Thursday, 13 August 2015

Becoming British

I’ve finally managed to book an appointment with my local council to go over with them my application form to get British nationality! I say ‘finally’ because it took me a while to pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test, gather all paperwork needed, find proper references and actually fill the form!  

Studying for the test wasn’t that bad and I can say I quite enjoyed it. United Kingdom has quite a fascinating history. The book starts from the prehistoric times going through all the way to the previous coalition government. It includes many different chapters including some regarding Magna Carta, the Elizabethan times, the Civil war, Victorian times, world wars and facts regarding social life. Parts of it are really interesting like learning about Henry VIII, Cromwell or how the Black Death of the 13th century affected the socioeconomic state of the country. However, there are things that I’m pretty sure not many British people know like the year that Sake Dean Mahomet opened his first curry house, how many people form a jury in Scotland or who was voted the greatest Briton in 2002! Just to let you know the answers are 1810 in George Street, 15 and Churchill. The book itself is quite small but dense with events, people and dates. What I personally found difficult to remember were all the names I didn’t know of British actors, artists, athletes and scientists mentioned with their accomplishments. However, I managed to pass the exam on my first attempt. 

Since then I’ve been trying to fill in my application form, which hasn’t been an easy feat. The form itself is 32 pages long and requires information regarding where you’ve been working the last years, where you’ve lived the past years and even where you’ve been on holidays for the last 5 years! The latter has been quite difficult since I had been having long weekends away here and there and that information is buried deep inside old emails. Not to mention the bookings that JJ had done that I couldn’t easily confirm. What I assume they want is to check whether I’ve been on a terrorist summer camp or if I’ve left the country for more than 270 days in the last 5 years! I did manage to gather as much information as possible. I’ve also got copies of my degree, P60s, ID cards, contracts for houses and jobs etc.  

After that meeting with the council, I’ll have to go for an official interview with the ‘Home Office’ and after that (hopefully) I’ll be all cleared for the ceremony and the naturalisation. Cross your fingers and wish me luck. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Life in different speeds

How far should you go till you stop thinking about the ‘us’ and focus more on ‘I/me’? What’s more important; the benefits of an individual or the wellbeing of the group? Should you stay and fight? Should you abandon a sinking ship while being rational and logical about it, or are you just being a selfish prick?

Greece is in peril at the moment. The current government got elected by promising no more austerity measures and a solution to the financial standstill that the country was in. However, they failed to explain how that would be achieved since there are no government funds to actually sustain a healthy economy, pay salaries, pensions and public expenses. They just made grand but empty promises without any real backing. It’s such a narrow sighted approach to the problem insisting that the evil Europe is out to harm Greece and they are the main reason that the country is in trouble. Unfortunately, such an approach made Tsipras the PM of Greece with uncertain and dangerous results. 

There are rumours now that the government will try to use an Icelandic type of solution to the problem. I can’t say I completely understand how that will work, but as far as I know it involves creating a new fictitious bank into which Greece will deposit (get rid of) all high risk securities and also apply restrictions on money and capital transfers. A solution like that might throw the country into chaos and create social unrest for some time.

However, Iceland had its own currency and could control its value. In addition, the government applied very strict austerity measures to allow the small percentage of growth that the country is now having. So, why go through all that uncertainty if stern financial decisions will need to be made anyway? Greece is now losing money left, right and centre (tax avoidance, black market, unnecessarily stretched public sector). That’s the problem that needs to be fixed and it would be better to be done as part of the EU.

The Greek PM is worried about staying in power and leader to his party more than what’s best for his country. There is a far left wing part of his party that disapproves of the EU and the western world (‘capitalism’ is their number one enemy). That part believes that there are other solutions to the problem and already Tsipras has approached Putin for various conversations! By the way, I believe that getting money from Putin is like borrowing money from the mob. It’d be better if we used a high street money loan shark instead.

While all this is happening, everybody I know who works in Greece has financial troubles. There are lots of my university friends who are currently unemployed or in minimum wages. There are absolutely no investments made and no new constructions planned. The high street is suffering a slow death. My parents who are pensioners saw their pension diminished more than once. I feel a bit guilty telling them when asked that I’m doing great, planning house renovations and holidays.

UK is also planning an EU referendum. That of course is caused by completely different reasons. I believe that the main one is the fact that they’d like to impose restrictions on migration and border control. However, such an act is opposing everything that the EU stands for.

With all that in mind, I’m being selfish and plan to apply for a British nationality this year. I’ve been working in this country for years, paying my taxes and now owning a property. The good thing is that I can keep dual nationalities and have two passports. At the moment I’ve applied to take the exams for the ‘Life in the UK’ test. I’ll let you know how that goes…

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A year living with a bitch.

(yes, that's another Penny post but I promise it will be the last one for some time)

Around this time of the year, last year, I agreed with JJ to completely change our lives and introduce a new four legged member to our family! After a couple of visits to the Battersea dog and cats home, while I was at work, JJ brought home, our little Penny. Oh, no. Don’t get it wrong. Both of us had met Penny beforehand, just on the day of her ‘release’ I was at work.

I can’t say I completely knew what I was getting myself into back then. The first couple of nights I didn’t sleep at all. I was worried about her and kept stressing out on every little noise heard from the room where her bed is. The first morning I had to leave her alone to go to work, I felt so bad for abandoning her in the new strange house.

Since then, lots of things have changed. We are now all used to a new weekly routine. Penny being (mostly) a Jack Russell, she’s full of energy and requires more than 2 walks a day. It’s really not easy to make that dog tired, I’m telling you. It’s a good exercise for us as well though. At least we have a really nice massive park close by, that we can easily visit.

We’ve also found and successfully tested places for her to stay over while we’re away on holiday. There’s a couple that JJ knows through work that have a dog (Penny’s boyfriend). We look after him when they are away and vice versa. The dogs really get along so well! There’s also a ‘dog hotel’ we found with a couple looking after a small number of dogs in their own house. It’s much better than kennels. Being able to go away on holidays was something that worried me and I’m happy we’ve sorted it out.

In general, Penny makes both me and JJ so happy. It’s so great having a dog that is always so happy to see you and our bond is getting stronger by the day.