Preston in decline?

A sunny day, I fancy a day out visiting a town/city in Lancashire.

Every other month my choice involves a trip to Preston.

Usually a Tuesday or Thursday, as they have a huge range of stalls selling everything from tat, to bargains on their outdoor flea market.

Then it's a look around the indoor market, then the high street shops and back home for tea.
The shops are shops in Preston, not spend a full day in bloggs super-mega store.
Preston shops are a decent size.

I spoke to some Preston market traders yesterday while I wondered around, looked at the proposed plans to redevelop the indoor and outdoor markets.
First they are repainting the outdoor market roof, said to be "to a victorian colour scheme" - sadly, in reality, this means battleship grey.

Next they will be enclosing the outdoor market place and moving the current indoor market over to it, then redeveloping the former indoor market space to include restaurants and a picture house.

Sounds ok so far?

Preston council, I'm told wanted to close down the flea markets held in the outdoor market area.
This was strongly opposed.
So now Preston council proposed this new development, a compromise?

As the market traders put it so well, not only will it reduce the numbers of people visiting the area, it will in effect reduce the flea market size by almost three quarters. Combined with increased charges for pitching a stall, it will effectively wipe out the existance of the flea market.
When the inside market moves over, there will be little or no room to accomodate the flea market.

Preston people expressed their will, it was listened to, then the council found a way to do it gradually regardless. Nice work Preston council.

From a personal point of view, this is how Preston council's policy will affect us.

I can go to towns/cities around Lancashire and see almost exactly the same things.
The same superstore outlets, the same huge over charging cinema, the same over priced food/coffee outlet chains, you get the picture.

When Preston goes the same way as the other town centres around Lancashire, our family visits there will drop from 6 or 7 days there, to one, if you're lucky!

We don't want to visit the same over-priced outlets, we want something different.
A point of difference attracts people into the area, making it the same as everywhere else, will only detract people from visiting.

There's little to no value in a town centre that's the same as all the others.
You can't get a pair of jeans for a tenner in an upmarket, revamped town centre (at what cost to taxpayers?)

At present, a day in Preston offers something for EVERYBODY!
We meet up with the old man there, we pay for parking, we eat two meals out, we pick up bargains from both the markets, we shop in the regular high street shops, we browse, grab a cup of coffee, it's fun, it's different.
The markets play an essential role in our family choosing to visit Preston.

Take the markets away, force up prices, there's nothing in Preston for us. There's no more reason to visit Preston than there is to visit anywhere else.

We don't go for meals out, we cannot afford it.
We don't shop every week on the high street, we cannot afford it.
I cannot remember the last time we went to the pictures to watch a film, we simply cannot afford it.

In Preston yesterday, we met up with the old man and brought along the sister from the North East, combined we spent the best part of £400 on food from independant cafes, the flea market, the indoor market, for parking, coffees from independant coffee shops and a few quid in regular sized high street shops.

Take away your point of difference - Preston markets - then we will not be visiting/meeting up for the day there anymore.
It may not seem a huge sum of money to your developers, but over time, it's less money in Preston's businesses pockets and more in somewhere elses.

Car insurance - Vehicle or person?

Just putting a question up about car insurance.

Does car insurance cover the car or the individual person?

Rip off Britain is alive and well, (anything confusing ends up costing us more money) in the insurance industry.
"You are insuring yourself sir" says one insurance company.
So if I have two vehicles, I cannot insure both using the same no claims discount?
"No sir, it doesn't work like that!"

Why not I wonder?
The current UK law states, to drive a car the driver must be insured at least to third party level.
Fair enough.
If the car is involved in a crash, the registered owner of the car is liable, regardless if they are driving the vehicle or not.
But the insurance is for the individual and not the vehicle?

So if I lend my car to my mate burt bloggs, he has a bump, then I am liable if I do not have insurance - even though I'm not the driver?
How can that be proven in a court of law?
You were sat in your front room sir watching TV... yes
You gave your friend permission to use your car... yes
You are the registered owner of the car... yes
Your friend has insurance policy of his own... yes
You don't have a current insurance policy... no
Your friend had a crash in your car, while driving in a town 50 miles away... yes
You are liable for the crash!

