Christmas Cards: yay or nay?

I asked my family to tell me what were their highlights of 2016. I had this vague notion that I might type them up, print them and send them out with our Christmas cards. This plan rests on a vital activity that is yet to happen: sending Xmas cards. Maybe next year one of my highlights will be that I sent all my Xmas cards by 15 December 2017.

(More anon on the highlights of 2016. I’ll take my sweet time with this too!)

Maybe next year I’ll send Oíche Nollag na mBan cards.

Every year we get a fabulous letter from friends in New Zealand with updates about all that has happened in the preceding year. Every year I swear I will respond in kind. This has never happened.

Being honest, receiving your Xmas Card was very pleasant, but not a highlight. I’m very conflicted about Christmas cards and, coward that I am, I am now admitting it because I know many of you feel the same way.  I’d love to know your thoughts on Xmas cards.  I did sit in front of the telly on St. Stephens’ Day and during the course of some festive film I managed to write all 50 odd cards. Like all procrastination, it actually didn’t take me as long as I feared it would. It allowed the opportunity to take my new pen (thank you Himself!) for a drive. The completed cards with fully addressed envelopes are currently stamped, sealed and sitting on the hall table. Imagine! And after that Herculean task. Or is it more Sisyphean? I understand the logic of sending cards to people abroad that I am less likely to see but sending cards to people I will be spending at least some of the holiday season with seems a bit pointless. Probably they wouldn’t mind if I didn’t send them.

Update: after I had happened upon the genius idea of kee ping the cards until next year and sending them all on December 1st and being super smug I discovered Himself had whipped them off the hall table and posted them on his lunchtime walk. Happy Christmas y’all! (Except Neela, Lizzy, Benny and Gill and a few others whose addresses I’m dubious about!)

Foiled again

Glendalough From The Spinc

I returned from the shops. I was irritated about buying less than optimal tin foil again. “Foiled again,” he said.

It bothers me that the too-small tin foil bothers me. It can join a list of small irritations that I allow to crowd my day. I know I should let go. In the space that would remain lies insight, time, possibility. It irritates me that I can’t access that and the cycle begins again.

I dreamt last night that I would no longer be able to park a car without parking assist. Parking was never my forte. I dreamt that while I struggled with the parking my children went on the the restaurant. As I gathered myself out of the car in the dream (the car in the dream, not the dream car; I most definitely do not have a dream car!) As I gathered myself in the dream I dropped the eggs. They broke. I had to clean them up. There is little in life more difficult to clean up than eggs. Yes there are things that are more difficult because they are more disgusting. But disgust aside there is little in life more difficult. However there is little in life more rank if not cleaned up, even in my dream I was conscious of this.

I found my children in the restaurant (also the dream restaurant as opposed to my dream restaurant). They were behaving well and had already ordered. Definitely a dream, says you. But their order was strange and involved a lot of couscous. I sent some of it back, irritated that the restaurant had taken their absurd order but also that they had served a plate that looked so unappetizing.

I clearly have control issues.

Thinking about how my irritation invades even my dreams, plugs those gaps, uses that space, that it’s a bad habit, a picked scab, a refreshed feed filled with fresh indignation, it occurs to me that it is insignificant whether I allow it to happen or whether I purge that mode of Being.

I watched a comedy musical about astrophysicsa last night. I know. The reality of the universe highlights our absolute insignificance and egocentricity, especially as a musical comedy. Numbers so large separate me from the universe that I cannot even grasp those numbers.

It irritates me that I cannot grasp those numbers.

How not to run an online business or FAIL

At the end of August I ordered just over €100 worth of schoolbooks from (I know, I know, I should have ordered them last JANUARY right?!)

The nippers started back in school on 30th August and no sign of the books. I couldn’t tell from the website whether they were to arrive imminently or not. Around this time I realised that I wasn’t the only customer whose books were missing but I took them at their word (to the media, mind, not me) that the books would arrive shortly. However at this time our (truly wonderful and sorely missed) childminder finished up with us so there was no one at home to receive our parcel. So I emailed them at and asked them could they deliver to my city centre office. 2 working days later I was worried about the lack of confirmation about this action.

Upon investigation online I realised that the situation was far worse than I initially thought. I also realised that I was dealing with people who were being a little loose with the truth claiming, for example, that they had contacted every single customer that was affected by what seems to be some sort of technical issue. Apparently I didn’t count as I have never received a single word of communication in any format from as I’m trying to be nice I will refer to this as “not best practice” especially as we are repeat customers.

I continued trying to get through by phone and tweeting about the issue in the extremely vain hope that someone might respond.

At this point I emailed to cancel my order. I still have no idea whether they read or acted upon that email. I thought that the books may still arrive.

By the end of the first full week (9 days of school) we decided we couldn’t possibly send the kids back to school the following Monday without books. I legged it to Reads of Nassau st one lunchtime and despite the assistance of a really helpful staff member Reads didn’t have a single one of the books (please note I was looking for Irish language books only for my Gaelscoláirí).

