Friday, June 25, 2010

No longer disgruntled of Cyprus

Yesterday morning I was feeling decidedly disgruntled. Three things contributed to this. The first was actually very mild indeed, in the scheme of things. I had ordered a book - having had it recommended to me on Amazon UK - which I had, naturally, assumed was the third in a series I had very much enjoyed. It arrived (actually from the Book Depository, which is much better value to Cyprus) a week or two ago. In preparation for reading it, I re-read the first two books. On Sunday, I finally picked up the third in great anticipation... only to discover that it was simply a re-print of the first two in one volume. Nothing new at all.

I know, I know... slightly irritating, but I passed the book to Daniel (who didn't have copies), and other than frowning inwardly when I thought about it, would have been fine. If that had been all.

Monday was a fairly good day, really. I cleaned the main part of the house, did laundry, went to the Froutaria, and prepared food for the evening, plus a big fruit salad. A friend has come out for the week to stay in our guest flat, and spent the day sailing with Richard on his dinghy. In the afternoon I did the accounts for the past week, and then caught up with various blog posts, book reviews and other items that had been on my to-do list for a while.

On Tuesday morning, however, I got up only to discover that the dishwasher hadn't finished. It was making running noises, but the lights were stuck on the final rinse place. I couldn't get it to stop at all, although there was no water inside. It looked as if everything had done a basic wash, but not the last rinse. So I took everything out, rinsed and dried it, and put it away. Not what I wanted, particularly when we have five of us at meals. I told Richard and asked if he'd phone the repairman in the morning.

Laster on Tuesday morning was the last Tots until September, since it closes over the hottest summer months. There were other helpers there, so it wasn't as tiring as it can sometimes be, and I had a ride home. But somehow, Tots is tiring even when I'm not run off my feet.

And at lunch-time, Richard said he hadn't had time to get to the shop where he could speak to the repairman. First thing in the afternoon, he promised that he would... although I was pretty sure they would be closed for siesta-time.

So I washed the lunch-time dishes, which at least weren't too greasy, since we eat cold lunch. I prepared food for the evening, and a dessert, and some ice cream. And kept on washing up, since the dishwasher wasn't working. And then was so tired I didn't get much else done at all in the afternoon. I suppose I read email, and maybe wrote one or two, and caught up with Facebook. I only had a couple of hours before having to finish meal preparation, anyway.

In the evening, Richard said that the shop with the dishwasher repairman had been closed - no surprises there - and he offered to wash the dishes for the evening. So that was good. Then we played a game of Settlers with Chris, who enjoyed it, so that was also good.

Indeed, by Wednesday morning I was pretty much feeling fully gruntled once more. So to speak. I did the usual cleaning of the entire house, changed sheets, did more laundry, popped to the local shops. I made TWO loaves of bread - the first one going in the breadmaker at 6am - since we always have an extra person for lunch on Wednesdays, and I didn't think that one loaf would be enough for six people. I boiled eggs for egg mayonnaise, cleaned out the cat litter, mopped all the stairs... and was still in the shower by 11.30. I then spent just under an hour catching up with email and Facebook, and planned to spend the afternoon doing some writing. Or perhaps working on one of my websites. Richard had phoned the dishwasher repairman who said he would probably be that day - so things were looking up.

Until I sat down at my computer around 3pm or a little later and found Tim on 'Instant Messenger', worried - and angry - about an email he'd received from the student finance people. He applied for next year's funding some months ago. We had expected to fill in forms of parental support and send them in, but were told we could do them online this year since we had the relevant id numbers, and since Tim is a continuing student. So we did that - a couple of months ago - and submitted them.

Several times in the intervening weeks, I've wondered if it worked properly. Tim had an email a couple of weeks after he applied, telling him his application was successful, and saying that his parents now needed to support it. Perhaps we had done it too quickly. So I logged onto the site, which told me i needed to submit the information. There was a 'submit' button, so I hit it - which gave an error message. But when I hit 'continue', it told me I'd send everything that was necessary. All the boxes were ticked, and everything seemed to be fine.

Except that when I logged on again the next day to check, the same thing happened: initial request to submit, followed an error, followed by a page telling me I'd sent all I needed to send.

