Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The World's Local Bank continued, plus Sydney 2 and Goodbye to Australia

Here it is, folks, the long-awaited update to my previous missive about banking difficulties. I say 'update', because it couldn't rightly be called a conclusion, as will become apparent.

My good friend Si returned to the fold the other day, meaning we once again number three (the magic number, don'tchaknow). As you will no doubt be aware from my previous talk on the situation, he was carrying with him my all-new shiny chip and pin ATM card, couriered across the globe with efficiency and aplomb. He guarded it with his life the whole way, since it was unsigned and accompanied by a letter containing the brand new pin number, and thus if someone thieved it they would have access to all my money. The lucky bastards.

Filled with hope and trepidation, I approached an ATM, pushed in my card, and typed in the pin number, transcribing it directly from the aforementioned official pin-containing letter. And was not-entirely surprised when it didn't work. Wrong pin, supposedly. Choking back black rage I got my card back (strangely by pressing not the 'cancel' but, but the one marked 'change'), waited hours nervously, and rang HSBC. At which point, in the middle of a question the wrong answer to which would result in me having my account permanently locked, the phonecard ran out.

I went and got a new phonecard, and (after around half an hour buggering around with that, trying to get it to work after - unbelievably - it initially had a fault) rang back. What I should do, explained the chirpy fool at the other end of the line, was try my old pin. Of course - why didn't I think of that?

What I couldn't do straight away, however, was try my old pin. You see, earlier, in the initial frenzied panic that followed the curel dashing of my hopes of getting hold of my own cash, I'd typed in the "wrong pin" three times. This is the maximum number of incorrect pin attempts allowed, and so my card had locked itself for 24 hours. Serves me right - what was I thinking, believing a letter from HSBC?

Anyway, the next day I retried, going with both old and new pins, to precisely no success. So I again rang the 'helpline' up and waited on hold. The nice operative at the other end asked me a series of security questions, the final one of which was an absolute beauty. "Could you tell me," she inquired, "a transaction performed with your card since you recieved last statement?". Calmly (by this point I am beyond anger at such impersonal mindless repeat screwing) I replied that, as I had been saying, I haven't been getting my statements because I'm in Australia. She took this on board, but could see a way around it. "Well, can you tell me something you've used your card for in the least two weeks?".

Once I'd pointed out that the reason I was ringing was that I'd been unable to use my card for a month, she was able to confirm there was nothing wrong with my account (thanks!). So they're now sending me a new pin. Fingers crossed...

But all this bank-related absurdity shouldn't detract from the fact that here in Sydney the second time it's been pretty damn good. We've been up one of the concrete pylons attached to the famous Harbour Bridge. and thus seen great views and a dull museum about the building of said transport route. We've been out in famously-seedy district Kings Cross of an evening and thus walked past a seemingly-endless stream of neon-lit strip clubs to go to a club in which they sold bottles of champagne at the bar for ten dollars a pop (about four quid), something even we could stretch to! We've seen some good, middling and terrible art by both Australian, European and American artists in the NSW art gallery (in my opinion, and of course I don't know anything about art, but I know what's just a series of household items stuck to a bit of canvas and labelled with pretentious twaddle). And we've seen Russell Crowe's favourite Rugby League team, the bizarrely-named South Sydney Rabbitohs (I have no idea why the 'oh' is on the end), beat the relatively-normally-named Parramatta Eels 49-28 at Aussie Stadium in a fantastic match.

All in all it's been great, and though Sydney won't finish above Melbourne in any list of Australian cities compiled by me, it is a great place.

Right, finally, this will be my last post from the marsupial-filled, red-dusted covered, beach-cultured, sun-fearing, sport-loving, uncouth, good honest bewdy ripper nation continent that is Australia. During my time here I've seen (and mocked) various aspects of Aussie culture and life, from Kylie Minoghue exhibitions to Aussie Rules Football, from Easter Bilbies to Goonbags. And despite turning me in to a pauper (compared to my previous status in Asia), it has provided some great moments. I definitely would come back to Australia, if only to get a car and see me some outback.

But in four weeks I've been unable to find any evidence of there being any Australian male more intellectual than Clive James, of whom there was even a portrait in the NSW Gallery...

So, to Australia:
catch ya later, mates,
your friend,
a lousy pom.


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