Online Tax Return Fun

I filed my tax returns today. The scary part was that it was due today.

The truely harrowing moment was when I found that I could not activate the PIN number that had been sent to me. Instead, trying to access Self Assessment Online just gave me the following error:

A problem has occurred. Please try again later. If the problem persists please contact the Helpdesk on 0845 60 55 999 quoting G039.

The scary part was that the phone number was useless due to industrial action today. I couldn’t file my tax returns!

Thankfully, it was simply a matter or restarting the browser to get the process going again. Once I had logged back in to with my username and password, the activation prompt no longer appeared and I could get on with filling in the forms.

Oh, I owe the tax man 88p.

Marillion at the Koko – 28th January 2007

Interesting gig last night.

After not seeing Marillion live for over a year, Steve and I made our way to London and the oddly named ‘Koko‘. The journey consisted of us considering our feelings about the forthcoming album, ‘Somewhere Else‘. We were finding it difficult to summon up a great deal of excitement about the release. After the excellent ‘Marbles‘ in 2004, this album has been 3 years in the works. A lot of momentum seems to have been lost after such a strong album, and it’s commonly known that a number of the tracks are left-over material from the Marbles sessions. Nevertheless, it was time to get our Marillion heads on and enjoy the evening.

The venue was quite odd. Balconies all over the place with a 19th century theatre feel about it. I can’t help but feel that the venue used to be a theatre in its own right.

As it’s the convention warm-up show, we weren’t sure if we were going to be treated to the complete track list from ‘This Strange Engine‘, or if there were any new songs to be played.

Once the band opened with ‘Splintering Heart’, I knew this wasn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill setlist that dogged live shows up to and including the Anoraknophobia tour.

The show was a pleasant surprise for me. TSE wasn’t played in it’s entirety, but a number of tracks were represented: ‘One Fine Day’, ‘Hope for the Future’, and ‘This Strange Engine’. The former two I had not heard live before.

As well as that, the alternative version of ‘I Will Walk on Water’ was rolled out. The big shock of the night – and certainly a track that I never thought that I’d hear live.

Two tracks from the forthcoming album were played, one entitled ‘Last Century for Man’, which I thought was a commentary regarding the state of the planet and our destruction of it – a political piece. I couldn’t really get to grips with them though. Unfortunately, having songs played for the first time like this makes it difficult to be objective.

On the whole, the set rolled in at under 2 hours (Steve felt short changed), including 5 minutes of Steve H talking a to fan on the phone while on stage. I enjoyed it (which was impressive considering I was starting to feel flu grabbing hold of me as the day progressed), and Steve did too. “A couple to cross off the list,” He said to me as we left.

One warning if you’re overweight and visiting the Koko – forget about using the balcony gents. If you can’t see your feet, you’ll never be able to comfortably pee…

Happy New Year

Just a note to say a warm ‘happy new year’ to everyone who reads my blog (all 1 of you).

I thought that I’d try and being getting people into the trend of pronouncing the year correctly now, which I’ve been doing since 2005.

Right, when you read the 2005 bit there, did you say in your head “two-thousand and five” or “twenty-o-five”? There’s substantial difference.

I believe that in twenty-o-seven, I will probably save an hour of my life through the means of not wasting unnecessary syllables.

In fact the time, energy and effort saved should be enough to convince everybody of the fact. And let’s face it, by 2027, nobody in their right mind should be referring to the period as “two-thousand and so-and-so”. We didn’t in the 1900’s, so why now?

It’s just a bad habit that we have entered into from that millennium thing that shadowed over us back in 1999 (that’s nineteen ninety-nine – not nineteen thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine). We could really say, “Twenty-oh-oh”, and so two-thousand seemed a nice round number.

But here we are. Everybody is still saying two-thousand and such and such, although I have noticed that when I refer to the year with the more standard reference, people will copy me automatically which is odd and unnerving.

So come on! Make saying the year the right way a resolution for 2007!

My Top 3 People – Part I

Today, I find myself disillusioned once again by what I can only describe as one of the unholy trinity of man’s great unforgiving roles.

If you happen to know me, then you probably know that I have rated my ‘Top 3 Most Hated Group of People’, and will quite happily let you know them and tell you why.

Today, I’ll cover exactly why I have an immense dislike for delivery couriers.

Easily a contender for the top spot, let’s take a look at why I (and numerous other people) feel a deep-seeded loathing of these people.

  • They have an uncanny knack for turning up to deliver something at the 2-minute interval you whizzed around the corner for a pint of milk, after waiting indoors all day
  • They have a policy of ‘reasonable effort’ to make a delivery. For instance, if you haven’t answered the door after the courier has waved at you from the van while passing by, then that’s your problem. The courier has made a reasonable effort to deliver the package.
  • When I pay for an AM delivery, then the delivery is sometimes bumped to the day after I expected it because they can’t deliver it by AM on the day that it is due
  • If you’ve paid for a specific ‘by’ delivery time (eg. by 10am), the courier can still turn up late. This is true, a delivery for 10am turned up at 10:55. I asked why he was late, and he said the consignment has a time of 10 – and he wasn’t late!
    So although I thought I was paying for a pre-10am delivery, I was actually paying for a pre – or post – 10am delivery. Bargain!
  • They never follow instructions left on site at the delivery address. Eg. “Please deliver to rear entrance” does not mean “Please shove a parcel under the neighbour’s caravan” or “Read this sign – ignore it and knock on the door – be surprised that no-one is here and bugger off.”
  • They use archaic language where the word ‘fragile’ literally means ‘extremely bouncy ball’.

So, in a nutshell, that is why I can’t get along with couriers. The companies are quite happy to provide a poor customer service because they are banking on two things: The sender and the recipient. Because the sender is person paying for the service, they are quite happy to send out the goods knowing that the goods should be delivered on time and with care. The recipient on the otherhand, hasn’t paid the courier squat (well, not directly) and doesn’t have a leg to stand on when he or she complains.

The sad thing is that (and I gurantee this), if you ever need something on time for a specific purpose, that’s time-critical, and you pay more for that service – it’s bound to go horribly wrong.

Just remember, if you ever need to order an AM delivery – make sure you specifiy which AM!