The end of the road

I’ve lived in my current house for almost 10 years. It’s in the middle of a housing estate which, like many others, consists of a main road with several side roads branching off it. In my case the main road drops down a hill and I live on one of the side roads near the bottom. A little bit further down, another side road off to the right connects with another estate and then back out into the town, while the main road around which my estate is built heads off to the left.

Usually I get in and out of the estate either via this side road to the right or going down an alley that provides a convenient short cut out of the estate if you’re on foot or a bike (as I usually am), or sometimes I go up the hill to the top. I have no real occasion to follow the main road round to the left past the turn-off, although I did once drop round to visit someone on another side road a bit further down. I’d never actually gone all the way to the end of the road!

Last week I had a letter delivered to me by accident that was actually supposed to go to a house on a similarly named road in town. I was intending to write a note on the envelope and stick it back in the post box, but when I looked up the location of the other road (to satisfy my own curiosity) I discovered it was actually slightly closer to my house than the postbox is (going up the hill instead of down), so I decided it was better just to pop round and post it directly through the door.

Apart from a weekly bike ride to go shopping and check the post at my office, I’d not actually got round to leaving my house / garden since the lockdown started. I felt quite invigorated by this brief walk and decided that it’s probably a good idea to go for at least a short walk (allowed under the daily exercise provision) on any day when the weather’s not too awful and I’m not going out on my bike. I may get this year’s running season off to a start soon (though I realise I probably haven’t mentioned running yet on my blog as I only got into that after my final post of last year and I’ve been having a winter break since mid-October).

The first couple of days I stuck to a couple of my fairly well-trod routes, but on Saturday I decided the time had finally come to walk to the end of the road. It turns out that it’s slightly less than half a kilometre from my front door, and the road ends at a gate leading into a field. I think it’s a public right of way so I may go back soon and investigate further.

Another, more figurative, end of the road almost happened today as well.

A few days I ordered a couple of bits I needed for my computer from Amazon. I know they are one of the big, bad corporate giants but they are a very convenient one-stop shopping location for so many things, and generally give a pretty reliable service. I was pleasantly surprised when I had an email this morning to say that my parcel, which I was expecting on Wednesday, was now due for delivery this afternoon. I was pleased (though not surprised) when it turned up. I was less pleased when I found that the end of the box was open and only one of the two items I’d ordered was actually inside. The one which actually turned up, in case you’re wondering, was an external CD player for my new office laptop; the missing one was an external hard drive,intended for backup purposes.

My guess is that the box was probably not securely fastened during the packing process and the hard drive fell out somewhere in transit, though it’s possible that somebody may have helped it out, or even that it was never put in there in the first place. In any case, since my Amazon orders page quite clearly showed both items being included in the package, and the package having been delivered, and since I had received the package with a loose end and just about enough empty space in the box for the missing item (which wouldn’t be labelled with any delivery information), I figured it would be best to alert Amazon immediately rather than waiting to see if it would turn up separately.

Cue much frustration as I searched in vain for a means to flag up delivery problems other than a package which hadn’t arrived at all (basically – contact the courier and ask them about it) or to return items which had arrived but were somehow defective (I tried using that approach but it wanted to put me in touch with the manufacturer who in this instance can’t be held to blame!). I was just on the verge of giving up, and beginning to seriously consider cancelling my Amazon account by way of protest (and also concern that they didn’t seem to provide any mechanism to contact them in case of snafus such as this one), when I finally spotted a “Contact Us” link tucked away in submenu at the bottom of their Customer Service page (itself only accessible, as far as I could see, via a link hidden at the very bottom of the page footer).

This link led me to a chat setup which started with a chatbot to establish the nature of the help request before putting me through to a human assistant (who went by the name of Luv – not sure if that’s their real name). While I was deeply unimpressed by the difficulty of locating this avenue of help, I was very satisfied by the service I got from Luv. Within 5 minutes of hooking up to the chat, I had briefly explained the problem and accepted the offer of a replacement item to be sent to me as soon as possible (an offer that was made without quibble – I was offered a refund as an alternative, but since the item is something I need I figured a replacement would be the better option). It’s not due to arrive until early next week, but that’s fair enough in the circumstances (and if my recent orders which have actually arrived are anything to go by I may get it a bit sooner).

Anyway, that’s quite enough rambling for now. It is time for me to nip out into the early evening sunshine and take my daily walk.

Plans afoot!

It’s just over a week since my bike broke down and I’m still without wheeled transport at the moment ūüė¶

I was able to pick up a new cone and axle at the bike shop last Tuesday (the day after the wheel-related fail) but unfortunately it turned out that the hub itself was damaged and needs replacing. ¬†The simplest way to do this is to get a whole new wheel. ¬†I’m making use of the bike’s downtime to do some other maintenance, especially overhauling the bottom bracket which was beginning to get a bit wobbly.

A friend of mine has pointed me towards a charity called Recycle Cycle Cymru, which aims to salvage useable bikes and bike parts that would otherwise end up as landfill and to make them available to people who need them. ¬† As a way of financing the project (and helping to meet the landfill-avoidance goal) they offer bikes and parts to pretty much anyone who wants them for a small donation. ¬†I’ve been in touch with them and established that they have a suitable wheel for me (and the suggested donation is significantly less than a new wheel would cost). ¬† Fortunately they are based in Bethesda, which is only a few miles from where I live, so it will be quite straightforward to go and pick the wheel up (probably by bus, since I’m currently bikeless). ¬†Unfortunately, I can’t get it until the weekend (I assume that’s when the workshop will next be open, since they didn’t offer me the option of going earlier).

I should also be getting my old bike back from the friend who currently has it. ¬†That was an old but serviceable touring bike I was given about 10 years ago and rode for a while before upgrading to my current mountain bike (mainly so that I could go exploring off-road trails). ¬†After it had sat inactive in my shed for a few years, I gave it to a friend and it sat inactive in his shed for a few years before he gave it to a mutual friend, in whose shed it now sits inactive. ¬†I asked him if he was planning to do anything with it and he said I could have it back if I wanted it. ¬†I think it will need a little work to get roadworthy, but it will be useful to have a spare bike for when my other one is down for maintenance. ¬†In fact, it may even be a better choice of bike to use when I’m planning to travel exclusively on the road, since it has bigger wheels.