SKY – what do you think about this then?


Speedtest June 2015

Remember a post I made about 18 months ago?  I was getting really fed up with SKY’s meagre 3Mbps broadband speed.  I enquired about fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), commonly marketed as “superfast broadband”.  They wanted to charge me £50 to “upgrade” (after being a customer for more than 10 years!).  So, I switched to Virgin Media, which has turned out to be the best decision I ever made (other than marrying the wife, that is….)  And now I get up to 100Mbps on a good day, averaging at over 70Mbps during peak hours of the day/evening.

Both my sons are constantly on XBox One, my daughter is streaming movies, my wife is catching up on soaps with iplayer, and I’m happy as a pig in muck not having experienced the spinning pin wheel or hour glass on any of my tech devices for a long long while.

SKY – take note.  Virgin Media know exactly how to treat their customers.



Back In The Saddle…….

Not exactly true because I’m not referring to an equestrian activity.  I am, however, referring to the first decent swim in a long while.


And there it is.  Not very impressive, I know, but my shoulders are burning like hell right now – telling me that I had a really good workout this morning in the pool.

And, oh boy, have I missed it.   Its like coming home.

I have to now motivate myself to keep it going.  Which isnt going to be easy with being away from the pool for the last six months.

Watch this space.


Swim Update

Well I’ve not posted my swim stats on here for awhile so I thought I’d share with you all my recent swim activity.

I’m pleased to announce a new personal best recorded in the last few days for 1 kilometre freestyle.  Still not quite GB squad standards, but I’m getting there slowly, (very slowly!)  Well, you’ve got to have a goal in life haven’t you?  🙂

New 1Km PB

And as part of this same swim session, I clocked up a new improved time for 1600m freestyle – nicknamed “The Swimmers Mile”.



So, in summary and in date order…..









Total clocked up over 4 sessions:  13.5km

I’ve been putting my new swim pull buoy to good use during these sessions, doing a lot of work to improve my stroke technique and power, and stroke rate. I have a particularly low stroke rate, usually 25-28 per minute.  In order to get more speed I need to move my shoulders quicker and looser.  According to some research on the Swim Smooth website, I need to aim for a stroke rate of at least 50 strokes per minute – eg. just about double what I am achieving right now.

Out of the pool I’ve started working out using the hand-bike – just 5 minutes per session on a mid-to-high tension.  Today I managed to maintain 70 – 75 rpm for the full five minutes, which was fairly painful for the last 60 seconds, but I have been determined to make some improvement.  Today I needed to get rid of a bit of tension and frustration, and I really pushed it during my 90-minute session, which felt really good.   I’ve awarded myself a few days off, so it’s likely that my next session will be in the pool on next Monday.



Customer Service – Is It Really That Important?

Where would we be without our customers? Is it really that important to do what you can to keep them? And how far would you go before giving up?

Questions, questions, questions….. this is not one of my normal posts – today is a rant!

In my working life, I understand that keeping customers happy is absolutely critical, and I also understand that sometimes that is not always possible because no matter what, if someone wants to have a moan, then they’ll have a moan. In my job I have to have thick skin, broad shoulders etc. etc. and I always tell people it’s OK to call me if you want a good moan, I can take it, and it won’t be personal – I CAN TAKE IT! (And regularly do!) 🙂

Recently, the boot was on the other foot. Little ol’ me, the “customer”.

I have (but not for much longer), been a customer of Sky for about 15 years, give or take. Firstly TV, then phone and broadband. Then got rid of TV because I didn’t like paying for all the rubbish that’s on there when I can get it for nothing using free-sat, (let’s put the TV licence topic to one side – that’s not for discussion right now.) So….. Sky broadband….. prior to Sky I was with another well known provider who shall remain nameless, other than me telling you they advertise on TV and are “Yorkshire”, I think you know the one. Broadband speed was pretty naff to say the least, lucky if I got 2 meg. BT announced it was upgrading it’s network to provide “up to 8 meg ….. blah blah blah.” But the ISP at the time said they were not able to advise me on when I would get better speed because they were relying on BT doing their bit. So, rang Sky “oh yes, we can give you about 5 meg, unlimited usage, no acceptable usage policy” YIPPEE, so I signed up. And, true to their word, got about 5meg from day one, without BT having to “upgrade it’s network.” Bye bye Yorkshire ISP.

Wind the clock forward to present day. Over the last few months 5meg has slowly degraded to just over three (if I’m lucky). Constantly reported to Sky, and one day a very nice BT Openreach engineer came knocking at my door. He replaced the line-box in the house and we did a few speed tests between us and it got fairly close to 5meg, which I said I was satisfied with (anything was better than how bad it had become.) But, as the next few weeks went on, speeds back down to 3 meg, and below. In fact today it’s worse than ever:


Over the past few weeks I have been researching this new “super-fast fibre optic broadband”. I came across an ISP (another one that shall remain nameless,) which was offering connectivity via the South Yorkshire Digital Region initiative. I was just about ready to make my move when, BANG! It’s on the news that for whatever reason SYDR had shut down, (again, another story for another time.) So, I looked at what Sky could do for me. “I’ve been a customer for about 15 years, they must have some offers that reward customer loyalty,” I thought. How wrong could I be? On the Sky website, fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) broadband service, £20 per month and £50 install for a 40meg service. What! I’m paying £10 per month now for the rubbish I’m getting, and I don’t mind paying extra for a better service, but they could at least do the install from free for existing customers, surely?

