Uber vs. TfL

Transport for London Craziness

According to the Telepgraph, Transport for London is about to open a public consultation on several things about “minicabs” that are just insane and are clearly an attempt to try to hinder Uber and other similar “on demand” transport apps.  According to the Telegraph the consultation will contain the following key tenants:

  • Operators “must provide booking confirmation details to the passenger at least five minutes prior to the journey commencing”.
  • Companies “must not show vehicles being available for immediate hire either visibly or virtually via an app”.
  • Operators “must offer a facility to pre-book up to seven days in advance”.
  • Drivers may only work for one operator at a time.
  • There should be “controls on ridesharing in public vehicles”.

All of these are insane and very anti-consumer and anti-commuter.  Why does TfL want to make transport in London even more difficult than it is?  The can’t seem to negotiate with the unions to get the tube running at decent times, now they want to hinder people who are willing to meet the demands of their consumers.  You would almost think they don’t like those of us who don’t own cars in London.

If I want pre-booked transport, I pre-book transport.  I don’t need the Government to tell me how to organise my life.  I can’t pre-book black cabs seven days in advance via Gett, so I don’t use Gett.  It is simple, as a consumer I vote with my feet and patronage.  I don’t need the Government to constrain that.  Why also hinder drivers and who they are employed by.  Lots of drivers are immigrants who are just trying to make ends meet.  I guess maybe the Government isn’t such a fan of keeping immigrants gainfully employed and would rather them spend more time at their local Job Centre.


When the Supreme Court in the US ruled two years ago that the Federal Government could not ignore us as a couple, I broke down in tears.  We started, what has become, a rather long process of moving to the US.  Now, the Supreme Court has said that it is so important that not only should it be recognised by the Federal Government, but that State Governments cannot abridge this individual freedom under the law.  It finally brings universal dignity in the US to same-gendered marriage.

In 2006, I was essentially forced to choose my country of birth over my husband.  Even then, it was only December 2005 when that had become a possibility in his country of birth and we had been together since 2000.  We have been very very lucky, as we both have been highly successful in our professional careers which opened up a level of freedom.

As a couple, we have never wanted anything more than the ability to lead our lives as we see fit without constraint by the Government upon us.  We had that when the UK offered us Civil Partnerships and we took advantage of that.  When the UK offered marriages, we only took advantage of that because of the benefit of making immigration to the US easier.  Because our target location in the US was a State that recognised same-gendered marriages, we didn’t specifically worry about the outcome of this case before the Supreme Court, but it having arrived underlined that we would have been in a situation that we would have been included in some US States, but excluded in others, which would have limited our liberties in the US.

While there were a few people who were disappointed yesterday, people who really shouldn’t be meddling in other peoples affairs, the overall response is allowing me to start to fall in love again with my homeland.

My Royals Royce is not Going Fast Enough

I am experiencing up close what when I was young was taught was a horrible evil, “socialised medicine.” I had been having abdominal pain off and on for a while, with it getting more and more serious and lasting longer.  Like all men, I procrastinated going to the GP, only to go in for some blood tests on Monday morning.  By the evening, I got a very urgent call from the GP that I needed to go to the AE (ER for Americans) because one of my test results was extemely alarming.

I had been to an AE before in the UK with kidney stones and found it very efficient and while waiting like at ERs in the US, a lot less paperwork (as in none) and a lot more willingness to offer choices and keep you quite well informed.  The challenge I had though, was that my condition was serious enough (pancreatitis) that they needed to admit me.  So this was going to be my first experience in a hospital ward in the NHS.  Surely this is where it was going to go horribly wrong, where socialised medicine would fall apart…

It hasn’t, the most challenging thing is it is never fast enough, things that are time critical happen right on time, things that don’t, well they happen when they need to happen, which is never quick enough.  I didn’t get up to the ward until just after midnight and everything on the ward is what you would expect.  There are 6 beds in my ward and coming up on two days, I am the longest patient in my bay.  There are a few private rooms for the more serious cases.  I have space for my bed, a private TV, a chair and some storage in addition to all the appropriate sort of hookups.

I needed an unltrasound, and it was ordered first thing in the morning by my Consultant (who was attended by about 4 – 5 other doctors) but it took until 2PM to have it done.  In addition they also needed an MRI, which was ordered as well, but that is what is taking a bit longer than is comforable.  It didn’t get done yesterday by the time they closed and the ward nurse is saying it should be sometime this afternoon.  This morning, meeting with one of the Registrar doctors (who was part of the pack from yesterday) he explained very well what the process from here on out is.  They always seem to do a good job of letting people know what is actually going on with them, which is particularlly comforting for me.

They let me start eating last night and the hospital food wasn’t half bad.  What you would expect from a canteen.  They basically cart in a hot table that has been done in a bigger kitchen and serve up the food hot from just down the hallway.  Of course the food is bland and veg have no salt or pepper added, obviously to meet the various dietary needs, but a bit of salt was enough to liven up the veg.

