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Category Archives: rant

Overwhelmed

I have been feeling so unbelievably overwhelmed lately that it is like the rest of my life before this was underwhelming and dull and filled with long absences-of-anything and moments-of-supreme-boredom, which I do not really believe for a moment. There have even been a couple of moments of weeping in the car, and one monumentally embarrassing moment last week of running out of a tile shop because I was about to start not merely weeping but actually sobbing. With snot and everything. Because bathroom tiles are really, REALLY stressful.

And then I sat down to write a family Christmas letter which I know is terribly bourgeois and all that but frankly, I am middle-aged and married with kids which probably makes me terribly bourgeois. And I have no time and have not caught up with many of my friends all year which means I kind of owe them a roundup.

And I was ok with writing about what other family members are doing and all that generally fun stuff, and then I got to me and I tried to write it and I went HOLY CRAP I HAVE DONE A LOT THIS YEAR. And then I freaked out a little bit (= quite a lot) and then I realised that actually it was all good because it means that I am ALLOWED to be overwhelmed.

Which is probably the first stage in a 12-step program, right? Except not the AA kind of 12-step program because I don’t think you’re meant to give yourself permission to be an addict. And I am seriously contemplating wallowing in it. And maybe bribing the Bigster, who is on holidays now, to take her sister to school on Friday while I sleep and sleep and sleep. (unless the builder is there … or the cats … or the postman delivers something …)

Anyway, what I am overwhelmed about at the moment is the bathroom, because things are still going wronger and wronger. And my mother, who has breast cancer and is going a bit nutty from chemotherapy and ringing me three times a day. Or maybe I am going nutty from her doing that. And my brother, who she doesn’t really ring at all, which is probably good for his mental health but less good for mine. And my dad, who is in a nursing home close to me and needs visiting and love and affection. And maybe furniture. And the Bigster, who is still sick. And Otto, who is adorable and sometimes nuts, and always wants attention right when I am having a “my brain is full please let me process something” moment. And the cats, who wizzed on all the clean washing so I had to re-wash it. And there was a LOT of it. And Fraser, who is lovely but wonders why I never have any time. And my experiment going back to a couple of small work projects, which has been a dismal failure and has seen me actually working 4-5 days a week the last 2 weeks (and until 3:30am today). And the house, which is even more of a disaster area than ever, not helped by the Absence of Bathroom. And (ex-) work perhaps not actually realising that I am really not working there any more and asking me to do a small project NEXT WEEK as in the week before Christmas. And not earning any money except for these projects, so Fraser doesn’t know whether to be cross with me for working or for not earning anything, and neither do I. (We are over this now. We are both cross with me for working so I am stopping.). And the garden, which is completely overrun with weeds that are, quite literally, stronger than me.

There are some funny stories buried in the stress, like my mother and the online banking app. I’m sure that will be funny in oooh about fifty years or so. And the builder telling me the tiles we spent three hours tracking down were the wrong size. (They are NOT.). And Snowflake’s big escape through the wall of the bathroom. And the toilet story which I have told before (emptying and cleaning it, however, was NOT a funny story). And dad and the set-top box. And the water tank that was going to cost more than a Miele oven! And the Miele oven that I didn’t buy. And the vegetables fruits and herbs that Otto and I planted (Fraser is worried because I bought “vegetable and herb” potting mix and he thinks that might be enough v-word to trigger something). And the crazy nutritionist with the squillion dietary supplements. I think perhaps I should invent a sort of half-life for these moments – a way to calculate how long it will be before they stop inspiring either murderous rage or cold sweats, and instead become funny. But in reality it’s probably about two weeks. Or two days, depending on who I am talking to and whether I am drawing a flowchart about it.

I haven’t even got my head around Christmas shopping yet. I did, however, buy shoes. They are Spanish, and wearing them is like having my feet caressed by the downy wings of baby angels. Even the Bigster approves: “Mum, you are allowed to buy me these shoes if you like.” They don’t quite make up for the tiling issues, but they sometimes come close.

And our toilet still flushes. I am grateful every time.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in house, rant

 

When I rule the world: Medical tests.

