Last night (14th September) I travelled up to Salford to visit BBC TV’s studio to take part in Mastermind, but as it has just been broadcast (25th January 2013) and I have now seen it for the very first time, I can blog about it.
It was a really enjoyable experience, despite the nerves of appearing in that ominous black chair. Most of my nerves were focused on the travelling arrangements as I had a wedding to conduct back in Plymouth the following day. The meant rushing away from the studios in a taxi and getting a train from Manchester to Bristol, arriving about midnight there and staying in a Holiday Inn overnight, before getting a morning train back home. This is where I sit typing this. I got back home on time, and the Wedding was lovely.
Plymouth is a long way from anywhere, and train travel is expensive: £133 Advance Single from Plymouth to Manchester! I left at a reasonable time and got into Manchester for lunch, at the excellent BarBurrito in Picadilly Gardens- cheap eats and tasty food.
The best way to get to MediaCity is via the Tram. I really like the Manchester Tram system, and as that city continues to grow and regenerate, it is a lovely trip, through the Salford Quays and into the bright and shiny future that is TV production in the North. A lot of BBC production has moved up to Salford: Radio, Sport, Children’s and a number of shows, including Mastermind.
It turns out we were one of four quizzes to be filmed that day, and they were ahead of schedule. There was an audience for it, and apparently, there is a waiting list to see the show. Once we got into the studio, I could see that there was quite a diversity of people in the audience, and certainly not people just filling up an afternoon: the unemployed or the elderly; and on reflection, I could see that this would be a good afternoon’s entertainment.
The first thing that strikes me about TV production is simply how young the production team are: young women in their early 20′s: they look like they have stepped straight out of University and into the TV studio. They all appear disconcertingly to be the age of my children. Almost immediately, we were whisked down to the ‘green room’ (now there is only a green wall to remind us of the origins of a soothing room to rest the eyes from the lime-lit theatre lights) where we have a run through the rules, and we check not only our details for the captions and, perhaps surprisingly, the next round’s subject. For tonight, the caption will read
Reverend Simon Rundell, Church of England Vicar, Monty Python.
I make a decision internally to name myself as without the Reverend bit, and let the caption handle that, but as I am dressed in my best black suit and a clerical collar, it’s pretty obvious isn’t it?
The other contestants and I shake hands and meet: instantly we all agree that this was a really stupid idea. There is Kate, a student from Somerset, but who is ironically studying International Relations at Plymouth Uni; Mark, a bookseller from Cambridge and Robert, a writer from… somewhere. Robert is the experienced quiz hound: he’s done Mastermind before, and also the Weakest Link. We swop specialist subjects, and as usual mine causes much hilarity. My story also has to be prefaced with the story of my failed subject: Viz Magazine, as everyone makes the connection to a Vicar answering questions on Buster Gonad and his Unfeisably Large Testicles. However, Python it is. Kate is on Horatio Nelson, Mark on the TinTin books of Hergé and Robert on “the big five of Africa”. “Big Five what of Africa?” I ask… Countries, Buses, Lakes… it turns out it means Big Game Animals. Mark thanks me for asking, as he didn’t know either, and I’m as usual the one who asks the bleedin’ obvious.
They check our wardrobes. The black suit is fine. The letter said “don’t wear all black” but I told the producer and he was happy. No qualms from the man in charge, who is more concerned with Mark’s fine herringbone collar on his jumper.
Make up, not surprisingly has to deal with my shiny bald head. Good job I shaved it properly last night.
They put radio mics on us, which I am jealous of, and I end up in conversation with the sound engineer on the subject. These beauties are Sennheiser’s top models, and I have the utter opposite end of the Sennheiser scale.
