Tuesday, 28 July 2015


Have you ever been caught in a loop where common sense and logic seems to have 'flown out the window'?

Joseph Heller captured it brilliantly in his novel Catch 22. 

I've been experiencing something similar here in UK. Good old UK. Well, old anyway. It already makes me glad to be a New Zealander and to be returning to NZ in January.
New Zealand is an early adopter of technology and we, as a small and new nation aren't locked into out of date conventions and inflexible standards. There is a lot of common sense in the way that businesses and institutions go about the daily grind.

Here, in the UK, businesses and institutions labour under ridiculous and proscriptive legislation and rules and, when they limit their ability to conduct their business they merely shrug and say "it's the rules".
Well fuck that I say ( and have said it to real estate agents, bank employees, service providers, policemen and little old ladies - not really to the policemen).

So, what's brought this on?.
I've been here a week and The Old Girl nearly a month.
She's working here and earning good British pounds.
As part of living here for the next 6 months we've needed a few basic things like: bank account; accommodation; telephone; Internet; gas and electricity - you know, basics of modern living.

Let me tell you how it goes here.

You want to rent a place to live.
The letting agency says "great" show us the money. When you pull out a wad of bills they say "oh no. Money laundering. No can do. Show us your bank account".

After a lot of cajoling and guarantees from The Old Girl's employers plus cheques and credit card transactions the letting agency 'let' us lease a flat. We sign an agreement for 6 months. It's a contract. IT'S A FUCKING BINDING CONTRACT.

We go to a bank. In fact we approach at least 6 banks to open an account. All of these wankers bankers tell us that they cannot open an account for us without proof of an address. The FUCKING BINDING CONTRACT apparently isn't good enough they want an electricity bill ( not Web produced like most of the world trade with) but hard copy posted via snail mail.
Now to get an electricity bill posted to you presupposes that you have an account, at an address and you've been using the service for weeks or a month. OK? But ....
Problem is ......... To open an electricity (or gas) account you need ..........? Are you keeping up? Yes, you need ........  A FUCKING BANK ACCOUNT!

Catch 22.

Next, broadband accounts.
You cannot open a broadband account with the major providers without - a bank account, a proof of address like a bloody electricity account and, get this, proof that you've lived at the address for 3 years. FUCK!
On top of this the telco companies (greedy bastards) require a minimum contract of 12 months.

  To do business with electricity companies, banks, and everything else means you need an Internet account.

So, totally frustrated I went outside of the telcos and to a Noel Leeming type store and bought an off the shelf wifi modem. It works so I'm now in business Internet wise.
We still don't have a bank account or an electricity account so might end up living on the streets but at least I can blog and relieve Richard of Robert's poetic ramblings.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Ring ring ring ring ....

ME:  Hello

RICHARD: .... and he marched them down again..

ME: (Oh shit)...I mean Hi Richard. How many verses is that now?

RICHARD: I'm up to 127. Shelley suggests that I practice them in the garage.

ME: That's a good idea. Why don't you do that?

RICHARD: We don't  have a garage...   hey!

ME: I'm just heading out the door. Can you e-mail the rest of the song?

RICHARD: We're off to W(h)anganui to annoy some other people and I just wanted to say 'bon voyage".

ME: OK. Say it then.

RICHARD: Say what?

ME: Bon Voyage.

RICHARD: Yeah thanks but it's only W(h)anganui with a 'h'.

ME: An 'h'.


ME: Never mind.

RICHARD: Safe travels my old friend.

ME: It's only the bus to Newmarket to meet up with Mike. I've probably missed it now.


ME: Never mind. Keep up the singing.


As you can gather Richard (of RBB) phoned early this evening to wish me a safe trip.

Nice that.

He seems to have a fixation on The Grand Old Duke of York for some reason.

He wants to know if he's still there, how many men he now has and whether the hill is still climbable (marchable).

I said I'd have a look when I'm there and report back.
Well, I said that but probably won't.

Funny though. When I was in Toronto last year I went to The Duke of York pub..

 ...and had one of these:

..which is apparently a Yorkshire beer.

Go figure.


Not this.

But I've only got a few days before I head off.

I'm flying on Sunday to UK via Hong Kong.

Flying in to Hong Kong used to be like flying in to Wellington or Queenstown on a bad day.
 The planes used to have to drop down quickly and seem to fly in between skyscrapers.

The new airport has solved this problem thankfully so all should be OK.
I've got about a two and a half hour stopover which is very manageable.

I arrive in Manchester at 7AM Monday and will then get a train to York. I haven't booked this yet as you never know how long you'll be held up at Customs nowadays. Hopefully there won't be a problem and there'll be plenty of train options. I'm really looking forward to meeting up with The Old Girl.

She's taken a lease on an apartment in The Old Brewery which is in the inner city close to the Minster.

This seems appropriate for us but I don't think there's a pub there anymore. It's an historic brewery that's been converted to apartments. She says that it's right by cafes, shops, bars etc. Should be good.