1. When tests are done, the person tested will be given an accurate estimate of what day the results will be available.

2. When results are ready, the medical institution providing said results will call the preferred contact number to pass them on.

3. If that doesn’t work, it would be nice if they called the other contact number too.

4. If it is a Friday and they are going to be closed for the weekend, it would not be inappropriate to consider trying again later. Especially when they have failed at point 2.

5. When a patient then calls on Monday morning at 8:40, they will not have to call back at 10:20 and have a hissy fit before getting results.

In other news, my hissy fit has paid off. I had a phone call less than 15 minutes later. And the results are CLEAR (although still indeterminate).

Which is still beyond awesome.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in health, parenting, rant

 

Drunken clowns? What F***ers!

Sitting around at Bordercon on Saturday afternoon, Iain asked me whether I wanted to try a new game he’d picked up. “It’ll only take about an hour,” he said, basing his estimate on the playing time of 45 minutes.

[As it turns out, this was the first of several mistakes we would make with this game.]

The game was Circus Train. It’s about running a circus out of Canada during the Prohibition era, and is based on Sara Gruen’s novel Water for Elephants (or think of the TV series Carnivale). Potentially an interesting theme.

1:42pm “This may well be the first time this game has been played in Australia” / “You start with one clown. ” #ClownTrain #Bordercon #qbgames

The version we played was produced by Victory Point Games. They’re a small, volunteer-based publishing company. As I understand it, the games they publish are often created by students of game design.

That makes a lot of sense in the context of the game. It had familiar mechanics drawn from a variety of games:

  • “Best Work” scoring, similar to Princes of Florence or Colosseum
  • Card-based actions (hand management), where you choose which card to play from your hand each turn, from a limited pool
  • Rounds and Uber-rounds (phases/stages/eras). And Uber Uber Rounds.
  • A modified pick-up-and-deliver component, that sort of lost half of the deliver part in that you kept the items you had collected
  • Multipliers for having multiple copies of a single item (more Princes of Florence here)
  • Random event cards that cannot be mitigated against (think Agricola X-Deck but even worse) (I can say that, I was one of the X-Deck designers)
  • End-of-round (end of week / end of month / end of 2 months / end of game) administration
  • Limited number of turns

1:46pm Early theory: #CircusTrain is the bastard child of #PrincesOfFlorence and #18xx – will see what @jryderau & @eclectics think #Bordercon

So far, that probably doesn’t sound so bad. And in fact I see that this game has some positive reviews on BGG. I am, however, at a loss to see why.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in games, rant

 

Decisions – a retrospective

2011 was a big year for us – more specifically, it was a big year for our daughters.

For the Bigster 2011 was the start of high school – a move to a very academic environment with some very formal structure. She had homework and she had assessment – she had work that was due and she was expected to do it. We were confident that she could do it but we expected that there might be a bit of a shock getting started. And we were right both times although the shock was much less than we thought.

For Otto, 2011 brought more upheaval – with a change of schools halfway through the year. The new school is smaller and infinitely more challenging and stimulating – and much more in keeping with our philosophy of education and with our values. There were some hairy moments – and lots of new experiences (like having a desk to sit at; having spelling words and textbooks; being expected to DO work; being assessed on how well you did the work) but she has really risen to the challenge. She’s made some wonderful new friends and has come out of her shell in a way that we didn’t expect so soon.

She reached a big milestone last week. While her last report from the old school put her six months ahead in maths, her new school assessed that she was 12-18 months behind the other kids. While they were working on book 3B, she was given 2A and a challenge: Catch up.

And she has. She’s now on book 4A with the other grade 4 children, and 2 weeks ago she was only 20 pages behind them. Her teacher has now decided to move her up to where the other kids are – getting her to keep working on those ‘missing’ 20 pages as homework, as required.

(Because I am far too honest, I will admit that getting that homework done has not been an unmitigated delight. There have been days when we have sat for six to eight hours, coaxing her to keep going and just do the next question, while tears were shed – and not just by her. But lately we’re also seeing her initiating her homework and taking more of the initiative about getting it done. Sometimes, at least.)