Led inside, we are instructed by the floor manager where to sit, and which cameras to look at in the opening shots. A warm-up man is keeping the audience jolly. He is an accomplished comedian and has been on TV himself, but this is like club work. Of course, he starts making jokes at the expense of me, but not unkindly – you get used to any joke being referred back to you “Sorry about this one, Rev…”
As we get told where to walk to get to the chair, I am hit by nerves. Luckily I remember the little black plastic rosary in my top pocket. I hold onto this now for the rest of the filming. It really is true: hold on to the Cross. It helps.
I am first.
John Humphries comes on, and is very nice, especially in the pauses between bits. However, the thing is over really so quickly…
I am called up, walk to that chair. I introduce myself as just “Simon Rundell” and the Python questions begin. I know most of them. At this point, however, I only recall a few of the questions, I know I answer one question about a Michael Palin character as EL Gumby, but which later I anxiously recall it could have been JP Gumby – I think both names were used. I passed on the name of the original director, which I knew, but my mind went blank on- it was John Howard Davies. Grrr. As I’m first up, I have no idea if this is good or not. I get the last one wrong – the award they gave themselves I said was the Golden Stoat, but it was the Zinc Stoat of Budapest – I knew that! Did I get any others wrong or passed? I have no idea… two minutes went in a blur.
I held onto and fiddled with my rosary throughout.
Other contestants next: Kate answered loads, and yet surprisingly only got 5. Strange, it seemed more than that. Mark really knew his stuff. We agreed that as we had no idea what the questions would be about, we hoped that our enthusiasm for the subject would pull us through. For both him and me, it did. He got 13. Robert came on with what I might have imagined to be a bit of an experienced swagger. He got 11. I’m second.
Between each of us, there is a little pause as questions are checked. It didn’t happen after my first round, but did after the General Knowledge. That’s quite nerve-wracking… why? Will this benefit or hurt my score? John Humphreys chats to the contestants, and comes over as quite nice.
Round two: General Knowledge. Now two-and-a-half minutes. It’s in reverse order of scores, so Kate comes up and does well to raise her score to 15. Robert comes up to 23 and then it’s me…
I get loads of questions wrong. I pass on five – yes, five! Some were questions I knew or should have known – the author of Morse- Colin Dexter’s name just went straight out of my head. The 2.5 mins takes forever, but I am enjoying answering the questions. The big challenge is not to interrupt the question if you know it. It helps though as you know for a fraction of a second you have it nailed, a moment’s reprieve. Listening is hard, and sometimes the first part of the question is zoned out, as you reflect on the previous one.
I get 13. Total of 25. Not bad, really.
Mark does just as well. He ends up with 26. I have come second. Respectable.
We then have to reshoot some bits: Kate’s walk to the chair, and my walk and introduction, as they will now take Reverend off my titles. I suppose the collar makes it obvious. My plan could have been seen to backfire, but as I said, I really don’t deserve reverence.
I walk up, sit down… and cock it up. Back again. I joke about having to talk in public for a living, and the warm-up man comments that I should do more TV- yes please. I get it right next time.
Into a debrief room. They have booked and paid for a cab. We are well on time, so I am not stressed. It would appear that the 6 highest scoring runners up also get through, so I might still be in the next round. I didn’t know this. I didn’t make the highest runners up, so that was the end of my Mastermind and TV career. Mark is going to do the Pixies, (the band, not the mythical creatures) next. Well done to him.
Manchester Picadilly, a quick bite of sushi but there is not much on the trolly, so I get 4 cans of Stella for my journey to Bristol. The Stella goes down really well, and by Midnight I am in Bristol. Overnight in a hotel in Bristol and now back on the train to Plymouth in time for the wedding.
Lou and I speak and she says how proud of me they are: at least I didn’t embarrass myself. Second is respectable. Getting to this point is an achievement, and meant passing two tests and an interview, so four and a half minutes on the telly is a fair reward. I’ll have to update my CV.
Did I enjoy it? Strangely, yes. Would I do other quizzes? I don’t know. I like pub quizzes but I don’t take them seriously – I enjoy them as fun and the opportunity to work the room as the local Vicar. TV quizzes for cash? I don’t think I’d like the pressure. It was a lot of fun, a great adventure and an experience.
