Thursday, 22 December 2011

Burglary a year on


(Wow that photo is a bit dark - it's taken from upstairs looking into the extension, to show the Christmas lights)

This time last year a burglar was settling in for the night somewhere in East London. It's a busy time of year for burglars, with lots of booty up for grabs and merry revellers not being as cautious as they should be. This week we heard of a local policewoman who had her door kicked in at 3pm and had everything taken from her home - presents included. In hindsight we got off lightly as our burglar only took electronic items and cash.

Only yesterday someone asked what the outcome of the burglary was for us - and I had to explain that we didn't get a penny of insurance because MoreThan are an unfair company. According to them, I should have double bolted the doors and slept with the alarm on - even though Rob was still out. Actually he was out til around 4.45am, and I would not have been a happy camper being woken up by him unable to get in. We have switched to a more ethical insurance company who mention that 'reasonable precautions' are made but none of the nonsense that MoreThan say we should have done. It has to be said, if you do happen to double lock your doors and sleep with your alarm on you probably won't need insurance against burglary, or fire for that matter as the chances of escaping in order to claim would be fairly slim. (Ok I am officially in a bad mood about this now - but thinking about losing £2,000+ worth of stuff that we had to replace despite paying premiums for so many years because of a ridiculous clause is irkesome).


Anyway - in other semi-related news: earlier this week the car alarm went off at 4am, repeatedly. It could only be reset by locking the door with a key and Rob gallantly made me do it. The same week one of the sensors in our security system decided it needed a new battery and it took 3 days of waiting for an ADT engineer to come round to replace it. Also in the same week, one of the wires on the garage door wiggled free which meant the entire mechanism wouldn't work (thankfully Rob has fixed it, for now). The theory that things happen in threes seems to hold true here!

Pictured above: Church Street in Stoke Newington, great way to spend a Saturday FYI.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Happy Festivus


Yowser, it's the middle of December yet I still feel in denial about the impending festive season. I blame the weather - this weekend kicked off with slight chill and a massive full moon rising (pictured top) which was visible through the night via our glass roof (yay), or rather it would have been if we were at home instead of raising all kinds of hell at a terrific party (cheers Tubbs! Happy birthday!).


The next night started with an impressive sunset, a dinner for 10 to watch the final of the X Factor and then out to another terrific party, where I DJd for the first time in public since June. Just goes to show that being jaded makes you play better as there was no shortage of lovely people coming to hi-five me mid set (that's never happened before).


And so, onto Sunday, where we hosted some Christmas drinks and mince pies and sat around our fake fire (yes it's a DVD)...


...and marvelled at the Christmas tree which now the kids can decorate by themselves (Result! And that's why you have kids)... so I guess it's time to start feeling festive. If the rumours are true and it snows this weekend then I'll be truly out of denial. Until then, I'm in an extended autumn frame of mind...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Back to the drawing board


Procrastinators unite! We finally got the builders round this week to check out our plans with a view to getting a quote. A previous post referred to putting the bathroom into the existing garage, and creating a utility room in the current cloakroom.

The builders saw the waste pipe two feet off the ground and said that it was all possible (good) but that there would be cost implications (bad). If we wanted to run the new waste pipe from the shower and loo it requires a pipe of a certain size, and we'd have to join it up with the existing pipework which would mean finding it under the floor and checking it's suitability. This would cost anything up to £2,000 depending how much digging was required. Plan B was to put in totally new pipes and run them into the outside drainage system, but this requires permission from the council, which would take time and the cost for getting the permission is £500 before any digging gets underway.

Plan C is to stick with the configuration we've got and shoehorn a shower in there. It means we'll end up with something a little less spacious and probably more like a wet room. As I don't think anyone is fond of dealing with a shower-splashed loo, we'll need to put a screen in there but as the room is so narrow (less than a metre) it's going to be a bit of a challenge.

Pictured at top is a teeny basin, which in all likelihood is about the size of what we'll end up getting. Hopefully we can sort out a new layout/plan and get a quote before Christmas, so we can worry about the cost and mess over the festive season...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Visualising the new bathroom


OK it's not as bad as I thought. For some reason I'd convinced myself we'd been here for four years and I'd put up with the old bathrooms and very limited wardrobe space for a ridiculous length of time.

