United Kingdom

Overseas Voters UK

This year I have been living outside of the UK for 15 years, on that anniversary I was told by the British Government I no longer have the right to vote there.


I was expecting this for some time, it came as no surprise, that was just the rule.  The council I last registered to vote sent me an email with a PDF letter attached explaining the rule.  I still have assets there I am a little miffed by a lack of voice I am not able to provide.

I was a member of Labour International, part of the British Labour Party. I cancelled that membership about 12 months ago since I knew 15 years was coming up. I couldn’t see the point in wasting money if I didn’t have a voice in elections.

The Future

In 2021, the government announced that it would be doing away with the 15 year rule, this was announced during the Queen’s Speech.

This Guardian article provided some background to this as well.

The Elections Act 2022 which received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022 outlined the removal of the 15-year rule. Despite the Act changes won’t come into effect until 2024, this is detailed somewhat in the Overseas Voters document on the House of Commons Library.

I was disappointed to see that the Labour Party wanted to retain the 15-year rule so dropping it appears to be a Conservative Party project. I wonder if it would be quite a job to verify and manage a large intake of voters who have been “off the grid” for some time.

Will This Really Happen?

That is what I ask myself, despite being a Conservative Party initiative I don’t trust politicians to make this so, in other words, seeing is believing. I will be happy to vote if it does happen though.

2023-10-04T21:03:22+00:004 October 2023|United Kingdom|

Transport for London 2FA

Transport for London (TfL) has set up Two Factor Authentication (2FA) on their Oyster Card website which means no more access for me. I will explain.

What is the Oyster Card

Like other transport systems, TfL has the Oyster Card, a credit card size payment system to ride on the London Underground network. More here.

Why I Prefer To Use Oyster Online

London is a completely crazy city with rude and impatient people trying to get from one place to another with the least possible barriers. Loading up an Oyster Card via the TfL website or app, or setting up auto-reloads means one doesn’t have to wait to use a machine and can do that from anywhere with an internet connection. The modern world is interconnected and about reducing workflows in getting things done. I have enjoyed setting these things up from here in Canada prior to making a trip home.

Having a record of transactions from the Oyster Card account is great for submitting backup information for tax returns and per deim.

How The TfL Update Affects Me and Others

This was the announcement from TfL regarding their new 2FA setup. So this means, if your IP address is outside of Europe you will no longer be able to login to your Oyster account. Their setup in Cloudflare has also blocked VPNs from accessing the site as well.

So for me, this means:

  • I can no longer access my Oyster Card account
  • I cannot review my balance
  • I cannot view or change any of my details; address, credit card, notifications etc

Even If I’m back in the UK I can’t use their site/app because I have a Canadian mobile.

So, I am sent back in time before the Oyster Card website was created and will have to resort to doing everything manually; lining up in a busy tube ticket hall in a more complex workflow.


London is the only city that has created this restriction, as far as I’m aware. Even though I’m a UK citizen and voter I’m now, in TfL’s eyes, a “visitor”, a bit of a condescending blow really. If they had set up the 2FA using an authentication app that would have been better than text SMS only service. It’s a matter of accessibility vs security vs ensuring London is open for business from all corners of the world. The more barriers that are created the less likely I’m open to doing business with people.

There really is no point in having a login account with Oyster anymore so I will reach out to them to delete/deactivate it.

In addition to the above, contacting customer service at TfL presented some barriers. I can’t reach an 0343 number from Canada and their online form wouldn’t accept Canadian telephone numbers, and their social media team “didn’t have access” to answer my question. So, it’s pretty frustrating.

I shall update this blog entry should I receive a response from TfL.

UPDATE as of 11th January 2023

The Good – they respond quickly despite their target being 10 days. A 10-day turnaround for customer service requests is dire in 2023 but pleased this is not the case with them.

The Bad – everything else.
Trying to get them to delete my online Oyster account is impossible. So much back and forth with zero results. They never read what has been written to them. They are not thinking that London is an international city. The customer service process for international customers is too difficult. They close a ticket without taking any action. The social media team don’t have access to account information and is useless at those issues.

I had a customer service request about 4 years ago and experienced the same back and forth then, so there really hasn’t been much progress within the organisation.

The story continues…

UPDATE as of 12th January 2023

The TfL social media team advised me to write to a particular email address, this generated another ticket. Now 2 tickets on the go, one of which TfL closed without taking any action.

I was getting so fed up with TfL so I decided to bite the bullet and make an international call to them. I was less than happy. Despite going through their long tedious call centre workflow the rep answered fairly quickly. He then couldn’t find my Oyster Card on the system, despite a previous rep finding it ok, and took some back & forth to get to it. Gave him details to refund the Oyster Cards on the system. I asked him to delete my Oyster account which he said would happen within 28 days. Due to the gong show of poor customer service, I asked for written confirmation of the deletion which he refused to do, only verbally.

