Can this marriage be amended, sorted out? Is Brexit really the only option? WHY?

So many people voicing their opinions, such absolute chaos, I know I’m not the only one frustrated to the point of helpless inarticulate rage because the powers that be aren’t listening.

tower-of-babel-by-pieter-bruegel(The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Breugel)

 

Long time ago, I was married, and it wasn’t going well. scoldThis has to change, I said. Family comes first, not last.  That has to change, I said, working until midnight (it genuinely was work) is a no-no. If you don’t, I said, I will have no choice but to leave.

I wish you would, he said.

Oops. Er. Um. Okayyyyy – so I did.

Turns out he didn’t mean it, he was calling my bluff but that’s all water under the bridge and a marriage that could have been okay, even good, if we had talked and compromised and made some changes, was in the crapper.  Should have gone for counselling but hey, who expected the break?

So, Brexit was  about a long-term marriage – not ideal, and ouch paying a lot into the joint bank account but sharing the benefits of being married. Okay, the other partner is overbearing, opinionated, deaf to input, very controlling, kept moving the goalposts and taking on more and more commitments with dodgy partners you would personally sooner avoid but marriage, we all know, is for richer for poorer, for better for worse.

Divorce on the other hand, is isolation, reduced income, the ritual sharing out of friends, drop in lifestyle, having to get out there and make new alliances – eek.

There isn’t a marriage councillor in the WORLD who wouldn’t have said put your foot down, talk about your issues, make your partner listen, don’t just give up.

Brexit didn’t offer that option. Brexit said

  • stay in, exactly the way things are
  • or pack your bags and go.

So Britain went to the polls and I am ready to bet a lot wanted to say we don’t really want to go, but we do want them to finally realize we aren’t happy, and there has to be change. 

A lot? Oh yes. Over half.  Oops.  Many of them older, there’s been a lot of whinging about that but older people have had time to learn that situations which are heading into trouble don’t magically fix themselves. Whether you like it or not, they head deeper into trouble. Always.

Thing is, those bloody politicians still aren’t listening. They are fighting over when the bags should be packed, and they are fighting over whether we should go at all, or just pretend the whole quarrel never happened. None of them are saying hey, how about we work something out that will appeal to the Leavers wanting some compromise, that will make them happy. In the process we keep most of the Remainers happy? Wow. Happy population!

That working something out – how about, just like any marriage, we want things back the way they were during the honeymoon period?  Working together, common goals, supporting each other for the good of both, not bullying, not controlling, not losing every argument because our partner is just ignoring us and forging on?

What we need is a marriage councillor to take charge. Please. SOON.

I wish, I really wish, I had a voice, a real voice, loud enough to make the idiots listen and wasn’t just another voice vanishing into the background clamour.

sigh

 

 

Public relations – the holistic process. One topical example, Donald Trump

I’ve worked for a PR company in my long and chequered career  and they had a great definition  posted up on the wall, wish I could remember exactly how it went, maybe someone can remind me? It was based on a first date

He tells her ‘I’m the best dancer / cook / lover / (pick one) you’ll ever meet’ – that’s advertising

He tells her ‘ask that woman over there, she’ll tell you I’m the best dancer / cook / lover you’ll ever meet’ – that’s marketing

She says to him ‘I hear you’re a wonderful dancer / cook / lover ‘ – that’s public relations.

We of course insisted PR was the best way to package anything.

It can go either way, once the word is out there it takes on a life of its own. Donald Trump, then and now, is a wonderfully topical example. Three years ago if anyone had said ‘Donald Trump’ you’d picture that bizarre hair, the hectoring thuggish image, oh yeah I heard of him, Ivana Trump’s ex? Today, whether you’re a supporter or bug-eyed that he has supporters, you know the guy better than you know your neighbours.  Power of publicity.

Right now I’ve got three areas of my life that need work. Dating, looking for a new job as redundancy is happening early next year, and selling books.

Dating, the advertising part is setting up your website profile, sure, but marketing?  It’s an area where you don’t really want to promote the fact you date a lot, that doesn’t imply permanence and that hand-in-hand walk into the sunset!  And frankly, double standard is still double standard, is it really good PR if a man says hey, I hear you’re hot in the sack? So the trick would be to find a website with a public forum, set up a good profile without over-selling, make engaging comments on the public forum, and build up exactly the right image so that others find you fascinating and queue up to date you. What could possibly be easier?

roll eyes

Job-hunting isn’t something I do very often and I suspect I am both very good and very bad at it. My ad, the old faithful CV, is good. My record is good, and my verbal references are great – I rarely go for an interview without being offered the job but, here’s the crunch, I never get offered top salary. Ever.  That needs salesmanship or amazing PR and I am rubbish at selling.

doh

Take selling books, oh, I know the process. Putting link after link on social media and trying to word them exactly right to hit that elusive demographic, the reader who clicks and buys, is the learning curve.