On closer inspection, it's coming up to three years. I had a three-year gap between kids as that was about the right amount of time to forget the horror of popping out a newborn. Renovating is similar. I'll be pretty chuffed it we can get the next part of the downstairs renovation done in the next few months, so it means we can gear up for the top floor project (eventually).

Rob made a 3D drawing of where stuff will go in our downstairs bathroom - it's not representative of the actual things that will end up there, but we wanted to show the builders the layout and spacing. It's a bit tricky to do that while staring into the current room as there are so many boxes, a washing machine, dryer and overspill from the kitchen cupboards. (Seriously - if we got hit by more riots/severe snow etc I wouldn't need to leave the house for weeks).

The builders are busy until mid-January at the earliest, but we're keen to get them round to do a quote soon so we know what we're in for.

If you want to see a truly inspirating before-and-after renovation project, go and 'like' Hotel Lautner on Facebook - it's now a drool-inducing mid-century eye-popping design fest, check out the early photos to see how it used to look. I'm a fan of John Lautner's iconic architecture - and the new owners of this hotel have done an amazing thing. Below is a photo of one of their renovated bathrooms, I hope there are similar tiles at Topps Tiles...


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Movie mecca in East London

Well not really a mecca but I was referring to my last post title. Anyway, in a few days what used to be The Ocean music venue on Mare Street (10 minutes walk from here) is going to open as the brand spanking new Hackney Picturehouse.

This is exciting as despite having two large TVs I still enjoy seeing cinematic films at a cinema. 99% sure I'll become a member too as it seems really good value (£30 per person or £58 for a couple) for the whole year. You can see a list of the membership benefits here actually. And to see if there are any upcoming movies you're keen to see, here's the Hackney Picturehouse What's On page.

In other news - Rob almost had a heart attack on Sunday morning. Proper chest pains, aching arms the whole thing. Turns out it was probably deferred back pain coupled with adrenalin and huge amounts of stress, owing to the incredibly tense Rugby World Cup Final (in case you don't give a toss about sport you may not know that the All Blacks finally won after 24 long years - and we only won by a single point, against France).

A few weeks back when it was announced that our star player Dan Carter couldn't play any of the remaining matches due to his injuries, every New Zealand rugby supporter felt worried. Then there was Piri Weepu. And now there is Stephen Donald - a whitebait fisherman no less. Stephen Donald has gone from being possibly 'the most maligned figure in New Zealand rugby', to a modern day national treasure.

Despite living away from New Zealand for 12+ years I still feel extremely patriotic when it comes to the All Blacks. And I'm so very glad we finally won!!!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Shopping mecca in East London


The most exciting (?) thing to happen in our neck of the woods lately was the opening of Westfield Stratford City. I'm told it's the largest shopping mall in Europe. It's two tube stops from our house and I was a little hesitant as I'm a fan of shopping locally to support independent businesses. Having made a few trips to Westfield for various reasons I'm pleased to say I've spent a similar amount in local shops over the same time period.

During winter we can see the top of the Olympic stadium from our top floor, but it was a fabulous discovery to find the 2012 themed room within John Lewis. Floor to ceiling windows looked out across the site facing west which afforded a really unbeatable view of the stadium taking shape. The kids weren't bothered but that could be due to the post sugar comedown from the Millie's cookies & Krispy Kreme donuts.

I'll probably avoid Westfield in the run up to Christmas but now that it's here I can't see any reason to go shopping in Central London ever again. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Downstairs revamp


Our downstairs configuration has been a topic of conversation lately. It turns out the current cloakroom isn't big enough for the Roca toilet and sink combo. Rob then had the genius idea of swapping everything around - moving the shower/loo/sink into what was going to be our utility room, and moving the washer and dryer into our current cloakroom (NB cloakroom is what the British call a small toilet, usually positioned under the stairs).

It's such an obvious solution I can't think why we didn't come up with it in the first place. It might be because the stack (plumbing arrangement involving large pipes) is about two feet up the wall - which might be tricky when plumbing in a loo and shower waste pipe. I'm sure there's a solution - maybe smashing up the floor until we find the outgoing pipe and joining it up there. Additionally we'll need a dedicated hot water system - gas or some kind of electric pump - otherwise the top floor bathroom will have no pressure when the downstairs one is in use.

As the room will have no natural light we'll need to consider lighting, and of course heating and venting out the steam. For inspiration I quite like these two bathrooms - large slate tiles and a glass shower door - practical.

