Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Tale of the Missing Wardrobe

In all the years I've been ordering and buying items from online stores, I honestly don't think, in fact I'm pretty sure, that I have never received service as poor as what I have experienced with an online furniture company called Furniture 123.  I ordered three wardrobes; two for me and one for Amy. All were in a sale, one of those that seems to be on all year round, and I placed the order over the phone on 16th June. A nice lady took my payment there and then, a total of approximately £800, and we discussed delivery dates. She confirmed that all three wardrobes would be in stock as from 1st July so my request to have them all delivered together on Wednesday 29th July wasn't a problem. They would simply be in the warehouse and given to the courier in plenty of time to be delivered. I was happy and she was happy - she'd got my money and perhaps some commission for herself.

29th July arrived and as I hadn't received the delivery by 1pm I decided to go online and track the courier. To my disbelief, against each item it stated that they weren't in stock and would let me know when they were. Confused, I rang Furniture 123, pressed several numbers on the keypad before I could get through to a human rather than a machine, and was told that none of the wardrobes were in stock. So my question to them was, "Why did no one email or ring me to let me know this important piece of information?" They really couldn't help me with that one. I was put through to someone else and no one seemed to have any answers, no one knew what was going on and no one seemed bothered that I had paid just over £800 six weeks previously yet had not received my goods.

I left it with them, on their promise they would ring me back. They didn't.

The following day I rang them, another several minutes of pressing numbers on the keypad, at my expense, until once again I had to listen to a clueless assistant. I said I wanted to speak to a manager, get the wardrobes delivered as soon as possible, and kept telling her how unhappy I was that I had received no communication to say the wardrobes weren't even in stock. The clueless assistant couldn't put me through to a manager because, typically, there were none available at that particular time.

By Friday morning, after having not received the promised phone call with an update, I rang them back. It was quite coincidental, after telling them that I will be taking the matter further and want a full refund, that not long after I got a phone call advising me that they would all be delivered that afternoon (yet 2 days previously they weren't in stock? Err...). I waited in and finally the courier turned up mid-afternoon. He only delivered two wardrobes. I rang Furniture 123, again, who were, yes, you guessed it, clueless as to what had happened with the third wardrobe, and promised it would be delivered the next day, Saturday 1st August. So I waited in until 5.45pm on that Saturday - bearing in mind their delivery slot was between 12-4pm, and then gave up and took Amy to KFC. We arrived back half an hour later and Phil at Panther, the courier service, another useless organisation, had popped a card through my door to say he'd tried to deliver the wardrobe. Unbelievable.

On Monday, another round of phone calls ensued, but I only had until 2pm as we were going away on holiday. I couldn't have made it clearer to Furniture 123 and Panther that I wouldn't be at home to take delivery after 2pm, but once again, I wasn't listened to. The courier was on his way and expected me to stay in. Who needs a holiday anyway?! I stayed in until 3.15pm but still no sign of the courier.

So now I'm back from my holiday and have had to go through the phone call scenario again to rearrange delivery of the missing wardrobe, that is no longer with Panther but is now back in the Furniture 123 warehouse. They've had to re-process the order and I've insisted on a delivery date ASAP. I'm not holding my breath. I know one thing, I'll never order anything from this company again and my advice to anyone who considers using them is "Avoid, Avoid, Avoid."

Sunday, 26 July 2015


A very good author friend of mine, prolific writer both traditionally and self-published, released another fabulous book Tuesday 28th July. This is the third in a series known as "Brotherhood of Lone Riders". I've read the first two and I can't wait to sink my teeth into this third one. Michelle's writing is superb. Her attention to detail is why she's so popular and why her books continue to race up the charts. I'm a massive fan of her work and there's a lot of it. This author currently has 14 books available (including this one) for you to either download or buy in paperback, and believe me, every one is well worth purchasing. See below for details on how to get your hands on them.

I've offered to help Michelle promote her latest release, "Resurrection", following the very gritty, nail-biting stories of several characters who belong to a motorbike association group. Here are some details of the book and further information on where to buy a copy and where to find Michelle.

