Posts Tagged ‘red tape’

Coliposte delivery query form

After more than a week and a half, our skis still haven’t arrived from France. Never mind that parcels from Hong Kong arrive at my doorstep four days after being posted.  No, in France, it seems, things take longer.  It took more than a week for my skis to make it 280km to the Export Centre, where they have sat for the last three days making no progress at all.

Once they make it over the border, I’m confident that the Swiss won’t waste a second assessing the duty and taxes on my skis, then sending a man around to collect the balance.  Nothing motivates the Swiss like collecting taxes.

So our plans to go skiing this weekend were put on hold, as I’ve found skiing is less fun when you’re simply wearing boots.

Instead, we headed off to Germany to do a little ice-skating.  Nice way to spend a cold winter’s day, and we had some snow outside to make it even better.  Finished the day off with a trip to the German supermarket (always fun, although I discovered that everything is a little picked-over if you wait until Saturday afternoon to do your shopping.  It’s like the beach chairs – the Germans get up early to ensure the best choice!)

We’re crossing our fingers that the skis turn up before next weekend.  We’re trying to squeeze in a day of skiing before I have to leave for India and Australia – we’ve got a week booked in Chamonix as soon as I get back, and I’d like a chance to get out on the skis once before we hit the big mountains.

After more than two months of wrangling with various telephone providers in France, we are finally reconnected to the web. Hurrah.


Matthew’s mood-o-meter

Well, after a few weeks in France, the novelty is beginning to wear off a little bit. We’ve had our fair share of problems settling in, both personally and professionally, that take off a little bit of the glow.

We’ve been struggling to get our phone line installed for several weeks, passed continuously between customer service and technical support, neither of whom are very helpful (and both of whom are accessed via a premium-rate number that costs 35 cents a minute to call). They’ve sent us all the equipment, but they’ve actually installed the line at our neighbours’ apartment and they insist there’s nothing they can do to reverse it.

We’ve tried explaining that our neighbour might be upset to discover that he no longer has phone service at his flat when he returns from his holidays. We’ve tried explaining that we’re not particularly happy paying for phone service when they’ve connected it to the wrong flat, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem in their books.

Things at work are complicated on both sides of the Channel. On the English side, they still haven’t managed to re-enable all my old UK accounts, nearly a month after my move to France. On the French side, they’ve managed to reject all of my moving expenses (which they’d previously agreed to pay) and told me that I will first be entitled to vacation in the middle of 2009. These are all misunderstandings that will be cleared up in the fullness of time, but it’s frustrating nevertheless.

Aided with Powerpoint presentations and visual aids, I think I finally managed to convey to my bank the problems with my internet banking arrangements (which seem to think that my personal account and joint account belong to two separate people, with the same name at the same address). My two previous in-person visits to resolve this issue have been unsuccessful, but I remain confident that my well-polished presentation today will get me over the hurdle.

I’m nearly convinced that I will be paid this month, but still not certain. It’s all an adventure.

They’re very process-oriented here in Singapore. The process is generally followed regardless of whether it makes common sense or not, and fighting against this behaviour is an exercise in futility. This is a country that’s used to following rules.

Which explains why my bowl of wonton soup was accompanied by another smaller bowl of wonton soup. Apparently, soup is included with all meals. Even if the meal is soup.

Wedding bells

Obviously my time working at an audit firm has paid off and fostered in me a new-found attention to detail. Only a few short days after posting our wedding dossier to the Mairie in France, we just heard that the dossier is complete and correct, and our wedding banns will be published later this week. While this is a good achievement under any circumstances, the fact that we managed to get all the right documents, certifications, translations, and endorsements in the face of conflicting guidance from the French authorities makes it an even greater achievement. I’m actually shocked they didn’t find a reason to reject it just as a matter of principle.

Well, finally some progress on a number of fronts. After what seems like a lifetime of dealing with government departments, we have finally managed to gather together all of the documents we need to submit our wedding dossier in France. I’ve got certificates of just about everything, translated, stamped, and sealed by government agencies I didn’t know existed. I’ve even got a Certificate of Celibacy (which is basically a certificate that says “this certificate doesn’t exist in the UK” – come on, with the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe you don’t think we issue many of these, right?)

So arrived back from a couple of glorious days in Paris – beautiful sunshine and warm, clear skies (all of which I only gazed through the office windows) to be greeted by three days of rain for our three-day weekend in the UK. We had a lovely meal on Thursday night at L’Etoile, a horrendously-overpriced restaurant with a great view of the Arc de Triumphe. I caught the Friday night Eurostar back to Ashford and reminded myself again how civilised rail travel can be.

Three rainy days later and it was off to Amsterdam, this time via London City airport and the comfort of a VLM Fokker 50 turbo-prop. The weather was windy and the ride was bumpy – I fly a lot, and this was the sort of “I think I might throw up a little bit” kind of bumpy. I managed to land in Amsterdam vomit-free, but not before I’d managed to spill my half my Coke down my shirt. I like to do big first impressions when I arrive in a new town.

The Hotel Pulitzer was lovely – loads of old townhouses all knocked into one. Just as well, too, as I didn’t see the outside of the hotel much in the four days I was in Amsterdam. The course went really well (must have been down to the quality tutoring!) and, with the exception of a few Germans who wanted to be spoon-fed the methodologies, was received with rave reviews. I left on Friday night totally shattered and arrived at Schiphol to discover that my flight had been cancelled.

It was chaos at the airport – despite having a fully-flexible ticket, they couldn’t seem to load me onto another flight. My passport was being passed between the check-out counters like a hot potato. After thirty minutes of phone calls, they finally managed to get me onto a flight.

How the Dutch are the tallest people in the world is beyond me. The food was, without exception, crap. I hardly ate anything in four days. Breakfast was reasonable enough, but lunch consisted of sandwiches so stingy that even the English seem generous and thin, watery soup that would discourage even young Oliver Twist from begging for more.

Dinner was a choice of meats in gloop, surrounded by vegetables in gloop and served with potatoes in gloop. I don’t know what the Dutch name for our dishes was, but I suspect it was something like Meet en Gloop met Karrets en Gloop. Bear in mind we were staying in a 5-star hotel and eating at (supposedly) some of the best restaurants in Amsterdam. The monotony was only broken up by the unexpectedly pleasant starters – Smooked Feesh en Gloop.

Enough about Dutch cuisine. Back home on Friday night for a beautiful, sunny weekend in Canterbury. Mowed the lawn and caught up with errands on Saturday, then spent the afternoon in the park. Sunday we took the Corvette out for a spin to the Duck Inn, a lovely country pub, where we sat in the garden and had a lovely pigeon breast salad (“PoopenShijtenBuurdBoobs met kein Gloopsaus” in Dutch), then headed back to the park for a few beers and some sunbathing.

Off to my new client this morning, and a chance to do some real client work for a change. So far, so good – watch this space!

* Please note: the Dutch translations in this entry may not be entirely accurate. I don’t actually speak Dutch.