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Social Media Job Hunting With Altrincham HQ

It’s that time of year again – cold mornings, dark evenings and wet days means that we tend to spend more time indoors and, for many of us, that also means more time online.

Research shows that people are spending almost an hour online every day scrolling through Facebook updates, liking Instagram posts and chatting on Messenger but could that time be better spent?

With many businesses using social media as a way to engage with the public, there has never been a better time to catch the attention of possible future employers whilst still using the platforms you’re familiar with. However, this also means that everything you share online yourself can can also be seen by the same people you’re trying to impress.

I spoke to Alex McCann, founder of Altrincham HQ, to ask him for some tips about how to use online time in a more productive way and ensure you’re sending out the right messages….

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Alex in action…

“I always tell this tale whenever I’m doing a Business Talk – about how 1999 changed my life….

A normal kid from a normal background who, while at college, decided to set up a music website from his bedroom … and 6 months later got quite a well-paid freelance journalism job from a stranger in London.

I haven’t looked back since and even now, when I’m helping small businesses with Social Media Marketing, I trace back my current success to believing in the power of the internet back in 1999

Opportunities have never been greater for people who are prepared to use the internet as much for work as they are for keeping in touch with friends.

 BEFORE YOU APPLY FOR A JOB – DO A SOCIAL MEDIA AUDITsocial-media-1

If you haven’t heard of a young girl called Paris Brown do a quick search on google after reading this article.

In short – she was a 17 year old girl who got the £15,000 job of the Youth Crime Commissioner. Offensive posts on Twitter from years previous came back to haunt her and she lost the job just days after it was announced.

Now she was in a very public position in the public eye, but regardless of what some HR people say – it’s likely that if you apply for a job they’ll search your name on Facebook to get a picture of who you are outside of your CV

 Four Things To Do Now…

  1. Check your Facebook profile photo and cover photo portrays you in the best light from an employer’s perspective – it can still be you and personal and friendly
  2. Check your Facebook privacy settings are set to friends only – so that anything you do post by accident isn’t in the public domain
  3. Check which Facebook pages / groups you have joined over the years – and check there is nothing to raise eyebrows
  4. Use Twitter Advanced Search – https://twitter.com/search-advanced – for any swear words, abuse or anything that portrays you in a bad light – and delete those tweets

 

Now all that’s done – you can get on with the applying for jobs

 

USE TWITTER / FACEBOOK TO SEARCH FOR VACANCIES

Businesses quite often will try and fill a role from their own customer base / fans before going to more traditional methods of recruitment

Every single day I see local businesses advertise for jobs – both part time roles and full times roles

To make sure you don’t miss out – do the following

  1. Like all local business pages on Facebook from businesses you’d like to work for / businesses that regularly take on staff
  2. Join a specific Facebook job group like ” https://www.facebook.com/groups/salejobs/ ” – there’s always new local jobs advertised
  3. Join local Sale, Altrincham groups and use the Facebook Search option top right of the group to search the word job
  4. Set up a saved search on Twitter for jobs in the local town – simply type job altrincham / job #saletown / job urmston etc in the search bar and click save search so it appears in the drop down menu

 

Word of warning – these are few and far between on these platforms – but be wary of adverts offering “work from home” / “work around your busy family life” – they are often not salaried roles and require you to buy in to an opportunity

 

RESEARCH THE COMPANY TO WRITE THE NUMBER 1 COVERING LETTER / EXCEL AT INTERVIEW STAGE

social-media-3So you’ve made sure you’re Social Media looks squeaky clean. You’ve searched social media and found the perfect job – the next stage is getting through the covering letter stage and excelling at interview stage

And a little note for you here – 90% of covering letters suck!!!

Bland clichés that have been written before the day I was born – “I work well on my own and as part of a team” / “Hard Working And Dedicated” / “This Is Exactly the Kind of Role I’m Looking For” – well done for stating the obvious

Use Social Media to rise above the blandness and show you have some real interest in the company you want to work for.

Every single day on Social Media, the company that you’re applying for a job with, will be pushing the latest news about what the company are up to so reference that in your covering letter. Show them you’re taking note. Show them you care.

 And then once you get the interview do the research again

Very few others will do this – you’ll stand out as way above average and it puts you in a good position to get hired

GIVERS GAIN

There’s a saying in business called Givers Gain – help others and you help yourself.

Think about how you can adapt that idea in your own job search…

If whilst doing all of the above activity for your own job search – you’re thinking of friends and family members who are looking for work and keep letting them know about job opportunities – the help will come back at you like a boomerang

Givers Gain – look out for jobs for other people on Social Media and they’ll look out for jobs for you. It’s like having an army of 10 people helping you out

 

EVERY LITTLE HELPS AND NOT JUST AT TESCO

Everything I’ve talked about above us reactive – meaning you’re waiting for someone else to put the job out, to tell you about their latest news, for a friend to look out for a job for you.

