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!)
At the end of August I ordered just over €100 worth of schoolbooks from Schoolbooks.ie (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 Schoolbooks.ie 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 Schoolbooks.ie. 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 Schoolbooks.ie 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 Schoolbooks.ie 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.
On 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 Schoolbooks.ie are in fact a perfect anti-case study. I would generally avoid using negative examples but Schoolbooks.ie 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 Schoolbooks.ie for the last 4 years, spending at least €50 every year. Schoolbooks.ie 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 Schoolbooks.ie 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 Schoolbooks.ie, thinks that he is being stoical by refusing to engage with customers on Faceboolk Twitter, Boards.ie 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. Schoolbooks.ie became synonymous with bad customer service and it will be some time before the market will forget. What a waste of a perfect URL.
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.
I 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?
Ah the Irish Summer! Well so far this year we cannot complain too much. Most primary schools will finish up this week so expect a turn for the miserable in no short time. This year, however, I am uber-prepared. I have a list of things to do, I’ve sorted the toys and with quiet optimism I have purchased* a pair of children’s wetsuits from Puddleducks. I say quiet optimism because, while I hope to hit the beach, I am presuming it will be cold enough to require said wetsuits. About 3 years ago I bought a wetsuit for Himself so that he could “enjoy” surfing when visiting friends in Donegal even in November. Either the wetsuit or male bravado enabled him to stay in the water for up to 3 hours while myself and the other surf wag chased children up and down the beach purely for the purposes of keeping us all warm. We soon realised after one weekend in Donegal when the kids were paddling with their Puddleducks raincoats on and nothing else (I kid you not!) that wetsuits were a no-brainer for the Irish weather.
Last year we holidayed in lovely Lahinch. (I never did rustle up the energy to post about the lovely holiday we had there. We rented a holiday home in Ballyellery from Trident Holiday Homes. Photo on right was the view from the cottage on one of the truly Irish days 🙂 Ask me if you need more details.) Lahinch is a major surf destination so Himself and some of our friends had a great time. Yet again I missed an opportunity to surf as I was pregnant and too bloody tired even though I wasn’t so far gone. The weather was only okay at the time and we looked at wetsuits in the surf shops in town. The available range wasn’t great in Lahinch and even the second hand ones were pricy so we left it. However there were a number of days where we had to quit the beach as children’s lips turned blue!
I sent a tweet to Puddleducks earlier this year asking them if they were planning to stock wetsuits ever and Aedan replied to me that they were researching the options. A while later Suzanne contacted me and said they were sourcing two different types of wetsuits from suppliers and would I like to try them out. We opted for the full length suits in XSmall and Small. They have since launched a range of different beach products including these suits, a shorty version and various UV suits and beach shoes.
Due to the fact that their father has a wetsuit the Nippers were already favourably inclined. Considering the pair of them had to date refused to even put a two in the water we were concerned that it would be money badly spent regardless. Well the Nippers seemed to think that these suits would make them invincible and Nipper 2.0 even had great plans to go bodyboarding! (Where does he get these ideas!) Their first outing was literally a wash out which involved a real Irish picnic in the car before putting on all our raingear for a walk and some sandcastling in the rain on the beach. Our next outing was on one of the hottest days in this recent hot spell. My sister and I rustled the two of them up after school and headed for Sandycove. While I wouldn’t recommend Sandycove for a hot day, even midweek it was jammed, it was perfect to get the boys in the water in their suits. It’s a very calm inlet which helped them get over any reservations they might have had.
They played happily for the 2.5 hours that we were there in and out of the water. No blue lips and we are saving a fortune in suncream! The suits are great and a good fit with some growing space in them. The Nippers are very different shapes and both at the smaller end of the scale for their age. You can see from the photos that the limbs require a little turning up. Nipper 1.0 is whip thin and so we managed to pull the suit onto him no bother. Nipper 2.0 still has some of his baby fat (he recently turned 4) so we struggled a fair bit to get him into his. Let me put it like this: a child who was disinclined to put on their suit would win that particular battle! That would be my only issue with the XSmall size – it doesn’t seem to allow for the fact that a child that age might be likely to have a little more pudge. Add neoprene, however stretchy, to the mix and there’s a bit of heave ho-ing. But they were both very easy to remove and because of their size far easier to rinse than an adults. In fact I rinsed them in the sink and there is no way you would fit even a small adult suit into a sink.
We subsequently spent an afternoon on Curracloe strand in Co. Wexford which was far less sheltered and there was a stiff breeze that day. Again they played very happily in and out of the water although Nipper 2.0’s courage failed him somewhat. (Who’s talking about bodyboarding now, eh?!) Of course, I put them all to shame by swimming in plain ol’ togs. Due to the ongoing fluctuations in my body weight over the last 8 years there has been no point in getting a wetsuit for myself!
