Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Efficiency in the UK

Am presently going through the joys of getting set up at the start of the academic year, same as every other UK uni student. Despite this having happened on Michaelmas day for about 800 years now, Britain still has some trouble coping.

My grant cheque arrived on time at the college bursary (direct electronic payment? what is this, the New World?), but will of course take a British bank up to five days to clear.

Still, no problem as I can't use my debit card. Somehow, I forgot the PIN. So, I took several forms of photo ID in, hoping to have the bank swipe the card and reset it.

"Alright sir, I'll take a note of your sort code and account number," said the woman, motioning that I could go.

"Um, what happens now?" I asked.

"Your PIN will be mailed out to you within five working days."

Mailed. Out. Within. Five. Days.

Of course, one could make manual withdrawls, if one was prepared to queue 20 minutes or more. (It's only the busiest time of year, why have more than one teller open? Or when you do have three open, why not let two puzzle together over one computer screen for 10 minute stretches? Why would you call in a manager or extra staff just because people are so bored they've started gnawing their own limbs?)

Getting a phone connected? Nothing easier. Buy a phone, plug it into the socket, dial "#" and wait for a NTL representative ... for over an hour.

My phone will now be connected within the week. Maybe by Friday, more likely this time next week.

Oh, and despite having been here last year, I need to fill out a new emergency contact form.

And - my personal favourite - despite living in College accomodation, I need to turn in a form to the college telling them where I am living. (I mean, what?)

And despite being admited to the PhD program, I still need to "register" as a PhD student at the Law School.

Still, at least running errands beats starting work. However, I did have a PhD students seminar this morning in which I discovered further evidence of the conspiracy of Australian lawyers in Cambridge.

The first new evidence predates the seminar, as not only did one of the new LLM students in college recently work at the same Sydney Mega-Firm as I once did, she worked for the same group and the same partners.

Now it transpires that one of my PhD cohort is also an alumna of the Mega-Firm, while another PhD-mate used to sit with me in the History Honours Research Seminar at the ANU circa 1997.

Small, scary world.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go press my wing-collar shirt and see if my new fob chain for my grandfather's watch fits my waistcoat.

As a member of the grad student committee I've been invited to the metriculation dinner for the newbies this evening, so I guess I can't really complain.

(Naturally, I've had my head shaved back to a tidy no. 2 for the occasion by a physicist friend.)

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