A Splash Of Colour, 22 Pots Of Paint

My first entry in a Daily Post Writing Challenge, let’s see how it goes!

When it comes to colours, there is so much to be inspired by! Fiery autumn leaves, yellow daffodils, pure white snow, a clown’s bright outfit, turquoise sea, and the numerous nuances of grey in the English sky… Colours… What a rich topic…

Sadly for me, right now colours don’t make me feel poetic or contemplative. Right now, we’re in the middle of redecorating our house. After stripping all the lining paper off, we are getting the walls and ceilings skimmed so we are ready for the next step: painting. And painting involves… colours! Hundreds of them! I mean, 50 shades of grey, quite literally! And then repeat with the blues, the reds, the greens, the yellows… you get the drift. And I’m only talking about Dulux, but you’d also have to look at all the other brands just in case someone else has that extra shade you couldn’t possibly live without.

So Darling-Chéri and I are having all these really cool conversations at home in the evening, looking at all my lovely big paint swatches:
– Me: what do you think of “Ballgown” for the dining-room? We could use it for a feature wall (yes a feature wall) and have “A Whisper Of Choc Chip” on the rest of the room?
– DC: Hmmm… It does look good but I think “Muddy Puddle” would go better with it.
– Me: Is it not going to be too dark? Maybe “Soft Stone” or “Toasted Almond”?

Repeat for each room, each wall, each ceiling and each skirting board (thank God we removed the picture rails!)… And with all these incredible names, if anyone is spying on us right now, they may very well think that we are plotting something! I wouldn’t be surprised if MI5 suddenly turned up at our door. Although I have to admit, as a Marketing professional, I love all these names. I mean, imagine the challenge in naming a shade of red when there are so many other shades AND you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors!

And to think that choosing the colour is only one part of the issue: we still need to decide on what finish we want (flat matt, matt, sheen, silk, gloss etc) or even the type of paint (one-coat, easy clean, durable, eco-friendly, eggshell…). Of course, after all that time spent choosing, we’ll compare our dream set-up to the budget we have and we may well end up with white undercoat heavily cut with water throughout the house!
Oh joy!

The Redecorating Project: Undecorating

I posted a while back some pics of our house on the day we moved in, which was back in December. Well, after not doing much to it for a few months, we decided that we needed to re-decorate it, and then buy furniture (it turns out our cardboard-box-based shelving system is not that robust after all!). So the first step was actually an un-decorating project: removing all the woodchip lining paper, picture rails, built in bookshelves, cabinets, wardrobes and side boards to start from scratch again. Well, it was painful, tiring and excruciatingly mind-numbing at times, but we’ve done really well since June and as a result our house now looks like a pretty building site or, as Darling-Chéri puts it: we’ve been the victims of extreme burglary, they even took the wallpaper!!

Next up, we have someone coming in to skim the walls, fix some floorboards and do some of the painting for us, and then we’ll finally get to the fun part: furnishing and decorating! I can’t wait to start discussing wall colours, decal patterns, and the merits of the Billy Bookcase with Darling-Chéri, although I’m not sure he is quite as excited!

Home Sweet Home & Customer Service Fail

Happy New Year! Surely I can still say that? I mean in France it’s acceptable until the end of Jan but then it’s true we like to take our time! I hope everyone has a fun / delicious / surprising / joyful / musical/ happy 2012

For us it’s definitely the mark of a fresh start, after the events of the past two years: Finally, 5 months after our offer was accepted, we moved in our new house mid-December. The house is great but there is quite a lot to do. Luckily we’re not knocking walls down or moving bathrooms and kitchens around but still. Choosing the right paint, carpets, wallpaper, bathroom tiles, sofa, dining table, chairs etc takes some time. And then we still have to put it all up!

But suddenly all of this seems easy in comparison to: getting a phone line connected! Or rather: getting information about said phone line. I have been an O2 mobile customer for a few years now and was always impressed with them so I also took my home broadband and mobile broadband with them, and now that we have the opportunity, the phone line as well. I still believe they are competent but boy, the live chat customer service is poor – you know, the “gurus”. Well, here is this afternoon’s conversation. I was trying to find out if I would need to be at home when the phone line gets connected (the house had cable before we moved in). When this starts, I have already talked to 1 person:

-Welcome to O2. Someone will be with you soon.
-You’re through to Daz.

