Monday, 27 February 2017

Vodafone: money grabbing gits

Vodafone. They’re fuckers, aren’t they?
Right. A survey: hands up all of those of you with children. Quite a few, very good, well done: the equipment works. Now, hands up all those of you with children old enough to own a smartphone. Oh look, all the hands stay up (ha ha). Now, all those of you please with children who actually have a smartphone.
Oh look. Still quite a few of you.
Now, just for those last precious few of you, a warning: take their phones away. Right now. Walk into the bedroom, interrupt their important FaceTime, Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram session in mid-flow. No explanation or excuse needed, just walk in, snatch, and walk out.
If your child walks out behind you demanding a reason, try this: "Dearest child, I love you more than I love life itself. I would walk into the deepest, hottest fires of Hell for you. I would take a bullet for you. If you were dying I would rip my own heart out and offer it up to the Gods for you. You are the light, you are the life, you are my soul and desire. Without you I am nothing. But no, you cannot spend £1,000 in data charges."
For yes, dear reader, the painful truth must be told, and that painful truth is that La Child, ‘gor bless ‘er cotton socks, has indeed racked up £1,000 of data charges with Vodafone.  
Not that we knew about it until the money disappeared from our account. Not one text was delivered to my phone. Not one call from Vodafone to say ‘this is unusual expenditure, has someone stolen your phone?’. Not one email, or letter, or communication of any kind. There were three texts to La Child’s phone, but La Child in her infinite wisdom decided they were best ignored as otherwise daddy ‘might get a bit upset.’ Not that, on eventual inspection, they revealed much. Text one said ‘you’re getting close to your limit,’ the second said ‘you’ve reached your limit,’ and the third and final text said ‘you’ve spent £26’.
So here we are, two weeks later, with La Child having used up 24GB of data and Vodafone presenting us with a £1,000 bill.
Oh, we’ve had words with Vodafone of course. First we tried the ‘she’s an 11 year old child, for goodness’ sake,’ approach, to which Vodafone pointed out that (a) how were they supposed to know the phone was being used by an 11 year old child, (b) the account holder is old enough to spend the money if they want to, and (c) it’s the parent’s job to control the phone usage of the child. All good points. So then we suggested that perhaps, just perhaps, the number registered as they main account holder should be the number to which texts saying ‘you’re about to go over your limit,’ should be sent. Ah, but, said Vodafone, the texts are automated, and the system sends them to the phone that’s doing all the usage, nothing we can do.’ Less good point, I thought.
Finally, we said ‘hang on, surely, surely there’s a cap. Didn’t the EU recently require there to be a cap on mobile data?’ Vodafone’s response? ‘Ah, yes, well, you see, only on data roaming, not on domestic data.’
What an odd position we find ourselves in. La Child was on a 6GB data allowance for some £30 a month. Increasing that to £24GB costs a further £10. Use 24GB without paying that additional £10 and it costs you £1,000.
Let that sink in for a moment. £10 if you pay up front, £1,000 if you don’t.
A 100 fold increase for not paying up front? I’m not massively familiar with consumer goods and services legislation, but that sounds like a penalty to me, and my hazy knowledge of first year law suggests that penalties are unlawful.
But to be fair that's not the point. Vodafone’s argument would be that the contract is unambiguous – we signed a contract that said, quite clearly, that any usage above the allowance would incur ridiculous costs, and so we can hardly complain now when we’re presented a bill for just that. But Vodafone are aware, also to be fair, that the bulk of those who end up racking up these kind of costs are children. We’re not the only family with a child who had an ‘oh fuck’ moment and didn’t know what to do to fix it. So surely it’s incumbent on Vodafone to do what they can to prevent it happening in the first place .
Caps are an opt out service for data roaming now, because mobile phone providers have to do it. The EU requires it (and no, you cannot shout "Brexit!" on this one, we haven't left yet). On Vodafone they’re set at £50, so without physically opting out of the service, you cannot spend more than £50 abroad. Gone are the days of being bankrupted by roaming charges. Domestically, however, you can spend £1,000 or more, because caps are an opt-in service. How is that remotely logical? Unless of course Vodafone (other mobile providers are available, and every bit as evil) are just money grabbing bastards. Surely not? A corporate behemoth which is quite happy to allow people to rack up unreasonable and unexpected costs when it would cost them nothing, relatively speaking, to prevent it? Couldn't be, could it? 
So, here’s my request. I’d like you to tell me if you’ve been hit by a bill, from Vodafone or anyone else, in relation to data allowance breaches. It could be you, it could be your children, doesn’t matter – I want to know. Because what Vodafone and other mobile phone providers currently do isn’t right, and I want to be armed with the information I need to force them at least to introduce opt-out caps on monthly data usage.
In the meantime, walk into your child’s bedroom, interrupt their important FaceTime, Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram session in mid-flow, take the phone, and walk out. You’ll thank me later.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Brexit Schmexit - this train is leaning too far to the right

