Category Archives: Random

Opening a bank account had never been easier (not)!

A fair warming – it’s going to be a rant!

Have you ever tried to open a current bank account? Or a savings account? Or, gods forbid, get a credit card?

I just went through the hoops of trying to open a joint bank account with my partner. Three banks later, and after almost equal parts bewilderment and amusement at the ‘absolutely essential’ set of documents confirming our identities, it seems we finally succeeded. But the time wasted and nerves shredded are just ours to calculate into the cost of living…

I’m computer literate, I read a bit of financial news/advice, I had bank accounts in three different counties, including a couple of current ones.  I really did not expect it to be such a struggle.

Apparently money laundering requirements are that you need to provide your ID and a proof of your address to do anything official these days.  But if you thought that those requirements seem quite simple and straightforward, you’ve never been more wrong before. 

An ID, in a country that does not have a mandatory ID system, could be problematic, right?  What if you don’t drive so you don’t have a driving license and never been abroad before, so you don’t have a passport?  Never mind, I belong to neither category so I thought it should be simple enough.  Unfortunately, some banks require a certified copy of your ID, and it can’t be certified by anyone, even your GP is not enough (although who has a GP who actually knows you these days, if you don’t have small kids?)- for some of them it has to be a solicitor, lawyer or a barrister.  I personally don’t know any, and the idea of going to an office and paying for someone to put a stamp and sign a bit of paper just to open a bank account, does not appeal at all. 

The address bit is even more entertaining.  For the document to be accepted it has to be a bank account statement or a current bill (TV, phone – but landline only, utilities etc).  Considering that most young people do everything electronically, I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a paper statement or a bill.  All of that is sorted online these days. Even if you request a statement of account it’s going to be a while before it arrives, right?  By the way, here lies another interesting part – all new customer bank accounts applications expire after a while.  “The while” differs between banks and they don’t always tell you immediately how long their while is. (It really should be stated in very big letters BEFORE you start going through the application – if you don’t have the documents we’ll ask from you, wait till you get one cause you’ll have only X days to get it to us).

I have to say I was most entertained by the list provided by First Direct: if you don’t have a current bank statement or bill you can still open a bank account with them (after certifying the copy of your ID with a solicitor) if you have a statement of benefits received, HMRC coding notice etc, or (!) a permission to carry firearms.  It’s significantly more difficult for a fully employed, self sufficient pacifist…. That tells something, doesn’t it?

I think I’ll leave the joys of credit cards for another time. Now I need a chamomile tea or something..


Work and leisure – in search of a worldwide balance

I was sent an interesting read today presenting how ludicrous our modern labour and remuneration system seems to be. Seeing as the relationship between classes and stations, although seriously altered in the last 100 years, still influence the way we think about the world, there is something in this discourse.  I particularly like that part:

When I suggest that working hours should be reduced to four, I am not meaning to imply that all the remaining time should necessarily be spent in pure frivolity. I mean that four hours’ work a day should entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life, and that the rest of his time should be his to use as he might see fit.

and I think there is a deeper truth in it.  Considering that our highly technical world and economy is to a large extent artificiality created and maintained by governments, politicians and corporate entities, the assumption that it is necessary for working people to put in at least 40 hours a week of labour (physical, or intellectual, or little labour at all, but at least physical presence in the office building) may be a part of that created reality, which we take for granted.

Why is it that the idea that people don’t have to work 40 hours a week to provide for themselves and their families is so deeply disturbing and alien. I think Max Weber‘s influence might have had something to do with it, among others.

In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and capacity. Men who, in their professional work, have become interested in some phase of economics or government, will be able to develop their ideas without the academic detachment that makes the work of university economists often seem lacking in reality. Medical men will have the time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers will not be exasperatedly struggling to teach by routine methods things which they learnt in their youth, which may, in the interval, have been proved to be untrue.

I would like to believe that’s true.

I do think that the current working system is ridiculously inefficient and causing probably more damage than good on the scale of the world economy. I also think that, as in previous centuries, it is mostly people privileged enough to not have to work who have time and inclination to explore, discover and innovate.  But would we all really be happier if we had those 20 more hours from our week for ourselves? Or would we work just as hard as we do now, be just as unhappy and not do anything really productive with our time either way?  The change must happen in our heads, in our attitudes and in the way we perceive the world.  And a good thousand years of brainwashing is not that easy to shake off.

Gilmour Girls: A Reading List for David Gilmour

I’m so looking forward to exploring some of those!

The Belle Jar

This list is not as diverse as I wish it could be. It’s still very white, and there isn’t a super great representation of queer and trans* folk. It sort of ended up being both a reading list for David Gilmour and a list of my favourite books by women. Writing this has been a great exercise for me, and has illustrated pretty clearly that I need to expand my own reading repertoire – I do love women writers, but I still tend to favour white, cis-gender women. Helloooooo to my own cultural bias.

I didn’t include any Alice Munro or Virginia Woolf because Gilmour says that he likes both of those authors, and I don’t have multiple books by the same author. Those were some rules that I arbitrarily made up for myself.

Please feel free to add to this list or to fangirl with me over how much…

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Iraq: Islamist suicide bombers kill children, pilgrims

I just don’t understand how is that solving anything or earning them any kind of points in the ‘great war with infidels’.
I just don’t understand.

Religious Atrocities

A suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with explosives on the playground of an elementary school in northern Iraq on Sunday morning, killing 13 children and the headmaster, police said.

