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Leaving

17 February, 2016 at 11:05 pm by belgianwaffle

I had my leaving drinks at work last Friday. I was scarred by a leaving drinks I once had in Brussels where nobody came for the first hour and I hung around with a couple of colleagues until some more arrived and took the bare look off the thing. When there was a reasonable crowd, my Finnish boss came up to me and said, “Yes, I can leave now as there are finally some other people here.” I love the Finns but their frankness can be alarming.

My colleagues assured me that there would be a good crowd and I need not fear. They were right. I left event management in the hands of a colleague who is also a member of the social club and due to an unfortunate misunderstanding which was no one’s fault etc., I ended up having my leaving drinks in a sports bar. It was loud. As someone said to me, sarcastically “When I think of you, I think dozens of large screens, cricket and rap music; it’s perfect.” Another observed that it was the first time in many years that most of us had been to a venue where they were carding people coming in. But, you know what, it was absolutely fine, if a bit loud – some of the speeches may not have been heard. But that’s not necessarily all bad. People came, and they stayed and they presented me with cards and a fountain pen and a bank draft even though I explained that I was not retiring. After a while the music in the sports bar started getting louder and the strobe lights started up and the middle aged group in the corner began to look a tiny bit out of place. So we went on to the pub and I wasn’t even the last to leave.

Friday wasn’t actually my last day. I came in for three days this week as well and only finally finished today. There’s nothing like running into people in the lift on Monday when they have said an effusive goodbye to you on Friday night. It was a busy couple of days and today, in particular, was frantic but I have done my best and now that in-tray is someone else’s problem. The personal contents of my office, however, which I finally managed to decant to my car at 8.30 this evening are my problem. I am slightly appalled that I seem to have been carrying around so much paper for years including several large, heavy dictionaries.

I am sad to leave but, it was probably time for a change. I did feel sadder and sadder over the course of this afternoon as people came up to my office to say goodbye.

I have had a wonderful boss who has been very, very good to me and hugely supportive; I will particularly miss working with her and she is really sad to see me go, as well, I think. But since she told me to go for the new job; rejigged my CV for it and practice interviewed me for it, it isn’t really a massive surprise to her that I got it (she is like a juggernaut and rarely baulked; though I had my doubts I would get the job, she never did). I have a lot of friends in the organisation I’m leaving and I hope I will manage to stay in touch with some of them at least, I suppose that is the best you can hope for. Last time, I left a job, I changed country as well, this is definitely easier.

On Monday, I start the new job where, doubtless, even now, someone is happily reflecting that his or her overflowing in-tray will shortly be the new woman’s problem.

In the interim, I am feeling popular:

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One of these bunches of flowers is, admittedly, from Mr. Waffle for Valentine’s day but still, it’s a pretty good haul.

Upadated to add that despite thinking my office was minimalist and nearly empty, it was not. Alas.

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Snow in the Mountains

16 February, 2016 at 11:37 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle and I went to Glendalough on our own last week. It hasn’t been very cold this year and I was thrilled to find that when we went up into Wicklow, there was snow in the mountains.

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And when we got up above the lakes in Glendalough, there was snow.

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Down at ground level, there was no snow but the monastic village looked beautiful under clear blue skies.

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I cannot believe our luck because there has hardly been a day this winter when it has not lashed rain. Clearly, we have used up our good luck quotient for 2016/the year of the monkey in one fell swoop.

Birthdays

15 February, 2016 at 11:15 pm by belgianwaffle

My mother’s birthday was on February 1. I went down to Cork the weekend before for a birthday lunch which passed off peacefully and which I hope she enjoyed.

Preparations were rendered somewhat stressful by my brother’s decision to re-organise the bottom of the [very large Victorian] bookcase where a lifetime’s supply of ware had nestled peacefully for decades. All that he had deemed worthy of salvation had been returned in ordered piles to the bottom of the bookcase but the dining room table was piled high with items about which he had his doubts. My parents, I discovered, are the owners of the largest collection of toast racks alive in captivity. I may well be responsible for their above average holding of Kwak glasses.

In advance of lunch I found homes for many of the items – intended as temporary but likely to become permanent, I fear – the trolley and the sideboard are now more heavily laden than previously. On the plus side, the dining room table was clear. With the blessing of everyone in Cork, I liberated a toast rack and a jam pot which made it safely back to Dublin. “Ah,” said Mr. Waffle, “the 50s are back.”

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I have discovered that if you want your toast to stay warm, a toast rack is utterly useless. However, if your daughter has cold toast for her daily sandwich (don’t ask me), it is ideal for ensuring that the toast cools speedily so that you can minimise the danger of condensation in the sandwich bag. Don’t mock the afflicted.

The other birthday is my brother’s which was on February 5 and for which, as yet, he has got no present from his loving, elder sister. I’m sure it will be even better for the wait. I wonder would he like a packet of stroopwafels.

