The New Camera - Decision Time

If you have been paying attention and/or memorising this blog, you will recall my desire to squander a large amount of money on a Digital SLR camera. In order to save myself 7% on the list price in VAT alone, I instructed He Who Knows Everything to buy it for me while he was in Cardiff.
The only problem with such a move is that, obviously, I am picking a camera based entirely on interweb research and the opinions of people I don’t know (but who seem divided between the Sony and Cannon EOS 450D). I would have been happy to do this. At the end of the day, I reasoned, when the button is pressed, a picture gets taken. I managed to take fantabulous photographs with my old Pentax K1000; I will take fantabulous photographs with this.

Part of me, though, was still cautious, so I decided to head into Wexford town, go to the Sony Centre and have a go at pressing all of the buttons on the machine which would soon be mine. I would also, I decided, go up to Sam McCauley (which is a Chemist, or Pharmacy depending on which term you understand) and play with their Cannon.

The Sony Centre is not the best place in the world to go if you require information about a Sony product. While they are all lovely chaps and most industrious about asking if I would like any help, none of them work at the Sony Centre because they have a life-long love affair with the brand and are desperate to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with the public. They work in the Sony Centre because it has pleasant d├ęcor and a staff discount.

I held the camera. I looked at the flippy out screen. I pressed the button. I induced a moment of panic when I asked if he had a 70 – 300mm lens he could put on it for me (he didn’t, but he did have a 55 – 200mm). I admired the superior AV live view.
Then I asked how to adjust the depth of field.
He swallowed.
“What exactly would you mean by “Depth of Field”?” he asked.
“The relationship between the objects in the front of the frame and the back of the frame.” I explained.
He didn’t say anything.
“On the old cameras you adjusted the fstops.”
He still didn’t say anything.
“There was a clicky bit here.” I said, and pointed to the lens.
His mate jumped in. “To be honest, you probably know more about it than we do. We mainly get trained about the TVs. My ex-girlfriend was into photography and used to talk about stuff like that and I had no idea what she was talking about. If you go on the Sony website, you can download a PDF of the instruction manual. That will answer all of your questions.”
So they didn’t feel as though it had been a total waste of time, I asked them to write down the prices for me, which they did on a shiny brochure. The shiny brochure told me everything about the camera. It demonstrated how happy you could be if you had one of these cameras and used it to take photographs of an ethnically mixed group of children in football uniforms. It doesn’t show the following minutes in which the Rozzers arrive to arrest you and Daily Mail readers form an angry mob outside your home, but I’m sure it would have if space allowed.

In the interests of fairness, I went up to play with the Cannon and was immediately shocked at how much lighter it was. Obviously, I am strong from years of hefting plasterboard above my head so such a thing matters not to me, but even so… makes you wonder what on earth Sony have put in theirs.
The Cannon was very nice. It didn’t have a live view and it didn’t scan your retina so it knew what you were looking at, like the Sony. It costs more money and the lenses are more expensive because they have the anti-shake built into them rather than into the body, but they make much less noise when they are focusing and, being Cannon, there is a huge range of lenses and accessories available both new and second hand.
I asked the lady which one she thought was better, the Cannon or the Sony, and she said the Cannon. When I asked her why, she said it was because Cannon made all their cameras in-house as oppose to Sony who subcontract it to other companies and only make things like the chips themselves (which probably explains why the live view on the Sony is so good). I must confess, that doesn’t sound to me like a reason to buy a Cannon, that sounds to me like Sony are being sensible about things.

Interestingly, while in Cardiff, HWKE has been to two camera shops, Jacobs (a smallish chain) and the Cardiff Camera Centre. In Jacobs, the salesman recommended the Cannon as superior whereas in the Cardiff Camera Centre, the Sony held the favoured position.

So, HWKE went to the Camera Centre Cardiff and got me the Sony. He got me a Sigma 70 – 300mm lens, two UV filters and a Polarising one, a Memory Card, a natty bag to put it all in and a tripod. I had no desire for a tripod but he thinks that if you have a camera, you should have a tripod. He also pointed out that he gets very shaky hands due to his arthritis so he would need one. He will be arriving, with my camera, tonight. Hurrah!
When I sent him an email with my instructions telling him what to buy, I told him that I didn’t want one of the cameras that arrived with a lot of pictures of Strider on the memory card. He replied with “Okay. I won’t get the limited edition “S” series then.” He is such a wit.

