Logistics and operations continue. I am busy placing orders with JohnLewis, Ocado, VirginMedia, setting up standing orders, organizing parking permits…seriously, I can keep someone busy all day long. Who wants to be my personal assistant? Here’s what I’ve learned so far upon my return.
It was a lot easier (but still hard) to get a bank account this time. In 2004, I recall being in tears on many an occasion. You had to call banks back then and they would send you their application packs in the mail. And they would rarely if ever arrive. I remember Citibank promising me that everything was all sorted — my account was set up — and then weeks went by and still nothing and then the local branch guy stopped taking my calls. Not sure what ever happened there. This time around, here’s what happened. I was staying in Hither Green with friends and…
1. HSBC wanted me to bring my friends’ council tax bill along with a letter from them saying that I was their friend and I was staying with them. NEXT.
2. Barclays said that they thought they might be able to give me a bank account — maybe — but their appointment books were full until Wednesday. (It was Saturday.) NEXT.
3. NatWest had a little machine where you pulled a number. I walked in around 4 pm and pulled a number and it was 30 numbers away from the number they were currently serving and I knew they would close (as in close-close) at 5 pm so NEXT.
4. Halifax: I showed up at Halifax at 9 am on Monday morning and luckily there was a no show. I had a bank account by 10 am. Halifax wasn’t my first choice for a bank but sometimes, you will take what you can get. (I really wanted HSBC because I think — and I could be wrong — that they don’t charge me for withdrawals from HSBC banks abroad.)
You know what I am super mad about?? Last summer — the summer of 2013 — I finally closed my old UK account because I was all like “Sad, I will never live in London again.” That mistake cost me about eight hours worth of time and aggravation in June of 2014. I coulda been at the pub!!
I tried the estate agent offices I knew with no luck.(My constraint was that I needed something with immediate occupancy.) Then, in a fit of desperation, I used that “email all” feature on RightMove.co.uk and emailed every estate agent in Islington with my needs. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing since. Which was great originally because it meant I got to see some places. But one week on and now that I’ve found a place, the phone calls are really getting annoying. Also annoying…I saw a lot of crap. Part of me wants to start a business: “Let me turn your rental flat into a showplace” because really, I am really kinda good at this sort of thing. (Seriously…who wants someone else’s manky MATTRESS PAD??!!! GAG.) In hindsight, I wish I had included “high spec” as one of my requirements. That being said, I did include “I need a flat immediately” in my request and people still wanted to show me things available in August.
Also, real estate…London is more expensive than ever. My current flat is about 1/2 the size of my last flat, and it’s the same price.
I had a bank account when I originally went to O2. I just didn’t have a debit card yet. (It was in the proverbial mail.) O2 wouldn’t give me a phone without a debit card. And then I had a debit card but no credit history. (Damn you, Krista, for closing your old UK bank account last summer!) So I had to pay a huge deposit of £450 quid JUST TO GET A PHONE. But!! I am in awe of how cheap UK phone contracts are! Unlimited calls! Unlimited texts! 5 gb of data!!! 25 quid a month. (Before the phone.) Unbelievable. I am very happy. And I am also looking forward to getting my £450 back. (As a comparison, my US mobile account with AT&T cost me $130 a month for 400 minutes, 200 texts and 2 GB of data.)
I remember back in 2004, I called BT and they said they would show up and they didn’t. And then I called them again and they said they would show up but they didn’t. Well this time, I didn’t even have to talk to someone. I just went online to Virgin and picked my package and scheduled everything online. It was super awesome. My only regret is waiting until the first day of my lease to do this. I should have done it as soon as I knew I had the property. Because now I seriously have to wait two weeks for Internet. Let’s hope they show up, but for now, I am optimistic.
Back in 2004, I packed up my belongings in April. They arrived in July! I remember they took forever to clear UK customs, and that was with half a container. It’s possible that I was in a container with some sketchy stuff but seriously. Painful. I spent a lot of time on an air mattress. This time around, my belongings left the US on June 26th and arrived on July 7th. And I could track my ship — the Singapore Express — online! The movers have already told me that my stuff will be out of UK customs within 7 to 10 days of July 7th, which is great. but you know what is killing me? ISLINGTON COUNCIL. Apparently, they now need two weeks’ notice for a parking permit for the movers. I should have requested this when I signed my lease on Monday but I only just requested the permit today so the earliest I can get my stuff is July 23rd. This assumes that Islington grants the permit. I am waiting for their response…patiently. (If you are curious, I used Allied on the U.S. side and although they assured me that it’s Allied all the way through, it’s Brittania on the U.K. side. I was familiar with Brittania from 2010 so I felt good about this.)
Only more awesomer than ever before. Delivery, click-and-collect, anything. Love John Lewis.
No one gets my name right. I mean, it’s sort of unusual in the U.S. but then there was Christa McAuliffe so at least people are somewhat familiar with Christa. But here, even when I spell my name slowly, I am still very likely to end up with “Kirstie” or “Kristina.” It is kinda driving me crazy because it is so predictable that whoever I am talking to will get it WRONG.
I’m sure there’s more but that is it for now.
I am exhaustedly yours and this really isn’t a London restaurant blog anymore, is it?