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This is a long and meandering post, but unusually for the rubbish I write, these bits are actually leading to a point...


The gaslighting narcissistic prick I used to know

The last few years when I was living in the UK, it was in the house of a gaslighting narcissistic prick. This person is the closest I've ever come to someone who is straight-up malicious, borderline evil.

Why were we (my mom and I) there? Long story, but to condense it, we were supposed to open an agency of his "homes in France" business and use part of this place as the office over here. This was seen as important because it was difficult interacting with the agents over here (especially the French ones) from the UK. Prick not only didn't speak French, his attempts at pronouncing anything was so weird that it was gibberish. One that sticks in mind is St Hillary de Hardcourt (he used to just say "St Hillary"). The actual place is Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët which is said something like "son-ee-lairr-d'arr-qway".
The moment the papers were signed, he told mom "It won't gel" and that was the end of his involvement here, given that he was interested only in the commission.
Mom, in return, said not only did he break his promise (verbally binding) but should she go and apply for council lodging and explain exactly why? Or we can just live with him until we sorted out what we were going to do next.
That took more years than it should have, the whole "what next" part. But, well, we were going to wait until everything was right for us.

Ironically, he'd have made a lot more money if he had kept up with the business, but that would have required thinking about the future and all he ever cared about was the right now.

Prick had this woman kicking around in the background. It's why his marriage didn't work. Both of them. So he would start an argument, get violent with mom, and then storm off to seek solace with the bimbo that really liked bright red clothes, lipstick, shoes... I suppose one could make crass allusions to putting out the red light, no?

Anyway, Prick did this until mom had just about had enough and fought back. Having been a protestor in the sixties, she had been taught how to look after herself in the face of American police brutality. I dunno what happened (I was upstairs), but he was gone for a week and never laid a finger on her again.
He would try to start arguments to justify his stomping out in a temper, but mom usually killed that ruse by pointing out that he's a grown man and they aren't in a relationship so he doesn't need to justify going and using bimbo as a comfort woman. Prick, being not terribly well educated, missed the snarkiness there.

There is so very much I'm not saying. People who knew mom will probably have heard a few things about him, but I think a sort of fatigue sets in after a while, like they'd be thinking "okay, we get it, you really don't like him, but...".

Let me just say two things:

  • Everything mom said was true.
  • She was giving you the PG version.


For those who don't know, let me recount two events to give you some context.

The first was around 1995 or so when we all went down to the south of Spain to see Prick's parents. His mother wanted to walk along the beach. Mom and I went with her, because she was kind of unsteady. Prick wandered off as he tended to do because he wasn't interested in being social with us. Because of this, mom had some alone time with his mom (I think I was seen as a +1 of mom), so Prick's mother spent the entire time apologising to us for having the bad luck of having ever met Prick in the first place.
I don't think I've ever felt so awkward, and I'm a person that's never fit in anywhere in my life so awkward I know. But, still...

The second event was a little later. Prick and mom were over in France for something. They tended to go over a number of times. I think Prick wanted a holiday that he blagged mom into paying for. Whatever, they weren't around, so it was quite upsetting to hear somebody screaming Prick's name and attempting to kick the front door in.
I flew down the stairs, grabbed the phone, and shouted back that he wasn't here and it would take me less time to press '9' three times on the phone than it would to break the door, so kindly f--k right off right now.

Surprised that the person knew me, I put the chain on the door and opened it a crack.
It was Prick's father. Who had driven up from the south of Spain in one epic long single journey with the sole intention of beating his son to death.
He apologised profusely, took me out for a meal at a Happy Eater (or was it a Little Chef? One or the other), and seemed a bit hesitant to want to talk to me, until I mentioned something that one of his siblings said.
"You know?", he asked. Not all of it, I replied. "Does Prick know you know?". I don't think Prick knows that anybody knows, and I sure as hell am not going to say anything.
So then father bought me two hot chocolates. One for the story and one for afterwards. And, holy shit, it was worse than I had imagined.
Given the poor bloke had driven something like three thousand miles in one go, I let him crash on the couch that night, after suggesting that ending his life in jail for murdering his son might not have been the best idea even though I certainly understood the sentiment.
He was gone the next morning. I never saw him again.