In her after-school drama class, she took on the role of the narrator for the play last term – successfully learning 40+ lines in her second language and performing them fluently for the rest of the school. Through her involvement in the choir, she has sung solos to groups of 200+ people. This week, she’s off on her first sleepover camp.

Self esteem? Sky high.

For us the move was good too. It’s not just Otto who has made new friends. We’ve settled in to a wonderful parent and school community: as this post goes live, I’m at a meeting talking about some fantastic events that are coming up at school. There’s a framework for parent involvement and a culture that supports and welcomes parent-teacher partnerships. I’ve lost the stress and parent-guilt that I felt every day – and Fraser and I have moved on from the daily bitterness and anger that we felt at the wasted opportunities and culture of mediocrity. Those experiences have become an artefact of our family’s history rather than an everyday obstacle.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re bitter and angry that we HAD those experiences, but they are in our past now.

Funnily enough though, this post was inspired by a hangover from that past. I recently noticed that someone from the old school has been stalking me online. But this time I rolled my eyes and ignored it, because it’s not my problem anymore.

OK, I had this little rant too. But that’s what I do.

There is much that I don’t love about my life. And much that I struggle with every day. Especially making Fraser and the kids do what I want negotiating family compromises.

But both schools are a joy.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2012 in parenting, rant, school

 

Cat poo

Yes. Cat poo. That is what has been causing conflict Chez Nous of late.

See, when we adopted two small, adorable kittens, we did not realise that they were in fact POO MACHINES disguised as small, adorable kittens.

Within a week of coming home, Snowflake had caused evacuations of the dining and living rooms* – and it continued. Despite the very expensive “Indoor cat, low fecal odour” kibble, there is something about our cats’ by-products (read: GOAL IN LIFE) that just carries.

(* turns out, this is a problem of open-plan living. The cat poo fumes just SPREAD. Even to my study which is around several corners.)

I made a schedule, to deal with the problem. It is very simple and looks like this:

VERY IMPORTANT CAT POO SCHEDULE

Monday: Biggie

Tuesday: Fraser

Wednesday: Fraser

Thursday: Fraser

Friday: Fraser

Saturday: Fraser

Sunday: Fraser

OK, maybe not quite like that. It really looks like this:

VERY IMPORTANT CAT POO SCHEDULE

Monday: Biggie

Tuesday: Fraser

Wednesday: Fraser

Thursday: Fraser

Friday: Melissa

Saturday: Melissa

Sunday: Melissa

and on the edge it has a teeny tiny very crafty-looking miniature wooden clothes peg, which shows on which day the kitty litter was last completely changed (ie discarded, tray disinfected and rinsed, then refilled). It is my attempt to make the functional cat poo schedule a thing of beauty.

Schedules are all very nice, in theory.

Except that I forgot to factor in my cats.

Here is what happens every morning:

7:30 Fraser leaves for work

7:45 Cats: WHEE! HE’S GONE! LET’S POO!

The exception to this is Monday mornings, which is Biggie’s rostered day.

7:30 Fraser leaves for work

7:45 Cats: WHEE! HE’S GONE! LET’S — OH WAIT, IT’S MONDAY. *cross legs*

8:00 Bigster leaves for school

8:01 Cats: OMG THANK GOODNESS I DID NOT THINK I COULD HOLD THAT IN ANY LONGER … UGH THAT’S DISGUSTING!

I usually get home from work around 4.

4:01 Cats: OMG I AM SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU I COULD JUST POO! ACTUALLY, I THINK I WILL.

And then we have my favourite, the Evening Special.

7:30 Cats: YAY YAY YAY NEARLY TIME TO GO TO BED WITH OTTO BUT FIRST, WE HAD BETTER POO!

7:31 Melissa (as unbearable fumes threaten extinction to all in the living room and beyond): Yeesh. That’s disgusting

7:32 Melissa (pointedly): IT”S YOUR DAY TO CLEAN IT UP

7:32:30 Fraser (wearing the DUH! face): You can’t empty the kitty litter when it’s fresh! It would be too smelly!

 

New beginnings

Here we are, half way through the year, and things are looking up. It’s been a long time since I posted anything here, because things have been hideously stressful and I really didn’t feel the need to inflict that on the whole entire internet. Or even my personal part of it.

Anyway, the worst of the stress is now officially Over. Readers of my Twitter account will know that we made the Fateful Decision in May to move Otto to a new school in the middle of the school year, rather than waiting for the end. There were lots of reasons for this but the main one was that we were starting to worry that her (old) school was failing the children so badly that she wouldn’t actually be accepted into Year 4 next year if she stayed there. There’s a whole rant about culture of mediocrity there that I am valiantly suppressing. You can take it as read, if you like. This was 90% of the reason for the move but the other two parts are more fun to talk about.

Which brings me to my next reason: I was turning into an angry, bitter person with nothing better to do than find fault. And make buzzword bingo cards to share with Fraser during school events. Like this one, of which I am secretly rather proud:

create, creative learning

scaffolding

exploration

space(s)

experiences

outcomes

development

diverse

community

child-centred

environment

leadership

neighbourhood

interacting

collaboration

one-to-one

journey

agreement

reflect, reflection

ICT / new technologies

21st century

engagement

conceptual

professional

And finally, there is a side benefit: I am no longer Involved With The School. No longer a member of School Council, no longer convening one subcommittee (Community Relations, now there’s irony!) and participating in another. I am free to help out at the new school without paying lip-service to something that I disagree with. Which of course is not exactly something I am good at.

The best thing, though, is that we can look forward to the rest of the school year. Bigster has blossomed this year as she started high school – she comes home every day with stories of the wonderful things she has done that day. That’s what we want for Otto too – and that’s what she did after her two “trial” days at the new school.

Of course, leaving her school wasn’t easy. I think it’s telling that her complaint was “Why do I have to leave in the middle of the year?” and not “Why do I have to leave at all?”. I put in a lot of work to make the transition as easy as possible. We bought gifts for her teachers (have no real issues with them, the new directions are coming from higher than them) and had a fabulous party for her friends and ours.

OK, so perhaps a Pokies venue is not the most obvious location for a child’s party. But it had an indoor playroom and great food – and we sat and chatted while the kids monstered the play equipment. A good night for all.

Since then, we’ve re-equipped her for school: New schoolbag (trolley case thing), new lunchbox and pencil case. New pencils for the pencil case. It’s all part of our transition to a new school year, so it makes sense for it to be part of our transition to a new school as well.

And we’ve taken the time to visit the old school’s website and check just one page against our Bingo card.

create, creative learning

scaffolding

exploration exploring

space(s) physical environment

experiences

outcomes

development

diverse

community

child-centred children as participants

environment

leadership

neighbourhood

interacting

collaboration

one-to-one

journey

agreement

reflect, reflection

ICT / new technologies

21st century

engagement

conceptual reconceptualising

professional

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 10, 2011 in children, parenting, rant, school

 

Mission statements

Dear shop around the corner from my work,

Your mission is NOT “to help people achieve a healthy, energised and fulfilling life”.

Your mission is to sell lots of expensive sports and camping equipment.

Love, Me. xxx

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in rant, shopping

 

Customer Service Fails – In Which I Name and Shame

While we were away, and in the week since we got back, I have experienced some monumental customer service fails.

1. Australia Post.

We had our mail redirected while we were away. All items addressed to our home or to our Post Office Box were to be redirected to my brother’s house. I have written elsewhere about the monumental Failure of Brain that led my brother to not open any of the Australia Post envelopes (which contained collected mail, where there were several envelopes on one day) – but here I am going to rant about Aussie Post.

At least 1 parcel was delivered TO OUR HOME while we were away. And left in front of the house. To be stolen or rained on. Fortunately Dave or Neroli (our kind house-checkers) noticed it and moved it inside.

Worse … rather a lot of MAIL was delivered to our home. Some was catalogues (but addressed catalogues, not regular junk mail), other mail was not. Said other mail included a bill from Yarra Valley Water (more on this later), a reminder notice from Yarra Valley Water and a Death Threat Debt Collection notice – you guessed it, from Yarra Valley Water. Also Superannuation statements and, if I recall correctly, a share dividend notice. And an Electrolux reminder notice (more on this later). And Optus bills. And a gas bill, but we pay that by direct debit so it was OK. Sigh.