Car insurance was always about the individual;
The price of car insurance depends on the driving record of the individual - have they had a bump - have they any medical conditions - have they any motoring offences, etc.
Now the powers that be state you MUST have an insurance policy for the car, even if you do not drive it.
Can the car be driven by someone with their own insurance policy for a different car... which is completely legal and covers them for any vehicle? No
YOU are liable as the registered owner, even if they have insurance that covers them, if YOU own a car but have no insurance policy with the car registered against it.

They have a bump in your car and you are liable?

Completely bizarre and a catch 22 for each and every car owner, costing people more money.

British Gas top up meter fail

Got a new British Gas card from a paypoint 2 months ago, topped up twice no problem.
Came to top up a third time, put card in meter... nothing.

Rang pay as you go "helpline" (using that term loosely)

Advisor 1 runs a test, by telling me to put card in upside down, meter does nothing.
Advisor 1 - "this shows us that the card slot is broken as it won't display an error message if the card is incorrectly inserted. We'll send an engineer out, they will either replace the card slot or order a new meter, either way they'll leave you with £10 emergency credit, we'll refund your card credit back on to the card, so that you can top up once it's fixed."

No problem, wait for engineer.

British Gas engineer that arrived is not an engineer, he's a British Gas employee with an ipad.

He tries my top up card... nothing.
He tries his own "Ghost card"... nothing.

I left him to it, as he fiddles about with his ipad.

Three minutes later he's back in the kitchen, with the cooker on full pelt, "testing it"
"Where's your boiler?"
- It's through there, what's that got to do with the meter failing to accept top up cards?
"We have to test all appliances before we leave the premises!"
- Really? Without prior appointment? Without notification or permission from customer?
"Well if you don't let us, then we will refer inspection back to national grid and if you refuse them access, they'll turn your supply off at the main road!"

British Gas employee writes down the make and model of both boiler and cooker, then tells me to ring British Gas back up and ask for £40 refund to go on a new card from the nearest paypoint.

- So a new meter or can you fix the card slot?
"We don't fix card slots, I have no idea why they would say that. I can only reset your meter or order a replacement to be fitted."
- Can I have my top up card back then it's got £40 credit on it?
"No, your card has gone now..."
- I think I should have it
"You don't need it, it won't work!"
- I'd feel better if I had it...

He pulls a few cards from his pocket and hands one over that is not ours (dirty, heavily scratched on card and microchip)
He leaves.

I rang British Gas back up...
I told them how I was not happy with their engineer not being able to do what advisor 1 says he could (replacing slot mechanism in meter) and how I wasn't at all happy with him helping himself to inspecting our appliances without consent.

Advisor 2 - "Very sorry about that, you will need a reset card to be sent out, don't worry though, our engineer (that wasn't an engineer) has left you with emergency credit and we'll send you a card out to top up your meter with the £40 credit I'll put on it.
It will be with you tomorrow, then you will be good to go!"

Waits in all the next day, nothing comes.

I rang British Gas again.
Advisor 3 - "Just let me have a look at your account notes... there is nothing on your account notes about sending you a new card out!"
- Really? What do they say?
"Your later call yesterday hasn't been logged and no notes exist for it."
- Great so where is our card and why have we been led to believe it would be sorted out and given false information yet again?
"Could you go out to your meter and put your top up card in again?"
- Card won't work as it wasn't the card we put credit on and it's not registered to our meter.
"Look if you don't want me to help you I will terminate the call" [VERY shirty]

- OK I'll go to the meter again and put in the card that's never been registered to our meter and when it comes back with an error message, I'll then wait on the line whilst you go and fetch me your manager!

Suddenly advisor 3 wasn't so shirty and began to LISTEN!

Advisor 3 - "If you go to your nearest paypoint and top up again, we can credit the £40 back on to a new card then you should be good to go..."
- Don't I need a reset card from you sending out?
"No it should work fine once this code is on a card and it's put into your meter"
- But two advisors have now said I'd have to wait for a special card to be sent out?"
"Just let me check with our expert on the floor here..."

