Sunday, 26 September 2010

T.O.B.I. - Tired Of Being Ignored

I’ve had a few bits of correspondence since I posted up my last blog (yesterday). One of them (Paul) suggested I change the name of this blog to RAY FRENCHES 'EM’

And then listening to a radio broadcast this evening about the Tea Party grassroots political movement in the USA, it occurred to me someone should start up a similar people-power activist group in the UK (although not along the political parameters of the Tea Party)….

And remembering one of my favourite all-time movies Network and its mantra: “I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not going to Take it anymore!”…

… the name came to me:

T.O.B.I. - Tired Of Being Ignored……

Let me think about it over the next few days…

Selling on Amazon? FORGET IT! - another Rant

OK, I’ve been holding this one back a couple of weeks, letting it brood and fester.
And seeing as I shall probably be filming in the coming weeks, I thought it best be posted now.

Isn’t it always the way, like London buses, you wait for one for ages and then three come along together?
I’m starting to get the same feeling about life, and the cock-up principle. First there was BT (see my blog of 22nd August inst. - and that is still unresolved…I’m still waiting for your phone call, Mr. Das…

And now it’s - something that started a couple of months ago and then started to spiral out of control and travel to another planet. Here’s my latest communication to Amazon, I think it sets out ‘the story so far’!:-
Let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?:
3rd June, 2010: I decided to sell a few items on I was led to your complex web of buttons and ended up setting up a Merchant Seller account. However, having the listed the few titles I had for sale, I immediately realised your company were going to charge me about £25 per month for the privilege.

I immediately sent a request (3rd June) to close down my selling account / capacity. But your site is so complex and confusing (rather like the structure of your company, I have come to realise) it took you about five days to respond.

8th June, 2010: I receive a communication from Michael Janowicz ( ) telling me he will look into my case.
22nd June, 2010: Case No. 9126312 is created.
You also inform me that I have sold an item (for £25 - £2.75 charges) and that I have yet to transfer this money to any of my accounts.

Amazon then make a couple of attempts to extract money from my account - all rejected.

24th July, 2010: Consequently, I discover that my selling account is still open, Against my expressed wishes.

3rd August, 2020: Eventually (!) I am sent an email by Amazon Services Europe that my Pro Merchant account subscription (sic) is cancelled.

18th August, 2010: I receive an e-mail from one Narsing K of Seller Support [quoting Case No. 10111292 - a new number] informing me “I have checked and confirmed that your account has been closed”. I thought that was the end of it.

How wrong I was. (This is, after all, amazon - and it is very evident to me by now that your departments are not co-ordinating or even communicating with each other). Because….

31st August, 2010 (5pm GMT): I receive an e-mail from amazon telling me your company had taken out of my bank account an unspecified sum…(characteristically helpful, amazon) [I later discover, from my Bank, the sum is £11.83] - Unauthorised by me.

When I attempt to raise a query with you, you respond (31st Aug) by telling me that the Ray Frensham selling account was Open (you had already assured me it was closed) and informing me you were Unable to cancel my Merchant Account.

…There was a trace of a silver lining, of course: you invited me (sic) to…(here we go again)…open up a new case! [N.B.: Trouble was, the link they sent me was Not one where I could open up a new case but to a place where I could edit my credit card details].

Well this is it.

I want ALL (and any) selling account/s in my name cancelled immediately; I want an explanation as to what the heck is going on; I want action; I want it done NOW; I want my money/ies refunded into my bank account. A.S.A.P.

But it still doesn’t end there:-

1st September, 2010 ( GMT): I receive yet another e-mail from your company (this time from “Joannne” at Seller Support), with yet Another new case number [No. 10356622] - the third one to date - assuring me “this matter is being investigated”.

To be honest: I don’t believe you anymore. I don’t think that one part of amazon knows what any other part is doing. What a mess.

The word “compensation” is starting to creep into my vocabulary: not just the amount/s of money you have already taken from my bank account unauthorised, but for the precious time I have wasted in dealing with this matter (repeatedly) and for the stress caused thereby - which is still on-going.