The thing that is still very striking to me is the lack of paperwork on my part.  From entering the AE thought to now, the only thing I had to sign was that I had some valuables with me when I got up to the ward and that they were my responsability, not the hospitals.  Not one other form to sign, or fill out, because they don’t have to make sure you can pay or that they have your insurance details.

It isn’t like healthcare is metered as much as it is efficient, only going just as fast as it needs to, in order to be able to repsond to those who have an urgent need, and validate that people don’t waste resources, but all the resources you need to have a high quality level of care are there.

So, while basically every Britain will complain about the NHS from time to time, I think really what it, like I read in another article about the NHS from another American, was that they are really complaining about their Royals Royce not going fast enough.

Rewriting History

On Friday, Simon and I re-wrote history.  We walked into the Wandsworth Registrar’s Office and walked out as a couple who had been married since December 2006.

In December 2006, after about 6 years of being a couple, we entered into a Civil Partnership.  Civil Partnerships had been available in the UK for less than a year, and I was immigrating to the UK on the basis of forming a Civil Partnership.  Fast forward 8 years and a week, and the UK had finally figured out how to allow those of us who had entered a Civil Partnership to convert to a Marriage.  Same gendered Marriages had been available since March, but bureaucracy being bureaucracy, it appears they forgot about those of us in Civil Partnerships.

We took the opportunity to convert, because while it only makes a minor difference in the UK (addresses an issue around pensions), it does two things for us.  One is very tangible, in that the US only recognises marriages at the Federal level and doesn’t regard our Civil Partnership as anything.  The other is less tangible, in that it rights something we have felt is wrong.  We have lived as a married couple, in our hearts, for almost 15 years.  That is a long time, but Friday was the first time I had a spouse.  It was nice having a partner in 2006, and a huge relief to be in a legally sound situation as a couple in the UK.  But, nothing can replace the feeling of legitimacy and validation being like “everyone else” affords.

Those of the moral right complain that such things dilute the institution of marriage.  I think the way Simon and I have led our lives, being a loving supporting couple, is huge validation that marriage has a place in society and that it isn’t just about procreation.  I personally didn’t think I would feel as strongly about a simple change from “Civil Partnership” to “Marriage”, but having done it, it feels great.

The best thing so far is I told people at work today that I needed to go home, because I was cooking my husband dinner.

Gastric Sleeve Two Years On

I am coming up on almost 3 years since I have had my Gastric Sleeve weight loss surgery.  Some people might wonder how I am doing and how does the long term look like for someone with the surgery.  Well, the news is good.  I updated everyone that seven months on, I was approaching my target weight of 195 lbs (13st 13 lbs/88.5 kg), well I met that and then exceeded that by about another two pounds, reaching my lowest point of 193 lbs.

Over the next 18 months or so, I started to slowly creep back up, eventually reaching about 215 lbs (15st 5lbs/97.5 kg).  Lot of this was due to my lifestyle at the time, which was pretty sedentary and the “enjoyment” of simply not worrying about how much I ate.  This was my new natural weight.  But even then it did start to bother me that I was starting to not fit some of my shirts and trousers.

I was lucky, in that I had been working full time in Scotland but in August of this year, relocated back to London for work.  The simple fact of being back in London and having to walk around, as well as being back day to day with my partner has let me focus on being more active and eating a little bit better.  That has quickly returned me to 195 lbs.

The challenge when I reached 195 lbs before was that I didn’t look healthy.  My family in the States, when they saw me around that weight thought I looked “ill”.  I think in a lot of ways it was my body getting used to that weight.  Two years on, and hitting that milestone again,

My appetite has increased after the surgery, but I am still not able to eat what most people would consider a “normal” sized meal.  Although I don’t directly pay attention to what I eat specifically, I find that my subconscious mind goes for the softer foods.  Really the only thing that really gives me too much issue are large amounts of dry and fibrous foods.  I also struggle sometimes, getting quite hungry now, of my eyes being far larger than my stomach.  Again, getting used to not eating everything you are served in a restaurant is something you have to get used to.  I am lucky again in that my partner has a very very high metabolism and is a marathon runner, so my leftovers are quickly absorbed.  We really enjoy meals like tapas and dim-sum, which allow each of us to eat each at our own pace, share in the meal and have a variety of foods.  That more than anything is something I value, the variety.  I would rather have a couple bites from several dishes then try to eat one thing.

Being honest, constipation is a bit of a battle for me.  I seem to go into bouts where I will get heavily constipated and times where I don’t, though my diet doesn’t change in a way I am aware of, though my bowel movements have never returned to a state before I had the surgery.

The other long term downside that I suspect is related to the surgery is that my face has developed an exceedingly dry skin, which is often flakey and itchy.  I take religiously a multi-vitamin and oil supplements as well as wash my face daily with hypoallergenic products and use a moisturiser, but generally, I can’t seem to fully deal with the issue.   My partner has said I should really see a doctor, which maybe I should.

Even with the two “downsides”, feeling far more healthy, being more active, and not standing out in society for the wrong reasons make the decision to have the surgery the best decision for myself I have ever made.  While a gastric sleeve surgery may not be for everyone, it clearly works for some really well.  I couldn’t have expected a better outcome.