Because of our 'status', Prick didn't really want any traces of us having lived with him. But then he wanted me to go to work in order to - between us - pay his mortgage. We agreed as it pretty much shut him up given that apart from flirting with selling double glazing and some other jobs that he usually lost because he was so odious, he hadn't really worked in most of the time we were there. He did have a sideline in ISO9001 Quality Assurance and being a Management Consultant.

That's part of how I got to meet the guy who ported Linux to the ARM processor. That was his day job, and Prick got a position there to advise the company on ways to make things better and more productive. I was asked to go and talk to the geeks because, well, I think they'd already figured that Prick was bad news. And indeed he was, for some bullshit excuse he had the two teams (working on different parts of the same project) talk through him rather than directly to each other. I think his paranoid sociopathy was shining here. Unfortunately it was a complete cluster because he did not understand geek-speak at all, so honestly playing Chinese Whispers with a bunch of kids from the local junior school would have stood more chance of getting a message from A to B than him. Why? Because the kids would try to relay what they heard. Prick did not. He thought he knew what was being said, he really didn't, and so he'd pass on what he wanted to say after misinterpreting the messages. There was an actual other problem, in that the hardware, the software, and the documentation were often mismatched because it was all being done in different places and assembled here, so I guess the sort of traceability that 9001 was big on might have helped to keep everything in sync.
But Prick was pretty much only interested in getting into the panties of the woman running everything, and that badly coloured all of his decisions, including what looked to be a bad attempt to sabotage one of the engineers who knew exactly how full of crap Prick was, and had the seniority to raise this with people that mattered.

Of course, I wasn't paid for any of this. Prick thought that "meeting that Unix guy" would have been payment enough. Well, yeah, it was. But I could sense a distance. So, mate, if you're reading this (unlikely, but...), then just know that if you thought he was a nasty bit of work, then... yup, he was. My involvement is a complicated messy story, but thank god I was not actually related to him. He wasn't my father, I wasn't any part of his family. I was just the unpaid lackey that he called in when he finally realised that he was out of his depth with something...or he just wanted a scapegoat for if something went wrong. Fun, huh?
Anyway, it was cool meeting you. Just wish it could have been with a bit of preparation so I wasn't quite so clueless, and without him.

Anyway, he barely did any work and the money that he did make was pretty much for him. We paid the rates, the mortgage, the 'leccy... And, yet, he didn't allow subscriptions or having friends over, or anything. He even wanted me to give a fake address when registering for the doctor... but I always gave the proper address because, well, that's where I was living...and, honestly, f--k him.


That time we worked for a nursing home

I'm going somewhere with these stories, honest!

In my final few years in the UK, I worked as a Care Assistant. That's sort of like an Auxilliary Nurse, or Nursing Assistant (in the US). It's a little more than "candy striper" because we were employed, not volunteers, and we were fairly hands on. Pretty much all of the needs of the old people that didn't involve the administration of medicine was our responsibility (though some places were really weird about hierarchy and who did what).

I much prefer the term "Care Assistant" because calling us auxilliary nurses might imply that we had some sort of training. Most of us didn't. There was a big thing about doing an on-the-job course to gain an NVQ... but that was later scrapped as it was pretty useless and only really a minor leverage to try to get better pay. I never bothered much about pay as my agency asked for more than most of the own-staff got (which did cause some friction with the sorts who would argue over every single penny).

One Christmas a place we went frequently announced that they would not be taking on anybody on Christmas Day because they didn't want to pay the double rates of the agency workers. We looked for a placement for that day, but the agency couldn't tell us until just before, as a lot of the available placements had already been snagged because, did I mention, double pay?
So mom and I agreed to work for that one day as employees of the care home rather than for our agency. The agency wasn't happy, but we weren't under exclusivity and, besides, we had asked if they had something to offer.

As it turned out, it was crap, the care home eventually got in two people from the agency. But, you know, live and learn right?
It wasn't that hard a day. And I think we (mom and I) might have been the only two people entirely sober by the end of the day. Visitors would bring alcohol for the old dears, and some for the staff. Which was consumed with much merriment while on the job. Uh-hu.

