Saturday, December 17, 2005

Seeing is not always believing

Ah well, today is the day of our second attempt to convince the immigration authorities that we are worthy of a visa.

Having trawled through mountains of paperwork, I am now convinced of the following:

a) we are married,
b) I bear all the financial risks

Despite that realisation, and the trauma of knowing that today was THE DAY, I did manage to get some sleep last night.

So, everything went in to the High Commission today and finally I got the call I was waiting for

"Your applications are being processed, and you should hear back within a few weeks.......but there is just one thing"

Why do these things never run smoothly? Turns out there's something funny in our medical reports that the visa people might, only might, refer to their specialists, but they won't say what. A quick call to the surgery where we had the medicals and I learn that the radiographer/radiologist (can the experts out there explain the difference to me?) has eyes like a shithouse rat. He's detected a shadow on Mrs C's X-ray that is approximately 0.3cm big! It could be a blood vessel but is more likely to be a scar from a chest infection.....or mild TB!

So I phone Mrs C....."There's good news and bad news, the visas are being processed, but you've got TB!"

The thing is, she tells me she doesn't recall ever being treated for either - the irony of this is that she relays this information whilst coughing down the phone like a Victorian workhouse consumptive! I'm thinking, if NZIS ever phone our house and Mrs C answers the phone, we won't need a medical second opinion! Just my luck to marry a lass from 'Oop Valley' where the summer sun rarely penetrates and the weather forecast on any one day can be summed up with the word "DANK"

Today is also Chipshaker Jr's last day at school, so this morning was a little bit hectic, trying to get together Christmas cards, e-mail address cards to pass on and an extra shirt to get signed. Anyway, we eventually get into the car, and have a chat whilst we are on our way.

Isn't it amazing how your heart breaks for your kids?

We are driving along happily and he suddenly says "[horrible scrote in my class] says I'm only going to New Zealand because you aren't rich enough to pay the school fees and I'm not smart enough to stay at this school"

This from a 10 year old, and one that, at best, struggles to get grades anywhere near my lad's!!

This particular kid is already known to me for regularly expounding publicly his views on how well off his family are and how poor some of his classmates are, but this comment in particular stopped me in my tracks a little bit and brings home the fact that, despite paying a small mortgage in school fees to get a decent kid a decent education, you still get insensitive and arrogant scrotes, no matter how good the school is. I can't begin to put into words how strong was the urge to stay in the car park and wait for this particularly nasty little turd to turn up with his mother, but I eventually dismissed it, knowing I'd only be rising to the bait. I advised Chipshaker Jr to do likewise, and make the most of his last day.

But let me put this into perspective, another boy yesterday gave Jr a very inexpensive compass and said "With that, you will always know where you are going, and which direction to take if you need to find your friends in Bolton". I have to say, that very nearly brought me to tears. How do you explain to a 10 year old that five minutes with a friend like that is worth a hundred times more than a lifetime with the first vicious little tosspot?

Now people have told me that kids in New Zealand aren't nearly as vicious as British kids. I can't begin to tell you how much I hope that is true! If there is only one thing that kids deserve, it's the chance to be kids for a while without rushing headlong into the nasty cesspit that is society in the North West of England.

I so look forward to joining a society that apparently isn't nearly as nasty and self-centred as ours.

Tenei te tangata puhuru huru
Nana nei tiki mai

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Winston, if I were married to you I'd put poison in your coffee...

...Nancy, if I were married to you, I'd drink it!

And after a really bad night of vomitus velocitus frequentis I'm beginning to wonder if Mrs Chipshaker hasn't been getting ideas from Lady Astor.

Several times during the night, I made the dash to shout for Huey down the big white telephone - an affliction I'm sure in this instance came from my darling wife's attempt to poison me. At least I've managed to convince the kids that was the case anyway. Chipshaker Jr is now watching every move Mrs C makes. Seems reasonable to me, and, for a 10 year old, he has a remarkable grasp of the concept of circumstantial evidence - I ate the same food as everyone else, but I ate it two hours later and I was the only one chucking up all night, ergo, it must have been tampered with.

Admittedly, he was doubtful at first, and rightly so - no 10 year old should think such things of his Mother, but I managed to convince him eventually

"Who came to see if Dad was okay when he was being sick at 4am son?"

"err me Dad"