What I want to talk about in this last point is the proactive stuff you can do long-term to draw people to you, rather than you look for it and all of it you can do with a smart phone or a computer … and an internet connection.social-media-2

We’ve all read in the media about people who set up a blog or a youtube channel and suddenly made a career out of it.The ones you know about are on the national stage – but these sort of things happen all the time on a smaller level, where you get passionate about your niche and suddenly someone offers you a job

If people are aware of you. People can offer you stuff.

So whilst looking for the day to day job – why not aim big – follow your passion and set up a blog / youtube channel that you work on at least once a week.

Tell us what this brings you if you stick at it for a year…

You can find Alex on Twitter @altrinchamhq or Facebook – Altrincham HQ

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*This article was originally written for SaleWestVoice Magazine – an online source of news n views 🙂

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Irwell Valley, ‘variable service charges’ and what you really need to know…

As some of you will be aware, Irwell Valley Housing Association are planning to implement an ‘Intention to vary your tenancy agreement and charge you a variable service charge’.

You’ll know this because they wrote to every tenant back in September, to ask your opinion and for feedback – but did you actually read the letter or just throw it in the bin?

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I’m asking because, according to Irwell Valley, they received only 139 replies out of a possible 2580. That is just 5% of residents.

They also received a petition with 102 signatures on it. That’s 102 residents out of 2580 that currently live in property owned by the housing association.

It’s these statistics that make me think that perhaps you didn’t read that letter after all, if you had there would have been far more response from the letter in September and loads more signatures on the petition. That’s why I’m writing up this blog, to point out a couple of ways in which these changes will potentially affect you when they come in to effect on the 1st of April next year.

Firstly, Irwell Valley did ‘note and listen’ to all your responses and held a panel session in order to ‘review them in full’ – there were two resident board members present but at the time of writing I’m not sure who they are.

Either way, there were no comments relating to the variation in the tenancy agreement and they have decided to go ahead anyway, from April next year.

So, why are they introducing the charge? It’s because during a recent review it was pointed out that residents in Sale and Haughton Green weren’t paying for services that were being charged for in other areas and, to ‘ensure fairness’ they decided that you can pay it too.

At the panel it was raised that residents had queried what happens to the power generated by the solar panels on the high rises, as well as any income from the masts also on the high rises. Irwell Valley explained that the energy from the solar panels is used within the building to reduce the amount of energy used in communal areas and this will be reflected in the service charge to residents, although it will be negligible really. The income from the masts is not reserved only for the buildings they’re attached to – Irwell Valley say that this money is ‘used alongside rental income to invest in homes and neighbourhoods’.
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Now for the really interesting stuff…

What exactly does ‘Variable Service Charge‘ mean anyway?  Each year Irwell Valley will assess how much they expect to spend on providing services, this means that the charge is estimated based on the previous year’s costs or estimated costs. At the end of the year you will receive a statement showing the actual costs and any over/under charges. The service charge will then be adjusted for the following year.

So, for the first year they will be working on estimates that could be quite reasonable. However, if there’s a spate of vandalism, houses being damaged, fencing being stolen or general stoopidity leading to damage, you can expect your service charge to go up and up and up…..

Interestingly, Irwell Valley say that the cost of the service charge could vary amongst similar properties – for example, looking at the blocks, ‘the number of repairs required to each block will change each year, e.g. one block could require 3 repairs to the door entry system in one year and another block could have no repairs, therefore the first block will have a higher service charge that year’.

In theory that could also mean various roads or sections of the estate could have differing charges – if you live in a patch that sees a lot of damage you could see a rise in your service charge. Hardly fair if it’s not you or yours causing the damage in the first place….

…which leads me to the next possible bone of contention.sale-west-sign

If you are in receipt of full housing benefit/universal credit the service charge will be covered by your benefits and you shouldn’t be required to pay any additional cost yourself. You do need to inform Universal Credit yourself as Irwell Valley won’t be doing so, but if you receive housing benefit you don’t even need to do that as they will inform them themselves.

However, if you are working full-time or not in receipt of the benefits above, you’ll be expected to pay it yourself on top of your rent.

I pity those that are out at work and not receiving benefits when they come home to find the kid up the road has damaged yet more property that will increase the Service Charge that their parents will be unaware of because they don’t pay it themselves…..

Maybe this is a clever ploy by Irwell Valley to get residents to stand up to the few that spoil it for the rest, after all, what better way to bring it to your attention and bring about a little community action than to hit you in the pocket.

