I had planned to write a post about my visit to my lovely friend Sarah at the end of May. And then Brexit happened, so I felt that I had to share some of my thoughts on this too.
I first set foot in the UK twenty-five years ago, when I came as an au pair to learn English. Back then, being Swiss meant that the family I was going to work for had to get a permit for me. The many reasons I fell in love with the country I described in my Manchester – An Anniversary post, if you want to have a read. I spent a year in England and came back, intending to stay, a year later, having in the meantime lived in Vienna to learn German, gone to Australia and worked in Switzerland. I did apply for jobs, but again, my nationality was a real obstacle. My only hope was for the December 1992 Swiss referendum to join the EEE to be accepted. 78,73% of the population voted and it was refused by 50.3%… Sounds familiar? My last hope had been crushed and I went back to Switzerland, both angry and heartbroken.
Of course, in the greater scheme of things, my personal experience is not that important. But now that my two daughters have lost overnight the “European passport” they had thanks to their British father, it makes me really sad that they, like thousands and thousands of other young people, might experience the same disillusion. To encounter difficulties in getting a university spot or a job in the country of their choice, or worse, to see their dream disintegrate should not have happened, in my opinion. And for the moment, I am clinging to the hope that somehow, it will not.
Meanwhile, my love relationship with the UK continues and I am looking forward to making more and more memories. Like the ones created during my recent trip: going to a charity barn dance, walking along the sea on that gorgeous South coast, and eating fish and chips in the pub. Or having cream tea in the gardens of Highcliffe Castle and sharing tapas, wine and laughs with friends in Bournemouth.
Until next time.
It is unusual for me to rant on this blog. You may have read the posts about my favourite car brand or the sanity of the chicken man, but they are far and few between. Today, however, I have to write another one. Because sometimes, the repeated lack of courtesy and consideration to others is just too annoying.
Back in February I signed up with a new sport club. I love it. It is beautifully designed and all the staff members are competent and friendly. The variety of courses on offer is impressive and luckily includes my favourites such as Tae Bo and Pilates. The pool is not huge but big enough to swim in and you can choose from many different aqua classes. The weight training and cardio area is equipped with the latest machines. There is also a physical therapy centre – which would have come in handy last year when I broke my arm! – a beauty salon, sun beds, a café and various seminars and events are regularly organised. Finally, the wellness floor is heavenly, with several different saunas, steam baths, another pool, the most comfortable loungers and a huge terrace very popular in the summer.
Not the poshest or most exclusive gym, but one of high standard. You would therefore think that courtesy from the members would be part of the deal, right? Not really. In the shower area, there is a long built-in table in front of mirrors with two basins. A few steps away toilets can be found with another basin and paper towels. How difficult is it to grab a paper towel once you have rinsed your bathing suit, or washed you hands, or brushed your hair and just wipe the basin and surrounding surface? Apparently, too difficult:
Every single time that I want to put my wash bag down and use the products in it without getting the lot soaked, I have to do it myself. The same applies in the changing area where wet swimming costumes are being dropped down on benches. I know, compared to some of the terrible things going on in the world, this is nothing. But still. I try very hard to teach my children manners and I find it disheartening that adults cannot be bothered to set an example.
Two months ago I replaced my iPhone 4 with an iPhone 4S. I know, I know, the 5 model was out already. But I specifically wanted a 4S because in the S versions Apple fixes the bugs found in the previous release, right?
Everything worked seamlessly until a few days ago. My phone rang, I answered… and I heard nothing. Rather a major flaw in a phone. I hung up and rang the number back. Nothing. Then the person rang me on my landline. She said that she could hear me fine but that obviously I could not hear her? Exactly. After our conversation ended I looked at several forums and realised I was far from the only one with that problem. There was a few recommended “tricks” and I tried them all: Switch the phone off and back on again, plug and unplug the earphones, do a restore – which is a pain, I had other things to do. Nothing. I kept fiddling with it and found out that I could use the speaker mode and that still worked. Great. Gives you a lot of privacy.
Off I went to my local telecom shop. The nice guy told me: “Not a problem, you leave it here, we send it for repair and it will be sent back to you.” Pause. I was waiting for him to carry on, but that was it. So I said: “First of all, I do not want my phone repaired. I want a new one. It went wrong after TWO MONTHS. Obviously there is a quality issue.” He shook his head: “I am sorry, but repair is the policy.” Next question: “And how long is this going to take?” Answer: “About two weeks”. I barely dared ask: “And you are going to lend me a phone during that time, right?” Another pause. Then: “No, I am sorry, Apple does not do that and we as partners cannot buy and keep phones for such cases.”
Appalling comes to mind. I am very disappointed in Apple for providing such poor customer service. I will now have to drive over an hour to the nearest Apple Store to get my phone exchanged. Again, I have other things to do. Yes, I could go for another brand. And spend HOURS syncing, transferring and getting everything to work. I am far too busy to do this right now, so I will not. And Apple knows it.
I have already told you how long it took for our marriage to be registered in Switzerland in my original The Swiss (In)efficiency post. This time I discovered that we physically had to go to the consulate simply to renew Second Daughter’s identity card.
As obtaining a new passport entails having your fingerprints scanned nowadays, I totally understand that there is no other way than a visit, really (for the moment at least!). But an ID card? This could be done in a much more practical way. We had to bring with us a long list of documents and official papers, but nothing that could not have been copied and sent through the post together with the expired ID card and the necessary photo. And it would not be that difficult to provide an on-line ordering form that the person can fill in, print and sign, right? You can then imagine either electronic payment facilities or a bank transfer at the time of the order. This method could of course be applied to other official documents that you might need to order at some point in your life. But no, you have to get in your car or on the train (in our case, the consulate is about an hour away from our home) and waste at least half a day on such a standard procedure. Not to mention that it makes the new identity card quite pricey.
We had of course made an appointment, so we got there with Second Daughter and announced ourselves at the door before being buzzed in. The consulate was empty. Still, we had to take a number and wait five minutes before being called to the counter. I thought this was really funny!
The whole process took quite a while, but the lady was very friendly and to be fair, although we were told it would take two to three weeks for the new identity card to come through the post, it arrived a week later. Also, Second Daughter and I turned into a day out what originally was a hassle, having lunch together on a nice sunny terrace and doing a spot of shopping, so it was quite nice in the end.
I am however curious to see if next time we need an official document the system will be less archaic? What are your experiences? Is it the same in every country?