(Both photos via


Saturday, 3 September 2011

Tidy house, tidy mind


Ah surfaces - how I love thee. In addition to de-junking the spare room last month, I also made us of the extra storage provided by our new sideboard to clear away the various piles of stuff. Amazing how many unread bits of mail, magazines and debris just accumulate and if you leave them long enough, they turn out to be irrelevant and can be chucked. The trick is to biff the kid's creations into the wheelie bin, if they see their efforts in the kitchen bin they tend to go a bit hysterical.


So now when I look around our room my eyes don't land on anything that should be tidied away. Unsurprisingly this has allowed me to spend more time doing nothing instead of making piles of stuff to deal with. (Doing nothing when you have house guests is considered polite FYI.)


Below is a panorama of the downstairs space to show a continuous expanse of room rather than what was there before, which was a mishmash of newspapers and kids toys. With any luck we can keep this up at least until school starts back next week.

Monday, 22 August 2011



The mid-century fixation continues as we're enjoying more space. Our wider than normal hall which leads to the spare room now houses the retro bar (pictured top). And we finally hung the teak mirror I bought 18 months ago on eBay (pictured below).

The middle floor now feels like a shrine to G-Plan with the mirror, sideboard, bar and coffee table. Having this stuff in place makes the room feel like more or less finished, which is a bit of a relief after nearly three years. Now all we need to do is hang our accumulated art.


This photo shows the spare room now - a couple of weeks ago you could barely see the floor or walls for boxes stacked in there. Apologies to everyone who's stayed here since we moved in - but feel free to come back and revisit!


Monday, 15 August 2011

G-Plan sideboard


It's the imminent arrival of certain guests that suddenly propel action in our house. For nearly three years we've ignored the piles of boxes in the spare room. Each one labelled 'office' or 'books' so hardly exciting enough to warrant invesigation. Rob's parents are arriving this week - at the time of writing they were delayed due to the freak snow storm in Wellington and hadn't made it onto their flight - but we used the last two Sundays to sort out those boxes.

Pictured top is the gorgeous G-Plan sideboard I bought on eBay for the bargain price of £110 + £45 delivery. It looked pretty impressive in the photos on the listing and I have to say, it's even better in real life. We had to remove the legs to get it up the stairs, and it suffered a slight scuff on the front being hauled over the hand rail, but a dab of wood stain and I'm sure it'll be fine. The two photos below show the sideboard in our upstairs TV room.

The next de-junking project has to be the boxes in the kids room, the garage and under the stairs...


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hackney is lush


The civil unrest and looting in Hackney had a lot of New Zealand friends and family texting and emailing the last couple of days. They had a vision of the whole of East London burning to the ground. Well, these are friends etc who weren't on social media, so I guess it proves that traditional media over there is reporting way behind 'real time' events. As a rampant user of Twitter I felt as though I was on top of the slew of information, until some numpties started to spread untrue rumours about the state of various local places.

This article from Vice on the battle of Mare Street shows some graphic images as it all kicked off - Mare Street is a few minutes walk from our house. We were none the wiser, having cycled through Victoria Park to get home. The only clue was the helicopters overhead and the anxious people walking towards Victoria Park warning me to 'not go that way'.

Looking out from our kitchen was the view above - hardly any other buildings visible, just a mess of gardens and trees, which is the Hackney I prefer to think of rather than the broken mess that was left behind on Tuesday.


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Drop the Lime


I have this afflication now where I can't handle having my nails au naturale - it's been 2.5 years of regular mani/pedis and a lot of experimentation with new products to get the maximum wear for minimum stress/committment. The latest discovery was a gel nail product called Gellac - unfortunately it didn't last beyond a week so I'll be back to Bio-Gels (which last for up to 3 weeks and take 75 minutes to apply) - but the thing that was interesting was my 'random' choice of colour. Yup, it turns out I have a prediliction for this exact shade of citrus green. And it was a totally unconscious decision - when I chose it at the nail bar I was just thinking about getting away from my normal hot pink.

Oh and yeah, another music reference in the headline (look up Drop the Lime if you're into rockabilly dubstep)...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Downstairs bathroom

The Polish builders were doing some work next door and popped over to look at our downstairs configuration. We showed them the garage and explained how we'd like to turn it into a store room and separate utility room, and then tart up the downstairs loo. We haven't gotten a proper quote back as we don't know exactly what we want but now that the ball is rolling I feel a second wind coming on. The drama of enduring the initial build has worn off and now I am looking forward to phase 2.

