@ethanvanristell: Always problems with transport. The driver now says the train i'm on is terminating at Crystal Palace when I need to go to Balham 😤 Fab

@uksocialtrains: RT @SouthernRailUK: INFO: 1549 London Vic to London B will no longer call at Battersea P, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Balham, W No…

@SouthernRailUK: INFO: 1549 London Vic to London B will no longer call at Battersea P, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Balham, W Norwood and Gipsy Hill.

@Hana_downing: https://t.co/Bct34M0uNI the best has come to Balham. @paulchowdhry was brilliant last week. Small venue, big names. Trust me go!

@SNsBiggestFan: (2/2)... Battersea Park, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Balham, Streatham Common, Norbury and Thornton Heath

Labour will boost the number of women and ethnic minority employees in the Senior Civil Service and bring a “new culture of respect” to the relationship with the Civil Service

Michael Dugher MP Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office has announced today (22 July) that Labour would set new targets for the percentage of women and black and minority ethnic (BME) employees in the Senior Civil Service.  He also set out the approach that Labour would take to bring a “new culture of respect” between ministers and the permanent Civil Service.     

Council succumbs to pressure to protect Tooting's Wheatsheaf pub

First Direct Update

Earlier in the week I talked about my concerns with First Direct’s new password policy. I got an email from them about this, but it really wasn’t very reassuring.

But I kept digging. And on Thursday I got a bit more information from “^GD” on the @firstdirecthelp twitter account. It still doesn’t answer all of my questions, but I think we’re a lot closer to the truth. Here’s what I was told.

The obvious question that this raises is why, then, do they limit the length of the passwords. I asked and got this (three-tweet) reply.

To which, I replied

And got the response

I thought that “as a business we are satisfied” rather missed the point. And told them so.

I got no response to that. And @brunns got no response when he tried to push them for more details about how the passwords are stored.

So, to summarise what we know.

  • First Direct say they store the passwords “encrypted”, but it’s unclear exactly what that means
  • It was a business decision to limit the length of the passwords, but we don’t know why that was considered a good idea
  • It still appears that First Direct believe that security by obscurity is an important part of their security policy

I haven ‘t really been reassured by this interaction with First Direct. I felt that the first customer support agent I talked to tried to fob me off with glib truisms, but “^GD” tried to actually get answers to my questions – although his obvious lack of knowledge in this area meant that I didn’t really get the detailed answers that I wanted.

I’m not sure that there’s anything to be achieved by pushing this any further.

The post First Direct Update appeared first on Davblog.

Benjamin Swimming

amphalon posted a photo:

Benjamin Swimming

Benjamin Swimming

amphalon posted a photo:

Benjamin Swimming

Benjamin Swimming

amphalon posted a photo:

Benjamin Swimming

Benjamin Swimming

amphalon posted a photo:

Benjamin Swimming

Benjamin Swimming

amphalon posted a photo:

Benjamin Swimming

Local community saves The Wheatsheaf

After a year of campaigning by local residents, huge and unprecedented pressure has forced Wandsworth Council to finally agree to use their planning powers to protect The Wheatsheaf, a much loved pub in Tooting Bec.


Sadiq Khan MP said:


"I am really pleased that Wandsworth Council has finally succumbed to the overwhelming pressure from local residents and made this u-turn at the eleventh hour. The continued delay over the last year has been an insult to the people of Tooting, and wider afield, who use The Wheatsheaf.


"Our campaign over the last 12 months has been relentless. And everyone's hard work has finally paid off. We have forced the Council to pull their heads out of the sand and finally save The Wheatsheaf!


"This Article 4 Direction is a clear warning to all potential developers to keep their hands off our pub. I want to thank the thousands of local residents who have been part of this campaign and shown the strength of people power. Together we have achieved this fantastic result."



First Direct Passwords

I’ve been a happy customer of First Direct since a month or so after they opened, almost twenty-five years ago.

One of the things I really liked about them was that they hadn’t followed other banks down the route of insisting that you carried a new code-generating dongle around so that you can log into their online banking. But, of course, it was only a matter of time before that changed.