If you feel you may have money problems paying your service charge you should contact the Irwell Valley Income Management Team as soon as possible on 0800 035 22 11 – they will be able to offer you confidential help, advice and support.

Once you get the letter in February 2017 with the full breakdown of charges, Irwell valley will be holding a number of surgeries to allow you to meet with an IV colleague on a one-to-one basis and discuss your individual circumstances.

To try n end on a positive note, here’s a list of all the services you can expect to receive from Irwell Valley – please let us know if they fail to meet any of them n don’t forget to take a pic and post it on SaleWestVoice 🙂

  1. Cleaning communal windows (blocks) – quarterly, in March, June, September and December
  2. Communal cleaning (blocks) – monthly and includes all ledges cleaned, nosing on stairs and bannister rails cleaned, sweep n mop all hard floors, dust, damp wipe of skirting, clean of internal fixtures n fittings, check on external door and light fittings for cobwebs and clean all internal door glazing.
  3. Communal Electricity (blocks) – you’re paying for it in your service charge so you can expect the communal area to be lit, warm and with a working lift.
  4. Lift Service Contract (blocks) – again, it’s included in the charge so you should expect to have a fully operational lift that’s maintained monthly.
  5. Repairs to Lift (blocks) – Irwell Valley have taken into consideration previous breakdowns etc so if there are more this year expect the charge to go up.
  6. Estate Maintenance (EVERYONE) – This cost is included in the service charge and is divided by the total number of properties on the estate. The service is provided by Greenfingers and Nurture and you can expect grass cut fortnightly throughout the growing season, kerb edges and fence lines kept neat n tidy, grass areas to be edged during the dormant season, weeds removed in shrub beds and on hard surfaces as well as all shrub and hedges to be pruned to a neat ‘hedge like’ appearance. Remember that fly-tipping issues and bin emptying will remain responsibility of Trafford Council.

 

Irwell Valley will also be charging a 15% management fee which is calculated by taking the cost of each service and multiplying it by 15% – this is ‘to ensure services are delivered to a high quality n provide value for money, the cost of working out the service charge and the cost of collecting said service charge. Funny times eh 🙂

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New figures reveal 1.6Million school-aged children estimated to be living with an undetected vision problem

More than one and a half Million (1.6Million) school–aged children in England could be living with an undiagnosed vision problem that impacts on their educational and social development according to new figures released by National Eye Health Week and Boots Opticians.

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With up to eighty to eighty-five per cent of our perception, learning, cognition and activities facilitated through vision, it’s clear that the quality of a child’s eyesight plays a vital role in his or her development, especially in their early years.

A recent study by a team of UK academics published in the British Medical Journal found a clear link between visual ability in young children and reading and writing levels. Children with reduced visual acuity – a measure of how well we view detail – had significantly lower literacy development even when other factors – such as demographic, socio-economic and cognitive skills – were taken into account.

Poor vision in younger children is often due to the presence of Amblyopia (lazy eye) – a developmental disorder that leads to reduced vision. The human eye continues to develop until we reach about eight years of age giving just a small window of time where good vision can be restored through early detection and treatment. Unfortunately, there are few signs and symptoms to observe so detection is very difficult for parents, carers and teachers.unknown-2

David Cartwright Chairman National Eye Health Week continued: “As a child’s eyesight is usually fully developed by the age of eight, regular sight tests, every two years unless advised otherwise by your optometrist, are crucial. Sight tests for all children in the UK are free and funded by the NHS – the only investment parents have to make is time.

Conditions such as squint or amblyopia can lead to lifelong problems so it really is a case of ‘After Eight is too Late’. If detected early amblyopia and squint can often be corrected and other visual problems such as childhood myopia can be managed effectively, yet, fifty per cent of parents with children aged eight and under have never taken their child for a sight test.”

Levels of Myopia (short-sight), which typically occurs in childhood between the ages of six and 13, have more than doubled over the last 50 years and currently affect around a fifth of all teenagers in the UK.

It’s often difficult to tell if your child is having problems with their eyes but some tell-tale signs that there could be something wrong include struggling to recognise colours and shapes; frequently bumping into things; not showing any interest in learning to read; not progressing or being disengaged at school; complaining about headaches and sitting very close to the TV.

You may also recognise some physical signs, including:

• Rubbing eyes frequently
• Squinting, head-tilting or closing one eye when trying to focus
• One eye turning in or out
• Blinking a lot
• Excessive tearing
• Red, sore or encrusted eye lids

With a wealth of clinical evidence emerging to suggest that lifestyle factors can play a role in keeping children’s eyes healthy, including the importance of outdoor play in preventing the onset of myopia, National Eye Health Week has joined forces with Boots Opticians to launch a guide to help to care for your child’s eyes.unknown-3

This digital resource includes seven ways to help keep kids’ eyes healthy, tell-tale signs your child could be struggling with their vision and common childhood eye conditions explained. There are also links to resources such as the Boots Opticians eye check story book, Zookeeper Zoe which contains a range of interactive eye check activities to help parents and carers understand if their child might need support with their vision.

