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The Move, work, and other stuff

Well, here is more on the move, and other stuff. I'm sure my readers from the Old Country will want to know what things are like in the UK.

First of all, the weather. This is the third time I have been in Wales, and I am yet to see any real rain. There seems to be evidence that it rains overnight, which actually seems quite civilised, but I'm yet to actually get rained upon, even though I have walked to work every day.

The bureaucracy: In the insult to the dead which was the Americanised piece of crap called Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the high point of the movie was when Arthur says that he is British and that he knows how to queue. I'm not sure if he knows how to queue when there is no one there. When we arrived in the UK, we had a little problem:

I needed a bank account so that I could get paid. To get a bank account, I needed a home address. To rent somewhere, I needed a bank account and money (which I needed a job to pay me). But to get a bank account...

So this is how we defeated the soul-destroying, mind-numbing stupidity? I opened a bank account. "With what address?" I hear you asking. With the hotel I stayed in for a grand total of 4 days. This is supposed to eliminate money laundering exactly how? But then, of course, Rebecca can't get an account, because she doesn't have proof of address. We can't even get her name on a joint account. Even if we bring in our marriage certificate. Yep folks, the world is that much safer from terrorism, because a woman can't get her name on a joint account with her husband. She can enter the coutnry freely. She can work. In two years time she'll have settled status. But God forbid she should get her name on our bank account! Meanwhile, given that I'm working, she is responsible for the shopping, guess who gets the card? But you can rest easy, knowing that she is prevented from laundering money through a UK bank account.

Now for accommodation. They actually have a formalised system of reference and credit checks for renters, which basically means that landlords get estate agents to charge for the privilege of checking up on you. Whether you get the place or not. But guess what? We have no UK history, so we have no guarantees. How do we find somewhere to live? Step one, the hotel we stayed at for 4 days is owned by someone who just happens to also rent out single bedroom accommodation, and was kind enough to let us rent a room for 4 weeks. Relatively expensive, but for short term accommodation with no guarantees (he couldn't even remember our names!), it was a bargain. And cheaper than staying in hotels. Things Swansea doesn't have: Youth Hostels and Serviced apartment type accommodation. We then lucked into a room at the university owned postgrad accommodation. We have a nice 2 bed flat in a mini Carlton-esque location until September. It is a little small for my tastes, but I can handle it, and it is not like the shoe box I lived in Lausanne. We're not exactly cramped, so I'll live. And we have a spare bedroom for any family or friends who come to visit.

National insurance number: They organise all your tax and stuff through your NI number. I sat the interview to get one on the day before we moved into our new apartment at Ty Beck. I explicitly said, and noted that it was clearly written on the form, that I was living where I was living but that I was moving the next day. Yesterday, to my overwhelming joy, they sent me a letter confirming my NI number. Where? To the old apartment. Its a good thing we'd been slack moving out. So today I called them up. Several times through the day. No answer. I called the switchboard, who immediately diverted me - even though there was no one there. It is something I have found they are very good at here: diverting you based on a key word rather than actually thinking. Where they divert you doesn't always have anything to do with any word you have said though. So, finally, at 4:30, I managed to stop them before they diverted me, and they diverted me to somewhere else, who was no use, apart from being able to tell me that there was no one there and to call on Monday. Great. Joy.

Work - the peripherals: I'm in a two-person office with Ala. I will soon have a new computer (AMD Athalon 3800+, 1GB ram, 200GB hard drive). In some ways, it is better than my home computer (although it doesn't have a good graphics card and won't be able to play Tuxracer). I've been working with postgrads Rhodri and Chris, I work for Rhodri and the rest of the dramatis personae will be introduced gradually when relevant.

Work - the project: I had hoped to get my rig up and running in a day or two. I had expected a week or two. I had planned a month or two. It is in far more of a mess than I had anticipated, and I feel like my efforts at getting the rig working are like the aliens in Space Invaders: Slowly inching their way down; most being picked off by the defender, occasionally slipping through the defences and making some progress towards the overall goal. Sometimes I should leave analogies where I find them. On the other hand, there has been good support from the people I work with, and there is a level of excitement from the heads of various groups for involvement in this project, which is what I want.

Last night we went bowling with some other people from Ty Beck. It was good - they give you the ball speed, so you can clock how fast you are bowling; a much better measure of success than number of pins knocked down! I bowled a reasonable first game by my standards - 121. I then got bored and bowled a really good 78 - mostly with my right hand, although there was one bowl where I grabbed a 6 pound ball in my open hand to show Bec that the holes weren't necessary - and fluked a strike!

I think I am almost up to date now. My new Debian DVDs have just arrived, so I am going to install them soon. And its almost Shabbat.


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