Robins and Day put to the test

As you probably know my motorhome is based on a Peugeot short wheel base van. It was looked after by the same Peugeot dealer in Bensham, Gateshead until last year when I finally sent a complaint into Robins and Day head office. They had undertaken and recommended work that did not need doing, overcharged for work they did, done shoddy work which exists to this day, not done work that needed doing and given me attitude on the phone when I cancelled an unnecessary repair.

I went to a different Robins and Day in Benton in Newcastle on Tyne and they promised me a free 96,000 mile service, and a lifetime discount on work on my van as an apology. I accepted that.

Months later I went for that service and when they finished I found they had not identified a leak on the radiator, they did not change the air filter or the oil filter, they topped up the oil but put too much in and it had to be drained off later, and they failed to remedy a starting problem that’s been going on for about a year now.

I emailed Robins and Day again to complain and ask why I was being treated this way and what were they going to do about it? The least I expected was that my van would be repaired properly and all faults corrected. But no. Here’s the email I received from them today:

Dear Mr Finnigan

Thank you for your email received n(sic) the 26th February.

I am sorry to learn of the problem with your vehicle and of your recent experience with Robins and Day. Dealerships will always do their utmost to satisfy and accommodate all customers, however it is appreciated that misunderstanding and communication can arise on occasion. I am confident that it was not the intention of any dealer staff to appear disinterested and if this is the case I sincerely apologise on their behalf.

I have informed the Peugeot representative of your concerns and this information will be used to help the dealer improve their service levels. All customer feedback is taken seriously and we expect the highest standards of professionalism from out(sic) network.

May I take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to inform us of your experience.

Stuart Adamson
Customer Relation Manger

So, I’ll find other dealers who will value my vehicle, look after it properly and carry out work to a decent standard. After all, their base rate is £93 per hour, you expect something for that amount.

Les Miserables

I was in Saltcoats when I found their small 2 screen cinema on the seafront. I took a look to see what was playing and there was Les Miserables. I’ve long wanted to go see the musical on stage but I decided to see it in the cinema after all the hype. Have to say, for such a small town Saltcoats has a great cinema 🙂

The sets and costumes are superb, they recreate a 200 year old Paris as you’d expect it to be. The streets and buildings almost look real, and the wide variety of costumes and attention to detail is phenomenal. I love films with sets so this one didn’t disappoint.

Anne Hathaway sings “I Dreamed a Dream” fairly early on in the film and she is nothing short of incredible. It looks like one take for the entire song, and the emotion she puts into it is so believable. She should get an Oscar for that scene alone. It reminds me of that scene in Birth when Nicole Kidman is at the theatre, and realisation dawns on her as the camera focuses on her face for about 3 minutes and you know what’s gong on in her mind just by her facial expressions.
I love the song and I love hearing it sang but that’s the first time I’ve heard it in context and along with the rest of her role, it puts Anne Hathaway top of my list for great actors.

Neither is Hugh Jackman out of place as Daljean, and he turns in the best performance I’ve seen him do. In fact I did not see a weak performance from any one of the cast, not even in crowd scenes or the soldier scenes. Along with great sets and fabulous costumes, the acting was excellent and I suspect Samantha Barks (Eponine) is destined for big things as a result. I’m not a huge fan of Russell Crowe but even he gave his character depth and carried it well throughout the film.

The story is not the most riveting one in the world, I believe that as a book, it was written in the context of letters rather than narrative and dialogue. But it’s carried out so brilliantly that you can’t help but get picked up and carried along with it.

2 tiny irritants:
Amanda Seyfried sings in a high, warbling falsetto that actually sounds false. It’s like a Smurf in karaoke. I know she can sing fine as I saw her in Mamma Mia, but her voice in Les Mis I think is poor. There’s a lot of use of vibrato by several of the actors and it’s not to my personal taste, but at least it’s done well by the others.
The second one is that the peasants all seem to talk in a Cockney accent. It almost felt as thought they were trying to mimic Oliver! Helena Bonham-Carter (Yawn) did her usual odd peasant role, and she and Sacha Baron Cohen (Bleurgh)  also adopted Cockney accents for most of their dialogue. Neither of those two things spoiled the film, but they made it less than perfect; they both stood out as everything else was impeccable.

I was surprised to find that I Dreamed a Dream is the only real, full song in the musical. There’s only a dozen or so words spoken, the rest are sung but as a priest would sing a psalm, there’s a proper word for tit hat I can’t remember.

Anyway, just for the spectacle and the magnificent performances I’d rate it an 8 or 9, Musically I’d rate it a 4 and that’s because there isn’t many real songs in it. Entertainment value is definitely an 8 and I’m guessing the stage show will be even more fun so I can’t wait to see it now.