Commenting on the collaboration Karl Thomas, Customer Director, Boots Opticians said: “We want every child in the UK to be as happy and healthy as possible. We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback about Zookeeper Zoe and we’re delighted with stories we’re hearing around the joy that Zoe’s story brings, be that the simple act of reading, or in raising parents’ awareness of vision needs that in turn are resulting in a vision correction for their child.”

“Good eyesight can be so important for a child’s development, so we want to ensure their vision is the best it can be, which is why we are printing more copies of Zookeeper Zoe and encouraging parents to take their children for an eye test to ensure that their children reach their full potential.”

imagesDespite the UK National Screening Committee (NSC) recommending, universal vision screening for all children between the ages of 4 – 5 years by an orthoptic-led service an estimated 200,000+ children will miss out on this basic screening in the 2016/17 academic year as fewer than a third of local authorities in England provide this service and where it does exist screening has been found to be patchy.

David Cartwright concludes: “Regular eye checks performed on your local high street, by a qualified optometrist and paid for by the NHS are vital to ensure kids live well and fulfil their potential in the classroom.”

Discover more at www.visionmatters.org.uk/children or to share Zookeeper Zoe’s adventures visit www.zookeeperzoe.co.uk

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Pokemon insurance now available…

Not wanting to miss out on the recent Pokemon Go craze sweeping the world, one canny insurance company have launched what they are calling ‘the world’s first Pokédex insurance’, in response to the growing popularity of the new Pokémon Go game.

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No Caption needed…

The British firm, Row which advertises the cover, making references to the Japanese television show launched in 1997, reads “taking up the challenge of becoming a Pokémon Go trainer and becoming the very best like no one ever was is undoubtedly important, but don’t forget to defend your Pokédex (mobile phone) with the UK’s top rated specialist insurance provider to keep you playing the game without interruption”

With reports of the augmented reality game having 5.9m daily users, more than Twitter (4.06m), Pokémon Go has become a phenomenal overnight success.

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90’s classic with a 2016 twist

During the game players explore the real world using their phone’s GPS and camera to catch virtual monsters. Once caught, Pokémon are added to the player’s Pokédex – a handheld gadget that resembles a mobile phone. Players, known in the game as trainers, must catch as many as possible while levelling up by making use of their Pokémon’s unique skills during battles at local ‘gyms’.

So far so good, right. Below is where it gets interesting – [excerpt from press release]

“Many players have been injured while playing the game, been mugged at secluded Pokéstops, found dead bodies while searching for the Pokémon and even been shot at!
The large use of the game will also undoubtedly lead to more phones being dropped, an increase on the 90% of people who drop their phone at least once a month, according to a survey by phone case manufacturer Tech21.

The same survey states that for 38% of people the biggest stress factor of a broken phone is paying for the repair. Luckily, Row’s new Pokédex insurance covers accidental damage, including cracked screens, plus liquid damage and mechanical faults. In the event of theft or loss, the firm boasts they aim to get a replacement phone to your door within 24 hours of the claim being accepted so you can keep catching Pokémon and winning gym badges!”

So there you have it – rather than protecting your Pokemon from being stolen or securing your account from being hacked as the headline would have you believe, they have simply rebranded their existing accidental damage/theft policy to attract a whole new clientele of Paranoid Poke Hunters.

Wonder what we’ll see next, perhaps a ‘PokeSim’ offering unlimited data just in time for the summer hols, or maybe ‘PokePancakes’ –  after all I was one of the parents duped into buying numerous packs of *Tubby Toast back in the the 90s when my eldest was a toddler and the Teletubbies phenomenon was in full effect.

