Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cate was not eaten by an African Rock Python

This is the picture Cate would have taken if she hadn’t taken the camera under the Victoria Falls.

Cate was not eaten by an African Rock Python.

She got back to her room in the hotel at 1:30 AM. She is reasonably well this morning but could be better. Some of her colleagues are apparently not so well.

I have to devote some part of each day to administration. Most of this involves sending letters and emails to people who cannot come to grips with the fact that we live in Austria.

“Austria? why would anyone live in Austria?’.

It has taken six months for some of them to change their addresses for us. Many have not and I guess will not. I have extended our mail redirection notice in Australia for another three months to attempt to catch the stragglers.

When we moved into our house in Sydney in 2001 the people who were renting it left without telling anyone – anyone at all – where they had gone – so for years we kept getting their mail and – as we had no address for them – kept sending it back marked ‘not at this address’.

If I had known where these people were I would have asked the obvious question ‘Did you think of telling anyone at all when you moved – or did you think they would just use Pinkertons to track you down so that they could send you your bank statements, cheques, bills and credit cards’

To which the reply no doubt would have been ‘Duh’

After a couple of years we realised that some people just don’t adjust their mailing databases.

American Express, for example, was still sending the previous occupants letters at our address in 2008 – despite the fact that for years we had sent letters back to them.

Sometimes I even wrote rude comments on the letters I sent back. Things like ‘Does the fact that we have returned one of these every month for three years mean anything to you?’

To which of course the reply would be ‘Duh’

I finally worked out that it must be cheaper for them to throw returned letters away than to pay people to change the databases.

So then I threw all letters not for us into in the recycling bin.

Part of my administration time is devoted to dealing with My Bank. I have been banking with the My Bank since before I was born (my father opened an account for me).

Despite this, I was stilled treated like a perfect stranger every time I visited the local branch.

And not just any stranger – a particularly suspect one who may have just molested a close relative of the particular 14 year old child who deigned to serve me from behind a glass wall.

You know – one of those walls where you have to bend down and shout through the opening at the bottom so that everyone – not just in the branch but within a 100 metre radius, can hear everything you say.

And at the end of every transaction they say ‘Thank you choosing to bank with us - is there anything else I can do for you today?

When what they really want to say is “I Hate You – GET OUT – Next!”

Of course what I want to say is

‘I don’t choose to bank with you, I have to bank with you because I need a bank and if I thought that the other bank up the road was even a scintilla better, and not also staffed with underpaid, overworked, incompetent and unhappy half wits I would bank with them.’

Anyway – My Bank has never been able to come to grips with the fact that we no longer live in Australia. This level of disbelief, suspicion and hostility has taken many forms and includes:

You can’t do that by email you will have to send us a letter.

We didn’t get your letter – you will have to send us another one.

You can’t make a payment from your account unless you have an Australian mobile number so that we can send you an SMS for security purposes (I keep an Australian mobile phone just for this).

We can’t send your bank statements overseas, you have to have them sent to an Australian address (I don’t have one I live in Austria).

But my wife has her statements sent to her address in Austria (That is a mistake we don’t do that) (Except that you do)

My credit card expires in two months – how do I get a new one. (We don’t send credit cards overseas we will have to send it to an Australian address (I don’t have one I live in Austria).

Ah yes – as a special matter we can send your credit card to you at a cost of $20. (OK let’s do it)

(1 Month later) You said you were going to send my credit card to me but I haven’t received it.
(Oh, we can’t send your credit card overseas we have to send it to an Australian address) (I don't have one I live in Austria)

Well we can send it if you write us a letter asking us to do it – no you can’t do it over the phone or by email – we don’t trust either of those new fangled things.

I have finally received my credit card and I have signed a document saying that I have received it and asking you to activate it. How will I know when it is activated. (Just keep trying to use it and, when you can, it is activated).

