Lymington Italia Festival

Lymington is a lovely little town. It sits by the sea with a little harbour and has got plenty of history. It’s a place where rich folk come to retire. It’s Brexitlandia. But we must forgive them that at least once a year, when they permit an influx of immigrant automobiles that have come to the UK to seek a forever home. What is not to like about a parade of several dozen Ferraris. Just Ferraris, mind you. Lymington is rather picky when it comes to what type of immigrants settle here. There are no bad hombres here. Continue reading “Lymington Italia Festival”

Travelling On A Lost/Stolen BRP

This is a public service announcement by the Mexile in association with an awful lost of frustration and angst. Roughly 24 hours before Mrs P and I were due to fly to Mexico for our two week holiday, there was what I shall refer to as an ‘incident’. I won’t bore you with the details of the ‘incident’. Just one of the consequences. The most pressing consequence. Mrs P was no longer in possession of her Biometric Residence Permit. This Continue reading “Travelling On A Lost/Stolen BRP”

British By Inconvenience

The British passport has always been one of the better, if not the best, passport to be packing in your travel bag. Easier access to former colonial territories. Friendly relations with the US. And the benefits of being part of the EU. My British passport may not, one day in the future, be the one I want to use though. It’s an EU passport too, and as an EU citizen (for the moment…!) I actually have more rights. Even in Britain, as a British citizen. Us Brits have become second rate citizens subjects in our own country. Why? Where shall I begin.

Mrs P came to the UK in the summer of 2011. The date is important. Had she arrived after July 2012, I would have needed to prove that I have an income in excess of £18,600. Like nearly half the UK population, that’s an income level I do not boast. In one swift stroke, nearly 50% of the UK population were forbidden from marrying a foreign person and living in Britain. You can do one, or the other. Not boast.

I understand the need to regulate immigration. Some of it is easily solved. Asylum seekers? Well, we could stop bombing other countries to smithereens. The ‘hordes’ of Eastern Europeans that ‘invaded’ the UK when Poland joined the EU? Well, perhaps we should have followed most of the rest of Europe and put a block on them. Although, quite frankly, I find the Poles to be a much nicer, harder working and integrated bunch than an awful lot of Brits. Illegal immigrants? We’re an island for goodness sake. We have it a tone easier than the rest of Europe. We just chose to be lax. Skilled foreign workers? I’m not aware that anyone’s claiming they are a problem.

And then there is Mrs P, and the tiny teeny fraction of immigrants in the UK who have married a British citizen. It was already ridiculous that we had to pay an extortionate £1000 for her initial visa. It’s outrageous that an Indefinite Leave to Remain visa is another £1000. And that a year after that it’s another £1000 for naturalization. There’s no justification for those sort of fees, especially given the absolutely awful level of service you get.

It’s a combination of knee jerk politics and a culture of ripping off anyone who finds themselves at the mercy of the state. If you are the citizen of a country and you wish to marry a foreign person, there should be a streamlined and sensibly priced procedure in place. Not barriers deliberately designed to keep families apart. Even as Mexico is moving away from an archaic immigration policy and towards a  system designed to keep families together, the UK goes in the opposite direction.

But I am not just a British citizen, but also a European citizen. As such, I can move to any country in the EU and live and work there. The rest of Europe is more in tune with humanity. In Europe, I can bring my Mexican wife with me. There are treaties that are enshrined into law to give me this right. And there are laws to ensure my wife and I can move freely around Europe. If we wish to move from another European country to the UK, then the UK Border Agency cannot stop us. I just have to show I worked in that EU country for three months.

On arrival, she can get a five year Residence Card and legally work here. The cost? As far as I can see, the cost is entirely measured in time and patience. We could simply bypass the ridiculous, exorbitant and unfair processes of the UK Border Agency, and have a three month European adventure to boot. The biggest cost has already been paid. By the wonderful Surinder Singh. There always has to be a test case. For a test case, you need a person on the wrong end of an unfair law to stand up for himself and take on the state. Good for you Surinder! Does any of this matter to us? We are going back to Mexico, right? But who knows what the future holds…

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The Next Step

I mentioned in my last post that time flies. I had a longer period of time in mind then. Today features a substantially shorter passage of time. The weeks, perhaps months (two or three at most) before I relocate to Mexico. I have also in recent months posted about my impending return. Pondering business opportunities and the bureaucracy I will face, both getting to Mexico and once I am there. And indeed a spanner is being thrown in the works. Mexico is revamping its immigration laws. The key factor in the new laws, from my perspective, is that I may not be able to convert a tourist visa into a working visa in Mexico.