Marketing, that even more elusive demographic, the reader who reviews, who is prepared to put on record that they (a) bought the book (b) enjoyed it and (c) will buy more  – oh how we love them. That gets abused, too, especially by the professional publishers, within minutes of a book going on sale several hundred, or thousand, readers (numbers depending on budget) rush to record it is the Very Best Book they ever read ever EVER.

PR is the reader who tells friends about the book they enjoyed. The priceless word-of-mouth  recommendation. Dream world, that friend tells friends, conversation starts and spreads like wildfire.

daydream

I did write a how-to book about dating as a mature single. Perfect world, it could sort out the employment and increase sales of my other books as a by-product. Any PR gurus out there – call me? And oh yes I do realize putting Donald Trump in the headline was an odd attempt at a demographic. Politics aside, though, he’s a type of older man us autumn roses would come across and seriously, picture him without the billions, would you date him? Should you?

help

mr-will-do-nicely

Don’t accept the first offer, haggle. Apparently. Does that cover first dates as well?

I have been offered job relocation to a much more expensive part of the UK, but it wasn’t a very good salary offer, so I said no. The offer was instantly pushed up to around 25%  more than my existing salary.

Hang on – if you want me, why make a mediocre offer to start?  I said I would think about it but all I can think is hmm, should I refuse again and see if it goes higher? Push my luck?

As it happens, my car insurance just came due. 9 years no-claim bonus, 16 years with the same insurer, £400. In the same post I got a letter from Saga offering car insurance starting from £109 a year. So of course I got an on-line quote. Like for like, plus lower excess than my current insurer, plus a couple of handy extras, the quote came in at £258.

I rang my current insurers to say I wouldn’t be renewing and they instantly dropped my £400 renewal cost down to just over £300. Pass.  But I did ask why, with 16 years loyalty, I didn’t get the best possible offer to start with?

Like why, with my existing proven track record with my current employers, who do want me to relocate, I didn’t get the best possible offer to start with?

How far does this haggling thing go, anyway? Has it spilled over into all sides of our lives?

I’m a mature single on a dating website (write books about it and all) but have I missed a trick here? When someone suggests a first meet over a pub lunch somewhere, should I be responding ‘not unless you send a taxi and make it a proper lunch at the Ritz Grill with you picking up the tab’ just to start the negotiations?

I looked on Amazon – with over ten million titles available, I reckoned there’d be at least one book on the subject. There was one on how to haggle to save money on everything. It was quite expensive – I emailed the author a counter-offer.

But there was no book I could see on haggling for the BIG things.

  • Income.
  • Politics afloat on a sea of money but offering us crappy choices.
  • Lots on religion but nothing comparative, you know, to compete for our patronage and donations.
  • The start of love has millions of books, but none on haggling up front. Once love is launched, there’s some financial advice but most books covering finance are reserved for the end of love, the really expensive bit. May the best haggler win.

It seems that for the really big things  we either have no choices at all, or need iron nerve and bluff.

That’s seriously worrying because my how-to book on successfully meeting mature single men is already on pre-order and if I missed an entire haggle culture, it’s not going to be as seriously useful as I thought it was.

sigh


mr-will-do-nicely

Are you a glowing autumn rose? How-To meet a Mr Will-Do-Nicely … coming soon.

A couple of the reviews on Rainbow, while friendly enough, remarked they had bought the book thinking it was a guide to flourishing as a mature single. Well, in a way it was, the men (and women) Dorothy came across were exaggerated for fictional purposes, but they are distinctive types to be found on every website for mature singles.  A small cross-section in a very large field, you could say.

I’ve written blogs about the types, and I certainly had plenty of material. Write another novella, pulling in more types, and more advice? Or do a how-to book?

I went with the how-to. Well, I went with two. There’s one coming out On Meeting Mr Will-Do-Nicely, and there are times you’d think I was trying to keep all the single mature men to myself, it is so crammed with cautionary tales. I’m not, honestly! The fact remains that most of them pass from hand to hand like hot potatoes (leaving burned fingers in their wake) because eligible men in their fifties and sixties, especially the ones who have been single for a while, are a whole new ballgame.

