March 2007

My wife recently got a part-time job, so we needed to open another bank account in her name. (I got a Barclays international student account just after arriving, but they won’t add spouses to it at Barclays.) So being fairly pleased with Barclays we decided to head back there again hoping to open a regular joint account, now that we’re more settled and have utility bills and such to prove we are ‘residents’.

The process here is so much different than in the states. There, if you have a wad of cash and a social security number, banks are as happy as they can be to open an account in your name. I suppose the only question they’ll ask is what’s your address to send the statements. Do it all online, and you’ll never even have to talk to someone. Here, you have to be approved for even the basic ‘current’ account (~checking acct in US speak). It was like applying for a loan. What’s your address, do you have proof by a paid utility bill (not just a letter from the utility company), what’s your previous address, how long have you lived here, what do you do, what’s your employer’s address, how much do you expect to make monthly, how much do you expect to spend monthly and in what categories, do you have any other bank accounts, how much do you have in savings,…. I suppose if you answer enough questions correctly, you’ll be approved.

So the problem we had is that my wife is not listed on any of our bills. Since I’m the only one with the bank account to pay the bills, I was the only one they added on the bills. I had heard that was an issue, so I originally had British Gas add her on the account, which they did. But somewhere in the 8 calls and numerous letters they sent (see previous post), she fell off of the list. Barclays didn’t even care that the letter from them has her full name on it, all that is required is a ‘Mrs. Blackwell’ near an address. We had one of the original BG letters with her name on it, but the letters have to be a paid bill within the past 2 months. That was never going to happen (at least in the next few months), so someone there came up with the idea of using the council tax bill. Taxes are good for something. They come out annually in March, and they have each adult resident listed on it. So we just made an extra trip there and that solved the issue. Moral of the story: 1) Set up all accounts in both of your names. 2) Don’t go paperless. I know it’s bad for the environment, but as an international you want as much current paperwork as you can get. 3) Make sure you sign the application with the same signature as your passport (that was trip #3 to fix that). 4) Expect to jump through hoops compared to the US.

With all that they said she would be approved to get an account. However, since they have me in the system already as a student, they said I’d have to make an appointment with the student banker guy to get it sorted out to join her account. All in all not too bad, but it is a culture shock with all the hoops you have to jump through. Kevin Bywater, a fellow paulinist here, has a fun story of a 3-week ordeal of shuffling paperwork, getting copies from the states, and then at the end the bank told him that he’d need the same info for his wife, which would take another 3 weeks. A small fact that it would have been nice to know up front. Needless to say they found another bank. But when you are moving to a different country, getting hung up on the bank account is super frustrating because so much other stuff depends on it.

So here are a couple of other tips we’ve come across. Apparently, Lloyds will open a student account with a spouse attached. So if you want to go that way, it may be easier. Any high street bank (Natwest, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, etc.) seem to offer similar benefits and options, so you should be alright with any of them. (Building Societies are similar to credit unions.) Remember to only deposit in £’s because a $ denominated check will take 6 or more weeks to clear. We found it easiest (and most cost effective) to just pull £’s from our US account using our ATM card. For larger amounts I believe a wire transfer would be necessary. See my Settling In post for a few more details on banking.

I just got a question about this and in fact I was already in the process of writing up this post, so it seems apropos to finish it now…

In Durham the issue of writing style is interesting. In my old stomping grounds at Dallas Theological Seminary, the Chicago/Turabian style was required and rigorously enforced. (They got out rulers and measured margins and line spacing if that gives you an indication of the enforcement.) So when I arrived in Durham, I was surprised that there was relatively little emphasis on one particular style. That is not to say that it is unimportant here, but the point of view on it is much different.

Regarding style, they encourage a modified use of Chicago/Turabian based on the MATR handbook (see section 5.4 in the 2006-2007 version). However, what I was told is that they don’t care which style you use, as long as it is reasonable and you are consistent. If you use Endnote or something similar, then it won’t be a big issue since you can change output styles so easily. (Endnote a must for this type of work, imho.)

The other option is what type of English to use–British or American. John has given me the choice, though other supervisors require British-English. I was going back and forth about it, but after talking to a US friend who just finished at Cambridge, I think I’m going to shoot for British-English to make my experience here more ‘authentic’. When in Rome,…. But if you have any horror stories, I’m definitely not far enough in to not switch course yet, so pass them along. The big difference obviously is spelling (e.g., centre vs. center), which MS Word easily picks up for you if you miss something. However, there are other subtle differences like using a ‘single quote’ vs “double quote” for quotations.

