Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Two steps forward, one step back

Today my focus was on securing - once and for all - an apartment in St Pancras Chambers. The saga has been nail-bitingly suspenseful. I had an appointment this morning to sign the lease, then to attend a 'check in' inspection at Apartment 5.12. The signing part was postponed because the landlord's solicitor (I use the term loosely) did not have the document ready. After all, it did involve producing the same document she had presented on Friday but with a date change. We can't be working too hard now, can we?

But I did attend the 'check in' with a very professional young lady known as an 'inventory clerk', who walked around with me, checking off any smudges or chips (the old beams she described as 'distressed') or things not working (two light bulbs). We poked and prodded and turned on and off and puzzled over what some of the many switches and plug points and knobs might mean. Then, satisfied, we parted company. At this point, the only actual keys in evidence were the set held by the concierge desk.

In the absence of any further progress, and to ease the tension, I repaired to my new gym - the health club at One Aldwych, http://www.campbellgrayhotels.com/one-aldwych-london.html?lang=EN#/one-aldwych-london/Health-Club-and-Spa  I had my first session with Dan, a personal trainer, and I thought it went very well. The assessment was very professionally done, and the rather alarming over-weighted-ness I am presently displaying was not the subject of any embarrassing focus. I think Dan and I are going to get on well. Afterwards I had a swim in the pool, and then a massage.

Feeling relaxed, I felt able to once again call the real estate agent. This time, miraculously, he had a lease for me to sign, which I did with all the alacrity I could muster. But still no keys. It seems I will have to rely on the concierge's set until the landlord's set - which is being sent over 'as soon as possible' (ha!) - arrives. Meanwhile, an entire flat full of furniture is being delivered tomorrow afternoon. In stark contrast to the landlord's solicitor, the furniture suppliers are a model of efficiency (perhaps I had better wait until the delivery has actually arrived before committing to that). There was some contretemps because they 'never commit to morning or afternoon deliveries', but St Pancras only allows such deliveries in pre-booked time slots (due to the front approaches to the building still being under construction). However, I talked everyone around, and it is all systems go for tomorrow afternoon. Assuming I can get a key, and that the final clean is done.

But all of this is, as Sophie reminded me, a mere bagatelle for someone who packed up Lindfield in a mere couple of weeks. I remained calm throughout it all -- until I had to make a phone call to a telecom company. I discovered that there is a British company upon whom Telstra has modelled its vision of customer service: BT, or British Telecom. The real estate agent suggested I sign up for phone and internet with BT 'because they own the lines' and it would thus be quicker (sound familiar?) After a moderate phone queue, I spent 20 sad minutes on the phone with an efficient automaton with a north country accent, establishing the following:

  • the flat is a new premises with no existing phone line and it would cost  £50 to install one
  • I can't have internet but no phone
  • They require an 18 month contract at £30 per month (40 gig) plus phone line rental (which I don't want or need). Of course, I have only a 12 month lease, or indeed visa
  • They can do a 12 month contract at £33 per month, but the installation would then be £125
  • If I take 18 months and break the contract, there is a termination fee, but my interlocutor cannot tell me what that might be because it is not her department
  • I agreed to 18 months and she went off to do a credit check, which naturally returned inconclusive since no on has heard of me in the UK
  • Her credit department (reasonably) requested a deposit, and I provided my credit card details
  • But they can take only 'English' credit cards (possibly the only business in the UK with this extraordinary limitation)
  • My only option is to - get this - pay the deposit in cash at a Post Office, obtain a 'postal note', and mail it to BT at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
  • Possibly my groan at this point rather annoyed my Customer Assistance Agent, since she asked 'is there a problem with that?' I assured her I was merely groaning at the sheer idiocy of the procedure.
  • When I repeated 'Newcastle-On-Tyne' she corrected me: 'UPON-Tyne'
  • I think she may live in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
  • After posting, I should wait 15 days and then call them to check that they had received the payment. They could then tell me how long it would take for a technician to call - between 2 and 19 days.
  • Things had by now descended so far into farce that the only way I was ever going to deal with BT was if they were the only institution on Earth that could proved me with the internet. Vowing mentally to call any and possibly every competitor tomorrow, I rang off.
  • I bought wine on the way home, though I had not previously intended to do so.
In more amusing news, I am going to reproduce the discussion I have had with Jocelyn who has not yet managed to figure out how to put her comments on this blog (but I have every faith that she will soon.) Jocelyn writes on the subjecst of London and poached eggs in Spain:

'Am loving my daily dose of Life-as-it-should-be-Lived - am deeply envious :-) Biting fingernails until you                                post that you have finally secured the St Pan flat, what a wonderful locaton. One day, promise me, you will go to the concourse near the Eurostar bit and have a piece of fabulous cake at Oliver Peyton's establishment and then tell me that you have so I can enjoy it vicariously.

As to the poached egg dilemma- I consulted my Spanish language expert, .e. Maria, who wrote this:

Hmmmm... I think it is HUEVOS ESCALDADOS (scalded eggs??) but I am not sure what is it she's going to get. 

Worth trying though... She could add 'escaldados en agua caliente - sin la cascara' and that spells out the method (scalded in hot water -without the shell), I hope this works...

And then, a few minutes later, Maria followed it up with this:

I have just asked my cleaning lady who is from Peru and she had no idea you could poach an egg (when I explained the method) Obviously, I think is not a done thing in the Hispanic world...
She thought it the most innovative method to avoid using oil, butter, whatever... I think in Spain Annette will get them to do soft boiled eggs only...but she can try and be difficult by explaining what she wants... as I spelled out before.

But your resident Spanish expert probably explained all that to you, although maybe not, he is a man and probably not all that interested in things of a culinary nature. Apart from the eating thereof, perhaps. Wish I had that option...

When does the El Bulli event take place (I do know enough Spanish not to say el Bulli but El Booyi - but only after another Spanish friend ((she's a Catalan)): Gloria and her husband Hans joined us at Noma in Copenhagen and it was there that my pronounciation was corrected.)' - Jocelyn

I did have the egg discussion with Alex, who was as bemused as the Peruvian maid, although he's seen me eat them many times. He himself prefers chocolate for breakfast if he can get it. And/or fish. I assume from all this that the Spanish and Latinoamericanos never cook Eggs Benedict.

The el-booyi lunch is on Sunday 4th October. I promise to try to pronounce it correctly.

St Pancras Chambers (aka 'home')


  1. Chris also had a run-in with BT when he was there, but somehow managed ok. I have heard a lot about them on BBC radio - none of it good.
    For more ranting see:

    Meanwhile we may have our own problems with the NBN

  2. I am trying yet AGAIN - please let me succeed!

  3. Hey Jocelyn! Yoo-hoo!
    Sue is a tech expert if you continue to have trouble - you can reach her by calling the tax-payer funded National Library question line. Really :)