If you’ve seen any Pokemon related PR campaigns that have made you chuckle or shake your head in despair get in touch, I’d love to hear from you 🙂

*  For clarity – Tubby Toast is a round piece of toast with a smiley face on it. Tubby Toast is made from Tubby Bread, and It is one of the Teletubbies’ favorite foods. The Teletubbies make Tubby Toast from the Tubby Toaster. Tubby Toast has also had some fun incidents, the Tubby Toast once made too much Tubby Toast in the Tubby Toast Accident, there was once a Tubby Toast Tower and the Tubby Toaster once made a very big piece of Tubby Toast. The Tubby Toaster made a Tubby Toast Pattern on the Tubby Table. Once, Tinky-Winky made lots of Tubby Toast and put it in his bag. But all the Tubby Toast burst out all over Teletubbyland. The Teletubbies love Tubby Toast……

 

2015 in review

It has been a very busy year – now on to 2016…

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

New Year – New Notebook…

As 2015 comes to an end it can only mean one thing for stationery addicts across the world, time to source new stationery for the new year – including a diary, calendar, note books, useful sticky pads, pens and various other writing paraphernalia. Being super organised (and slightly neurotic) I have already started my New Year Collection n thought I would share my finds with you 🙂

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A few faves from Blueprint Collections

I would like to start with a special mention for a very special stationery company – Blueprint Collections. These guys are responsible for some of the super stylish stationery found in John Lewis, Tesco, Primark, Sainsburys, Waterstones, Claires Accessories and many other high street shops.

Always bang on trend, Blueprint Collections really do have something for everyone – their designer, teen and kids stationery sets feature some very well known characters and I have collected quite a few already 🙂

One of my all time favourite characters is Wally from the infamous ‘Where’s Wally‘ series and I was beyond delighted to find that he had his very own stationery set, complete with super cute post-it notes and ‘to-do’ list pad (both of which I seem to use a lot of…)

Add to this a cardboard backed A5 pad with a ‘Where’s Wally’ insert and you really do have everything needed to see you into 2016 at work/college/school, including a way to procrastinate away the hours as you convince your work/classmates that they really must help you find Wally before work can commence…..

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Just in time for the Peanuts movie, Blueprint have also released a fantastic range of Snoopy inspired products, each one totally adorable and no doubt much sought after by Peanuts fans, old and young alike. I love the quality of the A5 notebook, and the fact it has a cute cartoon on each page, it makes note taking fun – especially when written using a matching Peanut pen complete with Snoopy charm 🙂

 

Other notable stationery in the last Blueprint collection are the ‘old-fashioned’ Coca Cola pieces, my 13-year-old son was well impressed with

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Coke – a timeless classic

the ‘essential’ set that includes a wooden ruler and other trendy items, so much so that I haven’t seen it since he spotted it and he’s now requested a matching bag for school.

My personal all time favourite collection has to be the designer range. I love notebooks, especially really pretty yet functional notebooks with decent quality paper. Yet again, Blueprint don’t disappoint and their Kirstie Allsopp A4 hardback notebook is the business.

As some of you may know, I have a brand new and very exciting project in the pipeline for next year – having secured some funding, I’m launching a hyper-community magazine and am currently up

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My all time fave – Kirstie Allsopp notebook

to my eyes with flat plans and page layout plans. I’ve dedicated my Kirstie Allsopp notebook to the cause and am finding it the perfect place to keep all my ideas together and it looks really smart when I’m going to meetings and other ‘grown-up’ stuff 🙂

I have already had a sneak peek at what the guys at Blueprint have planned for 2016 and have my eye on a few goodies – look out for collections from The Gruffalo, Peppa Pig, Designers Guild and Trolls (a real blast from the past and top of my wish list).

I have ordered my 2016 diary from Siratt – it’s an Islamic Lifebook and is full of tips and reminders on how to get the most from your year; after buying my first one last year and finding it really useful I’m hooked. Sadly the Lifebook hasn’t arrived yet so I can’t offer a review yet (watch this space).

If  you’ve got a favourite piece of stationery, recommendation or are a lifelong Troll fan give me a shout – always good to hear from fellow #StationerySistas 

Pop over n have a look at Blueprint Collections on Twitter – tell them I said hey 🙂 @BlueprintColl

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Hot Hair – why being grey no longer means having dull hair

My #review of @whitehothair and why being grey no longer means having dull hair . #HairCare

Books have feelings too

As a self-confessed bookworm and stationery addict I’m always on the look out for unusual and quirky ‘bookish things’, collecting them as some women amass shoes, and with the same ‘you can never have enough’ excitement.

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Stylish and practical

My favourite has to be a good bookmark and I can often be found in the Manchester branch of Waterstones picking up the latest bestseller, browsing for new additions for my collection and having a cheeky brew. It was following my most recent visit that I discovered the absolute gem known as a Page Corner Bookmark 🙂

If, like me you are guilty of folding down the corner of the page when you’re reading, this bookmark offers the perfect solution. It gives the illusion of a folded page while saving both your place and, more importantly, the precious book corners from damage.

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no more bent corners

 

Page Corner Bookmarks come in an assortment of designs, each beautifully finished and embossed with different text. The packaging is trendy yet vintage and would appeal to bookworms old and young alike, making this bookmark an ideal stocking filler for the bibliophile in your life .