We’ll just have to see how it looks on the telly…
…and here it is!
Are you a Pass Master?
This only shows your General Knowledge Passes, consequently, I sound really dumb… http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0144w4y
This morning sees me at 87.3kg – and the excellent MyFitnessPal system has momentously dropped by daily calorie goal to 1600Kcal a day, so it’s going to be harder now. The reason it is going to be harder is this: food obsesses me. Hunger, Blood Sugar (I have been an Insulin-dependent diabetic for the past 27 years), calories, hypos and hypers, the pleasure of cooking and eating all dominate my thinking and then the associated guilt that it’s all too self-absorbed and that this is an introspective conceit. Thin people simply don’t think about food. I do all the time, and I’m not disciplined enough to resist the temptation of self-indulgence. This isn’t sin, but I’m fairly convinced that my self-absorption with it is sinful.
Over the years my weight has meant that I have become more and more Insulin-resistant – requiring more and more insulin to try and control my blood sugars which have at best been mediocre. I have got to this point remarkably without many severe complications (praise God!) but better control can only come via smaller doses: I can only take control over my HbA1c once my weight is lower. It would seem that these blocks need to be lined up in a row, and dealt with one-by-one.
Still, Christmas is coming and it’ll all go to pot over that time, as I am so prone to grazing and snacking…
I know many of us, indeed most of us have encountered this point: a much beloved pet clearly enters a point where it just feels cruel to go on.
Ruby, my massive German Shepherd is old, she has been/remains a wonderful pet, but there is no denying that she is now more than just slowing up. She appears to be in distress and her back legs keep… well, just not working. This is much more than not being able to run or jump into the car anymore, but is actually giving out. Today she came to me in proper distress, and I knew she needed the Vet which is (thankfully) just down the road. She couldn’t make it the car so I tried to walk with her the 300 yards down the road. She collapsed three times. In the end I had to go back for the car and manhandle this 8 stone bundle of hair-shedding into the boot and drive her the remaining 150 yards (you can’t just carry her… you really can’t).
Whilst we were waiting for the vet to return from a callout, I felt I had to sit by the cage, to comfort her in what might be her last few hours. I don’t know.
And here’s the thing: it is a mistake to transfer human values and ethics onto animals. I feel bad about thinking “this might be it” but at the same time I hate to see her suffer. In the real world, I am ambivalent about the realities of Euthanasia (having been in too many grey, difficult, ethical situations) and the mantra Thou shalt not kill, and yet thou shalt not strive officiously to keep alive is very real for me. See Rundell, S No way to leave. Nursing times. 86(38): 1990 Sep 19-25 where this Staff Nurse 22 years ago speaks of the cruel ways in which we often keep people alive, just to make us (and certainly not the patient) feel better: it’s not the same as Euthanasia.
I know that the love I have for my pets is a qualitatively different love from that which God loves me, I love Lou or my children, and yet if it needs to be, it will be love which forces me to enable her life to end. I do not want her to suffer. Sitting here watching her panting and looking so miserable… it’s heartbreaking.
Blood results back. Not good. I have had to make a decision. There was a possibility of expensive, extensive treatment, but talking it over with the Vet, it might only have held things off for a few weeks. A few more weeks of suffering was more than I could bear, and so (and I do slightly regret this) I had to come to the decision myself. Sign the form. Take a deep breath and come with her into the operating room.
I stayed with the old lady until she was gone. I’m not going to say “asleep” because that pretends that death is not real. One wakes from sleep. Two large syringes of blue barbiturate and within seconds her laboured, struggle was over. She was peaceful. She looked like she was asleep.
