Monthly Archives: January 2008

Off on holiday

Most of our holidays are spontaneous, being booked only a week or so before departure. Our next holiday is no exception, we’re off to the Canary Islands on Sunday for a one week and it’s all been planned and booked in the past 7 days.

On Sunday morning we fly Iberia to Madrid and then from Madrid to La Palma – NOT Palma in Majorca, NOT Las Palmas on Gran Canaria but here. It’s one of the smaller Canary islands and it’s appeal for us is that it doesn’t have any mass tourism. Having booked the flights we next needed a hotel and I was very pleased to discover that La Palma has a parador, “The hotels in the Parador Group were set up by the state to use quality tourism to act as guardian of the national and artistic heritage of Spain and to assist regions with fewer economic resources”. I’ve stayed in Paradores before and they’ve all been first class so we’ve high hopes of a very comfortable week. The final bookings were a hire car and parking at Heathrow for a week. I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything!

Currently the temperature there is in the low 20′s. As I look out of the window as I type this in Southampton the rain is beating on the glass, trees are swaying around as if they might uproot themselves and the temperature is in single figures. I think we’re going to be having a nice time in La Palma :-)

I’ll just take you through a couple of security questions

I’m sick and tired of hearing this. I call a business with whom I deal and whatever is I want to know we have to go through this damned pallaver. They wont even tell you their opening hours without you ‘go through security first’. Yesterday I turned the tables!

My mobile ‘phone supplier (that’s who they said they were) called and asked if they were speaking to Malcolm Loades. “Yes” I replied. “This is xyz communications. I’d just like to take you through a couple of security questions first”. Whoaaaa! “You’ve rung me so I’ve no proof you are who you say you are. It’s me who’s going to ask you a couple of security questions so I know that you are who you claim to be”. That produced silence for sometime, then the voice at the other end of the line asked “Do you understand the Data Protection Act?”. “I believe I do” was my response. “Then you’ll understand that we can’t talk to you without checking that you really are Malcolm Loades”. “If I’d rung you I’d agree with that because someone without any authority may be trying to close my account etc” I said “but in this instance you’ve rung me and I’ve no proof whatever that you are who you say are. You may well be someone trying to collect my ‘security question type information’ which could then be used for identity theft”. They kept protesting that they were unable to talk to me without checking that I was Malcolm Loades and I told them I wouldn’t talk to them unless they allowed me to ask a question or two to see if the were genuine or bogus. I suggested that they write to me about whatever they wanted to say on the ‘phone, and so I ended the stalemate.

I wasn’t going to mention this

The Stagecoach ‘How to use a bus’ guide seems to be covered everywhere which is why I wasn’t going to blog about it. That is, until, I came across this article in today’s Times, I found it very amusing. I particularly liked the last bit.

“3: Wholehearted appreciation of the bus driver”.

“Look – he’s steering a vast vehicle through a perilous environment on a tight deadline, with the fates of hundreds in the balance. In any other comparable situation – Han Solo on the Millennium Falcon, Captain Picard in Star Trek, Cliff in Summer Holiday– the guy up front is treated like a hero. We all need to hail the bus driver, man.”

“Maybe the first step to driver deification could be making the job seem a little more in-demand, and hard-to-get. Possibly by removing the big posters on the back of the bus that read, “YOU could be driving this bus!” After all, you quite notably don’t see them on the back of Formula One vehicles, or presidential motorcades.”

The Court Result

I mentioned on Monday that I’d been in Court that day but didn’t say why. The Court was an Asylum and Immigration Tribunal hearing before Judge Froom, it’s purpose was to hear an appeal on behalf of Essy’s daughter, who had been been refused a visa to come to the UK by the British Entry Clearance Officer in Harare.

We’d sought legal advice in the UK concerning the appeal and because we both work we don’t qualify for legal aid so would have to pay all the legal costs; the lawyers wanted per hour what I earn per week!! Plus VAT, of course. They said they’d need umpteen hours to prepare the appeal, gather evidence etc. and then of course there’d be the full day they must allow for the hearing etc. In other words an awful lot of money. So I decided I’d represent Essy’s daughter at the hearing myself! I guess that the vast majority of these cases are asylum appeals where the appellant is unlikely to be working and therefore gets free legal representation. Essy’s daughter’s appeal was against a refusal to issue her with a visa enabling her to travel to the UK and not an asylum case.

Prior to the hearing I’d written to the Entry Clearance Officer in Harare asking that the decision to deny be reviewed and gave my reasons for believing the original decision to be flawed. It was when the original decision was upheld that I started the appeal process in the UK. This letter to the Entry Clearance Officer was included in the bundle before the Court and led the Judge to ask if I was legally trained “No, Sir” I replied “Just a little research, Google is my friend”. I don’t know if he thought I was mad but he did smile. The Judge was surprised that we had no qualified legal representation but accepted that it did not prevent the hearing taking place. So the Home Office had a nice, smart Solicitor with a sack truck loaded with papers and legal books representing the Entry Clearance Officer, Harare and Essy’s daughter had me :-(

The result? We won!!!! Unless the Home Office apply to the High Court for a review of the decision (that is very rare), which they must do within 5 days if they wish to fight on, the Judge directs that “entry clearance be granted to the appellant.

The value of money

Here’s a picture of a happy young multi-millionaire


He’s holding six of the brand new 10,000,000 Zimbabwean dollar notes on the day the exchange rate hit 10 million dollars to a UK pound.

Been in Court today

Today I had to attend Court (I was not the ‘scouser in a suit’ otherwise known as ‘the accused’!) and the case was listed for 10:00am. When I got there I found that all the cases to be heard in that Court today were all listed for 10:00am! And suddenly I realised that bus companies have a lot to learn from the Court system – all number 5′s at 07:00, 2′s at 07:30 etc :-) The bus company could then send out the buses when convenient to them whilst keeping everyone else waiting …. just like the Courts.