Daz: I’m sorry for the trouble caused.
Daz: I’ll need to check this.
ombeline: Hi – I’ve recently moved house and ordered my landline and broadband with you
ombeline: hey?
Daz: I’ll need to check your account.
Daz: Can you tell me your landline number and your full name? I’ll also need the first and third letter of the answer to your security password.
ombeline: I’m sorry I’m really confused as I haven’t even told you what this is about???
Daz: I’ve read the chat above.
ombeline: Is there a phone number for the customer support? I’m sorry, this chat thing just isnt working for me
ombeline: ah ok
ombeline: So as I was saying, there is no landline number as there is no phone line in the house
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Guru Guru – Abbie.

ombeline: and I can’t seem to find an order number in the emails that were sent to me when I placed the order
ombeline: hello? anybody there?
ombeline: seriously Is there a phone number for the customer support? I’m sorry, this chat thing just isnt working for me
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Timmy.

Timmy: Hi I’m O2 : Timmy. How can I help?
ombeline: Hi
ombeline: Are you able to read the things I’ve already written? (your the 4th person I speak to in 10 minutes)
Timmy: I’m sorry. Give me few minutes to read.
Timmy: Thanks for waiting.
Timmy: I understand you’ve ordered a phone and broadband. You wish to know the status of it?
Timmy: Also is that a home broadband you ordered?
Timmy: Or a mobile broadband?
ombeline: yes – I believe the phone line should start on 17/1 but it wasn’t confirmed whether I would need to be at the house for this to happen
ombeline: a home broadband, I have already received the new router
Timmy: Okay. Can you please tell me your email address registered with us?
ombeline: abc@abc.abc
Timmy: Thanks. Give me a minute.
Timmy: One last question. I’m sorry, if I’m irritating you with this question. Have you got the phone and home broadband package which you ordered?
ombeline: it was the basic phone line and the all-rounder web
ombeline: (the one in the middle for the web, I’m not sure how it’s called now!)
Timmy: I can’t view any order for pay monthly mobile. Have you got any confirmation with regards to this order. If so on which email address you got the confirmation.
ombeline: It’s a home phone line, not mobile
ombeline: I am on PAYG with O2 for my mobile
Timmy: Oh. I’m sorry, I’ll need to connect you to home broadband team. They’ll check this for you.
ombeline: ok, thanks!
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Raymond.

ombeline: Hi, are you able to read the thread or do I have to start from scratch?
ombeline: Basically I ordered a HOME phone and HOME broadband back in December and would like to know how the phone part of things is coming along
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Guru Guru : Henry.

ombeline: I was told I’d be connected on 17/1 but no one was able to confrim whether I’d need to be here
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Lily.

ombeline: You’re joking right? 6 advisors in 20 minutes including 2 that didn’t even talk to me?
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Guru Guru – Danielle.

ombeline: Hello
-Hold on. You’re being put through to Abbie.
-You’re through to Guru Guru – Abbie.
[Yay! Abbie’s back!!]
ombeline: Hello
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Guru Guru – Maddy.

ombeline: Hello
-Hold on. You’re being put through to Alison.
-You’re through to Guru Alison.

Alison: Hi I’m Alison. How can I help?
ombeline: I ordered a HOME phone and HOME broadband back in December and would like to know how the phone part of things is coming along. I was told I’d be connected on 17/1 but no one was able to confrim whether I’d need to be here
Alison: I’ll connect you to our home broad band team to help you.
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Jason.
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Guru Guru – Marve.
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Guru O2 – Serena.

Serena: Hi I’m O2 – Serena. How can I help?
ombeline: I ordered a HOME phone and HOME broadband back in December and would like to know how the phone part of things is coming along. I was told I’d be connected on 17/1 but no one was able to confrim whether I’d need to be here
Serena: As I’m a pay monthly guru advisor I don’t have access to your account details. So, let me transfer your chat to our home broad band team and they’ll help you resolve your query
ombeline: no
ombeline: you sort the problem now
ombeline: I’ve been transfered 15 times
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to O2: Lenny.

ombeline: p*ss off
ombeline: see rest of the thread for explanations
O2: Hi Ombeline.
O2: Sure. [Clearly you’re not a person. But just in case, I apologise for swearing at you right away. It is not the done thing.]
O2: Please give me two minutes to read your query.
ombeline: Please take your time
O2: We have a specialized team who will help you with this. Can I transfer the chat to them?
O2: Please give me a minute while I transfer your chat to our support team.
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Guru Guru – Darlene.
-We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
-You’re through to Dale.