Created by an innovative team called ‘that company called if‘ the bookmarks are available to buy in branches of WHSmith’s and Waterstones. Bookworms in the Emerald Isle can find them in selected WHSmith’s stores and Eason’s in Ireland and N. Ireland.

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UPDATE: Vodafone Woes #Day5

Saturday.

I would love to be writing this update to say that Vodafone came through after all, and that my line was now operational…….sadly this is not the case.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more ridiculous in the whole #VodafoneWoes drama, the interaction – or rather lack of it from ‘Customer Disservice’ was taken to a whole new level this morning.

While I found writing my complaint down yesterday rather cathartic, I woke up this morning feeling really frustrated and anxious about the whole situation and that’s not good when you’re trying to deal with 3 cats, 2 dogs and a herd of children.

Being the eternal optimist I decided to call Vodafone yet again, in the hope that maybe this time I would get a call handler that could actually handle my call and deal with the ongoing problem where so many others had failed.

Call #1: I waited on hold to speak to a customer disservice operator for 35 minutes before my call was answered. He took my details and seemed to understand the problem. He asked why the number had been disconnected in the first place and as I started to answer him the line went dead.

Call #2: I opted for the ‘call back option’ and, after 20 minutes I got a call from customer disservice operator called Sinah. She was very apologetic about the whole thing and said she couldn’t understand why a simple reconnection was taking so long. She then assured me that she would solve the problem and had escalated it to her manager – between them they would get the line back up and running in the next 2-5 hours. She also said she would call me back after 3 hours, just to check if it had been done, and if not she would chase it up again to ensure it would be on by 4pm at the latest.

I thanked her for her help but explained that I had been promised a call back from several operators and not one has ever actually got back to me. I also expressed my distrust of her promises as I have heard it countless times before over the past 4 days. At this point she gave me her full name and promised that she would be the one to restore my faith in Vodafone.

I am still waiting for Sinah to call me back………

Call 3, 4, 5 and 6: Having waited until 4.30 and the line still being inactive I decided to call customer disservice yet again. I tried to get through using the 191 number only to have the call dropped each and every time. On the 7th attempt I tried using my daughters phone in case it was my number that was causing this and this time I got straight through. Make of that what you will.

Call 7: This time I spoke to a male phone operator, when I asked to speak with Sinah he had no idea who she was and said that she was ‘probably in a different building’. He went through the standard apology and after putting me on hold several times he explained that the previous call handler hadn’t completed all of the steps needed to

Seriously?

Seriously?

reconnect the line, but it was ok because he would do that now and it would be back on within 24 hours. At a loss for words by now I said ‘ok, speak to you again tomorrow when it doesn’t happen’ and he assured me profusely that it really would, and that he was even going to send me a confirmation text. Whoop whoop.

When the text arrived it states, as you can see, that the reconnection will take place within 24 DAYS. Unbelievable.

Meanwhile, over on Twitter, it appears that @VodafoneUKhelp want to anything but help and have taken to totally ignoring me. Despite following me on Tuesday and tweeting to ask that I ‘DM’ (direct message) them my issue, they have refused to interact with any of my numerous tweets tagging them as well as all of my ‘DM’s’…..

I have sent a hard copy of my complaint to Vodafone head office and will update my blog until this situation is resolved and adequate compensation has been received. Oh, and the dongle removed and refunded of course 😉

Helloooo

Helloooo

WHAT’S IT REALLY LIKE BEING BRITISH AND MUSLIM IN 2015?

The religious landscape of Britain has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, with Islam becoming Britain’s fastest growing religion. Having doubled in numbers to around three million since 2000, 47% of Muslims are UK born, 33% are aged 15 and under and it’s estimated that one in ten children under the age of four is a British Muslim.

Despite this we know very little about the people behind these statistics other than what the media tell us – do they really want to ‘Islamify’ the UK, can you really be both British and Muslim and what is the truth behind all those scary headlines?

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I spoke to two very different British Muslims to find out more…

Social commentator and civil rights activist, Mohammed Ansar lives in Hampshire with his wife and children. He says British Muslims are facing mass discrimination on many levels, with far-reaching and devastating effects:

British Muslims are having a civil rights crisis. We’re being overwhelmingly and disproportionately discriminated against in terms of employment, housing, health and education – meaning that we have a whole section of society being pushed to the edge and marginalized.

Mohammed Ansar

Mohammed Ansar

The removal of EMA for example means that the hardest up families in the UK are going to struggle to send their kids to college. When we have eighty percent of British Muslims on or below the poverty line, the removal of this one benefit will have a disproportionate impact on that community.