Close the File, People, Your Work Here is Done

15 February, 2016 at 12:34 am by belgianwaffle

I took the Princess to London last year for her birthday in April. The flight we were due to take was cancelled and we had to get a later one. At the time, I thought it was the air traffic controllers’ strike in Paris, certainly, no alternative explanation was offered.

So, I complained to British Airways that I couldn’t understand why a strike in Paris should affect flights between Dublin and London. And they wrote back to me and said the EU regulations did not entitle me to compensation but little else.

I was peeved. I wrote to the Irish Commission for Aviation Regulation. Bonus information, they confirmed you can get compensation under EU regulations if you are flying on frequent flyer miles. They took a long time to fully address my concerns but last week I received this outstanding letter. Alas, I am not entitled to compensation. It turns out there was fog in London. It was a pity BA hadn’t mentioned this at any time previously as they then would not have had to deal with my complaint. But it’s almost worth it, for this very full explanation of what happened.

Enforcement of Air Passenger Rights under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 establishing Common Rules on Compensation and Assistance to Passengers in the event of Denied Boarding, Cancellation, or Long Delay of Flights

Re: Cancellation to British Airways flight

I refer to the above matter which has been ongoing for some time now. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in updating you in relation to this matter. Our investigations into your complaint took much longer than usual. You will be pleased to note however that we are now in a position to conclude on this matter.

Your complaint relates to the cancellation of British Airways flight BA829 from Dublin to London Heathrow on the 9th April 2015. As you are no doubt aware, Article 5(3) of Regulation 261 states that an “…operating air carrier shall not be obliged to pay compensation in accordance with Article 7, if it can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”.

In response to our investigation British Airways contended that the exemption contained in Article 5(3) applied to the cancellation of flight BA829 on the 9th April 2015. They forwarded detailed correspondence for our attention in support of this contention. British Airways advise us that Flight BA829 was cancelled on the 9th April 2015 as a result of fog at London Heathrow airport which resulted in Air Traffic Control at the airport placing restrictions on the numbers of departing and arriving aircraft throughout the day in question. The air carrier explain that this resulted in the number of aircraft movements at the airport falling as low as 36-40 per hour during the day instead of the usual 45-47 per hour. British Airways state that delays quickly developed and knock-on delays built up as the morning progressed.

As a result of the restrictions, the air carrier advised that they were forced to reassess their operations at London Heathrow for the remainder of the day. Failure to do so would lead to further disruption as cabin crew run out of legal operating hours, and aircraft are unable to reach their planned destinations before the night closure of London Heathrow airport.

The airline further explained the practical effect of these ATC restrictions is that majority of the reduced landing capacity at Heathrow is taken up by arriving longhaul aircraft – most, if not all shorthaul aircraft is held on the ground while awaiting their ATC allocated take-off slot. These delays can typically be between one and two hours per flight. In your case the aircraft scheduled to operate your flight was due to operate a number of flights into and out of Heathrow prior to BA829. The airline identified your flight as one of 10 pairs of short haul flights which would have suffered knock on delays and been restricted to the extent that they would not have had time to operate before the airport closed.

Therefore the decision was made to cancel these 10 pairs of flights as operations knew that all flights could not then depart as there would not be sufficient slots at London Heathrow airport.

During our most recent ‘case meeting’ the very detailed documentation supplied by the air carrier was examined by the Air Passenger Rights (APR) Team at the CAR and your case was discussed in detail in the context of the Regulation and any relevant case law.

Following that discussion, the APR team concluded that the air carrier had demonstrated the existence of adverse weather conditions at London Heathrow airport on the day in question and has also demonstrated that restrictions were imposed by ATC on both inbound and outbound flights for the remainder of the day as capacity was limited. In this regard, we recognise that recital 15 of the preamble to Regulation EC261 specifically cites instances where the impact of an air traffic management decision gives rise to a long delay at either the airport of arrival or departure as constituting ‘extraordinary circumstances’ for the purposes of article 5.3.

In relation to the reasonable measures taken to avoid the cancellation, British Airways inform us that during times of partial disruption (i.e. restricted ATC flow rates all day but not severe disruption) when there are insufficient slots available at London Heathrow to operate the planned schedule in full, their operations department engage with various other departments within the airline to work out which flights need to be cancelled in order to create some slack in the aircraft and crew schedules to absorb rolling rotational delays, have the minimal impact on customers by choosing flights where passengers can be re-accommodated on other flights most easily and mitigate the risk of last minute cancellations, particularly where this might be caused by a late arrival at night infringing the night jet ban.