A couple of weeks ago I got a message from them telling me that Secure Key was on its way. And yesterday when I logged on to my account I was prompted to choose the flavour of secure key that I wanted to use. To be fair to them they have chosen a particularly non-intrusive implementation. Each customer gets three options:

  1. The traditional small dongle to carry around with you
  2. An extension to their smartphone app
  3. No secure key at all

If you choose the final option then you only get restricted (basically read-only) access to your account through their web site. And if you choose one of the first two options, you can always log on without  the secure key and get the same restricted access.

I chose the smartphone option. I already use their Android app and I pretty much always have my phone with me.

Usually when you log on to First Direct’s online banking you’re asked for three random characters from your password. Under the new system, that changes. I now need to log on to my smartphone app and that will give me a code to input into the web site. But to get into the smartphone app, I don’t use the old three character login. No, I needed to set up a new Digital Secure Password – which I can use for all of my interactions in this brave new world.

And that’s where I think First Direct have slipped up a bit.

When they asked my for my new password, they told me that it needed to be between 6 and 10 characters long.

Those of you with any knowledge of computer security will understand why that worries me. For those who don’t, here’s a brief explanation.

Somewhere in First Direct’s systems is a database that stores details of their customers. There will be a table containing users which has a row of data for each person who logs in to the service. That row will contain information like the users name, login name, email address and (crucially) password. So when someone tries to log in the system find the right row of data (based on the login name) and compares the password in that row with the password that has been entered on the login screen. If the two match then the person is let into the system.

Whenever you have a database table, you have to worry about what would happen if someone managed to get hold of the contents of that table. Clearly it would be a disaster if someone got hold of this table of user data – as they would then have access to the usernames and passwords of all of the bank’s users.

So, to prevent this being a problem, most rational database administrators will encrypt any passwords stored in database tables. And they will encrypt them in such a way that it is impossible (ok, that’s overstating the case a bit – but certainly really really difficult) to decrypt the data to get the passwords back. They will probably use something called a “one-way hash” to do this (if you’re wondering how you check a password when it’s encrypted like this then I explain that here).

And these one-way hashes have an interesting property. No matter how long the input string is, the hashed value you get out at the other end is the same length. For example, if you’re using a hashing algorithm called MD5, every hash you get out will be thirty-two characters long.

Therefore, if you’re using a hashing algorithm to protect your users’ passwords, it doesn’t matter how long the password is. Because the hashed version will always be the same length. You should therefore encourage your users to make their passwords as long as they want. You shouldn’t be imposing artificial length restrictions on them.

And that’s why people who know about computer security will have all shared my concerns when I said that First Direct imposed a length restriction on these new passwords. The most common reason for a maximum length on a password is that the company is storing passwords as plain text in the database. With all the attendant problems that will cause if someone gets hold of the data.

I’m not saying for sure that First Direct are doing that. I’m just saying that it’s a possibility and one that is very worrying. If that’s not the case I’d like to know what other reason they have for limiting the password’s length like this.

I’ve send them a message asking for clarification. I’ll update this post with any response that I get.

Update (17 July): I got a reply from First Direct. This is what they said.

Thank you for your message dated 16-Jul-2014 regarding the security of your password for your Digital Secure Key.

Ensuring the security of our systems is, and will continue to be, our number one priority.

All the details that are sent to and from the system are encrypted using high encryption levels. As long as you keep your password secret, we can assure you that the system is secure. As you will appreciate, we cannot provide further details about the security measures used by Internet Banking, as we must protect the integrity of the system.

Our customers also have a responsibility to ensure that they protect their computers by following our common-sense recommendations.  Further information can be found by selecting ‘security’ from the bottom menu on our website, www.firstdirect.com

Please let us know if you have any further questions, and we’ll be happy to discuss.

Which isn’t very helpful and doesn’t address my question. I’ve tried explaining it to them again.

The post First Direct Passwords appeared first on Davblog.

See A Week Of Comedy In Balham - Londonist


See A Week Of Comedy In Balham
We're a bit slow off the mark telling you about this comedy festival in Balham (sorry), but there's still plenty of good stuff happening for the rest of this week — including an appearance by Paul Daniels and the lovely Debbie McGee. We thought you'd ...

