Monday, April 23, 2007

That would be the other shoe dropping

Many times we have been warned about petty thieves in the UK (which when you think about it is to be expected, given that they were the source of a large chunk of Australian "immigration" at one point). And many times this has proven heavily exaggerated. And so we got cocky; and so I dared to leave a bag slung over the back of my chair between Grant and I and in the back of the dining area of a mostly-empty pub; and so that bag was stolen. Rohan and Narelle had seen some odd looking folks change tables to be nearer us, and who had looked like they were leaving until we sat down, but it wasn't clear until later what had been going on.

The best part? The bag didn't have our wallets in it, or our camera, and I had a spare key to the flat in my pocket. The worst part? It had the following things which are absolutely useless to a thief but really expensive to replace:
  1. mobile phone (now IMEI locked and therefore useless) - only six months old and with all Grant's phone numbers, natch;
  2. door key - which meant the lock had to be replaced, as we both think the aforementioned phone may have had SMS content identifying our address. Super landlord, when I called him to get permission for the lock change, happened to have a spare lock barrel and volunteered to come around within the hour to replace it. Unfortunately, thanks to the door having been designed to withstand a frontal assault from a battering ram - a very likely problem for a bedsit, I think we can agree - and the three point locking mechanism meant he couldn't get it in. Therefore, I had to call a locksmith, and it being a complex change had to pay 82 QUID to get it installed. And that was the CHEAP estimate. Don't get me started on a country in which a 20 minute job can be charged out at 120 QUID; even I didn't charge that much!;
  3. Grant's old prescription sunglasses, which are barely good to Grant anymore, but still damned expensive to buy replacements for. And even so, we thought we were doing all right - were in fact even patting ourselves on the back about how it could have been so much worse - until we realised the final item left in the bag and therefore nicked.
  4. Namely, GRANT'S PASSPORT with WORK VISA. This is great, because not only do they make you pay the ridiculous passport application fee (80 quid) again, they also make you pay a penalty fee (for being ROBBED) *AND* it looks like you have to pay the whole visa application fee again *and* resubmit all the original supporting documents even though you are already in the UK with the kind permission of Her Majesty. I know I am a closet anarchist but this just looks to me like bureaucratic feeding off the misfortune of others. I would NOT like to be in the position of desperately needing the help of the Australian High Commission in this country, let me tell you.
So, my lack of vigilance for half an hour has cost us in excess of GBP250 and climbing fast. That is money we barely clawed back from the edge thanks to Grant working like a DOG last month. It is *more than a tenth of our monthly income*. We have both felt rather weepy about it. It certainly could have been much worse, and it is a cheap enough price at which to learn CONSTANT VIGILANCE, but life is seeming mighty unfair right now. And it seems like if we have to lose so much in cash terms, then someone else should get a corresponding benefit from the crime, but the reality is that all of our stuff would have been chucked in the nearest bin within seconds of the crime and subsequent discovery of the uselessness thereof (and OK, I get a bit of a thrill thinking about that), particularly given the presence of the incriminating passport.

Anyway, we are all fine and unhurt; we lost nothing that could not be replaced relatively easily although at some expense; and we have the cash to clear it without having to live off rice and beans, even though Grant's toy fund will now be sorely depleted. We also now know:
  1. the UK Police pretend to be more helpful than the Australian High Commission, particularly as they actually answer the phone with humans. They took a detailed report. I said "Look, am I right none of this stuff is ever going to show up?" The cop responded "Miracles sometimes happen, but usually not." They are good at looking busy and offering counselling though, and we had already done everything they suggested (IMEI lock, door lock replacement, etc);
  2. the Australian High Commission would sooner leave you in Guantanamo Bay without trial for five years than actually have a human being answer the phone, even if they are going to charge you like a wounded bull for a passport;
  3. a bartender who responds to "My bag's been stolen" with "You should have been more careful" is an idiot, but the day can be saved by a publican who seemed genuinely concerned and helpful about a theft in his establishment (actually, it was a nice pub with good artisan beer and competent food up until that point);
  4. ALWAYS KEEP ALL YOUR LIMBS WOVEN THROUGH YOUR BAG AT ALL TIMES, and preferably set up some kind of perimeter alarm, perhaps with dogs.
Oh yeah, and the bag also had a Harrods apron, a dinged up red drink bottle and a tea infuser with a total street value approaching 50p. ENJOY, GUYS.


Robert said...

Sorry to hear of this - does not exactly reinforce your faith in humanity!?! I remember travelling with a guy who was extremely scrupulous about security while we trained around Norway and other cold places. In order to maintain his faith in human decency and all that sort of stuff so he basically made sure there was no chance of him being relieved of any of his belongings - always locked things up, carried his valuables close to his person etc.,

As you say, this opportunistic stuff happens - trust you are not too disillusioned/wounded by the experience.


Anonymous said...

Yeah. I'm sorry to have read about this too. Not too surprised by the High Commission's lack of response, though.