Friday, 10 July 2015


I'm already getting sick of the move to 'virtual' service centres.

This is where businesses have undergone a reorganisation and consultancy 'experts' have come up with the concept of the virtual showroom.

In reality this is a thinly disguised staff reduction exercise planned to save costs and push the responsibility of the payroll to taxpayers via the dole.

During the week I've had occasion to visit four operations that once used to have counters serviced by staff and an orderly queueing system.

These were:

Auckland City Council.



Auckland Central library

Now, when entering these places you are in a big open area with randomly placed high tables with a computer monitor and keyboard.

There are a small number of staff around who all seem to be busy or just deliberately looking the other way. There is either no or minimal signage indicating procedure and it is difficult trying to establish which table (or mini kiosk) one should go to.

Vodafone was the worst in that a small sign on a kiosk closest to the entrance (but still set back a way) says "Virtual Concierge - ask for virtual queueing".
This of course is the kiosk that permanently has a member of the public engaging the harassed looking staff member. There is no set up for queueing to this table or kiosk as, being like an island it can be approached from 360 degrees. What Vodafone haven't yet learnt is that Asian people, particularly the Chinese, do not queue in an orderly fashion unless channelled by ropes and barriers. Given that in Auckland the % of Asians that make up the population is huge it's strange that Vodafone haven't woken up to this problem. Needless to say it is chaotic.

At Vodafone, ASB and Auckland Council, the other tables or mini-kiosks with the computer monitors were unmanned and had little signs indicating that the public can do their virtual business there.
We can do that at home on our own bloody computer. The whole reason of going into one of these service centres is to talk to a real person to get a considered (not preset) answer to a query.

The only one that made any sense to me was the Auckland library set-up where you can check-out your books yourself. I've used this before and it works OK but not today when I wanted to check out a DVD. After going through the procedure the machine bleeped and told me to go to the manned counter as there was a payment to be made to rent the DVD. A sign indicating this in advance would have been useful.

I went to one of the two manned counters that had deep queues at them.


I don't think so.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


Richard (of RBB) had this image of some British 'red coat' soldiers on his latest post.

I had to laugh at them as, the way they're walking, they look like they've all crapped their pants.
Maybe it's because the old Duke, their boss, kept them up on the hill for too long.

Anyway, let's hope that they have this posted on their barracks wall.

Monday, 6 July 2015


Remember when someone says something and you don't come up with a clever or witty response until later?

Well I did that today. Forty three years later!

I was watching a silly TV programme tonight - How I Met Your Mother - and a scene set in a university town pub took my mind back to university in Wellington in 1972.

I was at the library putting my bag onto one of the open shelves at the entrance. This was in the simpler and frankly more honest days of the '70's where you could leave your stuff in a communal setting without some scrote nicking it.

Anyway, as I was putting my bag away two young women next to me were having a conversation and I overheard one telling the other about her previous night.
It was her birthday and she said that her flatmate came into her bedroom wearing nothing but a red ribbon tied around his waist. He told her that he was her birthday present. They laughed and I, embarrassed, walked away into the library.

Now, forty three years later came up with what I should have said:

"Excuse me. That was just the sound of my jaw dropping on the ground"
 This to be accompanied by a smile and a lascivious wink.

It might have got me an in with the birthday girl's friend.

Saturday, 4 July 2015


I was watching the Hurricanes vs Highlanders match on Prime TV (delayed telecast) and, during ad breaks surfed the net to find out how many Smiths were playing on each side,
I entered " How many Smiths Highlanders vs Hurricanes".
The Google options came up with at least the first three 'shouting' out "Highlanders beat Hurricanes".

This was before the first 20 minutes were up.


I hate watching sports when I know the result.



I guess we won't be having a house warming party then.

The Old Girl is going to check out a 2 bedroom apartment to rent tomorrow.

It's in a refurbished brewery in York.

By all accounts it's pretty nice so with luck she'll decide to take it for a 6 month lease.
She says that it's on the third floor with no lift so moving furniture in will be a hassle.

Still, that's what furniture removal people are for. With luck her stuff from Canada will arrive before I do and it'll all be sorted by the time I get there.

Thursday, 2 July 2015


Wednesday, 1 July 2015


I'm arranging things for my imminent move to UK for 6 months and the list is seemingly endless.

I went through this two years ago before going to Canada so you'd think that I've got it sorted.

The problem is that there's just so many things to do:

  • Cancelling services
  • Emptying the apartment
  • Putting things in storage
  • Arranging to rent out the apartment
  • Arranging with various service providors to not send physical mail
  • Packing
  • Arranging finances

A newspaper article I read talked of safety when travelling to and living in another country so I looked up 'self defence' on the web.

I discovered this helpful video which is apt as York where I'm going to is most likely a few years behind big cities.



I like John Oliver. His retakes of the news are insightful and very funny. Have a look via the link below at his latest review of Facebook...