Well, I don’t think I’ll forget 2020 in a hurry! My profile shot through the roof overnight in June 2019 when I was featured in the Daily Mail as 1 of 5 of the top consumer champions in the UK, and I am now recognised as a consumer expert who specialises in motoring disputes. This is my year in review.
I could never have predicted the outcomes and opportunities that I have had this year. It goes without saying that I appreciate the support and kindness shown to me from so many of my followers.
I have met a few of you and most I haven’t, although I enjoy engaging with you on social media and you showcase the very best of Twitter.
I started off with just over 400 Twitter followers and I’m now up to nearly 1,300, some of which are household names who I have been able to help with consumer advice.
The year began with being featured in The Sun for website of the week and a feature in The Southern Reporter on the pothole problems around the Scottish Borders.
I was well in to my stride as a resident writer for two travel guides who host bespoke private tours in Edinburgh. I created some content based on their tours in their voice to chime and engage with their audience.
I made my first live radio appearance as a consumer expert for a local radio station in Midlothian called Black Diamond FM. I took calls from listeners on two shows, which was exciting. You never know what you’re going to be asked and it went really well.
I was asked by the Sunday Post to find potholes from space for a feature (it wasn’t that difficult!). The Dunfermline Press also shone a spotlight on the pothole problems in Fife based on a FOI request I submitted to Fife Council.
Coronavirus was starting to make big headlines everywhere, although it was being played down and nobody realised the impact it would have on our lives.
I fell ill with coronavirus mid-March and ended up in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after being missed twice by my GPs. I couldn’t get through to 111 and had to dial 999 and plead to be taken to hospital as I could no longer look after myself.
Tests revealed patches of pneumonia on my lungs and dangerous levels of inflammation in my blood. It’s no exaggeration to say that I could have died in my bed at home alone.
It was a traumatic and harrowing experience that will never leave me. The Sunday Post featured me as I was one of the first cases that anyone knew about and the problems with the 111 hotline.
I was still seriously ill and I couldn’t do anything really apart from recuperate at home. Thankfully the weather was gorgeous for weeks on end and I am lucky to have a sunny garden with my flat in Edinburgh to recuperate in.
A flurry of media requests came in from the Edinburgh Evening News, Hexham Courant (local paper in my home town), Daily Mirror and the Mail on Sunday who did a study on why Covid kills more men than women.
I also paid tribute to Hannah, my neighbour upstairs, in The Sun to ‘Hail Your Hero’. I didn’t know that she is a biology researcher at Edinburgh University and knew everything about coronavirus. She gave me her contact details on a card through my door in case I fell ill with it, not realising that I had it and I was deteriorating fast.
I turned 50 at the end of the month, so that was a quiet affair! I was able to get out and about at that point, although I could only walk slowly. I spent it in Princes Street Gardens on a gorgeous sunny and cool day in a deserted Edinburgh during lockdown. Thank you Lady Janey for this card – you’re so talented and too kind!
I began writing a book about my coronavirus experience as I wanted to capture my moment in history. It spans an 8-week period up until the end of May, and I thought that would be the end of it. Little did I realise that it would develop in to Long Covid, which is something else.
I published my book titled ‘Pandemic – My Story’ and spoke with Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland about my coronavirus experience. I was also on C5 News with Dr Sarah Jarvis discussing Long Covid, as it was something that the media were beginning to feature based on those who were 3 months in to their recovery.
I teamed up with Consumer Sue to help consumers resolve their disputes with Currys PC World. This swallows up so much time, it’s unreal. You just have to see the comments on this blog to appreciate the problems we are asked to help with every day.
Interestingly, BBC Radio Ulster asked me for a Scottish perspective on compulsory face masks and how it was being adhered to based on it being introduced in Northern Ireland.
I was able to refocus on consumer issues and motoring disputes, and I took up a case where a single Mum sustained £1100 worth of damage to her car. This is ongoing and I caught the claims stoppers out as they shared an email with Fife Council and I was mistakenly cc’d in on the internal thread.
The ICO are investigating it and I received an admission and apology from Fife Council, yet the claims stoppers deny liability despite instigating it!
Claims stoppers are meant to be independent adjudicators on pothole claims, yet in reality they collude with Councils to reject claims. This blog shines a spotlight on how to deal with it.
The Daily Telegraph asked me for advice on what to look out for when it comes to student accommodation, rogue landlords and tenancy disputes.
I had the privilege of a full professional photoshoot done at my home thanks to the Daily Telegraph.
I also appeared on RT TV (Russian News) discussing the long-term effects of coronavirus and BBC Radio Scotland and what I miss in life after coronavirus.
The Sun asked for my top tips on how to find yellow sticker food, which was quite random! That is a real photo – I’ll eat anything within reason, as many of you now know!
I was featured in The Scotsman on Long Covid and the local press in Fife continued to feature my ongoing pothole case with Fife Council. What I don’t know about potholes now isn’t worth knowing!
I spoke with Sarah Gorrell at BBC Radio Surrey on consumer issues and the Daily Telegraph asked for my experience with pubs and the rising tide of coronavirus cases based on what I have seen in Edinburgh.
The Dunfermline Press featured the GDPR data breach by the claims stoppers and Fife Council with the ongoing £1100 pothole claim I am dealing with.
I was featured by Which? Money on the benefits of downsizing from a 3-bed semi in the Isle of Man to a 1-bed flat in Edinburgh and what to look out for.
I appeared on BBC Hereford & Worcester twice as a consumer expert giving advice on Arcadia gift cards being reduced by 50% and the issues revolving around Currys PC World Black Friday offers.
Currys PC World actually backtracked on their refusal to honour the original price offers half an hour before I went on air, although the thread remained the same.
I won a claim for an NHS Key Worker against Evans Halshaw for over £10,000 within 4 days from start to finish on a dispute which had been dragging out for months.
Finally, the Hexham Courant featured me on their 2020 Review.
I remain grateful for the help, kindness and support from so many people. Being able to make a significant difference to society in my own way is something that I am proud of.
I still have a long way to go, and I look forward to 2021 and seeing where the next media opportunities come my way.