Fiona Duff: Warm glow of people power

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Over the past year, for one reason or another, I have never been in when ­ScottishPower sent someone to read my electricity and gas meters.

I finally met up with my meter man a couple of weeks ago and as a result I received a bill with actual readings.

To say that I almost had a heart attack is putting it mildly. The figure is quite enormous; just looking at it made my eyes water and my knees go a bit wobbly. And the worse thing is that I only have myself to blame.

How often have I heard money-­saving experts telling us to switch away from the big power companies? How often have I gone to price comparison websites? And how often have I not pressed the button?

But this time was the final straw. I went to uSwitch, put in the amounts that I am likely to pay over the next 12 months and one company reckons that they will charge about one third less than ScottishPower. I would like to know what kind of idiot wouldn’t press the button with that sort of saving?

However, what really bothers me – apart from finding out how difficult it is to kick oneself – is why do the Big Six (as they are known) get away with charging so much. It is surely only slightly short of actual theft. I know that they have been hauled up in front of parliament to answer questions about their prices, but that doesn’t seem to have made much difference. They don’t give two hoots about what any politician has to say.

A recent report from the Competition and Markets Authority showed that 95 per cent of customers signed up to these half-dozen energy companies would save a great deal by changing their supplier. What on earth is wrong with the general public – what I, and no doubt quite a few of you who are reading this, have been doing is akin to taking a match to a big wad of £20 notes and watching them burn in front of your eyes.

In the end there’s only one thing that will make the energy bosses heed the accusations of over-charging and that’s when everyone starts to click that button. When their profits plummet – which they will do when we all tell them to stuff their contracts where they won’t find a gas meter – and their bonuses are reduced to a few pennies they’ll realise the error of their ways.

It’s called People Power – it won’t heat your home, but it does feel great.

Perfect holiday to Split with Him Outdoors

Is it too early to talk about summer holidays? I know that I am not washing your hair, but please humour me on this one.

For the past few years we have invariably gone to Italy for a family holiday. This year I wanted to try something different, which doesn’t always go down well with Him Outdoors as he is so stuck in his ways he makes a rod of iron look a bit bendy.

We have friends who love Croatia so much that they have a summer business there (Sunburst Sailing, if you want to check them out) and quite fortuitously Jet2, my preferred budget airline, has started flying direct to Split from Edinburgh.

Accommodation is a bit haphazard on the island of Hvar where we will be basing ourselves. There are some apartments, which are very cheap, but once you see the photographs they look as though they hadn’t been redecorated since the Communists moved out.

And then there are some villas that are so sumptuous that I would have to stay at home and work every hour in the day just to pay the week’s rental.

But I seem to have found somewhere in-between. The other half is huffing, but if he had some hair and had visited the hairdresser a few months ago perhaps he would have been spurred into booking a summer holiday.

Tell everyone I’m for Anfora

There’s something very satisfying about finding a new restaurant or bar before it has been reviewed.

I didn’t exactly stumble across Anfora in Leith as a friend had been the week before and returned mightily impressed. But as soon as I walked in I knew that Anfora was a place to which I would return. It may not be good for my waistline nor my liver, but heck — a woman needs to eat and have a glass of wine and this is just the perfect place to indulge.

Appreciation by the caseload

Occasionally, or indeed sometimes quite often, I am asked for some advice or help.

It’s usually for a friend, or a friend of a friend, and I am happy to dole out a bit of guidance or introduce them to someone else who might actually know what they are talking about.

In America this is seen as a commercial activity – if I introduced two people who then went on to do some business together then I would send an invoice, they would pay and we’d all be happy. Here I seem to settle for a cup of coffee and a fruit scone.

So when I helped a comedian write his Fringe programme entry I was chuffed to have two bottles of Taittinger Champagne delivered to my door. It’s nice to feel appreciated.