So why even bother, risk being hurt, heartbroken, scammed, poorer but wiser?  Because we are gorgeous, and still fizzing with life and adventure, and forewarned is forearmed. Go have fun. Do no harm.

As I wrote Mr Will-Do-Nicely I kept adding bits of advice I’d been given, or discovered for myself, which have nothing to do with dating and everything to do with making the best of the totally unexpected surge of energy and sunshine suddenly lighting up life and turning us into autumn roses.  It’s an odd reality that women in their late forties, even early fifties, menopausal and irritable and mourning the loss of fertility, are the most resentful of our Indian summer. You’re how old? You cannot be feeling healthier, fitter, more interested in sex and life generally, than we are, we feel old, you are old!

Ooooh, ffssssssssst.  Whether they like or not (well, they don’t) you can feel better than them. You do. They’ll find out, if they can shake that attitude. Sometime after the menopause the rush of life comes roaring back, for at least a while, and it is wonderful. It is so easy to waste it, with the wrong mind-set. Eventually I’d added so many notes about that it was diluting the singles book. So I moved them to another, On Perfecting The Indian Summer.

Am I an expert? No. Qualified to give advice? Only by experience. These aren’t books that order you about, lay down the law, they are How-To books based on reality.  I’m in my late fifties, I didn’t expect the Indian summer myself, and I did waste the start of it. I briefly joined a mature singles website to research one of my whodunits (Five Six Pick Up Sticks) and later I joined another for Nine Ten Begin Again so I could ask some fairly direct questions, and eventually I wrote A Second Rainbow. I’ve had a lot of fun, in the name of research, along the way. As for the Indian summer itself, I’ve met many women enjoying the sunshine, including my own half-sisters over a decade ahead of me in age, and they’ve all been generous with sharing advice. I played with the subject, in Eleven Twelve, where I called it the gloaming, and that put me in touch with more autumn roses. There are a lot of us quietly out there.

It will be interesting to see how the books do but if a single reader, just one, enjoys herself more as a result of reading either, they did their job.

Out sooooooooooooooon

Immigrant gets passport *PHEW*

Second try, and I sent in an accompanying letter which would have made a cat cry. I did get a colleague to read it first to make sure it wouldn’t put backs up, and she howled with laughter, then said oh hell pass me a hanky, but overall verdict, no hackles. And in fact, bless you at the passport office, the second application  was accepted, I got it in a week, so thank you thank you.

For those who don’t slavishly read my blogs (why not?) my original passport was stolen a couple of months ago and what I assumed would be pretty straightforward turned into a bit of a mission.  I got nervous. You see, I’m an immigrant. Uh oh. Controls kicking in already?  My parents kept their British citizenship when they moved to Africa but they DID move to Africa and I was born there, raised there, schooled there, married and divorced there, and in fact decidedly middle-aged when I moved here.  So all this anti-immigrant talk makes me a little nervous. I may have the passport (thank you thank you) and may have been registered as a British citizen from birth, but when it comes down to it I talk funny and there is a little eyeing askance when I am competing with locals for jobs.

It goes both ways, you know. My parents lived in Africa as Brits, keeping their citizenship (lucky for me), their religion, their diet, their lifestyle. Most of their friends were other Brits. They celebrated Christmas at the height of summer in the southern hemisphere with fake snow, eating roast turkey with bread sauce even as the sweat dripped off their noses, and to the end of their lives they referred to the UK as home. It was resented by locals who felt they should fit in, adapt, become Saffers.

So when I hear resentment now about people bringing their traditions, their religion, their diet, their lifestyle and not rushing to adapt – well – give it time. A generation or two. Brits abroad don’t change instantly, or indeed at all. Cut immigrants a little slack. We’ll get there. We do want to fit in, we do want to be here but we are different and we always will be.

I also should say that starting over when you are middle-aged and already had a pretty nice life is not a case of waltzing in, looking round, and grabbing all the goodies. I arrived in 2000 with  a trunk, an aunt able to put me up very briefly in her retirement village, and £1000 in my bank account. I’m luckier than some immigrants in that English is my home language, albeit every time I open my mouth people still instantly ask ‘where are you from?’ which doesn’t get old at ALL. I found a temp job typing and opening mail at a local council within two days of my arrival. The pay was lousy, and the job boring, but it was pay and a job, and on the strength of it I spent my £1000 on a very elderly car which refused to do more than 40 mph, and paid the double deposit and rent of a cheap flat in a seriously crummy area.

