Category Archives: Rantings

So, this is Christmas?

Now that Thanksgiving is SO twelve hours ago, can we talk about something?

I would like to know why THIS was my only option for international holiday postage?

m509258_large

Don’t recognize her from your childhood nightmare?

The desciption on the Royal Post’s online shop reads…

…featuring Snow White’s Wicked Queen. With her poison apple Snow White’s wicked Queen is guaranteed to raise a boo and a hiss.

A boo and a hiss? How is this even remotely in keeping with the holly, jolly holiday spirit?

The selection of domestic stamps wasn’t any better. They included such “beloved” Christmas characters as…

m509252_large1… a pie-faced Cap’n Hook…

m509240_large… and a pair of ugly transvestites.

6 Comments

Filed under Rantings, Royal Mail

The Post Where I Get All PSA-y and Try to Guilt You into Voting

Our upcoming Presidential Election has made it a truly THRILLING time to be an American abroad!

Before moving to the UK, I had no idea who’s the mayor of London (Boris Johnson), or even the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown)…

Like any other typical American, I didn’t care and why should I?

None of their policies or regulations affected my day to day life, at least not directly…

The same isn’t true for our American president and other elected officials. The decisions of those we put in office, in terms of both economic and military actions, carry heavy repercussions around the globe…

… and to think, WE have the power to put them there.

In general, Europeans are NOT shy about discussing politics. Even the most casual of encounters can easily lead to a “robust” debate.

It’s a bit disconcerting the first time a complete stranger takes note of your accent and asks who you plan to vote for–quizzing you on specific issues, remarking on the previous night’s debates, and reviewing the candidates’ talking points.

I’m usually all, “Dude, I’m just here to buy apples”, because I’m likely caught off guard and completely ill prepared for this line of questioning.

They don’t mean to rude or intrusive. They just want to share their opinions with someone who actually has say in the outcome- someone with the power to vote!

While I may be easily distracted by shiny fruit, the election IS on the forefront of everyone’s mind. All eyes are on us in anticipation as we decide their future. Lucky us.

If you happen to share our point of view and our candidate…

AHEM! AHEM!

… then BARACK on, my friend, but make it count. Vote!

If you don’t… hey, that great too. No. Actually, that’s awesome because that’s what makes a democracy such as ours so great.

But, umm… here’s my absentee write-in ballot– signed, sealed in an unmarked envelope, placed in an outer enveloped, and delivered last Thursday….

I fully expect YOU to cancel it out.

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t care who you vote for. JUST VOTE.

Rant over.

Now… what do you think of the new design?

7 Comments

Filed under Life In The States, Rantings

Talk To Me, Baby

I hate Ikea.

Okay, that’s not true. I actually love Ikea. I just hating going to Ikea.

It’s always crowded and I can never find that one specific item that prompted the whole  trip in the first place. Not that there’s ever anyone to ask…

Even if I do find someone that works there, they either…

a) spend 20 minutes on some roundabout explanation that can basically be summed up in seven words: “I don’t know and I don’t care” or…

b) yelled at me in some angry, incoherent “seems-like-English-but-those-aren’t-real-words” variation of what I assume is a British accent.

At least, this was the case when Avery and I went to there last week…

Just when I was thoroughly hating life (and Ikea), Avery started to lose his patience. (Not that I blame him.)

I promised to let him press the buttons on the lift if he would just bear with me while I looked for just… one… last… thing…

Unconvinced, he headed straight for the doors. (Smart kid)

He reached for the “1” button when I explained to him that the first floor is called the ground floor here and the second floor is actually the first, and blah, blah-blah, blah blah until the doors opened once again.

As we got stepped off the lift, a man riding with us approached me and clumsily asked,“Are you… Um, did I hear… Uh, is that an American accent I detect?

“Yeah, we just moved here from the States,” I replied as a feeble half-apology for talking too much/blocking his way/suggesting that the ground floor could be anything but…

“Oh, thought so,” he replied, “I just love the American accent. It’s so… SEXY” (!!!)

Ummm, I think I like Ikea a little bit more now.

Well, except for those stupid arrows… always telling you where to go, but never taking you where you want to be. Stupid arrows!

5 Comments

Filed under Checky Monkeys, Rantings

When Big Brother Steals Your Remote, Kicks You Off the Sofa, and Makes You Watch the News…

When I saw the Facebook messages being exchanged among my Gulf Coast friends about getting ready for “Gustav’s visit”, I assumed they were talking about some (forgotten) member of my college class…

You know, that international student who’s apparently headed to New Orleans to party with everyone (???)

Yeah, duh! I eventually figured it out thankyouverymuch, so please don’t send me news stories or photos of the destruction.

Realizing that Facebook, although entertaining and addictive, is probably NOT a reliable news source, I decided that it’s about time we get a TV after all.

We held off on buying one until our house in the States sold. It’s under contract right now, which to me is close enough. Then, it became a matter of just getting around to making the actual purchase…

We put it off until we tried to watch The Daily Show online and received this message:

Yeah… The very next day we got our telly, and more importantly, a TELLY LICENSE. One per household is required in the UK if you plan to own and/or operate a TV and they are taken very seriously!

A few weeks ago, we received an angry little letter from the “TV Licensing Enforcement Division”. It stated that…

[Their] database lists this address as UNLICENSED. It is important [we] realize that it is now ILLEGAL to use television receiving equipment…

Please respond by 19th of August to avoid investigation… the consequences of such an investigation CAN BE SERIOUS…

Regional officers will be SCHEDULED to visit your address. If they find evidence of television receiving equipment, you may be CAUTIONED.