How to join a new church

I hate this time of year. People leave. They leave London more than they leave our church. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ve thought long and hard about the advice to give people who say that they’re moving on. ‘Don’t’ is always my first offering. Has been for years. After all, to grow a church in a London suburb like Balham you’ve got to stem the flow. ‘Why would you want to be part of ‘not London’ in the Venn diagram of life?’ is my next offering. And I’ve tried a similar vein of questioning in a number of different ways. But that hasn’t seemed to have worked either. It has, however, led to a number of people delaying their departure. Though on second thoughts that may have had something to do with the housing market and their failure to get a job. Still, it felt like a win.

But now having had to accept the inevitability of people eventually leaving I have, with some reluctance, turned my mind to the advice I give them about joining another church. Here’s some of the ground I cover.

Pick a good one. Not all churches are worth being a part of. There are bad churches. So check them out beforehand. Don’t move to an area where you get off street parking but there’s no one preaching the gospel. Why would we want to look after your car more than your soul? Find out about them from their website, from conversations with your current leaders, listen to a handful of the sermons they put online and perhaps go and have a recce before you move. Good churches teach and apply the Bible, all of it and not just the bits they like. They encourage every church member to use their gifts for the benefit of others in the church family. And they prioritise explaining the great news of the gospel to people who otherwise wouldn’t hear it. Find a church that ticks those kinds of boxes.

Pitch up frequently not just regularly. I reckon it takes about two years to feel as much a part of a new church as you did of the old one. That’s just a ‘finger in the air’ type of judgement. But the point is that it’s going to take longer if you’re not pitching up and actually spending time with your new church family. You can mope around for ages saying your new church isn’t’ like your old one. And you’re right. It’s not. But you left your old one. Get over it. God has now placed you in a new church with a whole new bunch of people to do the Christian life with. So do it. Learn to love this new collection of odd balls, misfits and sinners that God calls His family.

Pray for your leaders. There are a new set of guys running church life for you now. It’s not the blokes you knew at Balham. You knew that they loved you and had listened to you. And even when their decisions weren’t the ones that you would have made you trusted them and you backed them. But you don’t know the new elders. And they don’t really know you. But God has put them in spiritual authority over you. They have responsibility for your growth and development in the Christian faith. And God will require them to give an account for how well they’ve done that. Can you imagine what an awesome responsibility that is? Much of the time, trying to run church is like trying to herd cats. Pray for your new leaders. The odds are you’ve just made their job harder. You’re a ‘London type. You have views. Opinions. And those types of things can upset the apple cart of congregational unity. They need your prayers. And everything else tends to flow from that.

Participate in church life. Don’t keep everything at arms’ length until you’re more comfortable with what’s going on and have worked out how things operate. I know it sounds wise to look before you leap. But don’t spectate. That’s not good for anyone. Being a spectator often leads to you becoming a critic. Churches tend not to need critics on the inside. They’ve got enough on the outside. Churches need participants. They need people who’ll roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. So throw yourself into stuff.

Sadiq Khan MP, on the spiral of violence that continues to engulf Gaza, said:

"Over the past week we have seen repeated rocket fire from Gaza into Southern Israel and the continuation of Israeli air strikes and raids in Gaza. There have been appalling and inexcusable acts of violence. With over 200 confirmed dead, this is clearly a critical point in the region’s history and is bringing unimaginable suffering to innocent people. My thoughts are with the families of those who have lost loved ones and it is imperative that those responsible are now held to account. 

Balham sixth form students travel to Cambodia after raising thousands of pounds - Your Local Guardian

Your Local Guardian

Balham sixth form students travel to Cambodia after raising thousands of pounds
Your Local Guardian
Students from a Balham school have travelled to Cambodia where they will build homes after raising thousands of pounds to pay for the materials. Sixth form pupils and members of staff Emma Salsbury along with Ben McCarthy and Enza Durban from ...

and more »

Common sense prevails!

Dear friend,

After over a month of world class football (well maybe not from England!), the World Cup Final is finally here, and my Team Khan sweepstake, Argentina, are in the final! Although, after the way Germany trounced Brazil…… I am not that confident. Who are you supporting? With a busy weekend ahead, filled with school fayres at Sellincourt Primary and Nightingale School, as well as other events, I’ll be taking a couple of hours to watch the match at home with the family. Where will you be watching? 

