The last few months have been spent travelling between London and New Zealand, in order to renew our visas. I still can’t quite understand why I’m required to leave the country in order to apply for a new visa: it means that instead of working in London, earning money and paying tax, I’m not doing anything productive. It means that instead of spending my savings in London and helping the local economy, I’m spending them on plane tickets and helping Air New Zealand. I just can’t see the logic.
That said, there were positives: we got to spend time travelling round NZ, catching up with all our friends and family (Rhonda hadn’t been home since we’d been away, so it was obviously great for her to see her family). And Nelson in summer is a lot more appealing than London in the middle of winter.
As an experiment, I tried to see if I could work 3 days/week remotely. And it worked out pretty well. Most places we stayed at had wireless internet, so it was trivial to get online and login via our remote Citrix connection. If not, I could head to cybercafes. I got something of a shock when I checked internet access at Wellington Public Library – not only is it not free, it’s more expensive than most cybercafes; not to mention that most actual cafes have free wireless these days. Is that a gap in WPL’s service, or is something that the private sector is providing adequately?
The only problem with remote access was with some applications that didn’t work with Vista, but in general it was easy enough to run a current awareness service, write newsletters, and update intranet pages and Knowhow from New Zealand. I managed to answer a few reference questions as well, though not as many as I expected (our London office is the main information service for the firm’s European and Asian offices, so we often get inquiries outside of UK office hours).
The visa renewal itself, though stressful (a minor error can lead to your application being refused, with no refund) went quickly and smoothly enough, and I give credit to the British High Commission in Canberra, whose staff processed the application very quickly, and updated me via email so I knew my passport was on its way back to me [meaning I didn’t have to rebook my flight back to London out of fear that the passport wouldn’t turn up in time].
So we’re back in London for the foreseeable future. It’s a three year visa, we’re looking at staying here until at least after the Olympics, and probably making our way back south at the end of the northern summer in 2012. We have a nice flat in a fairly quiet side street between Brixton and Clapham (Google Maps view below; for fairly obvious privacy reasons I haven’t used my own house number; this isn’t the exact house). And we’re only minutes walk from the White Horse and the wonderful Windmill, a fine live venue.