Saturday, November 04, 2006

The British Disease?

Having been here for longer than expected, I am a bit thin on reading matter. Unfortunately the British Council is only open during working hours, and on Saturdays from 12 till 17. So, after my baths trip today (today's 'peeling' really did take a piece of skin off my elbow), I ambled along the main roads, dropping in here to get some videos, there to get some theatre/opera tickets, and finally arrived at the BC, in the Rustaveli Avenue.

I was astounded to see at the library entrance a sign saying it is open from 12 - 14hrs. It was 14.00 hrs and there were still people in the BC. I'm afraid I gatecrashed, and the very nice girl accepted my registration and everything. Apparently the library closes every Saturday at 14.00, and indeed the sign had been manufactured; it was not just a word processed document. So like the embassy (see entry of 31 October or thereabouts) they say one thing on the website and the reality is quite different.

I wonder what kind of example BC, and the embassy, set to our Georgian hosts? If we had had that sort of customer services in the late lamented Benefits Agency, the customers would have climbed in through the windows, sued us for untold harm to their personal lives and so on. Do these organisations think that the 'locals' (ie 'natives') should be so grateful for their presence that they will put up with anything in order to breathe the air of British?

Incidentally, I discovered that BC is registered in the UK as a charity. No doubt that was part of the 'reducing the civil service' strategy of the late 80s under Mrs Thatcher. I am trying to work out how an organisation with a monopoly of representing the UK government (and often providing the cultural attache in the host country) can be a charity, with all the tax benefits this entails. Hardly an independent charity. I am sure it is still well subsidised by the UK taxpayer, and not just through the tax benefits.