I can’t even begin to describe how many articles, forums and websites I’ve trawled through for information. I find myself more confused today than I did at the beginning. The new rules will take effect in just a week or two, apparently. Yet, this is Mexico. So they may not. To try and ease the confusion, we phoned the Mexican Embassy in London, to speak to someone who deals with visas all day long. Surely he wouldn’t be as confused as I. He wasn’t. That’s the joy of ignorance. He was of no help whatever, seemingly oblivious to the pending changes.

But I will get to Mexico. And once my visa has been sorted, the next big item on the agenda must be dealt with. Earning a living. The idea of opening a little English tea shop still appeals to me. We could serve English breakfasts in the morning and for lunch. Followed by cream teas into the afternoon. Then it’s ‘Pimms O’Clock’. With strawberries and cream. But this all requires investment. So this is most definitely a longer term ambition. To start with it will be back to teaching English. But with a perhaps more lucrative approach than last time.

Employing teachers to fulfil contracts I’ve signed to provide classes to business guys and gals in DF is the obvious money spinner, and the first avenue I will go down. Once I have managed to fill my own schedule with classes, anyway. There are other related avenues to go down, of course. For the purposes of my exercise, they need to require minimal (or preferably no) financial investment. The start up costs need to be my time and effort. And charm. The first two are no problem. I’ll need to work on the third.

English exercise books in the Business English industry. Let me tell you how that tends to work in Mexico City – and probably elsewhere. A teacher will buy one copy at an extortionate price. Then go to a copy shop and have however many copies he or she needs printed off and bound up. For about a tenth the price of the original. The books come with CD’s which are quickly lost or damaged – and the classroom won’t always have a CD player in it anyway. The books themselves range from excellent to poor, as you might imagine. Most teachers have a favourite couple of books that they use over and over again.

I’ve long thought I could produce better books* and deliver them, and their audio, in a more flexible, cost effective and student friendly manner. What’s so hard about putting a whole language laboratory onto a single website and making it available, at very low cost, to transfer those materials to a thumb drive the size  of a cigarette butt? From where the written materials can be printed easily at a copy shop, and the audio materials played easily on any iPod or similar device. It’s not hard. Some companies/people have had a stab at it. But none have quite got it right. And none of them seem intent on trying to provide supplementary content to teach more specific vocabulary according to different industries.  (*even if this simply means sifting through multiple published books, lifting the best bits and discarding the chaff to produce a more rounded publication).

Doing this would be mighty time consuming, no doubts about it. It would be worthy of that time investment though. I also have an end goal in mind too. Going ‘open source’ and giving it all away for free. Wikipedia style. Allow other teachers to add content and contribute sections. Grow the site through numbers. If that came to pass, I suspect the web address itself will be popular enough to generate an income. Adding other features and revenue streams should be perfectly possible.

At which point, of course, other factors will come into play. For example, once unknown third parties are involved, are they going to contribute content that I could be liable for down the road? Do I really want to be sued by a Mexican doctor who has gotten a job at a prestigious US hospital, only to operate on the wrong leg of a patient, just because my materials taught his that ‘derecho’ meant ‘left’? It seems unlikely, but perhaps it would be best if I looked into a professional indemnity insurance policy.

These plans are still some way off, it has to be said. I still have the visa hurdle to jump yet. But I am optimistic regards Mexico’s future, and my own future within the country. The economy may have taken a severe battering in 2008 and 2009, but it’s most definitely on the up at the moment. Sure that are issues and tough times ahead. But the country has a ton of resources, and there is a poverty advantage  – growth is easier to achieve when you have an abundant supply of low paid workers and losses less likely when you don’t have an awful lot to lose. This is a kinda selfish take. But it’s not necessarily inaccurate. News stations are full of gloom and doom. But tell me something new. How’s life on the street? Difficult in places, I’m sure. But I suspect a fair chunk of entrepreneurs are still optimistic. More so in Mexico than Greece though, one suspects!

My Tram Experience

Where oh where does one even begin with attempting to offer an opinion on this video. I don’t want to entirely spoil the #MyTramExperience for you. But I’ll say this. When people drivel on about how ‘multiculturalism’ has failed, what they really mean is that they understand this ladies point of view, and sincerely regret that her opinion is met with contempt. They might not know that that is what they mean. That’s just ignorance walking hand in hand with ignorance.

