Sunday, April 22, 2007


Ham Shanks Secret Diary - Part 124

Hello Folks

Apologies fer the keech service. I did warn ye it might be even worse than usual!

This weeks 'diary' is actually a copy of a letter I sent to the RAC. I doubt it will have much effect but I did find it rather theraputic to write .....

Kind Regards


No 1 The Shanks


RAC Customer Care

RAC House
PO Box 200

16th April 2007

Dear Sirs,

I am a RAC Solution 4 member and I am writing to complain about the service I received at a recent breakdown.

My car broke down with clutch failure whilst I was heading North to Aberdeen from Stirling. I broke down on the A94 just outside Scone. I immediately called the breakdown assistance line and was advised I would have around a 90-minute wait for a patrolman. I did not have a problem with this timescale as I was in a rural location, I was a male travelling alone, and it was a Friday night; which is probably one of your busiest times.

However when your representative did finally arrive I was less than impressed by the service I received. He ambled out of his cab, pointed a chubby finger at my vehicle and asked brusquely ‘what’s wrong with it?’ When I mentioned I thought the clutch cable had snapped he threw up his hands and exclaimed theatrically ‘oh well that’s a relay, no way I can fix that at the side of the road’; Please note this was before he had even examined the vehicle.

When I pressed him on why it couldn’t be fixed he then asked me if the clutch cable was broken or if it had just come off? Not being a mechanic myself, unsurprisingly I replied that I didn’t know. The thought did cross my mind at the time that if I was a mechanic I probably wouldn’t have waited for over an hour at the side of the road as my extremities froze distressingly solid and my teeth chattered themselves out onto the tarmac. I’d imagine I would have probably fixed it myself.

After rummaging in his toolbox for a torch and a cerebrum he did eventually have a look at my vehicle and confirmed that the cable was intact but a component it attaches to had sheared. As a fellow mechanic I agreed that, in the circumstances, the breakdown was indeed beyond the remit of a roadside fix. His next suggestion was that I drove the car back, as it was, to Stirling. I believe the exact phrase was ‘If I was you, I’d just drive it back like that’ Possibly the sight of my jaw hitting the ground indicated to him that I was less than enthusiastic about this proposition. I have driven a car without a clutch before, but only a few miles, and certainly not through a town. Apart from potentially damaging the gearbox, it’s probably illegal.

After indicating that I wasn’t prepared to drive all the way through Perth town centre, then another 35 miles down the motorway, and then all the way through Stirling town centre without the use of a clutch. Nor, I added quickly was I going to drive to Aberdeen. He reluctantly agreed that perhaps a ‘relay’ was a better option. This wasn’t a problem though, after all I’ve got a solution 4 membership; I can be relayed anywhere in the UK.

We adjourned to the nice warm cab of his vehicle where your man asked where I wanted to go. I explained I would call my mechanic in Stirling and see if he could fix it for me the next day. If he could, then I’d like to go back to Stirling, if not I would prefer to be relayed to Aberdeen as my brother, who is also a mechanic, could arrange for it to be fixed there.

Whilst speaking on the phone to my friend in Stirling your patrolman went ahead and arranged a relay to Stirling; Before I had confirmed where I wanted to go. Perhaps I was slurring my speech or becoming forgetful through my exposure to the cold. A quick check in the mirror did not reveal any cyanosis of my lips or dilation of my pupils; Glancing down my fingers seemed a reasonable pink colour so I ruled out hypothermia. It would appear he just didn’t listen.

When I informed him that Aberdeen was my preferred destination he immediately replied ‘oh that’ll have to be a contractor then, I’m finished at nine, I couldn’t even get you to Forfar’ He then proceeded to phone another number and soon a crackly voice was on the speakerphone. A short discourse took place between the two using abbreviations and terms that meant nothing to me before he pointed at the phone and grunted ‘tell him where you want to go’ I replied several times, my voice rising in volume at each subsequent attempt to be heard, but as the mic was pointed towards the drivers seat it was understandably futile. Eventually after bursting a couple of blood vessels in my forehead with the effort of trying to scream my destination your ever helpful company representative picked the phone out of the cradle and thrust it at me.

I passed on my details to the gentleman at the other end of the line and returned the handset back to the patrolman who said a few more words before hanging up. He then proceeded to get out a small PDA and type away for a few moments before handing it over to me along with a silver stylus ‘just sign here pal’ There was a grey box with space for an electronic signature. I obliged and returned the gadget to him.

Then I must have been engulfed by some sort of temporal vortex or a rent in the space time continuum? Because it would appear I became invisible for the next few minutes as your man proceeded to copy entries from his electronic worklist into a paper diary, mumbling breakdown numbers and descriptions as he peered over the top of his glasses. Eventually I felt compelled to enquire what was happening ‘A contractor will take you to Aberdeen’ he replied ‘When?’, ‘He’ll be along soon’ came the reply.

