Saturday, February 21, 2009
Items sent via post have different exclusion rates than items you personally carry into the country. Items over £36 pounds are subject to VAT, items over £105 pounds are subject to Customs duty. My sister had valued the package at $100 which currently is about £70 pounds which meant VAT has to be paid, at a current rate of 15% that is a total of about £10. The remaining £8 is for the Royal Mail International Handling Fee. From what I understand this fee is because the Royal Mail has to process the transaction and send money back to HM Revenue & Customs. I'm sure they're making a tidy profit in here somewhere as well.
What I find slightly more interesting is that this package was received and the customs charges computed on February 10. I did not receive notification that duty was owed until the 19th. Why it took 9 days to get delivered is beyond me. I am just lucky I was home and able to pick this up as they will only hold the item for 7 days before returning it to the sender.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
In other excitement my sister has been helping me with the removal of some furniture at my house in Natick as the new tenants don't need the furniture. The Salvation Army came yesterday but decided that since the arm of the sofa was slightly faded they wouldn't take it. I was slightly surprised by this news, in talking with others I guess this is common. They only accept furniture that is like-new. Hopefully in the next 24 hours we can find somebody who wants a free sofa if not need to arrange for the town to pick it up and dispose of it. I hate the idea of having to throw away a perfectly good sofa. I have no problems giving it away but asking for it to be sent to the dump is another matter.
Monday, February 2, 2009
- Cars, buses, etc aren't equipped with proper snow tires.
- Snowplows don't seem to exist.
As a result the roads are treacherous, the snow has gotten packed down and is a sheet of ice. I've noticed just walking around today how icy it is.
Last night I had the most terrifying taxi ride of my life. I had gone out to a Superbowl party in central London and had booked a taxi for my return. I got a call from the taxi company at around 1:30 AM asking if I really needed to be picked up or could I stay where I was. Since I was at a bar I thought it best to go home. The taxi driver wasn't used to driving in snow and the tires weren't great. Every time we started from a stop the tires spun. We hit a couple of patches where we could travel at a decent speed but then came a curve and the driver didn't think to slow down so we did a 360 in the middle of the street. When there were cars leading the way the driver thought it was fine to drive faster and didn't quite leave enough room to stop on the snow. There were a couple of times we had to swerve so as not to rear end the car in front of us. Luckily I made it home safely. I did have the sense to tell the driver to drop me at the end of the road as I knew the side streets were much worse than the main roads and I wasn't sure he would make it up the road without hitting something.
I was pretty sure that public transportation wouldn't be operating in the morning so I decided to sleep in a bit. When I turned on the radio the news reports were all about the weather and surprise surprise they announced that no buses were running, the tube was having closures on the majority of lines and the trains were severely delayed. Not to mention that most of their web sites were down due to the severe load of people trying to find out if transportation was running. By far the most amusing thing I heard were the warnings to pedestrians not to walk on the streets in the tire tracks as that could potentially slow down cars even more or result in more accidents.
When I got on-line this morning I started chatting with a co-worker from Canada and we were commenting how a little bit of snow (at least from our perspective) has crippled the city. They're saying as of now that trains are going to be running on a suspended service tomorrow as well so it looks like I'll be working from home again tomorrow.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Being in Singapore the week before Chinese New Year aka Lunar New Year was a unique experience. I was given a gift of 2 mandarin oranges by a co-worker, mandarins are always handed out in pairs and they represent prosperity for the new year. At the end of the Chinese New Year celebration Singapore holds its annual Chingay parade. Walking back from my office to the hotel each day I could see the preparations under way. Chinatown is a transformed place during Chinese New Year - lanterns are hung everywhere, they close two of the side streets for markets, and the place is mobbed with people. I did manage to make it down to Chinatown on my last night to take pictures and experience the place.
The final area that I explored was Arab Street. This section of town was much more subdued not as much hustle and bustle as Little India or Chinatown. Lots of fabric stores as well as carpet stores. I was very tempted to look in the carpet stores but was afraid I wouldn't be able to control myself and would end up buying something. The only thing I bought there was lunch, which was delicious. Mint tea, falafel and a meze plate - yummy!