Blue. Blue Seven.

  1. I am married to my best friend.
  2. I can afford food, clothing, and shelter.
  3. I have marketable skills and an education.
  4. I live in London, a place where many people may never even have the chance to visit.
  5. This week there is evidence that more Americans feel hopeful.

Although it isn’t always the most fun to live through emotionally taxing moments, they really can turn into the funniest stories.  I hope that you get some enjoyment out of it when I rant and rave about a day’s crazy events because somehow Drew and I manage to laugh ourselves off the couch about it.  And…  I would like to think I grow a little bit each time my eyes well up with tears (yes, we all know that’s not the rarity it should be) or some idiot troublesome, but lovely, individual makes my heart race.

So, what’s with the list?  On days that present challenges, making a Top Five list becomes a lifeline.

Yesterday started nicely enough.  While making a trip to the office supply store (or heaven, as I like to call it) and the grocery, I found a small street market that I had never seen before, right around the corner from our flat.  This market on Whitecross Street boasted several ethnic food booths–and others with random wares for sale.  I also found a vegetarian restaurant of a more permanent variety, called Carnevale, that has vegan cuisine on the menu daily.  The restaurant appears to have pretty limited hours, so I might just have to try it alone.

whitecross market


carnevale menu

After my spirits had been lifted by this new experience, I happily returned to my flat for lunch.  While I was submitting an online application my computer screen went black.  I was nervous.  Then I noticed I was sitting in the dark; I looked up to see if the people across the street were still working.  The whole office building across the street was in darkness and workers had left their desks, like I had, to look out the windows at the city employees tearing up the water lines below us.  I am sure we were all thinking that someone down there must have accidentally cut the power on our street.  As I was watching the people in the building across the street, those people started to notice me as well.  One at a time–from different floors and different sections of windows–people started to wave excitedly and smile.  For some strange reason it thrilled me to be so warmly greeted.  And I smiled and waved back.  Before I could get the camera to capture the warm waving workers, the lights had come back on and they began returning to their desks with cups of tea.  And just like that the magic moment passed.

water works

gullivers house

Over my own cup of hot tea, I took a moment to peruse our Barclays online bank statement.  A very fishy charge in the amount of £74.99 appeared on the account.  I don’t know where to begin telling this bit of the story.  I’ve already filled you in on the ordeal of starting our account.  Then, I am sure I mentioned the trouble regarding the debit card I requested.  It seems that I remember also filling you in on the debit card I requested three more times.  Did I also tell you about the the time I found out I wasn’t eligible for a debit card like Drew’s?

Short back story on this new edition of “bank error”:

On a Friday in November Drew made a purchase.

Immediately after purchase Drew did some research and realized he had been lied to.  He called to request a refund but the phone number is invalid.

Drew immediately went to Barclays to dispute the charge and cancel his debit card.

Barclays refunded the money ($74.99) immediately, pending investigation.

Barclays sent Drew paperwork to fill out; he got through most it.  However, signing the document signifies that the cardholder did not provide banking information to the company presenting the item for payment.  I took the form to a Barclays branch to ask a member of staff how to properly complete the form.  The rep recommended that Drew leave the rest of the form blank (don’t sign it) as it does not apply to him; send it in without a signature.  Although this sounds like complete crap to me, what information do I have to argue?  I mailed the form as we were heading to airport for our Christmas holiday.  The form said that if we didn’t mail it back within 14 days, the bank would assume the money should be debited from our account.

Yesterday I see that the charge reappeared on our account.  (That’s grocery money.)

Drew requested that I investigate the situation.  The problems with this were that 1) Drew made the purchase, 2) Most Barclays advisors don’t listen very carefully to what customers are saying, 3) Most Barclays advisors I have dealt with say whatever they need to say to get you out of their own hair and into that of some other department outside the building, 4) Barclays Card Services, Branch Staff, and Online Banking department do not communicate well with one another, 5) There are fundamental flaws in the electronically generated communication with the customer and between departments, 6) Gaps in time make diagnosing a problem difficult, 7) Bank staff in all departments are trained to expect fraud and suspicious activity, 8 ) I have witnessed that many customers requesting help can be rude, emotionally charged, ill-prepared, uninformed (like me, not always our fault), disorganized, and talking on a mobile phone in the bank–so, the advisors are harried before I get to them, 9) It’s London; London is busy.  They don’t have time to deal with me, 10) I just might be that suspicious person they have been trained to catch in action.

Although I felt strongly that our dispute paperwork had been filled out incorrectly (or not to Barclays’ satisfaction), resulting in the charge reappearing on our account, I headed to the branch with the nicest advisors I had yet found in this fair city to find out what I could do to rectify the situation.  I am not sure what I expected them to say.  However, I was prepared with the printed statement, my account numbers, a well thought out explanation, and my passport.

