Sunday, 30 September 2012

Christians Against Poverty charity bike ride

Well, London to Brighton was good last year, but this year a small group of us decided we'd do a 50-mile local tour, with sponsorship to raise money for the debt counselling work of Christians Against Poverty, splitting the money between our local church and the national CAP UK work.

Here's the highlights! (if you're wondering, my nickname is because of the GoPro camera that sprouted like a dalek eyestalk from my bike helmet...)


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Friday, 28 September 2012

Why you should NEVER buy from Simply Electronics (

I wouldn't normally use my blog for a little rant like this, but I think people need to be warned about

At first sight their website makes it look like a UK-based company, with an 0844 phone number, prices in £, etc. So I went ahead and ordered a new mobile phone from them - the website said it was in stock and that I would receive it after 4-8 working days. They debited my credit card immediately.

After a few days had passed the status of my order changed to 'we're preparing your order', but then just sat there. So after 8 working days I sent them a message to ask where it was, but got no reply within the next day or two. I started getting concerned, and looked up some reviews of them on the web and found some unpleasant stuff...

Reviews on Amazon
Reviews on Trust Pilot

It seems they are actually based in Hong Kong for a start, which you can only find on their 'About Us' page. But also, many people have had goods not turn up, and then struggled to get refunds. So I thought I'd call them...

Their customer service number puts you in a queue, but lets you hang up and then call back to rejoin you place in the queue, so you don't have to wait on the phone. Sounds nice, except it doesn't work - every time I called back there was still at least 20 minutes to wait, and sometimes the delay had gone up! So eventually I just waited on the phone until I got to speak with someone...

The person I spoke to told me they didn't have the phone in stock, and were having trouble sourcing it, but would have it 'soon'. This was despite their website saying it was in stock when I ordered, and STILL said it was in stock while I was talking to them on the phone and being told they didn't have it! I asked if they could give me a firm delivery date, and they couldn't, so I asked to cancel the order - only to be told I couldn't do that over the phone, but I had to send them a message through their website, which I duly did. I got a fairly prompt email back:

Greetings from SimplyElectronics.
This email is to confirm your order has been cancelled, and a refund will be issued soon.

Should there be any further queries, please do not hesitate to send us an e-mail.

Best Regards,
Customer Service Executive
I was left wondering what 'soon' meant, having read other people's reviews, but thought I'd give them a few days. In the meantime I ordered the same phone direct from Sony, for only about £10 more, and it arrived in two days.

A week passed, so I messaged them and asked where the refund was, only to be told:
Thank you for your email.

We would like to confirm that your refund is still being processed.

As we are following company policies and regulations, it may take some time to complete your refund. However, we can assure you that we are doing our best to return the funds back to your account as fast as we can.

At the meantime, we can only suggest to check your email from time to time as the relevant department will notify you once the refund has been initiated.

We greatly appreciate your patience and kind understanding.

Best Regards,
Customer Service Executive
Seems that everyone in their customer service department is an 'Executive'... Anyway, I wrote back to them and told them that they had until one month after the date my card was debited, and then I would lodge a dispute with my bank to recover the money. I said a month, as my bank had advised me that they would wait for this period before acting. The reply (from another 'Executive'), was:
Thank you for your email regarding your concerns.

Please be assured that we have again contacted our Accounts Department regarding your refund.

As our Accounts Department is following company policies and regulations, it may take some time to complete your refund. However, we can assure you that we are doing our best to return the funds back to your account as fast as we can.

In the meantime, the best suggestion we can give you is to check your email from time to time as our Accounts Department will notify you once the refund has been initiated.

Thank you for your patience and kind understanding.

Best Regards,
Customer Service Executive
By this time I was beginning to wonder if these 'Executives' were real people, or if they just make up a name at the end of the email... I replied again, and told them I would only give them until the date I had set. The reply was:
Thank you for your email.

Apologies for the hold up in refunding your order.

Your refund request was submitted to our relevant department. Please allow an extra few days for us to process your request. It can take up to 2 weeks on occasion for the refund to be initiated due to current processes we have in place. You can be assured that once refunded you will receive a courtesy email from us informing you of the credit.