"Can I ask you to go out to your meter again please?"
After running through the menu options advisor 3 tells me that a new card will need to be sent out, but "as it's after 5pm on a Saturday you probably won't get it till around Wednesday!"
- Well if that's all we can do then that's what we'll have to do. What do I do when the emergency credit runs out in the meantime?
"Well we could send a code to your paypoint to activate the meter, but we cannot do this as it's after 4pm and the code won't work!
I'll ring you back on Tuesday to see if it's come!"

What a complete an utter shambles British Gas, advisors telling me completely false information, one didn't even register the call or what was discussed (breach of the data protection act - wwhereby a company advisor has, by law, to register all calls accurately) and incomplete engineer notes.

Top up card failed on Friday afternoon, despite numerous promises of action, each contradicting the next, I'll lucky if I'm able to top up by next Wednesday.
Not to mention staying in all day for a "reset card" to arrive that hadn't even been ordered.

British Gas are a joke... does anyone working for them actually know what they are doing?

TV in the sale? A simple test for good value...

When buying a TV, even the new fangled HD - internet ready TVs - that are all singing all dancing in today's magical world of wonderment, or whatever the crap is they are peddling, but getting ripped off is as old as the hills.

Here's a simple way to stop that happening and stop the sales patter right in it's tracks.

Walk into any shop, look at how amazing the picture quality is... superb clarity, top notch resolution, etc. You know the drill.
Ask the salesperson one simple question, "Well let's see how it handles a tv aerial signal then?"
Sit back and watch.

Some will tell you they don't have that facility, some will claim it's just as high quality as the display you're looking at. Others will claim that they don't have an aerial or freeview to demonstrate as it's the licensing laws or costs the company too much to pay for the license, yes some do try this.
Some will start to sweat as they frantically run around looking for help or back up, if it's a big sale, some will start fumbling around behind the display TVs , pulling wires out and replugging them in. (It's quite funny watching them get more and more worked up)

Why ask for this you ask?
Well most TV you watch isn't blu-ray, not everything is in HD, many TVs look good and perform great when blu ray is up and running, but plug in a basic signal (via aerial and freeview or bog standard sky) and the amazing picture suddenly doesn't look so great anymore.
TVs have a frame rate, cheaper the TV, lower the frame rate and the picture suffers markedly.
Especially so, if it's in "a sale"
This is hidden if the TV on display is playing back a blu ray disc or even a DVD.

REMEMBER: Sale prices are all well and good, but be warned.
Companies know which TVs (or any other big buy) have a history of being repaired or need to be replaced down the line, before the guarantee runs out.
When any "sale" item is replaced, you will only be credited for the amount you paid, a match on features for example, is very hard to get out of them.
You could buy a top of the range TV in a sale, 8 months later, it's replacement is of the same value, but now you have an over priced mid ranged TV with less features.
Be aware of this.

If the shop doesn't have the facility to demonstrate the TV you are interested in, without showing you it's picture quality in freeview or with an aerial, then I would always walk away and shop elsewhere.
I don't want to buy a TV that looks great in the shop, to find it has a shadow or ghost running behind people in the picture when it's on freeview, only for the company to claim that it's some technicality with reception, or some low quality equipment effecting the average picture.
When you find a shop that looks after it's customers and can demonstrate the TV the way YOU want it demonstrated, value them.
Your TV may not be as cheap as bert bloggs all singing all dancing down the road, but it will save you money in the long run, result in better equipment and you will be more likely to return to them to buy again in the future.

There are some good retailers out there, you just have to find them!

Frugal tip: A frugal butter dish

You have access to a margarine tub? So use it!

Seen all the posts about how "margarine is just one percent away from being paint" and on TV about how blocks of butter are better for you when heated up, as opposed to margarine, we've switched over completely to butter.
We have the pot butter dish, but it can be a pain, when the butter is rock hard, even when left out in the butter dish and it rips the bread.
The marg tub is always out, so when it was empty, we put the block of butter in there and just leave it out with the lid on.

Soft butter and protected from flies etc.
Job done!