En route back to the office I rang the National Consumer Agency who made all the right noises in a non-committal sort of way. They sent contact details to me but there was nothing I hadn’t already gleaned from the website. I asked the NCA whether they would be investigating the issue further but the very nice chap I spoke with couldn’t say at that point. He also reminded me of our rights as online consumers which I was very familiar with thanks to my last job. One point he made was that should the books arrive AFTER I had bought them elsewhere I could refuse delivery and would be obliged to refund. Good luck with that, Rosie!

Since then I have written to the Visa Chargebacks department in the hope that my money might be refunded. I finally received a complete refund on October 8th.

Bodil Mimi Krogh Schmidt-Nielsen (b. 1918) with her childrenOn September 21st I spoke about this during my usual monthly technology slot on Splanc, Newstalk’s Irish language radio show. Obviously I’m dismayed that I’ve been badly treated, annoyed that I was out of pocket but what bugged me the most is that with the application of a little cop and some cheap or free technology a lot of this could have been fixed. If they wanted to be old fashioned about it a few grand to a half decent PR company could have saved their business. What galls me the most however is that the MD’s attitude to his customers has at the least cost him business and at most cost him his business. While I have as little care for him as he obviously has for me, I think in these recessionary times (sorry) it is practically criminal to play so fast and loose with his staff’s livelihoods and other people’s money. When I got home that evening, lo! the books had arrived and are still sitting on our sideboard in their packaging.

So what you might say? Well I think that are in fact a perfect anti-case study. I would generally avoid using negative examples but tick all the boxes.

It’s easier to keep old customers than find new ones (or as the grown ups call it Retention vs Acquisition). We have bought our books from for the last 4 years, spending at least €50 every year. have always been poor at maintaining contact, not reminding us at crucial points in the year about themselves in order to ensure our repeated custom.

Join the conversation or they will bitch about you and not even behind your back! I already knew that were poor communicators, having not received much by way of correspondence from them over the last four years; a blessing you might say in these times of bulging inboxes. It’s possible that Mr. John Cunningham, MD of, thinks that he is being stoical by refusing to engage with customers on Faceboolk Twitter, and blogs like this. He may be of the mind that it will all blow over but Gawd help the poor sucker who has to manage their SEO in the future. Considering the company is unlikely to exist in the future

Social media is all media. A storm in a tweecup can quickly become national news because you can no longer presume that the busy bodies on social media are not influencing the busy bodies in national media. This story quickly became a running theme for back to school week on Joe Duffy’s phone in radio show. became synonymous with bad customer service and it will be some time before the market will forget. What a waste of a perfect URL.


A self-fulfilling state

I watch a lot of television (really? whyever for? Well…) and therefore spend as much time as possible trying to avoid watching ads.

I’m not some sort of moron who thinks ads are pure evil (well I’m not too keen on children’s ads but that’s a whole other blog post) and I like to hear about new products and services. I think some ads are genuinely clever and entertaining. I think other ads are pure lazy and boring. Many ads are for products that I will never engage with, some are for products that may have been of interest or will be of interest in a particular period of my life.

But advertising execs of the world I am putting you on your first warning. Well apart from all the unheard shouting in my living room. I will no longer accept your made up nonsense about women and men and which of them does the shopping. I don’t care if that’s what the stats say; this doesn’t mean that it’s right. I challenge you to surprise me with an ad that tries to guilt men into buying products with dubious health benefits for their children. Y’see I just don’t think you will do it.

Two men in kitchen amazingI also think it’s dubious and downright offensive to run ads that imply that only women are intelligent enough or organised enough to run a household. If running a household requires that much intelligence (and i think it does require mental, physical and emotional resources not required by some other jobs) why is it so poorly rewarded in western society? You don’t meet many millionaire nannies.* I would buy the product of any manufacturer who convinced a government to also recognise that contribution to society by properly rewarding anyone who takes on these tasks. Work life balance needs a champion. It needs highlighting the way Jamie Oliver highlighted good food in Britain. Should we expect advertisers to spot this trend and act on it? Especially in a recession?

I just worry that using these lazy cultural shortcuts (women are put upon; men are stupid & lazy) that they will become self-fulfilling. People say to me and I hear myself saying how lucky I am to have a husband who pitches in. Every time I hear myself saying it I mentally kick myself. How insulting to both of us. In fact I sometimes think, as he puts on another load of washing, how unlucky he is to be lumped with me!

As I grow older I realise more and more as I see my friends hitching up in all manner of unexpected combinations that it is practically impossible to understand what makes couples tick. They will be as we say in Irish “thuas seal, thíos seal” and stereotypes and assumptions about roles in society just box us all in and remove opportunities.

*As a total aside I wonder are any of the creches built in the boom on government money now in NAMA?