What you also get here is a different turn of phrase that you might also not have in the US. John, with his classical education background, calls me out on all my split infinitives, for example. While that is technically grammatically wrong but not as emphasised these days in the states, he has also encouraged me to use other turns of phrase here. For example, he prefers ‘with regard to’ rather than ‘in regards to’. These are minor differences but they are definitely things I look out for now, among others.

I think the only outstanding issue is that of publication. Again, that’s why Endnote is so helpful to move between different journal styles. Also, I believe I’ve heard that if you get your thesis published in the states afterwards, they’ll have you switch all your stuff. But as for WUNT and the like I haven’t heard, but I imagine they do not make you switch. Again if you know, feel free to pass along your knowledge.

Tonight, for the 8th time (at least) since we’ve moved in last August, I had to call British Gas about billing issues. The first several times were about getting a direct debit set up. They don’t do monthly meter readings here, as in Dallas, so there is no reason not to spread your bills out with a flat monthly rate. Plus you get discounts for going that route. First call to set everything up. Normal stuff, pretty easy. The next four calls followed this exact same scenario–get a bill, call (20 minutes on hold) and say why b/c should be direct debit, reply: there are no dd details in the system, give the details–1 month later repeat process. So I finally got a letter confirming the dd and I see money leaving my account, so I started to think its smooth sailing.

But you say, you know better than to open the basement door when you hear that music… or better, you know what happens when you assume things… You were right. Last month I start receiving letters that I’m not paying my bills, so fines are being charged, warrants being signed to have my electricity cut off, my credit history will be besmirched… So the process starts again–get letter, call (30 minutes on hold) and say why b/c should be dd, reply: oh, i see the dd here so just ignore the letter b/c it was sent out in error, ok–repeat process. After the letter that says we’re coming to shut off your electricity: now my eighth call (30 minutes on hold), and it finally gets discovered by BG that they have two accounts under my name set up for electricity: one is getting paid by dd, the other not. They are mailing a key so I can open my meter to get the serial number to see which account is the correct one, so there will be at least a ninth call to resolve the whole issue.

Solution? Switch to Scottish Power: cheaper rates and all online. I’ve already gotten the gas switched and electricity will automatically be switched once BG figures out which account to switch.

I’m sure crazy things happen like this in the US, but it does seem that business practices here are a few years behind what I was used to in the states. (For instance, with my online banking here I can’t get any historical info past 42 days ago. And I don’t get any paper statements–trying to save the planet–so where do you get it?) Even worse is that you call a toll number to speak to BG (and 95% of all other company customer service lines), so for every minute on hold and retelling the story it’s not only a hassel but it costs me money. The guy I spoke to tonight said I would get a credit of some sort to make up for it, but I’m not holding my breath.

But I guess I can’t complain too much. This and the 5 (or was it 6?) different iterations of council tax bills for the 2 months before school started have been the most challenging part of moving here.

Justin replied back on getting his thesis published. See his comments here. He also reminded me that he comments on Gal 4.1-11 as well. I’m looking forward to reading it.

I was brought up on the NIV, and I’ve been reading the TNIV since I got a free copy a couple of years ago. Its major changes were for gender inclusive language, but they also took the opportunity to revisit other passages. Most seemed to be only minor changes, but I’ve come across a wholesale reformulation of Philemon 6:

Greek: ὅπως ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου ἐνεργὴς γένηται ἐν ἐπιγνώσει παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ τοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν εἰς Χριστόν.

NIV: I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

TNIV: I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.

Glad they took the chance to change it, because I think the TNIV has the better translation.

Just so you know… We’ve received an official email from John Barclay about Francis Watson being hired by Durham. So based on the evidence of two witnesses (I originally got it from Loren Stuckenbruck), we can be reasonably certain that it’s happened. Here’s my original post with more details, which were generally confirmed by John’s email.

Yesterday was the final matches of the Six Nations Cup (England, Wales, Scotland, France, Ireland, and Italy). France pulled out a nail biter over Ireland. Each team plays each other once. If one team doesn’t have the best record, then the winner is decided based on the total points of the top tying teams. France beat Ireland for the cup by 1 try (equivalent of 1 touchdown in american football) in points over 5 games. England beat France last week handily, which put the competition into a points battle, but England also lost handily to Ireland a couple of weeks ago. England with France and Ireland were in the running with this last set of games yesterday.

Wales, who had lost all their other 4 games this year (though one was because obviously bad officiating), decided to show up yesterday and again England was handily beaten. A friend who is ministering in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, found the video below. It played on the Welsh end of the broadcast by BBC, but for some reason it didn’t play here. Don’t know why…

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