Sorry for wittering on, just wanted to let you know what I thought 🙂

Calor protects it’s profits.

I ran out of gas today and went to fill my 2 Gaslow refillable tanks at a local Calor centre in Ayr. I’ve filled there before, but this time he must have seen me pull in as he came out to the van to ask what I wanted. When I said to fill my tanks, he said no, unless you have a proper, fitted, permanent gas tank. I haven’t, so was refused gas and had to drive around for another hour trying to find some. (Which I did eventually)

The reason he turned me away? Money.

Gaslow is a company that manufactures gas bottles which can be refilled at standard gas refilling stations. They have a cutout safety valve which prevents them being filled beyond 80%, and a safety release valve which conforms to the same standard as do the permanent tanks fitted to cars and other vehicles. So these aren’t really bottles, they are refillable tanks in the shape of bottles.  The beauty is you don’t have to continually swap bottles as you do with Calor’s fixed system, or swap bottles with some gas left in them, you simply refill. I’m certain Calor have scored many, many litres of gas off me when I’ve swapped bottles out knowing they were nearly empty, but of course when you rely on gas for heating and cooking you can’t wait until they ‘are’ empty.
The cost of swapping a 6kg Calor bottle is now £19.99, but the cost of filling one with autogas is only about £9. So of course Calor are losing huge profits on gas by the likes of me.

Now the guy’s excuse was that it was Calor policy not to fill my type of tank, as it was a safety concern. Yet the safety standard these bottles have is the exact same one permanent tanks have, so Calor is at best being disingenuous. I couldn’t argue with the bloke in the shop of course he’s just doing his job. But it annoys me that Calor are making a profit on the auto-gas anyway, but they are fleecing people who have to use bottled gas.

The problem with exploring is money.

I have next Monday and Tuesday off, so I have 4 days and was planning to spend it on Arran. However after checking ticket prices for the ferry I find it’s an amazing £91.95 to go over on Saturday and come back Tuesday night. That’s seriously out of my league, and in fact it’s more than double what I paid to go to France the last time I was there.

I checked as an alternative the price leaving from Claonaig, but this was still £63 Add on £33 for a cheap campsite and £40 of diesel to get there and you can see how expensive it is.

Well, I’m deeply disappointed, but c’est la vie. I’ll find something else to do with my weekend 🙂


Ayr I go again

I’ve been around Ayr for a few days now, and I like the beaches. I’ve not ventured into town much yet but I did find out there’s a theatre. I get paid on Monday so I hope to book up for their performance of Beauty and the Beast next week. I’ve ordered some new reading glasses from Tesco which won’t be here til Tuesday so I’m around til at least then.

There’s been a few honkers last night and today, despite the fact I’m on an industrial estate by the sea, and where I’m parked is used by dog walkers and no-one else. Seriously, why blare your horn at me as you go past? Am I harming you in any way? Do I affect your life negatively? What is it I am doing by simply being here, exploring and taking photos that makes you angry? And have you ever considered that you disrupt the peace of people living nearby with your immature actions?  In six and  a half years not one of you has bothered to come up and speak to me and say your piece, and find out about me.
Today the police visited, because someone walking their dog decided to stop them and point out that I’d parked here two nights. So? The police were great, spoke to me for a while, took my details, apologised and explained they have to speak if someone has complained. They were polite, friendly and open which is more than can be said for the mindless few who drive past blaring their horns without even knowing who I am. I’m legal, a tax payer, spending money in your town whilst I’m here, explain how I am bothering your life?

Anyway, I couldn’t resist taking this pic as I was on the beach. I’m sure locals will instantly recognise it. The beach at Ayr is lovely and goes on far enough to satisfy most people.

Heads of Ayr
Sunset over the Heads of Ayr

The photo below is of Millers Folly, down close to the harbour at the river mouth.

Millers Folly, Ayr
Millers Folly, Ayr

As the story goes, this structure was built by Cromwells army back in the 1600’s and th area here was called Montgomeriestoun. Later it was made a Burgh of Barony. Then along comes this businessman John Miller, who bought it and conferred on himself the title of Baron.

He decided to add this tower structure to the end of the old citadel walls, although with no apparent function in mind, therefore it was called by the locals ‘Millers Folly’.

I don’t know yet what the Cannon is in the background. My guess would be a defensive piece left over by Cromwell’s army.

Serendipity in Barassie?

