they like to read smut, and some of the better written ones will get a chance to go mainstream too?

    * Short for “voraphilia” or “vorarephilia”: a fetish in which one fantasizes about being eaten alive or eating another creature alive

  3. MS awareness, working and suffering

    June 22, 2012 by admin

    So, this has been a rather happening week in the world of MS, never before has so much been said about MS in the press. It has kept me rather busy at work, which is of course good. However when I walked home today three things kept on annoying me.

    1. People having a go at other people with MS or MS charities that say that it is good that something like this can raise awareness of MS. There is a huge misunderstanding here, it is NEVER good when someone gets diagnosed with MS, never. However when someone in the public eye approaches the press and talks about it, this is a good thing. There are 100 000 people in the UK living with MS, it is one of the most common neurological conditions for young adults. Yet we very rarely hear anything about it in the media. And from the news that has been circulating this week in the media, it really proves that the general public does not know enough of the condition at all. So people like Jack Osbourne are very needed to help raise awareness.

    2. Jack getting fired from his job because of MS. This makes me see red, with MS you should never assume anything, you never know what is around the corner. After living with MS for a few years you get pretty good at reading signals. And then you’ll know what you can and can’t do. But for someone to say to him that he is a liability because of the diagnoses is just utter nonsense. In the MS Trust at work with MS book you can read

    “On receiving a diagnosis of MS, family, friends and even health professionals might give advice to stop working. This could be because they do not understand the nature of MS or because they want to protect you from stress..”

    Research shows that 15 year after being diagnosed 80% of people with MS no longer work. I do think with more awareness and help, this number must be able to go down. But it most certainly never will if people get fired like that. His employers should be ashamed of themselves.

    Last year during MS Awareness week we were interviewing some great people with MS at their places of work, talking about how their employers had helped them to continue on working. Now I know not everyone can, but the ones who can and want to, should be able to get the help to do it. I’ve had to make some small changes at work myself, and I think it is working out well for me and my employer. Here is a video from last year of me talking about work and MS (pardon the rather dodgy blonde hair)

    3. The term MS Sufferer. I HATE it. I am a person with MS, I may suffer from time to time. Some people with MS suffer all the time, but they are still people. They are not defined by their suffering. Stop using this term NOW! I was on the radio at the start of the week, and when they presented me as a sufferer I really hated it. Thankfully it was changed later on. Really I should have made sure it was never used in the first place, as it seems journalists likes this term.

  4. Seeing Sparks

    June 14, 2012 by admin

    When I was a teenager I used to be best friends with MTV for a few years. The TV was always on when I was doing my homework. My favourite program used to be Called MTV’s most wanted hosted by Ray Cokes. One evening in 1994, on came a song that made me put down whatever I was doing and to be totally mesmerized by what I saw and heard. The song was “when do I get to sing my way” by the band Sparks. Now I had heard of Sparks before, as 3 years earlier I had been a big Queen fan, and in one of my books about the band there was a photo of the band Sparks. But I had never heard them.

    The following few evenings the song kept on coming back and it was just like nothing I had heard. A few weekends later I travelled to Stockholm in hunt of the CD. Oh how fiddly these pre internet days were, nothing were as instant as it is now. Anyway…CD in hand sitting on my floor, I felt like I had stepped into some kind of magical world. Never before had I had lyrics like that, singing like that, or music like that.

    The year previous to this discovery my dad passed away, and for me music was a way of working out all issues that his death brought on. Sparks and the album “Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins” helped me escape the reality that at the time wasn’t great.

    Sparks stayed with me, probably one of very few bands that have. When I moved to London in 99 I dove headlong into the synth-industrial-goth scene, and forgot a lot of the bands I had listened to as a teen. But Sparks stayed with me. I remember wanting to go see them in 2000 when the album Balls were released. But I couldn’t get the time off from work. Then I always just seemed to miss out of getting to see them live, so it wasn’t until 2008 and the 21 album Sparks spectacular gigs where I got to see them the first time. I then saw 3 gigs in a weeks time. Seeing them live after all those years was amazing, probably up there with the best gigs I have ever been to.

    So when I heard they were coming to London again this year I got really excited. This time without a band and under the banner of “two hands one mouth”. The hands of course belonging to Ron and his Ronald keyboard and the mouth to Russell’s amazing falsetto voice.

    The venue this time was shepherd’s bush hall, a place I had never heard of, but a rather interesting with big chandeliers hanging from the intricate ceiling which created a great atmosphere during some of the songs.

    The gig was just amazing, it was being referred to as being naked, as the brothers Mael where not with a band. But it really did not sound like there were only the two of them. With that fantastic voice and that Ronald keyboard working overtime to produce some amazing sounds it all felt as orchestral as any Sparks gig I have been too. But because there were no guitars to hide behind, I think you would just hear everything else in so much more detail, and it was pretty much flawless.

    There is a setlist here, I was a happy bunny as I got to hear several favorites such as Suburban homeboy, Number one song in heaven, Good morning, Dick around and of course “When do I get to sing my way” Which during it was played some crap must have fallen into my eye because I could feel them tearing up. Ermmhummm *cough cough* ….

    It was a great night, and Sparks are coming back again to the UK in October, and if you don’t try to go and see them then, you are indeed a bit of an idiot!


    PS I think I have just located that exact program where I first heard Sparks from, oh you amazing YouTube… watch here 

  5. Toca Boca Loca

    May 14, 2012 by admin

    My son has a new hobby, he is a practicing app surgeon. For the past 3 days or so he has been glued to the Ipad playing Toca Doctor, and app where you get to fix broken bones, get rid of lice, clean cuts and help fart out a swallowed toy car. He absolutely love it.  And as it has no adverts or sillyness you can leave him to it without worrying.

    As he loved the toca doctor so much I decided about 40 mins ago to see if there were any more apps by this company, who funny enough seem to be Swedish (what can I say we are a nation of good taste ;) )and BINGO there are lots. We downloaded the Kitchen, and the Store, and he has since been playing shop with me and trying to force feed a poor cat pureéd broccoli.

    All three apps are great little games, and they teach by playing. The little store once especially, this is my son in action;

    I can imagine the shop would be good between two kids in a car for instance. Although my boy seems to be quite happy playing both shop keeper and customer. As I am typing this he has moved on to the Kitchen app and is trying to make things explode in the microwave…boys eh! The Kitchen one consists of cooking various food for diffrent creatures and kind of guessing what they would like. Cat likes fish and so on. Cat did not like pureéd broccoli FYI

    Great games, go get the Toca Doctor now because it is free for the ipad, but not sure for how long!