poised to flee

Saturday, 18 August 2012 10:08 am
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Gawsh. There's that weird way where a complicated trip hoves to on the horizon for months, as a sort of substantial and slightly threatening mirage, and then suddenly the cats are all over you in generalised insecurity, the netbook contains one and a half finished papers and about twenty different maps to various hotels and universities and medieval abbeys, the suitcase is straining at the seams, there are evil little Clexane syringes in the hand luggage, and the Evil Landlord is tromping around the house preparatory to shunting you off to the airport in the next hour. I have a sort of generalised sensation of "eek". Also, excitement. Also, irritation, because Lufthansa, bless their lack of traditional Teutonic efficiency, won't let me check in online, and I'm terrified I'll end up without an aisle seat, climbing over my compatriots in cattle-class hell at two-hourly intervals until they rise and slay me. I am prepared, if necessary, to wave doctors' letters and weep gently.

I am, however, getting better at this travelling thing. The thought of all the public transport connections between me and my first paper (car to airport, plane to Jhb, plane to Frankfurt, plane to Brussels, tram to station, train to Ghent, tram to hotel, walk to venue) is not in fact inducing panic. I have grown as a person. Also, I am prepared to embrace, regardless of expense and with a sense of wicked self-indulgence, the creed of taxis if pressed to it.

I shall see my mother, post-Nesbitted, in about a week. I shall see the London horde, post-mothered, in about two weeks. I shall see the internet again in just over a day. Excelsior! My banner with a strange device reads "PERAMBULATION".
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The French, bless their chaussettes en coton, are fairly legendary for the depth, complexity and Gallic impenetrability of their bureaucracy, which is implemented and negotiated with a sort of cheerfully inflexible bloody-minded patience one has to reluctantly admire. They also do it all in French, which adds to my French-house-owning and bank-account-managing activities a certain forehead-knotting challenge. My French was never fluid or flexible, and A-level travails were really a hell of a long time ago.

There are, however, moments when one has to salute, with a certain tearful relief, the impenetrable thickets of red tape. On Monday I received a cheerful little e-mail missive from my French bank, which, after I'd shunted it through Google Translate and untangled a couple of the more surreal phrases with recourse to my Wordsworth French-English-English-French, turned out to be a polite request for confirmation of the transfer of in excess of EUR4000 from my French account to South Africa. Needless to say, my French bank account, which has been happily accumulating rent and bankrolling repairs at more or less neck-and-neck speeds, doesn't actually contain EUR4000, and I certainly wouldn't be transferring it to South Africa if it did. A certain amount of "eek", shall we say, resulted. Thank heavens the slow-grinding mills of French banking entail a laudable element of paranoia.

There remains, of course, the question of how the hell anyone in SA got hold of my French bank account details in the first place. I have a French credit card, but have never activated or used it, and don't even usually carry it in my wallet. Nonetheless I cannot but feel that this attempt at bank fraud comes very suspiciously on the heels of the wallet robbery experience; I can't find the card in the slightly shambolic desk drawer in which it usually resides, and am inclining to the suspicion that I took it to Australia with me just in case mine proved temperamental, and being distracted by unexpected hospitalisation and the aftermath, never got around to taking it out. I didn't even think of cancelling it when I cancelled all the other cards after the robbery, which was stupid - I should have checked.

But the attempted transfer wasn't, apparently, on the credit card: it was on the cheque account. Dubious scammers could have acquired the details in, I suppose, a number of inventive and/or happenstance ways, which I list in order of increasing likelihood:
  1. The bastard hedge-trimmer could have creatively used the French credit card in some way unknown to me to dig up related account information, although this seems far-fetched; it's far more likely that he actually abstracted a bank printout from my desk while I was distracted by extension cords. I can't find one missing, though, and it would have had to be lying on top of my in-tray, he really had no more than a few seconds in which to act.
  2. There may have been some other piece of paper in my wallet which included the account number. I can't think of what it would be, and it's not the sort of thing I usually carry for good and sufficient security reasons, but I suppose there's a chance.
  3. The time-concatenation with the wallet theft may be coincidence: I may have incautiously thrown out something with an account number on it, which might have ended up in the recycling and been abstracted and put to illegal use by a recycle-sorter.
  4. The time-concatenation with the wallet theft may be coincidence: some noxious individual may have abstracted a bank statement from the postbox before I actually got hold of it. This is actually very likely, since the bank has my home address, and the house postbox lost its padlock to rust a while back and we've never got around to replacing it.
I am very enamoured of my French bank. Not content with emailing me and requesting confirmation of the transfer, they emailed me back within a day to confirm that they'd blocked the transfer and to give me the details on how to cancel the credit card. Since this entails phoning a French number and navigating the process in French, I was still girding my loins when they took matters into their own hands by phoning me at home, divined my frozen horror at their opening barrage of rapid-fire French by the tonal quality of my slightly desperate "Bonjour", switched to slightly laboured but perfectly adequate English, confirmed the transfer cancellation, instituted a new process whereby any transfer out of that account needs a hard copy with my signature, changed my statement address to the far more secure box number, and emailed me, in English, within half an hour of all of the above to confirm it all. I'm a bit stunned, but fortunately don't need to actually parry as apparently they do all that for you. Gawsh.

