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Separated Reflections

Posted on 29th October 2016 in children/ custody/ debt/ debts/ depression/ divorce/ ex-husband/ family/ money/ only dads/ onlydads

OnlyDadsI’ve been asked to reflect upon the experience of separation, how I handled it and if – upon reflection – I would have done things differently. The whole concept here is along a theme of ‘putting the children first’.

The questions are:

1. What did you do well?

2. What didn’t you do quite so well?

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be?

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today?

I’ve pondered this for a while. It isn’t an easy thing to look back on, and I wanted to be sure that my answers were honest and that I would only go ahead with the post if I felt it could be useful to someone else.

Here’s the thing, when I found myself in this position (out of the blue), I would have been desperate to read this kind of thing, there was literally nothing around at that point to tell me what to do, how to feel, what to think. And although, obviously no one can do any of those things for you, sometimes when you can feel the floor falling away from under you, you just need something, some shred of evidence that someone else has been through this and that they got through it ok.

So, my answers are:

1. What did you do well? Not much I don’t think. I wasn’t in control of my thoughts and so I floundered for a long while, taking advice from people who were ill-equipped to help. I did my level best to put the children first, in terms of caring for them, loving them, trying to retain some normality (some context: the house was being repossessed, my partner of 10 years had run off with someone he’d known for 2 weeks, I uncovered huge amounts of debt, my parter decided he needed to put his new relationship first, i.e. before the children). So retaining normality was hard, I was an emotional wreck with very little (almost zero) support but I tried to keep up with bedtime stories, walks, collecting leaves, play dates (while I sobbed in a supportive friend’s kitchen), and, I tried to facilitate my ex seeing the children. He would make plans, then cancel at the last minute, but I would still allow for new plans the following week and explain to my confused babies as best I could.

Actually, a better answer to question 1 would be:

It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your bruised emotions, your confusion, your pride or your finances, it is about the children. The innocents who need to be protected from as much of the impact as possible.

2. What didn’t you do quite so well? This little question is deceptively hard. I think I’ve touched upon a few things above so I am going to say that I should have sought better legal advice. I had a trainee solicitor who essentially told me I was screwed. She was no help to me emotionally or practically and as such I lost my home, my children lost their home and many possessions and I ended up responsible for a huge amount of debt. I don’t think I’ve heard of many other people who were dealt such a poor hand in this situation.

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be? Time is a healer. Have faith that your personal wounds will heal and that the best thing you can do is invest time (not money/gifts etc) but time with your children. Make them feel loved and secured. If your ex is willing to have regular contact with the children, let them! Do not get caught up with petty arguments, point scoring and playing the blame game, let them feel loved by the two people who should love them.

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today? I have a great life now but that is no reflection upon things at that time. If I go back say 6 months after he left, it is a very different picture. Then I was homeless, in debt, with very little support, even from the ‘system’. I was offered a, frankly, terrifying B&B (one room for all 3 of us, sharing a bathroom with strangers, you cannot be in the B&B during the day), which was in a completely different town to our old home, the children’s school and friends. At this point I literally couldn’t afford tea bags and toilet roll.

Now, the children don’t hear from him, he hasn’t seen them for at least 6 years (and the last time was for an hour even though he was meant to have been having them overnight). I still find that I beat myself up about the fact they don’t have a relationship with him – which is the main reason it has taken me so long to respond to the request to answer these darn questions!). I have to remind myself that it isn’t my fault he doesn’t see them, I have to remind myself that no matter how reasonably one person acts, no matter how easy they make it for another person to do the right thing, it doesn’t mean that they will. I am not responsible for his lack of responsibility.

One final piece of advice. When I was going through a particularly testing time, I decided that I needed some independent advice. Initially I went online thinking I was looking for a mums support group, or Homestart or Gingerbread, but I soon came to the conclusion that I needed to hear from a MAN. Someone who would be guaranteed not to be biased to my viewpoint, and that (along with being the reason why I am answering these questions) is how I ended up contacting OnlyDads and subsequently received some reasoned, grounded and sensible support from a man called Bob.

 

Child Maintenance Service – not impressed!

Posted on 5th April 2016 in break up/ bullying/ children/ CSA/ debt/ family

money in a binHaving suffered at the hands of the CSA I was actually quite pleased to hear that a new child maintenance service was being set up. Not so naiive as to believe that they’d be able to retrieve any payments from my ex-husband, obviously, but I did feel a glimmer of hope that they might have a more professional approach and greater powers available to them.

I was wrong.

It took an inordinate length of time for me to be able to transfer to the new service. This isn’t optional by the way, they just close your existing CSA case on an arbitrary date and unless you set up a new account with the CMS then that is the end of that and your ex gets away Scott free.