When they tried that ruse the following year, we declined. They eventually called the agency wanting us specifically, but we'd been placed in a different care home which was mostly residential so was a total doss. ☺


Overseas voting

Until recently, there was a cut-off of 15 years. 15 years out of the country, one cannot vote in British local elections. This is a bit of an anomaly as I'm still a citizen.
It is partly right in asking what connection I have to, say, Guildford Borough Council. The answer is, none these days. But that's where my vote will be counted exactly and precisely because there are no specific MPs for ex-pats like, you know, civilised countries. I can't imagine the MP for Guildford giving much of a crap about somebody living in France. This is also an anomaly, but as you can see, the British didn't learn a damn thing from the events of the Boston Tea Party - if you're out of the country, you might as well not exist.

To put this into context, Leave/Brexit won by about 1.3 million votes... and around 3.5 million expats (including me) were denied the right to vote. While I can't say Remain would have won, the figures there are enough to suggest that the result, and the subsequent years of nonsense and the lessening of the UK's importance, are strongly based upon a highly doubtful premise. By blocking the right to vote for people who would be directly implicated in what happened, it's a mockery of democracy.
I, personally, think this is why an advisory referendum suddenly became the iron-clad "will of the people" that got elevated to a quasi-religion. One dare not question it, or it might start to became clear exactly how flimsy the mandate actually was.
(not to mention the fact that it simply wasn't ever put in official writing what Leave actually meant, leading MPs to come up with worse and worse ideas and claim it was "the will of the people")

Anyway, I signed up on the day it was possible to register as an overseas voter. They wanted my NI number, previous address, and some other info. The usual stuff. Wasn't hard to fill out the info and zip it off... come back as application suspended pending further information. They have no trace of me at that address, and contacting the DWP returned nothing. I had to reply with some sort of official documentation addressed to me at that address.

Which was a massive problem. I have very little of anything in paperwork from that time. Mom initiated an argument with Prick on Monday. He responded exactly as predicted, and buggered off to see bimbo for the rest of the week.
On Monday and Tuesday, we packed all our stuff into boxes.
On Wednesday, a skip was dropped in the driveway.
On Thursday, it was collected. Pretty much everything that wasn't packed up got thrown out.
On Friday, a moving van came by. We loaded all the boxes into it, keeping behind only the few things that we'd take over in the car.
On Saturday, we did a tour of all of the local garden centres for the very last time.
On Sunday, Prick came him in the morning as he often did. Mom told him she'd made him coffee, and goodbye.
Before he had much of a chance to process what was happening, we got into the car and drove to Portsmouth. Like six hours early for the ferry, but... look, we were done with all of that.

To mom's credit, she had earlier taken me to the council (social services?) to talk about accomodation and employment opportunities. Armed with all the information, she gave me a choice. I could stay in the UK and she'd give me a couple of grand to get settled somewhere (though, note, I don't drive) or I could come with her.
Let's see. Southern England is, or was, kind of nice. I liked Farnham and Woking. But a new country, new experiences, a new life, and to share it with somebody that I really trust? Absolute no-brainer. I mean, thanks for giving me the option but, nah, I was done. Time for some new scenery.

So, as you can understand, I probably threw away a lot of stuff that I shouldn't have. But as far as I was concerned, this was a one-way ticket. I have not been to the UK at all since 2002. A friend in Somerset (a sort of father figure) keeps asking me, and I must say that I'd like to see him and also get the thrill of walking around a bookshop where I can fully understand everything. But it's not going to happen any time soon due to my lack of driving licence, or driving in general. It's been over four years and thousands of kilometres but the furthest I've been from home is about 45km.
I simply don't envisage ever returning to the UK to live.

My life is here. This isn't because I'm set up here, that was "the plan" in 2002. So we left. We left fairly quickly. It was like everything just came together at the right time to make it happen.

Which was a bit of a problem when it came to proving that I had lived in that address, and thus Guildford Borough was where I should be registered.

I managed to find a few documents from the tax man. Written to me here. I didn't find a single bank statement. I probably threw them in the skip as I closed my account at the NatWest. Mom didn't close hers because she needed it for her pension, but I had no attachments or payments or anything so I didn't need mine.

