Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Anyone else confused by their bills?

JUST got my new electricity and gas contract and no wonder so many local people have complained to me about how much trouble they have understanding what they are signing up for.

The Government is trying to clamp down on energy companies to make their bills and documents easier for customers to understand but, if my contract is anything to go by, they have some way to go yet.

My envelope contained a single sheet of paper which strongly urged me to read my fixed price energy deal very carefully and to contact the company if I had any queries.

Strike a chord, does it? Well it should do because millions of these things are going out to customers nationwide every year.

For a start, this is not two or three pages of pertinent information, simply and intelligently written to enable the customer to make a simple, speedy and informed decision. The pamphlet sent to me ran to 26 beefy pages packed with figures, tariffs, comparisons, tables and charge options not to mention the dreaded “terms and conditions”.

Print has been part of my life for decades, so cynical old me recognised a good energy company ploy when I saw one, namely printing everything very small. To put that in perspective, what you are reading now is nearly twice the size of much of the printwork in the pamphlet and you don’t have to be a genius to work out that this will be difficult to follow for many elderly people or those with sight problems.

So be aware of what is happening with energy companies. They are not short of a groat or two and they definitely want to keep it that way.

A contract is legally binding, so don’t agree to charges fixed for two years or any set period unless you are sure they are right for you, your usage and your home and, if you are in any doubt, have a word with groups such as Citizens Advice. Better safe than sorry.

Growing old happens to the best of us

GROWING old is something that happens to all of us, but it’s amazing how people mark their birthdays in different ways.

For instance, take my neighbour who celebrated her recent 29th (ish) birthday by holding an open house for the day.

There were children, adults, animals, relatives, friends and I’m not so sure I didn’t see the Archbishop of Canterbury drop by to give her a quick blessing.

The younger you are the more intense the celebration seems to be, but the older you get the more the passing of the years don’t so much weigh on your mind as give it so much more to remember.

Those memories can often take a weird path and when I celebrated my 40th (ish) birthday this year I for some reason remembered a birthday from many years ago when, as a child, all my friends were invited round and my mother cooked a fabulous birthday cake. It was delicious and by the time everyone had gone there wasn’t a crumb left.

The focus was a little different then and is radically different now for the generation ahead of me because so many of their friends and relatives are no longer there to join in celebrations.

So if you’ve got a birthday coming up then follow my neighbour’s example if at all possible and do it full out surrounded by family and friends with that all important glass of wine. 

Those fond memories will be important to you in years to come.

The irony...

A SIGN warning people: “Beware! Dangerous Cliffs” has fallen victim... to a landslip!

The sign at Furzy Cliff near Bowleaze, Weymouth, must at one time have occupied a clear position where people could see it and heed the warning.

It now occupies a position canted over at a crazy angle almost touching the ground and 50 feet down the cliff where it is heavily obscured by weeds.

The demise of the sign parallels the demise of several sections of cliff in that area, destabilised by seemingly relentless rain which left the whole area saturated with water.

Hard to realise that at the moment as we’ve had nothing like the rain this summer that we had in recent years, but you only have to walk along the top of the cliff and see where great chunks have slid down to appreciate that when the rain does return for any length of time it will definitely be a dangerous place to avoid.

Baffling sculptures

THE little girl was absolutely fascinated by the new sand sculpture display on Weymouth Esplanade and, like all little girls, she was full of questions about it.

Mum and Dad were duly attentive and explained what the sculptures were and who she was looking at, adding that she could soon try for herself on the beach, but her final question left both parents openly laughing.

She asked: “But Mummy, what are the sculptures made of?”

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