In this case British Airways explain that using these criteria BA830 from London Heathrow to Dublin and the return BA829 were selected amongst 10 pairs of flights chosen over other flights to be cancelled. The airline noted that a significant delay to this flight (as was expected) would likely have resulted in a last minute cancellation if the aircraft could not leave or return to London Heathrow before the night jet ban started, hence this flight met the criteria set out above in comparison to other flights.

Having reviewed the substantial amount of supporting information provided by the air carrier in this case and considered the complex circumstances of this disruption; this office is satisfied that British Airways approached the cancellation in a fair and reasonable manner. In summary we accept that the fog both at the airport and at altitude on the approach to the airport caused knock on aircraft flow restrictions which in turn created a capacity problem which resulted in the air carrier having to make a necessary operational decision to cancel your flight (together with 10 others) as there would not be sufficient slots available at the airport to operate the flights had they remained scheduled. Therefore, this office accepts that British Airways has satisfied both of the criteria contained in Article 5(3) of the Regulation and is exempted from paying compensation to passengers affected by the cancellation of flight BA829 on the 9th April 2015.

As regards your other entitlements under the legislation, I note that you were re-routed on the next alternative flight in accordance with the Regulation. It is our understanding that you were provided with assistance during the disruption. Please be advised however that in the event that this assistance was inadequate you are entitled to recover any expenses you may have incurred in arranging your own meals, refreshments, telephone calls, accommodation and transfers under Regulation 261. Therefore if you incurred any expenses for these particular items please revert to us enclosing copies of your related receipts and we will engage with British Airways on your behalf.

Given that all matters which fall within our remit of enforcement have now been addressed, it is my intention to close my file on this matter. Once again please accept my apologies for the delay in providing these conclusions to you. I trust that the above concludes matters to your satisfaction.

Yours sincerely,

So, now we know.

The Great Filing Catastrophe of 2016 and Other News

14 February, 2016 at 11:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle and I are tidy. I am the queen of filing and he is the king. People gasp in amazement when they see my tidy office. All of our domestic administration is carefully filed away and (somewhat) regularly sorted through to throw out papers that we no longer need to keep (although, to my knowledge, Mr. Waffle’s bank statements from when we lived in Belgium are still filed in the attic, a fact of which I deeply disapprove – you may recall that we last lived in Belgium in 2008). All this to say that, you know, we are not the kind of people who can’t find guarantees or passports or papers when we need to. You know how this is going to end, I assume. Stay with me anyhow, why don’t you?

Herself is going to Rome horribly early tomorrow morning for a mid-term school trip. She has been counting the days since September when she first heard about it. The programme is daunting. They are going for five days and will visit Rome (Vatican museums, the Forum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and anything else they feel up to – one of the teachers seriously suggested to me that they might go bowling one evening, insert your own sardonic comment here), Pompeii, Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi coast.

She spent the weekend packing. After dinner this evening I went to get her passport out of the drawer and it was there. Of course it was there. I went to get her European health card from the shoebox where we keep these things. Daniel’s was there. Michael’s was there. I emptied out all of the non-EU currency, the Belgian bus tickets, the Paris metro tickets and the foreign stamps which also live in the shoebox but there was no sign of the Princess’s health insurance card. We searched in all the likely places: the desk drawers, the health insurance folder, the folder for herself, all the other folders just in case. It was unfindable. She had had to bring it into school twice so that they could verify that she had it. In light of this I felt that the authorities were likely to check in the cold, pre-dawn Dublin airport whether she had brought it with her. We kept searching. It turned up sticking out of the Lonely Planet guide to Paris on the book shelf. I am not the better of it.

It was also Valentine’s day and my husband got me lovely flowers and a card. I got him some stroopwafels and only because yesterday morning, herself said to me, “I hope you know that Daddy is getting you something for Valentine’s Day.” He took the boys to a reading in the National Library while I scuttled around hoping to find something he might like. I am not sure that he was absolutely thrilled with the packet of biscuits, now. Sometimes I feel that Mr. Waffle gets a poor deal. Guess who is getting up at 4 in the morning to drive our precious first-born to the airport? Not me, I fear.

Have a photo of the boys checking out the National Library reading room:
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Earlier today we climbed Bray Head. This was inspired by Michael who needed to do it for some scouting badge. He was pleased to be going. The others, possibly less so. However, we met the cousins and they were all happy to see each other and ran up cheerfully despite the biting wind. A further aim of the trip was to ensure that herself and Mr. Waffle were tired enough to go to sleep early. Any benefits in this regard were entirely offset by the health insurance card trauma.

Still, nice views from the top:
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Rug – Further Developments

10 February, 2016 at 8:56 pm by belgianwaffle

So, I went to Cork at the end of January and collected the rug. It was packed into an impressively small parcel:

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I was able to transport it to Dublin by train with the aid of my sister’s suitcase:

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I have to say that it looks pretty impressive now that it is installed:

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The children and the cat absolutely and unreservedly love it and spend a lot of time digging their toes/claws into it.