After briefly explaining the situation to the young bank advisor she asked for my account information.  Then, she spit out a bunch of gibberish.  It went kind of like this:

Me: We’ve disputed a charge on our account, but it has shown back up again.  I am afraid we may have incorrectly filled out the dispute paperwork or missed some step in the process to clearing it all up.  I’d like to find out why this charge has been assessed to my account at this time and how I go about clearing it up for good.

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Sort code?

Me: 111112

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Account Number?

Me: 11111112

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Hmmm…  Blue.  Blue seven.

Me: That doesn’t make any sense.  Are you sure you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor:  Blue seven. (This is where a smile should have come into play.  Blank stare.)

Me: Seriously, after all of the misinformation I have received I can barely stand here and accept that “blue seven” is the answer.

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Since it was Andrew Huddleston that made the purchase in question, and not yourself, you are not authorised in the first place to investigate this charge on your account.  You have no power here.  Be gone, before someone drops a house on you, too!

If you are an ex-pat who has stumbled across this blog entry in your research on which bank to choose, I hope our misadventures, at least, are helpful to you.  As for me, I feel like I might be a few centimeters taller.  There is also a creepy warm feeling in my chest and throat (like heartburn) seeming to suggest that if someone mentions Barclays within the next few weeks I might catch fire.


Stuck in a Lift

stuck in a lift (elevator)

So yeah, they (whoever they are) mean it when they say “4 Person Maximum” on the elevator sign.

Today my coworker, Janita, and I were heading to a client planning meeting at their offices with a couple of peeps from one of our partner companies. We had met these two at their offices first to just compare notes and make sure we were all on the same page before we headed to meet with our client, but Janita and I left about five minutes before the other two peeps because we wanted to walk at a bit more leisurely pace.

So Janita and I are walking to the client’s office and make it there about 2 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start and amazingly enough our peeps from the partner company are walking in the door to the building as we round the corner. We were able to catch up and they let us into the building in time to join them and another person on the lift (bringing us to 5 peeps counting the 2 of us, 2 dudes and 3 gals).

Now let me pause here for a moment to say said client’s office is on the 3rd floor of this building, but for those Americans amongst our readers that means the 4th floor as what we call the 1st floor is called the ground floor here and what we call the 2nd is the 1st. That being said, we prefer to take the elevator after having hiked a mile in 15 minutes.

So back to the story – our three friends quickly pop into the elevator followed by Janita at which point I decide I want to take the stairs as things are looking tight in this small elevator (guessing here but I would say it was 4ft square – not much larger than a phone booth). After telling the group my intentions to take the stairs they insist we can all squeeze into the lift and they are all more than willing to do so.

I step into the lift closing the door behind me (yup, it is so small it doesn’t even have typical elevator doors) and watch as the button is pressed for the 3rd floor. It is at this moment my eyes veer up to the top of the control panel and see the sign, “4 Person Maximum or 300kg.” I knew things were going to be bad.

The lift started to rise. Slowly. Very, slowly. The elevator was the little engine that couldn’t. It tried its darnedest for about 30 seconds before giving up. It managed to lift us about a foot and a half off the ground and sat there – immobile. Our little dumbwaiter had become a prison.

Of course as this was happening we were all saying to each other, “Yeah, four people but we don’t weight 300kg.” Little did they know Drew here had been hitting the peanut butter balls over the holidays and was rockin’ 83kg himself. Even the ladies were at least 60kg each so there was no hope. It was at this point someone made the first of many wisecracks about “no one had better fart.” That is when the laughter started.

We were all strangely loving this – Janita even said she always wanted to be stuck in a lift. I of course saw nothing but laughs at the fact that we all got ourselves stuck in a tight, cramped little shoebox of an elevator. It got hot enough to steam up the mirrors and started to smell a bit like B.O., but thankfully everyone had showered and remembered their deodorant or it would have been really bad.

While trying to escape our pathetic prison we managed to pry the inner doors open hoping we might simply push open the outer door and hop out–and seeing as we were a terrifying two feet off the ground we thought it might work. Of course the outside door was locked shut as part of a safety measure to ensure no one stepped into the shaft when the lift wasn’t there. Funny enough though, while we had the inner doors open we were enlightened to discover we were not the first to find ourselves in this situation. At least three groups before us had been in a similar situation as they had left dates on the cement floor between the ground floor and the first floor. We of course felt obligated to add our info as well.

I also don’t want to forget our client – they were kind enough to try and entertain us through the doors. They brought down a radio and started playing some Brittany Spears, at which point we all lovingly started calling them all sorts of names as even prisoners at Gitmo are not tortured in such a fashion. They also tried to bring us some water but hadn’t considered how they would get it through the door.

So after 40 minutes of sweating, stripping, laughing, and smelling some stank cheese biscuit, we were finally rescued by a mechanic. Amazingly, had it been labelled, the latch to release the outer door was actually within our reach just outside our sight behind a corner.

I share all of this to say, READ THE SIGNS. And respect them, or else you too might find yourself stuck in cramped quarters with some stank cheese.