So, I jumped through the various hurdles to set up the new account and was advised during these conversations (it doesn’t take just one phone call, obviously) that they would take over and start afresh. As such I was asked if I wanted the arrears to be carried over or wiped off? Seriously, does anyone elect to wipe them off?!

Anyway, back to now, finally, finally, in March I received notification that they had decided what payments should be made and that I would receive the first payment on April 1 (I know, I know). Needless to say no payment has arrived. So I’ve phoned them today (twice, as the first time I failed their security questions…) and discovered that they felt I should have provided my ex-husband with my bank account details.

I should have given the man who has committed fraudulent acts, left me homeless and in debt, stolen from me and my children and my family, been abusive and has no regard or respect for me or my property – I should have given that man my bank account details?

Besides the fact that they had never asked me to do this and had, in fact, in January advised me that they would not expect me to do this given our history. Which the guy I spoke to today agreed was in the case notes, but said it was wrong and that I should never had been told it.

Their suggestion now is that I open a new bank account purely for receiving CMS payments. I asked if they’d actually had any contact with my ex and had any agreement that he would make payments? No, they said, but we have to give him the chance to.

Because 12 years of dodging payments isn’t enough of chance is it; let’s give the fella one more go huh.

Free Money? Yes, really…

Posted on 26th June 2015 in children/ debt/ family/ money

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 18.41.14Free money! Yes, literally and yes, really… I have been using KidStart when I buy things on the internet – M&S, Amazon, Sainsburys, Expedia, Mothercare, Boden, Disney, Boots, Wickes, Debenhams, for tickets, furniture, clothes, hotels, trips, gifts, shopping, clothing, comparision sites etc etc etc. So long as I click through to the site via KidStart then they pay me a percentage straight into a bank account for one of the boys.

It is literally that simple, you just need to remember to go via the KidStart website first. At Christmas and holiday times you can receive quite a lot of FREE money – it makes it kinda rude not to :)

Take a look for yourself

Take Control Of Your Finances: Step 1 #MoneyMonday

Posted on 6th February 2012 in #MoneyMonday/ budgeting/ CCCS/ debt/ family

As mentioned last Monday in my introduction to ‘Take Control Of Your Finances‘, I am going to be posting a blog each Monday which will help you to take control of your finances.

Some of it may seem obvious, some of it may seem too simple – but until you put it into action you’ll never know how well it could work.

Wouldn’t it be amazing not to worry about bills and unexpected payments?

STEP ONE: Assessing Your Current Financial Situation

Bizarre though it may seem, debt can be as hard to shake off as an addiction to alcohol or cigarettes!

Also, much like the AA 12 step programme, admitting that you have a debt problem is the first step to solving it.

Wait until you have a clear afternoon with a few hours spare – in the few days preceding it, every time you have a spare minute search out paperwork. Get an empty drawer, old shoe box or even just a space on a shelf and put every piece of paper that you can find (even all the unopened scary stuff that you’ve hidden in the kitchen drawer) which relate to finances there; things like bank statements, credit card statements, rent/mortgage statements, utility bills, wage slips, benefits notifications, bailiffs letters, phone bills, shopping receipts etc etc.

The idea being that when you get your free afternoon there will be a huge scary pile of papers there for you!

Make a cup of tea and take the pile to the centre of a room and sit on the floor with it (really) take the top piece and look at it – let’s say that it’s a bank statement, put it to one side on the floor and that is then the start of your ‘bank statements’ pile. Take the next piece, let’s say that it’s a gas bill, put it in a different position on the floor and that is then the start of your ‘utility bills’ pile. Keep working your way through the original pile of paperwork until you have assigned every piece to it’s appropriate pile. You should end up with several smaller, more manageable piles.

Reward yourself with another cup of tea and maybe a biccy or two!

It’s easy to give up at this point – don’t.

This should give you all the information you need to assess your current financial situation.

At this point you’ve got a couple of choices:

* Make an appointment with your local CAB or call the CCCS – these are professionals who will help you, for free, to work through your paperwork and establish your current situation.

If you can be patient and methodical then you will be able to do this yourself, but if you find the whole thing too daunting then pick up the phone to the CCCS – it’s what they do all day, every day and they will help you without any kind of judgement. I’ve used them myself, they are nice people. Having said that, it might be worth completing the follow exercise before you call them so that you’ll have all the necessary figures to hand.

* Work through it yourself.

To work through it yourself, you will now need either a computer with excel (or similar), or a lined notepad.

If you have access to a computer and are confident using it, try this link from Money Saving Expert. Follow the instructions and you should soon arrive at an overview of your financial situation.

If you are doing it ‘old skool’, grab your lined pad, a pen and a calculator – and another cuppa of course!

Start at the top with any monies that you have coming in, something a little like this:

List absolutely every source of income that you have here – you might get regular income from something that I’ve not thought of but it is essential to add every single penny to your list so that you have an accurate figure.