I, and just about anybody else who lives in Ireland, complains at length about the price of things over here. When I was pricing up the cameras, I always knew that it would be cheaper in the UK because of the lower VAT rate and the weak pound. What I didn’t realise was that HWKE would be able to go into the Camera Centre Cardiff and get me all of the above for slightly less than just the camera would have cost me if I had bought it from the Sony Centre in Wexford town.

One last thing: A recommendation.
I bought my camera from the Camera Centre Cardiff. They are a third generation independent shop which has been in business for over 60 years. The owner bloke HWKE spoke to was super knowledgeable and jolly helpful in all matters. I have also heard good things about them from other people, so it wasn’t just a case of good humour directed towards a Brummie with a beard.
Their website can be found at http://www.cameracentrecardiff.co.uk or if you Google Camera Centre Cardiff you will find them; they also ship all over the world, whatever their website currently says, so there is no excuse for Johnny Foreigner not to take advantage of the exchange rate this instant.
I personally feel it is important to support independent shops. They offer specialist knowledge based on familiarity with their stock that you just don’t get in the chain stores. Let’s face it, nobody runs their own shop because they are guaranteed a wage packet at the end of the week. They aren’t. If they don’t know about what they sell, they are not going to still be going strong after 60 years.
If you have any kind of independent shops in your area, why not think about spending your hard earned currency there?

Proof of Existence

Today, for the first time in forever, I was asked for ID. I would explain what I was doing at the time and why the person asking me felt it a necessity to do so, but then I’d have to kill you and my weekend is too full of happy plans to disturb it with an around the world serial assassination mission.

Usually, if I need ID, I will take my passport with me. Its flimsy red plastic cover may be nothing compared to the beefy hard-backed blue one I had in my childhood but it is instantly recognisable as a piece of personal identification and usefully mentions that if I get into trouble, marines will descend from helicopters to rescue me. They have to. It’s what citizenship is all about.
However, as you may realise, I do not carry my passport around with me on a daily basis. Such a thing would be ridiculous and anyway, I am one of the few people in the world who has a decent photograph in theirs so if I lose it or it gets stolen it will have to be replaced with a glary biometric image of me. I can’t afford to replace it anyway. You have to go via the embassy and pay €145 for the privilege; twice the price those on the mainland pay.

Fortunately, what I do habitually carry around with me is the card section of my driving licence. Unlike the UK, when you are motoring in Ireland (as the citizens advice website so charmingly puts it) you must have your licence with you. If you are stopped by the Garda and you don’t have it with you, you will be taken to court.
He Who Knows Everything was once stopped at a Garda checkpoint. At first they seemed more concerned with eating their breakfast rolls than bringing motoring order to a small corner of Wexford, but when we stopped and asked them if they were a checkpoint they said they were so we played along.
“Have you your licence with you?” asked the Garda.
“I have.” He Who Knows Everything replied and handed it over.
The Garda looked at the driving licence. There was a long pause.
“It’s a UK one.” He Who Knows Everything said helpfully.
“Oh, right. That’d be one of the new ones then, would it? Right you are.” The Garda said, gave it back and returned to his breakfast roll.
The Garda have also been distinguishing themselves this week by failing to apprehend a burglar who stopped for a pint while 20 officers and a Garda helicopter attempted to find him. Really. (http://bit.ly/19vNsJ)

Anyway. Part of the problem with giving somebody my driving licence as a form of ID is that, because it is a UK driving licence, it has a UK address on it. This breaks the First Rule of Getting Through Bureaucracy Alive, namely: Do Not Give Any Information That Is Not Specifically Asked For Because It Will Only Cause Problems. This is why it is wise to use a passport as ID. It tells them who you are but does not show any extra worrying information which will cause them to frown, flag their Very Important paperwork and condemn you to an eternity of trying to prove you exist in real terms and not simply as an abstract concept.