Taylor Wimpey prepares to launch new apartments at Balham Walk - Easier (press release)

Taylor Wimpey prepares to launch new apartments at Balham Walk
Easier (press release)
Apartment-seekers will soon be able to take their pick from a stylish collection of homes at Taylor Wimpey's hotly-anticipated Balham Walk development in Balham, south London. This exciting new collection of 91 one, two and three-bedroom apartments is ...

Diana Balham: Departure hall dash - New Zealand Herald

Diana Balham: Departure hall dash
New Zealand Herald
Those dramatic sprints to catch your lover before they board a plane are best left to Hollywood, says Diana Balham. Perhaps the airport authority could set aside a special area for wailing travellers who miss their flights. Photo / Thinkstock. Had to ...

from murder mystery to haven for high-flyers - Financial Times

from murder mystery to haven for high-flyers
Financial Times
The Priory stands on Bedford Hill in south London's Balham neighbourhood. On the edge of Tooting Bec common, its whitewashed, wedding cake façade is today hemmed in by modern shoebox apartments. The house itself has been split into flats for young ...

The Lord’s Supper

Valley-of-VisionLast night at our monthly prayer meeting we shared the Lord’s Supper. That’s usual. We normally do that. But what we don’t normally do is share it as though we were seventeenth century believers. We like to think of ourselves as contemporary rather than traditional or conservative Christians! Hey, our evening meeting gathers in a pub. How cutting edge is that! But, I’d been struck by a prayer in the Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions produced by the  Banner of Truth and felt that we’d benefit from the godly reflection of our forebears in the faith.

I think it worked. It would probably have been better if I’d thought about including it before we’d printed the sheets. That way people could have read it as well as heard it. And we could then have meditated on it fruitfully as we prepared our hearts to share the Lord’s Supper.

So here it is in full.

Prayer for the Lord’s Supper

God of all good,
I bless thee for the means of grace;
teach me to see in them thy loving purposes
and the joy and strength of my soul.

Thou hast prepared for me a feast;
and though I am unworthy to sit down as guest,
I wholly rest on the merits of Jesus,
and hide myself beneath his righteousness;
When I hear his tender invitation
and see his wondrous grace,
I cannot hesitate, but must come to thee in love.

By thy spirit enliven my faith rightly to discern
and spiritually to apprehend the Saviour.
While I gaze upon the emblems of my Saviour’s death,
may I ponder why he died, and hear him say,
‘I gave my life to purchase yours,
presented myself an offering to expiate your sin,
shed my blood to blot out your guilt,
opened my side to make you clean,
endured your curses to set you free,
bore your condemnation to satisfy divine justice.’

Oh may I rightly grasp the breadth and length of this design,
draw near, obey, extend the hand,
take the bread, receive the cup,
eat and drink, testify before all men
that I do for myself, gladly, in faith,
reverence and love, receive my Lord,
to be my life, strength, nourishment, joy, delight.

In the supper I remember his eternal love,
boundless grace, infinite compassion,
agony, cross, redemption,
and receive assurance of pardon, adoption, life, glory.
As the outward elements nourish my body,
so may thy indwelling Spirit invigorate my soul,
until that day when I hunger and thirst no more,
and sit with Jesus at his heavenly feast.

BLoC – The Brixton Update

Kevin Ahronson Photography -218How’s Brixton going? It’s a great question and I get it from people who are genuinely interested in what Jay, Felix and the team are doing in the capital of black Britain. Jay’s too busy being a model husband, father, student and pastor to have time to keep us up to speed of all the exciting developments. And so, given that others’ expectation of my performance in those areas is much lower, I decided I’d do it for him.

The Brixton Plant has recently decided on its’ own name – BLoC – Brixton Local Church. I caught up with Jay to ask him how things were progressing on the block. Who says I’m not totally at ease with street culture!

This is an interview that I did recently for the Co-Mission Gospel Patrons’ Newsletter about his involvement in the Proclamation Trust’s Cornhill Training Course.

