no thankyou, old chap (well, maybe, if you pay me enough)
June 21, 1999 (as amended)

England is old and qaint. I don't like the pollution and general decrepitness. Or the prevailing paternalism. Or the bland, fatty food, or the customer service, or the MRSA-infested medical care. Recycling is something that goes on at the drycleaners. The refrigerators work - in cold weather. The escalators work - when it's not busy. The lifts work - when they're not full. The drains work - when it doesn't rain. The military sprays DDT, tests Sarin on humans, aids and abets torture, and misleads parliament. Lying Ministers sell weapons. The archaic electoral system consistently produces results unrepresentative of the voters it claims to represent. Racists and nationalists abound; indeed, in England, narrow-mindedness is elevated to an artform. The "United" "Kingdom" itself is fragmenting into states. Banks lose more forms than they file - but only when they owe you something. The tap water isn't safe, the water pressure is shot, and London public transport is so dirty, it makes you sick, so hot, it's illegal to take a dog into the subway, so noisy, you'll go deaf if you use it every day, so slow, it's faster to walk, and so unreliable, they should apologise when a service actually runs on time. They do, however, provide convenient overhead displays, which, when they are working, tell you how long it is before the train starts being late.

Even the cows go mad - although so might you, if you were fed "waste meat, mostly sheep, infected with scrapie".

"The country cannot afford, in this time of crisis, a leader who makes gross mistakes, a leader who fails to acknowledge his mistakes, or, a leader who deserts his citizens when they need him."

When you actually find a customer service representative (eg. employee) to speak to about your specific needs, occasionally they walk into you, stare at you (I guess the shock of having to do some work is a bit much for some), turn their backs, refer you to their colleague (who in turn refers you to another colleague..), or shut the door in your face. When you complain, they refuse to serve you, or give you bad service. You are not entitled to quality service - in England, quality customer service is a privilege, which you buy with either wordless sufferance, or wads of 20 pound notes. This is a consequence of "the class system", whatever that is, where the plebs were taught to be grateful if they got the scraps.

The paternalism disempowers the populace, and they take less pride in their country.

In these respects, England lags other countries. Yes, this is a negative review. To English people, I am sorry, but if you'd just go further than Brighton on holidays, and stop wasting your media bandwidth on irrelevant bullshit, you might notice that the rest of the world is more fun to live in. You love your servitude.. you live in a Brave New World. If you'd just be bothered reading the book, you'd know it.

Which brings me to the worst aspect of English life: tradition. In England, tradition is more important than change, even when that change is sorely needed, clearly enunciated, and blindingly obvious. The culture reaches to defend tradition before it reaches to encourage change. English citizens are taught to think this way by the leech-like Establishment, which protects its stranglehold on happiness by ensuring that the peasants remain stupid.

This said, I am impressed by England's role in history; it was the centre of the world, for a time, and in some ways, it still is.

However now, it is also a filthy, crowded little island playing catch-up to the rest of Europe - which in some aspects, is playing catch-up to everywhere else. English people should not be surprised that their Empire is crumbled, or that everything is broken -- one reaps what one sows.

Despite these factors, London remains one of the best places to do business (which is why I'm here). In fact I've made a list of the attractive features of the place:

  1. Customers are much easier to find here (they are closer together, compared to other places).
  2. London's status as a world financial centre ensures plenty of buzz.
  3. The UK's proximity to Europe means plenty of runoff from the buzz there.
  4. The UK's location mid-way between the US and Europe makes it perfect for webhosting (that's what I do).
  5. The UK's broadband market is one of the most developed in the world.
  6. The UK is the dance music centre of the universe.
  7. London's high population density means many new services are launched here first.
  8. The GBP is very strong and makes an attractive investment vehicle.
  9. London's 24x7x365 public transport system means I can avoid a car, and all that entails.
  10. Europe's 455 million inhabitants make it the largest English-speaking marketplace in the world.

It's not all bad - it's just that teeth-gritting becomes a survival skill, as I shall expand upon in a moment. It is my hope that the techno-revolution that the UK is currently experiencing, with respect to networking, broadband, and mobile data services, will remedy some of the ills I perceive. It should certainly make the country more efficient, and a whole lot of good could come from that. When I arrived here in 1997, mobile phones were still unusual. Now, everyone has one. The country is changing... even the weather has changed since I have been here. Who knows what will come next.

