London Life « Craig Gibbons' Lifeblog

By: Gibbons  11-11-2011

A gigantic cover/protector industry has sprung up around devices like the iPod, iPhone and very soon I'm sure, the iPad. For some reason, people love 'em and the sales people at the store try push these expensive add-on's to you every time you enter the store. They look on with animated disgust when you extract your phone from your pocket, devoid of not only a cover but, oh my, a screen protector too! "Are you mad?!" their wide eyes enquire. I take special delight in this ritual. To me, the mobile phone cover is stupid, pointless and a false economy. It is tantamount to covering your sofa in plastic. Think about it, what does it actually give you? You get a nice shiny new phone, straight out of the box it's perfect. Then, you cover it with some silly carbon-fibre or jelly looking thing and you place a strip of plastic over the screen, entombing the device in these accessories forever. What has happened here?

  1. You paid money for the accessories
  2. You made the device twice as big and half as attractive
  3. Eventually the cover will get messed up anyway and then..
  4. You'll have to buy another one

All the while you never get to see or use the device as it was intended. You'll never get to feel the soft leather of that new sofa.

I can only really speak for the iPhone, but after 2 years without a cover, being dropped twice, shoved into my pocket with keys and coins thousands of times and taken through a hailstorm in my top pocket while riding my motorbike, it's still going strong and looks good.

Ditch the cover.

After 5 hard years, I am happy, nay, god damn delighted, to report I have at long last been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (IDL) in the U.K. The process has been long an arduous. When I first came here, I had no recourse other than to obtain a sponsored work permit. I duly found a sponsor and set about obtaining the work permit. After months of promises, the visa failed to materialise and only the good graces and sharp thinking of my immigration consultant prevented a disaster. Later, after moving to a second sponsor and enduring the extremely unfair immigration policies of the Home Office which added another year to the required duration, the road has come to an end and the visa has been granted. No more will I have to be subjected to the suspicious barbs of disgruntled public servants at Heathrow’s arrivals lounge. Ha… HA!

About two months ago, my parents came down to London for a visit. It so happened I was feeling a bit feverish that day, the start of what ended up being a good bout of flu, so I stayed home and it was well I did because at some point during the day, a skinny, lost and cold ginger cat with a sniffle followed my father back into the house after he went out to his car. Having grown up with cats, I immediately liked him but with Gemma being allergic to cats, I tried to discourage him from staying, so I gave him as much food as I had and a saucer of milk and after he had a two hour nap, I put him outside again with the promise, to myself, that if he came back, I would take him in right away and take care of him. An hour or two passed and then what I had secretly hoped for but didn't think would happen, happened, a little flash of ginger and white appeared on the window-sill outside the lounge and I leapt up from the sofa, almost knocking over my Lemsip, and let him in the house. Poor little thing, he went straight into the bedroom and fell asleep at once, for several hours. After Gemma came home that day, we decided (tentatively) to keep him. After much deliberation, we decided to name him Pantoufle, after the little girl's imaginary friend in the novel Chocolat by Anne Harris. I had always wanted a cat in London, but not having a garden and leading a fairly irregular life of late nights at the office and triathlon training schedules meant I didn't feel I could be a legitimate cat-minder. Now, with a garden in our lovely mid-terrace home, a cat has about forty other adjoined gardens to play in and in some ways, life has normalised to a certain extent. The point is in any case moot, the moment he jumped up on that window-sill, he was here to stay for better or worse and even when he wakes me up at 4am, for food and to be let out, he's still the best little ginger cat in the world.

I have only ever done a duathlon once, and that was many years ago, so preparing for these two triathlons is going to be challenging at best. Fortunately global warming has made my task easier with back-to-back mild evenings just about the whole winter so far. I also did the , a major cycling event in South Africa, three times when I was younger, one year even managing to come 3rd in my age group, but it sure has been a long time since then. I certainly have my work cut out for me.

It’s been a while since I sat down in earnest to write something to post on this blog. Truthfully, even though so many things have happened over the last couple of months, I have lacked inspiration. Call it writers block if you will. But now, after all this time, despite an all consuming work load and seemingly endless life and work administration tasks to perform, something wonderful has happened, something inspiring, something life changing! Gemma and I have bought a house!

We had in the past, discussed at length houses in London and our desire to own one. For the longest time we’ve been peering through windows and leafing through papers and watching those TV shows where somebody takes a wreck of an old barn and makes it into a palace and all along, the desire has been growing and growing until about a month ago we finally decided enough already, and we began to look for our own house, well, our own home.

People will tell you different things about buying a house and the gravity of the decision is not to be underestimated, but I don’t think either of us were fully prepared for the experience. Certainly in years gone by the property market has been buoyant, but never ‘white-hot’ as the Metro (that all-authorative source of information) put it a few days ago. This is by no means an exaggeration; it is profound how prolific house buying in this town has become. It’s a seller’s paradise out there and everybody owning anything from a town house on Regent’s Park circle to a janitors 3m x 4m shoebox in Kensington (no kidding) is cashing in. While this is bad news for buyers, I am confident this is still the time to buy. With London having now eclipsed New York as the financial capital of the world and city bonuses set for another record year, the trend seems set to continue. One is left with the feeling that every day spent not owning a property is a day one is losing money and as an estate agent friend of mine said, “Buy anything. Buy it now. It all goes up”.

UPDATE 10th August 2007: We heard last week our sellers have decided to pull out of the deal. Apparently the market had risen so much during the time us faithful buyers were waiting for problems to get sorted out, the sellers decided to go back out to market, for another £75k. Nice. We've been back in the hunt for a while since then. No darn fun.

There have been times when I have cursed my South African heritage. Usually it occurs while observing a rugby spectator, prone to dronk verdriet, sporting a new springbok jersey stretched over a monsterous boep brandishing a castle lager and a piece of droewors, but there is another equally distateful experience, that of waiting at an embassy of one country or another for some disinterested, tired, bored and generally disgruntled civil servant to process a visa application. To date, I have experienced only one pleasurable (mmm, that may be a slight overstatement) visa acquisition experience, strangely enough, at the Hungarian embassy. The entire process took about 10 minutes and cost pretty much nothing. Contrast this with the experience of being relieved of yet another £100 for a 3 day visa to France and one starts to appreciate just how tiresome and frustrating this exercise can become.

The information in this article was current at 08 Nov 2011

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