Me: Jay what’s been happening in Brixton since the last Patrons’ Newsletter?

Jay Marriner: God’s being very kind to us.  It’s certainly tough and at times it can be discouraging.  However, thankfully God’s still passionately into the business of changing lives, which means He’s grown our work.  It’s great news and good to be a part of. The Bible study on a Monday night is still going well.  There are around eleven us who meet faithfully.  It’s only a small flat and we cram into it.  But it’s worth it because Jesus rocks up every week.  We’re coming to the end of Ephesians.  It’s been a perfect book for us as a group. People are really growing in the gospel.  It’s been good to see God’s grace lead people to make significant changes in their lives. We started a second group but sadly it didn’t take off.  It became clear that there was a need for more 1-2-1, relational Bible reading first before we formed another group. However, thankfully that’s a possibility that’s just on the horizon.  God’s also been gracious in allowing us to work with a number of black boys in Brixton.  We’ve put a mentoring project into a local secondary School. We’re hoping that this will enable me to work with a number of families in Brixton. Alongside that I’m meeting people to read the Bible 1-2-1 and still making contacts.  It’s great that God is growing His work.

Me: So what exactly is Cornhill and why are you doing it?

JM: Cornhill is a training course with the primary aim of training preachers.  It’s great! And I mean that!  I’m doing it because it’s helping me to get a better handle on the Bible.   I’m learning about Bible books, theology, doctrine, ethics and we have some great guest speakers.  I’m learning lots. I’m doing it because I want to be equipped for ministry in Brixton and I’m confident that Cornhill can help me to do that.

Me: And why is what you’re learning at Cornhill so important for what you’re trying to do (God-willing) in Brixton?

JM: Cornhill is important because it’s all about the proclamation of God’s word so that sinners might be saved from hell. It equips you to do that. Especially in planting into Brixton because a central part of our gospel strategy is small group work.  That means 1-2-1 reading and Bible studies. Cornhill is great in helping me better understand the Bible. Also it’s helping me to be a better preacher. The preaching groups provide a place to train and provide insightful feedback.  This, combined with all the other things that you learn at Cornhill, makes it so helpful in planting.

Me: So is your training helping you as you seek to plant a church in Brixton?

JM: My training is really helping me as a plant into Brixton because I’ve got a better grasp of God’s word. And, as a result of a year’s training, I’m better at handling God’s word. It’s been great to open up the Bible with confidence. It’s also been good to apply doctrine, Christian counselling, a theology of prayer and so on to Church planting into Brixton.  I have to say that Cornhill has been a massive help in planting into an urban area like Brixton.  And I’m not sure that I’d have recognised that beforehand.

Me: You wouldn’t strike most people as a typical Cornhill-er. Is that true? Or fair?

JM: Nope, I’m not a typical Cornhillite. But it’s good. It’s good to train with people who are not like me.  It stretches me!  Cornhill comes completely from a different cultural world than me.  But that’s ok. Given what you learn it’s worth it! And, to be honest, there are some great people on the course. You’re right, I’m not the typical Cornhillite but I certainly feel at home. I must say that I’m aware that none of this would be possible without the kind support of Co-Mission and the Gospel Patrons.  They’re great and God is using them to grow a work.  Their financial support has enabled plant into Brixton but also my training. As a family, we’re really grateful for that. We praise God for the Patrons.

Jay is coming to the end of his first year on Cornhill. And I think it would be fair to say that not only has Cornhill improved Jay but he’d have you believe that it’s true vice versa! He, Julie and the kids are trying to move into the Brixton area and Affordable Christian Housing together with Co-Mission Gospel Patrons are working together to answer our prayers. It’s been a good year and we’re so grateful to God for the progress we’ve seen.

My Sunday Highlight – Commissioning the Antioch Planters

antioch commissioningAs recently as February (on our annual Senior Staff Focus) I reckon that if you’d pushed the Co-Mission church pastors, almost all would have expressed their doubt that we’d have a full cohort of planters for the proposed launch of the Antioch Plan this September. I was one of them. I shared their doubt. And that’s a tad embarrassing since I was being teed up as the Director/Mentor. We had not, at that point, been inundated with applications. But on Sunday morning we introduced, prayed for and commissioned our first cohort of Antioch church planters. Starting this autumn, fourteen men will spend the next three years trying to launch and grow churches in various locations across London. Praise God.