Things To Do: replace the padlock on the postbox, and change the address details on the few outstanding accounts which use it to the box number. Improve my French conversation. Add to my list of insomnia-beating mental exercises the pleasantly sadistic process of inventing new and ungodly deaths for bank scammers and hedge-trimmers and their noxious ilk. Feel incredibly relieved.
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A couple of weeks ago Carlo emailed me with a quote he vaguely thought might be from DR & Quinch, which he hoped I might vaguely happen to recognise - a completely futile hope, may I add, in that my memory really does bear a striking resemblance to Horace the Cheese (shapeless, incomprehensible and occasionally psychotic). What this did cause me to do was to discover, in the course of otherwise pointless googling, that there's a complete DR & Quinch collection. Which Loot stocks. Which I bought. Which arrived a few days ago, and which I have been joyously re-reading. I feel much more psychotic now, thank you, and at the same time curiously more likely to totally appreciate the minor, like, eccentricities of my more disaffected students.

I used to read 2000 AD back in the days when I was a lone, lorn undergraduate gurrrl in the midst of a largely male role-playing group, causing my inadvertant acquisition of many of their little boyish vices. I loved DR & Quinch for their off-the-wall anarchy, although I suspect I may also have had a sneaking fellow feeling for Chrysoprasia, whose pre-DR state of pastel blonde goody-two-shoes girliness rather resembled mine pre-roleplaying:



Possibly fortunately, I never did actually acquire the taste for off-the-shelf tactical nuclear weapons and associated mayhem, and only partially a taste for Alan Moore.

At any rate, after all that it transpires that the quote in question doesn't seem to be DR & Quinch at all. I'm inclining to darkly suspect it might be Nemesis the Warlock, but perhaps one of you reprehensible lot will recognise it? "All the fish are hollow my dear, and no longer swim at me. We have stopped dreaming that horrible dream of the harp with its strings of spaghetti."

I should also give you fair warning that my subject lines are likely to be DR & Quinch quotes until further notice. Homicidal alien teens are alarmingly quotable.
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I love the internet. I whinge wistfully about my lack of a Castle fix, and have three offers to supply the goods in the space of twenty-four hours - one from a lurker who I didn't even know was reading. (Hi, Andrea!). I also hope the Powers That Be get their arses in gear and produce the Region 2 DVD eftsoons and right speedily, as I'm suffering gnawing guilt from all this piracy. But not, may I add, enough guilt to make me stop watching them. Gosh, no.

The piracy karma is probably what caused yesterday's merry little instalment of the South African Experience, viz. being dragged home at lunchtime by the armed response guy because, yet again, we'd been burgled. This was completely inevitable: we've had renovators in the house potentially casing the joint, and besides they managed to put a chisel through the alarm sensor cables, which means the alarm hasn't worked for a couple of months. Last week we had the sensors rewired, but the damned thing is still not sending an alert to the company even if the alarm goes off, which is Dead Suspicious as it was working fine before the renovations. The Evil Landlord is locked in an epic battle with the alarm company owing to their pathetically transparent attempt to make us buy a new system by dint of refusing to even look at the old one because it's "too old to repair". Pshaw, and likewise phooey. However, my money's on his Germanic Stubbornness quotient, which is ideally suited to these little challenges.

We were thus set up nicely by circumstances, and given the last burglary it was all curiously familiar. The bastards once again levered the burglar bars off the window in the Evil Landlord's bedroom, leaving chunks of wall all over the floor. They seem to have gone through a random selection of the house, including his gym bag and my dressing table, but yet again they don't seem to have taken any of my jewellery, which I kinda take personally since it implies an aesthetic rejection I find hurtful. Nor did they touch the CD or DVD collection, which is always my primary fear. Computers all OK, electronics untouched - in fact, the only thing they seem to have stolen was a pair of the EL's track suit pants, which seems a mite fetishistic to me. I think the slightly dadaist break-in was because they were interrupted, by (a) the alarm going off, (b) the crazy next-door-neighbour hearing it and pushing her panic button on paranoid reflex, and (c) the presence of the other next-door-neighbour's visitor in the road outside, where he was ideally positioned to watch the burglar jump over the wall and pause to put on his trousers before running down the road. (Don't ask. I suspect they may have been the missing EL trousers).

Is it just me, or are we inflicted with particularly odd burglars? Not to mention, of course, burglar bars that are attached entirely inadequately. Future plans (apart from Fix Alarm, which the EL is onto): weld bars to iron bars sunk into wall and themselves welded to iron bars sunk into floor and chained to iron bar which Hobbit is sitting on. Also, follow the XKCD principle and get a laser pointer for the cats. Irritation at future attempted burglaries will be largely assuaged by having to clear up the small piles of ash.

it's only natural

Saturday, 7 November 2009 08:31 pm
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Memo to self: it's possibly counter-productive to watch Supernatural at night when I'm alone in the house (the Evil Landlord being off at Here Be Dragons), as at a generous estimate I only see about 70% of any one episode, owing to being too scared to look at the screen. The creepy build-up music does it for me every time. This is also causing me to remember that in fact I only used to be able to watch X-Files, back in the day when it was on TV, by dint of importing [livejournal.com profile] bumpycat to come and hold my hand every Friday night. I am an enormous wuss. Next plan: watch Supernatural from the other side of the room while filing bills.

On the upside, Sam is cute. On the further upside, Cape Town weather continues bizarre - it's bucketing with rain, and there are branches down all over the garden from the high winds. I am a happy bunny, albeit a quivering, wild-eyed happy bunny convinced there's something under my bed. The main problem is that there often is something under my bed, on account of how Golux likes to go and fossick around in there, among the boxes of role-playing dreck and the small, feral herds of straying boots, making interesting bumping noises in the night. It's probably all good for the moral fibre, if tending to make the nervous fibre a bit twangy.

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