If you want to fight fire with fire, cut your grass!

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Now winter is most certainly with us, I’m rather pleased that for once I have organised myself and all the presents I am required to buy have been bought, wrapped up and sit under the tree. There is nothing left for me to do or worry about, all the boxes on my ‘To do before Christmas’ list have been ticked and my luck has been favourable. Nothing bad to report, no mishaps, misunderstandings or mistakes. I’m not used to that to be honest so to maintain my focus and keep things grim, I’d like to take you back to the summer. I didn’t really enjoy the summer. The family packed their bags and spent time on the coast with the grand-parents, leaving me bored and restless. The car got towed by the police, I received two speeding tickets and one large parking fine popped up in the post. But to cap it all… To ruin things some more, the neighbours children took full advantage of their parents leaving them home alone whilst they nipped off for a summer break, by having themselves Friday night parties with all their mates.

Now I know those in their late teens think they’re adults. I remember being their age and felt sure I was more adult than I actually was. But they have the sensibilities of an old boot and, whilst they think they are cool, they are just inconsiderate, generally stupid and painfully juvenile. So I was not surprised they had a few parties planned, I was surprised by their taste in music though. Like they’ve only been exposed to trance rhythms from the Ibiza scene from the mid 90’s. No accounting for taste. My problem was, however, they had it far too loud and played if for far too long. By 3.30am I had finally had enough and called security to ask them to go round and get them to turn it off or at the very least, turn it down. My walls were shaking, plaster was falling from the roof and my bed was slowly hopping towards the patio thanks to the thumping base and deep tones favoured by the William Orbit’s of the world, you get the picture. I don’t mind the odd party I just think parties shouldn’t start at 3pm, be louder than a Metallica concert and go on non-stop all night.

Security never did anything. Not surprising really. A Spanish security guard at 3.30am is probably too busy updating his Facebook page telling everyone what sandwich he’s just eaten, sleeping or watching imported porn on his portable DVD player to want to do any kind of security guard type of work.

Never mind. Saturday. Late afternoon, finally feeling less groggy from no sleep, I figure I should get a little more active. We’d just sacked our gardener. Here’s a handy tip, never employ Polish workers, or more specifically, never employ the Polish worker who worked for me, or, as it turned out, didn’t do any work for me. After breaking the lawnmower, breaking my spade and adjusting the sprinkler system so it watered the swimming pool, we let him go. I managed to fix the lawnmower, sort out the sprinklers and replace the spade. Not having a gardener meant the job of maintaining the garden fell to me. Which if I am honest is a job I quite enjoy doing, It somehow takes my mind off other things, forces me to walk a fair old distance and is rather satisfying when you look at the end result. The end result for me often being a wobbly series of lines with a few ‘missed’ clumps of grass every now and again.

So out came the lawnmower and I merrily began cutting my little patch of the world. I was surprised when security turned up some 20 minutes into things. Even more surprised to hear I wasn’t allowed to mow the lawn in the afternoon on a Saturday. “Why ever not” I asked, “Well it disturbs the peace on a weekend’” he replied. “Now hold on little fella” I remarked. “My neighbours can have a rave in their garden all night keeping everyone else awake, but I can’t cut my grass at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon because Juan Carlos and his family feel like a little nap after lunch!”

I ask if anyone has actually complained. “No” he says. Amazingly it turns out that this was his own little initiative. Driving about on his rounds, he came past our garden, heard the lawnmower and decided to take action on behalf of those who might complain or who may be disturbed by the noise. Where were you last bloody night then when someone, me being that someone, did complain about the noise! Before he left he also told me I could not have a garden fire. Why he told me that I do not know. But he told me.