What I really ought to do is transfer my UK licence to an Irish one. I am a little nervous about doing this because it means entrusting my very important documents first to the post office and then to a body which manages to have a 33 week waiting list for driving tests in my county alone. I don’t mean to imply that the Post Office is the slowest form of transport known to man and that it takes them longer to bring me something from France than it would take me to drive there and back to pick it up myself. Twice. I don’t need to imply it. I know it to be true.

The thing is though, what happens if I post off my documents and, while they are away gaining citizenship, I get stopped by the Garda demanding proof of my qualification to drive a vehicle on a public highway? In all likelihood, they will be so astounded that somebody would drive a taxed and insured car filled with petrol rather than pink diesel that they will assume I am some kind of drugs pigeon and tear my poor beleaguered Micra to pieces searching for the hiding place.

Still. I won’t mind. I’ll be having a good time with the Marines.

Factors of Life

Let me begin by making one thing clear; while I understand it is a deeply unpopular viewpoint, I still really hate the summer.

For a start, I hate the heat. As I believe I have mentioned on one or two occasions, I am not a skinny waiflike girl who is unable to walk over a cattle-grid or stand up in a stiff breeze. Don’t be fooled by the low resolution image of me you can see on the side of your screen, that picture was taken from above with me attempting to look as thin as possible. I am a UK size 16-18, most of which is made up of my bottom. This baby got much back.
When you are, ahem, curvy, the natural instinct is to cover up. Covering up makes you hot which makes you sweat which makes you feel unpleasant and look even worse. I know that I am being foolish and that, in all honesty, nobody actually cares and that it is far better to feel comfortable than worry about being laughed at by 13 year olds. I know the importance of holding on to that thought. It’s just that whenever I get a grip on the idea, I usually see somebody dressed in clothing two sizes too small for them with a massive muffin top and bulbous quadrabreasts and I fear that I look like that and nobody has mentioned it because they are all too lovely.
I was in Wexford town the other day and I saw a nice looking girl in a white linen skirt which, when exposed to full sunlight, revealed a particularly intimate tattoo on her rear along with a certain amount of… crackage, shall we say. I’m sure she had no clue about it and, although I felt bad for her, I didn’t want to be the random stranger who walked up to her and asked her how long she’d had to eat standing up and mentioning that Marks and Spencer are good for underskirts. I hope one of her work colleagues pulled her aside at the end of the day and had a discrete word. Seriously girls, white linen of any description needs a bottom covering top or proper big knickers.

I also hate getting a suntan. Due to being pale, having light coloured eyes and more than one hundred moles on my body, I have to be very responsible about not getting skin cancer. This means having a suntan lotion with a high SPF, a very fetching sun hat which even a Provencale farmer would be embarrassed to put on his donkey, and generally staying out of the daylight until after 4pm from March through to October. Should I venture into daylight, I must ensure I am well covered up which makes you hot, which makes you sweat and so on and so forth and I really mean it, girls, about the knickers.

Every year I have a debate about which SPF I am going to choose. Mammy always tries to convince me that I should get a 20 so that I can go a bit brown “like a little sausage”. I then tell her that I don’t want to be a sausage and she goes all misty eyed with nostalgia saying “that’s just what you used to say when you were little. You used to cry because you didn’t want to be a little sausage”. Usually I opt for a 30 which, with the help of clothing, sun hat and the indoors, keeps the sun burn to a three day pinkness level (it takes three days to go from pink to slightly brown).

This year, due to the last two summers of total rain and abject misery on the faces of everybody who wasn’t me, I am even paler than usual. My face power, which is the palest one available from the nice lady on the Clinique makeup counter, is verging on too dark. That’s how pale I am. As a result, I am now wondering if I would be more sensible to opt for the mighty 50+ SPF.
This is not something I wish to get wrong. A bottle of Ambre Solaire costs €17.99 in Tesco. I could buy a cheaper, inferior brand but any money I saved would be drained from my pockets by the future chemotherapy such a move would necessitate. It is important to get this right.