Marriage Equality, Finally

Yesterday I was in tears, in the office.

Kit and Simon
Kit and Simon

Simon and I met each other in 1999 and started our relationship in 2000.  We struggled for a number of years trying to settle down and started to realise that was difficult for bi-national same gendered couples.  We spent a few years living in limbo between North America and Europe.  We had decided that we would try to find a way to move to the US.  We were respecting the immigration laws of the US and realised that it was an uphill battle, but eventually US ICE decided that Simon didn’t belong in the US and denied him entry.  Our friends and family were shocked that this could happen.  They encouraged us to fight it, but we knew, really knew, that there was nothing we could do, that the Federal government was barred, legally, from recognising us.

In 2005, the UK made the bold step of allowing Civil Partnerships.  This presented a unique opportunity for US.  I knew my skills were portable enough for me to find work in the UK and the UK had been Simon’s home for most of his life.  It wasn’t originally first choice, but it would do.  So I started through the motions of immigrating to the UK.  I ended up conversing with the entry clearance officer who issued my proposed Civil Partnership visa a few year later (as I become involved in immigration rights in the UK) and he told me that I was the first Civil Partnership visa he had every issued, in the Summer of 2006.  He was quite happy to find out that things had worked out for myself and Simon.  In November 2006, I moved to London.

About two years ago, Simon and myself realised that we wanted to change our lives.  We realised, after many many many years of debate that we wanted a family.  We also weren’t in a personal situation which would allow us to raise a family, with my work being in Scotland and Simon’s work being in London, it wasn’t the life we had envisioned for ourselves.  So were decided to move.  We looked all over the world and settled on Vancouver.  In part because we knew the US was simply not an option for us.  We started down the process of finding a way to get that accomplished.  We accidentally found the best immigration lawyer in Canada, I suspect, named Marina Sedai.  But with everyone’s best intentions we realised that we couldn’t get the immigration process in Canada to match our desired timelines.

This last month, as the stark reality that the timelines for Canada immigration weren’t viable, we resigned ourselves to what we called “Plan B” which was to settle down in London for the next 18-24 months while we started the family and then hopefully the Canada process would catch up with us by then.

I had been closely watching the Supreme Court on DOMA and Proposition 8.  I followed the arguments with rapt attention.  I had always admired the US Supreme Court and while it may not always get things right, it gets far more right then it gets wrong.  I knew, that if the US was to ever become a viable option for Simon and myself, DOMA needed to be struck down.  I also realised that based on the US Constitution and how the Supreme Court operates, that they would likely strike it down, unless they sidestepped the issue on jurisdictional grounds.  In the end, the what I wanted and what I expected merged.

While this won’t be straight forward, and Simon and I never wanted or asked to be trail blazers, we suspect that, as we progress with our family plans, we will find a way to move to the US, now that the US Supreme Court has made it clear, if a State determines we are married, then the Federal government has to respect that determination and extend the same rights and benefits.  After 13 years of frustration, I can finally say again that I am proud to be an American.

Marriage Equality

Being “gay” does not dominate my life and I don’t often think about being “gay”. I do often thing of my civil partner, Simon, much as I would assume any married couple would. As I have mentioned before, after about 6 years of being in a relationship with Simon, I moved to the UK in 2006, in large part, to take advantage of the recent civil partnership laws that were created. Simon and I entered a civil partnership in 2006 and in 2013 will be celebrating 13 years as a “couple”.

Myself and my partner at a family event.
Myself and my partner at a family event.

For the most part, we just get on with our lives, as an “traditional” couple would. As we approach our middle ages, we realised that we had reached the point where we could make a choice about us and potentially family, instead of careers. We both have very well paid jobs and have been very successful, but we know there is more to life than just work. So a couple of years ago we put the wheels in motion to change our lives. Being of sufficient means, we knew we could go a lot of places in the world. We short listed 7 cities across the globe and assessed each one. Sadly, no US city made our short list. That isn’t because we have anything against the US. Being an American, there is still a big part of me the longs for the US and Simon also sees lots of advantages of the States. But the land of my birth has chosen to not recognise my relationship with Simon. Even if we both were US citizens, there would be 50 different versions of what our relationship meant, which means we would have to be very careful about where we lived in the US.

While the Supreme Court this week is hearing arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA, there is far more at stake for Simon and myself than I think we would like to admit. While our immediate plans are to move to Vancouver, as Simon has been accepted at UBC and I am sure we will like Canada, neither of us is Canadian and therefore we don’t have a “right” to settle in Canada, though it may very well be possible. We would like to be in a situation where at least my country of birth is an option and that we don’t feel like exiles.

I know the Supreme Court, rightfully so, is far more concerned about keeping a balance between the Federal Government and States rights, but they also look after us as individual rights, and I as a US Citizen am being denied my birthright to pursue happiness. If there are Federal benefits that are extended to traditional married couples, they should be extended to me, including immigration benefits, irrespective of whatever definition the State puts to similar laws.

Having been used to being treated equally under the law for the past 6 years, it is something that I am unwilling to give up, and anyone who knows Simon or myself wouldn’t demand that of us.