Before contacting Sky, I decided to find out what the competition was up to. I discovered that Virgin Media were offering 60 meg FTTC, phone, unlimited calls, at half price for 6 months and FREE installation! That meant that for the first 6 months I would be paying less than I am now for my awful Sky broadband and the equivalent phone package, then after 6 months it would work out the same price for 60meg that Sky were going to charge me for 40 meg. So, here’s the conundrum. If Sky install for free, then I wouldn’t have the hassle of moving provider and I’m sure I could live with 40 meg, (anything is better than what I have right now.) Or, do I bite the bullet and save a few quid for 6 months and get ever faster broadband?

The next step – contact Sky. After going through the usual security questions, the conversation went something like this…..

Me: “Hello, I want to upgrade to this new fibre broadband because I can’t live with what I have any more it’s useless.”
Sky person: “No problem sir, it’s £50 installation fee.”
Me: “I see that from your website. I’ve been a Sky customer for about 15 years, is there any offer you have, such as a free upgrade, which will ensure I stay as a Sky customer?”
Sky person: “It’s £50 installation fee and £20 per month for 40 meg.”
Me: “Could you not offer me a free installation?”
Sky person: “We have to pay the engineer to do the upgrade.”
Me: “Did you know Virgin Media are currently offering a free installation?”
Sky person: “But we have to pay the engineer to do the upgrade.”
Me: “OK, I get that, did you also know that Virgin Media are offering 6 months half price?”
Sky person: “Can I send you the link to where our offers are on our website?”
Me: “No, I am already looking at your website while I am talking to you.”
Sky person: “OK, Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
Me: “No thank you, I think I know what to do now. Bye.”

Within about an hour I had signed up with Virgin Media, free installation (saving £50), half price 60 meg broadband for 6 months, line rental and unlimited any-time calls. The VM rep tried to tempt me with a TV package, and as much as I wondered about all these Tivo ads I’d seen on TV, I’m still happy not to pay for all the crap on the telly – I only usually watch the 10 o’clock news and sometimes a film on ITV2 (yes, 118 118), or Film 4. He also took the trouble to explain about the mobile offers they have, but I said I’d think about it. Within a few minutes I had booked an install date and got all the confirmation emails welcoming me as a customer, and actually felt like someone understood exactly what I was looking for.

I rang Sky back, went through all the maze of options and finally spoke to someone to inform them of me cancelling my Sky broadband and phone. He was very nice and polite and made it easy for me to say goodbye to Sky. He reassured my that there was nothing else I needed to do, Virgin Media would look after it all for me and on the transfer date my Sky account would automatically cease. “Wonderful,” I said. “I can’t believe it was as easy as that”. “No trouble sir,” was his reply. “Thank you for calling, enjoy the rest of your evening.”

What struck me, as I hung up the call, was that I was pleased there was no hassle in cancelling my account – but at the same time I was absolutely disgusted with Sky making no attempt whatsoever to keep me as a customer. Unbelievable.

It’s A Little Chilli, Baby…..

Chilli update….

They are still growing, and fast. Last week I harvested four Bangalore Torpedoes, and now there’s another seven growing. My cup runneth over….. 🙂

The Scotch Bonnet are just sitting there, slowing growing, absorbing all those nutrients from the soil, water and sunshine. Appearing, to the untrained eye, not to be doing much, but secretly inside the heat and flavour are growing and developing. And just when you’re not expecting much, BANG!…. they’ll turn red and fiery. Somehow that seems to be a long way off looking at how pale it is right now.

Scotch Bonnet

The Naga plant is enormous. There are now 20 Naga chillies growing, that has already matched my yield expectations, and it is still flowering so a good chance of even more. I still can’t get over how weird these chillies look, they are still bright green and will take some time before they turn red and develop to their full super hot strength. They look mean, really nasty. I guess these are going to be dangerous…. but fun 🙂

Naga Bad Boy

You can almost draw a face on this one….. in fact, one day I might. The Godfather of all chillies, Mr Nasty….. Mr “I’m so hot I can burn your eyes out if you just look at me”.

Naga Bad Boy

I am already trawling through the volumes of cookery books we have to get some inspiration for a super hot curry!

Also in today’s news…..

The bees have still been buzzing around our lavender. Although not as many today as it is cooler and breezy. Yesterday there quite a few bee corpses lying on the ground under the lavender, so I wonder if this phenomenon is the equivalent of an elephants graveyard. The sweet smell and taste of the lavender nectar draws the bees to partake of their last meal before they go to the great beehive in the sky. Definitely weird, and something I’ve not witnessed at all before.