So - onto the cloakroom: the Roca toilet (pictured top) won the Wallpaper* Reader's Choice award last year. It's a clever design that recycles grey water, filters it, and then uses it to fill the cistern of the loo. It's a massive step in the right direction ecologically and we're pretty sure it will fit into the space OK.

The thing is, it retails for nearly £3,000. Rob found one on sale for £1,800 which still seems exhorbitant for a toilet, but the more I think about it the more I think it's a good investment.

I'm having trouble finding good inspiration for the decor of the downstairs loo so if you've seen anything interesting online, please post links below!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Simply headache inducing


A friend came over with a Lomo camera recently and took some great shots, including this one of the kids baking a cake. I've been dabbling on Instagram using my iPod Touch and it's ignited a habit of documenting my days with banal photos. For years we've used a Canon Ixus digital camera to take snaps of the kids and holidays but lately it's become sluggish and unresponsive and the photos just don't look as good as the ones I can take on my iPod. Rob agreed to go halves on a replacement camera and after a bit of investigation we decided on an Olympus XZ-1 which seems a step up from the Canon in terms of capabilities and results.

Four days ago I ordered the Olympus from which had the best price and offered a 1-2 day dispatch time. Unfortunately I then read some scathing reviews of this company and freaked out - I couldn't get through to cancel the order by phone and waited for them to respond to my email asking for confirmation that the camera was actually in stock.

One day later (and many minutes wasted on hold) I got through and was told all was OK and the order was being processed. I checked my online status the next day which asked for me to phone or email them. I phoned and was told it was a security check, but all was OK and the camera was being dispatched. I explained I'm on holiday later next week so if the camera wasn't going to make it in time I was happy to pay extra for next day delivery. They assured me it would make it.

This morning I was mortified to get another email from them asking me to provide a scan of my credit card, a utility bill and as an optional extra, a photocopy of some photo ID before they'd proceed with my order. Seeing as how the money was already deducted from my credit card, clearly they'd proceeded! I couldn't get through on the phone number due to "technical difficulties" (quelle surprise) so wrote an email asking for the camera to be dispatched or the order cancelled. I'm guessing they won't respond until Monday but have to say regardless what happens now, this online shopping experience has been uncessarily stressful and would make me cautious about recommending Simply Electronics. Will update in the next post no doubt - keep your fingers crossed for me!


I just spent 37 (!) minutes on hold at and finally got through to a human who confirmed that the delivery was being held until I could provide my ID as requested. I pointed out that if I wasn't the legitimate card holder I couldn't have seen the money was taken out from my account but she was insistent.

I've spent a lot more than £295 with online retailers and have to say that this level of 'consumer protection' smacks of delay tactics rather than a genuine need to protect from fraud.

I have cancelled the order and asked for a refund both on the phone and in writing. Apparently it takes 3 to 5 working days for refunds to come through. I will let you know just how long it takes. In the meantime I am off to New York on Friday without a new camera and am LIVID.


I got a refund on Saturday, and immediately ordered a replacement camera from Amazon which arrived 24 hours later. The whole ordeal took 2.5 weeks from start to finish and cost me HOURS in phone calls, emails and stress. I've learned my lesson!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Fake dog

I had some great feedback about owning a dog on my Facebook page, mostly from friends who are dog owners. It has definitely put me off: Everything from the cost of replacing damaged furniture to hiring dog walkers and finding time to take it to the vet, through to some of the more colourful medical conditions they get (swollen anal glands, anyone?)

I bought Marlo a life-size Dalmation for her birthday and I have to say it's pretty convincing. A neighbour saw me arrive home with it on the back of my bike a couple of months ago, but even she did a double take from her garden when she saw it propped up against the window. I'm hoping that potential burglars will see it when they poke their faces over the fence and think it's real. Regardless, the neighbours on the other side are chipping in to buy a security gate for our communal alleyway this summer so no-one will be able to get to our garden gate once that goes in.