I didn’t contact them on the 19th because A) we didn’t have a TV yet and B) I really wanted to see what would happen…

Would they ever come by? Will they have shiny badges and brandish a warrant? Or, will they simply trick me into letting them in like on Law and Order?

I find it so amusing (and so very British) that we received a proper letter informing us that someone will be scheduling a time to give us a warning.

Okay, so there was also a tiny blurb about fines and possible imprisonment under such and such act and criminal law, but that’s not really that interesting now is it…

However, they do have other ways of weeding out such reckless behavior. There’s much hype about TV detector vans roaming neighborhoods and using “super spy technology”  to find offenders. According to the official TV Licensing website:

Some aspects of the equipment have been developed in such secrecy that engineers working on specific detection methods work in isolation, so not even they know how the other detection methods work.

Officers use these devices to check for signals and match them against a list of who’s paid and who hasn’t.

If they find you, they won’t bust you right then and there. They will still call and schedule a time with the homeowner to investigate further…

However, a lot of people think that’s all just a PR hoax to scare people into submission. I don’t know though…

The idea of some mad scientist engineer locked away in a lab developing spy gear is kind of fun. Very 007 (which is also a British invention… hmmm…)

Anyway, the license isn’t actually that expensive when you consider that it funds the BBC, and thereby “allowing it to be independent of advertisers, shareholders or political interests”… supposedly. The license is free of charge for the elderly (75 or older) and disabled, but they still have to register.

Once our TV arrived this week, all I had to do was apply and pay for it online. Easy-peasy pie!

Well, now that we’re licensed to veg, I’m on to my next project…

Figuring out what the heck this show is all about…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “in the night garden – Google Video“, posted with vodpod

It’s called “In the Night Garden” and it’s marketed like crazy here, but then again, toddler crack usually is…

7 Comments

Filed under Rantings, The Telly

A System of Cheques and Imbalances

Living in the nation that inspired Pax Britannica, there are plenty of times when I just want to yell…

“You conquered two-fifths of the world, now ACT like it!”

…but never more so than when I’m dealing with the bank.

Oh. My. Goodness. I could start an entire blog just on my rantings about the banking system in the UK.

In fact, I think I will.  I know, I’ll call it “Lloyds is Pants” just to see if it gets deleted.

(Go ahead. Click on the link. I’ll wait…)

When our bank isn’t busy changing its customers’ passwords, it’s…. well, I’m not exactly sure what it does…

There is the time when our bank LOST a huge transfer only to realize six weeks later that they had actually credited it  to the account of a Mr. M. Durby rather than ours…That’s something, right?

Wait. I shouldn’t even call it “our” bank since apparently I’m still not allowed to bank there. This is in spite of having personally submitted the paperwork to be added to the accounts over a MONTH AND A HALF ago.

Of course, we couldn’t just go to the branch around the corner from our house. Oh no! We had to go to the branch in the middle city…

… during lunch

… on a Friday.

There were several bank employees basically milling around since Friday isn’t really considered a work day here. (Come to think of it, neither is Thursday and definitely not Monday…)

We still stood in line for over an hour to see the one sucker who was actually still taking customers.

Once it was our turn, we handed over the paperwork- completed, signed, and dated. We provided proof of our identities and our London address, copies of our marriage license, and even references and past statements from our American bank.

(All required before you can even discuss having a account in the UK, by the way, but this was just to add me to an existing account.)

It took all of five seconds for the teller to see that everything was in order. She promised to mail the papers to their home office in only God knows where and that I should be added to the account straight away…

Two weeks later, Mike received a call asking him to clarify if I was opening my own accounts, or simply being added to his. (HIS! ugh!)

Assuming it was handled from there, I didn’t think anything of popping into our local bank branch to deposit a check… er, cheque into our account.

I pulled out a deposit slip from our book, helped Avery with his raincoat, and the two of us headed across the street.

Teller: You can’t deposit a check into this account. Your name isn’t on the deposit slip.

Me: I know. It’s an old slip, but I should have been added to the account by now.

Teller: Should have?

Me: (explain, explain explain…) So, you see, my name should be on the account by now.

Teller: Well, it’s not. Do you have your own account? I can deposit it there.

Me: No, I don’t

Teller: Why not?

Me: Because I was supposed to be added to… Wait, can I open my own account?

Teller: Umm… no.

Me: Well, what can I do with this cheque? Can I cash it?

Teller: No, we can only deposit it into an account for you. If you could just give me the account number and sort code…

…and we went through this about five times. Each round my frustration and volume increased until I realized that I had become noticeably hysterical loud. I backed off and just left, too exhausted to come up with something more dramatic.

Not that arguing would get me anywhere. Anyone immigrating into the UK starts off with ZERO credit history. Even if you moved here for a job, it takes YEARS before you can get one established. So ,basically being “jobless” here leaves me… persona non grata.

Some banks will let you get around this by depositing a sizable amount of money from your home country. In our case, it was the amount that they  had “lost track” of for over six weeks…

Unfortunately, having a British bank account is a necessary evil. Most employers will only pay by direct deposit and a checking account is needed before you can set up utilities or rent a home.

The problem is, in addition to the various documents mentioned above, first and foremost you need a valid UK address before you can open an account here.

An act of the Crown helps, too.

7 Comments

Filed under Banking, Rantings, Undiplomatic Behavior