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Guns, car chases and a little girl at the back seat…

Miriam Carey, 34, was shot and killed by the Washington DC police after trying to go through the barriers around the White House and the Capitol.  A single young black woman, surrounded by the policemen pointing guns at her, she chose to ram a police car and drive off. The officers fired multiple shots even thou they were in a crowded area.

A chase ensued in which one policeman was knocked over by Carey and another drove his car into a concrete barrier.

When Carey got her car stuck, she was surrounded and shot to death.

She was unarmed and had her 1 year old daughter with her in the car.

I am not sure if we will ever find out what drove her to going what she did and why her behaviour was so erratic. She was supposed to suffer from post-partum depression but at the same time her family and co-workers describe her a warm, good person.  Did she have a nervous breakdown? Following her first attempt to get through the barriers around the White House did she get scared of the police officers and their guns and panicked? Was she confused and scared from the beginning? Or  was she trying to get killed?

I find it hard to believe she was planning a terrorist attack at the Capitol. The little I’ve seen from the footage points rather to someone confused and lost.

Did she pose a threat? Probably yes, to certain extent. Should they have killed her? No.

I keep thinking that in Britain those police officers would not have the guns in the first place.  Maybe they would be more exposed to danger, that’s true. But maybe they would have managed to communicate with her more effectively and instead of killing her they might have managed to get her out of the car and find out what was wrong.

And I keep thinking about this little girl. She is just one year old now. What will someone tell her when she asks what happened with her mum? And will she have nightmares  not even realising that it’s the events of that day that are causing them?

I don’t want to judge either side, but something went wrong there, I think.

And congressmen thanking the police for their efforts in keeping them safe seem just this little bit overkill. ” Thank you for saving us from a woman, whose motives we know nothing about, and who haven’t actually caused serious harm, and her one year old child”.

I’m angry and sad, and keep going back to the thought what if one of my loved ones had an emotional breakdown and did something stupid… Would it get them killed too?

Washington Post  /  The Times 

Niqab, freedom and cultural tolerance

In the last few weeks Britain (or at least parts of it) can’t seem to stop discussing the place Muslim  tradition of women’s covering their faces should have in our society.  Judge Peter Murphy’s ruling that a woman on a witness stand must uncover her face, several rulings against Muslim teenage girls  banned from wearing the veil at school and the Birmingham Metropolitan Collage lifting a ban on niqab seem to be going in completely opposite directions.

I guess it illustrates fairly well how  people can’t make up their mind about their priorities on this issue – me included. Continue reading Niqab, freedom and cultural tolerance

Die Wand – The Wall

What would you do if you woken up in an idyllic valley in Alps and realised that there is an invisible wall separating you from the rest of the world?

Would you scream and shout? Would you do anything to break the barrier? Would you try dig under it or climb over?

Or after seeing people frozen on the other side of the wall would you give up, and slowly accept your fate?

That’s what the German-Austrian film The Wall is about. An unnamed woman wakes up one lovely morning and realises that her hosts, an older couple who own the lodge she stays in, did not come back from the village. By midday, worried, she heads down the valley to see what could have happened. But halfway down the road she bumps into a wall – literally. An invisible barrier does not allow her to go forward. She is trapped, and has no idea what happened outside in the world. She’s on her own.

The film has an amazing atmosphere. The landscapes and the shooting is excellent, but it’s Martina Gedeck who really makes this film. Lost at first in her reality, close to losing her mind, she focuses on survival – planting potatoes, learning to hunt, harvesting a meadow of hay for a cow. From the perspective of long months in loneliness she writes a diary to not forget. To keep her mind occupied and to ward of insanity.

I kept thinking – what would I dream about? Would I wake up screaming every morning, reliving my existence even in the dream? Or would I dream of the world as it was, of freedom to go wherever I wanted and of company of others…?

Would you try harder to get out, even if getting out might have meant death? Or would you also focus on survival, facing the reality one day at a time?

Safe Passage

Safe Passage

I’ve read this today and was immediately hit by the thought how much I take for granted my safety .

I grew up in a small miners’ town where drinking, poverty and violence were daily occurrences.  Mind you, guns did not feature in this scenarios. Weapons of choice included knives, bottles and various wooden implements.

In spite of that I have never been a witness of direct act of violence, excluding maybe a few punches after one drink too many at a local pub. From early age I walked to school alone (there were just two primary schools and one secondary school in the area).  I was travelling by bus to nearby towns to go shopping/wandering with friends on my own, often coming back home after dark. I’ve spend most of my summer days wandering the area with a group of friends, doing stuff now would probably be illegal.

I lived in at least 6 different places, in three different countries.  Now I live in a big city, but again, I feel safe 99.9% of the time.  [The number of non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the police in 2012-13 was 7,530 our of which there were 91 homicides – for the WHOLE COUNTRY.  The number of homicides for last year in my city equalled 2]. Maybe I just choose the right places to live…

I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t have a point of reference for a situation where in XXI century in a western country a four year old kid was a witness to a shooting, where closing schools puts kids at risk because they will have to cross gang boundaries, and where over $15m has to be spend just on providing safe (or merely slightly safer?) routes to school for the local students.

I feel so sorry for all those kids, growing up in the world where they can’t leave the house to play and feel safe. Where they can’t explore the neighbourhood and learn about the world, life and other people themselves, not from a TV screen or video game. Childhood as I remember wasn’t a bed of roses. There were dangers, there were disappointments, there were tears and humiliation. But there was also joy, and freedom, and wide-eyed wonder.

Will future generations ever know that?