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Weekend Round-Up

January 22nd, 2015

On Saturday we went to an old friend’s house for lunch. We’ve lost touch a bit over the years for no reason really just continuing our busy lives. It was delightful but, regrettably, we can never have them back as their house is undoubtedly the tidiest and one of the most beautiful we have visited. I particularly admired the floors which were varnished and had no gaps between the planks. They made the builders re-lay them as “you could see the foil backing of the insulation underneath in the gaps!” As I sit here looking at the foil backing in the insulation visible in the gaps between my floorboards, I can’t help wishing that Mr. Waffle and I were more forceful people. I am often reminded of Mr. Bennett’s assessment of Jane and Bingley when I think of us:

“Your tempers are by no means unlike. You are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed you income.”

I am not sure about the generosity but I can vouch for exceeding our income.

After visiting our friends, we called around to the grandparents. Of late, Michael has become obsessed with getting home before dark. It is hard to be home before dark all the time in January. Michael spent his time looking reproachfully out the window which made for a not entirely restful visit.

Sunday saw the Princess up to do the first reading at mass. This was a huge relief as the second reading which she normally gets was 1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20. One of the unfortunate teenagers had to work her way, very gamely, through that one.

On Sunday afternoon we prodded the children out. They were not happy. We went into town to get Herself runners and wandered around Trinity a bit aimlessly. We went into the Book of Kells and the Long Room library – interest levels from boys despite being told that it was the model for the Jedi archives (or was it): zero.

It’s nice though:

Untitled

And it was all pretty empty on a late Sunday afternoon in January. Of course, we weren’t home before dark. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth in outer darkness.

Glamour, Excitement, Bins*

January 15th, 2015

Bin services in Dublin have been privatised and are no longer provided by the city council.

This has led to much woe, not least of it related to the truly phenomenal amount of dumping of domestic refuse in lanes around the city. Apparently the private contractors are not as willing to continue providing for rubbish collection when the punters do not pay. I happen to know that the city council will provide this service free of charge for 5 years as that is the length of time they continued to collect bins from our tenants while we lived in Brussels – happily collecting the bins while the tenants happily ignored the bills and reminders. When we terminated the lease, said farewell to the tenants and moved back to our house, the city council presented us with a steep bill for rubbish collection for the previous five years and refused to collect our bin until we paid it. Appeals to the (departed) tenants were unavailing and we ended up having to fork out a fortune.

While this did not leave me with any particular affection for the council regime, the move to private providers has been appalling for us. Greyhound, the only bin company which serviced our last house regularly forgot to collect the bins at all. Mr. Waffle had to ring them most weeks. They only began collecting your bins when you had made payments in advance. But they didn’t tell you that. It was shambolic. When we moved house we had the option of another company and we transferred with delight to Oxigen (I don’t know why they spell it that way but please don’t think I can’t spell oxygen) and all has been sweetness and light until today when they did not collect the bin. Mr. Waffle called them. “Oh sorry, you should have got a letter, we are no longer collecting from your area, we have transferred your account and your credit to City Bin.” Call to City Bin follows. They don’t do our area. Oxigen agree to mediate with City Bin to persuade them to cover us. Oxigen will do one last pick up for us. In fact, it looks like there is only one provider who will service our area. Oh excellent, we’re back with Greyhound.

The free market is not doing it for me. Total disclosure requires that I reveal that privatisation of city bin services in Cork has created no problems whatsoever. Cork is perfect, though.

*Only two of these words are relevant to the content of the post. Honestly, could this be more exciting?

From the Chalkface

January 14th, 2015

They are learning about Jupiter in the Princess’s class. Observations from the floor as reported by Herself:

Girl from the seat behind her: Oooh Jupiter, you think you’re fancy with your 63 moons.

Teacher: Jupiter is 1,300 times the volume of earth. If you put Jupiter in an enormous bath it would displace 1,300 times the amount of water that the Earth would.
Smart (yet annoying) child: Actually that’s not true as a lot of Jupiter’s volume is made up of gas.

Incidentally, though reported to me in English I assume that this is all done as Gaeilge (at least the teacher’s interventions).

Who would be a teacher?

Weekend Round Up or Next, Conversion of Russia

January 11th, 2015

We had a busy weekend. My brother stayed with us Friday and Saturday night. On Saturday morning we went to the Young Scientist exhibition. Within less than two minutes of arriving I had lost Michael and had to make a lost child announcement. It wasn’t bad: the exhibits were interesting; the exhibitors were enthusiastic (we found a neighbour’s child exhibiting, very exciting) and there were quite good shows but the troops started to get hungry and we bailed at lunchtime.