But it's not all gloom and doom and dwelling on burglars - I found a wall mounted bottle opener at Oliver Bonas for £8.50 and it's been useful to have in the garden when there are beers to be drunk.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Dog eats dog

We got the official letter from MoreThan rejecting our insurance claim. No idea why it takes so long to get correspondence sorted but considering we were burgled almost five months ago it does seem extraordinarily drawn out. Anyway, their explanation was that they considered the burglary a "walk in". I wrote back explaining that coming down a private road to the last house, scaling a high (locked) gate and jimmying a lock sounds a lot more sinister than a careless, opportunistic "walk in" and pointed out that the forensics expert and PC who came round said they could've picked the lock in under five minutes. Regardless, I feel better for challenging their decision as I'm sure most people don't.

As we have a police monitored alarm on when we're not in the house it's actually more attractive for burglars to strike when we're at home (though they're assuming we don't sleep with it on).

My Plan B was to get a dog. I've mentioned the Boston Terrier in other posts so here it is again (pictured top). Not only is it considered a good guard dog it seems the perfect dog for lazy owners: "This breed of dog loves playtime. However, when it comes to actual exercise, only moderate activity is required. While you could take the Boston Terrier for a long walk, it is not necessary. Typically, a short walk a few times a week would suffice."

Someone, please, talk me out of it before I weaken...

Friday, 6 May 2011

Our biggest fan


Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather we've been enjoying in the UK lately, we've been running a fan in our bedroom at night to circulate the air. It's kind of noisy, even when on low and after seeing a Dyson Air Multiplyer in action a few months ago we'd been fixated on getting one. The Dyson was shortlisted for a People's Choice Award as part of Wallpaper's annual Design Awards last year actually.

Fortunately as our 12th (!) wedding anniversary was looming this seemed like a good opportunity to get one for Rob. He was suitably delighted and can now enjoy quiet, non-buffeted air all night long.

FWIW: My annivesary present was a Flip video recorder. I guess normally this would be exactly the sort of thing I should get excited about, however about three weeks ago I'd said to Rob the reason why Flip was shutting down production was because HD video was available on smartphones now, making the extra device redundant.

Funnily enough that conversation was ignored/forgotten and I now find myself with two phones, an iPod Touch, a camera and now a Flip to take on holiday.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Spring in Hackney

April in Southern England usually doesn't get warmer than the high teens (that's celcius kids) so you can imagine how delicious it's been the last two sun-saturated weekends with the temperature going as high as 27 degrees. It's like June, in Spain. The Bluebells were out two weeks early in the Ashdown Forest in Sussex (Winnie the Pooh territory FYI) and back in London the view in all directions was suddenly heaving with greenery.

We did a lot of garden related tidying up, well, Rob did it mostly as it involved sorting out the wooden furniture with it's annual weather proofing facelift, fixing the sun umbrella, mowing the lawn, trimming plants and filling sacks with weeds and stuff. I managed to sit on a sun lounger and read a magazine cover-to-cover in between making marinades for BBQ items.

The best bit was getting two rolls of copper tape in the post (£8 from eBay) which means this years lettuce project is off to a flying start. Or maybe my reputation as a snail assassin has reached the corners of our garden. Either way, the snails are being shy.

Saturday, 9 April 2011



Many years ago I worked in radio doing studio work and occasionally outside broadcasts, as well as the live sound for bands. I could work a mixing desk, EQ a room and know how to mic up an orchestra. You'd think I'd be more militant about audio quality. Alas, it took a visit from a friend who records bands for a living to point out how bad it was that one of my speakers resides on the floor. I had half heartedly decided to get speaker stands ages ago, but as they're all so ugly I kept putting it off.

It turns out that the marble base on my Arco lamp is actually big enough to accommodate the stray speaker. Since elevating it, the music really does sound indescribably better! Embarrasingly so. I thought I needed to be standing between the two speakers to hear things properly but nope, with both at the same height it doesn't matter where you're standing. I take this opportunity apologise to all the friends and DJs who've endured parties and BBQs with that speaker on the floor. And I apologise to Castiglioni for turning his lamp into a speaker stand.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Singapore & BBQs

Not much to report on the house at the moment, hence the lack of updates. The insurance company is waiting for the Hackney Police to supply the files on our break in so they can make a decision. In the meantime we've gone a bit OCD checking that the doors are locked before going to sleep.

