Early Days Of A Better Nation

I went on holiday and one of my citizenships utterly disgraced me.
I came back from holiday and the other surpassed all possible expectations.

Friday, my friends got married, a cross-border wedding, where the groom’s party stopped off to vote in the Marriage Referendum on the way to the ceremony. We laughed, we cried, I was named as a guilty party in the speeches*, someone got Sean up throwing shapes, the bridesmaids shed tiny silver flowers all over the dance floor, and yesterday morning I stabbed blearily at my phone to find that the first tallies looked like Yes and all morning it kept going up, so that by the time we bade the newlyweds goodbye and headed home it was past the point of losing.

By the time I went to bed, Dublin was having the party of a lifetime, and the HSE press office were telling inquirers the transition arrangements with gleefully mendacious encouragement to have two parties.

Early days. Early days.

*“They were both very quiet about this whole romance. Sure, we only found out when her Mammy said ‘Isn’t Mary’s boyfriend a nice young man?’ and she had to be put straight!”


Accidentally a car

Today, I got turned down for a job, and bought a car. These are not related, it just sort of happened.

This was not actually my plan for the day, it just sort of happened. I think I was riding a schadenfreude high from the epic crash and burn performed by the Government at lunchtime.

So I rang the car dealership on the way home, and asked had they anything in my price range, went and had a drive around, and put the deposit on a car. It is a pale green Skoda Fabia, which given the friendly shape of the car, makes it looks alarmingly like someone bleached Kermit, it’s going to cost a fortune to insure and … I bought a car.

I may be insane.

Bye bye Translink, I have a car!

Set Up To Fail

The TV Licensing Agency rang me back.

Turns out, they had a process. The process crashed and burned. In January, this was brought to their attention and the process was changed.

Do you want to know what the process was?
It went like this:

  • Person calls to change address.
  • Person is forced into voice recognition service.
  • Person tells voice recognition new house number, street and postcode.
  • Person tells voice recognition new house number, street and postcode again.
  • Voice recognition system sends person confirmatory text.
  • Voice recognition has actually failed out.
  • Recording is sent to ‘overseas’ office.
  • Recording is listened to, but not understood.
  • Recording is deleted.
  • Address is not changed.
  • Person receives nasty letter six months later.
  • Person calls up TV Licensing Agency and flips out.

I am more than a little boggled by the fact that they left out a fairly major step when they created this process. Two, actually. Because it’s kind of a dick move to have a foreigner listening for change of address details from the UK. Have they seen the way we spell street names?

Anyhow, in January this was apparently brought to their attention. They changed the system. However, they decided not to bother checking the black hole of calls which had already failed. I found this perturbing. I asked why they thought this was an acceptable thing to do, given that they were in fact leaving me vulnerable to fairly serious legal consequences as a result of their actions? I asked how I was supposed to have found out about this?

I was told I hadn’t been listening to his explanation.


Man, I dislike being told I’m being unreasonable when I ask a perfectly legitimate question. I think if you promise to call back with an explanation of your cock-up, and part of that explanation involves admitting you knew there was a problem in January, the next part should involve why you didn’t do anything about it until I phoned you in June. Since you have a record of the failed calls.

So. There we stand. If you moved house before January 2014, and you used the phone system to change your TV Licence, I suggest checking that they actually did it. And telling them why.


System failure

Way back in October, when I moved house, I rang the TV Licensing Agency and changed my TV License to the new house. Or rather, I thought I had changed the address. They sent me a text telling me they had, I took their word for it.


Doing it was a bit of a performance, because they won’t let you use the time honoured method of saying to an actual person “I have moved house! This is my new address! Here, I will helpfully spell it out in NATO alphabet!” and them saying “Oh that’s nice, I have changed your details! Is this correct? You will get a letter during the week, let me know if you don’t”. No. They have a phone tree. A phone tree with voice recognition several generations older than Siri and my colleagues spent days entertaining themselves with how much Siri can’t cope with our various very common accents of English.

And in fact, it turns out, this system will fail to change your address, but merrily tell you it has, leading to you forgetting entirely about your TV Licence in the comfortable knowledge that when they need to reauthorise your direct debit details in 2015 they’ll send you a nasty letter. So it was a bit of a surprise to get the patented TV Licensing Nasty Letter saying we were filthy criminals who didn’t have a licence.


As I, like most people in the UK and a significant number of poor souls in the Republic who have had to sit through their nasty threatening advertisements over the years, have a fairly low tolerance for the TV Licensing Agency to begin with this did not make me happy. Operating on a base assumption that the entire population are criminals and without deployment of the word ‘please’ does not incline people to be charitable towards you when you’re in the right, never mind when you’re in the wrong.

So I got angry. I got the kind of angry where you phone up, insist on being escalated all the way up to the most senior person on duty, point out that “Saturday” is not an adequate reason for not being able to explain why my address was not changed when it was supposed to be, given that you told me it was, that is what is commonly known as lying, and generally be an unreasonable bitch because no, this is not my problem. This is the TV Licensing Agency’s problem and by god, they had better have a really good explanation because I held up my end of the deal and being accused of criminality is just not on, didn’t anyone find it odd that the old house had two licenses when it isn’t flats, and by the way I’ve given my address five times to three different people already, WORK IT OUT BY YOURSELF. At this point it emerged that the person who had allegedly fixed at the start had entered it wrong, helpfully. I did not scream. I feel I was very restrained.