We dropped the Princess in town with her friend and then she went off to her friend’s house and didn’t reappear again until she was dropped off at 8 in the evening – there is definitely something to be said for the mobile phone as regular updates kept us abreast of these developments.

Meanwhile the boys had a friend round in the afternoon who was to stay the night. We said to the child’s parents, “We are going to 11.30 am mass and happy to take him with us or for you to collect him beforehand.” His family are committed atheists, but clearly not committed enough as his mother replied immediately that he could go to mass no problem and they would collect him later in the afternoon.

So this morning I found myself hounding out of bed to go to mass: my two sons, their friend the atheist, my daughter and my brother (who had only returned at 4 in the morning from his night of dissipation). As I shepherded my unwilling flock in the direction of the church, Mr. Waffle commented, “You have become the Irish mammy”.

Mass itself was fine, even my intro which is usually fraught with difficultly. The Princess impressed her uncle with her reading skills. The atheist friend and the boys were positively saintly. After communion, I whispered to Michael to tell his friend it was nearly over as he was unlikely to know how long it would run and I felt he might welcome an update. “Neither do I know how long it will run,” said Michael mournfully.

Mass featured renewing of our baptismal vows and a sprinkling of holy water which is not standard issue. I am pretty sure that there is a device for sprinkling holy water but our priest today chose to use a bunch of (reasonably fresh) flowers for his water sprinkling which I think is unusual. I suppose it was all odd to our atheist friend.

Afterwards I asked him what he thought of it all. “Well,” he said, “it was very boring for me because I am an atheist.” I see.

How was your own weekend?

To Improve Our Service to You

January 10th, 2015

One night I went to book a train ticket online. I went to the iarnrod eireann website. I typed in my email address, my iarnrod eireann password and my full name, I booked my seat, I inserted my card expiry date, number and CVV number. Then I came to verified by visa which I hate with the passion of a thousand suns. Our internet security (Kaspersky) would not let me insert the relevant details in secure mode or otherwise. The train people promised terrible consequences if I gave up or left the page. At one in the morning, I gave up and left the page. Added bonus the link page you are to go to, if you are having trouble is a 404.

The next day, Mr. Waffle told me how to disable Kaspersky. I went online. I disabled the internet security. On the iarnrod eireann site I typed in my email address, my iarnrod eireann password and my full name, I booked my seat, I inserted my card expiry date, number and CVV number. Then I came to verified by visa and inserted my password. Twice. Wrong password even though I had it written down in front of me (internet security experts everywhere gasp in horror). I reset my password. It asked for the first four numbers of my bank account, the street or district where I lived when I was 10 (somewhat vague that no? Comes with the ominous advice that you had better remember your answer as it may be used as a security question in the future). I have done something wrong. I am locked out.

Ring verified by visa helpline and trouble a poor English woman who I am sure would rather be doing other things at 9.30 in the evening. Wouldn’t we all? I give my name, my bank account number and part of my online banking pin. She resets my card and tells me to continue my purchase. I go back to Iarnrod Eireann, I type in my email address, my iarnrod eireann password, my full name, I book my seat, I insert my card expiry date, number and CVV number. Then I came to verified by visa and reset my password and, finally, it worked.

It’s all about the positive customer experience, isn’t it?

More Dispatches from the Cultural Differences Frontier

January 9th, 2015

My sister’s friend who married the Swede was back in Cork for Christmas.

She decided to take her husband’s name. She is wrestling with Swedish bureaucracy and they have referred her request to head office.

While she was in Cork, she decided to check with at the local Garda station to see what the procedure was in Ireland. Dialogue as follows:

Her: So I want to make my name double-barrelled and add my husband’s name.
Guard (puzzled): OK.
Her: So what do I need to do?
Guard (long pause): Start using it, like.

This reminds me of when I left Belgium and went to hand my id card back to the commune.

Man in commune: Where are you moving to? I will post your documents.
Me: There’s no need, I’m moving to Ireland.
Him: But tell me your commune and I will post it for you.
Me: We don’t have communes.
Him: But where do you get your id card?
Me: We don’t have id cards.
Him: But how do the authorities know where you live?
Me: They don’t.

Collapse of stout party etc.

Everyone’s a Critic

January 8th, 2015

Herself: The 1990s was a golden age for cinema.
Me: Eh?
Her: I give you “The Parent Trap” and “The Baby-Sitters Club”. Need I say more?


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