Last month we went to stay with our next door neighbours in Singapore. They moved over there a year ago with a job posting, so we took advantage of their hospitality (and roomy house, live-in nanny and massive pool, pictured top) to have a 10-day break in the sun. We enthused over the cheap and delicious South East Asian food and balmy climate, whereas they were pining for gastropubs and chillier days. They're headed back this summer anyway, so it'll be back to competitive BBQing. We may aquire a smoker too - smoked meat and cheese keeps cropping up in conversation. Now that British Summer Time has kicked in and the garden is starting to burst into life BBQ season feels just around the corner. Yippee!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Still no insurance update

It's been nearly three months since we got burgled and two months since the assessor started his investigation. A few weeks ago he asked for permission to access our file with the Police. I rang the detective who came round the day of the burglary to see what our file actually said. He read through it while I was on the phone, and told me that he personally could pick a five-pin tumbler lock in about five minutes, and as there was no forced sign of entry to our house they couldn't rule that out. Our file was left deliberately vague as it's possible someone picked the lock.

Still, the assessor must've read this by now and hasn't been in touch with us. In the meantime our contents policy was up for renewal. Obviously we're not very happy with the ongoing problems with our current insurer, More Than, so we've taken out a new policy with M&S Insurance. Curiously, now that I'm actually reading the small print, the M&S policy doesn't insist on double locking - for our postcode it says 'sensible precautions'. I gather if we'd been insured with M&S in the first place and not More Than we'd have been successful with our claim by now. The cost of the policy is similar, regardless, as we've discovered it's a false economy to try and save a few pounds when it comes to insurance.

Meanwhile, we've had to pay out for two Nintendo DSi consoles and a few games for the girls. Fortunately they've come down in price due to the imminent release of the DS 3D model but it will take a while to replace the 20 games (and everything else) that was nicked.

I'm still hopeful that More Than will come through, but you can be sure that I'll be updating you regardless of what happens!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Classic Album Sundays

My friend Colleen is a cracking DJ, producer, musician, re-mixer who goes by the name DJ Cosmo. She's especially awesome because she lives in East London and is a mum, too. The reason I mention her is that she's campaigning to make people listen to music properly - ie: a full album from beginning to end, on vinyl, with no distractions at a monthly session called Classic Album Sundays. I must admit, I listen to music all the time but I'm seldom fully immersed - there's usually dinner to cook, clothes to tidy away or I'm in the office listening to something on Spotify while I work on my computer.

I think it's a tremendous campaign to get behind as so many people don't sit and absorb full albums: they download the single tunes they like, or listen to songs on YouTube. It's a cliché but it's true - the same song on vinyl vs an MP3 is miles apart.

Another of my favourite DJs, Greg Wilson, is synchronising with Colleen for the Northern contingent. You can check his blog here. For details of upcoming Classic Album Sundays check out Colleen's blog on Tumblr.

In the meantime, I have lots of vinyl that I would love hear from beginning to end with no distractions and imagine that one day I'll be able to sit at home for a full two hours completely uninterrupted and do just that. And if I had the soundsystem turned up extremely loud or maybe with headphones on if it was late, I think I'd like to be lying in this (replica) Corbusier day chair, pictured, which you can buy on eBay for about £250.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Appliance insurance scammers

This story is rather boring but if it stops one person from being ripped off, I'll feel vindicated in sharing my woe. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that we'd paid 8-9 years worth of insurance premiums on an Indesit washer dryer that resides in our rental property. Two months ago it broke down and after numerous visits, piles of parts and I estimate something in the region of 4-5 hours wasted on hold at Domestic & General (the insurers) and Indesit (the manufacturer and service agents) trying to get this resolved, we finally had a break-through last Friday.

The two engineers dispatched to fix the machine indeed couldn't, and were going to try and source yet more parts. We kicked off at this point: every part had been replaced. The 7 call outs would've cost more than the value of the machine. Each visit was a week apart and meant someone had to wait in (I spent an hour at the flat myself on Friday as the tenants couldn't take time off work). The engineers conceded that the machine should be replaced.

Indesit customer service went into overdrive, phoning me four times on Friday to ensure the engineers had shown up (they did, six minutes after their allocated two-hour slot had expired, luckily Rob optimistically stayed on to let them in). Maybe they started to pay attention because I wrote this complaint or because I started a dialogue with the Press Manager of Domestic & General on Twitter - whatever, I was finally getting some action. The Indesit person assured me that D&G would call me on Friday evening to sort the replacement. They didn't call me about ordering the replacement until Monday, and even then it was to discuss the (wrong) model number. This evening someone had left a message: on top of the £600+ worth of premiums we've paid, they want another £66 to pay for the rest of the year's policy before ordering the replacement. Which incidentally, currently retails for less than £300. I think the term I'm looking for is "Taking the p*ss".