Draw a line under it when you’ve done and add it up to obtain a total. It is important to convert all the figures so that you are adding them all in the same way – ie monthly or weekly. For this process I find it easier to convert everything into a monthly figure so that you know your total monthly income. (For any payments that you receive weekly, x them by 52 and then divide that figure by 12 to get the monthly amount.)

Then repeat the process for your ESSENTIAL outgoings:

It’s a short list isn’t it? That’s because this list is limited to your ESSENTIAL outgoings only. If you have anything else that is truly essential then add it to this list: prescriptions, school meals, hair cuts, essential clothing for example.

Once done, draw a line under it to create your monthly total – this figure SHOULD be less than your income figure.

Then repeat this process with a list called NON-essential outgoings – on this list you put your credit card minimum payments, mobile phone bill, store cards, personal loans, finance agreements, catalogues etc.

Again, draw a line under the list and add up the figures to create a total for your non-essential outgoings.

At this point – if your essential and non-essential outgoings total (added together) less than your income then you are doing fine and simply need to budget better.

If, at this point, the two outgoings totals are more than your income then we will need to look further into ways to bring them all into line.

Either way, now take a new sheet of paper (or start a new spreadsheet) and make a list of all your creditors (people you owe money to) – make 3 columns and put the company name on the left, the total amount of the debt in the middle and the minimum monthly payment on the right:

It is vitally important to list everything here. Once you’ve finished total the 2nd two columns so that you have a total debt outstanding figure and a total monthly payments due figure.

Now you definitely deserve a cup of tea! You might well fancy something stronger but hang on just a little bit longer as we are nearly done for today!

You now have all the information you need to assess your finances.

Keep it all separated and neat either by starting a file if you have one spare or by keeping in carrier bags inside a box or draw so that every time a new piece of post comes you can add it to it’s appropriate pile – keep on top of the filing from today so that you don’t have to repeat the sorting process over again next time!

If all of your monthly outgoings are less than your monthly income then you simply need to look at ways to manage your day to day finances better. You’ve already made a good start and now need to keep on top of the bills as soon as they come in.

If you over spend on unnecessary items, try working out your surplus money each month and then splitting it into 4 envelopes. Allow yourself one envelope a week as a way of disciplining yourself.

Take a look at the ‘demotivator‘ on Martin’s Money Tips, it’s a great way to put yourself off buying a latte on the way to work and you’ll be taking a packed lunch before you know it!

If, however, your outgoings are more than your income then over the next couple of weeks we will look at the ways you can reduce your outgoings and manage your debts. I assure you that no debt problem is unfixable. No matter how much you owe or how little you have coming in, there are ways (legal ways!) that can get you debt free. Although it is natural to worry about your finances, don’t let them depress you and don’t let them ruin your life. There is a way out.

If you can’t wait – pick up the phone and call the CCCS 

Take Control Of Your Finances #MoneyMonday

Posted on 30th January 2012 in #MoneyMonday/ debt/ finances/ money

As January draws to a close, I keep hearing people say that they are struggling financially. For some it is the age old problem of over spending at Christmas, for others it is simply because they are finding it hard to make ends meet.

I’ve had lots of experience of budgeting for various reasons and want to share with you a series of posts (all tagged #MoneyMonday) which I hope may help you regain control of your finances.

So what qualifies me to give advice on this subject?

If you’ve read A is for… And then he left me you will recall that my ex husband left me quite hideously in debt. This was in 2004 which was just before the bankruptcy laws changed – I have to say if it happened to me now, rather than then, I would given serious thought to going bankrupt. Even in 2004 (when the after affects of bankruptcy were much harsher) every debt advisor I spoke to told me to file for bankruptcy.

I wont go back over the details on this post regarding the circumstances, they’ve already been posted here.

Below is a list of the debts I was left with (along with the figure I paid to each lender to clear the debt in full):

Negative equity £12,000 – (settled at £4,600)
Bank overdraft £1,555.54 – (settled at £1,150)
Business overdraft £1,840.69 – (settled at £921)
Bank overdraft £974 – (settled at £750)
Credit card £2,292.35 – (settled at £1,375.41)
Store card £2,635 – (settled at £2,355)
Store card £1,435 – (settled at £910)
Credit card £879 – (settled at £425)
Credit card £1,529 – (settled at £1,100)
Business loan £5,000 – (settled at £2,000)
Bank overdraft £1,841 – (settled at £1,400)
Bank Loan £1,428.71 – (settled at £800)
Store card £893 – (settled at £715)
Credit card £932 – (settled at £800)
Personal loan £781.20 – (settled at £781.20)

As you can see, even with just the debts that I can remember, I was left with £36,016.49 of debt outstanding which cost me £20,082.61 to pay off. I’m pretty sure the total amount I spent paying off debts was closer to £28K so there must be a few that I’ve missed. It took me 6 years – the last debt was cleared in February 2010.