I am little sad today (yes, that will invite all sorts of comments about my obsessions with bees and chillies), we lost a sunflower to the wind. We have two particular specimens that have grown to ten (yes, 10) feet high. Even though both are supported by a suitable length of metal tubing, one succumbed to the strength of the wind and snapped. 😦 The good news is that we have one of a similar size remaining and is a little more sheltered. There are some signs of a flower bud starting to form, so I doubt if the sunflower will gain any more in height. Our other half dozen sunflowers have only reached a meagre 4 feet so far and have a lot of catching up to do.

Finally for today, some thing a bit more familiar. Swimming.


T’was a great session in the competition pool at Ponds Forge today. As you can see from the SwimTag summary, I clocked up a mahoosive four kilometres today, in just and hour and a half. It felt great, I could have staying in the pool a lot longer but my work was beckoning. I had a great warm-up routine, followed by a great session concentrating mainly on body rotation and distance per stroke techniques. My swim-down consisted of 250m breast stroke, but doing long kicks and gliding – it was a great way to wind down after pushing so hard with the freestyle. Really looking forward to SwimFit in the morning.

Earlier today I tweeted a link to a news article on the BBC website. A man was celebrating his 5th anniversary of undergoing a lung transplant operation. How did he commemorate this? He swam, with his 2 children, from Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco mainland. Yes, its only and mile and a half, and yes he was previously an accomplished swimmer, but what a great celebration. I found the article very inspirational. Read it for yourselves here:

August Bees

A strange phenomena in my garden, something I have not seen before. I’ve noticed during all the hot weather an abundance of bumble bees around my lavender plant. This evening a large number of them had settled on the lavender flowers as though they are bedding down for the night. There was some daylight left in the sky, so out came my camera and tripod. The following 4 images are a sample of the pictures taken.


I always thought that a bumble bee was a bumble bee, but all of these, (and there must have been at least 30-40 bees on the bush), seemed to have individual colours and markings. Some quite plain, just like the one above, and others with different shades of “yellow” stripes across the body. The bee in the next picture was quite a striking shade of yellow, although I think this may have been exaggerated by the use of the flash gun – (the only one that I’ve published in the post where I used the flash.)


This one had fairly plain stripes, a bit of a pale, browny-orange rather than a bold yellow or orange.


Finally, my favourite of the four pictures. A very striking bold yellow and black. I managed to get the camera mounted on the tripod and right into the thick of the lavender to get this close-up. Rather than using the built-in macro programme of the camera, I switched it to Aperture Priority mode and opened it up as far as I could, keeping to ISO100 to help saturate the colours. The exposure was almost 2 seconds, so I’m grateful the was no wind and the bee was happy to pose for the camera!


I wish I’d spotted these a bit earlier in the evening so I could have had more time with them before the fading light. I will be watching out for more in the coming days and hope for a clear bright evening sky, so I don’t need to use the flash.

On another note…. back in the pool this week after a 3 week break due to some major aquatics events at the venue where I train. I only managed 2k yesterday, which felt a bit of a struggle. But, today, it was SwimFit and it felt GREAT! A hard 3.5k session, which got me back into the swing of things. Can’t wait for next weeks session now. 🙂

You’re So Hot, But You’re Cold

What has a cold name, but can be dangerously hot? The Chilli.

Well, just one week on from photographing the first sign of my new Naga chilli forming, how it’s grown!


This has to be the ugliest of all chillies. It’s bad, mean, hanging there staring back saying “go on, eat me if you think you are tough enough”. This one measures just over an inch in size, I’m leaving it the to see if he gets any bigger, and if he will turn red, or if green is how he will stay. I honestly can’t wait to taste it – will he really blow my brains out? He has 2 slightly smaller brothers, and a number of buds that are showing some potential of bearing fruit. All-in-all there are more than 200 flower buds on the plant, which incidentally spans almost a metre across the top. If I only get a pollination rate 10% that means I’ll have least 20 Naga chillies!


As well as the Nagas, there are a good crop of other chillies growing in my little chilli farm house.

Scotch Bonnets are growing nicely, about four of them.


And a few Bird Eyes on the way.


And finally, my Bangalore Torpedo, having pride of place in my front porch.


The characteristic of this chilli is that it grows long and twisted. It can grow up to 7 centimetres (3 inches) in length and typically used in traditional Indian cuisine. As with all chillies, the longer it stays on the plant, it ripens to a deep red and can be quite hot.

Other varieties that I’ve been growing are, Jalapeño – I’ve only managed to harvest one of these so far this year, I left it on the plant until it was a bold shade of red. I’ve also got a Habanero Orange, but that hasn’t flowered at all this year which is a little disappointing. Last year this plant bore about 30 chillies in total, some of which I dried out and put through a grinder.

There are a few varieties that I’d love to get my hands on to grow, so we’ll have to see what happens in the future.