Not every Briton is like her. But far too many are. Suffice it to say, you can get a pretty good grasp of how well educated she is (or, rather, isn’t) within the first 30 seconds of the video. Shame. If she just kept her mouth closed, or at least stopped noises coming out of it, she’d be pretty hot. For a British lass, anyway. Although perhaps I shouldn’t be so judgemental. We don’t have the whole story here. What happened at the end? After all, if she shook them all by the hand before getting off the tram, then all’s well that ends well, right?

Pity these people. And mock them too. Mocking has entertainment value. Taking them seriously is a waste of time, and no deterrent. You will, hopefully, be pleased to know that the lady was later taken into custody. After the mocking, what to do next with her? Instant karma is always nice, but not always on hand to save the day. I vote that she be forced to share a carriage with the Peckham Terminator. I’m not even sure what he was on about, or on, in that video. I’m sure it was very wrong. But I liked the way that the heroic young videographers mocked him. It must be watched to the very end.

Edit: It shouldn’t be assumed that this is a sign of deteriorating standards of the youth of today. Rose tinted glasses are for fashionistas only. It’s always been this way. And some people never do quite grow out of it.

To Bear A Grudge

I was warned before coming back to the UK, by acquaintances, forum users and media, that the UK has been overrun with ‘damned foreigners’. You couldn’t turn 180 degrees without bumping into one of them, apparently. Taking over our jobs, the health service, the housing….and by golly if you didn’t watch out your own wife would have a foreign infestation growing in her belly. It seems to me that these warnings were a little….exaggerated?

Having said that, there are a lot more non-British folk in the UK. Noticeably more. Many of them east and central Europeans. Many of them, Poles. It is, quite frankly, a blessing. I have grown to appreciate their hard work, good customer service and general friendliness to the point that I will actively choose to shop in stores with Poles working in them, and to sometimes even avoid stores with Brits behind the counter. Great Britian has not, sadly, been ‘overrun’ enough for my liking. A little more would only be a good thing.

In London there are more Asians. Some of them are even, and I say this with a virtual whisper, are Muslim. Actually, a lot are Muslim. It makes me giggle a little bit when Little Englanders go on about how the ‘Indians are an alright bunch’ based on their experiences in Indian restaurants, seemingly oblivious to the fact that most Indian restaurants in the UK are run by Muslims.

There’s another thing I’ve found that’s noticeable. Especially when compared with the 70’s, but this also applies to the 80’s and 90’s. There’s more tolerance. Which goes very much against the claims of those who say too much mixing breeds intolerance. Heavens….even the recent rioters joined together, black and white, to go on a multicultural looting spree. I would put some of this down to a national campaign that has been work in progress for decades. Some would call this campaign ‘political correctness’. I would call it ‘good manners’.

Another noticeable difference is that there’s far more of Latin America here. Mexico in particular. I was often asked when I lived in Mexico, what made me go there in the first place. Accident and happenstance was the answer. Mexico had never really been on the British radar. There were very few Mexican restaurants to be found and just as few Mexicans. Mexico is definitely on the British radar now, and food is leading the assault. We’ve  been watching a new weekly TV series,  Mexican Food Made Simple.

However, there was a much earlier pioneer of immigration to the UK from Latin America. A famous Peruvian. Who won a place in the hearts of all Englanders, be they of the Little or Big variety. He was unashamedly an illegal immigrant. Who sent home money to his family. And generally caused culutral mayhem. He was one of my childhood heroes, and was so fondly remembered by my generation that he made it back onto our screens just a few years ago. Paddington, everyone’s favourite stowaway.

Errant UK Settlement Visa

The immigration process is not an easy one. Particularly if you need to deal with Worldbridge. They are the UK Border Agency’s ‘official partner’. Some say that outsourcing governmental work to private companies is simply a means saving money by hiring poorly paid serfs who lack the competency to the job properly, at a cost of an effective professional service. Worldbridge seem intent on living up to that claim.  The names of the innocent in the recently sent email pasted below have been changed. Except for Worldbridge’s name. They are guilty as charged as far as I am concerned, and worthy of all the contempt and scorn that might be heaped upon them.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing on behalf of my wife, Juanita Banana. I am her sponsor for her settlement visa. Her Application number is ************. On Monday June 13th we received an email, to my wife’s email account (juanita.banana@live.com) from  NEYOZVisaInfo@fco.gov.uk, that stated her UK Visa had been issued, with information about UPS tracking information. I have copied and pasted the email in its entirety below, minus the usual disclaimer at the foot of the page.

Despite stating that delivery would be in 2 to 5 business days and that tracking information on UPS would be available, no UPS tracking number was contained in the email and the visa has not been delivered. Nine days later, and no further information has been received about either the location of the visa or the UPS tracking number.