Within 6 weeks I found a slightly better paid job with a call centre. Then I was offered a maternity cover job doing real admin with a national company, which wasn’t as well paid as the call centre but would put me back on the path where I wanted to be. It did – it was extended past the return of the mum because I was doing an internal audit. The next job started as a 6 month contract and lasted 10 years. It gave me a learning curve, a credit rating, a mortgage, a decent car and a future but it started as a junior credit control position.

My daughter finished school and came over to the UK to study. When she had her degree  in business studies she took an immediate job opening post (the apple didn’t fall far from that tree) in a hiring agency. Two years down the line she had a good job with an international company, which will give her the final experience she needs to land her dream job. Some of the friends she’d made at Uni who graduated at the same time were still sitting at home waiting for the dream job to pop through the letter box. Some were even a little resentful that she, an immigrant with an accent, had beaten them to the good job. Well, now you know how.

Immigrants don’t expect everything on a plate. Chancers, sure, will try to milk the system but there actually aren’t that many of them. Most of us are trying to start over because the life we had before isn’t an option any more. We are truly grateful for the opportunity for a new life, and we will work our butts off to make the best of the opportunity.

It’s a funny old world, and who knows where the next bend of the road will take us?

Anyway, thanks for reading this.

 

 

 

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Passport whinges – part two. No wonder Brexit. The passport office HATES travel.

Dear Mr Johnson

A few weeks ago my passport was stolen in Germany and I thought the difficulties I had getting home were bad enough.  Turns out it isn’t just the Foreign Office which is dedicated to making life’s little travel document issues close to unbearable. (Have you removed that chilly passive-aggressive utterly unhelpful piece of human snot from Dusseldorf yet? He really isn’t suited to life in the Diplomatic Corps. If his attitude towards British citizens is anything to go by he really should not be dealing with people from any other country.)

That’s by the by. If you aren’t the right person for this query perhaps you would be kind enough to forward this message to the correct office.

I wasn’t at all surprised to learn I could apply on line for my passport, because we all know Big Brother is watching everything we do and every detail of our lives is available on request to those in power who feel they need to know.  All those census forms, driving licence details, every remotely official document I’ve ever had to fill in, job applications for anything remotely government related, and, of course, every passport I’ve ever had.

Any chance this wealth of information be shared with the Passport Office?

Perhaps I was being tested. Sure, I know my father’s name although these days that may not be an easy question for some and should probably be removed from the form so as not to offend. His place of birth – hmm, that was 103 years ago, but I think I got that right. Fairly sure of my mother’s, too.

No, I don’t know his passport number. I think it has expired, to be honest, he’s been dead well over ten years and wasn’t doing a lot of travelling towards the end.

If either parent was alive I would ask, with tears of frustration in my eyes, why they chose to be living in another country at the time of my birth. I’m sure they didn’t intend to cause me lifelong problems with bureaucracy. They did their best, to be fair. Registered my birth at Somerset House, and put me on my mother’s British passport before my eyes had even opened. In fact I’ve had a British passport ever since.  That’s been quite a few over the decades. Big Brother presumably knows that, but the Passport Office doesn’t store any details.

Anyway, I filled in the application, paid on line and received an email attachment for the counter-signatory information. Eight pages, each helpfully marked 1 of 8, 2 of 8, all the way to 8 of 8. Careful instructions to the counter-signatory as to what to do and how to complete the counter-signatory form but – no counter-signatory form.

So I rang. Now I am not one to complain about the rising tide of immigrants, because let’s face it, to purists I am one myself. However I think it might, just a suggestion, be nice to employ actual English-born,  English-speaking, staff on the phones?  Just saying.  As it happened the various immigrants I spoke to (I had to call a couple of times) did try to be helpful, which is more than could be said for the actual English-born, English-speaking person I finally reached, who might be related to the non-diplomat in Dusseldorf, and certainly went to the same charm school.  I was told there’s a queue. Of course there is. This is Britain. There’s always a queue. They couldn’t possibly email me the corrected form (even though it was an online application and they had emailed me the incorrect one) but within 72 hours they would post it to me.

