Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gripes of an immigrant

I am currently in the process of applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, after which I plan to apply for British naturalisation and become a dual citizen of Australia and the UK (two passports - get me!).

The process, as with all of my previous visa applications, has been laborious, costly and time-consuming; but this time it seems even more so - I feel like I am about to collapse before I even reach the finishing line. The more entrenched I become in this process, the angrier I get.

Firstly, during the time that I've been over here, the fee for ILR has gone from free to a whopping £820:

"Traditionally, indefinite leave to remain in the UK has been free. However, under the Labour administration, fees were introduced and have risen rapidly. From free in 2003, ILR was first charged at £155. In 2005 this was raised to £335 before being raised again to £750 in 2007. The fees have been further increased to £820 as of 6th April 2009. Premium applications with an in person appointment at the Home Office cost £1020.

The government has admitted that these fees far exceed the administrative costs and are being used to fund other projects. A petition asking the government to reconsider the fees was flatly rejected."

Oh, and those premium applications? Apparently, you can't even get an appointment at the Home Office within 3 months, so you're not even saving yourself that much time for your extra £200.

Secondly, after the Home Office takes your money (which they do immediately on receipt of your application, regardless of whether it is successful or not), you are not allowed any information at all about how your application is progressing for 16 weeks. 16 weeks! Before this time, they will refer you to a web page that simply says:

"We will decide 95% of postal applications within six months".

No mention of how long the other 5% take.

So now I just have to wait, passport-less, frustrated, denied information, for - who knows how long? - while my application is processed. It's maddening.

Monday, February 15, 2010

V-day cardamon truffles

Inspired by Miss Chetty-chetty-bang-bang. Velvety smooth and rich, with a hint of the gorgeous fresh flavour of cardamon. You could also use star anise, a drop of orange oil, a pinch of chilli or a dash of your favourite liqueur to flavour.

250ml double cream
250gm dark chocolate (the good stuff)
about 12 green cardamon pods (to taste)
Plain cocoa, for dusting

Bring the double cream to a gentle boil on the stove. Take it off the heat and drop in the chocolate, broken into small pieces. Let it sit while the chocolate melts, then stir 'til smooth.

Crack open the cardamon pods using the back of a knife, scoop out the seeds and crush in a mortar and pestle (or use the back of a knife). Sift through a fine sieve into the chocolate mixture.

When it's mixed thoroughly and you're happy with the flavour, pour the mixture into a loaf tin or similar (any container measuring about 25x12cm) lined with Glad Wrap (cling film for you non-Aussies). Leave to set in the fridge overnight. The next day, turn the slab out onto a cutting board and cut into neat squares, about 2cm square. Roll the squares around in a bowl with a teaspoon or so of cocoa until each piece is coated, and present to your sweetheart in a small box S.W.A.L.K.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This side of the blue

I'm going to be brutally honest for a moment here. Not that I am ever anything but, but you know how it is. You want to present the best side of yourself, glossing over the dull, scared, frazzled, sad, frustrated bits. I figure, no one wants to read about someone who is depressed (unless they can twist their take on mental illness to make it hilarious, à la the magnificent Dooce).

But the truth is, I have been having a hard time of it. I'm desperate to go home, feeling lonely and strung out, not enjoying my work and wondering if my life will ever be settled. It's been so tough. I am trying to help myself. I am taking anti-depressants (they are helping me to get some sleep, but have had no impact on my mood - my brain is surprisingly, stubbornly resistant to any kind of chemicals) and seeing a psychologist to try and sort some long-standing stuff out.

Blah-low-self-esteem-moan-no-one-listened-to-me-blab-overly-critical-parents-yada-yada. The same issues many of us share, but that some of us struggle with more than others.

Late the other night, on my way home after a long and emotionally fraught day, I stopped at the corner store for some ice-cream. I plonked the tub down defiantly on the counter, back straight, daring the shopkeeper to show any trace of pity in his eyes. I marched out into the cold night, tub safely stowed in my backpack, thinking of nothing but home.

I was almost there when I came across a group of guys walking in the opposite direction, talking too loudly and swaggering in a way that was designed to intimidate anyone in their path. I could feel the aggression coming off them in waves, and I was immediately on my guard. I tried to walk with more confidence so that I wouldn't betray my fear, but I hastened my steps as I drew nearer to my front door. As I fumbled with my keys, I could hear them talking about whether they should join me. Finally the key turned in the lock and I hurried inside, turning to slam the door on their leering faces. It was only then that I realised how heightened my state of anxiety had become - my hands were trembling and nerve endings were sending little electric shocks down my arms, and I suddenly felt so tired that I could have collapsed under my own weight.

It was a terrible ending to a not-good day, and I don't think I've ever been quite so relieved to climb into bed in my warm, safe house with a bowl of ice-cream. I savoured the delicious combination of marscarpone, passionfruit and truffles that Mr. Häagen-Dazs had prepared for me, and I felt better.

I highly recommend it. The ice-cream that is, not the being-threatened-on-your-way-home-late-at-night.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Best Christmas Present Ever.

Best Christmas Present Ever.

It's the gift that just keeps on giving. I am thinking about suing the authoresses for copying material from the inside of my brain.

Go get some!
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