A Driving Instructor's Blog

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Image of virusOriginally published 29 May 2020

It has been announced that the SEISS will be paid again in August. This time, it will be 70% instead of 80% of the average income over the last three years. For me, that should be around £3,000.

As I have said before – and if you are eligible – it is far better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Note that the article says applications will ‘open in August’. Logically, this means we’re going to have to put up with almost three months of people asking when they can claim, and why it hasn’t been paid yet, just like last time – even though HMRC had made it crystal clear numerous times. Oh, and those who won’t have heard about it, and still won’t have even at the end of July, who will then start blaming HMRC. Come on, people. We have something called ‘the internet’ these days – they don’t use messenger pigeons anymore!


Update: I checked last weekend on my Government Gateway (where I do my self-assessment each year) and it told me I could claim the second SEISS from Wednesday 19 August. The scheme actually opened on Monday 17 August, and they appear to have used the same staggering as before, so some people will have been able to claim on the Monday and Tuesday.

Claiming was even more straightforward than last time. It doesn’t ask for any proof that you have been adversely affected. It just warns you you’ll get chopped off at the knees if you’re telling porkies. I’m not worried, because I still haven’t started back, and that is going to be fairly easy to prove if I have to. I claimed just after midnight, but also got an email from HMRC telling me I could claim – it came in later that day.

The amount is exactly what I said in the original article above. It uses the exact same figure to base its calculation on, so that’s hardly a surprise. A further email the following day (Thursday) told me my claim had been accepted and the money will be in my account within three days. That’s three working days, so I expect it will go into my account on Monday, like last time (edit: it did – just after midnight Monday morning).

Come on, vaccine.

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DVSA logo

This article is already out of date. Read the addendum at the end!

An email alert from DVSA outlines important details on the phased restart of routine testing.

There’s nothing especially worrying in there except for one possible thing. It’s this part:

Valid theory test certificates checks

As part of our normal ID and eligibility checks our driving examiners are checking for valid theory test certificates.

If your pupil does not have a valid certificate the test will not go ahead.

If your pupil has lost or damaged their certificate they can apply for a replacement letter by contacting customercare@pearson.com. They’ll need to provide their:

  • name
  • address
  • date of birth
  • driving licence number

As you can imagine, this has already stirred up the lesser intellects out there.

Historically, DVSA has rarely asked to see anyone’s Theory Test certificate, even though when you book you’re told you should take it to the test centre on the day. In cases where they have been asked, if pupils say they’ve lost it then there’s been no issue and the test has gone ahead – probably since they wouldn’t have been able to book the test if they didn’t have one. Examiners can check online anyway.

Right now, we’re in unusual times. It is possible someone’s theory test might have expired and the system hasn’t picked it up, which I guess is the reason for this emphasis. And given the load on DVSA’s systems, examiners might not be able to check, either. Hence the need to see the piece of paper.

As an instructor, you have two options. One is to let your pupils know, and to get them to follow the instructions for getting a replacement if they’ve lost their original. They’ll have plenty of time to sort it, because the backlog of tests means they’re hardly likely to be booking one for next week unless they’re key workers.

The second option – which seems to be the preferred one right now – is to keep whingeing about how your pupils have never been asked for one before, how DVSA are a bunch of idiots, how you just had someone go on test and they weren’t asked, or you know someone who heard from an uncle whose nephew’s friend’s sister wasn’t asked yesterday, and so on.

One of those two options is easy and puts responsibility on the pupil to simply ask for a replacement by following the easiest instruction imaginable – sending an email and asking. If you tell them to do it and they don’t, and the test is cancelled, it’s their fault. The other option makes you look like an idiot if the test is cancelled. It will be your fault, and your label as an ‘idiot’ will be confirmed once and for all.

The choice is yours.

Addendum

The email above came through on Monday. Thursday, this new one came through. Now they’re saying you don’t have to get a new certificate if you’ve lost the original.

We wanted to confirm that your pupils should still bring their theory test certificates if they have a paper version.

However if they can’t find it, they don’t need to order a replacement before coming to test.

Basically, you need a valid theory test result. If you’ve lost the paper, you’ll still get to go to test – as long as your theory hasn’t run out.

The lesser intellects are now all over this one like a rash, as well.

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Birds Bakery logoWe have a local chain of bakers up this way called Birds. They’re perfectly OK, other than for the fact that they run out of bread and other stuff later in the day – though that’s true of most bakery stores.

For me, they’ve been a bit of a headache during the lockdown. You see, my 91-year old dad will only eat bread from there, primarily because it’s the only bread he can chew with his few remaining teeth (it’s very soft). I did manage to get him on to Warburtons, but once the lockdown was eased it was worse than trying to keep a cat indoors.

On his first visit to Birds post-lockdown, they wouldn’t let him buy anything because he only had cash. When he got home, he wasn’t that bothered by it, and I just said ‘Oh, I forgot about that – you need a card’. He doesn’t have a bank account as such, and has never used anything even remotely like that. So I just gave him one of mine to use so he could swipe his payment. Problem solved, end of story.