[[For what it’s worth, I am now in discussions with my own publishers (Hodder & Stoughton/Hodder Headline and McGraw-Hill) to have my book titles withdrawn from your distribution database - worldwide (including foreign translations).

You have clearly demonstrated to me that amazon cannot reliably handle customers’ accounts I am starting to wonder whether the sales figures you return to my publishers are accurate in the first place. Please do not force me to send in the Accountants to examine your books.]]

…and don’t even flatter yourselves into thinking I will use amazon again to buy stuff. [I think this story is good enough to post up on my blog].

- And that was where my (new) complaint letter ended. But that didn’t stop Amazon, oh no. Because three days later…

4th September: I received another e-mail from Narsing K of Seller Support ( [Ref. Case No.: 10111292 - remember that one?]: “I can now confirm that your account has been closed”. [Although he didn’t specify it, I presume he meant a Seller’s account…which one?]. He added: “The £-11.83 (sic) was the pro merchant subscription fee charged on a pro rated basis [don’t they mean pro rata?] for your account upgrade in June. Warmest regards…”

Warmest Regards? Warmest Nothing! The question remains: why did Amazon charge me £11.83 - without my authorisation and without even informing me until after the event - for an account that should not have been open in June anyway, had Amazon actually listened to their customer and done their job properly?

The case continues…

Oh, and for the casual reader, angry at the way Amazon has treated them, I recommend the following websites / information:’s well-hidden Customer Service phone number
0800 496 1081

You can also try this number 0207 084 7911 (listed as for ‘International Customers’) The 0800 number is working as of January 10th 2010

[[Where did I get this info? . Why did I have to go there? Because it’s deliberately buried on the Amazon website so you can’t find it]].

You can also try:-

…and if you are in the USA:
Another Very Useful link:
This gives you the personal e-mails of the CEOs and Managing Directors of many major companies. Bombard them with complaints direct and see if you get anywhere. (I was recommended this site by someone in Government, so it should be effective, if a rather hush-hush site).

I shall regularly update this posting and see where it takes is. Are you reading this …and if you are, do you CARE?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Filming in London with Off-Beat London site

Another look back to earlier this year (10th April, to be precise) and a day spent filming in London with Murielle Gonzalez Oisel for a new website called OffBeat London: (  ), specifically:-

She later posted up the video on Vimeo:
…and on YouTube:
[or just put into YouTube’s search box: Ray Frensham Living Victorian].
- it’s only 2’ 16” long so it won’t tax your brain too much and people seem to like it - Ah! my wonderful adoring public…I love you all!.

Basically, we spent a very nice sunny Spring Saturday afternoon together, being interviewed at an outside coffee shop in Jermyn Street and then a stroll through Green Park - from Piccadilly to Buckingham Palace - chatting and filming and snapping away as we went. Listening to the film she made, my voice was terribly gruff and gravely that day - maybe it was the effect of the traffic exhaust fumes from Jermyn Street.

I lost count of the number of times we were stopped by tourists and asked for a photo (see the results below) - you can tell it was sunny, I seem to have with a permanent squint that day.

When I look back on that time of the year, it was a busy time. The sun had started to peek through after a long, hard and cruel winter, it was only a few days after I’d done the film with Russian TV (see this blog:
or  )
and just a day after Ian Flitman and I had filmed my section for The People, his interactive video installation (see this blog:
or  )

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Art of Acting British

A few days ago I came across a recent piece by my chum and fellow dandy Winston Chesterfield. He made such pertinent points and so elegantly expressed I felt compelled to simply re-post as is (which I do with his permission).

He was also photographed by Stephanie Rushton, ( ), below - whose portraits I recently posted up in three parts - for her English Eccentrics project:
The Art Of Acting British (September 12, 2010)

“On the 4th September Jermyn Street, London’s shoe-and-shirt mecca, was closed to traffic. However, this was no ordinary inconvenience. The entire street had been taken over for the celebration of a particular Art; the Art of Being British. Many of the street’s retailers had set up stalls exhibiting their trade, trumpeting British values of quality….

