the small pleasures

Following on from my previous, one of the things I did want to do is list the small local pleasures that are absolutely unique to Dublin.

So, here are mine and I’m open to suggestions.

  • sitting on the boardwalk on a sunny day
  • sitting in St Stephen’s Green on a sunny day
  • Fish and chips from Beshoffs
  • Sitting on the pier in Howth
  • (combining the fish and chips from Beshoffs with the sitting on the pier in Howth)
  • Wandering around the Botanic Gardens
  • Wondering who designed the Met Office
  • Wandering around the National Museum in Kildare Street
  • White hot chocolate from Butlers
  • Taking the Dart all along the coast
  • Browsing the magazines in Easons
  • walking Dollymount Strand
  • Walking Sandymount Strand
  • Walking the piers in Dun Laoighaire.
  • Walking along the seafront in Blackrock
  • Walking around Phoenix Park
  • Checking out the National library
  • Tea in the bar in Brooks Hotel
  • Tea in the library bar
  • Queen of Tarts (not the biggest fan myself)
  • Foodmarket in Temple Bar on a Saturday, Howth on a Sunday, and Dun Laoghaire on a Sunday
  • The National Gallery
  • The Science Gallery
  • Wandering around the quadrangle in Trinity
  • Meeting friends under the clock at Clerys.

One thing we can learn about making Dublin a better city…

Niall Harbison wrote this piece on his LovinDublin site and some joyous person shared it via my twitter feed last night or this morning or some time. I’m not absolutely certain as I am in exam prep mode and the days and nights just blur.

If you’re reluctant to click through, basically he’s listing 7 things we should copy from San Francisco so that Dublin keeps learning.

Dublin, in my view, could be a fantastic city if – and only if (we express this as IFF in mathsy terms) – it stopped trying to be somewhere else. When Niall Harbison lists 7 things we should copy from San Francisco to make Dublin better, he’s missing that point.

Dublin, in certain parts, is a stunning looking city. Walk down Grafton Street and look UP at the buildings above eye level. They are stunning. Look at Georges Street Arcade. It’s a masterpiece of gothicry. Look at the Pen Corner, look at all the stunning buildings on O’Connell Street. Building a bunch of street food stalls and opening a branch of Whole Foods doesn’t answer the right question. Are we making the most of our assets? I don’t think we are.

When I consider the question “How can we make Dublin a better city”, I don’t think of real drip coffee (seriously, what the actual hell). I think of “How do we make Dublin an easy city to live in”.

My number one item – above all else – is pour money into a coherent, integrated public transport system. Yesterday, I was waiting for a bus on Westmoreland Street, when a taxi parked in a bus stop to do what looked like a pre-arranged pick up. The bus stop in question is used by 6 different bus companies.

There are several problems there. 1) no one other than a bus should be stopping at a bus stop 2) six companies at a single bus stop including the main city service with about 7 routes is not evidence of a coherent well thought out transport system.

Now, I could write a complete essay on public transport in Dublin, but really, I wanted to use this to illustrate a single point: living in Dublin can be hard. If you drive, you spend hours in traffic (took me 90 minutes to get home on Friday) or you plan massive amounts of time to cater for changing buses in town (2 hours yesterday for a four mile journey). Ultimately, the point is, when we look at improving Dublin, our singular question shouldn’t be “what can we copy from somewhere else” but “how can we make life easier for the inhabitants in Dublin”. May god forgive me for this but “what are the painpoints of living in Dublin”.

When I think of the problems I experience on a day to day basis of living in Dublin, they aren’t the sort of problems you solve by making more hipster food joints available. To be frank, if you want a decent food market, Dublin City Council is working on that and you don’t need Wholefoods.

What we need is less expensive accommodation (rents are up, house prices are up, salaries not so much). What we need is a comprehensive effective public transport system whose remit is not to be as cheap as possible but to be as comprehensive as possible. What we need is a change in how we approach high density housing.

Most of the stuff that Niall Harbison is on about is the sort of stuff that happens if the infrastructure of your city is working effectively and it’s not specific to any city in particular.