I’m not a massively political animal, because in truth it matters very little whether we have one mainstream party in power or another. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; we’re really a centrist society, and given our diversity, geography and psyche we always will be. We might lean a few degrees one way or the other over time, but the needle rarely swings too far from the middle.

That’s not to say we don’t get excited about certain things, of course. Sovereignty, borders, immigration. Being an island folk we have an institutional-like undercurrent of paranoia about the world over the horizon, and every now and again we go into a bit of a tizz about it all. Maybe we have some collective regression about previous invasion (those bloody Normans, coming over here and giving us modern English), or maybe we just like to get riled up about something.
Either way, here we are, getting all excited about Brexit and making the needle swing rather more to the right than usual.
There’s been an awful lot said about facts. That neither side of this debate has been entirely honest with them, that those we have had have been either been meaningless at best or dishonest at worst (Mr Gove, I’m looking at you and your £350m porkies), that in reality no one knows what’s likely to happen.
All true, and all lies. All at the same time. Have we had facts? Yes. Do people care one jot about them? No. There’s not a single person who understands the likely consequences of Brexit that suggests it’s economically the right thing to do. Not one. Even the Leave camp agree that we’re likely to suffer economically if we exit, at least in the short term. But this isn’t about economics, it never has been. This is about our undercurrent of paranoia. It’s our curtain twitching NIMBY mentality, the ‘some of my best friends are black’ argument. It’s about whether we want to share what we have with Them, that lot, the ones over the other side of sea. The ones that speak differently from us, and look differently from us, and who have different cultures and who wear different clothes. They make us nervous.
Forget the facts. It doesn’t matter whether the Poles are actually stealing our jobs, or whether Turkey is actually likely to join the EU, or whether we do send £350m a week over to Brussels. None of it is true (sorry, can't help myself), but it's irrelevant anyway. This referendum won't be decided on facts. It's entirely about emotion: we are collectively terrified of having to share this scepter’d isle with people that don’t look or sound or behave like we do.
Which is funny, don’t you think? I’m the grandson of a Syrian immigrant who moved to Italy. I’m the son of an Italian who grew up in Libya. I’m the great grandson of Russians and Poles. My daughter’s grandmother is a Czech from the Sudentenland. Go back just two or three generations and we all – all – have immigrant relations. Our language is Germanic, moulded by Latin and Norse. Our numbers are Arabic. Our political structure is Greek. Our Royal Family is German. Our footballers are from pretty much everywhere except, for the most part, England. What are we protecting from whom?
I offer no views on whether the EU – as a structure, as a club, as a facilitator to trade – works. It probably could do with reform. But it does work as a way of making us all believe that we are the same. Whether you are English, or French, or Polish, or Italian, or Czech, or Latvian, or Swedish or Greek, you belong to the EU and you are European. It’s not quite the United Federation of Planets, but hey, small steps. And let’s be honest with ourselves, this referendum was never about whether the EU needed reform. It was never about whether the economic case made sense, or whether we could or couldn’t find trade elsewhere, or whether our mythical sovereignty would be best served by being out on our own. It has always been about keeping the foreigners out. Look at why we’re even having it, a sop to UKIP, a party with no policies and no views that aren’t about immigration.
I don’t care whether you vote to Leave or to Remain. In truth, long term it'll have little impact. But you should care why. Please don’t let the needle sway too far to the right.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Paris, or We're All Bloody Mad

If, like me, you tend to regard religion as the refuge of the foolish, then there are really only two ways to look at life. Either you can say ‘well, it’s all a bit meaningless, really. What’s the point? I may as well do what I want, when I want, and to hell with anyone else.’ Or you can say ‘well, yes, it is all meaningless, in the sense that there’s no overarching reason for us to be here. We were dust, to dust we’ll return. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the most of it while we’re here. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be nice to each other. Life is short, let’s enjoy it. Let’s be gracious.’