Thanks to the Press Manager we don't have to pay for delivery, but we will have to pay for removal of the old machine (which is still full of water) and installation of the new one (another £26 on top of the £66). For my poor tenants sake, I hope it will be delivered soon!

I have no truck with Indesit as a manufacturer (the machine lasted for 9 years after all) but their service department and Domestic & General are two companies I will never give a penny to after this saga is over, and I encourage you to cancel your policies with these modern day shysters!

I'll end this rant with some wise words from Debbie who responded to my complaint on Groubal:

"I gave up paying these outrageous insurance policies years ago because of this - my washing machine has broken down twice in the past five years and each time I got in a local, old fashioned repair man who did the job with minimum fuss and each time it cost me about £50! Same with my dishwasher! And you are keeping local repair men employed and get a personal service. I would urge everyone to consider this alternative as it works out cheaper."

Spread the word!

UPDATE: Domestic and General hilariously tried to sell me a five year policy on the new machine this morning when I booked the delivery. The £66 I pay buys a policy on my OLD machine for the rest of 2011, but as the machine is broken the policy is terminated (I don't think it makes any sense either... being forced to purchase cover on something that doesn't exist?!)

I've just paid for yet ANOTHER call to Indesit as they wanted to book a time. I explained that D&G had already made a delivery booking but alas, they hadn't, they can pass on the delivery preferences to Indesit but the slot must be booked directly. Between these two companies their income from premium rate phone lines must be through the roof!

POSTSCRIPT: The machine was successfully delivered today, but alas, not installed as they don't install in bathrooms. News to me too. I had to ring 2x numbers to get the installation fee refunded.

I am so over this saga.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

G-Plan coffee table

A couple of months ago I went the Vintage Furniture Flea fair at York Hall, just down the road from where we live. I didn't buy any furniture, despite finding a coffee table which looked similar - if not almost exactly the same - as the one pictured. It was £75 and I thought that it was a silly purchase given that we had a perfectly functioning coffee table.

I regretted it though as the perspex Muji number we have doesn't really do much in the way of enhancing the space. We originally bought it as our flat benefitted from a transparent table, by making the space seem larger.

I stumbled across this G-Plan coffee table on eBay last week and ended up winning it for £47. Fortunately it was ony five minutes drive away so I popped around to collect it at the weekend, and this photo shows it on our living room rug. The glass already had a crack in it and when I picked it up the crack gave way and a corner broke off so we'll have to replace that at some point. The wood has a few surface scratches so we may take it in for a French polish too.

The table looks great with our mid-century bar - they're almost exactly the same colour. And if we ever get around to hanging the retro mirror I bought nearly a year ago they'll look dandy together.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Bump my lock

It's been a month since we were burgled, and over two weeks since the assessor came around and still no word. I have learned something this week though - that as soon as a high-tech security lock comes into existence, someone is out there trying to exploit it. Yes, there are discussion forums for security experts to out-nerd each other.

The most common way of exploiting a lock is by something called Lock Bumping.

Thanks to Saunderson Security for the overview:

"All you need is a special key called a bump key and a hitting tool like the handle of a screwdriver. A bump key is a key which has been cut down to the deepest cut at each pin position. Any key that will fit into the lock can be filed down to create a bump key"

It also says: "Little evidence of intrusion: The lock should not be damaged when bumped, so it is very difficult to prove the lock has been bypassed. Some insurers require evidence of a break-in or some use of force to gain entrance to the property in the advent of a burglary, so insurance claims may be rejected."

Oh yeah drat, if we'd known about this I guess we could've smashed a window.

And if I wanted to make my own? Well, there are many websites who'll sort you out, including UK Bump Keys. 'The best Lock Pick Shop forum for all Lock Picks, techniques, books and discussion' - currently over 4,400 members!

It's baffling why insurance companies are so determined to deny a claim when a little online investigation can throw up any number of options that give grounds for an appeal. I guess they rely on the majority of the public being too passive to argue. Or people like us who might say "Well, it's two grand's worth of stuff, we should be grateful it wasn't more."