At €35.99 for the suits I think they are well worth it. They seem to be well made (I’m not expert) and include all the features you would expect on a wetsuit: tight ankles and cuffs and a turtle neck with adjustable fastener. The zip is sturdy with a strap for closing and it tucks away neatly. All the tech specs are included in the Puddleducks listing. Look at it like this: on an overcast day you might decide that the beach is just too cold for the kids so you go to the swimming pool. In Lahinch last year that notched up €21.00 for 3 of us. Alternatively if you compare it to the cost of suncream at circa €10.00 per bottle which may get wiped off as soon as it’s on it’s also a far longer lasting bargain. I also really believe it’s the way forward for holidaying in Ireland. I’m the only family member who doesn’t have a suit but I noticed in Lahinch last year that most of the families were all kitted out in them and many of them were not surfing at all, just swimming.
*Disclosure: I received these suits at cost-price from Puddleducks.
Brace yourselves I’m about to rant. Probably not the best time considering my earlier accident and the humdinger of a headache I now have.
And who is causing my hackles to rise? Who has attracted my ire this time? Rachida Dati, that’s who. I’m not the only woman in the western world who is spitting tacks in her general direction this week. Rachida Dati, the 43 year old French justice minister, had her first child by caesarean section last week and went back to work 5 days later. This is upsetting me why exactly?
There are so many reasons that it is confusing me and I don’t like being confused.
Quoting The Guardian article where I read about it thanks to Rosemary “[b]usiness leader Sophie de Menthon said: “By absolutely wanting to play superwoman, Rachida Dati does a disservice to women’s cause … What is more, I, as the head of a business, would go straight to prison if I took back a colleague who returned from maternity leave after five days.” Whatever about her first comment, I’m dying to know which courageous French official in Halde or whichever authority in France looks after their labour legislation is going to tackle Sarkozy. See how he likes being made an example of. I wonder would he be so blasé with his own policies if it was his darlin’ Carla who’d just had an 8 lb baby cut out of her belly.
Why the heck do I know all of this information about Rachida Dati? I mean this in two ways:
How dignified is it that an individual who has just gone through a life changing event and serious surgery is being discussed hither and yon? Dati, I don’t need to know about your Caesarean – have a bit of decorum apart from anything else.
Also so what if she doesn’t want to listen to common medical advice and good sense. Media people (myself included): don’t give her the headlines.
I read also in the same article by Angelique Chrisafis the opinion that Dati may have felt pressure to return to work as the French government were bringing in “the biggest reforms in 200 years to the French legal system” and Dati couldn’t miss her moment in the sun. Hello! If that was the case why did she not have the section 3 weeks ago (or if she did have it at the earliest possible 37 weeks 3 weeks later)? And hello! Boss of the Year Sarkozy, could the legislation not have waited a week or two? What’s so bloody important and who the heck cares in week 1 back to work after les célébrations of la nouvelle annee? All anyone wanted to do last week was stay in bed and Dati was really rubbing our noses in it. She was legally obliged to take the week off and she swans into work nonetheless. Aaarrggghhh!!!
Further to this, I’m really sorry to break this to you, Rachida dear, but I don’t give a hoot about your precious legislation but I will always remember you as the “young mother” (boss of the year’s words not mine) who went back to work unnecessarily early after having her first child.
Having had two children I know that I too could probably have gone back to work 5 days afterwards. It was day 10 – 15 that would have been the real trial. I wonder how Dati is feeling now? Pas trés super, I’d say.
However, I know I’m being flip above and anyone who knows me or reads this blog regularly knows that I think that parenthood and especially early motherhood deserve special care from society. I am not the first commentator to say that Dati’s actions make a mockery of every single day of maternity leave for which each preceding generation campaigned. Not only that I think it makes a mockery of women’s right to work at all because I think realistically potential or actual motherhood has to be part of the package. How on earth are women supposed to continue as valid members of the workforce if their biology keeps getting in the way? We have an ageing population here in Ireland as do many developed countries and we need women to reproduce. I mean how the heck can Boss of the Year on the one hand have policies aimed at encouraging larger families (PDF) (which our large family regularly made the most of while travelling in France) and then allow one of his senior staff make an ass of the law? In fact I would go so far as to say that Dati’s actions makes a mockery of workers rights and legislation altogether.
How will my campaign for paternity leave fare if employers think that women don’t need time off? I firmly believe that maternity leave will only give women “equality” if paternity leave is also mandatory. A month after the birth of a child and two more months at their own discretion. As an interim step, parents should be allowed to choose which parent takes the existing leave especially families that don’t practice breastfeeding. And that’s a whole other upcoming post in the offing.
Okay I think that about covers the rant. Well today’s rant anyway. I’ve a few more up my sleeve that I’ve been mulling over the holidays but Rachida deserved special attention.
*I say apparently because obviously God doesn’t exist and so this theory of her resting is totally unprovable.