 Book #3 in The Lone Riders MC Romance Series

Release Date – July 28th


Forgetting the past can be dangerous. Re-living it can be deadly… 

Someone in the shadows wants Coby Walker dead.

He’s not the only one. 

Someone wants to bring The Lone Riders down.
He isn’t alone. 

The club is in danger, but even Coby isn’t aware how deep that danger runs. How personal it’s all become. How many lives are at risk because he got distracted… 

Ben Salter didn’t want to return to a life he’d left behind.

He was happy.
He was in love.
He was moving on.
But all of a sudden he finds himself thrust back into that world he’d never intended to return to, as the person he’d swore he’d never be again.

He thought he could handle it. 

He thought pushing her away would be easy. 

He was wrong. 

Lines become blurred and loyalties confused as Ben’s need to avenge a past he couldn’t forget intensifies. And as his world quickly spirals out of control, that past starts to threaten his future; truths are revealed that change everything, and a secret is exposed that threatens to destroy the one thing that can keep him from falling apart – the one person who can save him; a secret that leads to a bitter betrayal that becomes a catalyst for an endgame he’d never wanted to play out… 

Messed-up loyalties and a dangerous loss of focus puts The Lone Riders at risk; puts their resurrection in jeopardy. And they should have seen it coming… 

Buy Links

Author Bio

Michelle Betham is an ex-media technician turned author of hot, edgy, gritty romance, usually involving rock stars, sports stars, and bikers. But not usually all in the same book. Yet.
She is both self-published and published through HarperImpulse, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

Addicted to binge-watching TV dramas she struggles to think of a life before Netflix, loves rock music, tattoos, spicy food, and Keanu Reeves - a crush that's lasted over twenty years, and one she blames entirely on 'Point Break'...

Her dream is to ride a Harley. And visit Las Vegas. And be able to eat any amount of chocolate without putting on weight...

She lives in County Durham, north-east England, with her husband and West Highland Terrier, where she can be found most days drinking tea and making up stories.

Contact Links


Twitter - @michellebetham

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Education vs Work

It's often the case that Amy comes home from school with a complaint about something or other; I guess it's quite normal at her age to find anything and everything an issue. If it isn't a so-called friend that's upset her, it's usually a patronising comment made by a member of staff and when I ask which member of staff, she will never say. I think I may have a reputation for being one of *those* parents who rings the school to try and sort out my child's issues, rather than leaving her to sort them out herself. But it's hard when your child is unhappy about something and you feel that pressing need to do something about it. Amy is hard as nails on the exterior and can most definitely hold her own. If she's ever threatened or on the verge of bullying I don't think she'd hold back from giving verbal abuse, or even striking out physically. Not that I encourage that of course. But the fact I was bullied at school for a long time, and would sit in a corner like a frightened little mouse for most of break times, I'm quite proud that my daughter is nothing like me in that respect. But she is sensitive. She dwells on things, thinks about things too deeply, finds it difficult to ignore a situation and not get involved. She sticks up for her friends if she feels they're on the receiving end of abuse and she has no problem with reporting other kids to members of staff if she thinks it's necessary. Whether she gets that off her dad I don't know, but I can only assume she does.

Recently, however, she's been particularly unhappy at school and that's not like her at all. She's spent the past few years at special school making the most of the opportunities she's been given and as the staff have been amazing so far, encouraging her to go further, giving her the push she needs and making it clear that she's more than capable of doing at least three GCSEs (English, Maths and Science), and perhaps a fourth (Music), I feel quite worried that her recent lack of enthusiasm is going to pull her back from achieving the grades she needs in order to get into a decent college. She wants to do animal care. I'm currently looking into different colleges around the North of England. I am no longer tied to Northumberland and have many reasons to move away now, not least to help Amy with her education and future employment. I have always done what it takes to ensure she has what she needs, and I will continue to do so.