However, unfortunately, England's chequered past is not so easily digitised out of existence. I would like to answer the rhetorical question posed by London Underground: "Why doesn't the Underground have litter bins?". The poster attributes this failure in social policy to "terrorist activity". It neglects to mention the reason for the terrorism: the theft of a nation-state (Northern Ireland) by England. If the English hadn't come and stolen their country, perhaps the Irish wouldn't bother blowing up English rubbish bins??? I think the sign should say "London Underground doesn't have litter bins because it's run by Imperialist Wankers".

I mean, it might be possible to conclude that the English were something other than Imperialist Wankers, except they did pretty much the same thing, with some genocide thrown in for good measure, in Canada, America, parts of Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji, just to mention a few. In America, the first known case of biological warfare was recorded when Indians were intentionally given blankets infected with Smallpox; later, entire Indian villages were set on fire. Of one such event in 1637, William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth, wrote: "It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire...horrible was the stink and scent thereof...". In Australia, soldiers made a line kilometres wide and matched forward, shooting all Aboriginals in their path. All over the world, indigenous people were rounded up and herded into large, open-air jails called "reservations". Then, the imperialists stole their children, and in both Australia and America, imposed governments, laws, religions, education systems, and police forces, and conducted thousands of nuclear tests, many in native homelands; they also built military installations that turned other homelands into nuclear strike targets. They have since proceeded to carve up what was left of the public space, such as land, natural resources, and radio spectrum, and either "licensed" it (as if it was theirs to license), or auctioned it off (as if it was theirs to sell). The profits are of course pocketed before "trickling down" through the giant machine (the public service) they built entirely for the purpose of catching the trickles. And they continue to poison every inch of ocean and earth with their bio-warfare tests, old weapons, toxic chemicals, and radioactive waste that they cannot stand to house in their own backyards.

After all, why shit in your own nest, when you can shit in someone elses?

To quote Australian Aboriginal and ATSIC Commissioner Brian Butler: "...My grandmother, like many of our aunties and nanas, were forced to be sex slaves to the pastoralists, the troopers, the miners and other people that intruded into our lives... they raped our women and when the babies were born they ... forced them to kill them".

To be fair, England wasn't the only country doing this; ethnic cleansing, rape, slavery, genocide, and the theft of entire continents has been going on for millennia. But this does not mean that it's OK to do it. In admission of this, in their Enlightened state, they occasionally euphemised it to "annexation". But they still did it.

"Imperialist Wankers" is a nice way to phrase it, surely.

Ahem, well actually the day after I tweaked this page, I had this little experience, which I include so as to provide example. This kind of incompetence is endemic in this foolish country, and unfortunately it happens every day.

