Well, we're just over one week into the adventure and so far things are going well. This is a relatively unorganised and illogically grouped list of observations and other stuff.
- Very few critical items were forgotten in the big move.
- We haven't run out of money yet.
- I'm still unemployed (and working on changing that).
- Laura is employed (and would like to change that).
- We have a great little (by Australian standards, but not tiny by UK standards) house.
- The weather has been...good...I think1.
- This list could go on, but I'm bored with it.
We're still about a week away from getting the internet on at home, so I've just paid £9.99 to get internet access at the pub for the next month. Today I'm already on to my second pint and will be here until the laptop battery runs out. Our local is called the Red Lion (there were a few to choose from, but so far this one seems to fit the bill nicely).
Things don't seem to be as expensive as I'd expected, but the big ticket items are a killer. Rent (or property if you're rich) and transport if anything are what will send us broke. Luckily we have a pretty good deal on rent. When you compare what we have for the money to what some of our friends have for their (much greater sums of) money we're doing pretty well. Having said that a trip to London for the day (32 minutes on the train, on a good day2) costs more than two meals and two pints at the Red Lion.
Alcohol is cheap3.
If a BT call centre operator tells you it will cost £129 to get your phone connected, tell them no thanks and call back and speak to someone else who will connect it for free. Large telcos everywhere are totally shit at customer service.
UK Transport 'Customer Assistance' staff are, exactly the opposite. I'm not kidding. Before we left our (quite lovely) hotel to move out to our new abode in Billericay I checked the source of all information using the free wi-fi and found that trains from Liverpool St. were not running due to scheduled maintenance over the Christmas break. Fair enough, it's probably a time of lower passenger numbers. Pity it affects us, but I'll live. I printed off the instructions to catch the two trains and one bus to our destination. Unfortunately, being new to the city, I didn't quite understand all the directions and decided to ask at the train station, just to be sure.
That was a mistake. After a week's experience, we estimate that the ratio 'surly staff' to 'willing to help staff' is about 4:1 and the ratio of 'actually helpful staff' to 'totally useless staff' is approximately a big fat zero. Anyway, the rest of this story is way too long to be put into print, but just so you have some kind of picture of just how unhelpful these staff are, hear the following. We rocked up to Liverpool St. station one day only to find more 'Customer Assistance' staff, police and closed platforms than actual travellers. It became clear very quickly that there were no trains (when there really should have been). We approached a pair of the many loitering staff and asked what we should do to reach our destination one of them pursed her lips and looked decidedly disgusted that we had even dared talk to her and said, curtly, and obviously oblivious to the big, bright green 'Information' label on her shirt, 'Go and ask at information'. The other, maybe taking pity on a couple of foreigners decided he would try and be helpful. To his credit he did try very hard. Unfortunately the information was useless at best.
Stay tuned. Photos are coming. I promise.