While I have been procrastinating, the warm weather has rather snuck up on me. It has been clear skies and sunny days a-go-go around here this week, so yesterday afternoon I donned my sundress and spent some quality time with my decking.
Knowing from previous experience how capable I am of getting hideously disfiguring sunburn even in April, I lathered on an inch thick layer of Mammy’s bottle of factor 15. Knowing from previous experience that my legs are impervious to getting either tanned or burned and that it will take until August for them to show any sign of it, I did not bother lathering an inch thick layer of Mammy’s bottle of factor 15 upon them.

As it turns out, I may have been wrong on that matter.

As it also turns out, while socks with cows on may protect feet from chilblains and decking splinters (as well as looking really natty with a turquoise blue cheesecloth dress), they are not the most conducive accessory to even tanning.

The Great Camera Debate

Something I love, but which I never actually spend any time doing, is photography. The main reason I don’t do any is because I don’t really own a camera. There is one on my mobile phone and shoved in a drawer somewhere is a digital one I received free with a PC I purchased in 1998, but I don’t own any sort of proper camera with which I can take pictures on a daily basis.

When I was very small, we had a Kodak instamatic camera which I would occasionally be allowed to take a photograph with. Unfortunately, my 5 year old self was not terribly good at holding a camera steady so the results were usually somewhat blurred and indistinct but my parents were very kind and let me have a go anyway.
The best shot I ever managed to take with that camera was of Hong Kong harbour as the plane came in to land. This was back in the days of the old airport which only pilots of several decades experience had the nerve to attempt a landing at. Half of the shot is taken up with plane wall but the half inch of view you can see looks smashing.

Eventually, the instamatic was put away and a new camera was purchased; one which didn’t require a Sherpa to carry the necessary flashbulbs. Instead it was a Canon whose battery compartment lid swiftly broke and had to be Sellotaped into position to allow photography to take place. The memory of the instamatic quickly faded in my mind and photography became inextricably linked with the difficult task of attempting to squeeze a battery case closed while framing a shot and holding down the button for the requisite two thousand seconds while your subjects competed for the Ms Rigor Mortis UK crown.

When I began studying for my A levels, I was introduced to photography as a medium and I realised what I had been missing. I loved the SLR cameras, the solid weight of it in your palm, teasing the lens to get the focus just so, cranking the fstops to get a huge depth of field, the satisfying climp of the aperture as you took the picture, the physical cranking on of the film and, when it was finished, the delightful toy-town winder underneath.
The only thing that surpassed my love of taking the photographs was developing them. In school, I’d tried to like chemistry, but it was complex and abstracted and full of diagrams I didn’t understand. In a darkroom there were all the fun parts of chemistry (measuring things out in their proper quantities, heating things to certain temperatures, bottles with hazard symbols on them) but without the boring testing-variables of scientific method. Plus, at the end of that day you had more to show for it than a nail which may or may not become covered in rust over the following seven days.
Once at Art School, I briefly flirted with the idea of studying photography as my specialism but decided against it. While I loved taking photographs for myself, I had no idea of how to take photographs as an artist. I had barely heard of Cindy Sherman, Man Ray or Henri Cartier-Bresson so instead I picked painting and spent 3 years in the frozen wastes of the 5th floor studios.

Between then and now, the world has progressed and photography has progressed with it. Gradually, digital cameras have become the norm. They are no longer the size and weight of a masonry block and more than 6 photographs can be taken before it becomes necessary to upload them from the memory card. From time to time, He Who Knows Everything and I mutter something to the effect of “We really ought to hasten to the shop and buy ourselves a camera”, but it has never happened.
The main reason for this is that we were never able to decide between a DSLR and a compact. The DSLR models were prohibitively expensive but the compact cameras would drive me, in particular, insane with their lag (Press button… wait… wait… picture taken… wait… wait…).
When Cos was here after Christmas, she brought with her a brand new Nikon Coolpix with which she attempted to take some photographs. She attempted to take one of me without my knowledge but I noticed and told her my image was a registered copyright and she would have to pay me to reproduce it.
He Who Knows Everything and I were cautiously interested in this camera. We realised the potential held in these new fangled devices. We wanted one.