“…It was a confection as British as an imagination would dare and, acknowledging the special occasion, some of the crowd had taken the opportunity to exhibit their Art of being British. I say ‘being British’, when in fact I mean ‘acting British’; most of the fantastically, elegantly and colourfully dressed gentlemen there were not British at all yet they chose to mark the day in particularly British ensembles; tweed suits, fedoras, bow ties and even bowler hats. I heard Italian, American, Spanish and French visitors enjoying their promenade on this special day, attired in beautiful British classics. My fellow countrymen were largely anonymous.

“You see, the trouble with the British is most of them are trying to be something else. They want to be Italian, or American or French. They’re either not comfortable with their nationality, or they secretly believe the grass is greener. Admittedly, the effect can be repeated elsewhere – Milan is full of men who see British tailoring as the pinnacle of elegance. But despite all the apparent British nationalism, our connection with Britishness, all the stuff that Jermyn Street was celebrating – that oaky, tweedy, burnished state of being - has become a museum in itself. Our citizens wander around in this world with a passive unconcern that suggests it no longer exists. Whereas those looking in on Britain see such things as worthy of protection and celebration, the curious Brits who peer in through the windows seemed to have lost all association with that world.”

- Food for thought indeed. Winston’s own blog can be found at:

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Henry de Winter - At Last: his Website !!!

Since I discovered this man and his music a couple of years ago I have written regularly about Henry de Winter:- ,

But there was such scant information about him, I felt helpless when responding to all the enquiries I received from my friends (not just in Europe but from America, where HdeW is now gaining a growing fan base, mostly thanks to his two YouTube recordings with the Bratislava Hot Serenaders - links above). [Again, click on the pics to get larger versions, then click again on That pic to get the full  sized versions].
I knew he had released 3 CDs (see my previous blogs for photos), all of them very difficult to obtain and a trifle expensive [I am still looking for Volume 1 myself], as were the postage costs from Germany via . Sometimes the odd item might appear on, as I recently bought this card (below) dated December 1997, but these were very rare occasions. And hard information was still proving elusive.

He did have a website presence, but that had been dormant for years (possibly unactivated). All it showed was a photo of Henry gardening with his dog Bobby - Peter, his original dog, and the one who appears in the YouTube videos and on the cover of his 2nd CD - having passed some years ago.
…even when gardening, he still looks immaculate!

Things started to change earlier this year (2010) when my chum Imants, who runs the Eccentric Club ( ), gave me his home address. In typical fashion, Henry has an e-mail address but is not online himself. [They have a term for “these people” now: Digital Refuseniks… and their numbers are growing!].

And so began our mutual efforts to bring this Legend to the UK. We had to start with the complex negotiations with Pet Passports and forms for Bobby (Henry goes everywhere with his canine companion, you may have realised by now). Unfortunately, at the very last moment, illness intervened and any planned gig had to be postponed.

HOWEVER, now - At Last!, Henry’s Official Website has been launched and here it is:-

It’s in German (for the present), so here’s a link to Google Translator, which may help you:-
[[Henry has since been in touch, to tell me that an English version is being worked on]].
Sir Henry and the BHS are also now on FaceBook:-

…and their FanClub page:

- And even on MySpace:-

…and here’s the official website for the Bratislava Hot Serenaders (in English):-
Here are four pictures from Henry’s website, to give you an idea of the quality...

Also posted up on the site are his two YouTube recordings with the BHS + details of his CDs. There are lots of photos in the Medien section (no, you can’t ‘grab’ them, but you can on the FaceBook page), including a particularly splendid shot of Henry and the BHS on the Orient Express.

I am now in contact with his [new?] agent (Diana Enders) and have asked whether we can buy his CDs direct from the site (it’s not specified).

