A few days ago when Hilary and I were talking, we thought that it would be a good idea to contact the limousine company that is supposed to take us and our bags from Middle Chub Tor to Southampton for the start of our cruise. Our reasoning was that they might need directions to our little house which is located on the edge of a golf course and some distance from any main road. Over the dozen years that we have been here we have had quite a few delivery men, taxi drivers, even family members, get lost when trying to find us. After all the only indication that there are houses down along our track is a small marker stone with Chub Tor on it and that is situated about half a mile away, covered with weeds and tall grass.
We called the Travel Agent, listened to Greensleeves, and explained that we would like to call the Limousine company and please could we have their 'phone number - no problem they were only to keen to help. Dialled, ringing, listened to Greensleeves, (why does all 'phone hold music have to be Greensleeves?). Answered "Hallmark Cars, can I help you?" I explained what we would like to do and "certainly sir, what is your name, which cruise, when are you travelling?" to be followed by "sorry but we have no booking in that name for that date." Definitely not a good start.
Another call to the Travel Agent, more Greensleeves. "Did you receive our Travel Pack?" "Yes" "Weren't the details in there? "No" "That's odd they should have been, what's your 'phone number? I'll call you back in two minutes."
Two hours later, I call them, listen to Greensleeves, get through and "We're working on it. I said that we would call you back." "Yes but you said in two minutes and it is now two hours." "Don't worry I am here until 8.00pm I will call you back."
Another hour, it is now 6.30pm and "Hello Mr. Woollard, it is all sorted and Hallmark have your details but they have all gone home now, can you call them in the morning? "So who screwed up? You or Hallmark?" "It was just a data uploading problem Mr. Woollard, no need to worry." "So you forgot to tell them right?" "No, no, just a data uploading problem, as I said call them tomorrow, everything is fine."
So of course I did call them the next day and listened to Greensleeves before speaking to Lizzy at Hallmark who said, "A letter is on it's way to you confirming all your details, no problem, if you would like to email your directions we will give them to the driver. Sorry about the misunderstanding, your car is booked for 9.00am on January 8th is that OK?" So that was the first problem solved but a little worrying that if we hadn't decided to give them directions we could have been sitting at home waiting for a non-booked limo to arrive and probably listening to Greensleeves as we panicked. Now we only have to worry if it will take all our suitcases.
Being reasonably seasoned travellers we have on occasion noticed that our credit cards have been blocked after we have made overseas purchases while the card company has checked that our cards are not being used fraudulently. This is a good thing but very annoying at the time so it has been our practise to call the card companies, tell them our travel dates and locations and ask them to make sure that the card is honoured. So with phone and card numbers in hand I proceeded to call Nationwide, Cooperative Bank and Halifax and listen to Greensleeves three times. No problem, all were very understanding, envious of the reasons for needing access to our cards abroad for 3 months and I thought that it was all settled. Then Hilary casually said, "You do realise that our Halifax Debit Card expires in February don't you?" "Oh, shoot," or words to that effect was my reply.
Another call to Halifax, this time with Greensleeves at premium telephone rate, to ask them to extend the expiry date of our Debit Cards. "Sorry sir, we can't do that, your new ones will be issued 3 weeks before the old ones expire, you will be fine." "Er, no we won't, how are you going to get them to us when we are half way across the Atlantic Ocean? Can't you just re-issue the new ones early with an extended expiry date." "No we can't do that, even if we re-issue them because you have lost them for example they will still expire in mid-February 2009." Much muttering on my part about what I thought of modern banking that uses stupid computers before a suggestion was made. "But of course you can open a new account with us and we will send you new cards which will have a later expiry date." "I see, so I can open a new account, transfer all my existing funds into it, get new cards, close my old account, get new PIN numbers and have it all up and running before January 8th, even with Christmas approaching, but you can't simply extend the old ones for 2 months?" "Well yes sir, but you will need to go to a Halifax Bank to sign the paperwork tomorrow (Saturday) morning."
With this being the only option available to us I had to agree, only to be told "well let me pass you over to my colleague and he will talk you through the details." More Greensleeves hold music, followed by "How can I help you?" At this stage I should have put the 'phone down - after all I was paying for the call - but I foolishly persisted and then had to listen to a load of drivel about security as he read from a printed page how they would check our credit references, did we mind etc. etc. blah, blah, blah which went on for at least 20 minutes. You may be able to understand my frustration with this bank when you hear that we have been with them ever since we purchased our first house with a mortgage from them in 1966, if they don't know our credit history by now they never will. At the very end of this long diatribe we were given a 10.00am appointment for the next day which we did fulfil by catching the Park and Ride bus into Plymouth. Of course the boy doing the transaction was running 15 minutes late from a previous appointment - a very attractive young lady with a small baby, I noticed as did he - but we did get through the paperwork easily enough and I checked on line last night that we do indeed have a new account with £100 in it transferred from our existing account. But will the cards arrive on time? Will the PIN numbers to go with the cards arrive on time? Will we be able to change the PIN numbers to something that we can remember before we go? Will we destroy the existing PIN numbers by scratching the card too hard (the Halifax boy warned us about this, "I suggest that you use a 20p piece and not a 10p as the edges on those seem to scratch the numbers off as well." All these things will be revealed when and if the cards arrive before we leave.