My ex took one debt, an Abbey National current account overdraft of around £700. This was in joint names but he made me sign the account over to him so that he still had a bank account – this, of course, left me without one and with a completely ruined credit rating which meant that I couldn’t get one. For several years I had to use a building society passbook account and had no cards of any kind. Now you can get bank accounts specifically designed for people with bad credit that help you build your credit rating back up.

My divorce Solicitor told me that I wouldn’t be able to assign any of the debts over to my ex. She advised me to go bankrupt. The CAB helped me set up a payment schedule – paying £1 a month to each company and advised me to go bankrupt. The CCCS agreed with the CAB.

I didn’t answer my home phone for several years unless I was expecting a call, as most of the time it was a debt company chasing money, I still find it hard to answer it now. Some companies are ok to deal with – some are terrifying.

I will go over these points in more details over the next few weeks, not necessarily in this order:

1. Don’t ignore your debts. They truly don’t go away they just get bigger and more unmanageable.

2. Get a copy of your credit file – this is a huge step towards taking control, yes it will probably tell you things that you don’t want to know, but do you know what? The debts are there whether you acknowledge them or not! You can get one month’s free trial from Experian.

3. Take control. Get an A4 ring folder and some dividers and make a file for each debt, then make an appointment to see a debt adviser. A FREE one like the CCCS. DO NOT PAY ANYONE TO ‘SORT OUT’ YOUR DEBTS! Either phone them or write to them asap. Tell them you are experiencing financial difficulties. Tell them your income and your outgoings – make sure you include everything that you have to pay out for. They will help you.

4. Dealing with people chasing debt.

5. Debt ‘selling’ – it may looks as though different companies are chasing you for the same debt; that’s because they are!

6. If you have some money to repay a debt, always offer a reduced settlement figure – 99% of the time they will either accept it or negotiate.

7. Managing your budget.

8. Start saving!

I am very happy to try and help if you have any queries that you think I may be able to answer – just let me know on the comments section below and I will reply to you.


T is for… Taste London – customer service deficit

Posted on 21st May 2010 in auto renewal/ bad service/ complaint/ customer service/ debt/ review/ taste london/ theft

For anyone who has a taste london card, please be aware of their auto renewal clause. I signed up for a taste london card after receiving a 50% off special offer email. I did not know that I had signed up for auto renewal.

I tried to use my card in the restaurants stated, but each time I tried the restaurants said that because they had other incentives running the card could not be used. I wrote it off as a bad purchase and forgot about it until recently when I spotted that taste london had debited my account. I then immediately emailed them – via their website as they don’t show any actual email addresses – and below you will find a copy of the emails in which they repeatedly refuse to issue a refund.

Web site enquiry

number2: Hi – you seem to have deducted £29.95 from my bank account but I didn’t actually want to renew my card. Please can you cancel this and refund my account.
Many thanks.

Tue 4th May 2010

Good morning Lisa and thank you for taking the time to contact us.

When you first join tastelondon you cannot proceed with your order until you have clicked that you accept the terms and conditions of the membership (copy below). I am unable to offer you a refund however if you do not feel you will use the card over the next 12 months but a friend or family member may benefit instead please return the card to me with details of their full name and I can transfer this for you.
You must read, agree and accept all of the terms and conditions expressly set out below and those incorporated by reference before you may become a member.

We reserve the right to amend these terms and conditions at any time by giving you Notice (“Notice”) by posting the amended terms and conditions on the Site.

Any amended terms and conditions will govern new memberships after the expiry of 30 days following the date of the Notice

“We”, “Ourselves”, “Our”- means Taste London and Taste Marketing Ltd

“Site”- means www.tasteuk.co.uk

1. The tastelondon Club is an ongoing subscription service so your membership is continuous, your membership is renewed automatically at the end of each membership year. We will send you a reminder by email (or by post if you have not supplied us with your email address) approximately 3 weeks before your renewal is due, to advise you of details of the new subscription. If you do not want to renew your membership you should contact us by telephone at any point within your 12 months membership period and at least 7 days prior to your renewal date. You are required to inform us if you change your correspondence address (both email and postal) – and we will not be liable for any non receipt of communication from us, this includes the renewal reminder.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee

Tuesday 4th May 2010

Hi TasteLondonEmployee,

Thank you for your email.

I am very unhappy with your response. If you make it compulsory for people to tick the autorenew option then I do not believe that to be fair and I certainly did not realise that I had done that when I bought the card.

I do not want my card to be renewed. I do not live in London and I have not been able to use the card as the restaurants that I have tried to use it in have always had other promotions on at the time meaning that the card cannot be used – thus making the card pointless.