As this seemed to be the end of the road for our beautiful friendship I bade my farewells, donned my hat and gloves, and exited the warm interior of his vehicle for the chilly outdoors; With a billow of diesel smoke he was gone. It was just me, my stricken car and the noise of hundreds of crows disturbed in their roost.

As my car was still sitting exactly where had broken down; on a nasty bit of road with a lot of fast moving vehicles tearing past. I decided to take one piece of his advice and started the car up in gear and drove it on to the pavement so it was at least off the road. There I waited for my relay ….. and I waited …. and I waited. When twenty minutes had elapsed I decided to call your helpline. It was at this point that I was advised that the contractors estimated time of arrival was one hour. But every cloud has a silver lining; it was an hour from the original call. So I only had forty more minutes to wait in the dark. No wonder your man did his Billy Whizz act without mentioning a word about that. Maybe he was worried about his coco getting cold?

It was as I sat fuming in my car that I realised what the final fly on the turd was. When your patrolman handed me the gadget for ‘signature’ in the van; HE had already filled out all the answers for the customer satisfaction survey! You know; the ones about response time, friendliness of the patrolman, time waited etc I didn’t twig at the time as I was understandably concerned about how I was going to get my car fixed and how I was going to get to Aberdeen. Your man obviously didn’t know that I’d had call to use your company three times this year already and would eventually guess what he had done.

So I would just like to state for the record; Whatever the answers were in that survey, they were not mine! You can probably work out from the tone of this letter what my answers would have been. Lets just say you don’t come out of this smelling of roses. Shame really because the other three callouts I’ve had since I was a member were dealt with superbly by competent, polite and professional individuals for whom I have nothing but praise. However you’re only as good as your last job.

I don’t know, maybe I’m being harsh. Let’s look at the facts; phoned at 18:45hrs, first contact 20:10hrs, relay arrived at 21:30hrs, that’s under three hours all in. It was Friday the 13th after all. Perhaps there is something in this superstitious hocus pocus. I certainly had my nightmare on Elm Street, although in my case it was ‘Nightmare on the A94’ which isn’t as catchy and hopefully wont be a trilogy.

To your credit I did eventually reach my destination, albeit nearly six hours after I left Stirling. The contractor who eventually picked me up was excellent and arrived exactly when predicted. He was very polite, efficient and professional. He even offered to have a quick look at the car when he dropped me at my final destination.

So really other than the complete disinterest in any customer care from the original patrolman, the poor communication throughout and the fraudulent filing of the customer satisfaction survey it was a good job all round. My membership is up for renewal in July. Don’t hold your breath for a cheque.

Kindest Regards

Ham Shanks

Monday, April 09, 2007


Touch a touch a touch me, I want to be dirty!

You may have noticed this isn't really a 'real blog' in that I don't post every day

'Oh c'mon Ham you don't even post once a week ya lazy bastard!' I hear you cry. Which is a fair point, however to that I would simply say; 'awa and lie in yer ain pish ye greeting faced Nancy it's no like ye pay anything for it ye whining shite!'

Which probably suggests I need to work on my customer care

The reason I've been particularly tardy of late is because I am in the midst of organising a touch rugby tournament and it's actually a shitload of work despite all the help I am getting.

So this is a heads up that the service may get even ropier in the next few weeks, but like syphilis and readers digest subscriptions it cannot be stopped. Just when you think it's safe to unglue the letterbox or show the missus your rash free knob - I'll be back!

Kindest Regards


ps there is a new diary below though (no 123) it's not just this lame excuse!


Ham Shanks Secret Diary - Part 123

Ham Shanks Secret Diary w/e 8th April 2007

Apparently 68% of teenagers don’t know the real meaning of Easter; yes I know its shocking isn’t it. How could anybody be so stupid? I mean for goodness sake, teenagers don’t know the real meaning of anything! Why would you even bother asking them? I think a more meaningful statistic would be; 98% of pollsters were having a birrova slack week and couldn’t think of anything useful to ask.

I’d imagine the scenario went something like this. A young man is seated at his desk carefully constructing a scale model of Everest using nothing but paperclips, post-it notes and bogeys, when much to his surprise, the boss returns early from his ‘working lunch’. Tanked up on free Shiraz the angry superior gives said young man the mother of all ear bashings and threatens unspeakable acts with a pencil if he doesn’t pull his finger out and get some fecking work done.