I visited Barassie the other day, as you’d expect I went for a walk along the beach with Jack 🙂 The beach is odd. If you approach from the B746 and park in one of the several free parking areas, head north, there is some litter on the beach, but otherwise it’s fine. You  can walk along it for about 6 miles to Saltcoats. It borders a golf course but that’s mostly hidden from view by some dunes, which Jack particularly likes, as there’s often rabbits in them 🙂

If you go left there is a mile long grassed area perfect for picnics in the summer and games with the kids. Despite all the dog poo bins there is still lots of dog poo about. Come on dog owners, it takes nothing to pick it up.
Anyway, go down to the beach here and there is a LOT of refuse including sanitary towels and plastic tampon applicators. There must be an outfall close by. There is also over a quarter of a mile of beach that is covered in leaves. Small tree leaves, all the same species, and in parts up to 3 feet deep. I’ve never seen anything like it but the light was bad that day so I didn’t get a decent picture.
Later I noticed row after row of cut logs on the harbour waiting to be loaded onto ships. I don’t know if there’s a link between the two, but the cut logs obviously have no leaves on them, certainly not to explain the sheer amount on the beach.

Never mind, the north part of the beach looks like this:

Barassie beach
Barassie beach

Don’t let the rocks fool you, it looks gorgeous. Here’s another view a little further along.

Barassie beach
Barassie beach

Anyway I mentioned serendipity in the title.
A work colleague had mentioned to me a website about solar flares, and how you could track them to find out when the Aurora Borealis would be most active. She knows I have never witnessed the aurora, so passed he info on. When I had a look, it even told you great points to view it from, as they have no high objects surrounding them and little light pollution. One of the best places mentioned was…Barassie beach! I’d only been there the day before so how serendipitous?
Sadly there’s no aurora due.

Ayr I am!

I came to Ayr last week when I was desperately seeking gas, and found the cheapest auto-gas I’ve had for ages. It worked out at 62p a litre, which is at least 13p less than I usually pay. Anyway, I went to get gas, then left again and went back to Stranraer. My first impression was of a sprawling city, so I wasn’t looking forward to coming because sprawling cities are anathema to me.

However when I arrived last night I was pleasantly surprise because I found a parking area down by the beach which is lovely. This is the view from the parking area:

Ayr headland
Ayr headland

Nice. So today, being a gorgeous sunny day, I had a lovely fried breakfast then set off along the beach with the dog. The views were great and there were lots of other dog walkers all who seemed friendly enough.
The promenade is over a mile long and is a recreation apparently of “The lang Scots mile”, which is over 200 yards longer than a standard English mile. It doesn’t feel at all like a mile when you walk it, and when the tide is out it’s best walked along the beach with the headland and Arran both in view.

It’s a shame that there was so much dog poo left around though, dog owners are getting better but still have to realise that no-one wants to see turds littering the streets, parks and beaches. And why bag it then drop it on the ground? It’s never far to a bin to dispose of it. Irresponsible dog owners irk me. As do incredibly lazy people who eat their fast food, and despite the promenade having numerous bins, they dump their styrofoam containers on the floor and the beach. This part of the beach in Ayr is beautiful in rain or sunshine and it’s a crying shame people can’t respect it to enjoy it more.

Mind you if you visit, before the sun has gone down the boy racers take over the car park. They have cars which are fitted with exhausts to make them deliberately noisy, and many have bass-thumping music blaring out. They do nothing but drive up and down the promenade continuously. I’d love to know where they get the petrol money!
However from early morning to early tea time, the beach belongs to families and dog walkers and is an absolute pleasure. Even when the tide is in there’s enough sand to walk from the Heads of Ayr to the lighthouse at Wallacetown.

View of the Isle of Arran

The island you can see out there is Arran. I’d love to visit if I can get the camper over there. You may notice to the right of the picture there seems to be a darker patch on it’s own? Apparently that’s Holy Island, and is a Buddhist retreat. It’s around 20 miles off shore although it doesn’t look anything like that.
I’ll have to see if I can explore during my time off, as my dongle only has patchy coverage over there so I won’t be able to connect with work. That’s OK as I have 2 weeks off coming up so maybe make use of that time to explore Arran, Bute and a few other places.


Girvan, South Ayrshire

I passed through Girvan last week when I had to go find gas. I decided to come back later as it looked quite nice and I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s a friendly little town with some great parking right by the sea, and even the boy racers on a night time didn’t give us any bother. It’s got a very pretty harbour, which I found out is still a working harbour as well as for pleasure craft.

Girvan Harbour

It even has it’s own dedicated position on the pontoons for an RNLI rescue craft.

Girvan harbour

I stayed here 2 nights, had some awful fish and chips in town, but loved the beach and the harbour.  I’m definitely coming back if for nothing else the boat trips around Ailsa Crag out in the firth.  I like boat trips so will look forward to returning here when the weather is better.

I can see clearly now…

My glasses for driving fell apart in my hands last week. One of the arms fell off and these cost £260 for 2 pairs from Spec-savers only 2 years ago. I managed to get the screw back in using one of those cheap spectacle kits I’d got ages ago in Poundland. But it wasn’t holding right, so it’s replacement time methinks, and luckily I’d had an eye test done a few weeks ago.

Although I don’t have to wear glasses for driving I like to, so I took a risk and took my latest prescription into Tesco whilst in Dumfries, and chose a £20 pair of glasses. The cheapest I’ve ever paid. No anti-scratch coating, no anti-glare coating, no thinner plastic lens etc etc etc, just bog standard specs. 6 days she said, seems like I was destined to stay in Dumfries.

My new specs
My new specs

Anyway I finally got them and they’re cheap, but really, they aren’t that different to the ones I have. In fact the only difference I can see is that the more expensive ones from Specsavers have those hinges on that let you open the arms too wide but, why would you want to? I mean it’s great for kids, but for adults, it’s fairly straight forward to put glasses on without spreading them as wide as Jordan’s experience with men.

They were a little odd to get used to as most new glasses are but I noticed one thing straight away, the glare from oncoming headlights is nowhere near as bad with these as it was with my old Specsaver ones, which also didn’t have the anti-glare coating on. There is also a clarity of vision that is better, and my prescription hadn’t really changed. So for £20 I’m over the moon and when I get to Glasgow in a few weeks, I reckon I’ll get some new reading glasses too.

So, knock Tesco all you like, but they can’t make glasses from horses so I think I’m safe!

R.I.P. my Canon 24-105 L series zoom, Welcome…brand new Canon 24-105 1:4L IS USM zoom!

This is it. The Canon 24-105 mm 1:4, L series lens with IS and USM. IS is image stabilization, which I tend not to use, and USM is the ultra fast, ultra quiet ring motor that drives the auto focus.

Probably the best all round daily lens ever made.  It goes wide to 24 mm, zooms out to 105 mm, and has a macro mode where you can focus right down to 9 inches at 105 mm. It’s weatherproof, which is just as well as it got soaked a few months ago on Snowdon. It’s also robust, and has been dropped many times, twice onto concrete from about 4 feet and once onto wood from about 6 feet.

I originally got it as a kit lens with my 5D about 5 years ago? Since then I’ve taken about 19,000 images on it on the 5D and the 5D Mk II. It’s been a dependable workhorse and the most used of my lenses.

I was walking Jack by the river in Dumfries and it was gloaming and the riverside looked lovely in the light, so I went to take some photos and I could feel the lens juddering like mad as I half pressed the shutter. I tried to take a photo but it locked up and an error message came on the screen saying I needed to clean the contacts. I did that, but each time I tried to take a photo it was the same. I turned auto-focus on, then off again, then turned IS on and off again. I changed shutter speeds and aperture, wiped the contacts of the lens and camera, and also spun the focus barrel in case there was a jam.
All sadly to no avail. I got 2 shots in half an hour, there was obviously something wrong.

Canon 24-105 1:4 L IS USM zoom
Canon 24-105 1:4 L IS USM zoom

When I got back to the van I googled the error and apparently it’s very common, it’s sheer wear and tear and madly, only a couple of hundred pounds to repair. You might think that’s a lot but for these lenses it’s cheap. I was quoted £450 just for a service last year.
Anyway after googling some prices, I found the average new was about £860, the average second hand was about £550. Yet I found a brand new one for only £589 after a lot of searching! I googled the company offering them so cheaply and they seemed ok so I rang them and they said that because they don’t come in a shiny colourful retail box they can charge much less. So I ordered one and within 2 days it arrived in Dumfries Post Office. Oh joy!


And there it is!   ^^ Beautiful isn’t it 🙂

So the plan is, sell the old one broken for about £200 or have it repaired and sell it for £400. (Already got a buyer if it’s fixed) Then I’ve got £200 off the price of it so a brand new lens for only £389. Cracking or what?

Who are these magical people who sold me the lens? Well they’re HDEW Cameras and they’re down in Surrey. They were great on the phone, very knowledgeable and helpful, and for less than a tenner my lens was with me in 2 days. They even pointed out on the phone that they aren’t allowed to send an item anyway other than the billing address if paying by debit card, so instead, as I’m in Scotland touring, they gave me their bank details to do a direct bank transfer.
Great service and great price, I’ll definitely be using them again in the future.