Over the recent months I have been sent a selection of random photos of Herr de Winter from various sources, which follow. Firstly, a couple of shots of Henry and the BHS on their 2002 debut in the Netherlands … and of the Morning After (Henry still impossibly immaculate! - how does he do it?):-

The Trocadero Ball in Wuppertal, Germany, 2003:

Dancing at Berlin’s Club Sauvage in 2007:

A candid photo at the Berliner Kunsthall (November 2009):

A shot from an Art Gallery, unknown date, but probably 2009/2010:

Two shots with a German Vogue magazine link (from 2010?): a shot from the magazine itself and one taken a few months later at that issue’s launch party:

And perhaps the two most recent photos of the man (?): one taken a few months ago, with Bobby again, when he played a Benefit for a young Leukaemia patient named Lisa:

And one taken on 29th August, 2010, out for a pleasant Stroll in Berlin [look at the faces on the people passing-by…hilarious! They just don’t ‘get’ it]

So, the website is active. Henry is active and performing: he’s currently working on a new show (which will be touring 2010 and 2011) and a new album of recordings is promised. His next immediate live show is part of the Berlin Story Salon (which, it seems, is also a TV series) on October 6th. Here’s the link + details:-

I will finish this blog entry with what, I think, is my favourite shot of Henry (and just look at those trousers: Double-braided seams!!…fantastic). It epitomises everything about the man and his music...

[[ For those interested in this type of music, Henry is at the forefront of a whole new wave of German performers (mostly based in Berlin) like the Trio Ohrenschmalz, Daniel Malheur, Max Raabe & his Palast Orchester, Robert Kreis etc. (I shall no doubt get round to covering them at some point) - but I discovered Henry de Winter first and in This household, the man is a Legend!]]

From Berlin… to the World!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Stephanie Rushton photo shoot - Part 3 (of 3)

Back to last August 25th and the final selection from the photo shoot I did with Stephanie Rushton at Valentines Mansion, just down the road at Gants Hill.

We left out intrepid explorers out in the gardens of the Mansion, happily snapping away, when suddenly it started to get overcast (and, latterly, with “a few spits and spots of rain“, as the BBC Weathermen are wont to say).

So we moved inside of the Mansion itself. The full history of the mansion and it’s restoration can be found by following the links in Part 1 of this trilogy of postings.

With so many rooms and wings and extensions to the building the photographs were done all over the place. The fireplace /with the birds wallpaper was on the ground floor, as was the room with the chair and the plain green painted walls. The fireplace with the flowers wallpaper was upstairs.

The curators did ask us kindly Not to touch or sit on the furniture - not because they were over-precious about things, but because all the pieces were on loan from the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) and naturally subject to all manner of Insurance Policy restrictions.

Still we managed to have a little bit of fun upstairs courtesy of Steph’s “post-production”, as you can see.

As we were getting towards the end of the day’s shoot, the weather started brightening up again outside - so we decided to venture out for a few last shots.

And that was it really. Stephanie and I went off for a coffee in the gardens whole the sun still shone. Later she sent me the results (it’s hard Not to be pleased with this collection of photographs).

A few months after these were done, Stephanie is well under-way with her book / exhibition / project English Eccentrics, and is even in discussion with Getty Images, who are interested in adding some of her work to their photo library (if that comes off, we all stand to get a nice little earner from this splendid day).

To repeat, you can find the whole photo-shoot on this ’secret’ link!:

Sunday, 22 August 2010

BT - Part 4: Yet ANOTHER Broadband Rant!

Here we go again! It all started on Wednesday night (18th) when my local area experienced a power surge. While some parts of the district lost their entire power for an hour we only noticed a momentary flicker of lights for seconds.

19th August: Next day (Thursday) I was out most of the day at a Wardrobe Fitting (for a film part - I shall write about this in due course). When I returned home about 4pm my broadband was dead.

I tried all the diagnostics suggested by BT on-screen, none of which worked, and ended up on the notice that read “Phone BT engineer on these numbers:
0800 800151
0800 1114567
0800 1690199 "

…and so I did…and waited…and waited…only to reach the recorded message “things are rather busy at the moment, please try later”.