"That's right, you're a grand lad, and where was your Mum?"
"err asleep in bed Dad"
"Exactly son, she hasn't even got a guilty conscience - keep an eye on her for me eh?"
It's really rather amusing now to see him taking such an interest in his Mum's culinary skills, and even more amusing when I get the dark looks for corrupting the kids - even the most unpleasant of illness can have a humorous side!
But joking aside, a bit of further research has led me to take my initial jest more seriously than I perhaps did at first......
After an evening of traipsing through mountains of paperwork, the visa applications went in yesterday, only to be promptly rejected. Turns out that, despite me sending in a marriage certificate, a joint bank statement and all the passports, those nice people at the High Commission want more evidence that we are living in a sustained marriage. Fair enough, there are some very dodgy people about these days. So, I dig out all the paperwork I can find to prove that everything is in joint names. Bank account number 1 - statement shows joint names, bank account number 2 - statement is in joint names, same goes for account number 3. Things are going well so far and it's on to the utility bills. Gas bill - statement is name. Electricity bill - statement is in....err my name, Council tax - statement is name. Telephone bill - statement is name! I can see a pattern developing here. Television licence, water rates, cable TV.....everything in my name!! Even the joint credit card is in MY NAME!
Turns out, all the money coming in is in joint names, but everything you can be blacklisted or go to prison for not paying is in my name!! So not only am I being slipped the odd dose of hemlock in with my spinach and ricotta pasta, but I'm also in danger of going to debtors gaol if it all goes badly wrong on the money front!
You have to admire that kind of subtle ingenuity!
Anyway, you can imagine I wasn't especially gruntled this morning to find out that the Immigration people weren't overly happy with the applications made. As well as the marriage thing, it seems my complete lack of any professional qualifications, and only having A Levels to my name isn't particularly impressing them at the moment. Dear me, I can remember the days when not everyone who worked in the accountancy profession had a degree in microanalytical zoology, or other such irrelevant subjects awarded simply for spending three years drinking copious quantities of dark mild and smoking roll ups!
Then there is the question of references - they want some of them as well, particularly from my current employer, to testify that I have obtained a little bit of specialist knowledge after spending in excess of half my lifetime doing the job. Quick call to the faceless minions in the dark underworld of HR and I find that 17 years only entitles me to a two line letter stating my start date, my leaving date (which hasn't come around yet) and my current position! Mad Frankie Frazer got better references than that after serving 20 years in HMP Parkhurst! What price loyalty eh?
Not a good day really - it kind of came home to me today...if I don't get the work permit, I don't have a job in New Zealand.....and I no longer have a job in the UK either!
Haha te whenua, haha te tangata

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Education is the progressive realisation of our ignorance

.....or so said Albert Einstein.

Now when I landed this job in New Zealand, I took great pains to point out that I had neither a degree, nor professional qualifications. However, what I did have was a wealth of practical experience from doing the job for nearly 20 years. I think that qualifies me as either "time-served" or just bloody lucky to have never been found out! to be honest, the only letters I'll ever have after my name are R.I.P.

Imagine my surprise then when the employment contract arrived and the conditions of employment stated that I had to have a degree and recognised professional qualifications in the field. A quick telephone call and we agreed that this was just standard wording, and that I'd never misled anyone. I annotated the contract and sent it back. Anyway, that's all in the past now, but the reason for mentioning it is that I now have to submit my work permit application. After reading through the forms, it became very apparent, very quickly, that I'm missing some important stuff from my prospective a supporting application form and a letter testifying that, after a thorough recruitment search, the best they can find is me, and they'll have to make do!

So, another quick phonecall to New Zealand and I am assured the necessary paperwork will be completed and couriered to me urgently...apologies for forgetting and all that, so no real harm done. Yesterday, I came into work to find copies of the relevant documents had been e-mailed to me in advance.

"The minimum requirements for this position are a Bachelor's degree, a recognisable professional qualification and X years' experience. We are employing Chipshaker because SHE fulfils all of these criteria"

Er, I think not!! Something tells me it might not be a good idea to send that letter with the work permit application. If the immigration Service doesn't question the sex change being omitted from the medical reports, they'll almost certainly query the overly inflated claims my prospective employer is making to my educational achievements, particularly when I don't back it up on my application form!

Is it me.....?

A upane kaupane whiti te ra!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A brief excursion.....

Well, more a diversion from talk of New Zealand really.

We've never quite worked out whether Chipshaker Jr is terribly forgetful or just plain lazy (although we suspect the latter). Whichever it is, he is forever leaving taps running, lights on and the toilet unflushed. So, not long after I'd got in from work today, I heard Mrs C upstairs, getting ready to go to work. Next, I heard her go into the bathroom then shout in that weary voice parents know so well..... "Junior, come here now please!" - He trots upstairs and I'm vaguely aware of the conversation

"You've not flushed this toilet again?"
"Yes, I'm sure I did this time, I swear I did Mum, honest"
"Well what's that then?!"

then I heard



So I abandoned my warmed up evening meal, dashed upstairs to be confronted by the toilet absolutely brimming with not totally liquid, and not very clear water...and I do mean brimming - it was very much in danger of overflowing. For the scientifically minded of you out there, never before had an upper meniscus looked so threatening! After 10 seconds it became very clear that the bowl wasn't emptying, not even fractionally. At that point, like the faithful wife she is, Mrs C announced that she was late for work and was leaving!!

I then spent what felt like a lifetime, but was probably only 30 seconds, looking at it, and being bombarded by a rapid series of thoughts along the lines of.....

"Jesus, we are trying to sell the place and the bathroom looks like a Calcutta backstreet"
"As if I'm not spending enough money at the moment and now I'm about the fund the Dynarod Christmas party"

and, most terrifying of all

" the hell are we going to solve this without resorting to the unthinkable?"

I tried everything - jabbing a stick around, getting a piece of hosepipe up round the U-bend, I even (very carefully) blew down the hosepipe....I only did that once, for fear of backwash, or eventually forgetting which end had been submerged!

