Attaboy.ca

Over There (in the UK)

February 13, 2005 at 9 PM

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

So I thought I’d celebrate my triumphant rise into British society with a new look here at Attaboy. It’s a work in progress, naturally, since I realized if I didn’t put it online now, it would never happen. Now I just have more incentive to finish it.

(If you’re unfortunate enough to be using Internet Explorer 5 in Windows, I pity you as I imagine this site now looks pretty dim.)

Putting up a half-finished site feels fairly appropriate, anyhow, since it parallels my seemingly endless efforts to try and establish my identity in a foreign country.

It’s probably no different when one goes to Canada — hard to tell when you’re born in a place how hard it is to start fresh — but the British government and the collected corporations of British banking and utilities truly have an impressive array of bureaucracy seemingly designed to ensure that nothing ever gets accomplished. Ever.

A partial box score on the battle between me and Mother England:

I was able to find an apartment (pardon, I mean “flat”) during my previous visit, although this was largely due to the fact that my girlfriend (who moved with me) had a guaranteed income high enough to support our rent. This was a fabulous achievement, as the day we arrived in January, we were able to get the keys to our flat straightaway. And as I was soon to learn, nothing can be accomplished in a new country before you have an address to call your own.

(I can’t imagine the catch-22 that people must find themselves in, however, if they are both unemployed and looking for a home. Landlords don’t want unemployed tenants, while even if you do manage to find a job, banks will not open accounts for people without proof of an address.)

Moving into a new home is a hassle anywhere, as one wends one’s way through the various utility companies automated telephone menus to get telephones, electricity, gas and water connected. Add to this having no previous accounts with said companies. Throw in the fact that one’s home has never been lived in by anyone before, and doesn’t yet show up on fastidiously-maintained corporate databases of every single home in the country. Gently season with a country whose formerly-public utilities have all been privatized into a bewildering array of independent, unconnected entities who specialize in supply, delivery or service, but never more than one. None of whom can actually accomplish any task without certain unobtainable yet vital information — my favourite being the elusive “Meter Point Reference Number” — not the number written on one’s gas meter, but rather a theoretical reference to the existence of one’s meter in time and space, and without which, one cannot be billed for use of said gas.

Ahem.

I also recently opened a bank account, a task which I could not begin without proof of my address, only, sorry, not a lease, nor any old letter mailed to my address, but rather an official something from the city or a recognized company. Of course none of those things arrive within the first month of living anywhere. Once you do have one, it will take 7-10 business days to open the account. Once the account is open, one receives one’s bank card by mail, in 7-10 business days. The card must be activated, by mail or in the branch, and then the PIN for said bank card will arrive several days after that, also by mail. It’s almost funny, isn’t it? Only it’s not. Not really. Stop snickering. Stop that, it’s mean. Have you no pity?

I should probably end my journal of fun-house mirror bureaucratic antics now. I’ll save Part II, In Which Luke Attempts to Receive a Parcel But Fails in Amusing and Lengthy Fashion, for another day.

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February 2005
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