Heathrow T4 – a fitting gateway to the UK?

This morning I flew into Heathrow T4 once again.  What a complete shit fight.  We arrived on time at 7.30am and I promptly marched down to the arrivals area.

Oh shit – IRIS machine is broken AGAIN.

The queue for “Other Passports” stretches as far as the eye can see.  From the immigration desks, it snaked back through the 8 or 10 queueing loops then down a long corridor back to the T1,2,3 transfer corridor.  I negotiated my way into the “Fast Track” queue which also stretched down the same corridor but only half as far.  As I stood in this painfully slow ‘Fast Track’ queue I became aware of a public announcement system highlighting the next free desk.  The ‘courtesy’ announcement was happening with considerable frequency, but it only ever announced “Desk 22”, whether that desk was free or not.

 Sixty minutes later I hit the immigration desk.  Compare this to when the IRIS machine is working and I can get from the door of the airplane to a taxi in 10 minutes.  This entire sorry episode took me 90 minutes.

I cannot wait to see how this works when London has the Olympics.  It will be a complete fucking shitfight because I am convinced that in general when it comes to executing infrastructure, the English haven’t a bloody clue.

Even though I dont agree with much that is written by Tyler Bruhle in the FT Weekend, his observations about Heathrow are spot on.  It would be an embarrassment to any country that prides itself on being a major transport hub. 

What adds insult to injury is the presumption on behalf of immigration officers (once you reach the desk), is that you would be stupid enough to want to stay here  – recession, credit cards to the max, bad schooling, ‘russian-roulette’ health care, sub-standard infrastructure, over priced everything.  Yes, sign me up!


How do I know that I am home?

Even though I staggered of the Singapore Airlines flight at 6.00am yesterday morning feeling quite disoriented with my body clock being exactly 12 hours out of phase and back into winter, I knew that I was back in The Netherlands as soon as I went to the local shops.  I went to buy some Aspro’s at a shop called Etos for my daughter, finding them and then joined a small queue to pay at the deserted check out.  Looked around and there were the 2 shop assistants chatting to other folks at the rear of the store.  A couple more people join the queue to pay, the shop assistants look but remain chatting.  So there we all stand for 5 minutes, did they come to the check out, did they fuck. So in pure exasperation I called out asking if they would mind coming to help.  Of course fucking not.  “We are busy” was the reply, I then shared with them (and the entire shop) my usual sarcasm, suggesting to them that if they chose to work in a business one of the basic fundamentals was to take people’s money and therefore ensure that they continued to get paid.  Well of course this makes all the Dutch uncomfortable, because they just don’t challenge bad service, the just accept it.

The upshot of all of this – 2 customers put their stuff on the checkout and walked out, others behind muttered (he is right) and the shop assistants suggested that I calm down and leave the shop, whilst they continued to chat.  There is absolutely no doubt that I am back in a country other than Holland, they are fucking hopeless with service.

Granny tagged for selling a Goldfish

Here is a wonderful story of bureaucracy gone insane.

A 66 year old granny has been convicted, electronically tagged and her son sentenced to 120 hours community service for selling a goldfish to a 14 year old in the UK, in a deliberate sting operation.  You can read the entire sorry tale here in the UK paper ‘The Daily Express’.

What I find is beyond comprehension is that government resources can be allocated to mount this sting operation and the same rigour is not applied to the MP’s who falsely claimed millions in expenses or the bankers who drove the economy to the brink of collapse, for the sole purpose of lining their own individual pockets.  I am beginning to understand how the French Revolution began.

7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People

Lately I have come across a number of references to a body of work with a remarkably similar title, exhorting you to pull your finger out.  For the significant majority of the population who simply can’t be bothered here is my alternative 7 suggestions.

7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People

1.  Do not be proactive.  – Absolutely not.  Do not volunteer or look for any more things that will potentially add more unwelcome stress into your already ‘stressed out’ day.

2. Begin with only the next step in mind. – Don’t over reach.  Things are always liable to change so dont risk disappointment.

3.  Put yourself first. – Be clear that your plate is already full and taking on any more tasks / responsibilities / actions, will probably not be of any real personal benefit to you.

4.  Think Win/win. – This means just buy a lottery ticket, after all someone has to win it and it could be you.

5.  Seek first to confuse. – Try and be as obtuse and confusing as possible.  This will largely ensure that you don’t end up being asked to do anything additional.

6.  Synergize. – What the fuck does this mean? Definitely ignore any invitations to ‘synergize’ as it will only result in you having to do something.  If they insist and you sense being trapped apply Habit 5 in earnest.

7.  Sharpen your appetite. – Take time out to nourish your inner self with the best Club Sandwich you can find, glasses of beer or wine (or both) and finish it off with a satisfying joint.

Develop these 7 habits to maximum potential and you will not be bothered by workmates / managers / sales people who by nature are trying to figure out how to dump some of their responsibilities onto you.

“Tell it like it is” – pure genius!

In a recent article in the F.T. there was the following quote from Andreas Treichl, Chief Executive of Erste, one of Austria’s largest banking groups.  He was commenting on the scandal now emerging in both Germany and Austria about murky dealings of HGAA.  It is a rare example of ‘tell it like it is”.

“It’s a bunch of scumbags – in terms of banking and in terms of politics – from Austria, who have [teamed] up with scumbags from central and eastern Europe and a couple of idiots from further west, and out of this came a huge mess”.

Bloody wonderful.

Did you know it requires 7 years study to become incompetent?

Just lately I have found out that if you want to become truely incompetent in The Netherlands, then you have to study for 7 years to achieve this state.  Thats correct, study to become a ‘Huisart’ which is a General Doctor.  The selection criteria is ruthless, you have to be at the top of everything, the pressure to pass is considerable and then at the end of it all you are completely useless. 

Let me explain.  As a culture the Dutch have a very ‘non-interventionist’ approach to medical care.  This means that unless your penis has been severed, your head has exploded or you have visible leprosy, do not go to your local doctor.  The reason is that the Dutch have convinced themselves that they have discovered the worlds first ‘cure all’ miracle drug – Panadol.  That is the stock standard advice for EVERYTHING.  Go away, take panadol and if you are still not feeling well in 3 weeks, come back.  If this approach wasn’t so serious (read – often fatal), it would be a good joke.  The thing is that the joke is on the Dutch because they don’t know or expect anything else, but as an expat who has actually enjoyed professional health care in other countries it is horrifying.

Here is the most recent real example.  I was with some friends recently, where a family member had just come back from a trip to Uganda.  He developed a very high fever (above 40 degrees) which stayed at that level.  Went to the huisart and – yep you guessed it – Panadol.  The fact that the person had just come back from Uganda was an irrelevant detail.  After suffering for a week the family took him to hospital, insisted he was put on a drip and they discovered that he was so sick with Malaria that they asked him if he would like them to call a priest!!  Fortunately everything got sorted out and he survived but so many people die in this country through genuine medical incompetence. 

I guess it is no surprise that in the last listing posted by WHO, the Netherlands came at number 17 – (9 below Oman).   The only upside to that statistic was that it was still higher than the UK!