Napoleonic, WSS & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday 21 March 2014

ECW - Never Mind the Quality

Busy, busy
This morning I varnished 180 pre-owned foot figures for the English Civil War – that’s a further 4 Scottish regiments of foot plus 5 non-Scottish (who will be Irish and other things). Sometime over the weekend I shall “grass” the figure bases and mount them on MDF stands. Then I just have some finishing off jobs to do, including flags of various levels of cleverness and interchangeability, and then they can all go into the official Pink Box-Files and I can do Something Else.

The figures are not brilliant, but they are going to work out better than I expected, and I am warming to them as I proceed. They may not be the most beautiful figures I ever owned, but they will be useful, and – by golly – there’s heaps of them. Montrose, here we come. Any week now.

Subject 2 – Banks (yet again) – never mind the quality…

This is the middle of March, as you will have observed, and this is the time of year when I have to pretend that I have replaced my bank accounts with new ones, so that I may graciously be granted some non-zero rate of interest by institutions who (allegedly) make a profit by using our money to finance house-buyers or small businesses. Of course, we all know that neither of these groups of people actually exist in the UK, but we are expected to play this game to show willing.

This year I am finally losing patience, and am moving my savings (humble as they are) into National Savings and Investment (NS&I), which is effectively the UK Government, which means that guarantees become irrelevant, they will not try to sell me house insurance, and we shall no longer be required to play this yearly game of Let’s Pretend in order to qualify for interest.

I have no particular complaints about this process, other than to lament that NS&I appear to be almost as inept as their competitors. The Contesse phoned to see why her new account was taking so long to set  up, and the nice lady on the phone said “what is your membership number?”, to which the reasonable answer was “I don’t know, you haven’t sent me a welcome letter informing me of the number”.

The lady said, “Did you ask for a paperless account? (i.e. email only)”, to which the answer was “yes”. In that case, the Contesse was told, we cannot send you any letters.

In that case, the logic goes, how can I learn what my number is, so that I may access my account online and save the paperwork? This caused the lady a moment’s pause – obviously she had never reached this part of the script before.

What to do, she suggested, is write and pretend you have forgotten your membership number, and we will send you a letter and we can start all over again. Our distress over this development was temporary – about an hour later the postman delivered the aforementioned welcome letter, which had obviously been in the mail all the time. Phew. Not terrific, but survivable. Since this is the Government we are talking about here, we are filled with confidence for this new arrangement.

Yesterday, as part of this same migration, I decided to close my old Post Office account (which, oddly, is managed by the Bank of Ireland behind the wraps). The Post Office savings operation offers online banking, presumably because their customers (which used to include me) expect it, but they manage to present the online banking service in a way which minimizes all possible convenience or utility.

The account number appears on screen as, for example, ****3521 – this is so secure that not even the customer can see their own account number, only the last 4 digits. There are many things that you cannot do online with a Post Office account – in fact I am struggling to think of anything you actually can do with it online. If you give up and phone the call centre, the first thing they want to know is your account number. If you can only provide them with the last 4 digits that is no use at all – they refer you to a paper welcome letter you will have received two years earlier (in this case) which gives the full number. If you cannot find the letter, I guess you are soundly shafted.

I have hopes that NS&I will turn out to be OK – they are the last chance for the savings industry, as far as I am concerned. If they are as stupid as the rest of them, I swear I shall put what money I have left in a sweetie tin and keep it under the floorboards. Or just buy more soldiers.


  1. I just wish I had savings to worry about where to put them! If I were you I'd buy more soldiers!!

    1. Hi Ray - I can assure you that my savings do not constitute a hill of beans - it is not easy to put pressure on banks with the threat of taking my fourteen shillings and elevenpence elsewhere...

  2. Good work on the Scots - I've been having a similar saga with insurance companies.

  3. I still have a Post Office Savings Account. I tried to close it many years ago, but, after they had sent me the balance, they then paid the outstanding interest into said account. I was informed I couldn't close the account down because it still had finds in it (we're talking pence here).

    I abandoned the exercise, but my ancestors will one day find a POSB book which turns out to have a balance worth thousands.

    1. So you empty it again, and try to close it again, and they add back in a final, minute amount of interest, and so on and so on, like the paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise...