15 February 2016
The second week in February seemed to be all about distractions stopping me going out walking. On Tuesday an appointment got me out of the house for a walk to town and back but there was no time for more than a quick snap of a very high tide by the rowing club on the Big Bridge. The river path I used to take to work was flooded and I was glad I didn’t need to walk that way. After that things went downhill quickly. First there was the Tax Man.
In November the Inland Revenue sent me a worrying letter saying I hadn’t paid enough tax in 2014/15 and they wanted their pound of flesh. My tax has always been calculated by my employers as PAYE so I wrote back asking how they came by this figure. Eventually they replied with a breakdown and, when I read it, I could see straight away they’d made a mistake. According to them I owed tax on Job Seekers Allowance I’d claimed in 2014 when I was working at the Bus Mines. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that I couldn’t be paying tax on a full time income and claiming JSA at the same time but, somehow, the Tax Man had overlooked this anomaly and still wanted payment.
Luckily I keep all my paperwork so I spent a December morning sorting through it and responded with a copy of the letter from the Department of Work and Pensions detailing exactly what I’d claimed and when. It was irrefutable proof I’d never claimed what or when they said I had, or so I thought. Apparently the Tax Man didn’t agree. Some time later I got another letter telling me I either had to pay more than £500 or get a letter from the DWP confirming I hadn’t claimed in 2014.
Quite why the Tax Man couldn’t just check with the DWP himself was a mystery. Heaven forbid two Government departments actually communicate with each other. Obviously they needed me as a go between so, like a good little girl, I wrote to the DWP. That was in December. The DWP ignored me. I wrote again, they still ignored me. Then the Tax man wrote to me again. As I hadn’t sent them any proof that I hadn’t claimed the JSA they said I had I must pay up by 27 February or face court. That was the end of last week.
It took a long, long time to get through to the Inland Revenue on the phone. They have one of those digital Doris machines that send you round in circles and never have the option you want. Eventually I got a very snotty sounding woman. I explained the DWP weren’t answering my letters.
“Either you need to get confirmation that you didn’t make the claim or you need to pay the amount by the 27 February,” she said, as if she hadn’t even been listening.
“As I said, I’ve been trying to get the confirmation because I obviously wasn’t claiming JSA while I was working full time. You should be able to work that out just by looking at my tax records. What can I do if the DWP don’t respond?”
“You have to get the confirmation from them or make payment in full by 27 February,” she said again.
“I have done everything I can to get the confirmation but they haven’t responded. What do you suggest I do now?”
“You have to get the confirmation or pay the full amount by 27 February,” it was like listening to a broken record.
“Well, I will not be paying,” I said getting a touch annoyed by this time. “I didn’t make the claim you said I did. I don’t owe the money. I will contact the DWP yet again, but, if they don’t respond there is little else I can do. If you look at my tax records you will see I was paying tax on a full time income for the whole of the 2014/15 tax year. Any idiot can tell I couldn’t be claiming what amounts to a whole years worth of JSA at the same time. Someone has made a mistake and I am not paying for it, end of story. Take me to court if you must but I don’t owe the money.”
Next I rang the DWP, something I’d been avoiding until then because I knew how hard it was to get through to them. As I expected it was even worse than ringing the Tax Man. The DWP digital Doris has even less options and, whatever one I picked, told me I needed to ring somewhere else and cut off. On the third try I chose the option for making a new claim. It was the only way I could get a real person on the phone and even then it tried to tell me to do it on line.
In fairness, when I’d finally been put through to the right department, the lady at the DWP was very helpful. When I explained the situation she agreed I couldn’t possibly be working full time and claiming JSA. Heaven knows it’s hard enough to make a claim when you’re not working. She couldn’t understand why the Tax Man would think I had because her records quite clearly showed I’d only ever made one claim in 2013. I’d already paid tax on that through my wages in 2014. She said she’d get a letter out and even apologised that no one had responded to my letters as she could see them on her system.
All this took the rest of the day, more or less and cost me goodness knows what in phone calls, not to mention the stress and frustration. Hopefully the Tax Man will accept the DWP letter and will be able to explain where they got their erroneous information. The DWP certainly didn’t give it to them according to my new friend there. I’d also like to know why the geniuses at the Inland Revenue didn’t immediately realise a full time worker paying tax couldn’t possibly be claiming JSA or why they didn’t contact the DWP themselves as soon as I raised the query? Come to that I’d like an apology at the very least for everything they’ve put me through by their ineptitude. Somehow I think I’ll be waiting a long time though.
Then there was the kitchen. We’ve been meaning to get around to painting the kitchen for some time. It was last done about seven years ago when we had the gym built. One of Commando’s Itchen Spitfire friends is a decorator and on Wednesday he was coming round and paint the kitchen ceiling. Being vertically challenged, much as I like a bit of painting and decorating, I hate painting ceilings. Even so, I had to spend Tuesday evening getting everything prepared. Moving out everything that wasn’t nailed down with the help of CJ and sugar soaping was a great work out but it wasn’t a walk.