The PO Box Episode

  1. Stuart decides he wants a PO box. Goes to local Post Office to get one, after queuing for 10 minutes, is told that he must apply for one in writing, and to call this telephone number to request an application form.
  2. Stuart calls number, requests application form, does not stop to wonder why they couldn't just give me a form while I was in the Post Office, because I have done this before, and I wondered that last time.
  3. Application form arrives in mail a few days later, Stuart fills it in and posts it off with payment.
  4. Letter arrives a week later, informing me of my PO Box number (I did not get to choose the location - they decide where it's most convenient for you to collect your mail, based on where you live - as if this has anything to do with it), instructing me to collect my collection card from the Delivery Office
  5. Stuart goes to delivery office to collect card, has his letter vetted by security (despite the fact that it is on Royal Mail letterhead), finds his way to counter, queues, presents letter, ID, and asks to collect his collection card... and is told to take a seat, someone will be with you shortly (Stuart briefly wonders whether he will need his immunisation card, then remembers no, this is not a doctor's appointment, I am trying to collect my mail)
  6. Man appears after a brief moment and asks me what the trouble is, I say I'd like to collect my collection card, he tells me to go to the counter and tell them that.
  7. Stuart tells the man that he just did that, and the counter person went and got him.
  8. Man goes to counter and tells counter person that I am trying to collect my collection card.
  9. Counter person says "I didn't actually read the letter...". Stuart wonders whether this is the first time anyone has attempted to collect a collection card, whether anybody bothered to train this poor person, and whether it was worth accusing this man of failing to train his staff, before deciding that he'd rather just have his collection card, than actually attempt to enlighten these twits, who will simply take offence and lower the quality of their service provision still further -- and so Stuart says nothing.
  10. Counter person wanders off to get another person to get my card. Man wanders off.
  11. Other person appears with my card and letter paperclipped to it. Gives it to me and attempts to wander off.
  12. Stuart goes "Uhh," and he hesitates. Stuart can see no reason to delay this single remaining staffer, yet, but past experience has shown that it's a good idea to read the piece of paper before the employee who actually knows something about it disappears forever (they run off double-quick, because they know they will have to do more work if they let you speak to them, so they try and sneak off while you're reading, or indeed at the slightest loss of momentum during the transaction). Stuart thinks all this but says "The address on the letter is different from the address on the letter posted to me."
  13. Other person says "Oh yes, it's definitely been changed, hasn't it", referring to the fact that someone has indeed altered by hand the postcode on my confirmation letter W1H to W1A. I think, this fellow is quite observant.
  14. Stuart asks which one is the right one. The other person has no idea. He has, however, attempted to give me mail from the box, so I grab it and inspect the postcode myself, W1A.
  15. Other person wanders off. Stuart lets him, aware that the System has his postcode now, and that relying on fools to recover the situation that they themselves led me into is a futile proposition. I am left alone with collection card with a manually changed postcode. Stuart wonders how antiquated their systems can be, such that someone can change anything with a pen and a crumpled bit of paperclipped paper, and how thoughtless they must be, for not only changing the postcode after they have informed the customer of it, for not only compounding this error by neglecting to inform the customer of the change, but also for failing to offer a single piece of support or advice to the customer when the customer has noticed a defective product - and I was speaking with the "customer service representative" (eg. employee) at the time. They didn't want to know. None of them.
  16. Stuart realises nobody checked his ID, despite the letter saying they would ask for proof of identity.
  17. Stuart realises he has already told a few companies his postcode.. which has now changed... perhaps
  18. Stuart realises he must post two letters to himself to be sure which postcode is the correct one. Then, he must wait for them to go through the mail, then he must collect them - and then can he tell people what his postcode is.
  19. Stuart realises that he is standing in the centre of London, and that it is simply not possible to "go downtown" for better service, and he calls upon that special strength that he used to return to this God-forsaken place, which allows him to accept that there is nothing that one can do or say that will make this process simpler next time. The special power says to him, "do not worry my friend, these people are all nutters, leave them to wonder .... there are nice places in the world, you will live there someday."
  20. Stuart wanders off.

On my planet, one can apply for a box over the web, and pick their delivery office from a drop-down list. Too simple, I know.

Post-mortem: Royal Mail has got to be the epitome of the Old World (eg. paper-based heirarchy). It is hardly surprising that I, not satisfied with the rate of change to the New World (without paper or structure) as it is already, should find issue with this most encumbent of structures. But the New World will eclipse the Old, sooner rather than later, and all the staffers in the above example will lose their jobs. The above example shows why they will lose their jobs.. it is because they are no good at them.

I would suggest retraining, but they are too busy thinking I am a Stupid Customer.

I can't think of a way to wish these souls a pleasant journey -- since I know, for them, it won't be.

Update May 2002: It's since been revealed Royal Mail is running at a loss, to the tune of 1 million pounds a day. And, they are axing 44,000 jobs. Did I tell you so, or what?

Update Dec 2002: It's since been revealed Royal Mail has a 3-billion-pound shortfall in its pension fund, due to losses on the stockmarket. The answer? Put up the price of stamps of course, then the public can pay the postie to be an inept investment manager, as well as an inept postie. Makes perfect sense to me.

Update Jan 2005: A perfect example, thanks Royal Mail! (again!)

Update Feb 2005: Royal Mail loses its monopoly ...oh thankyou, thankyou Postcomm

Update Aug 2005: The hole in Royal Mail's pension fund is now GBP 4.5 billion. If I had a choice over whether to be their customer or not, I might laugh.

Update Feb 2006: Today, Postcomm fined Royal Mail 11.4 million for losing 14.6 million items of mail in a single year.

Update Feb 2007: The hole in Royal Mail's pension fund is now GBP 6.6 billion. This is like watching a slow-motion train crash.