Worldbridge, the official partner of the Border Agency, would seem to be the obvious place to go for information. However, my wife and I have had four contacts so far with Worldbridge, with a current success rate of 0%.

Our first contact was a phone call by myself, at a cost of US$13, to find out whether the copy of my passport page to be included in Paola’s application pack needed to be signed by a referee. I was told by the Worldbridge adviser that I needed to have it signed at the British Embassy. I told him I was in Britain, and asked, rather incredulously, if I was meant to get it signed at the British Embassy in London. He stated that was so.

So incredulous was I, that I got him to repeat that several times, just to make certain that I wasn’t going mad. In the end, I had to inform him that there is no British Embassy in London. He paused, sought advice from a supervisor, then told me that a copy of my passport was fine and did not need to be signed at all. The adviser is, according to Worldbridge, a fully trained agent.

Juanita then presented her visa application package to Worldbridge at the British Embassy in Mexico, only to be told that she should have included my actual passport. Not a copy, signed or not. My actual passport. Which is ridiculous. She refused to accept the application pack, and we had to send it, at our own cost, to the British consulate in New York. I strongly suspect, although cannot prove, a scam. We did include my original birth certificate, which I had accidentally left in Mexico after living there for nearly six years.

The third encounter with Worldbridge was another paid for phone call, asking about the location of the visa and the tracking number. The adviser took the details of my enquiry and provided me with a case number, but I have thus far not received a reply.The final, most unfortunate, episode was an email sent to Worldbridge last night. I informed them that my wife had received an email from the NY Consulate telling her that her visa has been issued but no UPS tracking had been included, nor had the visa been received.

From previous experience, I had low expectations of a helpful response from Worldbridge, and they did not disappoint. We received a reply from Worldbridge today telling us that when the visa is issued we will receive an email telling us so, with a UPS tracking number. This was a true ‘WTF’ moment.

To be fair to Worldbridge, whilst they do claim that the phone will be answered by a ‘trained agent’, they make no claims as to exactly what they are trained in. It does not seem, however, that basic reading comprehension, common sense and general competency are qualities deemed essential for the role. Our second encounter suggests honesty may also not be a prerequisite requirement.

So you will please forgive me if I appear to lack any faith whatsoever in Worldbridge providing me with relevant information to the questions I answer. I am currently taking up the issues I have had with them with my local Member of Parliament and the Border Agency, to whom I will send copies of this email separately, and will at a later point seek financial redress through the Small Claims courts in the UK.

As making any further progress with Worldbridge seems unlikely, I do therefore ask, nay – beseech, that you help me unravel the mystery surrounding the current location of my wife’s settlement visa, and the UPS tracking number that is associated with it. I will gladly jump through the required hoops and leap over the necessary bars, if only someone would tell me where the hoops and bars are.

I thank you in advance for your help in resolving this matter, and I greatly appreciate your most urgent response.

Yours sincerely,

Hugh Juan.

Rip Off Britain

Rip Off Britain was a phrase that entered the vocabulary in the late 1990’s. I remember it quite well – I went to the car show the year they had the ‘protest’ stand set up, bemoaning the high price of new cars in the UK compared to the rest of Europe. And the phrase has continued in common usage to this day, with plenty of organisations ready to point out and publicise any large price differences for the same products that exist between the UK and Europe / the US.

You’d think that I’d have left the Rip Off behind me along with Britain when I left the country in 2005. Not a chance of it. The tentacles of bureaucracy reach far, and the Atlantic is no barrier at all. The rip off in question today being Paola’s immigration application. The cost is, in my opinion, extortionate and fails to reflect the actual cost of processing her application. It’s in dollars, naturally. One thousand two hundred of them. Or just shy of 15,000 pesos. Seven hundred and sixty three of her Majesty’s shiny pound coins.

But I’d accepted that. It’s a cost I’d known about for sometime. It turns out, however, that there is now an additional cost. From the end of November 2010, it was declared that applicants seeking settlement in the UK need to pass an English language test. A very basic IELTS test. At a cost of a further 2,000 pesos and plenty of trudging about to test centres. You might think that assessing an immigrants ability to speak English isn’t a bad idea, and you’d be right. Partly.

The thing is, this is a basic English test. Paola is a fluent English speaker. Hell, her spoken and written English is better than a good chunk of the UK’s native English speaking population! And what if we wanted to move to Glasgow? She could pass their test by filling her mouth with rocks and sand and saying three Hail Marys.