But the next move I make won't just be about Amy and her education; it will also be about me. I could have moved back to my roots last year when I left the farm because that is where my family are. But I chose to stay in the county so that Amy could continue attending her present school, which has, as I said, been a tremendous asset to her education. I don't know at this stage what is going to happen in so far as schooling and my own wellbeing are concerned but something has to give one way or another. I've heard some things about the ethos of the school recently that I'm not altogether happy with and although I'm not going to mention them here, it is quite concerning that my very capable daughter, whom I have made sure has received a bloody good upbringing, isn't being pushed and encouraged enough to get through these vital exams. I'm not sure whether this new rule of staying in school until you're 18 is actually for the best. It did me no harm to leave at 16, go to college for two years then into full time employment when I was only 18. Amy wants to leave school and go to college; she actually can't wait. She knows what she wants; she's known for years. So many thoughts are going through my head right now, not just to help Amy get decent grades and therefore on to a good course at college, whichever college that may be, but for me, too. When I sit alone (most of the time) I often think that if I didn't have Amy in my life I wouldn't be here now. But I do have Amy in my life and my life is so much richer because of it. However, I won't sit back and allow her to be unhappy at school, knowing there is something I can do about it.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Popularity Contest

Lots of voting going on today of course, and quite rightly. At least if my chosen party doesn't get into power, I will have every right to complain about the next government. If you don't vote, then in my humble opinion, you have absolutely no right to complain, whinge or indeed rant anywhere in public about the next Government. So many people didn't vote in the 2010 elections: their excuses being they didn't think it would make a difference. Of course it makes a difference. What bloody planet are these people living on? I do a postal vote and have done for a long time. It's easy. It means I can sit back on voting day and observe. Then I can sit back on deciding day and feel good that I made the effort. It isn't rocket science. Really, it isn't.

Then we have another kind of voting going on right now and that is perhaps not quite so urgent or indeed serious, but it does mean a lot to some people. It is something, however, that I have always struggled with as a blogger. I've been involved with several blogging communities over the last 8 years, many of which have been awesome. But one thing has always put me off getting too involved and that's this obsessive need to vote for each other's blogs in order to be "Best this" and "Best that". I'm quite sure a lot of my blogging friends will disagree with me when I say that no one should be competing to such a degree with their blog that they feel they have to persistently canvas for votes just to be crowned "Best this or that". Of course, we all have our own personal reasons to blog, some of those being to earn a bit of money with writing posts for companies...something else that has always put me off. I'll read anyone's blog, whether they write from the heart or are just ranting about politics. I think everyone should be commended for their blog, for the time and effort they spend on it, for feeling so passionate about it that they want to be a part of a blogging community. But do we really need to find ourselves in competition with each other over who has the "Best Blog"? Really? I'm sorry, but I don't think we do. I think it's demoralising when there are so many amazing blogs out there that are hardly recognised and someone with a bit more clout who spends more time blogging and has a bigger following goes on to win a prestigious blogging award, even though they can't string two sentences together. A good blog to me is...a blog. Simple. Anyone can create a blog. We all have a story to tell. Look at me, for example. Or don't. It's up to you. But always remember that popularity in blogging is not a winner. Being a blogger, however, is.

p.s. A little mention goes to Kate who blogs at Kate on Thin Ice and runs a fabulously inspiring blog called Striking Mum. Credit where credit's due.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

To Dream a Dream

It was eight years ago when I created this blog. I was a different person then. The dreams I had were surrounded by an uncomplicated existence, a stable future and a home I thought I'd never leave. I'm living proof that none of us know what's around the corner. I didn't think I'd spend two years agonising over a life-changing decision or that my then seven year old would grow up to be a 6 foot rebel with attitude. The little girl on her scooter raced up and down the farm road, making my heart beat much too fast at the vision of her landing in the ditch. She never did; always the daredevil. There was a craze of blog awards in those days. Everyone seemed to join in, handing them out, accepting them with pride, displaying them as they listed seven unusual things about themselves. Tagging and Memes were big back then.  Perhaps they still are and I've just lost touch with the blogging world.

I wish, eight years on, that I could tell you about my dreams now. The thing is, I probably could but they are so different to the ones I used to have that you may be forgiven for believing you are reading someone else's blog. I was known back then: Crystal Jigsaw, Blogger of Note, Number One in ranks and lists and statistics, which meant I'd made it. I had my 15 minutes of fame - it lasted months - and then it waned. I could have kept it going but other things started to fog my brain and that clear vision of what lay ahead became a haze of mixed emotions and uncertainty. I knew what I didn't want but I wasn't sure what I did want.