Thank you for your understanding thus far and we look forward to completing your refund soon.

Best Regards,
Customer Service Executive
I pointed out that they were very quick to take my money, before they even had the item in stock, and yet very slow to refund it when they could not deliver. Another reply, this time with some different wording:
After checking with our relevant team, we have been advised that they are currently still processing your refund. We apologise for any inconveniences.

I have contacted our relevant department to expedite your refund. We understand that few orders are outstanding and should be refunded as soon as possible. We seek your understanding in this matter and thank you again for extended patience thus far.

Rest assured that we will notify you directly via email once the refund has been initiated.

Meanwhile, should you have other concerns, please feel free to contact us again.

Thank you for your extended patience with us.

Best Regards,

Customer Service Executive
By this time there were only a couple of days left until I was sending details to my bank, so I didn't reply. When the day came, the money had not turned up, so I printed the emails off, wrote a letter and popped it in the post to my bank. Lo and behold, a day AFTER the deadline I had given them, they sent me a message:
Greetings from SimplyElectronics.

Please note that a refund has been initiated to your account and you can expect your refund shortly. Normally, it takes a few days but depending on your bank it may take up to 10 days. If this does not happen, feel free to contact us through our web form, and we will be more than happy to assist you.
I'm pleased to say the money is now back in my account, though it's cost me a bit in time, printing, phone calls, etc.

I realise that I should have checked them out more thoroughly before ordering, but I think many people would make the mistake I did as the website really does look like it is a UK-based company. If I'd not read the other reviews online, telling of people's problems and how they had to be forceful to get their money back, I think I would still be waiting now...

So the summary is:


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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Coasteering (jumping off cliffs!)

This is what I was up to this weekend...


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Sunday, 2 September 2012

Moving logs: new trailer and a modified log trolley

Well, after our old trailer died, we picked out a new one, and it's finally arrived! The neat thing about it is that the front, as well as the back, can be removed:


It also has tie-down points on the floor, so we can lay ratchet straps in to secure the logs without bending the side walls:

The result is that large loads of logs can be placed evenly across the axle, and everything works nicely!

However, we now have an additional solution for moving logs as well. Some locations are hard to access, and you have to push the trailer backwards up a track, then reverse the car up to it before loading and driving out. So given that we now have a Stein Arbor Trolley, I paid a local engineering firm to make me an extra part for it, so we can pull it with the 4x4:

It will come in very useful in future I think!


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Saturday, 1 September 2012

Another woodland camping trip!

This week we had my brother Andy and his family come and visit, here he is with Rachel and Joshua...


and here's Chloe, with a case for carrying captured bugs in for later study...

Despite the mixed weather, we actually had quite a bit of sunshine, even enough to need sunglasses some days!

A lot of time was spent sitting or playing in the woods, and eating food cooked up there:


There was also time to practise some woodland skills:

and do some metal detecting too, which turned up the remains of an old billhook:
DSC_4493 remains of an old billhook

Andy and I camped over a night with Josh and Chloe, while Tracy and Rachel went back to their warm beds.

Of course, the kids were sensible and went to sleep soon after 7pm, while Andy and I stayed up late drinking beer round the camp fire. But we all had to get up at 6am... at least we saw a nice sunrise!



We left the tent up, which was a good job as later in the week we went up for the day, and used it to shelter during a couple of brief rain showers... (Rachel's brother Andrew had joined us by this point too)


The rain didn't last long, and then it was time for Josh and Chloe to cover their ears...

while they watched me chainsaw some logs!

Chloe was particularly excited by the whole thing:

After cutting up the logs, we were surprised to find a toad had been hiding under them - good job the chainsaw cuts were quite far apart, or it could have been messy...
DSC_4518 Toad

DSC_4519 Toad

We didn't actually see any wild boar, but there's certainly some evidence of them around, such as over in my friend Alex's wood:
DSC_4523 Hole dug by wild boar

The rest of the week was taken up with visits to the beach and also the observatory at Herstmonceux, where I hope to go back in an evening to try out the big telescopes...


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