May 10, 2007

England: infamy! infamy!

Flying back to England after an incredibly lovely sojourn in Denmark, and I wished the Danelaw was still in force. Then we would have been welcomed in England as we were in Denmark: a friendly nod and a warm welcome to the country. Instead we got the third degree by an uppity immigration officer at Gatwick. The interrogation went thus:
Me: Hello.
Immigration officer (IO): Your first visit to Britain, is it, Sir?
Me: I was here last week.
Last week we had cleared customs at Heathrow in a stopover to Denmark, he could see the stamp in my passport. Boy, do I hate incompetence in officials.
The Heathrow IO then was asking me all about Wisley, because she had talked to Ewen before about horticulture. Of course I didn't know anything about that - Wisley is some horticultural centre. Probably put the suspicion on me. Can I help it I'm not the gardener in the family? Why do these immigration people ask all these loaded questions?
IO: And before that?
Me: I was born in Belgium, have traveled to Britain many times before
About 60 times in the last 30 years, in fact, plus actually resided in Britain for three years. He no doubt had all that information at his stubby little fingertips.
IO: I see you were born in Gent. Do you have family here?
Me: No.
IO: Friends?
Me: Yes.
IO: How long are you staying for?
Me: 10 days.
IO: And then?
Me: Back home.
IO: To New Zealand?
Me: Yes.
By now I was seriously bored and getting irritated - I was looking around and just knew the mirror behind him was one-way, I have seen the "Airport" programme, these little tin pot Nazis seriously need a dose of Schengen. Don't these guys know terrorists don't come from New Zealand but from up North? And why do they feel offended if you really don't want to stay in their poxy, paranoid and hysterical country? Obviously, the UK has in more ways than one become the 51st state of the Union.
By then the neighbouring IO pointed out to him that I was traveling with Ewen and she had finished with him satisfactorily. I had the distinct impression he would have loved to continue the interrogation.
So now I was in a foul mood and seriously considering avoiding traveling to Britain in the future because I can't really be bothered with all that nonsense.
The next morning I had to exchange some currency and was up bright and early at 9am to go to the bank. London prides itself on being the financial capital of the world but that is delusional: I went to the bank and people were able to do their normal day to day banking but the teller told me I had to wait until 9:30am before the forex counter opened. The teller, looking very much like one of those formidable East European matrons that used to staff the Stasi and other communist border patrols, took a suspicious look at me and counted my notes five (five!) times, each marking with a fluoro pen, all while questioning me on my lack of an account with the bank. To quote Catherine Tate: What A Fucking Liberty.

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