Tiredness, Oysters and the Start of Summer

Finally, the fog of exhaustion of the past few weeks is beginning to burn away. I’ve been working like a dog, and still have another 3000 words to write for this month. Actually it’s probably more than that because half of what I write is rubbish. I can’t remember the last time I felt this tired, except when I had anorexia when I was 13 and 14, and when I first turned up in England and I was so stressed my body went haywire. It’s a struggle to fight the impulse to just lie on my bed and read fiction, when I must remain upright and decipher the politics surrounding the Linnean system for naming plants in the 18th Century.

So, things that have been happening in the last few weeks: I lost my Oyster card. I was plunged into despair when this happened because I simply could not afford to lose my card, as I’d bought an annual pass at the beginning of the academic year and therefore didn’t have to budget for transport expenses each month. Ordinarily, one would expect Transport for London to simply issue a new card, since they would have had my record and photo from the other times I’ve applied for a photocard. But no, that would be far too difficult for such an enterprising and forward-thinking company. So, as quickly as possible I posted off an application for a new card. A week later I got a letter from TFL saying that my application was rejected because the payment couldn’t be authorised. So I rang them up to find out what had gone wrong. The woman couldn’t tell me. I asked if I could pay over the phone and she replied forcefully that they weren’t authorized to take payments over the phone. Clearly, such a simple procedure defies all common sense and no, we aren’t in the 21st century either, so how could I possibly expect TFL to use a process that has existed in Australia for at least the last 10 years? How is it that Sydney Uni can offer payment for library fines over the internet, yet one of the major transport corporations in the UK cannot implement applications via the most ubiquitous telecommunication systems ever invented? Whatever the answer, I haven’t the slightest shadow of a doubt that TFL has an utterly sound, wholesome and sensible rationale behind their actions.

Back to my telephone conversation, in which the woman told me twice that they were going to introduce payments over the phone ‘in the near future.’ On the second telling I said sarcastically, ‘Thank you very much for your help,’ hung up on her and burst into tears with sheer frustration. So then I had to submit another application by MAIL (since TFL clearly believe themselves to be inhabiting the glorious days of Empire where nothing can be swifter than a franked letter), and await my refund with much scepticism, since M had a similar problem last year and her refund never arrived.

Oyster cards and the moronic clams that issue them aside, A has left for Russia and China, so he had a barbeque at his digs on Sunday, where I met some nice Aussies, and we had a collective whinge about the banking system, and wondered at the process whereby you could take money out of your account when there was nothing in it, whereas in Oz if there is no money, you can’t take anything out. A_ related the story of how she bailed up a banker at a party (to complain about this same thing), and came out of it with the understanding that the banks still work on the cheque system, so they won’t know if there’s no money in your account until three days later. K then related the amusing anecdote of how, after ringing up to complain for the third time about being fined for having his account overdrawn, the man on the phone had said, ‘Now, Mr H, before you begin, please don’t preface it by saying, “But in Australia …”‘

After four hours of small talk, however pleasant, I was desperate to get home, but H looked disappointed when I suggested this, and said that perhaps I should go home on my own. I was fine with that since there is sometimes nothing better than reading a brilliant book (Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal) on a long bus journey, but there were some other people at the bus stop from the party so I had to concoct yet more frothy conversation until they got off at Elephant and Castle. They were lovely people (they were friends of A’s after all), but I was a tired, deaf girl who finds listening hard and who wanted to be left alone with her book.

On a happier note (since H has instructed me that for every bad thing about England, I must think of a good thing), summer is coming, which means that the fruit is tasting better (as it hasn’t been hauled from Ecuador during the wrong season and polluted the atmosphere in the process) and soon there will be my favourite yellow-fleshed peaches and nectarines in the shops. And today I got into a filmy skirt and sandals for the first time since February (in Oz) and saw my physiotherapist. Alas, I was felt up by his delightfully sensitive hands for the last time, since my knee is probably as good as it’s going to get and I refuse to go to the gym as he recommended to strengthen the surrounding muscles with weights. I told him I would rather put up with the pain than go to the gym.

And of course there was my London launch on Wednesday, which was splendid and which deserves its own entry, after this.

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One Response to “Tiredness, Oysters and the Start of Summer”

  1. Excellent ying and yang balancing with that nice comment about the fruit coming into season. What a clever cookie your brother is… 🙂

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