I rang Australia Post to complain. At the time, we thought there were 70 items, we have now revised that to between 50 and 60. Still not bad going when the redirect was only in place for just over 4 months. Especially as most of our mail is sent to the PO Box …

Australia Post took my details. They suggested that we shouldn’t open the mail as we need it as evidence (um, no, it is overdue bills … had to open them). We have a large folder filled with bills and catalogues stapled to envelopes. Also, I believe, some yet-unopened items, just for proof. And they said it would be nice if someone got back to us within 2 days but it is more likely to be around 2 weeks.

Lesson: When a customer contracts you to deliver a service, deliver it.

2. Electrolux

Before I left, Electrolux sent us a bill for a washing machine service that was done 11 months previously, on a machine that was covered by extended warranty.

Fraser mailed the invoice back with a note explaining this.

The reminder notice was delivered to our home, as (I think) was the debt collection letter (or maybe it was in one of those Aussie Post envelopes); the solicitors’ letter went to Dave’s and was opened, causing us stress. I emailed them to say that the machine was under warranty, we had made contact but apparently had been ignored, and got … no response!

I mailed them 2 weeks later to say that we considered the matter closed as we had not had a response.

Lesson: It is always good manners to reply.

3. Yarra Valley Water

As I said, there was a series of Yarra Valley Water bills ending in a debt collection notice.

This was in fact probably a good thing, as we looked at the bill carefully.

First thing we noticed: Our water use (for the period from 15 June until 26 September – remember, the girls and I left Australia on June 25, Fraser 1 month later) was UP FIFTY PERCENT ON OUR PEAK USAGE IN SUMMER (and nearly double last winter, or something like that). OMGWTFHuh???

Second thing we noticed: Our water use figure was an ESTIMATE.

That shouldn’t matter, right? I mean, if they had us using too much water, it would just carry over to the next bill?

Well not entirely, because they had us on penalty charges for using such a very great deal of water.

Fraser checked the meter, and came in confused: it was on only 625.

So I rang them.

Oh yes, said the Nice Guy on the Phone, we had to replace your meter on October 2nd because it was faulty.

OK, I said, so why is our usage so much higher than it has ever been before?

Ah, said NGotP, well the meter reader doesn’t have access to your usage data. They just make an estimate based on the size of the property.

My mind boggled.

Let me repeat that: If your water meter breaks, so they don’t know how much water you have used, THEY JUST MAKE UP A NUMBER.

In this case, they had us using over 700 litres of water a day. In the period from October 2nd until I rang the water company, a mere 26 hours or so after we got home, we had used 625 litres.

Something was not right.

They have now waived the water and sewage charges for that period. And they had better do the same on our next bill, too – at least for the period between the meter reading (mid September) and the new meter being installed.

Props to them for sorting the problem out quickly. But a big thumbs down for absolutely appalling estimation practices.

Lesson: If you are going to guess, try to be smart. You have customer usage history for a reason.

4. Telstra

Bet you were wondering when I would get to these guys 😉

Most of our Telstra experiences have been OK. Annoying that I couldn’t downgrade my plan so had to pay $49 a month just for access while I was away and unable to use the $200 of included calls and SMSes, and very annoying that I didn’t think to cancel my $5 a month data pack, but that is trivial.

Today, we got a new “streamlined” bill – which means that none of our calls are itemised, despite there being over $70 of international calls made and received that I would like to check. So I rang the number and fought my way through the IVR to request that future bills be provided with detail.

Then I rang the other number and waited on hold through countless IVRs until I spoke to a person. Along the way, I supplied the number of the phone I was calling about.

Hi, I said, I am the authorised user on this account. (Complicated story – due to a billing deal we were on for ages, we switched my phone into Fraser’s name and added me as an additional user)

What account? he asked – the phone number had not been passed through. Sigh. It then took a good 90 seconds or so for him to get the phone details up.

Ah, he said. When they added you as an additional user, they didn’t make notes of some details on the system. I will need to speak with the account holder.