Sadly, there was nothing else for it other than to don the old yellow marigolds and go hunting. Having fished around a little, it became very apparent that the water was very full of .....lets just say....solid matter! The water level wouldn't go down and putting my hand in any deeper would have taken the water over the top of the gloves. So, there was nothing else for it but to start baling.

Once the pan was empty, it seemed safe to get my hand right under the U-bend but there was bugger all there, except the biggest collection of turds I'd ever encountered. I was retching heavily by this point but nothing was shifting and I couldn't believe that it was just the obvious blocking the bog. Something else had to be down there, so it was time for the heavy questioning.

"Right, what have you dropped down there?"
"Nothing Dad, honestly...nothing. I've just been to the toilet that's all"

Now either the kid has some weird bodily functions or there's a bit more to this than meets the eye. Time for the sink plunger. Initially, plunging just got the turds zipping around in the water, making the stench even worse. Then toilet paper started to come up. Thinking I'd cracked it, I flushed again.....and the pan brimmed once again! After at least four repeats of this process - bale, plunge, flush, brim, panic, bale, I finally got an almighty GLOOMP, and the whole lot shifted, nearly taking my arm with it.

Then the inquest resumed and, after some careful questioning, I got to the cause.

Turned out, Junior had had a really bad cold for most of last week, with Friday being particularly bad. Rather than sniffing, he'd at least done as he was told and spent most of the day blowing his nose. Unfortunately, after each blow, he'd left the toilet unflushed. Then, whenever he or anyone else went to the toilet for the usual, it would get flushed but he'd carry on blowing and blowing, eventually getting through two toilet rolls by using the juvenile dispensing method known as 'The Virtuous American' (ie a damn good yank), as opposed to the measured "two sheets" methods used by most adults.

To make it worse, it appears that, being inexperienced in the laws of work, the youngest had eschewed the time honoured method of "going on the boss's time" and had waited till she got home from school before undertaking her daily ablutions. Consequently, the loo had seen a lot of traffic that day. To make matters worse, Young Ms Chipshaker is more of a master of the Virtuous American method than her brother. She yanks as hard as she can, then gathers it all up from the floor and chucks it into the pan without even worrying about whether there's an Andrex puppy in there somewhere.

In effect, they'd spent most of the day filling the toilet with wadding in a way that a veteran gunner on HMS Victory would have been proud of, only for them to crap like the very devil on top of it and then compact it with more toilet paper on top.

Turns out, Junior hadn't left it unflushed as such, but rather the last flush had compacted it so much, it blocked solid and the last deposit had made a reappearance for Mrs C to discover.

So, after a long and dull week at work, I spent most of Friday evening up to my elbows in shite and fighting a losing battle to retain my evening meal. I didn't feel much like a drink after that!

Ringa pakia, Uma tiraha

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The wonders of modern medicine

So, more money spent to confirm what I already know. First of all I pay out £10 to Her Majesty's Constabulary for the privilege of being told I've never been caught, and now it's £25 quid for an optician to tell me I can't see out of my left eye...something I was vaguely aware of in the first place.

Mind you, it is amazing to realise how much methods have changed over the years. It seems now that they can judge the level of your eyesight from sound alone! At least that's what I am assuming - the optician in question covered my right eye, the good one, and asked me to read off a chart reflected in a mirror. Standard stuff you might assume but apparently she couldn't quite judge just how defective that eye was, so she asked me to stand up, walk three paces, turn around, and read the letters off the lightboard. She then deduced from the clatter of expensive instruments as I fell over a table that I really can't see anything at all out of my left eye. An innovative but slightly expensive technique I would have thought!

Then there's the report my wife had to get from the doctor's to testify to a minor operation she had 18 years ago. Another £10, this time just to press the print button on a computer it seems, to produce a copy of her medical record. Having dropped the request into the doctor's surgery last Friday, she was informed by Attila the Receptionist to "phone on Monday and check if it's available".

On phoning on Monday as instructed, she was politely informed that they had been too busy to deal with the request as they had "lots of NHS patients and they come first". Oh aye? Firstly, as a contributing member of the British population, I thought she was an NHS patient, and secondly, doesn't paying money then elevate you to the ranks of the private patient, who jumps the queue merely by virtue of the fact that you are paying? Seems like double standards to me, but then again, even Ivan the terrible wouldn't offend this receptionist!

Anyway, the medical history was duly picked up this morning and read with interest....particularly the bit that stated that Mrs Chipshaker had had her varicose veins removed last June. Now this is remarkable for two reasons......

1) she's only 38 and therefore perhaps a little young for the condition, and
2) she has no recollection whatsoever of anything leading up to the diagnosis, or of ever having been present whilst the operation was done!

Isn't it amazing what they can do with keyhole surgery these days!!

For some reason, on hearing of this remarkable and somewhat improbable event I immediately thought of the Monty Python sketch set in the Zulu wars, where the frightfully British bloke was lying on the bed, minus his leg, and the doctor says "Well, this is nothing to worry about, there's a lot of it about - probably a virus"

A upa ne ka upa ne