Brexit: how I would love to be proven wrong!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

I still get asked at times what I think about Brexit (mostly by people who don’t know me well enough).

Since the referendum result happened, I thought that it would be a disaster. Not so much for the EU (although it will hurt the rest of Europe), but especially for the UK, and its residents (both UK citizens and not).

The main reasons behind my thinking are as follows (in no particular order).

We live in a global world, and the idea that any country standing alone, will do better than being in a group of peers, seems to me illogical.

Disentangling 40 years of deals, treaties, laws, bureaucracy, etc, in just a few years, is madness. Somebody likened it to being equivalent of taking the flour out of a cake. That seems a good comparison.

UK politicians cannot agree what they think the UK should look like post-EU: how are they ever going to negotiate a deal with the EU, especially when the EU has no interest in setting a precedent where being out of the EU is better than being in?

The EU, with all its defects and faults, was very good at protecting its citizens against the excesses of national governments, and global corporations. A couple of examples would include legislation to prevent pollution excesses, privacy infringements, human rights abuses, etc, often in antagonism to national governments who were a lot happier to trample of their own citizens’ rights.
Oh, and the EU also pushed through the abolition of mobile phone roaming charges. I never heard anybody complain about any of these.

The ideal that any single county has got more sovereignty on its own, that as part of the EU, I think is debatable. Where a lot of day to day trade, travel, services, etc depend on multinational companies, and other countries, there will always be compromises, and concessions to be made, to get what one wants. While the UK might get away from (some, maybe) of the EU regulations and laws, there will be other restrictions imposed by other countries or multinational corporations, that will set their requirement for the UK to get what they want (services, goods, etc). I believe that when people will look back in a decade or two, they will realise it would have been a lot better sticking with the EU.

Immigration is what politicians blame when they don’t want to admit what a poor job they have done in managing the economy, the infrastructure of the country (hospitals, transport, schools, etc). As they never want to admit that, they always blame in on immigration. And given that the EU implements freedom of movement, they then blame it on the EU. So the EU, by via of the free movement of people (i.e. immigration), become the regular scapegoat of all the problems in the country.
Of course when employers try to point out that not only people from the rest of the EU are a fundamental part of the job market supply, but are often not enough to fill all the vacancies, and that people from outside the EU are also needed on top, they are accused of being scaremongers. Again when companies will have to close down, or move abroad, or raise prices because they are struggling to find the workforce they need, we’ll see who was right.

Now you might have read all of this, and thought that I am just repeating anti-Brexit propaganda, and maybe you have shouted some pro-Brexit propaganda to the screen while you were reading.
To you I say, I sincerely hope you are right and I am wrong. And if that proves to be the case, I will not be upset in the least: on the contrary I will be very happy to be proven wrong.


Monday, 9 April 2018

I don’t know how I have managed to be in the technology industry as long as I have, and not have found out about cowsay until now.

Maybe I am not old enough, and this is a very old piece of software. However although some might find it obsolete in the world of emojis, I think it’s a refreshing little utility:

/ CowSay \
| Is Not |
\ Dead!  /
        \   ^__^
         \  (^@)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
             V ||----w |
                ||     ||

Passport renewal saga – 7 (and last!)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Finally the new passport has arrived:


While the news still publish horror stories of people facing all sort of troubles because of the inability to travel due to lack of passport, ours has arrived.
Although it took much longer (over 5 weeks with the online service) than last time we had to renew a passport (about 1 week with the Post Office check and send), as we didn’t need to travel abroad, the delay did not cause us any problems.
If you are interested, this is a chart of where the delays were:

So it took 10 days for the application form to actually be opened, and then another 25 days to process it (this was a straight forward application).

Well, it’s here now!

Passport Renewal Saga – 6

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

This morning on my way to work I got the following SMS (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving!):


Passport Office SMS

I then logged onto the website, and found the following:

Passport status: Dispatched

Passport status: Dispatched

Passport Renewal Saga – 5

Monday, 7 July 2014

Still nothing, we now are at 4 weeks since the renewal application was sent off, and it has so far spent 17 days “being processed”.