During the week I spent much of my time plotting revenge. I did other things but will own up to spending far too long devising suitable retribution. The following weekend Pepe the party animal and his Neanderthal knuckle dragging mates swung back into action. Ibiza trance music again. William bloody Orbit again. Anyways. 3am, my bed has made its way to the other side of the room, the paintings have fallen from the wall and the plaster left on the ceiling has hip hopped its way to the floor. However, after a week of careful planning, phase 1 of my plan is in play and I’ve been sleeping like a baby thanks to the purchase of some rather special headphones, the ones airline pilots use. Noise cancelling things they are and cancel noise they most certainly do, Armageddon wouldn’t even have roused me. On the dot at 3.30am I wake up. By 4.15am I am in the garden listening… Silence. The neighbours have given up for the night, the cool dawn approaches with just the sound of nature wiping the sleepy dust from its eyes and there’s a wonderful mistiness to the air. It’s lovely.

My other useful purchase made the day I picked up the headphones was a seriously large, seriously bright torch along with the sackful of batteries required for it to do its job. Turning it on, balancing it on a wall by the pool, it illuminates the garden and it’s time to put phase 2 into action. Two quick pulls on the starter cord and the lawnmower kicks into life. These easy start mowers are such a joy aren’t they. Thank you Briggs and Stratton. Thank you also for a wonderfully engineered two stroke engine easily modified into a howling banshee by simply removing the two screws holding the exhaust pipe and baffles on. The noise as the exhaust gases exited directly from the cylinder head with spits of flames, was quite honestly, ear-splittingly loud. I began to cut the grass with the audio equivalent of a squadron of war-time bomber planes all gunning down the runway for a formation take-off. It was a good job I was wearing my headphones.

30 minutes later the neighbour is at the fence, looking a little worse for wear, rubbing his eyes and waving his arms at me. I wave back. Morning neighbour. 10 minutes pass and he is still waving his arms but now he has some friends with him, also waving their arms. And I must say, they too looked like they really could have done with a few hours extra sleep. “What’s the matter?” I ask. “The noise, they say.” “What noise?” I shouted. “Your noise!” they say. I shut down the engine and wander over to the fence… “We are trying to sleep but the noise you are making is stopping us” one of them said. I lean on the fence post, casual like “Well, you see, you decided you didn’t give a shit about me trying to sleep, so I have decided I don’t give a shit about you trying to sleep. Looks like it’s going to be a lovely day…” I said, as I fired the engine back into life, gave it a few big squirts of throttle to get it barking angrily and did a wheel spin as I walked away. Okay. I lied about the wheel spin, I’ve never been able to wheel spin the lawnmower in any way, or wheelie it come to think of it, but I exited with the equivalent sort of style.

Some 3 hours later I’m finished. 7.30am. Obviously after mowing the lawn I had to get the strimmer out to do the edges, so it all took a bit longer than planned (and removing the exhaust on the strimmer was a lot more complicated than I imagined). They were lucky though, they were saved from the annoying tones of the chainsaw as it had a gummed up spark plug and I don’t keep a spare. It’ll be ready for their next party though. Now the thing that makes this all the sweeter for me was that during this whole noisy period, security never once came around. It would seem that gardening on a Saturday at 3pm in the afternoon is a big no no, but at 5am or so, not a problem. Thus, from now on, garden duties during the summer months, at least until the spotty little teenagers parents return, or stop their annoying little parties, or we find a halfway competent gardener, are to be performed at 4.30am.

I am also preparing the ground for a small bonfire I plan to start.

The mystery of my missing, time travelling parcel…

I’d been told by TNT that I filled in the forms wrong for the Next Day Delivery that, four days after I sent it, still hadn’t been delivered. Apparently I should have ticked the ‘Express Delivery’ box, the ‘Next Day Delivery’ I’d ticked does get there the next day but after 12 noon. Express delivery is for a before 10am delivery.

Easy to do I guess and I appreciate them coming back to tell me this even though I suggested to them that four days is a fair way off Next Day or Express. But it fails to answer my original query that started this whole affair in the first place, the question of where exactly is my parcel?