Nice try, buddy. But I have been using that account for YEARS and have regularly called about it. Now I was annoyed.

Ah, sez I, you have a new billing system do you?

Well yes, he agreed. But he would need to speak to the account holder pls.

I could have put on any random male. Hell, I could have been gruff and blokey and no-one would have been any the wiser. He didn’t ask for any security information, just annoyed Fraser for a few minutes until he had “updated the system” – then asked me what I wanted.

No, they could not supply me with itemised call info. I would have to get that myself, online. He tied himself in knots explaining why that is in fact Really Good — but the truth is, this is Telstra passing the costs of printing itemised bills on to the consumer. My “shorter bill” was 3 sides of paper anyway, plus the other sheet with the letter explaining it.

Lesson: Never blame the customer when your new computer system is at fault.

5. RACV Home Security

We had a breakin while we were away. More specifically, our alarm went off and the alarm company sent round a patrol car. The guy reported in that nothing was disturbed, but my brother came round to check.

Nothing was disturbed … unless you count the CHAIR by the OPEN WINDOW and the DIRT all through the bathroom and the MESS on the floor … seems the guy panicked when the alarm went off and threw things down to try to block the way for anyone coming from the front of the house.

In amongst the joy that was sent to our home was an account … for $72 … for the patrol guy to “check” our house. Still need to follow up this one to explain why we will be declining to pay that particular account.

Lesson: Houses have FOUR walls. Not one, two or three. (Some may even have more)

So there you have it. We don’t have a lot of service providers. There’s Optus and the gas and power companies, that’s probably it. So we’re batting about 50/50 on screwups, so far.

Of them all, it is Melbourne Water and Australia Post that annoy me the most. Perhaps that makes me a pessimist – that I think people will do as little as possible and will charge you for it if they can and blame you for it if they can’t – but those two just seem like massive systemic failures.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2009 in rant

 

And the crap piles up

Just heard from my brother, who is opening our mail.

Well, who wasn’t opening our mail.

He just sent us a pile of bills, due from August 21st … and a legal demand letter and collection notice.

We had to get our washing machine serviced last year.

I rang to make a booking and said I thought it was under warranty, the company agreed.

Service guy came out on July 15, 2008, serviced machine, went to give me a bill, I said, no, it’s under warranty. He said OK, and left.

Nothing.

Shortly before I left (as in, a day or two before I left – so the END OF JUNE 2009), we received a letter from the washing machine company with a BILL for the service.

I flew out, Fraser dealt with the letter.

At least, I thought he did. (And so did he – he sent the bill back with a note saying, “This was under warranty, if there are any questions please get in touch”).

Which brings us to “just heard from my brother, who wasn’t opening our mail” – and therefore missed (1) a solicitor’s letter demanding immediate payment; and (2) a debt collection company, demanding immediate payment.

Of course, we don’t have any of the appropriate paperwork here.

It’s not the $160 or so that is the issue, it’s the principle. If the thing was under warranty, which I  believe it was, then we should not be being pursued for this money.

And if it wasn’t under warranty, then (1) they should have told me when I rang and (2) they should have billed us LESS THAN ELEVEN MONTHS LATER.

Grrrrr.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2009 in house, rant, travel

 

Catastrophic failure of information design. At least twice.

OK. Passport stuff is now out of my hands. Mum and I went in and physically collected the certificate, then I completed a new form and had it and my photo certified (again) by the local pharmacist. It’s all been sent off platinum express post with a begging letter saying just tell me what I need to do and I will do it. It may arrive before I leave, or it may not, in which case
(1) I will have lied on my application form (where I said I would be in Australia when the passport is issued – well I will be, if they do it in time); and
(2)  Fraser will have to bring it over to Germany for me. With a signed statement from me saying that he’s doing it with my permission, etc etc etc.

Now all I have is some bad photocopies to show that I have had a UK passport, ever.

Now that the deed is done, I can identify some failures of information design (and failures of me, to appropriately take in information).

Let’s start with the Victorian Bureau of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Their website says, you can now apply online for (list of types of certificates). You beauty, I said, and clicked to open the application form.