Information a great antidote to oinking

When pigs fly...Unless you have your head stuck in a bucket you will know two things 1. there is currently an outbreak of swine flu (H1N1) in Ireland and 2. I am pregnant. Not maybe of equal importance to you but fact no 2. wins in my book. Mind you if you have your head stuck in a bucket chances are you know all about swine flu already, ye poor aul thing! Photo right owned by merfam (cc)

The second fact puts me firmly me in the at-risk category and I have decided because of the public facing nature of my job that I will get the vaccination.

A couple of weeks ago I had an antenatal appointment in the Coombe where I asked for information about the vaccination. It was the day after Prime Time on RTÉ had focussed on the issue with pre-recorded interviews with at risk patients and other stakeholders and a studio discussion. My midwife told me that the Coombe were advising all pregnant women to get the vaccine but she did not have any further information for me. No leaflets. Nothing. They were also not administering the vaccine and I should ask my GP to do that. Being on combined care (where the hospital and your GP share the antenatal care – a step in the right direction!) that suited me fine as my next appointment in 2 weeks was with the Practice Nurse in my clinic. My GP had actually appeared on the pre-recorded item on Prime Time complaining about the slow reaction of the HSE to this looming health crisis. Therefore I figured I wouldn’t be getting massively impartial advice from the clinic but at least I’d get it sooner rather than later.

When I rang to make my antenatal appointment I asked could I be immunised at the same time and was told no, they had a waiting list. I figured fair enough and was actually reassured by this because it meant there was demand. When I went in on Tuesday for my antenatal appoinment I mentioned this en passant to try and gauge what sort of wait I was looking at. To be honest, I’ve been keeping public appearances to a minimum thinking I would imminently be immunised so it was important to me to know how long this personal policy might have to be kept in place. The nurse immediately told me that I would have to go to a HSE Centre in Ballally. The clinic only had the vaccine with the mercury in it which they were not giving pregnant women but I could get the other non-mercury one from Ballally. I asked her if she had a number; she took out a leaflet which looked like she had printed from somewhere herself, with a list of all the centres and narry a phone number to be had.

Luckily the receptionist had the number so I rang this morning and left my contact details. They got back to me pretty much straight away. When I asked if I could get the non-school going Nipper 2.0 vaccinated at the same time they said no. I explained that I worked full time and would prefer not to have to take time off twice, they still refused. Real caring HSE there, eh? So I said that I would come in anyway and they offered me an appointment next Monday. Coincidentally I have the day off so I said grand. However when I mentioned my address she told me that they were not our centre and I would have to go  to Tallaght. I asked her for the number and she said, “We’re a hotline, we don’t give out numbers. You’ll have to look it up.” 2 points for customer focused helpfulness racked up NOT!

So I looked up Tallaght Hospital and rang the general reception because their shocking bad website didn’t have any specific information about their immunization programme. The woman who answered told me that the Education Centre where they were doing the immunizations didn’t have a phone. I said “But how do I make an appointment?” She said on the website I, of course, had my browser open in front of me so I asked her where on the website because the expected big obvious Make an Immunization Appointment button wasn’t leaping out at me. She didn’t really respond. I said do I click on “Find a Health Service” she said yes. I said then what and she said, (brace yourself) “I haven’t seen the website. We don’t have internet access.”

My reaction? You need to ask! (After expressing my disbelief I said thanks that I’d work it out. Not before she said “I’ll have to let you go. I don’t have time to discuss it.” Apparently no-one does.)

How on earth are frontline information staff supposed to do their job if they have never even seen the website that they are advising enquirers to access?  Are the HSE staff not considered potential consumers of the information on which incidentally and very confusingly is not in fact a website dedicated to keeping the public and HSE staff informed about the virus; it’s a redirect to a page on


Once you do find the link to book an appointment, there is no clarity that if like me you choose the wrong clinic that they will not give you an appointment at that clinic. No specific areas or zones are mentioned in the information. However as I already knew I was not permitted to go to Ballally thanks to my earlier mistake I picked the correct clinic for my area and was brought to a calendar where I could see the available times and dates and sign myself up for one that suited me. That’s my lovely morning off gone. However at no point was I asked to confirm the district I was in or my postal address so really if it suited me surely I could book into any clinic as long as there was space available. Also while there is a warning that only at-risk patients and pregnant women are being immunised I was not asked to confirm this information when booking. Looking for this confirmation will not stop the committed hypochondriac from booking but it might slow them down.

This calendar idea is brilliant (however it is really ugly and if you press F5 it seems to book you in again although so far I have only received one confirmation from SuperSaaS! EDIT: I just received confirmation no. 2. Hmm maybe I will bring Nipper 2.0 with me…) and I just wonder why all health services and practitioners don’t offer and promote similar. However one only needs to look at a few hospital websites to realise that this kind of client empowerment is a long way off.