What to do? I found an old dossier of papers and it included pay slips from my work, but these didn't have any address on them.

Yesterday, I came across this.

A P60 form
The top of a P60 form.

It was a statement issued by that care home for that one Christmas Day that I worked. I have no idea why I kept it, but... nearly a quarter of a century later it became a really important piece of paper.

I mean, I know mom said that everything happens for a reason, but geez... that's obscure bordering on straight-up celestial trolling.

I sent a scan of this document back to Guildford saying that I don't understand why there was no record of me given that I worked, paid taxes and NI, and that was my contact address so the DWP really ought to have had that, and certainly the HMRC.

Today, I received this by email. RESULT!

Scan of letter stating that my voter application has been accepted
I'm now a registered voter in the UK.

On the 1st of February, I shall go back to the website to make arrangements to vote by post.

But... I am now, finally, again, a UK voter. I can fulfil one of my duties as a citizen and try my hardest to help kick the Tories right in the balls.


That Android portable

I found the box after a lot of rummaging in the little room where I threw loads of stuff I didn't have the heart to bin. Once it had dawned on me that I would have sorted that out fairly early on, if it was in there it would be under and behind.
It was.

So I've registered with the Danew site and sent an RMA (return) request. Waiting to see if it is accepted. I don't really have anything that's a proof of purchase, and I'm pretty sure I won't have kept the letters they sent me. I sent a scan of the publicity "subscribe and you'll get this" brochure. It's all I have. If it's accepted, I'll send it back (can't imagine that'll be cheap...) and if it isn't, well, then I'll unscrew the thing and see what's actually inside.

No reply as yet, but they pledge to respond within 48 hours. That's a very flexible 48 hours, it took 'em a bit longer to reply to my email... but they did reply by sending me a PDF of how to go through the returns process.



The other day, I wanted to do a long exposure of the rising full moon. Actually, I went out to feed Kitty, saw the moon rising on the way back, and throught it'd make a nice photo, so I ran and grabbed the phone and the tripod (as the thing is, these sorts of photos don't last, a couple of minutes later and the moon will be somewhere up in the sky and not just rising).

The full moon rising
The full moon rising.

You can just see Orion on the right. But what's that white streak? Why have I kept it in the photo?

Well, it didn't look like an airplane (those blink, so the trace 'wibbles') whereas this is a solid straight line. I took a look online and...


...I was photobombed by the ISS.

It was actually pretty bright, so not one of those annoying Muskbots. But, hey, what more could a Rick want in astrophotography? There's Orion, the moon, and the ISS, all in one unplanned and largely haphazard photo.



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John, 30th January 2024, 09:43
Photo's great! Can you do the timing by interrogating the file periodocally, or is it just a set the timer and hope job? 
I expect that you can't have the file open for a periodic read whilst open for write - or can you? 
Excuse my ignorance in these matters. Ah, just checked, it was on "the phone", so I guess that's a bit more arcane.
Rick, 30th January 2024, 21:11
Not more arcane, much simpler. I pop the phone on a tripod, set the thing to long exposure mode, pick the "starry sky" option, then press the volume down button. 
The VolDown starts the camera after a three second countdown which helps to remove shake, whereas tapping the shutter icon could case shake. 
It'll then expose for up to 30 seconds (less if it's a bright image) to create, well, the photo above. That's a it was recorded, no fiddling or enhancement. 
jgh, 31st January 2024, 00:26
Your story has similarities with my departure from Watford Electronics. About a week in advance booked a removal van, over a few days packed everything up ready, told boss I wouldn't be working on Saturday, everybody else in the flat went into work, van arrived, less than an hour to decant everything in, and escaped. 
You're in luck with Guildford being your last address for voting registration for wanting to vote against the Conservatives as they only had a 5% lead over the LibDems, so it is a seat where such a vote can make a difference. When I was a local councillor I helped a few applications for overseas voters, who wanted to vote against Conservatives - unfortunately, their last address was in Brightside where it was typically 80%+ Labour, so their extra vote would make absolutely no difference! 

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