Dale: Hi Ombeline.
Dale: Firstly, I’m sorry you were routed to the wrong department.
Dale: I’ve read your query above. I’ll help you with that.
Dale: Please let me know your landline number. Can you also tell me the first and third character of the answer to your security question?
ombeline: you clearly haven’t read the thread: THERE IS NO LANDLINE!!!!! THAT’S THE QUESTION!!!!!
Dale: Please let me know your full name as registered with us.
ombeline: but don’t worry, your phone customer service gave me an answer within 2 minutes so I’m fine now
ombeline: that Guru thing clearly isn’t up to speed yet
Dale: I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help you.
Dale: The thing is your chat got incorrectly routed to the wrong department.
Dale: So, they’ve been unable to help you out.
ombeline: it was rerouted at least 15 times though
Dale: I’m sorry about that.
ombeline: including 5 people telling me they were going to redirect me to the correct department
ombeline: It’s OK, I got my answer but I’m not sure I’ll use the gurus again – I’ll stick to the phone I think
Dale: I’m really sorry for the trouble caused.
Dale: Is there anything else I can help you with?
ombeline: No, that was it
Dale: Please feel free to contact me if you need any help.
Dale: You can just shout my name Dale. You’ll be routed to the correct broadband and home phone department.
Dale: I’m the only Dale in the Home Broadband and Home Phone support team.
ombeline: Thanks!
Dale: You’re welcome.
Dale: Bye. Take care.

So in total I was transferred 17 times (including Quentin who was the first one) although only 7 advisors actually talked to me. Eventually I got my answer within 2 minutes by speaking to a real person on the phone. I have to admit, by the end I was just wondering how long this could last for (between 30 and 40 minutes).

Anyway, how about you? Any bad (or good, to rebuild the faith!) customer service experiences? Are you fond of the new live chat tools or do you prefer to go on the phone? I used to like those live chats for quick questions where you don’t want to have to go through long phone menus and dreadful music while you wait but I might have to think twice now!

The Mystery of the Box-room

Darling-Chéri and I started talking about moving out of his flat only weeks after I’d moved in. This was two and a half years ago. For a variety of reasons (banks who won’t lend you money etc) our search was a bit staggered but eventually it really kicked off in April and I am glad to say that we have now found our perfect place.

The thing about looking for a new place is that even when you’re not actively searching, well, you are still looking a bit. I must have seen thousands of floorplans in the past two years and this was the opportunity for me to understand a bit more about English architecture.

If you have ever seen the suburbs of London, you’ll agree that there isn’t a lot of room for originality when it comes to the architecture of English houses, as the writers of Asterix rightly observed in Asterix in Britain. Most of the urban expansion happened in the Thirties and with around 4 million houses built at the time, the authorities used common sense and went for the simplicity of homogeneity. Hence the sight from the Overground can border on monotonous, with alignments of identical dark red brick houses with dark grey roofs, stuck to one another in a pattern that just repeats itself with no variety from one town to the other. Having worked and lived outside London for over 5 years now, I have got used to this visual repetition – I have always found it strange though, as I consider the English very original and imaginative in other areas (fashion, haircuts, tattoos to name but a few…). I sometimes wonder if people around here express on their own person their rejection of the conformity they are culturally (and architecturally) subjected to. As they can’t differentiate their house from their neighbour’s, they seem to imprint that difference on themselves!

In the past few months, I have been able to go deeper in my architectural observation: it turns out houses that look similar on the outside are generally similar on the inside. Thus what I thought to simply be some sort of defect on the first two houses we looked at turns out to be a widespread issue. This defect is the third bedroom, often called the box-room. As a French person, I was not familiar with the concept at all. And even now, I struggle to see how a 5sqm room (where you can barely fit a single bed), which was originally created for storage purposes, can be sold as a full-on bedroom. We did see a few quirky houses where all the bedrooms were of a decent size, but they were the exception rather than the rule.

So inevitably our future house, if we ever manage to finalise the purchase, will have a box-room. I am still struggling to find what its purpose will be. A nursery? Probably at some point, but in the meantime… A micro gym room? An ironing closet? Spare storage space for my shoes and Darling-Chéri’s shirts?