I’m in the latter camp as, I think, are most of us atheist types. The deists, theists and polydeists can, and often do, point their collective finger and say ‘ah, but without belief what moral framework can you have?’ but we all know that’s bunkum. I know right from wrong. I know a morally good thing from a morally bad one. I know, fundamentally, what will pain my fellow man, and I know, fundamentally, what will please him. I’m well equipped to teach La Child how best to navigate this life, and I think she’s becoming sufficiently adept that she won’t need to consult a 2,000 year old text to tell her that killing is bad or that stealing is undesirable or that being generally unpleasant is wrong.

Which does bring me on to Paris. It’s sad, I think, that it should be such a horrible event that brings me out of my self-imposed silence (I’ve been away, I had a flat tyre, there was a terrible storm, etc), but as the images burn themselves on to my brain and the polemics begin to flow I couldn’t help but wade in. Perhaps it’s catharsis, or just my way of externalising the disappointment, and the frustration, and the grief that comes from witnessing madness and failing to understand it. Perhaps it’s purely self-indulgent, in which case I apologise. Normal service will resume next time.

In the papers today, a picture of Abdelhamid Abaaoud. A young man, 27 years old, sat in the front of a car smiling, wearing a heavy woollen hat. The sun bleaches out half his face. He’s happy, it’s a nice photo. A photo of the man who apparently organised the deliberate, cruel murder of 129 people, who masterminded the terrorising and injuring of hundreds more. Who provided the excuse for the bombing of more others. A picture of a young man who in fact was nothing but a link in the ongoing chain of attack and retaliation and revenge.

It’s heartbreaking. As I sit here now and look at the photo I see someone’s son. I can’t help it, I see someone young and immediately my mind turns to La Child, and in this case I can’t help but wonder what it would take to turn her into him. What does it take to turn any of our children into Abdelhamid? Or Omar Ismail Mostefai, or Samy Animour, or Bilal Hadfi, or Ahmad Almohammad, or any of the other alleged killers in Paris last Saturday? What happens between a child’s birth, free of all preconceptions, prejudice and hatred, and the moment that they walk into a crowded restaurant and fire a Kalashnikov?

Yes, of course religion plays its part. These are people who have come to believe that what they’re doing is right. This is their moral code. Either you believe too or you’re the enemy and therefore are a legitimate target. Their religion says so. Or actually, no. Their interpretation of their religion says so. I dislike religion, I think it enslaves you, robs you of the ability to think and to reason, robs you of responsibility for your own actions, but I don’t for one minute think that all religion is inherently violent. All religions have had a violent past, but all also speak of compassion, and fairness, and justice and of respect. Somewhere along the line people become corrupted not by religion but by their circumstance. Someone vulnerable (because of their upbringing or their environment or their mental issues) meets someone persuasive, add in some old fashioned hatred and bigotry, leave to rest for a few years and voila, lobster: bloodshed, mayhem, outrage.

If only those with power would do something positive to help, but no. In the news today, next to the picture of 27 year old Abdelhamid – a child, for goodness' sake – the main story is France’s ‘retaliation’. Airstrikes on Raqqa, the bombing of headquarters and camps. ‘We can’t let them act without reacting,’ says the French military. ‘What happened yesterday,’ said Francois Hollande, the French president ‘was an act of war.’ No it wasn’t, you opportunist tit. Nation states wage war on each other. Russia can declare war on America. Gremany can declare war on Great Britain. A group of fundamentalist fruitcakes can’t wage war. They might spread terror, they might break the law, but it’s not a war. War justifies retaliatory strikes, war means bombs and strategic campaigns. War means fighter jets and tanks and infantry and collateral damage. And so today we have the bombs, and the fighter jets and the collateral damage. Tomorrow we’ll have the upgraded terror level and the increased police presence. Next week we’ll have stricter border controls, and then, eventually, another indiscriminate attack in the middle of Rome, or Baghdad, or London, or Beirut. More death. More grief. A retaliation for the retaliation, revenge for the revenge. More outrage, more bombs, and on and on we’ll go in a never ending merry-go-round of tit-for-tat.