In 2015 I know what I want. I've finally discovered the grass is never greener and the sky never clearer. I don't see the child on her scooter anymore but I do see a young woman with ambition to race ahead. She can't wait to be 18. She can't wait to go to college and be treated like a grown up. My heart misses those scooter days, climbing on the straw bales, running through the fields with dogs in tow. Those are memories I will keep forever. Now we have new memories to make, ones to look back on in eight years and say, "Remember when..." I will always remember when. Always.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Freedom of the Noose

A few tears shed over four collies as I think about them scrambling out of their baskets at the sight of four leads. A short walk through the fields due to limited time in the lambing season, but that doesn't matter to them; the gratitude in their eyes lights up a master's day, breathes new life into the weary bones that have trudged through the sheds with suspicious ewes and wobbly lambs. My Meggie doesn't like the lead and hangs her head in the hope you will give up trying to put it around her neck. Perhaps she sees it as a noose. I saw the farm as a noose. A noose that was closing in around my neck. I empathise with a collie dog. She wants to be free, too.

Four collies pull and struggle, eager to reach the open fields, and you trail behind, almost running to keep up, ordering them to stop pulling whilst knowing your commands fall on deaf ears. Then you reach the gate and they stop, knowing that within seconds they will be released and free to run for the hills, through the meadows, across the fields. Four pairs of eyes look at you longingly, pleading with you to hurry up and open the rickety wooden fence that separates the noose and the freedom to breathe again.

They shuffle about impatiently, making it difficult to remove the lead as the anticipation builds. One by one they bound off, sniffing the ground, rummaging through the undergrowth. Four excited collies free of the noose, the big wide world theirs to explore. They discover something new on each walk, even though they trample over ground they know so well. They're free. Life is there to discover. I no longer wear a noose; I'm free, too.

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Wonder of You

She sits on the stairs sometimes and cries at her losses, wondering if regret is the right way to feel. Then the tears dry up and a future looms on the horizon. She stands and looks around, soaking in an atmosphere of silence, ticking clocks and the distant hum of traffic. It's the silence she remembers. That's what fills her head. That's what gives her the ability to think, reflect, perhaps regret. We all regret something, though it's pointless of course, because we can't change the past. The losses have been huge, not just a mere misplacement in a gentle wave. They affect her deeply because she's a sensitive soul beneath the hard exterior, and takes things to heart.

She looks through the window at the passers by and wonders if they have an unbearable silence droning through their heads, if they have a past that has eaten away at them and left them feeling empty, desolate. She sees their smiles and the way some of them swing their hips when they walk, and then she wonders if she is alone after all. She's confused. Being alone is what she likes, what she finds most comfortable. Yet being alone can stretch the loneliness to the point of disconcerting silence.

She looks at the photographs in frames, smiling faces with arms outstretched, covering each other in adoration. She wants to be in one of the photographs. She has always been the one taking them, standing behind the camera, suggesting her subjects smile and look happy. She wonders what they have lost during their life; what the younger subjects have yet to lose. Then she dries her tears and starts to wonder what she has yet to gain.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Road to Recovery

I think I could write a book on the changes that have occurred in my life over the past twelve months. It could even be a best-seller. There's a thought. I go for a decade pottering through life with the hardest decision of the day being 'apple or banana for breakfast?' and then all of a sudden my head is filled with cross roads and T junctions and roundabouts that seem to lead nowhere. Where are all the signs? Does my Sat Nav work? Can I even use a Sat Nav? There's another thought. I can get from A to B in the car with very few issues, but getting from A to B in my head...well, I seem to go the long way round, stopping off at C, D and E en-route. When I realise that Z is on the horizon, I apply the brakes and ponder for a while. Now I have another decision to make and this time it will change the course of my life. Oh, hang on, I did that last year. This is a new year. Shouldn't it have been a new me, too? Perhaps. Though we can't just write off the last decade and forget it ever happened, can we? What happens in our future often reflects on what has happened in our past. Are there any signs on this bloody roundabout? I seem to have been on it for far too long.