He Who Knows Everything came up with a cunning plan. He has spent months subliminally suggesting to me that I might like to buy myself a digital camera. He got the half tree that is the Sunday Papers to run an article entitled “5 of the Best entry level DSLR cameras”. He has the local wildlife run in a photogenic manner across the lawn and pause to nibble cutely at the hedge. He buys the Saturday Guardian because it has a photography competition on the final page of the magazine. He caused the Bank of England to reduce the interest rates so much that there is no point in having money sitting in a savings account anymore.

The price is the main stay on my enthusiasm. The DSLR cameras I want are in the region of six hundred or seven hundred euro. Aside from cars, property and jewellery, I believe that would be the single most expensive thing I have ever purchased. It isn’t just the camera either, once you have the camera there is an extended warranty, the accessories… I could easily spend another two hundred euro on basic bits and pieces to go with it. Plus another several hundred on a second lens.
These are all very big numbers. Happily, He Who Knows Everything has planned a happy trip to Cardiff where there are a number of independent camera shops who stock a wide range of DSLR cameras at prices much lower than in the Eurozone.

At the moment I am favouring the Sony Alpha A350. I like the flip out screen and superior live view. I yearn for a 75mm – 300mm lens and a polarising filter. I wonder if I want a tripod as well but conclude probably not at this present time. It will give Strider something to buy me for my birthday.

Conversation

Mammy: Do you remember that hamster you used to have?
Me: Yeah… Mrs Tiggywinkle.
He Who Knows Everything: Mrs Tiggywinkle?
Me: I think I may have been a little confused between hedgehogs and hamsters. I was only 7.
Mammy: Did you love her?
Me: Yes.
Mammy: Your friend killed her you know.
He Who Knows Everything: I’m not sure she did. They don’t live very long.
Me: Well that one certainly didn’t. I don’t think it helped that you then put her in the airing cupboard.
Mammy: I’d read an article in a magazine! They can sometimes go into hibernation and need putting somewhere warm. I thought it might help.
*pause*
Me: How did you think mummification was going to help a dead hamster?
*longer pause*
Mammy: It might have done.

In Which Theo Attempts to Thwart Cybercrims

Some people are born to be writers. It wouldn’t matter if they wittered in a national newspaper or the walls of a public toilet, in their soul they are a writer and it colours their every approach. The same can be said of artists. It is not merely what you do; it is what your soul is.
I have the soul of a computer programmer. Show me anything clever and my first impulse will either be to try and break it with legitimate use, or else harness its power for a purpose other than the one intended. Back in the days when I learned Turbo Pascal, I spent far more time putting trapdoors into my programs than I ever did implementing bubble sorts and the like. The result was usually a very pretty menu system which, with a little help from my friend Aimee, would allow you to play tunes on the middle row of your keyboard if you typed “antidisestablishmentarianism” after option 4.

Everything was so much better back in the day. Even nostalgia. The interweb was a threatening DOS screen designed to exclude anybody who didn’t know the proper commands. Then came the golden days of Netscape when the only people you could find in a chat room were the computing students of Bournemouth Uni. The first thing I ever looked up on the interweb was a Meat Loaf website. It took half an hour to load before returning an error message. Good times.
Even the computer viruses were better then. I used to spend hours reading the help section of my PC’s virus checker just because it was so interesting. Remember the Cookie Monster virus? Or the Brain virus? These days it is all about the spying and the nicking credit card details. How many of today’s virus creators would give you poetry?* Sasser and Conficker may be effective, but where is the fun?

Naturally, I don’t want my system infected with viruses. Not even amusing ones. To prevent this I spent an afternoon downloading a virus checking software. Or, at least that was the plan.
Having gone to the website, my first challenge was to find the minuscule button which would lead me to the free download. Having found it, I then had to negotiate my way through the lengthy comparison tables which showed me all the things a paying service would provide me with, none of which I want. I told it, again, that I wanted the free one.
Grudgingly it took me to the download screen. It claimed my download would begin shortly. While I waited, it thoughtfully provided me with an advert letting me know I could have the Premium Service for $0.00, down from $35.99. Keen for something free, even though I didn’t want it, I clicked the advert. All I had to do was buy something else I didn’t want and freeness would be mine.
I hit the back button and waited for my download. When nothing happened I clicked the “Click here if it doesn’t work” button. A cynic might suggest this is the only way to get it to work at all and they would probably be right.