I kissed the dog goodbye, took off her collar and left the Vets. I’ll deal with the paperwork (and the bill) later. Now I have to tell the rest of the family, which is why this post isn’t going to be finally posted until later tonight. I need more time to reflect on it all, on the briefness of mortality, the power of life, the nature of grief. Liam, Emma, Zoe and I were all in tears. For the children, Ruby is the only pet they can remember, and I know Zoe has taken it really hard tonight.
I have lots of happy memories: of walks and of failing to persuade her to walk, of treks in the country and long runs on the beach which inevitably ended with her paddling and getting really messy. I remember the night she caught a man peeing in our garden in Southsea (he climbed the fence really quickly), and the way she protected Lou when the stranger called asking to use our loo. Of clobber and so much moulting, there will be lots of memories…
I have recently had to reassure one of my parishioners a number of times my strongly held belief that all dogs go to heaven. They don’t have souls, but as part of God’s creation they have a place in that place beyond creation. We know God loves dogs, and now Ruby is at peace. There is no soul to be prayed for, but lots of good memories and a shedful of dog hair.
Farewell you lovely girl.
(by Lou Rundell, an opener for Year 5 Literacy for her first day in her new School)
Butter beans bubbling, boiling in the pan.
Slimy, slithery spaghetti, spear it if you can.
Classic, crumbly, creamy cheese melting like magic.
Wibbly, wobbly, jelly; ‘please set’, or it’s tragic.
Tangy tomatoes – tasty treat.
Beautiful buffet – all you can eat.
Fabulous foods yummy to eat and to touch,
But now I feel sick because I’ve eaten too much!
In case you haven’t seen the Twitter or Facebook post, here is our 2011 Christmas Greetings:
(This is not my shoulder, but this is the sort of thing they did. If you are squeemish, don’t click it)
I am typing this with my left hand as the right arm is up in a sling keeping it at a right angle to my body. There is a nerve block in situ which means that I have no sensation or movement between wrist and neck on that side which is really quite freeky. My close friend Steven woke up with a paralysed arm almost 12 months ago which is still completely inert: today has seen my already high admiration for him go through the roof.
The block is slowly wearing off and I now face the oncoming pain, but the op to release my frozen shoulder (the opposite side to 2008′s procedure) went well according to my surgeon, Mr Falworth and I have been up and recovered quickly from the anaesthetic. The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital at Stanmore in Middlesex is an amazing place, doing marvellous work on people with far greater need than me. Conversations this evening with some make me realise that although I could have been done locally, this is a world-reknowned team of shoulder specialists and in them I trust. The work usually done here is so specialised, so often radical that centres of national excellence should remain: the Brompton, the RNOH, the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square (and several others, but you get my point) – the NHS threatens them at their peril. Thank God for the NHS.
I was referred here through St Luke’s, the clergy healthcare charity which links specialists to clergy and their families. Through them both my diabetes and my shoulders have received excellent care. Thank God for them and send them a donation.
“…on a Saturday?”
Has been the first reaction of many when I have told them that this afternoon, I will make very serious promises on behalf of Isaac and Charlotte, and I will mean them.
This is not to say that when I conduct Baptisms, one of my favourite of the pastoral offices, most people don’t mean it, but it’s just that for many it is the first time they are called to respond directly to a question of faith, a matter that we tend to push under the carpet these days. For a number of practical reasons (Charlotte returning to Spain tomorrow, one of the Godparents (Oh, that would be me then) working on a Sunday) the baptism is today. I hold baptisms on any day of the week (often baptising adults on a Weds night), so no day is set aside for baptism.
