Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Tedious times

We are more or less finished with our major works.
Mr F,F back in joiner mode, has constructed the steps out to the balcony and we have asked for a price to clad them in a travertine finish to match our fireplace and to harmonise with the tiles we intend to install outside.  We are also waiting for the plaster to dry so that we can paint the walls.  The worst thing is that the carpet fitter can't come back until next Tuesday, that's another whole week without a place to sit down except at the kitchen table.  It's starting to drag. When I'm not chasing dust round the penthouse or washing the black kitchen floor, I am at something of a loose end with nothing much to do except admire the view,  I am doing that constantly.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Extra Energy, Extra Light and Extra Love

I thought I'd sorted Extra Energy by telling them that I was going to stop paying our direct debit and that they could disconnect a couple of pensioners for all I cared.  That seemed to work and we had confirmation that our monthly payment would be halved to £60 per month, bearing in mind we were already in credit for several hundred pounds.
While we were in Italy we received a revised invoice for the last 18 months, this included two winters and the total power we'd used was about £1,000.  On this basis they decided that despite still being in credit for £700 they would put our direct debit up to £95 per month, assuming that we would use more than twice as much gas and electricity in the coming year.  Yes that would be right.
I phoned them yesterday, once again ready to threaten to stop paying.  After passing me round a few times, at one stage being told that a lot of people there were new and didn't know what they were doing, I spoke to a really helpful and pleasant girl.  She put in place a refund of our credit and based on previous use recalculated our monthly payment and put it down to £71 per month, still probably a bit high but a great improvement.
I was actually a bit shocked to receive good service, finally, we had a confirmation email about the reduced payment almost immediately and should have a refund within 10 days.  As I said to the girl if all that happens it will be perfect, but why or why has it taken so long to get here.  
Meantime the doors and windows are being installed, it's not going quite as smoothly as expected but the newly formed opening was perfect, the guys are really pleasant and efficient and don't at all mind that Mr FF is edgy and keeps checking what they are doing.
Do you want a little look to be going on with, of course you do

My lovely neighbour came round yesterday with these beautiful flowers, so kind and cheering in an upside down penthouse full of dust and debris with plastering and finishing still to do.  I can't seem to stop smiling.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Smitten by this kitten

After two weeks of cat fun it was hard to leave this gorgeous boy yesterday to spend our last night in Italy in the hills above Livorno, but since he over wintered and survived six months without us I am confident he can manage another few weeks.  Besides he's still got him Mum who has done a brilliant job of raising such a gem.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Briefly but brilliantly

We arrived in Lazio safely around 10 on Monday evening.  Mario,our neighbour had been to turn the lights on inside and out and thoughtfully lit the wood burner,  a wonderful welcome but though we looked in the dark so sign of the cats.
Yesterday morning we were greeted by Theo our timid black cat in the door step.  Mr FF went off for bread and milk, the lady in the village shop kindly adding a few homemade biscuits in the bag.  While he was away Lisa appeared, voicing her delight at seeing us again,  We pottered in the house and garden, opening up again after 6 months and the cats lay out on the terrace.  After lunch we did say that Marzia was taking the joke bit too far not appearing and I told Lisa if she went to find her baby she could have an extra cat stick.
It was almost 4 when I spotted a little white tail sticking out of the cat apartment, Marzia had come for food.  She ran off when she saw me but I spoke to her and she came back, let me stroke her and was soon purring.  She has grown into the most beautful creature, is in excellent condition, thick pure white fur with a touch of ginger still on her ears and tail, the most amazing ice blue eyes.   The only slight concern is that we now realise she is a boy.
Mario told us the cats spend most of the day up above us with Giovanni and his wife but always come down here for food.  It's wonderful to have them all back, to know they remember us and judging by the number of extra bags of food Mario had to buy when the supply we left ran out, they've eaten very well.
That and the fact the roofers returned to the penthouse yesterday to finish the work is the news you've been waiting for, let's all relax.  We are off to see The Danes later today, perfect.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Trust has gone out of the window

Friday morning around 8 just one of the roofing guys arrived, took some measurements and said he was going for materials, he wouldn't be long.  We never saw him again that day and as usual there was only an answering machine when we phoned the office.  Annoying as Mr FF waited around and could have been doing other things.
Saturday two guys arrived around 9.30, fair enough it was the weekend, they worked until lunchtime and said they'd be back today to finish off because they knew we plan to leave on Monday morning.
This morning we were up early as usual and waited, I said that it was reasonable for them to have a lie in on Sunday but by 10 things were getting tense.  At this stage Mr FF told me that he'd been a bit concerned yesterday when they took some of their tools away saying they needed them for another project.  We had the phone number for one of the workers, message service, same when we tried to phone the boss.  We've waited all day and its nearly 6, no sign of anyone, no phone call, niente, such a smart idea to ignore your 
customers and leave them in the lurch.