If you are unable to issue a refund I would be grateful if you could pass this matter onto your supervisor.

I look forward to receiving confirmation of my refund.

Lisa

Wednesday 5th May 2010

Good morning Lisa and thank you for your reply. The reason why we do not allow customers to proceed with their order until they have clicked that they have read and understood the terms and conditions is to avoid circumstances such as this. I have cancelled your renewal for 2011 and as I said before we can transfer the membership to a friend or family member for the next 12 months if this is something you would be interested in.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee 
Operations Director

Wednesday 5th May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

I have written to my bank today to complain about this under the terms of the Direct Debit guarantee.

I do not agree that I gave you permission to auto-renew. I did not receive an email ‘reminding me of the renewal’ (as stated in your email of the 4th of May) if I had of done I would then have cancelled the subscription – within the permitted timescale.

I would again request that you do the decent thing and cancel my renewal and refund the debit.

If you refuse to do so, I hope that the bank will be able to enforce the Direct Debit guarantee. Either way, I think this is an appalling lack of customer service on your behalf.

Lisa

Wednesday 5th May 2010

Good afternoon Lisa,

Thank you for your subsequent email. Our subscription is not a direct debit, it is a continuous authority transaction and therefore not covered by the guarantee to which you refer.

I hope this helps clarify, I am now away from the office until Monday 10th May. If you would like to transfer the membership into another name please contact a member of the customer service team on the free phone number below.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee 
Operations Director

Thursday 6th May 2010

No TasteLondonEmployee, it does not clarify.

I makes it sound even more like a sneaky loop hole built in to ensnare the unsuspecting.

However, as you did not honour your own terms and conditions, it is quite clear that you have violated them and I would like a full and immediate refund.

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010 – sent high priority

TasteLondonEmployee,

I still have not had confirmation of the refund.

Please can you action this and confirm urgently. As we have established, I did not want the card renewed. I did not receive any notification of the renewal and I would like a full and immediate refund. If you are not authorised to action this please can you kindly pass it on to someone who is.

Many thanks,

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010

Good afternoon Lisa,

As I said before I am the Operations Director for Taste Marketing Limited and I cannot process a refund for you. I can transfer the card into the name of a friend or family member instead if you would like to do so.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee

Thursday 20th May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

I have absolutely no intention of letting this drop.

You have renewed the card without my permission and I want a refund.

As you have refused several times to give me a refund I will now look into how I can escalate this complaint. I am absolutely disgusted with the attitude of taste london over this matter and think you need to take a long hard look at your customer service. If you believe that tricking people into renewal is good practice then you are very wrong.

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010

Lisa,

At no point have you been tricked into a refund and it’s disappointing that you have suggested this in your email, you yourself accepted the terms and conditions of the membership when you joined and this would also have been flagged as a reoccurring transaction on your bank statement at the time.

With almost 200,000 members we cannot waive these terms or get into a situation where we are making any special exceptions. That said when a member does forgot to cancel their membership we do everything we can to assist them in transferring this and cancelling the renewal for the following year.

Kind regards,

TasteLondonEmployee

Thursday 20th May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

I was not aware that I had signed up for anything other than a 1 year membership.

In your email of 4th May you said “1. The tastelondon Club is an ongoing subscription service so your membership is continuous, your membership is renewed automatically at the end of each membership year. We will send you a reminder by email (or by post if you have not supplied us with your email address) approximately 3 weeks before your renewal is due, to advise you of details of the new subscription. If you do not want to renew your membership you should contact us by telephone at any point within your 12 months membership period and at least 7 days prior to your renewal date. You are required to inform us if you change your correspondence address (both email and postal) – and we will not be liable for any non receipt of communication from us, this includes the renewal reminder.

I did not receive a reminder. As such I feel that I was tricked.

I have explained to you that I have been unable to use the card. I have asked you 6 times for a refund. As stated in my last email I am now looking into ways to take this further. My bank have already assured me that they agree with me that payment should not have been taken and they will be contacting taste london to request a refund. In addition to this I am now investigating whether the financial ombudsman or the office of fair trading will be the most appropriate person to complain to, I have emailed Money Saving Expert for their advice, I have asked on Twitter what people suggest (and warned them not to be tricked in the same way) and I will now continue to seek further ways to complain.

As I said in virtually every email, I am disappointed and quite frankly disgusted that you have refused to refund.

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010

Lisa,

I can assure you that our transactions are all perfectly legal, not in any way misleading and have been reviewed and approved by all the relevant authorities. We work closely with Money Saving Expert and they are fully aware of the terms and conditions of our membership. We will have sent you the reminder email however there are a number of firewalls that block certain traffic – for example those with links to social networking sites which is why we also notify members when they first join that we cannot control any correspondence which does not get delivered.