With the download complete, I had a cup of tea before attempting installation. Installation scares me. I am forever being prompted to install Windows updates but lack the nerve to do it myself as it tells me to back up my hard drive first. I have no idea how to do that. I instead rely on a combination of automated urgent updates and He Who Knows Everything’s disregard for warning messages delivered in bold fonts.
The installation Wizard asks me questions. It insists I read long and complicated documents which deal with US law. I only agree because if I break them, I know they will have to extradite me first. It offers me the chance to be helpful by letting them spy on what I do. I decline. It offers me a special tool bar which will warn me of nefarious websites before I visit them. Knowing Mammy’s innocent belief that the Google sponsor Ads will lead her to the information she desires, I agree to the tool bar. This leads to further installations and more questions.

Eventually I finish. I run a scan. It tells me I have 18 viruses, all sneakily learning my habits for the purposes of advertising. It also deletes about a zillion cookies which likewise track my moves. I can now visit websites without being invited to learn Arabic.

I reward myself with the paper and another cup of tea. The paper suggests everybody should have at least two virus checkers on their computer and lists a number of good ones.
I suspect I may be here a while.

The New Washing Machine

In the great traditions of mechanical expenditure, my washing machine packed up. The washing machine and my compound mitre saw had made a secret deal to break within a day of each other but had forgotten that the saw was still under warranty. This is why you should not let household appliances run for government; if they can’t successfully coerce to cause stress in my life, they are never going to be able to create a world wide financial crisis.

Anyway. He Who Knows Everything was enlisted to take the washing machine apart, poke it for a bit, have a few cups of tea and clean up the mountain of mouse droppings lurking behind it. He concluded it was broken in an expensive way.
“It’s probably the motherboard,” he said sagely. Then he had a cup of tea.
A repairman was called. He was a very nice bloke who said a new motherboard would cost about €180 plus labour. He also recommended Bosch as a good brand for the future as he hardly ever got called to fix them.

If my washing machine hadn’t been so rubbish I probably would have had it fixed. All I wanted was to put dirty things in and have them come out clean but this was apparently asking too much of it. It probably didn’t help that I carelessly allowed the insides to be horribly coated in a thin layer of iron ore. Even so, I refuse to believe that magnetism was the cause of its intermittent flooding and 154 minute wash cycle.
After much deliberation, a decision was made to buy a new one and research into the matter was undertaken. With the research completed, the decision was reviewed. In Ireland, washing machines cost a lot.

Anybody will tell you we live in the Rip-Off Republic. They don’t mention that it is also the Monopoly Republic. It’s probably because that phrase doesn’t trip off the tongue quite so easily. There is no point in trying to shop around for the best price for anything because rather than competing with each other for the benefit of the consumer, purveyors of goods and services have got together and agreed to all charge the same outrageous price.
I went into the local electrical appliance store to see what they had in stock only to recoil aghast at the four and five hundred euro price tags on 1400rpm machines. To helpfully quantify this for your minds, in the UK such machines are priced at about two hundred sterling. If I needed more than one appliance, I would have hired a van and headed for the border. I may yet.

After a little more research and some time spent gaping at the Siemens and Miele twelve hundred euro plus selection (what on earth does it do at that price? Dress you?), the reluctant decision was taken to go to Curry’s in Dublin where a new machine could be procured for a mere hundred euro more than one would pay at Curry’s in the UK.
Dublin is a long way away. It is two and a half hours to Liffey Valley, two hours of which is spent on twisty roads behind tractors. It is a tiring drive. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind because there is also a Marks and Spencer at Liffey Valley but I have no money to throw about in a frivolous manner. I’ve spent it all on a new washing machine you see. Liffey Valley without money to throw about in a frivolous manner is no fun at all.
A phone call to Emile at Curry’s was made. It was explained about the distance and our desire not to arrive and find he had sold all the machines in the model we wanted.
“Have you not considered trying a store closer to yourselves?” He suggested.
It was explained that he was the store closest to us.
“What about Carlow? Wouldn’t they be closer to you?”
He was commended on his knowledge of Irish geography and asked for further information on this mythical Carlow store.
“It’s new. They opened just before Christmas. They haven’t put it on the website yet. Would you like their phone number?”