On Sunday morning at Revive (the Co-Mission Bible Festival Weekend), the Director of Co-Mission, Richard Coekin commented that three things stood out amongst the cohort that the Lord has raised up.

1. The variety of the planters. In the best possible sense, they really are a mixed bag! We didn’t think it would be like this. We thought we’d try to recruit young university educated men with lots of ability but a godly impatience and an entrepreneurial zeal to take risks for the gospel. I guess we were after the type of guys that Collin Hansen describes as ‘young, restless and reformed’. There may be more of them in the States than over here. Perhaps it’s true that Brits tend to prefer joining institutions than being individualistic. Perhaps that’s why so many of us travel down the more conventional ministry routes. And that’s OK. But what it’s meant is that the guys the Lord has given us are much more varied than we were anticipating.  There’s a wide range of ministry experience, of age and of background. We have a man in his sixtieth year and one just out of university. Some of the guys are married, some have families and some are still single. We have one who’s had thirteen years of experience as a missionary in Vietnam. One has been an incumbent at an Anglican Church on the south coast for eight years. One has never had a proper job! One grew up on an estate. I’m not talking council, I’m talking family! It’s not a cohort marked by similarity other than their apparent desire and appetite to serve the gospel, love people and exalt Christ. And that’s the best type of similarity.

2. The diversity of the contexts. The churches that these men are looking to grow are trying to reach into the rich diversity of London’s communities. For example, they’re attempting to plant churches amongst Bangladeshis in East London, the South American immigrant community who meet in Central London, the Korean community in West London as well as the young professionals who will gather up in town and the families who opt for the space on offer in the suburbs of Greater London in places like Teddington or Kew. In God’s wisdom, He’s raised up a group of people who will plant churches that will begin to reach the diverse population in this great city. And that’s good. As a network of churches, we used to be accused of only planting white middle class churches. I’m not sure that was ever really fair because we’d always said that we wanted to plant lots of churches to reach across the socio-economic as well as ethnic spectrum in London. God willing, this is just the beginning for Co-Mission. But perhaps we’re beginning to make progress. After all, one of the noticeable things about Revive this year was the variety of skin colours on show. And I’m not just referring to the sunburn of the white boys who forgot to put on their suncream!

3. The quality of the cohort. The Lord has given us some very gifted and capable ministers. Not all of them have had theological education. Many have, but by no means all. And some of them may never undergo formal theological education. But their ministry skills, their theological knowledge and their management acumen are not in doubt. Most of them could have opted for a different type of job; perhaps joining sizeable staff teams in larger churches, or applying to be the Senior Minister at establishment churches or going off to Theological College and being employed by one the great churches in the FIEC. But they’re made of different stuff. There’s something about them and their convictions that means they want to take risks for the gospel. And perhaps with Co-Mission they can. Maybe we can provide them with ‘the blue sky above and the safety net below’. They’re pioneers and they want the freedom to do their thing without restrictions and limitations. But they also want the support, encouragement and friends that this kind of ministry needs.

So, in answer to our prayers, from this September I’ll have fourteen men gathering on a Wednesday afternoon for Church Planter Training. Fourteen restless, pioneering entrepreneurial chiefs in one room. It’s going to be mayhem. Trying to organise this lot will be like herding cats. But it’s going to be exciting. And we’re very grateful to God for making it happen.

Sky Broadband Update

It’s probably time for an update on my Sky Broadband situation.

I last wrote about Sky on 16th April. That was the date of their second failed attempt to connect me to their broadband. It was the date that I decided to cancel my order and go elsewhere.

First the good news. I was considering alternative providers. I called Virgin Media and they told me that I could have a 50 Mb fibre connection for an extra ÂŁ2 a month over what I already paid them for my TV and phone package. And, as a bonus, they could do it within a week – still five days earlier than Sky had scheduled their third attempt at connecting me. I ordered it, they came round on the promised day and everything works fine. Very happy with them.