Two hours later, after repeated attempts, I finally got through to speak to someone…at a BT Call Centre…in India (as usual!)….here we go again.

After thirty minutes of fruitless chat and suggestions, I realised I was getting nowhere and asked to speak to the chap’s Supervisor. And I got through to him. Surprisingly, he actually gave me his Full name [they rarely do at BT]: one Mr. Rocky Chaman.

Rocky babbled on incomprehensibly for a while, until I said - as I have had cause to when dealing with BT’s Indian Call Centres - “Could. You. Please. Speak. Slowly. And. Clearly. So. That. I. May. Understand. You?”.

And so he did - or, at least, he tried.

It ended up with me giving him a five-minute lesson in English pronunciation:-

Him: blah blah…prowider…..
Me: I beg your pardon?
Him: prowider….
Me: Eh?
Him: prowider….
Me: Do you mean Provider, with a Vee?
Him: Yes.Prowider.
Me: No, repeat after me: pro-vider
Him: Prowider
Me: No, again: provider
Him: prowider
Me: again...

…and so we went on until it became clear that young Rocky Chaman was not going to speak clearly or properly.

Ah, yes, dear dear Rocky (remember, he is a Superwiser!) he did try to suggest a number of solutions to my broadband problems, while still firmly refusing my repeated requests for a visit from a BT engineer. And then he said…

“what I want you to do is go to the junction box on the wall and, with a screwdriver, unscrew the protective covering off…”

“NO!”, I yelled, “No, no!. What you are telling me is Illegal - in the UK anyway - and if a BT engineer saw that, they would say ‘someone’s been tampering with that connection, I’m not touching that’”.

So now, we have BT employees telling their customers to perform an illegal act.

It was at this point that I informed Supervisor Rocky that I wished to speak to His boss. Eventually, after much pressure and a lot of waiting, he finally put me through to Mr. Samir Das (of the BT Complaints Department). By now I had been on the phone for about an hour.

I explained the situation to Mr. Das and he sounded a little slow on the uptake until I mentioned two things:

(a) I pointed him in the direction of this blog, and to my previous rants about BT, particularly:

and (b) I mentioned to him “funnily enough, this week, I received a bill from BT for over £100. I was going to pay that off, in cash, tomorrow at my bank. You are not seeing a penny of that until this entire matter is cleared up and resolved“. [I also mentioned the word “compensation” and he did not shy away from it].

That seemed to gee-up Mr. Das a little. Finally, he said he would mark-up this case as “High Priority” and book me a visit from a BT engineer (from their Diagnostics Team, whatever that means). We both agreed that this visit take place tomorrow (Friday) between the times of and - he even sent me a text confirming this information [just remember that]. This took, in all, one hour and twenty minutes to resolve. And so on to…
Friday 20th August: Morning,, there’s a knock on the door. It’s the BT engineer. I mentioned that we had arranged a visit “between 1pm and 6pm” and he replied “you were definitely booked-in on my schedule for between 9am and 12 noon.

My heart sank, but I decided not to argue. I explained the problem and he ran various tests on my BT hub, which was still blank on the Broadband light. I also explained to him about the “now go to the junction box with a screwdriver…” nonsense and he threw his hands in the air and agreed with my assertion that a BT engineer would Never touch a junction box that had been tampered with.

It took him almost two hours of comings and goings and visits to the local “Green Box” (the junction box) at the end of the street. He’d worked out that the fault did not lay between my computer and the Green Box, but between the Green Box and the local Exchange.

By He said to me “I may have to time this job out and return it to the depot”. What he meant was: each engineer is given a two-hour space in which to sort out a problem. If it can’t be fixed after two hours, the job goes back to the depot and put in a pool for another engineer to pick it up at another date.

So much for blinding efficiency, BT! (no wonder this country is f***ed). What management consultant thought that one up!?

At twelve noon he left, the broadband seemed to be working somehow (whatever he did I don’t know)….

