I have never been a big fan of unions.  They began as a good idea, but it seems that the union organisations have gone out of control.  I find that employees are sometimes caught between union bosses and employers.  They are the ones who suffer in the long run.[ad#ad-1]

Now, the Royal Mail strike is affecting everyone.  While blue collar workers who strike aim to cause disruption for their companies, the effects for the wider community is not immediately felt.  However, postal workers who strike cause havoc for everyone.  (Even worse than when the tube workers were striking earlier in the year – people made other arrangements for travel.)

I recall just a few weeks ago when my work contract took forever to reach me.  My job and our financial state were in terrible danger.  I remember thinking that perhaps if one of those workers were waiting for a critical document, they might reconsider the strike. 

Today, we almost missed the deadline to register our daughter for secondary school.  Granted, we should have taken care of this ASAP, but we only received the paperwork last month and we really haven’t had the time to investigate schools.  People used to this system would know what to do, but we are very new to all of this.  So, when we sat down to do the application, we found that we had to have it in by noon today.  Secondly, it was not the time of posting, but the time of reception.  Thirdly, the mail strike meant that delivery on time was  not guaranteed.  Some school districts extended the deadline, but others refused.  We managed to drive around the neighbourhood and found some internet access – just enough to get online and submit the application right as the clock struck noon.  Of course, we wonder if it will really matter in the long run, because we might move and will have to apply for special consideration at a different school later on.  It’s so much easier to apply for schools in the States.

Royal Mail have tried to counteract the impact of the strike by hiring 30,000 temporary workers to catch up, as well as to ramp up for the upcoming Christmas season.  Of course, the unions are not happy about this because it may, in effect, the negate the effects of the strike.  But, I have to agree with RM in saying that the strike is extremely irresponsible.  Why should we, the common people, have to suffer because of their disputes?  Did they expect that the public would rally behind the union and demand that RM give in so that we can resume our daily lives?  RM is already in financial trouble so the government wants to sell part of it off.  What concessions can they possibly make during this recession?  That’s what I cannot  understand.

What I fear is that this strike may force many companies to start using the internet for all communications.  UPS and FedEx will take over the delivery of parcels and all the other postal services will be handed over to other departments.  Some might think this image of the future is for the best – the “greenest option”, but I personally still enjoy getting handwritten postal messages.  And I fear problems arising with the use of email for all communication, especially legal issues.

Wow!  It’s been a while since I posted.[ad#ad-1]

My hours were supposed to be 9-5, but there’s no 9-5 about it.  Paperwork was rushed through so that I could start on the agreed date.  It’s a good thing I’m only working 4 days a week.

Unfortunately, last Friday was taken up with clearing out of the old house.  Still some unfinished business, but after threatening legal action, I think the agents are  starting to see our side.  It also helped that a couple of them have already come out to see it and have exclaimed in disgust at the conditions we were forced to live in.  Then it was our daughter’s last gymnastics meet last weekend, followed by another hectic work week.  So, I am finally back to post about my time in Britain.

I’ve had loads of things I wanted to say, but I’ve forgotten most of it.  However, I do want to comment on my mode of travel these days.  I’ve been taking the trains in to work.  It actually works out less costly than if I were to drive (that is, if I ever get a chance to practice for my exam).  The most inconvenient thing, of course, is to live by the train schedule.  It can be tricky as well when the work days are so variable that you never know when you’ll finish, so you don’t know which train is best.

In my first week, I just had to go with the flow.  But, by the end, I managed to get a rough idea of the timetables from a couple different stations.  The one closest to work is rather small, so there are fewer trains that stop there.  So, some days, I have to walk an extra mile to get to the next station.  I may have to get creative with the routes I take.  It may mean that I also have to walk further at the house end.

It’s such a novel thing for me to commute to work via public transport.  I know that in big cities in the US, people do it all the time, but I never lived in those cities.  It’s more common in the UK, even in the smaller towns.  Given the state of the roads these days, I’m surprised not to see more people doing it.

Of course, you start to notice the regulars on the train as well.  It’s a bit of a surprise for me to find large groups of students travelling from one town to another to attend school – a state school, not a private one.  It makes me wonder about the availability of schools.  Which reminds me, the deadline for secondary school admission is next week – better get going on that.

Our oldest daughter had an eye exam yesterday.  She had been complaining of not seeing far very well.  At first, it seemed like she was pretending, just to get glasses.  But soon, she started to complain more.  Finally, we booked her in for an eye exam.  Before we could get in, one of her teachers noticed that she had trouble seeing the board from her seat, which is located near the back.  (She was placed there due to her academic abilities.)  So, I was prepared to hear that she would need glasses, at least for distance vision.

And she did.  What I was not prepared for was the NHS benefits for those under 16.  Not only was the eye exam free, but she automatically qualified for a voucher for her glasses.  This entitled her to free or reduced-price eyeglasses.  There was no paperwork to fill out, no claims to make, no declaration of financial need.  All children under 16 have these basic entitlements.  It was wonderful.  It wasn’t too long ago that I had my own eyes checked at the optician’s and had to buy new glasses, so I was well aware of the costs involved.

I completely understand the attraction of free medical care and it is a big plus in the UK. I have not experienced medical care here, so I cannot comment on the quality.  However, I wouldn’t expect it to be any different from the US.  The natives may complain of the wait in some cases, but that does not sound too different from the US, either.  Of course, there are lots of taxes over here.  But if you expect certain fundamental benefits, that is one of the things that must be accepted.

The other thing I was not prepared to hear was that she will need an eye exam every 6 months until her vision stabilises.  Apparently, children’s eyes can change quite drastically in a short time. (Sigh.)  I can’t imagine going through childhood with glasses.  I know many do, but in my family, those of us wearing glasses did not need them until adulthood.  She can’t wait to get her glasses.