Finished motivating his staff with some brutally honest and alcohol ridden dialogue Britain’s cream of middle management makes a beeline for the executive washroom so he can do some serious thinking outside the box. Perhaps blue-sky some ideas to add core value. Really push the envelope and pick off any low hanging fruit. Or as the rest of us would say ‘have a sh*te’

After Mr Brent departs, the quavering young man hears a muffled voice behind him ‘Hey I’ve just had a thought; its Easter this weekend isn’t it?’ still shell shocked the man glances over his shoulder at the talking cupboard and murmurs ‘Eeer I dunno? It’s a different weekend every year isn’t it?’, ‘Christ knows’ replies the cupboard ‘let’s ask some kids’ before it continues ‘are you going to count to a hundred again?’, ‘why?’, ‘it’s only fair! You know where I’m hiding now’

You know what would have been worse than 68% of youth knowing nothing about Easter? Just one of them being completely up to speed. Can you imagine getting the answer; ‘Yes well Easter is of course ostensibly about the resurrection of our lord and saviour three days after his crucifixion by the Romans’, ‘interestingly enough in Western Christianity Easter marks the end of forty days of lent whereas in Eastern Christianity preparations begin with Great Lent, following the fifth Sunday of Great Lent is palm week and ….

Help ma bob that would be faaaaar more frightening. If it was me asking the questions I’d feel compelled to break my pollsters oath and intervene for the greater good ‘Woah woah woah son, hold yer horses’, ‘wait here’ then I’d sprint to the local Spar and purchase a six pack of Stella and a copy of Razzle readers wives. Suitably tooled up I would send the young man straight home ‘Right son, get yersel home, lock yourself in your bedroom, tan those beers and then study that magazine closely’, ‘don’t even think about coming out of yer room till yer nearly blind’, ‘and if yer still interested in religion after all that then I’ll ask ye another question about Easter’

Controversial you may say but I’m only warming up. I don’t think you should be taught anything about religion until you’re at least twenty one. That’s the last big age of consent after all. Choosing your deity is a big decision and should not be taken lightly or at a young age where you might make a rash decision and join David Icke for instance. If, aged 21, you think that an omnipotent presence governs your daily life then at least you should be able to pick the ‘worship plan’ that suits you best.

Oh c’mon don’t tut tut at me like that. All the religions say pretty much the same thing! It’s like getting a new credit card, they all provide the same basic service but you still shop around for the deal that suits you; be it standard interest rate, balance transfers, cash advance. And you also need to pick the one whose image best reflects your own personality. Respectable, old school Morgan & Stanley or new young and funky Mint card for instance.

I don’t see much of a difference when shopping for your mortal soul? I sense you’re shaking your head and walking away, however I shall continue. Christianity is the biggest player at the moment but do you want hard nosed Presbyterian, happy clappy C of E or maybe a smidgen of Catholicism? Judaism perhaps? Islam is also very popular just now; in fact it’s rapidly coming up on the rails. Hinduism and Buddhism aren’t far behind either. But it’s far more than a four horse race. There are hundreds of runners and riders.

So I think they should do it like these graduate ‘milk round’ fairs you see at Universities. Get all the big players gathered together in a large conference area. All jostling for your business on a level playing field. After all a mortal soul isn’t just for Christmas …. Eeer will it might be if that’s the horse you plump for. Anyway I think freedom of choice is important and it would be beneficial to compare and contrast. Might need some careful organisation to keep the aggro to a minimum right enough. There’s a little ‘history’ between some of the players; I don’t need to mention names, you know who you are.

They would all have their own stands with freebies and snacks to entice you in. The Jewish are renowned for a mean chicken soup. Islam frowns upon bacon butties however they do great fish dishes. Hindus on the other hand don’t eat meat at all and do rather a lot of fasting; a bowl of fruit and a glass of milk are unlikely to attract fat boys like myself. However it would be churlish to pass by simply on the basis of available nibbles. After all it’s not your eternal stomach you’re shopping for.

A good idea would be a ‘Manifesto’ for each religion, plainly laid out. What they stand for and what they can do for me in my currently godless state. What their Deity’s position is on the important issues of the day. What day of the week is their holy day? Very important that, I’m busy most Saturdays so Sunday is probably better for me. Glossy pamphlets with pictures of Nirvana, heaven, or whatever the relevant body wants to call it would also be very helpful. Not ‘drawings’ either, we want pictures and proper testimonials. After all your going to spend a long long time there so you want to know it actually exists and is going to be to your liking.

I was also thinking of some kind of overseeing authority to make sure that the relevant standards are being met. Perhaps an ombudsman to take your complaints to in the unlikely event that your deity goes out of business before you get a chance to meet him (or her) …… but that would just be silly ………

Happy *insert name of your preferred religions next important festival here


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