…and then 45 minutes later, the Broadband stopped again. I pressed the Restart button on the BT Hub (my third in as many years!) and it seemed to work again. So, later that night, as arranged, Samir Das of BT Priority Care (he called it) [number 0800 3289393] phoned me back…at, even though he’d promised to call me between 6pm and 7pm.

I told him that my broadband seemed to be working, albeit unreliably. He agree to phone me back tomorrow (Saturday).
Saturday, 21st August: I was filming in Brighton that day [another project]. No call from Mr. Das at the agreed time (between 11am and 12 noon), but he finally got to me at 1.50pm. I explained that things seemed to be going OK but we both agreed that he keep track of this and phone me again tomorrow.

Sunday 22nd August: Again, the agreed time (between 1-2pm) was irrelevant: Mr. Das of BT Priority Care phoned me at… - I was in bed and barely awake (well it was a hard day’s filming yesterday). I told him to phone me later, which he did…at 2.30pm.

I explained to him that things Seemed to be working OK and he agreed to keep monitoring this on a daily basis for at least another 48 hours; he also mentioned the concept of “compensation”, which I seemed to be bringing him around to.

Ironically, barely three minutes after the end of our chat, at, my broadband stopped again. So I went to the hub and pressed the Restart button and things appeared to work again……..

At 4pm, having come back from a coffee, I went online again…until When (you’ve guessed it) the broadband stopped again. And Again I pressed the Restart button on the BT hub, to get the thing working again.

Oh, Mr. Samir Das of BT Priority Care, I hope you are reading this. We have MUCH to discuss tomorrow (and that‘s even before we reach the moment of “compensation“)
Wednesday 25th August (late evening): Over 48 hours have passed and no communication whatsoever from Mr. Das since we last spoke on Sunday afternoon, and the broadband went down - twice. Oh, and the bill remains unpaid. Congratulations BT, you really sorted that one out, didn’t you?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Sartorial Questions - 4: Little Horseshoes.....

I came across this clip from the Fry & Laurie series of Jeeves and Wooster and could not resist posting ut up here:-

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Stephanie Rushton photo shoot - Part 2 (of 3)

Returning to 25th August 2009 and the second part of the photo shoot with the excellent Stephanie Rushton. (Just click on the images and they will open out to their full glory).

Next we moved into the Rose Garden (see map in the previous posting) and a change of clothes.
I swapped the High Imperial collar for a standard Windsor wing, with a maroon self-tie cravat and a different stickpin, a somewhat new (for then) double breasted frock coat in Hunter Green (perhaps it’s a little difficult to tell) with matching grey/green striped trousers and a dark bottle green velvet waistcoat from years back. Oh, and the top hat is a Dark Green felt one.
As the session gradually progressed, the sky started to darken a little and Stephanie started to experiment with different filters, doing all manne4r of splendis things with the sky…
After a while it started to rain a little so we decided to make our way towards the Mansion itself….

These were done under the entrance to the Mansion itself……
….looking and feeling Totally at home (couldn‘t resist a touch of that Gene Kelly swagger)……
…and then inside sitting on one of the many window seats. You don’t know how comfortable and appropriate I felt in this environment….
As Stephanie and I chatted during the session we discovered we know the same fellow photographer. A chap called Ian Tilton….
Over twenty years ago I employed “Tilly” (then a fledgling photography student) to take some photos of one of the groups I had on a record label I was running, publicity and cover for shots for an album we were planning to release. He was in Manchester and the group were nearby, so it seemed logical; and he delivered a very impressed set of shots, the album ones hand-tinted in colour.
Fast forward about five years and the next time I see his name mentioned is on the first album by the Stone Roses, he took the studio shots… and then later on The Smiths album Rank and then his pic of Kurt Cobain Crying - a “legendary image”, I am informed - is on display at the Brooklyn Museum, New York. [I do pride myself on spotting fledgling talent and early on].

These photos here, of course, are just a mere selection of the shots that were taken by Stephanie Rushton. 
I shall post up the third and final set next week.