But Birds is being lambasted right now in our local rag – journalistically by the reporters themselves, then with knobs on by the racist bigots who frequent the comments sections. They first reported that a 94-year old woman had been turned away, then decided to stir it some more by writing another article about the comments made by said bigots in the first. Incidentally, I advise an adblocker if you click those links, because they’re just advert banks with badly-written articles sandwiched in between.

You have to ask yourself what planet some people are on. I mean, we have a global pandemic the likes of which no one living has experienced before (and if they have, they were too young to remember it), with thousands dead already, and probably more to come. And the only thing the Neanderthals in this country want to do is go to Spain the instant they’re able, and whine about safety precautions designed to stop the spread – such as not allowing cash payments.

Birds makes it absolutely clear on their website they are only taking cashless payments. They have signs up all over the shop saying the same. Many other shops and restaurants are doing exactly the same.

There are solutions to any problem. I found one.

Update: The day after I wrote this, they’re at it again – this time with a story about how a manager has been sacked for taking cash and using her own card to make payment.

The thing is, everyone keeps going on about ‘won’t someone purleeease think of the old people’, but I have to wonder how many of these old people really could use cashless if they tried, and are just being bloody-minded about it. Not all of them, of course, but I’d be surprised if all of them really are as vulnerable as is being assumed.

Being ‘old’ doesn’t automatically mean you’re a technophobe. Just that you’re more likely to be so.

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TV Licensing ScamJust a heads up on another silly attempt at scamming people over their TV licence.

I get one of these at least once a year and can spot them a mile off. This one (in May) came from postmaster@kuriya.jp, which is an automatic giveaway in the first place. The second clue is in that I know our licence is up to date. The third clue is that ‘TVLicensing’ and ‘TVLicence’ have no space, whereas the proper TV Licensing title does. Edit: I had another one in June, which I just binned, and another just now from ‘support@tvlicensing.co.uk.a’ (see the extra ‘a’ at the end?)

TVL will always use your full name in their own emails (this one had my email address), and they will always come from donotreply@tvlicensing.co.uk or donotreply@spp.tvlicensing.co.uk.

And never click on links from emails if you are unsure of them.

If I’m wrong, then I expect a visit from the Yakuza in the near future. I’m not especially worried.

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AUSDOM AW615Until I saw this article on the BBC, I had no idea there was a webcam shortage. But apparently, the lockdown has meant these, too, have been panic-bought into oblivion, and they are difficult to get hold of.

During the lockdown, I’ve been having a nightly Skype session with my mate who lives in Leeds. Initially, we were just doing voice, but he upgraded his laptop and we were then able to do video calls. However, although my Surface Pro laptop has a camera, I prefer to use my desktop.

Over the years I’ve had several webcams, but since I didn’t typically use them much they inevitably ended up being put in a box somewhere and forgotten about. They were always oddly-shaped things, too. All curves and funny angles – and far, far bigger than they needed to be. This time around, I started looking for a simply bullet-style camera that could sit on the top edge of one of my monitors without it wanting to break into a song and dance routine and flash pretty lights at me for no apparent reason if I was on Facebook or something. I also wanted HD.

One of my preferred brands is Logitech. However, their HD cameras have all the usual angles and curves, with the added ‘benefit’ of being the size of an iPhone thanks to whatever fancy additional features Logitech is trying to sell to nutjobs who post on Instagram and Tik Tok every five minutes. I just wanted a camera – I have a separate microphone, anyway.

After more searching I came across a camera that looked like exactly what I was after on Amazon. The AUSDOM AW615.

It’s full HD, does 16:9 widescreen, and it does have a microphone (it’s also manual focus and wide-angle). For me, the most important detail was it’s shape and size – the camera itself is a short cylinder, and it has a bendy clip and bracket so you can put it in different positions on different monitors or surfaces. At that time, the price was around £70 (at the time of writing it is on offer at £50), but what I did then was take a look on AliExpress. It was obviously (to me, anyway) a Chinese device, and it was carried by many sellers on AliExpress. if I bought direct it turned out the price was $33 (about £25). So that’s where I bought it from. Incidentally, if you check out any of the models above, they’re cheaper if you buy directly from China – but it’s up to you.

It took about three weeks to arrive, but lead times are always a little longer from China anyway.

It doesn’t need any software – you just plug it in and Windows does what it needs to do to recognise it. As with any webcam, you really need to connect it directly to a USB 2.0 port on your computer, and not through any daisy-chain of hubs. If you do that, you’re likely to get problems, especially with a HD image at 30fps, which is this camera’s spec.

It works like a charm. Nice sharp picture, and you can do all the things with it that Skype lets you – blur background, add image, and so on. My boom microphone is better for sound, but the microphone on it works perfectly well. Definitely worth considering if you’re after a webcam.

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Donna and RalstonDonna Smith came to the UK from Jamaica over five years ago. She met her husband – also originally from Jamaica, I believe – while he was on holiday there. She came to the UK a year after marrying Ralston Fustiye. Her two children also came with her. Ralston was a British citizen, and had worked for Nottingham City Council for 15 years.