We need to define our narrative. With foreign policy and global events, the media today is defining Muslim life in Britain using people that we would consider to have more in common with terrorism, far removed from Islam and the true Prophetic traditions. Then we have a whole other group at the other end of the spectrum; not really upholding authentic ideals of Islam but at the same time are very secular progressive – so much so that they themselves are quite happy to be drinking and going to strip clubs while defining ‘counter radicalization’ and pressing very hard on British Muslims in a bid to try to reform Islam by telling people how to live. I think there’s a real hypocrisy there.

We’ve had, and continue to have an onslaught of Islamophobic propaganda in the media, aligning the Muslim faith with immigration, terrorism, in fact, when it comes to British Muslims we can be conflated with anyone; child sex abuse claims, drug trafficking, sex trafficking – all the worst aspects of society are being pushed towards the Muslim ‘issue’, helping to demonize British Muslims on an almost daily basis.

uk muslim

Don’t panic – I’m Islamic (and British of course)

As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, British Muslims are constantly being called on to ‘prove their loyalty to the UK’ and I for one am sick and tired of it. I try not to lend myself to it and have refused to support campaigns calling for such action because it just doesn’t help. It creates a false narrative and takes away from the real issues we’re facing. Sadly, it seems to be the younger generation of British Muslims who, being sometimes less experienced in terms of understanding the political dimensions, are drawn into the debate and see it as being a modern-day ‘Cool Britannia’ – almost like a ‘Cool Muslimia’. Young British Muslims seem to think ‘I can be Muslim, I can be inclusive and contribute to British society but I must be able to put clear water between myself and those with different values.’

We never see this with non-Muslim communities – when there’s a paedophile ring, which has a dozen people in it who are white Christians, we don’t then see those communities marching on the streets saying ‘not in my name’. We don’t see outrage on Twitter or other social media where people feel the need to say these people don’t represent me. We certainly never see outrage when Britain bombs Libya or performs airstrikes in Iran and Syria to support president Assad and we don’t get Christians feeling the need to put clear water between themselves and David Cameron.

The British Muslim community is disproportionately targeted and we’re not treated on the same equal footing as everyone else. It has to change. British values include a sense of fair play and equality but this isn’t what we’re getting. There’s been some really ugly, neo-conservative interests infiltrate both the government and the media, that’s why we’re seeing influence on foreign policy both here and abroad, as well as the media agenda. We need to shine a light on this and ask the people to wrestle it back to some form of fairness.

uk muslim flag

Rucksana Malik is a 38-year-old self-employed British Muslim who lives in Manchester with her husband and 2 young sons. Rucksana says British Muslims do face discrimination in the UK but they bring much of it on themselves and should do more to integrate:

Rucksana Malik

The biggest issue the British Muslims in the UK are facing is lack of cohesion. Nobody pulls together and it’s frustrating, we can’t even agree what day Eid is on most years so it’s no wonder that he non-Muslims are confused about what Islam really stands for.

The perception most people have of British Muslims is only what the media show them; the Muslim girl in the pub on Eastenders, comical community leader Mr. Khan in another slapstick scene, or the founder of Quilliam visiting a strip club for his stag night. We need to all pull together to show a more accurate picture of what we’re really about because this is not it.

This misrepresentation has had a massive impact on British Muslims on many levels, including the rise of Islamophobic incidents reported recently. The majority of people who have strong opinions on Muslims and immigration (yes, they go hand in hand now, thanks to the media) tend to get their information from either sensationalist shows on TV or hate filled stories in the paper.

Disinformation stops unity and any good that is done by the British Muslim community doesn’t get reported on. However, there’s a lot more that some of us could do to integrate better. I know Muslims that, although they’ve lived here for over forty years, still don’t speak English and I have a big problem with that – they don’t wear English clothes, won’t eat English food but still want to live over here. That I have a problem with, and I can understand why people who are spoon fed the misinformation on top of seeing this have a huge problem.

Some British Muslims could do well to chill out and put their own affairs in order before getting all stressed about having Sharia patrols outside mosques to stop couples holding hands and other ridiculousness. We need to remember that there’s still places in the world where it’s illegal to practice as a Muslim, and just be grateful for the freedoms we have in the UK.

Some of the blame for how we are portrayed must lie with us, the British Muslims. Yes, we want to keep our identity, so I’m not going to integrate to the point where we go down to the pub together and I have a pint with you, but, if you’re my neighbour or

Rucksana and her son

 Rucksana and her son

in my local community, I want to know what you’re called, I want us to have enough of a rapport to have a chat. I want you to take an interest. I want to know if you’re not well or if you need any help with anything. Yes, it’s nice that you send me a Christmas card. I don’t celebrate it and I’m not going to send you one back but I’m going to find a nice way to tell you to tell you that.