The point is, Paola will be interviewed at the British Embassy, where her English level will become immediately apparent. If an applicant is able to effectively and coherently complete an interview in English, how about the test requirement be waived? It would be, by that stage, clear that the test was just a waste of time and money and a completely unnecessary burden. Even if the interviewee struggled a bit but was capable of answering all the questions, then they’d pass the very basic IELTS test with flying colours.

If the applicant, on the other hand, is unable to complete the interview in English, then by all means send them along to take the test. It’ll be the first step of many in a process of fun and games where they will get to encounter many delightful characters. Although it should be noted than us Brits haven’t always had such a ‘hostile’ attitude to immigration. It all depends on direction.

I’m quite sure there’s more to the new English test requirement than fleecing applicants of a bit more cash though. There’s some twit sitting behind a desk in Whitehall with not enough work to justify his existence as an employee of the state, so he just made up some new work. And it appealed to his overlords in Westminster who want to be seen to be ‘doing something’, even if that something is a waste of time and money. It was probably the same team who dreamed up the British Citizenship test.

I’ve taken the test. A practise one, anyway, on the official website. I failed miserably, scoring 12 out of 24. And, if you’ll forgive the lack of modesty for a moment, I’m reasonably compos mentis, more so than mentalist compost anyway, and have a pretty decent knowledge of the UK, its history, law and culture. But I confess that I didn’t know that the UK received more immigrants in the 1980’s from the United States, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand that it did from the West Indies, Ireland, India and Pakistan. I was seven years old at the beginning of that decade and learning my multiplication tables, not counting immigrants off boats.

I also got stumped by the ‘which TWO of these are names for the Church of England?’ question. Where were the ‘homophobic dress wearing retards’ and ‘fairytale gang’ options? How many parliamentary constituencies are there? Too many, seemed the obvious answer, but no such option existed. In which year did married women get the right to divorce their husband? I’m outraged! Women can actually divorce their husbands?? Next you’ll be telling me we aren’t allowed to stone them for misbehaviour any more.

The percentage of people in the UK in 2001 who said they were Muslims was 2.7% apparently. Who gives a toss? I really wanted to know how many people claimed to be a Jedi. Nearly two per cent as it happens, and oh yes, I am one of those. It’s officially recorded so it must be true. The official report of the proceedings of Parliament is called Hansard. Not Complete Balderdash, as I would have guessed.

And the stupid questions go on. They could have come up with far more relevant and ‘British’ questions. Such as ‘who won the war anyway?‘  or ‘what is the correct procedure to restart a stalled car.’ Or just give them the full Racism Test. These clips could leave you with the impression that us Brits are a bunch of racist ole buggers still basking in an Empire. You’d be right. So I recommend dressing up as a furry cat. It’s great fun, and while it won’t entirely save you from abuse, the British public are far more likely to jump to defence of a helpless animal than a helpless <insert word of choice according to origin here>.

 

 

Immigration Protest in USA

Biggest news in Mexico at the moment (apart from a 21 year old who murdered 2 kids and tried to kill his girlfriend, whom he is blaming for the murders incidentally, and who appears to be having his trial on TV each night through interviews with all concerned, including himself through the bars of his cell… – hell, this is another story!) are the mass protests across the US by the country’s illegal immigrants.

As I understand it, they are protesting against a proposed law which will make being an illegal immigrant a criminal offense. They would also kinda like some Green Cards too, please! There have also been anti-immigrant protests.

Well I can see both sides of the story. Both have a good stack of evidence to support their case etc. But the latino immigration story is a long one, and the Americans are probably going to have to accept it is a reality and won’t be going away.

One thing struck me though. People burning other nations’s flags is an act associated with extremism and bigotted, small minded individuals. Some Americans get ever so upset when the Stars and Stripes is burned in public around the world.

Yet those same type of Americans were out and about yesterday burning Mexican flags. So can I safely add ‘hypocritcal’ to the description of ‘flag burners’ I just gave?

Another odd thing. When an American flag is burnt, have you noticed how much TV time it gets as each stripe goes up in flames? The number of photos in the next day’s papers? Regardless of how minor the incident with regards the whole story?

Well, the Mexican flags burnt yesterday have been on TV here and in the papers. Yet I cannot find any of the same images in any of the main US online news providers, nor on English language searches through Google….

Maybe I’ve just typed the wrong keywords, or maybe it just wasn’t interesting enough for the US public (even though huge numbers of them, both legal and illegal, are Latino), or maybe the US press agencies are continuing to live up to their reputation for reporting their agendas and not the news….

Take your pick.

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