Monday, May 08, 2006

Du gamla, du fria

So, back in the land of the midnight fun for a spell. After having lived for the last 15 years in the UK, the culture shocks are suprisingly many. The streets are clean. Town on a Saturday night is not a war zone. Public transport works. Speed limits are adhered to. The sun is shining. Hell, even the banks work. I went in to open a bank account and get a Swedish credit card today - and ended up having a near religious experience. Anything bank-related in England is reminicent of root canal work. Talk to your bank manager? Fat chance, redirect to Bangalore. New credit card after the bank canceled the old one for no apparent reason? Sure, twelve banking days, sir. Here's what I experienced today. I have an old bank account with some money in it. This is a special trading account that can hold stocks and shares as well as cash in various currencies. Not ideal for personal banking. I roll up, shorts and a baseball cap emblazoned with "Kiwi Kayaks", saying that I believe I hold an account with this bank. I am just about to dig out the account number when I'm asked for my ID card, and my account details are scrolling in full technicolor glory on the screen in front of me. ID cards rock. Account numbers are just so last century. New account? No problem. Credit card? Tick, and we'll throw in a 100k (SEK) credit line, just for you, sir. This one also doubles as a cash point card such that you can take cash out without being charged interest. Want to pay your own bills, or have the balance DDed? DD, please. Internet banking? Just one moment (man walks off and returns with a credit card sized device which is a one-time pad for secure logins. Telebanking? Why not. Transfer the balance from old account to newly created one? Better leave some shrapnel in the old one just in case. Oh, and some spending money, sir, while you wait for your card? Yes please.

Twenty minutes after walking in I walk out with a new bank account, working internet and telephone banking, fully set up, a secure pad, and new cards delivered in three days. Extraordinary.

Anyway. We've joined the student union gym, primarily as they have an indoor climbing wall, but as it turns out, the place is brand spanking new with facilities to match any commercial outfit I've been to. They do all sorts of weird and wonderful exercise classes (belly aerobics anyone? That's belly dancing workout for those in the know - I'll pass on that one). We're mostly interested in doing spinning and yoga in addition to the climbing whilst we're here, but who knows. We visited the local pool the other day so that Sarah could get her laps in (she dit 80 to my measly 50..), and cycled about 30km to get our bearings bike-wise.

It feels very extravagant to be able to do little else than exercise.

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