A trip to Carlow was organised.
As Carlow Town is *whispers* a bit of a pit, I wore my diamonds to make the day a bit special. I also wore my knickers back to front but that wasn’t to make the day special, that was just because I’m incapable of getting dressed in the morning.
When we got to Carlow there was some discussion about exactly where Curry’s was.

“Didn’t he give you directions?” HWKE asked.
“Yes he did. He told me it was next to Homebase at which point you started dancing around in the background saying you knew where Homebase was so I stopped listening.” I replied.
“Hmmm. Well I think it’s this way.” HWKE said and turned left, taking us on a brief and worrying diversion into County Laois.
A number of U turns later and HWKE was sent into a garage to ask for directions.
“They said it’s on the Dublin road. They said you can’t miss it.”
Looks were exchanged. Each of us privately wondered how it could be on the Dublin Road without us previously noticing it. As it turned out, it could be on the Dublin road without us previously noticing it because the signage was all dark blue instead of the jaunty red we were expecting.

Having procured a new washing machine, the next challenge was to take it home and carry it into the house.
The thing about washing machines is that they are really heavy. This is because they have a concrete block in the bottom to prevent them from moving around your kitchen or utility floor in a lively manner when they hit the spin cycle. They are also bulky and have no obvious place to get a handle on them. I do not like moving washing machines.

When Strider had to buy a new washing machine, she cunningly waited until I and HWKE were available to plumb it in for her and take the old one to the tip. Her friend’s husband dropped by moments after I had collapsed on the sofa, incapable of speech due to having wrestled a washing machine up Strider’s very steep 15 step staircase. HWKE explained that we would get up but that we had just wrestled a washing machine up the stairs.
“Oh. On your own?” said the husband.
I, somewhat outraged, replied in the negative. I would have gone on to cross question him as to why he made the assumption that I had not just wrestled a washing machine up a staircase and was it because I was a girl, but it would have been rude and I was too knackered to say anything else. As a result he now thinks I am some kind of mad, grumpy, petulant, monosyllabic, 27 year old teenager who glowers at everything and wears shirts covered in curry. Strider assures me she has done nothing to dispel this impression.

When moving the washing machine, I noticed the pad on the forth finger of my right hand had a deep pressure groove in it from the metal edge I had been trying to grip. I also noticed the pad of the finger was now numb. I assumed that once I stopped moving appliances about the sensation would come back but I was wrong. I suspect at some point I am going to end up with a simply hideous burn on that finger as I can no longer feel if something is hot. Nevertheless, I am confident that this will, at some point in the future, prove to be enormously useful in the performance of some heretofore impossible and, possibly, deeply unpleasant task.

Anyway. The new washing machine was plumbed in. Having decided upon program three, dirty clothes were put it. 125 minutes later, clean clothes were removed. It’s perfect.

Sonnick! I Choose You!

In this world of ambiguity, my broadband connection continues to offer one of two states: We Fixed It Last Week So This Is A New Fault or We’ll Definitively Fix It On Wednesday. As it happens, yesterday was Wednesday. It was also that happy date when French people walk around sticking paper fishes on each other because they are under the misapprehension that this is humour, so when I was told that it was going to get fixed that Wednesday, I assumed they were liars and charlatans and that it would only become fixed if it were allowed to break the following day.