You see, I’d taken advantage of their flashy online tracking service. Go to their website, type in your tracking number and you can see the route, times and status of your parcel. The wonders of modern technology. Now, according to this nifty little tool, my parcel, destined for a client in Switzerland via road, had somehow been taken off the truck, put on a plane and flown to Johor Bahru, then it spent 7 hours in Kuala Lumpur before arriving on some island off the coast of Taiwan at a place called Baisha Shan where it was signed-for by a person I don’t know, whose name I struggled to pronounce. Oddly enough, the delivery was at 9.30am. But more surprisingly, it managed to arrive 3 months before I even sent it!

I checked my dates. It’s November, not April, so this couldn’t be some mad cap April Fools stunt. Had it been, I would have been the first to laugh my socks off at the brilliance of the joke, marketeers the world over would be envious at such a great idea. TNT and their creative team would have jumped for joy at the oodles of publicity generated by them ‘supposedly’ screwing up everyone’s deliveries and sending them off to countries no-one has ever heard of with dates all mixed up. What a funny lot they are we’d all be saying. But it’s not funny because it’s not April and my parcel really hasn’t been delivered and they are telling me that this is all my fault.

So just what mistake did I make when I filled out the form for Next Day Delivery..? They had said I should have ticked the ‘Express Delivery’ box, but did they really mean the ‘Pot Friggin Luck’ one?

I explained that the time frame is now not a major concern, that I ticked either the before 10am or the after 12 noon box is somewhat irrelevant. It must simply be an error as TNT, I am assuming, do not yet have the ability to bend the Space-Time Continuum and unless they print it really small, the ‘Delivery before you’ve even sent it’ box is not on any of the transit forms I’ve filled in. No, I guess they just have a few too many lackwit bumpkin idiots in their IT department or some disgruntled member of the team was recently made redundant and decided to give TNT the ‘digital’ finger before he packed his desk into a box, handed in his pass card and was escorted off the premises.

They agreed time travel wasn’t an option they were aware of, they would look into things and call me back shortly.

2 hours later I get the call, they’ve found my parcel. It’s stuck at Customs in Geneva. The paperwork I sent with the parcel is wrong and until that is dealt with, there it will be staying. That being the paperwork for passing through the Swiss Customs that they helped me fill in when I called them four days ago. Did I tick a wrong box again I ask..? No, the commercial value of the goods declared was wrong. I told them the goods had no commercial value, it’s only brochures, they are not for sale, they will be given away. So I had written 0.00 just as they had told me too when I phoned them to ask what the ‘Please declare the commercial value’ box meant.

They agreed that company brochures have no commercial value and the forms should have been acceptable for customs, they would look into things and call me back shortly.

An hour passes and I get the call back. The commercial value declared is correct but the Swiss Customs office refused entry and the parcel is now making its way back to the UK.

Why is the parcel going to the UK, I asked? I sent it from Spain. They agreed that sending the parcel to the UK when it originated from Spain seemed a little strange, they would look into things and call me back shortly.

I settle down with a coffee and see an email has come in from the client in Switzerland. They’d been trying to call me but the line was engaged. Good news, the parcel was delivered and they have the brochures. Minutes later I get a call from TNT in Geneva. They had been contacted by my client and wanted to apologise for the delay. Bad weather and a strike by French Partridge farmers unhappy about the reduced EU funding budget was to blame.

The puzzle solved, matter closed. At least I thought it was until the Spanish office called me back. They told me they had managed to change the return delivery and it would now be coming back to Spain. I explained that the delivery had been made and TNT in Geneva had been in touch to explain the delay and apologise. Confused, they said they would look into things and call me back shortly.

I cancel my bank instruction with TNT and open an account with DHL. A day passes and TNT UK call me. They’ve received the letter of complaint I had sent to their Spanish office, which the Spanish office couldn’t be bothered to read as I couldn’t be bothered to write it in Spanish. They understood why I had decided to cancel my account but asked me to reconsider. I explained I now had an account with DHL and so far things were good. I asked for confirmation that my TNT account was clear bearing in mind I felt there was no reason I should be paying for the mess-up they had caused. They confirmed my account was clear, nothing owing. Thank you very much and good bye.

A week or so passes and I get a call from TNT Spain yet again. This time chasing me for payment! They are now looking into things and will call me back shortly.