It’s all rather depressing. I’d usually say something funny now, something positive. Something about breaking the cycle, education being the key, a slow but determined push to eradicate radicalism, to reduce the impact of blind faith, a concerted effort to dismantle the structures necessary to keep people under the yoke of ignorance, but, really, I do feel terribly depressed today. I can’t honestly see how we’ll ever reach a more enlightened state, not while we're nothing but a thin veneer of respectability away from the apes. Evolution, I suppose, will eventually see us right. All will be well, just a few hundred thousand more years required.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

I think I'm offended part 2: this time it's very annoying

KStop it, stop it, stop it. All of you, please cease the incessent whining.

Since those three demented fools went on a rampage in Paris last week the Internet has been awash with people getting their knickers in a twist about the giving or taking of 'offence'. On the one side we have what I affectionately call the Whitehouses, adherents to the Mary Whitehouse School of Propriety, or the 'I'm offended by that' Society. Free speech must have limits, they cry. One can't give offence willy nilly. What about child pornography? What about disabilities? What about religion, hmm, hmm? 

On the other side we have the Absolutists, who say free speech is the freedom to say what you want when you want to whom you want without repercussions. 

I have news, kiddywinkles - you're all wrong. Free speech has limits. Always has had. And it's right that it should, but those limits are there for very good reason. Sorry to break it to you, you odious little ignorant preacher of complete codswallop @anjemchoudary, but 'thou shalt not give offence' isn't one of them.

Once upon a time, in 1919 (at just about half past three) a chap called Oliver Wendell Homes Jr gave an opinion in the case of Schenck v United States. He said:

"[t]he most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

Ever since then, we've been using the example of an irresponsible fool in a packed theatre to explain when it is that free speech is protected, and when not. Take another look at the quote, and in particular the word 'falsely'. If you happen to be in a packed theatre and there really is a fire then you'd be fairly within the bounds of normal behaviour if you were to decide to shout about it. But if there isn't a fire, then what you're saying is false, and you deal with the consequences.

Why's that relevant here? Well, we don't have an unfettered right to free speech, so all you Absolutists out there, tough luck. Time for bed, off you go, please stop bothering me. And all you Whitehouses out there? You can fuck off as well. Why? Because any limit on free speech is there to protect from a distinct harm, and dealt with under specific legislation. You can't tell lies about someone because that's libel, and you can be rightly sued. Lies can affect people's livelihoods, their reputation, their ability to work and their relationships. Lies are bad. Naughty naughty; Oliver would waggle his finger at you. You can't wander about being racist or discriminatory either. Racism, bigotry, prejudice, it's been the scourge of society for centuries and caused misery to millions. It's morally indefensible and flies in the face of our ideals of equality and fairness. It's also illogical, and frankly that's enough to annoy me. Don't fall foul of the Race Relations Acts, kiddies, or the Disabilities Discrimination Act or a whole bucketful of other legislation. 

But what you can do, what you can and should carry on doing again and again and again, as loudly and as widely as you could possibly want, is offend people. I've said this before, and I shall say it again, and again, and again - there is no right not to be offended. You can complain as much as you like that something I say has offended you, but that's your affair, not mine. Offence is taken, not given. "I'm offended!" It's a meaningless whine, a toddler's stamping of the feet.

I've used Mr Fry to illustrate this very point before, but I suffer no shame in using it again:

"It’s now very common to hear people say ‘I’m rather offended by that’, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually no more than a whine. ‘I find that offensive’. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I’m offended by that’, well so fucking what?"

You may believe in religion if you wish. Monotheistic, nontheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic or plain old deistic? Believe in the big bearded fellow suffering from a sense of humour failure? Base your moral code on a 2,500 year old book that says wearing a polyester/cotton mix shirt is the devil's work? That's fine, off you trot. Dislike the idea of man on man action? Fickle about the notion of frottage? Not a problem. Find @frankieboyle a bit much? That's your prerogative. But so is it mine to point out the madness of religion and to call you out on the idiocy of your prejudice. 