I have to say I am glad we are not planning to travel anywhere abroad in the near future.

Passport Renewal Saga – 4

Friday, 20 June 2014

Today when I logged onto the passport office website to check the status of the application, I was pleasantly welcomed by a new status: “Declaration form received, being processed“.
So it’s taken 10 days (yes, I am counting the weekends as well, because I seem to remember from the news that staff is working at weekends to clear the backlog), for the passport renewal application to go from the office “inbox”, to being opened by somebody and the data being entered in a computer (at least the application number).

Considering that the backlog is estimated at 53,000 applications, I guess that’s not too bad, it really depends how much longer it will take for the rest of the process. However I am now feeling more optimistic that half way through the 3-week target, we could still hit it.

Passport Renewal Saga – 3

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Quick update: our passport renewal application has now been at the passport office for a week (see Passport Renewal Saga – 1), and it’s the day after the passport office chief was grilled by MPs and apologised for the delays. The status of our application (“Awaiting information from the applicant“), hasn’t changed yet, which points to the application not having been opened yet.

Enter the second week of our Passport Renewal Saga!


Sunday, 15 June 2014

I don’t follow any sport, don’t have a favourite team, don’t really care who wins what.
With ONE exception: being Italian, I support and follow Italy at the football World Cup!
And what a great game they started with: England provided a challenging and energetic game, but eventually they couldn’t beat Italy.
Great start!

Passport Renewal Saga – 2

Friday, 13 June 2014

According to the Guardian (, for passport renewal application from within the UK, they have only gotten as far as opening the ones from 21st May.
Given that ours was received by the passport office on 2nd June, it explains why the online status is still (as of this evening)”Awaiting information from the applicant”: they haven’t opened it yet, so they don’t know they already have it!
That’s about 3 weeks behind (assuming that applications normally are opened pretty much straight away when they are received), which is the quoted target time.
Not bad considering that only a few days ago the government was still denying the existence of a backlog.

Car hire – how much?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

I wanted to hire a car during my holiday, and got quotes from various suppliers. I was a bit worried about the excess I might have to pay if I accidentally crashed the car, but the rental company offered a “Super Cover” which would bring the excess payable in case of accident to zero, but they weren’t quoting how much it was, they would only say it would be added at the rental location.

So before going ahead with the rental booking, I rang customer services, and asked them how much that would be. I was quoted “around €100, depending on rates at the time” (about a couple of months away).

I eventually decided to go ahead with the booking, as it was still cheaper than the quotes I had from competitors, with similar insurance coverage, and same level of car.

So far so good. I got to the rental location, got the car (which I was very happy with), and all was fine. However, at a certain point during my holiday I had a look at the rental agreement I was given at the location (I was just handed an envelope, and the car keys, nothing to sign as I am on the company’s loyalty program).
To my astonishment I found a raft of extra charges for things I hadn’t requested (it took a bit of googling to find out what they all were), which brought the total of my rental costs to more than double of what I had already pre-paid. One of this was down to the satellite navigation system (which I had specifically NOT requested, as I had my own with me), and the rest were insurance covers.

So when I got back to the rental location to return the car, I pointed all of this out to the rental company representative. He agreed to remove the satellite navigation charges there and then, but said he couldn’t remove the other charges, and that he would make a note on the agreement for his colleagues in customer service to sort out.

Needless to say, the next day I got the invoice by email, and all the extra charges (minus the sat-nav) were still there. I promptly rang customer services to give them all the details, and complain about being invoiced for all sort of things I had not requested and not I agreed upon.

I was told they would need to get the rental agreement (the paper version!) from the rental location, and then they would make a decision about refunding me (oh, did I I mention that my card had been charged already?), and they would get back to me within 5 to 7 working days.

Well today is the 8th working day since, and I finally received an email apologising for the incorrect charges, and confirming a refund.

I have to admit I was quite sceptical about getting a refund, and was wondering whether it was worth me spending time trying to get it. I have to say although I shouldn’t have been in a position to have to go through all of this in the first place, that it was definitely worth pursuing a refund.

A happy ending for once!