Monday 26 January 2009

"Mistakes? We don't make mistakes."

Due to what I'm hoping is merely a Tuttle v. Buttle situation, my application for a credit card was rejected! The letter "regretfully informing" me, however, had my last name misspelled, with a T instead of a G. Life imitates Brazil. So I'm trying fretfully to word a letter to the bank in hopes it's all a silly clerical error, so we may buy a flat someday, over the rainbow.... I hope it's not just a sign of how bad things have gotten, where no one can get any kind of mortgage at all. True, my understanding of the world of finance is little more sophisticated than Beatrix Potter's explanation of credit in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles: "The customers come again and again, and buy quantities, in spite of being afraid of Ginger and Pickles." All of us "credit crunched" can, I think, relate.

Ah, well, so maybe things are a little panickier than I've wanted to admit (a friend has an excellent article in the Huffington Post observing current mood differences between London and New York). Still, life goes on. Here's a fun fact: After two years of living here with a "temporary leave to remain" visa as the spouse of a Briton, I must, by May, apply for "permanent residence." In addition to paying a princely sum for this whole process, I must sit a "Life in Britain" citizenship test, even though I'm not (yet, anyway) applying for citizenship. Well and good, but this thing is ridiculously difficult. The BBC website had an article about the test a few years ago: "Could You Pass a Citizenship Test?", with a sample so that the average Brit can test his/her "local knowledge." Apparently, this test thing is a recent move; perhaps a gesture from the government that they are attempting to stem the tides of The Dreaded Immigrant?

The problem is, the multiple-choice questions seem to deal mostly with statistical data, which terrifies me—plus, as my Scottish husband points out, they are totally Anglocentric! Sample question (from the study guide I downloaded): "What percentage of English people regularly attend church?" Are they kidding? This is necessary information for assimilating and contributing to the nation? "What is the population of the U.K.? 61 million, 62 million, 59 million, or 60 million?" Whatever happened to that famous British sense fair play? That's just not cricket! My husband has printed out parts of the test to show his family, all of whom commiserate with me about having to memorize all this data, and they assure me they'd fail miserably themselves.

But the punchline: Stated prominently on the U.K. Border Agency's website and on the study guide is that the test must be taken in the English language, unless one lives in Wales, where one has the option of sitting the test in Welsh. HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! If you are more fluent in Welsh than English, it's because you were BORN IN WALES, SO WHY WOULD YOU BE TAKING A CITIZENSHIP TEST?!?!?!?!! I don't know, maybe this is some really sick form of racism toward the Welsh, who knows. I'm still learning!

Ah, bureaucracy. "It's been confusion from the word go," as Kurtzmann says in the movie.

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