One of our parishioners noted the other day that you can so easily tell the difference between the Churched and the Unchurched at a Baptism in the Mass: the regular Churchgoers usually just turn up in normal clothes whereas those unfamiliar with Church will always dress in what used to be called their ‘Sunday best’. It’s nice to make an effort, it gives respect to the occasion (and is why this morning I have my best suit and a clerical collar this morning). However, as most people don’t dress up for a Sunday anymore, and so what we are left with is the curious way of dressing up like a night out at a nightclub. In the middle of the day. In the cold. High heels and very very short dresses. In, as I have mentioned, the cold. Men in casual shirts and uncomfortable trousers. It’s a little odd. However, if the nightclub is the modern church…
…then we should not be surprised. The response is the most important thing. It says “this is important”, even if the medium and the idiom seem a little incongruous to those of us who have taken to heart the welcome of Christ to (in the words of Kurt Cobain) “come as you are”. Inner preparation is the most important thing, and is, I suspect what Matthew had more in mind when in Matthew 22:1-14 (and especially vs 12) when the man who wasn’t dressed appropriately was slung out: inner commitment, the garments a metaphor. I personally don’t think that he does look at your clothes, but rather what you wear on your heart. Do what you wish. If you want to put on your glad rags, then do so. It’s nice to see a bit of bling in Church.
The commitment to a child and their parents which a Godparent makes are essential: a building block of society and the core of the extended family that makes up the body of Christ. The promises I will make on their behalf are challenging and difficult to keep up, but ones which I will keep with joy. My prayers for the beginning of their Christian journey.
Candy knows how poor Customer Service can be
I have tried my utmost to avoid breaking my silence and sharing my story about possibly the worst, most unhelpful customer service department in the history of White Goods, but I have now reached an all time low, and I just need to tell the world exactly how awful Hoover/Candy Service really is.
My tale involves a malfunctioning Washing Machine which started misbehaving within 3 months of purchase. It got stuck on a 90 minute cycle and just stayed washing… and washing… and washing my clerical shirts until they were a light grey in colour and my daughter’s clothes were ruined. It took a little while to really notice it (because you don’t always go out of the house and return 4 hours later to find it still washing) and it wasn’t until a number of members of the family all agreed that something wasn’t right that I first called the Service Department which deals with both Hoover and Candy appliances (I wonder if they’re the same company with different badges on: I know that Candy is predominantly a US brand).
An Engineer is sent. Nice man. He replaces something.
It doesn’t fix it.
I call again.
The Engineer is sent again. He replaces something else.
It doesn’t fix it.
I call again.
The Engineer is sent again. He replaces something else.
It doesn’t fix it.
I call again. Now by this time the machine is over 12 months old and this is when it starts to get interesting/annoying/silly. I am told that they would charge me for the call out and for any parts because it is out of warranty and I have not purchased an extended warranty. They would only not charge if the faulty parts turned out to be the ones already replaced.
“Hang on,” I said, “We know they’re not the problem parts because what ever is causing the problem started BEFORE THE WARRANTY EXPIRED”
They make their point quite rudely, but I stick to my guns. There is, I believe a moral imperative at stake here and they should fix it under the terms of the warranty, because it was clearly faulty before the warranty expired. It takes an email sent via the website to kick them into action and they say that of course the machine will be dealt with as though it is under warranty because the pre-expiry problem still hasn’t been fixed. This sounds promising.
The Engineer is sent again. He replaces something else.
It doesn’t fix it.
I call again.
The Engineer is sent again. He replaces something else.
It doesn’t fix it.
I call again.
What I love now is that on the day of each visit the Customer Disservices Department call me and try and flog me that Extended Warranty. I politely decline each time and emphasise that they have a moral duty to fix it. I try and up the ante and start describing the machine as a lemon which by now ought to be replaced. After all, what else is there to replace? They say “Oh well, if you bought the extended warranty you could have a new one”, I decline to do that, so my favourite Engineer is once again booked. At some point I escalate the call and I am assured that a note will be put on my file to stop trying to sell me an extended warranty. I get at least two more of these calls because they actually notice this. I wonder how big my file is by now.
The Engineer now knows the way to my house without recourse to his SatNav. We are on good terms. He knows my dog, Ruby well by now and she just accepts him as a part of the extended Church family that is always around our House. Lou suggests that I have started having an affair with someone on 08444 995599 - the Customer Services Dept number as I call it so often.