I love it too. However, it brings to crisis point our need for new curtains, sofa and armchairs. When we moved into the house in 2013, we kept the faded pink regency stripe curtains and the orange chintz furniture as a stop gap measure. Already the existing colour combination was exciting but the addition of the rug has tipped us over the edge. You may not have fully appreciated this from the last photo. Have a look at this photo which still doesn’t do justice to the real thing:

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It’s even more thrilling when the curtains are closed. I think the sofa will have to be first to go – at least the curtains aren’t uncomfortable.

More home decorating news as we get it.

Green Shoots, Baby, We’re Back etc.

9 February, 2016 at 8:38 pm by belgianwaffle

Recently, Mr. Waffle and I went for dinner in our local gastro pub [insert obligatory ‘it’s far from gastro pubs we were reared’ comment here]. The main course was €29.90 and I thought to myself, that is quite pricy, is it not?

A couple of weeks ago at work, I felt a little sorry for myself and decided to go to somewhere nice for lunch – not super nice Michelin starred, white tablecloth now but nice and newly opened. I arrived at 12.45 on a rainy Wednesday in January looking for a table for one only to be told that they were fully booked, sorry.

Where will it all end?

Culture

8 February, 2016 at 8:36 pm by belgianwaffle

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Waffle and I took the children to see “Trauma” in the science gallery. It was, well, traumatic. Not unexpected you might argue. After the strain of the exhibition, I felt we ought to do something further of a cultural nature. It would be hard to overstate Michael’s bitterness on hearing this news.

Since we were in Trinity anyway and, one of the major advantages of a degree from Trinity is that it gets you in free to the Book of Kells, I suggested that we might go there and get some use out of Mr. Waffle’s degree. We passed the playing pitches on the way and I found myself, somewhat to my surprise, standing beside a man yelling “Come on Trinity” at a rugby game. How little we know our spouses. Happily Michael’s weary insistence that we might as well get it over with propelled us onwards.

The library is lovely, actually. I note that we went there this time last year so it seems to occur to me as a good outing in January. As ever, I sold it to the boys as being the model for the Jedi library which may be true. They were cynical and bitter, “You say that every time.”

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We didn’t stay long and it is genuinely interesting. Afterwards, as we emerged into the drizzle, having contemplated one of Ireland’s great treasures Michael said grudgingly, “I suppose it wasn’t too bad.” I think I will take that as a win.

Sunday Reflections

7 February, 2016 at 4:24 pm by belgianwaffle

Our church serves a diverse community. In the children’s choir, although all of the children are local, there are a number whose parents are from India, the Philippines, Romania (I think) and even Cork. Last weekend the children from the local school brought up the gifts. The priest called on Caspar and Anastasia to come up to the altar. What delightful names and not typical Dublin ones.

It’s all much more exciting than when I was a child and there was never anyone at mass who wasn’t from Cork, except for the odd priest from Kerry.

In one respect, however, matters are not improving. The choir mistress is both talented and dedicated but her musical tastes do not chime with mine and I wish that the choir would do some more classical church numbers. I expressed this to the Princess and she said, “Mum, these are new songs for the next generation; all ten of us.” Oh very funny.

My children continue to star in readings and prayers of the faithful and I am regularly congratulated on their prowess by elderly members of the congregation, leading to a definite instance of the sin of pride on my part, so it’s all going to hell in a handcart etc. Amusingly, last weekend herself had to read “When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me.” No better child to make it work for her.

Customer Service

1 February, 2016 at 10:18 pm by belgianwaffle

On our way back up from Cork to Dublin after Christmas, we stopped off for lunch in a well-known stopping place. The staff were busy but they were also exceptionally rude and unhelpful.

I went to an independent bookshop to spend my money. This is a popular one with the press but I have always found the staff rude and unhelpful. Nevertheless, I went in because I don’t want all our bookshops to be the same and I want them to keep going. The assistant was speaking loudly to someone which was surprisingly unpleasant as the shop was otherwise quiet. After a few moments she said to me, “You have to leave now, we’re closing.” Not an “I’m afraid” an “I’m sorry” or a tone of voice that conveyed anything other than “leave, you are in my space”.

How pleasant it was then to go to Kilkenny Design for a cup of tea with the children and find that not everyone is vile in January. Michael ran into a waiter and an entire tray of crockery went up in the air causing a crash and, inevitably, pottery shards spread over a wide radius in what is a crowded enough cafe space. The staff could not have been more pleasant and understanding and their main concern genuinely seemed to be that Michael was unhurt (he was only psychologically scarred by the scorn of his sister who was embarrassed as only a nearly teenager can be).

I’m not quite sure what the conclusion of this post is other than that I am clearly getting crankier as I age and, you know, it costs nothing to be polite.


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