I’m not just going to come out with ‘Kafir this, kafir that’ which, incidentally just means disbeliever, not the bad, almost swear word the media have alluded to. British Muslims seem to over react to a lot of things, like when it’s Christmas and some nitwits will start a petition to ban the lights because ‘we don’t do Christmas’. The reality is that it doesn’t matter, even if they are all over your street it doesn’t mean that you’re participating. Incidents like that do get a lot of media coverage and, in turn, does a lot of damage.

Some of the scaremongering headlines have even got people terrified that we are trying to ‘take over’ the UK. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I wouldn’t say I was a ‘moderate’ Muslim, I’d probably fall into the category some would label ‘extreme’ but even I have no wish to ever try to make this an Islamic country and don’t know anyone that does. It’s nowhere on the Muslim agenda and I wish the media would stop implying that we are some kind of imminent threat to British civilisation.

Some of the things that so many British Muslims make priority are rather strange too, like cartoons. They organize big marches and get everyone all fired up about things like that. Yes, as a Muslim I do find it offensive and I don’t agree with it but there’s far more important things to focus on, like educating the Muslim youth and getting them out of the houses, the bars, the strip clubs, and into a mosque. It’s hypocritical the things we choose to make an issue out of. They’re like sheep, everyone jumping on the bandwagon ‘I’m a Muslim, I’ve pride in my religion but I don’t pray or go to the mosque’. I wish they would save their breath and stop making it difficult for the rest of us.

I’m proud to be British and Muslim; anyone who says you can’t be both has clearly misinterpreted the religion, there’s no conflict and I’m happy to be both a fully practicing Muslim and a totally integrated member of British society. I don’t expect anyone to make allowances for me as a Muslim in any way. If I go somewhere to eat and they don’t have halal meat I’m not going to make an issue, complain or even start a petition – I’d either choose something else or choose not to eat there. There is literally nothing that I have to do as a Muslim that being British would prevent.

I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore but I don’t have a problem being off for the festive holidays. I don’t have an issue with seeing a Christmas tree in the town centre, the countless fairy lights or even hearing carols for the 3 months before and during the event. I don’t find it offensive because it’s not offensive – it’s just what other people do and we’re supposed to be the religion of tolerance after all. These are all examples of what could show British Muslims in a really good light with how we choose to react.

As with any community, we do have issues, one of the most worrying is the number of British Muslim youths being radicalized by UK foreign policy. It’s given them a channel for their aggression and their free time, because, let’s face it, nobody is encouraged to work. There’s no incentive for anybody to do anything positive then comes along the perfect excuse to get fired up and excited about something. These ‘Muslims’ don’t have a purpose or focus because religion isn’t taught enough at home so they have no fear of anybody, whether it be God or the police; they have no boundaries in that respect and are just looking for trouble, it’s more a political issue than religious uprising.

The government needs to stop interfering with things that are nothing to do with us; we’re not at war with anyone and I would have no problem fighting with the British Army if we were, regardless of whom that was against, but we’re not at war. That’s not to mention that the millions of pounds spent meddling in these distant lands could be much better spent over here.

Maajid Nawaz - before the strip club 'incident'...

Maajid Nawaz – before the strip club ‘incident’…

My biggest fear as a British Muslim living in the UK is not my racist neighbours or the lads who shouted abuse at me when I visited the park with my children. It’s not even the group of ‘men’ that spat on me as I was walked home from the supermarket just last week. What really scares me and makes me fearful for my children’s future in the UK the most is Maajid Nawaz and other so-called moderate Muslims; those that seek to vilify the rest of us that don’t fit their self-styled mould. We have more to fear from them than any non-Muslim as they undermine everything the rest of us are trying to achieve. Nawaz was the one who said that Muslim women don’t need to wear hijab in this country because ‘you’re putting yourselves in danger’. No, we’re not – you’re putting us in danger by coming out with idiotic comments like that, and then you’re caught in a strip club!

The reality is that real Muslims, the ones who follow the religion correctly, are not the ones you should be concerned with. We’re the ones that don’t try and impose our views on other people, respect other religions and, despite what the papers say, manage to integrate perfectly well in our society – yet we are labeled as extreme. It’s the ones that don’t pray 5 times a day or go to the mosque that are the deemed ‘moderate ones’ and yet they’re far more dangerous than we could ever be.

They’re the ones that breed the idiots who want to go and join ISIS, thinking it’s the answer to their prayers, not us. All this goes undetected while the ones they have monitoring these people, like Quilliam, focus instead on people like me that are just trying to live a peaceful life in the way I see fit. It’s the ‘non-Muslim Muslims’ that are a real danger to society, not the ones truly following Islam – it’s about time the media realised that.

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