Wednesday was a beautiful sunny day, just right for walking but I had to stay in while the ceiling was painted. There was an afternoon walk up the hill to get supplies and then it was back home to start painting the walls. At ten o’clock in the evening I gave up, made myself a cocoa and went to bed exhausted, wondering if I’d made the right choice with the paint colour.
Thursday was all about painting again. In the cold light of day the colour looked better, which was good news. By the end of the day all the walls had a first coat. I also got a fair bit on myself. There was a little more walking than expected, mostly because I forgot essential items on my first trip to the village and had to go back in the evening when I realised we’d run out of coffee. Of all the things to forget!
Friday was officially second coat day. The end was in sight, sort of. The painting is really the fun part, after that comes the cleaning up and putting everything back. There were two trips to the village for the second day in a row but this time it wasn’t because I’d forgotten something. The afternoon trip was the normal milk, newspaper, stuff we have run out of deal. In the evening CJ and I walked back up the hill to the chip shop. The kitchen was in no state for cooking and I felt we needed a treat after all my hard work.
Saturday was cleaning day but at least I had Commando to help me when he got back from his Parkrun. Slowly the kitchen was getting back to normal. On Saturday night I even cooked a proper meal although I did have to keep running out to the gym where all the kitchen stuff was stored to get things I didn’t realise I needed until I needed them.
Commando went for a very muddy long run on Sunday morning and came home looking like he’d been wallowing. Understandably he was tired but he did still help out with the big clean up. There was no evening cooking either. As it was Valentine’s Day he’d booked a table at The Rockstone. We took an early evening stroll over there, had a lovely meal and then took a late evening stroll back. We don’t do hearts and flowers but a nice meal out was a welcome break after a hard working week.
So, after a week of distraction, frustration and hard work today would probably have been a great day for a walk. It was a bright, frosty morning with blue sky and sunshine. There were loads of places I could have gone but yet another distraction kept me indoors. This time it was a tumble drier.
Late last year I saw an article about dangerous tumble driers. Apparently certain Indesit models had a fault that made them catch fire. My tumble drier was an Indesit. Of course I got onto their website right away and checked it out. It was one of the dangerous ones and I filled in all the forms to get it fixed. On 1 December I even got an email saying Indesit would be in touch within five weeks to arrange getting it modified and they’d keep in touch.
To be honest, I rarely use the tumble drier so it was hardly top priority. With everything else going on I’d completely forgotten about it until I saw another article about yet another tumble drier catching fire. The same day another article told of huge delays in fixing the faults. Looking back through my emails I realised action was long overdue. The email was a ‘don’t reply to this email’ type so, in desperation, several messages were left on the Indesit Twitter account, along with a hash tagged rant on Facebook.
Eventually, a few days later I got a message back. They were going to come to fix my tumble drier on 15 January. It would take about an hour. Obviously my Facebook and Twitter rants had done the trick. There would be no walk for me today but at least I’d have a tumble drier I could use without fear of it suddenly bursting into flames…
Well, you’d think so wouldn’t you? As it happens that was not how it went. The engineer did arrive. He had a Henry Hoover with him. He spent about half an hour in my laundry room. When he came out he said he’d cleaned it all out but it needed a new drum because mine was a flat drum, whatever that is. Someone would be in touch about fitting one. Hmm, I don’t think I’d better hold my breath…
When I went to inspect things I found that, despite his Henry Hoover, this engineer had left the laundry room in a right old mess. There was dirt and tumble drier fluff all over the floor and a huge mountain of tumble drier fluff on the work top. All this from a machine that gets used less than once a month and even though the filter is cleaned out completely every single time and always has been! The clean up was unwelcome but only took a moment or two. The pile of fluff was more of a worry.
The tumble driers have been catching fire because the filters don’t work properly and allow some fluff to get inside the machine where it can build up and combust. If there was that much fluff inside my tumble drier it was a wonder it hadn’t already happened and all the assurances I’d received saying the machine was fine to use suddenly seemed rather hollow. This engineer was supposed to be coming to modify my tumble drier and make it safe. All he’d done was Hoover it out inside. They knew what model mine was all along, if it needed a new drum to make it safe (which still doesn’t seem to solve the problem as far as I can see), why didn’t he bring it with him?
Basically I’ve been fobbed off. This is a worrying state of affairs when an article in a newspaper today calls for tougher laws after six thousand tumble drier fires in the last six years, two hundred and seventy people injured and two dead! Indesit and parent company Whirlpool should be ashamed. It really looks like this is going to run and run, just like the Tax Man problem.
This was a week filled with distractions, ineptitude, annoyances and hard work. Everything seemed to conspire against me to stop me getting out walking. Hopefully next week will be better.
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