Hopefully, this resolves everything but the whole issue of denying access to those travelling or based overseas is contrary to London being an “international” city and “open for business”. It’s not good in my opinion.

UPDATE as of 13th January 2023

I thought yesterday was the end of the story and I wouldn’t hear from them again. However, for some reason their system keep generating new issue tickets, I’ve now got 5 of them that are open. There is no correspondence attached to them, just acknowledgments of different ticket reference numbers. I have no idea what is going on with these people but will wait to see how things turn out. It’s quite laughable really.

UPDATE as of 16th January 2023

I received the refund they promised to my bank account, I consider that a minor miracle.  However, they still have a number of tickets open against my name so who knows what is going to happen to them.

UPDATE as of 23rd January 2023

I received a lengthy form email from them to notify me that they had deleted my account. However, it looks as though it won’t be a complete GDPR “right to be forgotten” action as they said they would keep certain things on file about me and continue to send me emails. I specifically ask them not to send me certain messages so not sure if that will happen, we shall see.

2023-01-24T00:28:13+00:0010 January 2023|Customer Service, United Kingdom|

Shreddies vs Shreddies vs Chex

One of my favourite cereals that I must have is Shreddies. Over the years I haven’t noticed a change in the taste, at least since I’ve been eating them which is probably for almost 50 years now.  I only eat Shreddies in hot milk, I know some people like to mix it up with dried fruit and other cereal with cold milk but this isn’t for me.

So who has the better Shreddies?

Shreddies UKUnited Kingdom

Production of Shreddies in the United Kingdom began in 1953, much later than in Canada. They were first manufactured by Nabisco until they were taken over by Nestle.  This is probably the best of all the Shreddies, as in better quality and flavour profile.  I enjoy two of their products, both Original and Frosted.  I don’t care for the Coco flavour but haven’t had the chance to try their Shreddies Max product. The price of Shreddies is GBP£2.00 for 415g, at least this is the current price from Tesco, the cost is very reasonable. [Shreddies UK]

Shreddies CanadaCanada

Production of Shreddies in Canada began before that of the United Kingdom, in 1939, by Nabisco.  Post Cereal went on to buy them out. This hasn’t got the same taste as the UK version but its pretty close, however, I still enjoy this product very much.  I only like their Original Flavour, they don’t do the Frosted variety in Canada as much as I have lobbied them to introduce it into this market. The price of Shreddies in Canada is around CAD$3.97 for 100g but depends where you buy it from, there are always deals and sales. [Shreddies Canada]

Wheat ChexUnited States

Shreddies isn’t sold in the United States so when I lived there the closest I could find was Wheat Chex, this is manufactured by General Mills. The taste is very different, more bitter, is harder and just not as enjoyable.  I don’t enjoy any of the other Chex products.  I bought Wheat Chex when it was on sale and would eat it occasionally. Some Chex products are available in Canada but not the Wheat brand.  Chex isn’t available in the United Kingdom.  I’m not sure of the price of Chex in the US. [Wheat Chex]

So, who wins in this contest?  Yes, British Shreddies. Canadian Shreddies coming in as a close second. US Chex is third.

2019-02-12T01:16:54+00:0012 February 2019|Canada, Food, United Kingdom, USA|

Government Hospitality: My Collection Grows

The Government Hospitality Fund (GHF) was a British government quango responsible for organizing and paying for lunches, dinners, receptions and theatre suppers for Ministers and visiting foreign dignitaries to the United Kingdom. This also included functions during State Visits. The events ranged from small parties of around 10 but the largest event I organized was a reception for 400.  Buckingham Palace organized its own events but all government departments came under the responsibility of GHF even if The Royal Family was in attendance.

I used to work for Government Hospitality for five years and thoroughly enjoyed the job, best I have ever had with so many memories. I had to change jobs every 3-4 years but managed to stay in this position as long as I could. Whenever I see an item relating to GHF on a site like eBay I usually pick it up, if I can, to add to my collection.

I recently bought this envelope from eBay postmarked 3rd June 1974. This was before I joined the organization but it is pretty much how I was told to address envelopes, it was a matter of strict protocol.  Every full stop (period) and comma had to be correctly done.

GHF Envelope

The back of the envelope, shown below, had a red embossed Government Hospitality logo on the back.

GHF Logo

Professor Derek Diamond, whose name is on the envelope, is no longer with us unfortunately but he made a significant impact during his career.  Please read the following to find out more about him:


2018-11-05T23:25:49+00:005 November 2018|Government Hospitality, United Kingdom|