Oh - and Rob discovered that his prescription sunglasses - which cost £500 as he's quite blind without them - were in his satchel (the one that got nicked). Curses to these overcast wintery days or he may've realised weeks ago.

In other insurance news...

I was about to insure my new mobile via a company that specialises in small gadgets, £54 for a years cover seemed reasonable. But then I read the small print - the phone would not be covered if it was stolen from my office, as the building wouldn't show any forced signs of entry. These loopholes are getting silly. I didn't bother, but am grateful to my burglar for making me read the small print.

Also, we've been paying Domestic & General 8+ years for washing machine cover for the Indesit appliance at our flat. The machine hasn't worked at all since November. The service man's scheduled visits are at least a week apart and last time he didn't show up at all. Understandably my tenants are getting fractious - but today's conversation with D&G really took the biscuit. When I explained that week days are not practical as people have jobs and can't stay in, and that a weekend or evening slot would be preferable, the guy on the phone had the gall to say "It's in our terms and conditions". OH SHUT UP.

We won't bother renewing the insurance on our washing machine (due any day now, ha!) as paying £70 a year is a waste of money if they can't fix it within a week. Might as well pay a regular washing machine person the call-out fee. Blimey, on their website they advertise it as £39 a year - we've been seriously ripped off. To quote someone on Twitter, insurance is legalised theft. Too right.

Friday, 21 January 2011

No insurance update

This is Gwen, snapped 10 days ago for her first day at Big School. Life is going to be so much easier having the girls at the same school and finishing at the same time - mostly for my childminder but also for the endless juggling of extra curricular activities (kid related) and our various social commitments (mostly pub related).

The insurance company was supposed to let us know a week ago what the outcome of our claim was, but so far not a peep. I've heard numerous horror stories about insurance companies avoiding paying out for all kinds of trivial reasons in the last couple of weeks. I've gone a bit OCD at night, checking the doors are properly locked and ensuring anything remotely gadget like is hidden from view.

Still very glad that no keys, credit cards or passports were nicked. Just the hassle of replacing these things would have been infuriating. If there's a trade off to be had I'd rather be out of pocket (slowly) replacing stuff than having to change all the locks etc.

It still peeves me no end that there are people out there who are happy for you to work, who think it's acceptable to then take what you've worked for. Our burglar's haul is a month's salary for a lot of people, and to think we might have been one of many households he'd hit that week. Scumbag. Grade A scumbag.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Burglary update

The insurance assessor came around last Friday and the news isn't good. Apparently we are unlikely to be successful with our claim because the front door wasn't double locked. This is baffling - the intruder came in through the back door, so it should be irrelevant, really. We never double lock when we're home - who does? There's the argument that you shouldn't because if there was a fire it would make it difficult to escape, or allow firefighters in. A chain lock is considered a secondary lock, but as Rob was out boozing til the wee hours on this particular evening, I wouldn't have put a chain on even if we had one - how would he get inside?

The small print on an insurance policy is badly worded - upon reading and deciphering it turns out that if we'd been burgled and the doors were locked, and the alarm was on but a window was open upstairs, the policy wouldn't pay out! Likewise if any keys were left in any doors (admittedly we used to go to work with the back door key in the door - obviously we've removed it since). If we'd been burgled while we were at work, we could've easily lost 10-15x what we're claiming for and the insurers wouldn't have paid out due to one of their loopholes.

Insurance companies are happy to take your premiums - paid for years in good faith - but it seems they'll do whatever they can do avoid paying out. All this has taught us is to lie: if we'd known the double locking issue was going to be a deal breaker, we could've said the door was double locked.

I'm trying to look at the bright side - this will ensure we question ridiculous policy notes, and secure windows/doors etc - but if we don't get paid out we still have to replace all the stuff that was nicked - around £2,000 worth of gadgets and related bits. Rob's company won't replace his laptop as the excess is so high, so he's using an old one for the forseeable future. The kids won't be getting 20 replacement Nintendo games for their DS Lites. Oh and two weeks after we were robbed we noticed that the Toshiba Journe tablet (pictured) had been stolen too - which we weren't claiming for as they're not even on sale in the UK (it was such a piece of rubbish I expect Toshiba isn't going to bother launching it).

We find out the ruling in the next few days, watch this space.