I received a letter from a government department the other day, it included the wording "we have recorded the information on computer". Perhaps they bothered to mention this fact because it's an improvement over the scraps of paper used by their colleagues at the Post Office?

2 to 4 WHAT!!!
And here's some more correspondence from the same office. Seems like they're experiencing a few teething issues over there. Fair enough - the silicon chip itself was only invented in 1965.

And yesterday, I received a letter from my local Health Authority - the envelope was not sealed, at all, despite being posted from a government department and containing something other than advertising material; and inside was a single card with my birthdate printed clearly in the middle. Today, I called my bank and requested a new ATM card - for security, they asked me my postcode and birthdate. I could have been my postman - he's got my birthdate now, right? Could it be that government departments breach the Data Protection Act?

And finally, my most recent horror story was the 90 minutes I endured in a tube tunnel yesterday. Stuck between two stations, the train I was on, plus the four trains in front and who knows how many behind - quickly heated the tunnel to a pleasant 37.5 degrees Celcius. I was able to become well-acquainted with the slime-covered, asbestos-coated tunnel wall. And when the train finally made it out of the tunnel and into the station, the station was closed, I couldn't even get a complaint form, and I had to walk to another station, in the rain, just so I could get home. And the reason? A signalling station flooded. You'd think, given this is England, with it's reputation for crap weather, that they'd have that kind of thing sorted out by now.

To quote Leader of the Commons Jack Straw: "It is extremely important we upgrade our efforts all the time to defy the weather which after all ... is much more moderate than many other countries who frankly are able to cope a bit better.". On the same day, David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said "that the lateness and loss of work hours caused by [recent] transport disruptions will cost the British economy up to 400 million." (February 2007)

Don't come to England if you expect anything better than the above. Period.

People here either don't understand that sooner or later, the cookie is gonna crumble - that inefficiency accumulates ... or they are wagering on when, in international money markets.

PS: doesn't understand accumulating foolishness? Of course this culture doesn't. Why would you feed an animal YOU eat waste meat?? You may as well eat the waste meat yourself. But no, the culture does not see this far ahead. It sees a saved penny, a shrinkwrapped TV dinner, and a bunch of people dead from a swollen brain, and that is all.

PPS: I have now seen my first English dual-flush toilet (I have learned they are quite prevalent in rich people's houses), so I've had to reconsider how backward England is. It must be improving. Just semi-backward, then: EFTPOS ("chip and pin") has been in other countries for at least a decade. And paper money! How quaint.

PPPS: research has revealed a theory that BSE and CJD are in fact not caused by an infectious agent at all, but rather, by poisoning from the use of organophosphate-based insecticides. Read more here..

PPPPS: I've had some great feedback concerning this page. Not only have I enjoyed many supportive and indeed contributing comments, not only have I reveled in emphatic agreements and danced about the room when the page was hyperlinked from a few high-profile sites (such as Serendipity and Need To Know) - but I've sat and absorbed several negative comments. I've been called an idiot and a wanker (predictably!). Someone suggested I "delete the whole site" - an action which would no doubt have upset the hundreds of authors of "thank you for a very usufull page" emails I have collected over the years (that one was from January 1998). Some people have suggested I simply leave - no, no, no. When I originally penned this page (back in ole '99) I did in fact do that - but now I'm back and I know what to expect, so I'm not having a problem coping. I just think it's sad I should have to cope at all. This game could be played a lot better. This page might be a little impolite; incorrect, however, it is not.

Don't worry, I have plenty of worse things to say about America, the world's biggest and baddest terrorists than about their aging and decrepit motherland. I'll start out by mentioning that the Americans reportedly shot "mothers with newborn babies" in Somalia in 1993 (according to an eyewitness I saw interviewed on TV). Then, I'll go on to mention that in 1946 George W. Bush's grandfather was found guilty by the US Government of "trading with the enemy" - he and his Wall St buddies were financing the Nazis. That's right, they helped reduce London to the junkyard it now is. But it wasn't just London. "On the nights of 22 and 23 December 1940 the German air force dropped hundreds of high explosive and incendiary bombs on the Manchester area, killing nearly 700 people and leaving thousands homeless." (source: BBC) Were those bombs paid for by Bush, perhaps? Have a nice day.