We do have exceptional levels of customer service which is reflected in the high percentage of members who stay with tastelondon year on year and take the time to write in offering their thanks or congratulating the team on the work they do. Members cannot proceed with their initial order without first confirming that they have fully read and accepted the terms and conditions of the scheme which quite clearly state that this will renew unless we are notified otherwise. We allow members to do so at any point within the twelve months, providing this is no later than 7 days before the expiry date on their card.

When you do contact your bank they will inform you of the details of your initial transaction and verify the legality of the “continuous authorised transaction” which you yourself accepted and authorised . I have noted that you are seeking advice from the financial ombudsman and the office of fair trading who will also confirm the same, therefore I shall now leave the matter and assume it closed.

On behalf of everyone at tastelondon I would like to thank you for your custom and wish you the very best for the future.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee

Thursday 20th May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

Whether or not you consider the matter closed – it is not.

I have already contacted my bank who, if you read my earlier email, do not agree with you and have confirmed that they are writing to you to request a refund.

I would be grateful if you could send me a copy of the document which you have stated “which you yourself accepted and authorised” along with a copy of the email that was sent to me “approximately 3 weeks before renewal is due” .

Your arrogance during this matter has been most unpleasant, please can you also provide me with the taste london complaints procedure along with clear details of how I can escalate this complaint within your company.

I look forward to hearing from you and receiving the items requested above.

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010 – sent high priority

TasteLondonEmployee,

It has just occurred to me that I have not received a new card anyway!

IF you have sent a new card, you need to cancel it immediately. And please DO NOT issue a further one.

Lisa

Friday 21st May 2010

Good morning Lisa, I will answer both your emails at the same time.

Firstly with reference to the non receipt of the renewed card, I note from our earlier correspondence that you no longer reside in London therefore I assume that you had not updated your address details with us and the pack will be at your old address. Under normal circumstances we ask for the card to be returned to us before we re-issue it in the name of a friend or family member but I had already taken that into consideration and offered to issue one without receipt of the original.

As our terms and conditions have been approved by all the financial regulators the matter is closed. I am disappointed to hear that you feel the company and I myself are arrogant in our approach, this is certainly not the case. We offer a fluid and ease of transition service to all our members, as I said before we prevent you from being able to join the scheme in the first place before you confirm that you have read and accepted our terms and conditions.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee

Friday 21st May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

I have never lived in London.

I have not received the card and would again request that you therefore cancel it with immediate effect and that you do not print a new one.

I look forward to receiving your confirmation of this along with the items requested in my previous email.

Lisa


No reply, as yet, will update if/when there is an outcome.

UPDATE  – I am delighted to say that on the 26 May 2010 the sum of £29.95 was re-credited to my account by my bank who are now going to take the matter up with Taste London themselves.

D is for… Dealing with Debts

Posted on 19th May 2010 in adultery/ benefits/ counselling/ debt/ divorce/ house/ lies/ solicitor

If you are in debt and feel that you need some help, I hope that reading this will reassure you and offer some useful suggestions.

If you’ve read A is for… And then he left me you will recall that my ex husband left me quite hideously in debt. This was in 2004 which was just before the bankruptcy laws changed – I have to say if it happened to me now, rather than then, I would given serious thought to going bankrupt. Even in 2004 (when the after affects of bankruptcy were much harsher) every debt advisor I spoke to told me to file for bankruptcy.

So, he left on 9 July 2004 (the night before our youngest son’s 3rd birthday). I had no warning of this and, although people find it hard to believe, I had absolutely no idea that it was going to happen.

I knew we had debts, money had been somewhat scarce for several years as he had been frequently ‘off sick’ with a bad back and depression. We had re-mortgaged the house several times, once to consolidate all the debts – except that when the money came through he managed to convince me that he NEEDED some tools (although only dewalt ones obviously), that he DESERVED a playstation, and an x-box, and some games, and some new clothes, and we NEEEDED a new lawn mower etc. So only a small amount of debt ever got repaid.

His attitude to money was always poor. Even when he wasn’t working he would think nothing of spending £5 on a playstation magazine and then say that we couldn’t afford proper  nappies. I stood at the checkout in tesco more times than I care to remember with flaming red cheeks when my debit card was rejected, because he had withdrawn cash to spend on HIM without telling me and without caring if it left enough money for bills and food.

My mum set up a bank account and started paying £20 a month into it, she said it was for me to treat myself with, I didn’t tell him about it, it didn’t seem deceitful as I only ever spent the money on food shopping anyway. Once when I went to withdraw the £20 to use for shopping I was stunned to see there was no money available – when I checked further I saw that the £20 had already been withdrawn. I asked him about it, he said that found the card in my purse and we’d needed milk so he took the money out. The pin was my birthdate – he had guessed it. From then on he would wait for that £20 to land and whip it out straight away. He often drove to the cashpoint at just gone midnight to make sure that HE got the money.

