I spent yesterday morning driving round Portsmouth looking for anyone with a stapler man enough to handle 60 sheets.
We have applied for a grant under the EU’s Comenius project, to be a partner country along with 5 others – Turkey, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Austria. The purpose of the project is a cultural exchange between our different settings, our children and staff. Very excitingly, if our bid is successful, some of our staff will have the opportunity to visit each of these countries and we will host them in return.
So why the dash round our South Coast neighbour’s streets in the quest for a stapler?
As is typical with official departments world wide, the British Council’s application process is very specific about what to write, how to write it and when it must be received by. The signature form must be completed in blue ink, with a round company stamp half in / half out of the relevant box. Words must be handwritten, with capitals where appropriate but not in block capitals! We are required to send in 3 hardcopies of the whole application pack – all 60 pages, each of which has to be stapled together in the top left hand corner.
Oh and I received the pack on Thursday, ready to be printed and completed for the receipt deadline on Monday.
Our printer steadfastly refused to produce 60 pages in one go. It did 32, then stopped and started the whole thing again. Then it ran out of ink and refused to acknowledge the replacement cartridge until I had run the cleaning cyle, stroked it kindly and made it a cup of tea. So Thursday evening was spent grappling with HP’s finest – trying to convince it I was boss. I think I won this argument.
There is obviously some technology built into printers and photocopiers that picks up on the frustration level of the user and causes them to shut down or malfunction directly in proportion to the growing sense of panic they sense. Experienced users learn the techniques of deep breathing, pretending they are not in a rush and frankly couldn’t care whether the thing prints or not. I still hit machines and shout and abuse them. This is obviously where I am going wrong and why I am on tablets for my blood pressure.
So it’s Friday morning and we are off to a course in Portsmouth. I drop off the others and head off to the local printers to ask if they have a stapler before heading to the post office.
But they don’t have a stapler to go through 60 sheets of paper, neither does the next 7 or 8 print shops / companies I happen across in my tour of the city.
Finally, I am directed to a lovely Asian couple in North End – on my way out of the city, passing the point at which I entered over an hour ago!
Yes, they have a stapler. They staple. It costs me 50p! No one has ever asked for anything like this before apparently.
I am now desperate for a wee! But the post office is only 10 doors down the street. I seal the envelope on my completed application pack. I join the queue behind 2 others. The first is cashing in his coin collection – obviously saved over 10 years and just waiting for me to arrive so he can take as much time as possible counting it, transferring pennies into the proper plastic bags and generally discussing the state of the world with the slowest post mistress ever.
Eventually he moves away and the lady in front of me steps towards the counter with what looks like an elephant’s foot wrapped in brown paper. She tells the lady behind the counter that it is valuable and will require insurance (oh dear). The insurance forms are hidden in the bowels of the post office. This takes some time rummaging under the counter. Then she needs a receipt etc.
I am more desperate for a wee and subtly hopping up and down in the queue. But then it is my turn. I advance to the counter. The parcel is weighed, stamps are applied, I fill out some form for registered post. The parcel is posted!!
I move my full bladder rapidly back towards the car. A lorry is parked next to it with it’s hazard lights flashing and the tailgate on the tarmac and no sign of the driver.
15 minutes later I am finally on the road, very focused on joining the training course as rapdily as possible….
….and headed for the loo!
I do hope the application is successful