This then left me trying to cancel my Sky order. This was slightly complicated by the fact that Sky had successfully connected my phone line[1] and also the fact that this phone line is used for monitoring my ADT burglar alarm. I didn’t want to cancel the phone line until ADT had moved the alarm monitoring to the Virgin Media line. I explained all this to Sky and  they seemed to understand.

A chap called Andy in Sky’s customer service took it upon himself to take on the project. He took to phoning me weekly to ask me what was going on with ADT. To be honest, I got a bit lazy and it took me a while to get in touch with them.

Then my hand was forced. In the middle of May, some error lights on the burglar alarm started flashing. I called ADT to see what the problem was and they told me that it looked like the phone line was dead. I plugged a phone into the line and was able to confirm this. The phone line had been disconnected – despite my explicit instructions about not doing that until I asked for it.

I was a bit stuck. Calling Sky’s customer support from a non-Sky phone line is very expensive. And the only Sky line I had was dead. I tried their online chat facility, but the people you get on that are absolutely useless. Luckily Andy was due to call me for a progress update the following day, so I decided to wait for that.

When Andy called, I asked why they have disconnected the phone. He said that they hadn’t. He ran a few line checks and discovered a fault on the line. He offered to send an engineer to fix it. I told him not to bother and to go ahead with the cancellation. He told me that there was some problem with their systems that prevented him cancelling the contract right away but that he had reported the bug and would let me know when it was fixed.

Time passed.

Earlier this week, I wondered idly what was going on so I sent them an email asking for a progress report. A woman called and told me that my records said that someone (Andy, I assume) had been checking into my account daily and leaving notes explaining why he still couldn’t close the account.

The following day, I got a call from Andy (I’m sure it was pure coincidence that this was the day after I had chased them). He told me that the bug had been fixed and asked me to confirm that I still wanted to cancel the account. I told him that I did and he started the process. He warned me that I wold receive a few automated emails.

Within half an hour I got the first email, telling me that my services would be cancelled on Thursday 6th June. Hooray. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The following day, I got another (presumably automatic email) offering me twelve months of free line rental if I changed my mind. Then I got the same message by text. And today I’ve got a missed call from a number which Google tells me is Sky’s customer retention department. They certainly seem keen to keep me. It’s a shame they didn’t put so much effort in back in April when they might have been able to salvage something from the disaster.

Oh, and I’ve received a bill. They want to charge me a month’s line rental for the phone line. A phone line that only ever really existed to serve a broadband connection that they weren’t able to provide. A phone line that I’ve used to make one call – the call to Sky customer services on 16th April when I first told them to cancel my order.

I’ve cancelled the old Be Broadband direct debit that they were planning to use to take the money. I’m amazed that they wouldn’t just waive those charges.

So, two months on I’m still (to some extent) a Sky customer. But the end is (hopefully) in sight.

Oh, and throughout all of this, the  @SkyHelpTeam Twitter account has been a source of much amusement. They reply to every mention, but haven’t got a clue what is going on. They use a social media customer tracker called Lithium. But they must have it configured wrong because each conversation starts with them knowing no history of this problem at all. And, having watched the product video, that’s exactly what Lithium is for.

Throughout this hold affair all of Sky customer service people (with about two exceptions) have shown themselves to be rubbish at their job.

[1] You’ll have noticed, no doubt, that we had to phone lines. The home phone (along with our TV) has been provided by Virgin Media for years. I also had another phone line for the broadband. I had this on a separate contract because it had been paid for through the limited company that I use for contracting.

The post Sky Broadband Update appeared first on Davblog.


Today I said to my daughter that I was instituting a 100% patience policy when on the roads. From now on, people can do absolutely anything - cut me up, undertake me, beep me for slowing down to avoid a cyclist, refuse to give way even when they don't have right of way, go through red lights, stop their car in the middle of the street for 5 minutes so they can chat to their friend, stop on a double red light during rush hour while they pop into a shop and think that they make it OK by putting on their hazard lights, beat the queue by going in the filter lane and then barge in at the top - and not one snarky word will pass my lips.

She snorted in a manner that I can only describe as derisive. And added, "I give you one week tops."