I am ringing to tell you that when I come back to Australia I am going to come into the local branch of your bank with an AK 47 and a flame thrower and clean it out once and for all.

(I’m sorry we can’t accept that information over the phone – please write us a letter).

One day I am going to buy a piece of hardware or software that does what I think it is supposed to do or indeed what it is supposed to do.

I bought a WD portable disk drive that is 270 Gb and runs off a USB port. When I load it, it is supposed to synchronize with my PC and back up my important files.

Well, it loaded Google Desktop on my PC – which I didn’t want and took a long time to get rid of.

It’s amazing how quickly something will load but when you want to uninstall it you get messages that say ‘we think we uninstalled this program but there are probably some squiggly bits left over which may render your PC completely cactus’

It simply won’t do anything else. Still, it works as well as any other piece of PC hardware I have ever bought.

I think the very act of my unwrapping them renders them inoperative. I have cupboards full of bits and pieces of hardware that I thought would be desirable, even essential, but has never worked – and of course is obsolete within six months.

Sometimes it doesn’t last a day. One time I bought something and took it home and it just stared sullenly at me so I rang the shop where I bought it and they said ‘we don’t sell that model anymore!’

Hang on I said – I bought it there this morning. ‘Run out stock’ he said ‘you will have to contact the maker’ which I did and they said (you guessed it) ‘we don’t make that model any more’.

I used to have this same effect on ATMs. I would walk towards one and the ‘Out of Order’ sign would pop up. I would apologize to the people waiting behind me and say, I’m sorry I have killed the ATM but have a few dollars in my wallet and can share it out if you like.

I don't have that problem here - I think Austrian Geldautomats may be impervious to my vibrations.

Although, as in Australia, people here who get money out still stand there and count it while we wait behind them. What are they going to do if it is wrong?

'Excuse me machine - you have given me the wrong money'
'Oh I'm so sorry - how much are you short - just a minute and I'll pop some more out.'

Of course one of the problems here is that the instructions for equipment are often in German (naturally enough – that’s the language they speak here).

So I can now speak and read some German but still need lots of help. So to do something that would take a 10 year old child 2 minutes can sometimes take me hours and need the help of my big German dictionary and Babel Fish.

Cate now says that the camera was with her and ‘got a bit wet’ when they went to see the Victoria Falls. Hmm….I wonder if that could be the reason it doesn’t work?

Apparently the other people have better cameras and I should have told her to take the Canon EOS with the Telephoto lens.

But Cate - (he asks tentatively) wouldn’t that mean that the Canon EOS with the Telephoto lens would now be cactus?

I am not sure what to get for Cate for her birthday. There is a lovely picture book about ducks in Morawa but the captions are in German. But you really don’t need captions – after all they are just duck pictures.

But perhaps I should get her something more practical. What can you get a girl who has everything – I know – a waterproof camera – or kittens – she would love kittens.

Correction: Anna has been referred to previously in the Blog as Anna. This is incorrect - her name is Possum. In future for 'Anna' read 'Possum'.


  1. WOW your BANK is just nasty.. I have a nice bank at home.. I call and the nice lady wil do about anything I ask.. Love her need to send flowers.
    Sorry about the camera and yes get Cate a kitten for her birthday!

  2. Can relate to your comments about "My Bank" !! Also, when we moved into our house years ago we received mail for the previous tenants (who I think were wanted in several countries for criminal activities)for about 5 years. I too used to write rude comments on the return to senders and rip up tax cheques etc and put them in the recycle bin. We even had debt collectors turn up on our doorstep several times.
    It's almost March and Michael's sister in NZ just received our Christmas Card ! Did Cate receive the B'Day card I sent ?

  3. Yes she got your card thanks K. How are the troops?

  4. Throw all the PC junk out the window and buy a MAC !

  5. I would love to Shirlee - but almost every piece of hardware and software I have is for windows PCs and laptops - and I have 4.

    But I may still go Mac next time because I love my Phone and iPods.