Mr FF is currently in the lounge trying to board up the opening to make it weather tight while we are away.  We really didn't want the guys coming into the apartment when we are not here because of  the risk that they could leave us insecure against the weather, though it's probably needs must as there are still tiles to put back and the new roof to waterproof.  
We will have to re-arrange the fitting of the new units as we can't rely on things being ready when we get back.  I don't blame the workers, it seems the management call them away and they spread themselves between so many jobs they do nothing satisfactorily.  Additionally they should have a manned office to deal with customers, not an answering machine that produces no response.
It's all so very very annoying, wasting our time and emotions and sadly typical of the construction industry.  On the bright side our builder who is a separate company has been great, he left his tools when he finished forming the opening for Mr FF to borrow.  He's coming to collect them later today and has offered to help if he can.    
When I first worked in the construction industry, for an architect, my boss insisted that our practice take on any project no matter how small.  As he said the little kitchen extension could be for the chief exec of some huge company that would one day need a new HQ and if we made a good job of the small work we might get the big stuff.  It seemed to work, pity that the roofing company we've engaged doesn't realise that, I don't imagine they'll get back in this building for a long time, especially if I have anything to do with it.
And how fortunate that one of us can turn his hand to this sort of work, which will definitely not be tolerated in Italy, where would we be without Mr FF.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Life has become a little tedious

We've had two days of the most dreadful weather, rain, hail, snow and strong winds, that has slowed down progress at the penthouse.  Apart from not being able to do so much outside, our roofers get called away to emergencies, which I can quite understand.  If I had water pouring into my home I'd want someone round straight away, no wait I did have water pouring in.
Ben who is doing the lead work round the new opening is excellent, he's making a wonderful job and takes a great pride in his work.  
Producing this sort of fitting from a flat sheet of lead is nothing short of brilliant, it really is going to look splendid.
But for now things look much the same in the lounge, chaotic, and it seems such a long time since we actually sat down in there.    You can get an idea of the size of the new opening when you see one of the old doors to the left of the blocked up space, just beside the step ladders. Rain is pelting against the plastic sheeting, work has stopped and tomorrow is really the last day to have the new roof waterproofed, the tiles put back on and the opening properly boarded up to keep us water tight before the leave for Italy on Monday.
To add to our problems, we had steeplejacks here on Monday doing work on the building's lightning conductors.  They seem to have broken some roof slates as we had water coming into the lounge in a location nothing to do with our work and directly under where they have been.  
It's all par for the course,  we always like to go off to Italy in a state of mental and physical exhaustion, we have to get the maximum benefit from our break.
And finally, completely frustrated by Extra Energy as detailed in my last post, I phoned them and said we had decided to cancel our standing order and they could come and disconnect our supply, something the press would love as we are a couple of pensioners.  The man was more than sympathetic and said he would reduce the monthly payment, I asked to pay £60 instead of £126 explaining that since they already held £1,000 of our money they could take that risk.  He said the change could take 4 to 6 weeks to activate and both Mr FF and I expected nothing would happen.  Yesterday we had an email saying from 03 May our payment will be £60, it that's true it will be some kind of result.  Now we need to get back the money we are in credit, but not just yet, I don't have the strength until after our holiday.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Just throw it all at me today

Work has ground to a halt.  Yesterday the lead boys arrived, pleasant, hard working lads they were making a cracking job and should have been finished today.  However, they got called away to an emergency roofing job on a 4 storey house.  Meanwhile the weather chucked everything at us, including hail and snow while Mr FF battened us down, apart from a few gaps which will be covered by the tarpaulin tonight.   He's gone off for more supplies and hopefully work will resume tomorrow.
So I've spent the day battling with our gas and electricity supplier, Extra Energy. We hadn't had a gas or electricity bill since we moved here 19 months ago, meanwhile they've been very happy to take £114 a month out of our bank account. There was a problem because our gas meter wasn't on the national register for this apartment, we gave them the correct details when we moved in and 8 months later then sent someone out to confirm these details.  We've given them meter readings, phoned endlessly got absolutely no where, the whole things is now with the Ombudsman.
However today we received our very first energy bill, up to November 2015, which showed us on that date being just under £600 in credit.  So obviously Extra Energy have decided to up our monthly payments by £12 to £126 per month.  I reckon even with the power we've used we are now about £800 in credit and will be adding an extra £50 to their coffers every month.  Today I spoke to customer services, the billing department and the meter department. Customer services asked for a meter reading, we have given then endless readings the latest a month ago, billing said they couldn't give us our money back or adjust the payments (except upwards obviously) because they haven't changed the meter number. The meter lady said yes she had all our details from 2014 but had sent the details off to the wrong place, apparently some independent body actually owns the meters, and then done nothing to find the right place.
I'm sure plenty of you have had the same sort of problems, its appalling, its enraging and it stinks.  The worst part is spending all this time and getting absolutely no where, speaking to the Ombudsman's office today they said compensation is usually between £50 and £100.  Our average phone call to extra energy is an hour because we start at the beginning every time and fight back when they try to fob us off with promises of action that never comes.  The compensation figures probably don't equate to the living wage for the hours spent. 
I keep trying the tactic that we are living on our pensions, we can't afford to give them an extra £50 a month to keep in their bank account and why should we, it doesn't have any effect.  I do wonder what would happen if we cancelled the direct debit, which we cannot alter ourselves (except upwards), would they disconnect a couple of pensioners I wonder, especially when it's like this outside today.