Mouse and university

The Mac is doing that thing where it randomly disables the left click button on the mouse. Then in order to fix it, you have to somehow manoeuvre yourself to mouse settings, using only whatever options are available to you by right-clicking, switch the left/right settings on the mouse, which reactivates the left-click button (but only with right-click functions), and then go back and switch the left/right settings again, back to the normal settings. Can I just say that this never happens on my crappy old Asus netbook that everybody scoffs at because it takes 10 minutes to wake up in the morning.

Well, I 'm back after a titanic struggle involving two different mice and hopeless attempts to execute functions on the Mac using only the keyboard. Why on earth do they make this so difficult? There should always be something that enables you to do most of what you want, using the keyboard alone. If the mouse functions aren't working, how on earth are you supposed to rectify it when the only way you can switch the mouse buttons is by using the mouse? Gah!

Reading that thing in the Guardian all about how Kirstie Allsop is right out of line for daring to suggest that maybe girls should have babies first and then go to university. I can kind of see what she means. I actually think that everyone, male and female, should leave school after A levels and work for five years before they go the university. Apart from people who already have a very clear idea of their vocation and need to train for years to do it, like doctors. For everyone else, if they'd already worked for five years, they would really appreciate university when they get there and have a lot better idea of what they want to do for a living, having been obliged to live in the world for a bit, rather than spending all their time at uni boozing and acting like arseholes. Mind you, tuition fees are probably changing that scenario.

But setting that aside, the problem with Allsop's suggestion is that if girls effectively don't finish uni till they are 30, because they have been off having babies, they are going to be competing with fresh young male graduates and even though an experienced worldly wise young mum is actually going to be more useful and mature than some callow male doofus, our society is set up so that the callow male doofus is the one who will get the job. For Allsop's suggestion to work, society will need to be remodelled so that women who have the baby first and then join the work force and focus on their careers are not disadvantaged relative to the chaps. Maybe that's not easy, but it's a heckuva lot easier to change society (even though it is not easy at all) than to change Mother Nature - and Allsop is quite right, the body clock is ticking and you've got a lot better chance of having a healthy baby and a healthy mum, if she has the baby in her early twenties. I speak as someone who had my kids in my 30s and had the successful career, but my setup only worked because the husband was OK with being the homemaker, while I went out and brought home the bacon.

Anyway, off out to post the direct debit form for St Paul's school fees (argh!) and buy some deodorant. And the house will be safe, because I just had proper locks fitted to all the sash windows by our lovely lovely local locksmiths Oakleys at Southfields. Before today, if you'd been so inclined, you could literally have slid open our ground floor sash windows from the outside, walked in and helped yourself to our precious valuable collection of 5 year old malfunctioning Macs and netbooks and our displays of housedust and half-used pots of Dulux brilliant white gloss.


Sofa guy didn't turn up. Does nobody want our sofa? It used to belong to a scion of the Earl of Minto! Are there no raging snobs out there any more? To go by Balzac, I'd do better to be trying to offload it in France, which seems to be full of raging snobs.

Unfriendly girl turned up and took away the Country Lifes. Seemed very standoffish, as if she thought I might have lured her to our house in order to murder her.

Attacked the Virginia creeper in the garden, which is starting to get above itself again.

Kung pao chicken for dinner. Fungus helped with the cooking. I think she's starting to get to be quite a dab hand in the kitchen.

Watched Mean Girls with the grils, which I have never actually watched in its entirety. At last I have found a film that I like Amanda Seyfried in. Then girls went to bed, Welsh Anne came home and we watched the rest of The Rebound with Catherine Zeta Jones, who is just so beautiful. Frankly, Michael Douglas should consider himself privileged to be permitted to service her orally, not go around casting aspersions on her lady parts. Then cracked open the chilled rose and watched The Makeover, with Julia Stiles, who is just lovely. She should actually run for Congress. I would vote for her.

Asked the girls whether they wanted to go and see Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in the Crucible. On the one hand: it's Richard Armitage! On the other hand, I don't want to see something about the Salem witch trials. Ever. Hashtag firstworldproblems.

Sent a protest text to Amnesty re that poor woman in Sudan who's been sentenced to death for apostasy. Two hours later, it was announced that she's being released. I like to think it was my text wot done it.