I have lost count by now how many times the Engineer has called. He has replaced almost everything. I keep asking for a replacement. They refuse. I demand they fix it (nicely, of course) but the Script doesn’t cover that and some of the people on the end of the phone are really, really rude about it. There is one nice lady, and a young man who seemed to be the only one who actually cared about us, but one in particular is just horrible. I don’t know what part of Wales they are based in, but when she answers I just know that we are going to go round in circles once more. At one point when I said that I had already spoken to a supervisor, this particular customer services person denied that such a person actually existed and that “there was only one supervisor and she has never spoken to you before”. One supervisor? For each and every shift? Surely not? Was I actually being called a liar there or was I imagining it? When I actually spoke to this Supervisor (I waited all day for her return call, but she didn’t contact me until the following day) but she sounded lovely, and appeared to be helpful, but these things can be quite deceptive.
A Senior Engineer is despatched. He fiddles with the wiring. It works!
I call again. My familiar Engineer comes. We are all at our wit’s end now. He puts in for a replacement machine as there is no other alternative.
Candy go into hibernation. I call them. They send out my favourite Engineer. Something is changed. It still doesn’t work.
This happens a few more times: frankly I have forgotten how many times now. I wonder how many mornings and afternoons I have spent awaiting the Engineer to come. He’s a nice lad. I like him. I feel that we have a relationship, at least based on duration.
I keep asking for a replacement. The Engineer keeps asking for a replacement. Customer Services keep booking the Engineer to visit.
Finally, a process is found: the Engineer is booked and for the first time doesn’t show (which is quite annoying as he didn’t tell me this is what was going to happen) but when I call, there is a note on the system which says he has got sign off from his Senior Engineer to authorise a replacement. It just needs the sign off from a lady in Customer Services. “Could I speak with her then, please” “Ah, no, she’s off sick” “And no-one else can sign this off?” “Err.. no” came the reply with at least a small degree of shame in the lady’s voice.
Two weeks go by. Royal Weddings and May Bank Holidays. Enough is enough. I call and it is, oh dear, the problematic lady. The Supervisor who was going to sign it off can’t do so because – wait for it – I haven’t got an extended warranty, and so I’ll have to pay 20% of the cost…
Hold on. She knows the story. They must understand the moral obligation. They must see the solution.
I have to hear from the nice Supervisor who failed to get back in contact with me. She’s on another call, but she’ll call you back today.
Guess what? She didn’t call.
UPDATE: 12th May – I call the nice Supervisor back, and she tells me it’s not her call – Aaargghh!! She has spoken to another Department and they have ‘been through the log’ and don’t believe a Senior Engineer has yet been to visit – BUT HE HAS! I can’t believe that they are still stalling, and it’s yet another department, and yet another anonymous manager and yet another delay. When will they face up to it? I now wait a call back from that department. I won’t hold my breath…
If companies cared at all for their reputation they wouldn’t treat customers like this. They wouldn’t let their Customer Services Dept string along their customers like this, and they would face up to their moral accountability. I am sorry that I have had to document this here, where it will be read by potential customers of Candy and in a small way, may damage their reputation. However, they have brought it upon themselves and the Customer Services Dept of Candy are the root cause of this. Therefore, my dear friends, I implore you DO NOT BUY A CANDY WASHING MACHINE FOR THEIR SERVICE IS TERRIBLE. I hope someone there monitors the social media because I hope someone senior in Candy reads this and is embarrassed. I would be.
I just want a washing machine that works reliably. I want clean black clerical shirts that haven’t been washed to oblivion. I want reasonable customer service.
I would appreciate it if you would retweet a link to this post in the hope that it shames them into action. Maybe the following might help:
Let’s get @frsimon a working washing machine! http://is.gd/JB9yQh Until then #hoovercandysucks