Three and a half weeks is a long time for something to be broken. Fortunately, I am not alone. My GP is also having computer difficulties and their server has been offline for over a week now. They can’t access the appointments list and they can’t input or access the patients’ notes. The receptionist was telling me they are trusting that the people who turn up for an appointment do actually have one. She was also moaning that once the system gets fixed, they are going to have to manually input the information amassed while it has been down. Rather naively, I have yet to feel this is the most pressing problem facing them. Avoiding death through inappropriate prescription seemed a rather more important issue to me but then I am something of a pedant. They prefer a freer approach to the dispensing of drugs and will regularly manage to confuse repeats adding random prophylactics or hallucinogens as the mood takes them. I suspect the Prescriptions Witch is behind it. The Prescriptions Witch is 109 years old and likes to ask what a drug is for before she will give you the piece of paper which instructs the chemist to give it to you. She doesn’t do this to Mammy anymore though. Mammy had words, many of which are unrepeatable.
The last time I had dealings with her, it was to pick up a prescription for He Who Knows Everything. Foolishly, I began by going in and asking her for it. She fixed me with a beady look.
“Did he fill out the form?” She barked. “The yellow one? Did you see him fill out a yellow form? Did he fill that out and bring it in here?”
In the face of strings of questions that make no sense I reverted to my natural form: bewilderment.
“I don’t know what he’s done. He just asked me to come in and get his prescription for him.” I wobbled. “He said it would be here.”
“Well, where is he now? Is he at work? Where is he? If he’s filled in a yellow form it’ll be in these!” She held up an inch high pile of yellow cards. “Did he fill one out? Is he at work? Can you ring him?”
“I don’t know where he is now. I don’t watch him every minute.” I said “Can you not look through the cards?”
She huffed and shuffled through them. “There isn’t one here for him. Hang on, I’ll get your prescription now.” Then she went and answered a ringing phone and spent 10 minutes berating the person at the other end. Then she gave me the prescription from a waiting pile.

Anyway. In a moment of genius, it was decided to divert the attentions of our local TD away from drugs, bombs and the economy and towards our lack of broadband. Our local TD is Sean Connick. I have always though Sean Connick to be a rather nice chap and very nearly voted for him, so I was confident he would manage to do something for me.
In Ireland, there are two main political parties. One is Fine Fail. One is Fine Gael. One of them thinks we should all live in thatched cottages and speak Gaelic; the other one agrees with them.
Obviously, these days they have developed relevant policies about important issues like healthcare (will be improved), taxes (will be lowered) and education (will become the envy of the world). While all of these are jolly vital, during the election I couldn’t distinguish between the 7 parties without checking their logos so chose to ruin my ballot on the grounds that all the candidates were as rubbish as each other. Now I come to think of it, I believe Sinn Fein may have branched out a little and added something about banishing the occupying forces. Kudos Lads.

HWKE connected to the costly dial up and sent Mr Connick an electronic mail. 5 minutes later he realised he had sent it to Sonnick by mistake so sent another, correctly addressed this time.
A day passed. There was no reply from Sonnick.
“Maybe he doesn’t like being confused with a hedgehog.” I helpfully suggested. Then I began to gripe. “He could have at least sent an automated reply assuring us he wouldn’t be looking into it as soon as possible. He probably hates us because he thinks we’re English.”
A second day passed. There was still no reply from Sonnick.
A third day passed but this one didn’t count because it was Sunday. On the evening of the fourth day, there was a phone call. It was one of Sonnick’s lackeys.
Sonnick’s lackey had spoken to Eircom. Better yet, Sonnick’s lackey had managed to get some sense out of them. The story, as I fail to understand it, runs along the convoluted lines of “There was a bit that was broken which got replaced but was mistuned and when it was retuned it was the wrong bit anyway so they were going to replace the proper bit but it was windy so they couldn’t but they are deffo doing it Wednesday, ‘k?”
Ice was apparently the culprit. At first I couldn’t understand how ice could manage to break something practically at sea level but, as it turns out, the bit that was broken was the bit on top of Mount Leinster (796m). This also explains to me how it could have been too windy to go up the mast (height 122m). I’m very sorry I called you big girls’ blouses, Eircom.

So. Wednesday came. Wednesday went. In its wake… broadband which works. For now.

My thanks to the patient lads on the BT technical helpline and to Sonnick and his lackeys. No thanks to Eircom though. You are still rubbish and should hang your heads in shame. Be told.