Offence is healthy. Offence is necessary. Another quote, this time from Philip Pullman:

"I think there's a difference between (a) offending people for its own sake, which I don't necessarily want to do, because some people are good and decent and it would be unkind to upset them simply to indulge my own self-importance, and (b) challenging their prejudices, their preconceptions, or their comfortable assumptions. I'm very happy to do that. But we need to be on our guard when people say they're offended. No one actually has the right to go through life without being offended. Some people think they can say "such-and-such offends me" and that will stop the "offensive" words or behaviour and force the "offender" to apologise. I'm very much against that tactic. No one should be able to shut down discussion by making their feelings more important than the search for truth. If such people are offended, they should put up with it". 

I'm not saying that we should offend for the sake of it; that is, as Philip Pullman says, unkind. But neither should you seek to stifle debate by the expediency of taking offence. Offence is subjective, offence is hurt feelings. It's not an impact on livelihood, it's not the suppression of a part of society, it's plain old moaning. 

So stop it, stop it, stop it.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie

This morning some people walked into an office and killed some other people. 

The people who were killed (Jean Cabut, Stephane Charbonnier, Georges Wolinski, Bernard Verlhac, Bernard Maris and seven more, let's call them the 'Normal People') had been in the habit of drawing cartoons about non-existent characters from a millennia old work of fiction. 

This made the people doing the killing (let's call them the 'Fundamentalist Nutjobs') angry, and let's be honest, who can't understand that? We all have out favourite characters from books, don't we? And I can tell you, I get so irate when they do something that's just, well, unexpected. One of my dirty little secrets is a weakness for those Tom Clancy books, you know the ones where Jack Ryan runs about doing rightwing stuff to foil a drug runner or a dark skinned middle eastern type with designs on world domination. And how annoyed do I get when ol' Jack says something out of character, like endorsing free healthcare for example? So annoyed. Or if Harry Potter shouts "Engorgio!" when he should be using "Expelliarmus!", so so very annoying. 

You can see, then, why the Fundamentalist Nutjobs would get worked up over some cartoons of their own favourite non-existent, fictitious character from an age old work of fiction. So excuse me, would you, I'm off to shoot Colin Dexter for killing off Inspector Morse.  

Before I do, though, RIP Cabu, Charb, Wolinski, Tignous, Maris and the others killed this morning. Have this -

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Sense and Senselessness, or The Day I Realised That Everyone at Vodafone is a Git

With apologies to the Pythons, a conversation between me and a helpful soul at Vodafone in Woking last weekend:

Good morning. 

"Good morning, sir, welcome to Vodafone!"

Ah, thank you my good man.

"What can I do for you sir?"

Well, I was sitting at home just now browsing through this 'ere iPhone and I suddenly came over all irked.




Ere, ah'wor fucked off, like.

"Ah, fucked off!"

In a nutshell. And I thought to myself, 'a little finger waggling bleat will do the trick' and I curtailed my browsing activities, sallied forth, and penetrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the satisfactory resolution of my irritation.

"Come again?"

I wish to make a complaint.

"We're closing for lunch."

Never mind that, my lad, I wish to complain about this 'ere iPhone wot I bought a few months ago from this very boutique.

"Ah yes, the iPhone 5C. What's, er.. What's wrong with it?"

I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. It has 8gb of storage, that's what's wrong with it.

"No no, it's,'s, er...."

Don't you dare try to tell me it's just resting.

"Wouldn't dream of it. Why is only having 8gb of storage a problem?"

Why is it a problem? I'll tell you why it's a problem. When I bought it you told me it was 'the same' as the phone I upgraded from. 'It's just newer,' you said. 

"Well, it is."

Is what?


Yes. That's lovely, but it has half the capacity of my old phone, so it's hardly the same, is it?

"It is."

It is what?

"The same."

Explain the logic underlying that statement please.

"Well, it's shiny and has buttons and everything."

Yes. Can I store as much stuff on it as I could on the other phone?

"Depends on what you're intending to store."

Tell me.

"Yes, sir?"

Do you in fact believe the statement you just made?

"Yes sir."


"No, not really, sir."

You don't?

"No, not a scrap of it. I was deliberately lying to you, sir."

So what do you intend to do about it, then?


Yes, do. Something. About it. 

"Ah, we can't do anything about it, sir."

And why not?

"Well, it's our policy only to offer exchanges or refunds within 14 days. And it's been longer than that, hasn't it, sir?"