Below is a list of the debts I was left with, this is just from the paperwork that I can find now, I think there were more:

Nationwide negative equity £12,000 – paid £4,600
Halifax overdraft £1,555.54 – paid £1,150
Barclays business overdraft £1,840.69 – paid £921
Barclays overdraft £974 – paid £750
Barclaycard £2,292.35 – paid £1,375.41
Debenhams store card £2,635 – paid £2,355
Dorothy Perkins store card £1,435 – paid £910
Capital One Visa £879 – paid £425
Capital One Visa £1,529 – paid £1,100
Business loan £5,000 – £2,000
Woolwich overdraft £1,841 – paid £1,400
Alliance & Leicester Loan £1,428.71 – paid £800
M&S store card £893 – paid £715
Thames Credit £932 – paid £800
Welcome financial services £781.20 – paid £781.20

As you can see, even with just the debts that I can remember, I was left with £36,016.49 of debt outstanding which cost me £20,082.61 to pay off. I’m pretty sure the total amount I spent paying off debts was closer to £28K so there must be a few that I’ve missed. It took me 6 years – the last debt was cleared in February of this year.

My ex took one debt, an Abbey National current account overdraft of around £700. This was in joint names but he made me sign the account over to him so that he still had a bank account – this, of course, left me without one and with a completely shagged credit rating which meant that I couldn’t get one.

My divorce Solicitor told me that I wouldn’t be able to assign any of the debts over to my ex. She advised me to go bankrupt. The CAB helped me set up a payment schedule – paying £1 a month to each company and advised me to go bankrupt. The CCCS agreed with the CAB.

I didn’t answer my home phone for several years unless I was expecting a call, as most of the time it was a debt company chasing money, I still find it hard to answer it now. Some companies are ok to deal with – some are terrifying.

What makes it even more complicated is that most companies sell on debts, meaning that it was almost impossible to keep track of who I had paid what to – I’m quite sure that I repaid some of the debts twice! For example – the £1,840 debt to Barclays was at one point being chased by Aplins Solicitors, DLC (Direct Legal & Collections), Hillesden Securities Ltd, Buchannon Clark & Wells and Ruthbridge Ltd. That is 5 different companies all chasing 1 debt. All 5 companies claimed theirs was a different debt and that I HAD to deal with them. Sometimes they phoned, sometimes they wrote, sometimes they sent baliffs round – mostly it was a combination of all three methods. Like most of the debts, this particular one was a joint debt so I gave all of them my ex’s details too – I had to laugh one day when a guy from Buchannon Clark & Wells rang me to say that he thought my ex was a complete c*** and that he knew someone who could ‘have a word’ if I wanted him too… Even funnier when my ex rang me the same night in a right state to say that he had just received a threatening phone call and it sounded just like the guy from BCW…

The point of this post is twofold, one to say don’t ignore your debts. They truly don’t go away they just get bigger and more unmanageable. Get a copy of your credit file – this is a huge step towards taking control, yes it will probably tell you things that you don’t want to know, but do you know what? The debts are there whether you acknowledge them or not! You can get one month’s free trial from Experian. Get an A4 ring folder and some dividers and make a file for each debt, then make an appointment to see a debt adviser. A FREE one like the CCCS. DO NOT PAY ANYONE TO ‘SORT OUT’ YOUR DEBTS! Either phone them or write to them asap. Tell them you are experiencing financial difficulties. Tell them your income and your outgoings – make sure you include everything that you have to pay out for. They will help you. If you have some money to repay a debt, NEVER repay the full amount – always offer a reduced settlement figure – 99% of the time they will either accept it or negotiate.

MY DEBT FILE!

Secondly – do not let your solicitor leave you with all the debts! I am so angry that my solicitor allowed me to be left in this situation. Now, 6 years on, my debts are all repaid. I will never have an overdraft or a credit card again, ever. I won’t let my new husband have them either. It isn’t always easy like living like that but we do. We currently rent a house as we now have to save up a deposit to buy, this has set me back massively in terms of ‘steps on the ladder’.

But, having said that, the past is all behind me now, I’ve learnt from it and I can concentrate on the future.

I am very happy to try and help if you have any queries that you think I may be able to answer – just let me know on the comments section below and I will reply to you.

UPDATE – 2oth May 2010 – To answer some questions that have arisen from this post:

1. The negative equity was from a flat that I owned before I met my ex. It was rented out but I had a few problems with tenants and often  had to meet the mortgage payment on that as well as on the house I shared with my ex. When he stopped working for frequent and ever increasing periods, my salary was insufficient to pay both mortgages. He persuaded me to hand in the keys – the second biggest mistake of my life – if I still had that flat and sold it today it would net me 85K profit.