I also explained in very very small words that apologies are not cutting it, handwritten apologies written IN BLOOD are not going to cut it, in fact the ritual sacrifice of whoever thought a phone tree was a good idea to the pagan gods might JUST BARELY scratch the surface. AND WOULD IT KILL YOU TO OCCASIONALLY SAY PLEASE? Oh, and if I get another letter that is not confirmation of change of address, I am taking it to the police with the confirmation of address change and the existing letter as evidence of harassment, do we understand each other?”

In fairness, he did seem to grasp that being threatened, lied to and then threatened again is reasonable grounds for losing your temper, that the general attitude of the Agency is not conducive to anyone keeping their temper, and that it’s not rocket science to change someone’s address. Now to see what happens on Monday, because that’s apparently when he’s going to phone back to tell me how, exactly, it is that I was sent confirmation of an address change when that did not in fact take place. And how it’s never going to happen again.

Run away to the circus

I held up my long-delayed end of a bargain on the last Saturday before school started back and took Tori to The Ark in Dublin for their summer circus programme. Which was wonderful.

Getting there, slightly less so, since the Enterprise on a Saturday morning is invariably packed out, and this was no exception. I ended up appropriating the fourth seat on a table which already had three people on it and wedging her on my knee, with many pleas that she try not to kick the gentleman opposite. She’s always been a long creature, but seven came in with equal inches in legs.

But we managed, and we entertained ourselves with the fairy story drawing game on my tablet, much to the entertainment of the nice gentleman opposite, comprehensively de-and-re-constructed our bacon bagels for Reasons and I stood firm on the hot chocolate being for the trip home, not down. And cracked and got a taxi over from Connolly, since I couldn’t quite face trying to navigate an over-excited seven-year-old when I wasn’t completely sure of the directions myself. Taxi driver asked what we were going to do at the Ark and got an endless stream of chatter that boiled down to “Clowns!”

And so to the circus. We collected our tickets and name stickers, and were gently chased out again for half an hour until the rest of the group arrived. So we had a little wander round the farmers market that lives in the entries on a Saturday and Tori asked for apples and the man warned her they were tart and she was undeterred.
“I like sharp things! … that’s very sharp.”
“You don’t have to eat it if it’s too much.”
A small girl making lemon-faces every time she bites her apple is one of the funniest things on earth.

The first session was designing and creating their own clown make-up and costume. Little lecture on the Clown Museum and how every clown has their own face, kept in the archive on an egg so no-one else will use it until the clown retires or passes it along. Then they were set upon the dressing up box to try out ideas. They dressed themselves up. Then, because I was sitting on the floor, I was comprehensively bewigged and be-hatted, and only narrowly avoided being be-nosed.

Then the eggs were handed out, and the scissors and glitter and fabric and glue and I was delegated to make a bow-tie and one of the Ark girls started making glasses, and firm instructions were issued to the effect that ONLY the grown-ups were allowed the UHU glue. Apparently there is a story to that. I can make a fair guess.

Silky the Clown

Then onwards to a desperately rushed lunch and an afternoon with the circus. Fossets had joined in to provide photos and videos – the boys who are learning to be horseback acrobats in particular were brilliant. The kids were got up to be ponies in the ring, then they went up to see the clown (comprehensively heckled for his terrible jokes by a four-year-old), and up again to see Lizzie and hear the tale of the night of the red feathers and the magic circus, then up again to make their own shadow puppets.

Constructive Criticism

Which was yet more UHU glue, and the most complex shadow pony anyone had made all week. Tori is mildly dangerous when let loose with an entire table of stuff. We ended up trailing out with a string of glitter behind us and a great many balloons. Down the Boardwalk and onto the train and the great amusement of the lady opposite.

Clowns and Horses and Bears

And then we took pictures of ourselves reflected in the luggage rack. For Reasons.


I clunk when I walk

I got the cast off (eventually, amid much confusion and a fun encounter with a man who will henceforth be known as Bad Attitude Registrar). And was given an air cast.

An air cast is a large grey contraption in two parts, with three velcro straps, it has to be inflated and deflated at four different points to go on or off and your leg looks like RoboCop’s. They’re really large. I’m wearing an adult small size, and my toes are sticking out the top, but the medium size wouldn’t tighten enough around my leg to work. I am on week four of six, we are having the coldest March in twenty years and MY TOES STICK OUT OF MY BOOT. If I get through this without frostbite I will count myself lucky.

The entire point of it is to let me walk on the ankle without rotating it in any direction. The idea is that you can walk unassisted in it, for values of walk that include clunking along in a painfully halting fashion, but as the consultant gloomily observed ‘A lot of people find it hard to balance’. I fall over if you look at me funny to begin with, this is not an ideal state of affairs.

The thing is completely rigid, and the sole is the best part of three inches thick at the back. And it’s a rocker. So unless I’m in a situation where I can get away with my awful FitFlop boot on the other foot, I am distinctly off kilter. Taxi drivers HATE watching me progress, to the point where they make worried noises and take my bag away for fear it’ll overbalance me.

(Taxi drivers have been universally wonderful, and sometimes I even get a bus driver who will kneel the bus for me.)

I start with the physio on Wednesday. The consultant sent me to this one specially, because of my ridiculous freakishness. Slightly terrified.