Friday, February 27, 2015

Goodbye Gold Lounge

This is the last time I will be visiting the "Gold Lounge" in Heathrow Terminal 5. My BA gold status expires on the 28th of Feb even though I traveled more last year than ever before. BA are the stingiest when it comes to giving "tier points" towards frequent flier status. The squint corporate only buys the cheapest tickets, and so I earn very few points each flight. After a busy year with at least one return trip to the UK each month, I only managed 900 or so points, and I need 1500 for gold. So Silver it will have to be for me. The only real perk gold status on BA provides is the access to the "first class" lounge. It has decent food and comfy chairs. The Silver lounge is not bad, just much busier. It could be worse I suppose, but sitting here, the second time in a week, I'm just miserable with travel. All I really want is a few months at home, no flying, no airports, no cramped seats and plastic food. No more forced conversations with complete strangers (or recent divorcees crying on my shoulder), no more second rate movies on tiny screens. No more wondering what side of the rental car the fuel tank is.This weekend it's Houston then Sacramento (through LAX) and then back to London for three days and off to SA. At least that will be a holiday (I hope).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The High Commission

We visited the South African High Commission near Trafalgar Square yesterday. The consular section is actually on Whitehall Road  and not in South Africa House as is erroneously stated on the web page, but this was the least of the issues. Bwo and I took the #65 and the tube into the city in order to sort out our status before the planned visit to the old country mid March.

My situation is quite complicated as I have a "new" expired SA passport, but it seems my SA citizenship has been "revoked" because I became a naturalized American in 2000. Bwo's situation is even more confusing as she never had a SA passport of her own, emigrating to Israel on her mother's passport.

After some lengthy discussion it was decided that I need to get a "letter" revoking my SA citizenship thereby allowing me entry into SA on my USA passport. This only took about 4 hours. The major holdup, as eventually became clear, is that the single "letter writer" is also the only cashier. So she had to split her time between the two jobs. The nice lady who interviewed us managed to work out my issues rather quickly - revoke my SA citizenship, provide a temporary letter for travel purposes, wait at least three months for official notification (a new ID number apparently). I then get permanent residence in SA and can reclaim my citizenship if I ever live there for more than a year.

Bwo on the other hand has a much more complex issue. She would have to apply for SA citizenship, this is possible because she became Israeli before she was aged 18. This would assign her a "new" ID number. She would then have to revoke her citizenship because she became a naturalized American. She cannot revoke her citizenship without an ID number. So she would have to apply for citizenship in order to have it revoked. Needless to say we took the dozens of application forms they presented to us and left.

All in all we had a pleasant trip to the city. We wandered around Whitehall and the various ministries and strolled along the Thames up to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It's a spectacular city and we do not visit enough. I am interested to see what South Africa scores on my global percentage scale - based on the High Commission (when I finally got the letter it was incorrect, claiming I need to show my British passport on entry) I think SA will struggle to reach the 80% level.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Coffee Excellence

At squint central UK we run on coffee (and of course tea with milk). When I arrived the only coffee available was the "flavia" stuff many here thought was "quite good" (they are rather new to coffee in this tea drinking nation). I found this stuff (I hesitate to call it coffee, more like brown water) undrinkable. So we, the admin staff, bought an "espresso" machine. It was red and had no name. Its coffee pods were generic and the "Italian Espresso" was OK. The machine broke down a number of times, but they are a handy lot here, and it was resuscitated time and again. Finally before Christmas this year it finally passed on, it shuffled off this mortal coil and is making OK coffee for the choir invisible.

After much debate and numerous phone calls Nespresso honored us by delivering a "corporate" machine. It is beautiful. It works flawlessly and its design exudes excellence. I am most impressed. The water tank is larger than the one we have at home, more importantly it fits perfectly beneath the spigot of the water filter machine that it stands next to (see lower picture). The crank handle closes on the coffee capsule with a satisfying crunch and ejects the spent capsule when lifted. The espresso cups (acquired from Nespresso) are perfectly sized for the three (short, med and long) measures of elixir provided by the machine.

The coffee capsules differ from the home version (apparently to prevent theft) and are tightly compressed, flying saucer shaped, foil enclosed delicacies that fit into the slot on top perfectly.

And then there's the coffee itself. Hot, rich, dark with just the perfect amount of foam. Excellence in any form is what I value. 

The machine and it's capsules

Side view, it stands to the right of the water machine.