Skype – Free Internet telephony


When I discovered MSN Messenger my experience of the internet changed. I felt connected. I could have instant conversations with my friends, albeit that I had to type everything.

This evening I installed Skypemy username is garethjmsaunders — as my friend Kelvin and I have been considering using it for online voice conference calls for the Information & Communication Board of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

In a nutshell, this program allows you to make FREE voice calls to other Skype users. (And only in a consumer society can we believe that our calls are free when we are using a £1,000 PC, a £35pm broadband internet connection and who knows how much electricity!!) The technology is called Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, or VoIP for short. Skype will allow you to make calls to traditional landline and mobile telephones, but you need to buy credits first to unlock this feature.

So, Kelvin called me. The quality was great, with a better frequency range than an ordinary telephone. There was a very slight delay but nothing terribly noticable (except when we sang Frère Jacque to test this out!) I really want my other friends to install this now. How exciting is this?!

There are a number of other VoIP services, including ones that give you a real telephone number, even though it simply connects to your PC wherever you may be (I am the Lord of the Dance said … oh, sorry I got distracted). A virtual telephone number, if you like. My online friend uses Sipgate ( , while Kelvin uses Voipfone ( I must investigate this further.

Buying a house-load of furniture at once

Tomorrow morning Jane and I are going to drive a Ford Transit full of furniture to Cellardyke. Assuming that the snow doesn’t scupper our plans.

I picked up a hire van this afternoon and following a spot of tea (pasta with chicken in a honey and mustard sauce, thanks for asking) Jane and I drove to Currys at Hermiston Gait to pick up a fridge I’d bought there on Monday evening.

Currys was closed. The big wendys! They’d closed the store at 6pm because of the snow. We Brits don’t do snow very well. There was hardly an inch of the stuff, and most of that was melting. So we’ll have to go there on our way to Cellardyke tomorrow morning.

Ikea, however, was very open. And it was like a ghost town — admittedly one where all the inhabitants lived in a giant open-plan town that is encased in a huge warehouse — but there was hardly anyone there. It was great! We bought a dining table, six dining chairs, a kingsize bed, a bunkbed, 3 mattresses, 2 shelving units and a pair of curtains.

And here’s the crunch: we were offered 10% off if we opened an Ikea Homecard account. Sure, we said … that would be about £100 discount. I went to move the van while Jane signed up. When I returned we were told that “computer says no!” Our credit check was refused … something about them not understanding what a ‘tied house’ is. Hoorah! Discrimination on account of my job. So, I had to hand over my Switch card and forego our tasty discount.

And THAT had to go through a credit check too! “What’s the first and third letters of your security password?” the assistant asked.
“Which one?” I said. I have two: one for telephone banking, one for online banking.
“Dunno,” he said.
I had a guess, and got it wrong. I had another guess and thankfully this time it went through. I’ve not had to use that since 1998. Good memory! Whew!

So, tomorrow we drive to Cellardyke and I build Ikea furniture. All day. But it will be SO worth it. We’ve looked forward to this day for months; it was July 2004 we put in the offer on the house.

And pray that I did leave my electric screwdriver in the house on the last visit…

Nature’s answer to a congestion charge

Well, the people of Edinburgh have spoken and have overwhelmingly said NO to a congestion charge; 74% of those who voted in Monday’s referendum said that they didn’t endorse the council’s plans to introduce a £2 congestion charge.

But who needs a congestion charge to reduce the amount of traffic in town when you have nature’s solution: snow! I drove to Murrayfield to preside at the 11am eucharist, and then drove into Marchmont to visit someone. There was so little traffic, it was wonderful. All the council has to do now is install some kind of elaborate snow-making machinery in the centre of Edinburgh and they’ll be sorted! Instantly: fewer cars in town. Job’s a good ‘un! What other problems can I solve for the council while I’m on a roll?