That caused another problem, because you don’t accept the word of just anyone on photograph likeness, do you? Doctors aren’t acceptable unless they are personal friends as well. I was a little depressed to realize how few professional people I had known for two years that I was still in contact with. They’ve retired and as often as not taken their retirement pounds abroad to friendlier climates and cheaper lifestyles. Still, my dentist had agreed to do the honours, which was very good of her since I’m not allowed to show her handiwork in the photo, but was off on holiday within the 72 hours.  I know you say not to book a holiday until you have a passport but mine was stolen and I had already booked a holiday before it was stolen. I really didn’t want to wait until she got back, because tick tock, time is fleeting.

Well, I could go on, and on, and on, but as I still don’t have my passport I will keep the rest of the saga to part three. I suspect it will be even longer than part two, and more indignant.

No wonder Brexit. It is quite obvious, Mr Johnson, that your department disapproves completely of travel and want to make it as difficult as possible.

Boris, a word please, from stranded travellers? #passportstolen and what to do

This is, in fairness, what you would call a fairly focused blog, because my research (quite involuntary, for once) was on losing a passport in Bremen, Germany.

In passing I’d like to say that if you have to lose a passport anywhere, Bremen is possibly the best place as they have the nicest police ever.  Plus flights there are surprisingly cheap, and it is LOVELY.

If you are not a UK citizen, you’re in luck. The airport police can issue you an emergency travel document – go first to the police station closest to where you lost the passport, and report it there, just because if it turns up the chances are it will be handed in there.  The police will give you a letter confirming you have reported the loss. You will then need two passport photographs, and you take those and the letter to the airport police and fill in quite a lot of forms and Bob’s your uncle.

Unfortunately the UK wants no truck with that sort of convenience. You need to go to the closest consulate (and good planning if you are holidaying in Berlin, Munich or Dusseldorf, whoops if you aren’t) and they will issue the emergency document. When and if they feel like it. If you lost it on a Friday afternoon, wow, bad luck because they won’t feel like it until Monday.  Of all the people I dealt with during the whole fairly stressful event, the UK consul staff in Dusseldorf were the only ones who were completely and utterly unhelpful, in fact the absolute and complete pits, and I would like a word with Boris Johnson about them. Just saying.

However I learned a great deal during the crisis and that’s the point of this blog. Some things to put in place for your next trip:

  1. Carry 3 certified copies of your passport on holiday, and keep them in different places. They won’t replace the passport, but they will make proving your identity oh so much easier.
  2. One thing I always do for visiting South Africa, and may in fact do as well as the above from now on, is to get an international driving licence from the AA. Whether you are planning to drive on holiday or not, the international driving licence is acceptable identification for any situation because it states your citizenship (which, by the way, your normal driving licence doesn’t). South Africa is not the only country that can demand identification, then take your passport and not give it back. Hand over the international AA identification instead!  It’s not expensive, it doesn’t take too much time to organize, and you probably won’t need it. You will thank me with tears of gratitude if you do.
  3. Keep copies of your insurance details with each of the above. I buy travel insurance annually, not per trip, because I travel a fair amount and I get far better cover for a better price, but I had become casual about keeping the details to hand. Never again.  However, just so you know, most travel insurance should cover around £250 of your costs for emergency travel documents. If you are a UK citizen, have to spend an unexpected weekend waiting for the consulate to find time to fit your emergency into their busy schedule, and have to travel to another town to reach the consulate, not to mention booking a short-notice flight back, that isn’t as much as it sounds. Don’t assume you are fully covered for all expenses, is what I’m saying.

Things I didn’t get to try, but was told about:

I don’t know how true this is because I only found out afterwards, but it seems those indifferent sods at the Consulate could have faxed or emailed through the emergency documentation. I didn’t know to ask, and they didn’t offer because this was after all 4.30 on Friday afternoon and their minds were on more important things.  However, it does seem logical that if you can send a certified copy of your passport to them from the airport police computers, they should – surely? – be able to send that PDF back?  Too logical?

If all else fails and you really are stuck for a couple of days, there is a wonderful piece of local law in Germany if any of your belongings are stolen from your hotel. It would be lovely to think every country has some equivalent but no-one rushes to mention it. In Germany it has the jawbreaking name of  Strenge Haftung des Beherbergungswirtes  – the hotelier is liable for up to 100 times the room rate (without breakfast) for any losses suffered by the guest. In theory, therefore, you could return to the hotel and expect them to put you up for free at the very least, maybe pay your train fare to the nearest consulate, while you wait for your lazy and grossly indifferent  public servant* to help you.

Ever researching on your behalf

Elegsabiff

 

 

*yup, still seething.