Tim was going to check that it was all there, but then thought perhaps it would take a week or two, as his initial application did. And so it slipped our minds until Wednesday, when he received an email from the student finance people telling him that he had TWO DAYS to get his parental support forms in!

So I logged on again, and went through the same sequence, again. I tried another browser - exactly the same thing happened. Tim then phoned -at great expense - the 0845 number for student finance; when he finally got through he spoke to a tired-sounding person who simply parroted back that he had to get paper forms to the office by Friday 25th. They said that the online forms weren't working this year, basically.

I am not usually prone to fury, but that really annoyed me. If the online forms weren't working, why did they send emails telling us to fill them in online? And why ON EARTH was there no notice on the student finance website telling parents they needed to submit forms on paper? And why didn't they let Tim - and, presumably, thousands of other students - know a little earlier??

After cooling down slightly, Tim said all he could think of doing was for us to download the pdf forms from a different place, fill them in, scan them and email them to him, so he could then print them and send them by registered mail. Because this year student finance applications are, apparently, centralised...

So I phoned Richard, who was working on King Malu, and he came home. About the same time as the dishwasher repairman, who said we needed a new controller. A hundred euros. Ouch. But as Richard said, a hundred euros isn't THAT bad given that we've had the dishwasher for four years, running probably an average of once per day, without any problems at all. It's just that a hundred euros is quite a bit to find unexpectedly. However, we found it, and they changed the controller.

Meanwhile I was having trouble doing any printing, because - it transpired - my USB hub was no longer working. So Richard re-plugged things, and we printed the forms, and filled them in (I tend to panic when presented with financial forms of any kind) even though I really needed to do more food preparation by that point. The dishwasher had left a lot of mess on the kitchen floor so I had to mop it... and Daniel, thankfully, took charge of the scanning of the pages and sending them to Tim.

Meanwhile, again, Tim had discovered that he'd put on his application that we would be submitting our information online. So he wasn't quite sure whether we COULD now send paper reports. So he phoned again, and spoke to someone else who told him to phone the Birmingham LEA. So he tried, and discovered that they are only open from 2pm-4pm. It was (in the UK) just after 4pm. So he phoned us, and asked Richard if he would phone the student finance office to find out what was going on.

So Richard phoned them, and they said that yes, they had our information. But no, they couldn't tell us whether or not it was complete, because it was Birmingham LEA who dealt with returning students. It's only new ones whose information is centralised... which is the opposite of what Tim had been told.

So Wednesday afternoon was taken up with the student finance fiasco, and I was feeling decidedly irritated. We didn't get to eat until 7.15. But we played another game in the evening, and that was good. We loaded everything into the dishwasher after eating, and set it off. So that was good, too...

..Except that on Thursday morning I got up, and much the same thing had happened. The dishwasher had NOT finished. In fact, this time it looked as if it had barely started. Richard phoned the engineer again, and he said he would come again. So I left the not-very-clean dishes in the dishwasher. And since I was now feeling totally and utterly disgruntled once more, I basically spent the day emailing a good friend. It did help to write everything down, but I was very stressed. We were due to go out in the evening - though I didn't particularly want to - to eat at the Marina. Richard phoned right after lunch to say that the Marina doesn't do evening meals (he just discovered) so his sailing buddy suggested eating at their place - and I was to make a salad.

So that was all right.

The dishwasher man came again, and did some more repairs, and didn't charge anything.

So that was all right, too.

I didn't hear from Tim at all, because he spends Thursdays volunteering in his old school. But he sent an email that arrived this morning, letting me know that while he hadn't yet managed to get in touch with Birmingham LEA, he was very pleased that he's been offered a second choir accompanying job, starting in the Autumn.

This afternoon Tim finally managed to speak to the Birmingham LEA who said that yes, they do need the paper forms. But yes, printed versions are fine, and yes, he can take them to the council house in the city centre. So he's gone there now - and so long as he gets them in before 4pm, everything should be fine.

The only problem now is that Richard woke up with the most dreadful cold...


Jenni said...

A very hectic week for you all! I can't believe all the issues with the student finance - I'm starting to think they're notorious for this kind of thing. I'm glad Tim got the papers in. :)

Suzanne said...

Oh wow.....glad things are working out...sounds frustrating!