What I did not do, and what I think is reasonable to not do, is read past the end of that list. To the sentence that says, you still have to send us proof of ID.

There was no reminder of that at the conclusion of my application.

There was no e-mail to me, reminding me of that. (Or, in my case, telling me)

And so, they processed my payment on May 13th, and happily did nothing while I waited for my certificate, unaware that they were expecting us to do something. 

Ugh.

If I had chased it up last week, I would have had it already 😦

My cock-up, definitely – but as a professional information designer, I give their listing a fail.

Anyway, then comes the UK government. Who are so good at web stuff in general, but just failed here.

In applying for a passport, there’s a web page with information about what you have to supply. That page includes links to a downloadable form, downloadable notes on how to fill out the form … and a checklist.

BUT that web page – it turns out – also includes information that is not on the form, not in the notes, and not in the checklist.

Bad information design. You download the form, the notes, the checklist, then work from them. At least, that’s what I do. Double ugh. I spent half an hour searching their website this morning and missed that stuff every time.

ALSO – when do you read a checklist? I read it at the end of a process, when I am CHECKING that I have done the things I had to do. 

And so, I read it today.

The UK Passport form says “Must be completed in ink” – so I did. Blue ink.

The very very last item on the checklist page says “Check that you used BLACK ink to complete the form.”

Gaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

The very officious person at the passport office said “Oh but ALL forms and official documents have to be completed in black ink these days.” – and refused to even acknowledge that it is reasonable to consider that the category “ink” includes “blue ink”.

Try telling that to the Victorian Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages, where I completed a form using their supplied blue pen.

Anyway. My application has been sent off. They got

 

  • 1 signed checklist;
  • 1 payment sheet, with credit card number for payment;
  • 1 original application form, with photocopy;
  • 1 original of my birth certificate, with photocopy;
  • 1 original of my dad’s birth certificate, with photocopy;
  • 1 original of my UK passport, with photocopy;
  • 1 original of my parents’ marriage certificate, with photocopy;
  • 2 photos, 1 certified;
  • 1 colour photocopy of my driver’s licence and medicare card;
  • 1 platinum express post return envelope, addressed to me; and
  • 1 cover letter.

 

They quote 15 working days for processing.

That would see my passport sent off on Tuesday 23rd, the day before I leave, in an envelope that guarantees delivery before 12 noon the next day.

My flight is at 11, so I will leave home at 10.

I now have two potential plans.

1. I included a pathetic, please please please note, asking whether there was any way if they would expedite processing the passport, even offering to fly to Canberra if that would help. (hope I have enough frequent flyer points!). They may, possibly, take pity on me. (Although the person I spoke to said that they only do that if there is a death … still, I said I need it to enrol my kids in school).

2. If the passport has been shipped (I have a tracking number), I will get on the phone to the  courier company and beg them to deliver it early, or offer to collect it from their depot or meet their courier somewhere. Or beg Fraser to fly it to Sydney for me – we transit there 🙂

Meanwhile, maybe I should start on the evidence requirements for long stay Schengen visas. That means:

  • Application forms, 2 completed copies. Per person.
  • 2 recent passport photos
  • Our passports
  • Visa fees (60 E each)
  • Copies of our return tickets and/or itineraries
  • An invitation letter from friends in Germany, or hotel/tour reservation (I think our lease would qualify here)
  • Proof of sufficient funds for the stay (3 months of bank statements) (probably also a letter from Fraser’s employer, confirming that he will be back to work in December).
  • Proof of travel insurance
  • Police clearance certificates (for the 4 of us) – at least these are the non-fingerprint kind
  • Doctor’s Certificate (certifying that you are a good state of health and free of contagious diseases)
    – A self-addressed Express Post Envelope or a Prepaid Courier Satchel for the return of your
    passport.

    Doctor’s certificate, confirming that we are in good health. 

That’s what I’ll need if I don’t have my UK passport. It won’t hurt to have a police clearance and a doctor’s certificate (and maybe the children’s immunisation records), anyway.

It *almost* seems easier.

The lesson of the story: Even if I never travel again? I am going to always ensure I have a valid UK passport.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on June 1, 2009 in rant, travel