This country’s fucked.

This, as H will testify, is one of my most oft-repeated phrases, and of late I seem to have been uttering it more frequently than ever, largely because of:

a) Sally Clark (see earlier blog)
b) the washing machine
c) being Put Through to India
d) TV tax

A friend once sent me a forward headed ‘You know you’ve been in England for too long when …’ with various endings, one of which was ‘You’ve forgotten what customer service is.’ After two months of wrangling with the lame ‘engineers’ from Indecis over the washing machine, H, A and I had not only forgotten about customer service, but we were so frustrated we were ready to stab someone. The phone representatives placated us by saying they would send a senior engineer, but then they sent the same imbecile who had turned up the first two times (and who had made the fuse blow up with sparks and smoke). H said that when he opened the door, the engineer had cautiously looked around for A, in case she jumped out and attacked him. Eventually we managed to get a person who knew what he was doing to look at it. He said he would have to send away for more parts and I got angry and started to raise my voice, before realising that this wouldn’t get us anywhere. We did lots of shouting in those two months and it achieved nothing, because nothing can shift the creaking behemoth that is English bureaucracy. When the parts turned up our friend came with them to install them, and H said that he still had hardly any idea of what he was doing, because when he went he left the pipe on the ground, when it’s supposed to be higher than the machine to help the water flow; H knew about the pipe and he isn’t even an engineer.

However we now, to my eternal delight, have a working washing machine. It still leaks a bit, but to expect a perfectly functioning machine is clearly asking too much.

Another shitty aspect of English customer service is Being Put Through to India. I hate ringing my bank because I can’t understand the people on the other end and it’s incredibly stressful just trying to get a pin re-set (hence I never forget my pin – how efficacious is that??). H loves his bank because he’s put through to Ireland. However the other day, while trying to change a train ticket, he was Put Through to India after the customary half-hour wait, and the following conversation ensued:

India: Good afternoon sir, how can I help you?

H: I’d like to change the date of my train ticket please.

(H gives existing, and new, dates of travel.)

India: That will be £40.00, with a £10.00 administration fee.

H: But the original ticket cost £20.00.

India: That’s right.

H: So I need to pay another £20.00 just to move my ticket?

India: Yes, that’s right.

H (in most sarcastic voice possible): Thank you very much. You’ve been most helpful.

India: You’re welcome.

And in the Guardian a few weeks back I read of a woman who rang BT about getting an internet connection set up in her office in the back yard, and when she got Put Through to India she realised the person to whom she was speaking had no concept of back yards, or of phone lines travelling through them.

Then there are the TV licensing people. We have a TV, but we WATCH DVDs on it. H has phoned and written to these fuckwits to explain that we WATCH DVDs and have tuned it (according to their verbal instructions given over the phone) so that we can only WATCH DVDs. Instead they have sent a variety of threatening letters, all neatly threaded-through with the prospect of court action.

I don’t understand TV tax. I’m guessing that it’s been implemented to be fair to those people who don’t watch telly, but surely after all the expense of the aggressive letters, door knocking and court appearances, they might as well tax everyone, like they do in Australia, and then put the money towards Aunty.

Also, I don’t appreciate that they’re so aggressive and negative in their campaign against non-users. Why not have a sense of humour about it, people?

Other ways you know you’ve been in England for too long are:

•You’ve given up complaining about the Victorian banking service.

•You’ve given up explaining why you are half an hour late to work.

•You believe that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday are all good nights for drinking. Sunday day is also entirely reasonable.

•You don’t even bother looking out of the window when you get up to check what the day is like. You know it’s overcast.

•You expect men to actually cut, comb and style their hair (using hair products). And to wear decent clothes. Jeans and a T-shirt are no longer socially acceptable.

•You think £40 for a haircut is quite reasonable for a bloke.

•You’ve stopped calling people ‘a dag’ because you don’t want to have to explain it.

•After a big night out you find yourself looking for a curry house, and not a Hungry Jacks

•More than three hours sunlight on summer days seems excessive.

•You only just realise you have lost your sunnies and that you left them in Greece 2 summers ago.

•You are on to your 6th umbrella and your second overcoat.

•You buy a disposable baby BBQ from Argos.

•You realise your sunburn cream is the stuff you bought with you from Australia.

•A day at the beach means wearing the warmest clothes you own while standing on golf ball-size pebbles and the thought of swimming doesn’t even enter your head.

•You always call soccer football and you have a team and it’s not Manchester United.

•A sunny lunchtime means searching for a patch of grass and stripping off practically down to your underwear

•You start to accept queuing as a way of life.

In case you’re bored (or need a point of comparison), read on …

You know you are in Sydney when…

•Your co-worker tells you they have 8 body piercings but none are visible.

•You make over $100,000 and still can’t afford a house.

•You take a bus and are shocked at 2 people carrying on a conversation in English.

•You never bother looking at the train schedule because you know the drivers have never seen it.

•You can’t remember….is dope illegal?

•You’ve been to more than one baby shower that has two mothers and a sperm donor.

•You have a very strong opinion where your coffee beans are grown and can taste the difference between Sumatra and Ethiopian.

•A really great parking space can move you to tears.

•You assume every company offers domestic partner benefits.

•Your boss runs in “The City to Surf”….it’s the first time you have seen him/her nude.

•Your child’s 3rd grade teacher has two pierced ears, a nose ring and is named “Breeze.” And, after telling that to a friend, they still need to ask if the teacher is male or female.

•You are thinking of taking an adult class but you can’t decide between yoga, aromatherapy, conversational Italian – French or a building your own web site class.

•You haven’t been to Darling Harbour since the first month you moved to Sydney and you couldn’t figure out how to drive to Sydney Tower if your life depended on it.

•A man walks on the bus in full leather regalia and crotchless chaps. You don’t notice.

•You think any guy with a George Clooney haircut must be visiting from the North Shore.

•You know that any woman with a George Clooney haircut is not a tourist.

•You keep a list of companies to boycott.

•You are genuinely surprised when you meet someone who was actually born in Sydney (but then, they are Swiss/Thai/Brazilian).

•You order organic fruit and vegies online, but eat out every night anyway.

•You spent more money on your coffee machine than on your washing machine.

•You spend $500+ for your room in an apartment with stunning harbour/beach views and European appliances; and then spend a total of 40 hours each week there (37 of which you are sleeping).

•You contemplate calling a cab from your home to where you managed to park the car the night before.

•You spend 30 minutes in a traffic jam next to a car with more power to its speakers than its wheels.

•You meet friends for coffee at 1am at your local Netcafe/Laundramat/Bookstore/Bar/Alternative healing centre and go for drinks and pool at nine in the morning.

•You go out each Saturday for breakfast and the paper…at 3pm.

•Your shiatsu therapist is headhunted by an Internet Startup and your accountant becomes an actor.

•You know everyone’s e-mail and mobile number but not their last name or home address.

•You can roll sushi, make pasta and keep your red curry paste recipe under lock and key…but couldn’t roast a chicken to save your life.

•Your cab driver was a micro-surgeon before he moved to Australia.

and finally – “You know you live in Sydney, when….

•Your hairdresser is straight, Your plumber is gay, The woman who delivers your mail is straight…. and your Avon Lady is a drag queen.


Our shopping arrived this afternoon, and we now have 9 pots of yoghurt, 30 bananas and 5 cartons of soup. And after three weeks, the ‘ripen at home’ bananas have finally morphed from a luminous green to something resembling yellow. However, they are still so hard that they could be used as a weapon against TV tax people.


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