I see. So let me recap. When you sold me this phone you told me a lie.


You told me it was the same as my old phone, but in fact it has half the capacity.


But despite having told me a lie and admitting that you told me a lie you don't intend to do anything about it because I didn't come back here within 14 days?


And the fact that I'm well within the limitation period to make a claim for misrepresentation doesn't alter your thinking in any way?


Well I'm sorry but I'm going to have to shoot you.

"Right-oh, sir."

What a senseless waste of human life.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Beer, dumplings and concentration camps

The continuing miseducation of La Child continues.

You might think that, having ignored this blog for a good 7 months, we'd be fairly far advanced with our give-it-all-up and go-live-in-a-cave-somewhere scheme but, alas, no. Our grand plans, involving giving two fingers to the day job and moving out to the sticks, haven't yet quite come to fruition; too much to do, too little time, chronic excess procrastination. But the fact that La Child is no longer hampered by school timetables does mean that we can occasionally take her off somewhere without it costing the earth or it resulting in a nasty letter and a fine from an irate headmaster. 

So, here I sit, on the balcony of a rather nice Spa hotel somewhere in the middle of Bohemia in the Czech Republic, sipping tea like a good little Englishman should and enjoying the view over a lake bounded by sloping pine tree covered hills. It's my mother in law's 85th birthday, and as a birthday treat we've brought her back to her homeland. 

My mother in law (or Emily as we shall henceforth call her, because 'mother in law' is too many letters) was born here in the Sudetenland in 1929 and (you may not be surprised to learn this) had to leave in a bit of a hurry back in 1938. Her father was the head a trade union and a member of the social democrat party, which in the late 1930s put him on a collision course with that other lot over the border in Germany. When the Czech government decided that discretion was the better form of valour and went off into exile in England, so did Emily's father, taking Emily, her mother and her brother with him.

Apart from a few weeks in 1946 and a week in 1991, Emily hasn't been back.

All this is really just to emphasise that there's a bit of history here, and La Child has been immersed in it for the past week. In between drinking insufficient quantities of dunkel and eating goulash we've visited Emily's old home (which she left aged 8 in a very big hurry one day back in 1938 without taking anything with her and without realising that she'd never be back), we've had a tour of the town hall (which her father had built and in which he worked), we've met the current incumbent of her father's old office (in her father's old office), we've been given a tour of the town by the director of the local museum, we've learned about the concentration camp that was based here, we've visited the town where La Child's great grandparents were born. Yesterday we drove over the border to Germany to visit relatives that La Child never even knew she had. 

Some of this has been met with, well, a certain studied indifference, but beneath the gruff 'see this face? bovvered?' exterior lies a sponge still and it's all going in somewhere. In calmer moments when she thinks we're not looking she'll quiz her grandma about her family, or in passing will wonder how it is people could be so nasty to each other during the war. When talking to her friends we'll hear her describing her day, telling them all about what she's seen and read and heard. No lessons, no workbooks or formality, she just pretends not to pay any attention and learns.

I have to confess that I occasionally have had misgivings about this whole home ed lark. We started off terribly formally but, like everyone who does this, have mellowed with experience and now do very little formal at all. The timetable has gone out of the window, the workbooks sit forlornly, forgotten in a corner. She plays tennis, she climbs climbing walls, she cartwheels and rounds off in gymnastics, but times tables and spelling tests are a thing of the past. There have been times when I've been almost catatonic with concern about that, so conditioned have I been to believe that the only way to know is to be told. But of course it's not the only way. La Child speaks well, can conjugate verbs, can easily work out what change she's due back when she buys something, has a good grasp of history, is comfortable in groups, whatever the age. She knows how GPS works, she understands about triangulation, grasps the basics of flight and can swim like a fish. 

Point is, the longer we go on the more comfortable I become that we're doing the right thing. As I sit here on this balcony La Child lies, her chin resting on her palms, just inside the open door talking to a friend on her iPad. She's told him about the trip to Germany yesterday, she's given him a grand tour of the hotel, and she's now telling him all about her grandfather, the leader of a trade union in the 1930s and member of the Czech government in exile during the war. I smile, sip my tea, and enjoy the view over the lake bounded by sloping pine tree covered hills.