2. All of the debts except the dorothy perkins/debenhams cards were in our joint names. However due to joint and several liability the debt companies had the legal right to pursue me for the entire debt. They chose to do that as because as a mother of 2 young children I was an ‘easy target’, threatening phone calls and visits from big scary men terrified me.

3. Why didn’t I leave him? That is always so hard to answer! I didn’t feel it was acceptable to leave him for being off work – he was depressed, you can’t leave someone for being depressed can you? I couldn’t leave him when his business failed – that was just bad luck, wasn’t it? I couldn’t leave him – because it was christmas, fathers day, mothers day, the kids birthdays etc etc. I couldn’t break my marriage vows – I came from a broken home, I didn’t want me kids to as well. But mainly, I couldn’t leave him because I didn’t have enough self esteem to realise that I should accept all his shit.


M is for… MADs!

Posted on 25th April 2010 in adultery/ benefits/ Blog/ caffe nero/ cats/ Cattery/ child/ Christopher Biggins/ coffee/ cream/ Cry/ customer service/ debt/ divorce/ doctors/ eczema/ Elvis/ Feral/ guarantor/ health/ house/ Itchy & Scratchy/ James Blunt/ Kreativ Blogger/ MADs/ Rihanna/ self esteem/ skin/ son/ starbucks/ steroids/ Take That/ Titanic/ Twitter/ Vets/ writing workshop

Blimey O’reily my name has popped up in the MADs list!

I wonder if it was my rants about coffee and customer service?

My frustration over my son’s battle with eczema?

My honest account of my recovery after the breakdown of my marriage?

Maybe it was learning that Dermot O’leary used to lay on my desk?

My tale of a random act of kindness?

Maybe someone liked reading about my cats Elvis and Maisy?

I doubt it was my infinite playlist….

Whatever it was I am very grateful to Twitter and the blogging world because it is really fun to share experiences with people, I’ve been reduced to tears (both of sadness and laughter) from other peoples blogs and I know I don’t stand a hope of winning with my 7 posts, but it is still pretty cool to take part!

If you would like to vote for me – I’d be delighted! Just click here and then enter my blog name www.coffeecurls.wordpress.com into the areas where you’d like to nominate.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE

R is for… Random Acts of Kindness – Pay It Forward

Posted on 22nd April 2010 in adultery/ benefits/ child/ counselling/ Cry/ debt/ divorce/ guarantor/ house/ self esteem/ son/ writing workshop

R is for… Random Acts of Kindness – Pay It Forward

I looked at the lovely Josie’s Writing Workshop prompts again this week and thought – nah there is nothing there I can write anything about… Kept looking back and running through the list and kept coming up with the same answer – nope nothing there for me. But it was obviously still in my thoughts, as when I was getting dressed this morning a random act of kindness came to mind.

So. R is for… Random Acts of Kindness – Pay It Forward

If you’ve read A is for… And Then He Left Me you will know that in 2004 I was left in a bit of a bastard situation.

During that time although I experienced some incredibly low points I also experienced some amazing acts of random kindness that served as a lesson to me that I will never forget. That lesson being – pay it forward.

As mentioned in A is for… And Then He Left Me I was bailed out of having to move my children to another town to live in a B&B by a ‘friend’ who stood guarantor for me on a rental agreement. What I didn’t say was that this person, who we shall call W, had only known me for 2 weeks when they did it. I never once asked them to do it, in fact I seem to recall that I refused point blank, but W insisted. The letting agency initially turned them down because they had only known me for 2 weeks but, undeterred, W somehow magically sorted it out and my tenancy was approved.

It isn’t normally in my nature to accept things off people, especially people that I hardly know, however there was no financial risk to W (unless I missed payments which I knew that I wouldn’t) and I really had no other option so I begrudgingly accepted this kind and generous offer.

The generosity didn’t stop there though, after learning that my ex-husband wasn’t contributing financially, W then bought my 2 boys ALL their school uniform for the new September term – including PE kit, pencil cases, lunch boxes, shoes and winter coats! PLUS new Star Wars duvets sets and PJs. (And a mysterious deposit of cash – although W denied any involvement in this….)

This is where it got a bit tricky for me and my morals as suddenly money was actually involved. W had bought things and I had no money with which to pay W back. When I, repeatedly, raised this as an objection W’s one and only answer was always: “Pay it forward – if at some point in the future you are ever in a position to help someone who genuinely needs help, you can pay me back by helping them.”

I know this post probably sounds a little unbelievable, but I assure you it is completely true. There were absolutely no strings. I only ever knew W for a short period of time but they made a huge difference to my self-esteem and my belief in human nature and the kindness of strangers.

W used to say that it was redressing the balance, just ‘righting a wrong’, ie my ex-husband had wronged me and W was putting it right. I thank you W from the bottom of my heart.

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