Tragically, Ralston recently died from COVID-19 due to an underlying heart condition.

Donna Fustiye, who is employed as a registered carer, now faces deportation back to Jamaica. She wants to remain in the UK, which she considers her home, along with her children.

Donna has to raise £7,600 before 8 August in order to apply for residency. Her immigration advisor (also a councillor) has set up a crowdfunding page to try and help her that way. She’s been helping us all through this pandemic, and the least we can do is try to give something in return.

I’m sure this country still has some good people in it who see these situations as tragic, as opposed something to get all excited over because it means deporting someone. If you’re one of them, consider helping out by pledging whatever you can to try and stop someone’s life being destroyed.

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ReadlyA couple of years ago I was having a clear out and I was amazed at the number of magazines I’d collected over the years. They were mainly my Classic Rock mags, and part of my decision to have a clear out was that I’d been getting more and more disillusioned with that particular publication.

At the time, I was on an annual subscription, but Planet Rock had just launched its own magazine and that did exactly what it said on the tin – it covered rock music. Classic Rock acquired a new editor, and she made it clear in her introductory piece what she was planning. Subsequently, any rock music they covered had to include at least half female acts – meaning it became obscure and far from ‘classic’, at best – and they also decided that (as just one example) Depeche Mode somehow ticked both the ‘classic’ and ‘rock’ boxes at the same time (actually, they decided twice in the space of just a couple of months with that one example). Then they did their ‘best 100 female artists of all time’ issue, and necessarily had to include non-rock genres to fill it out. That was it from me, and I cancelled my sub.

Before any feminists start frothing at the mouth over this, I go to see lots of female artists and bands with female members. I actually seek them out if I hear them on Planet Rock and like the sound. Like Samantha Fish, Haim, Paramore, Evanescence, Courtney Love, Joanne Shaw Taylor, The Lounge Kittens… I just don’t need any feminist magazine editors trying to filter out the men for me. And if you don’t like the fact that I don’t like that fact, click the back button and go somewhere else.

Planet Rock mag suits me fine, but when the lockdown came along, it also came with a lot of extra time for reading and finding tips on how to do stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise had time for. And going out to buy magazines wasn’t an option – even if it would have been of benefit with the ‘current’ issue on sale (you usually need a series of them).

A few years ago, as a result of my quest to find some authentic German food recipes, I came across a subscription service called Readly. It carries – and this is no exaggeration – thousands of UK titles. They’re all the ones you see on the newsstands (and many you don’t), from TV Times, OK!, Hello!, through all the photography and amateur DIY magazines, through to music and musicians (including Classic Rock). They cover specialist computer and technology subjects, gaming, weddings, cycling, fishing, horse riding, pets… everything (but no X-rated adult stuff). Including back issues, too, which multiplies the content by at least ten. And as I already implied, they have similar numbers of publications from Europe, Asia, and America. They’ve also recently started including newspapers, though it’s only The Independent and Evening Standard right now.

My normal Readly subscription is less than £8 a month, but they offer a two months for free trial. Even so, at £8 a month, that’s the newsstand cost of just three magazines! If you were after foreign magazines, you’d probably pay more than that for a single issue once shipping was included.

You can get the Readly app with the offer through Amazon (it’s free), and you can read on your phone, tablet, or computer. You can also read offline by downloading the content.

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Back To The Future movie posterThis is worth getting. It’s 35 years since Back To The Future was released, and this book – We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy – is the in-depth story of how it was made, with interviews with all the writers, cast, and crew. I was interested immediately, because I always wanted to know the truth about why Eric Stoltz – the original Marty – was recast with Michael J. Fox.

I found out about the book from an MSN newsfeed item, where fans have been arguing about whether any of Stoltz remains in the films (apparently, they reckon it’s Stoltz’s fist when he punches Biff in the café). The book doesn’t answer that, but it’s a damned good read.

It’s 268 pages devoted to one of the best movie trilogies – certainly of the 80s – of all time. And best of all, as well as paperback there’s also a Kindle edition (which is the one I bought). I also note that other books about the movie are available on Kindle Unlimited for free (see the banner on the right for a free trial if you’re interested).

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Ennio MorriconeThis one’s likely to pass most people by – I doubt many know who he is. But he represents a huge part of my childhood (and ever since, come to think of it).

Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. He was a film composer, but by far his best known works were the themes from The Dollars Trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s. His score for The Good, The Bad And The Ugly in particular is a genuine work of art.

RIP, Ennio.

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Eric Idle in Monty Python sketchCouldn’t have put it better myself. Eric Idle has criticised the official Monty Python Twitter feed for tweeting “It’s time to dust off your finest attire now that pubs & restaurants are open from tomorrow.”

Idle’s response was:

Do not listen. This is shit advice. I have nothing to do with this. In the wise words of my wife. “What has changed?” Nothing. There is no cure, there is no vaccine. Go out at your peril. Mingle at your own risk. Just remember “Bring out your dead.”

Unless your pub is called The Grim Reaper, you should stay home. Please be safe.

Completely agree, Eric. It’s too soon.

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