This week I've been visited by two girlfriends, on separate occasions, who have stood by me through the upheaval. We've talked and laughed and almost cried. We've compared our difficulties and newly single status and realised that the big wide world isn't quite so scary once we get the hang of it. I'd like to get the hang of it one day, even if it means going on a world trip to "discover myself". That's what people do these days, isn't it? Discover themselves. All part of life's interesting journey. Then they come home and realise that they're the same person as before they went away. I'm going to settle for the roundabout. The time differences would mess with my body clock, and I do need my beauty sleep. Maybe I will write that book after all. It could even be therapeutic. It could help me to find a way out of the maize. Of course, if someone would cut the hedges down and teach me how to use a Sat Nav, I'd be well on my way to discovery. Sorry, recovery.

Friday, 13 March 2015

A Brighter Tomorrow

I've had a bad back for a while. If you've ever looked at medical advice online, like I did recently, you'll understand when I say I might not be here next week. I think it should be a given rule that non-medical people don't seek information or advice from online sites such as the good old NHS, and all the others on there that have a rather dramatic outlook on the human being. It's probably my posture and the fact I don't get enough exercise. The fact that I'm stressed to the eyeballs may or may not have anything to do with it, but who knows? Certainly not the Internet, that's for sure. Anyway, I plucked up the courage earlier on in the week and went to see my GP - a lovely, sympathetic female who seemed to really understand the words, "I've got a few things wrong with me." I felt a bit pathetic when I sat down and said that but there's no point going to see your GP once every blue moon like me, with only one issue when I have "a few things wrong with me."

Unfortunately, we never got round to the back pain. I sat down and cried. Pathetic, eh? She shoved a box of Kleenex in front of me and asked me a series of questions before telling me it's not surprising I feel like I do after everything I've been through. The word 'depression' was mentioned but it's something I'm not prepared to accept. I'm anxious; I have panic attacks; I have days where I could murder the post man for bringing me a brown envelope with the words HMRC or DWP on the back. But depressed? I can't accept that.

I wanted to talk about my bad back and the excruciating pain I have. But I didn't think it sounded important enough after all the leaflets she sent me away with, mainly about therapy. I've shared this on Facebook because I have a lot of very empathetic and sympathetic friends on there who have given me sound advice. I made myself sound disrespectful when I said therapy isn't for me: talking to a complete stranger with a few letters after their name pretending they understand the last 18 years of my life in a matter of a few one-hour sessions. It just doesn't seem possible. Depression isn't a condition that you can just snap out of. It's real and it's debilitating. But I can hear myself constantly saying do this, do that, and for the love of God, snap out of it.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Moon River

I sometimes lie awake at night because I have so many thoughts racing through my mind and it makes my brain overwhelmingly active. I blame it partly on my age; that stupid transition that we women go through, the one that changes just about everything we've known for the past few decades. Perhaps I'm not quite middle aged at 45, but some days I feel dreadfully old. I have good days and bad, some of them really good and some of them really bad. There never seems to be a happy medium anymore.

So many of the thoughts I have, focus around what's happening to me right now, and then they develop into what may happen in my future. Some people live for today; others plan. Since I discovered my independence and the fact that I can look after myself, I, too, wish to live for today because, as I keep reminding myself, life is too short. Perhaps I am middle aged. Is 45 middle aged? I never have worked it out. I guess it depends what age you live until, but none of us know that, do we? So if I live until I'm 90, then I guess I am middle aged.

I close my eyes in the darkness of my room and ponder today, tomorrow, next week, next year. I have no idea what kind of mood I'll be in from one day to the next. I can get up and be raring to go, ready to face the world with a smile and a made up face. Or I can get up and feel a need to wrap myself in protective clothing, afraid to let the world enter my thoughts. Most nights I lie awake and think about the people I know, how they help me to turn day into night and night into day, how different my life would be if they weren't a part of it. Some of these thoughts leave me thinking about the future: will the people I ponder be a part of it, or will they become a memory?

Live for today or plan for the future. I haven't yet worked it out. Perhaps when I'm 90 I will.