But mostly, the problem with Dublin that I can see – and it hasn’t changed much in 15 years – is it wants to be somewhere else. It wants to rub shoulders with London and New York, and San Fran and Berlin and all those other hip places without realising that it’s the annoying school friend who wants to copy everything you do.

All these cities, they aren’t great because they have street food. They’re great because to some extent, all of them answered a question of “how do we make life easier for our inhabitants” at some level and at some stage, and they answered it in different ways. Here, the answers would be different as well. And they all started from the premise of being themselves. No one in Berlin woke up one morning and said “you know the place would be a whole lot better if we were a bit more like San Francisco”.

When you look at the other cities in the country, the Galways, the Belfasts and the Corks, they aren’t sitting there working out how they can be more like Dublin. They’re working out how they can make themselves better rather than aspiring to be somewhere else. There’s a subtle difference, absolutely but it matters.

 

Property, in Ireland, again, sigh,

This from the Journal, just in.

Quotes Alan McQuaid of Merrion Stockbrokers:

Although there is evidence of pick-up in mortgage lending, it is hard to see how house prices can keep on rising indefinitely without the banks returning to more “normal” lending practices and making credit more freely available than at the moment.

From this, one could assume that if we return to normal lending practices, house prices can keep on rising. The use of the word “normal” here suggests that this state of affairs is desirable.

I’m not sure I want to live in a country where this state of affairs is desirable. Our rental market is beyond puerile with ongoing spats over trying to decide who is better catered for, landlords or tenants. Neither does well out of the deal and cohorts in both sections behave badly. It is depressing to note that in the 15 years I have been living in Dublin I have been moved out of a house 4 times owing to “sale by owner”, and we will not talk about the question of notice.

We have – theoretically a policy against inflation, and for the vast majority of people in this country, accommodation forms the biggest part of their monthly outgoings. But rising rents are considered good things (for landlords) and rising purchase prices are considered good things because sure, we’re all wealthy.

I’ve long recognised that having travelled for a lot of my formative working years, that settling down would be fraught with the difficulty of dealing with the frustrations of how things are done badly here. Sometimes they just seem to bowl me over.

Property is one of them. I don’t own property and I’m not sure I want to for various reasons unrelated to the financing side of things, one of which is probably linked to a desire not to settle properly anyway. But it seems to me at the moment that unless you bought property at least 15 years ago, you’re fundamentally suckered if you’re buying or renting.

I can’t understand the benefit in that.

Easing into the morning

I remember a time, in the past, when I used to listen to Lyric FM in the morning. This seems to be increasingly hard if not impossible.

I remember a time, in the past, when Marty Whelan was one of the biggest stars in Irish radio. And then he went to Century.

Century was a good station; I regret that economically it just didn’t make it. However, Marty Whelan was well suited for the morning on popular radio. Less so on Lyric FM in my view.

It seems like you have a choice of two distinct styles of radio in the morning in Ireland; news, or chatter with some music thrown in. There is no easing into the morning any more. And when you switch on Lyric, the so called classical music station, it’s a bit regrettable to be encountering, amongst other things, Paul Brady and Bon Jovi. I don’t hear 4FM playing much in the way of Rachmaninov. And 2FM probably doesn’t play much Tchaikovsky either.

So.

What I’d like is a radio show – on Lyric – that doesn’t play music which is pretty ubiquitous on almost every other radio show in the country. I mean, Bon Jovi get an outting on every local station and most of the other nationals as well. I’d like that music to be classical and easing me into the day. And most of all, I want it presented by someone who doesn’t feel the need to be entertaining and banterful and bashing my ears with drivel in the morning.

In Ireland, this is too much to ask. So, if I am within network connectivity at the relevant time, I listen to YLE Klassinen from Finland. They play mainly music, mainly full works and the music is broken only to tell me what it is and to read the news once in a while.

It’s not that hard.

In the meantime, my view is that Marty Whelan belongs on 4FM.

Leaflet drops

Over on the Journal, there is a local election candidate complaining about No Junk Mail notices.

It’s an utterly depressing piece. She hates No Junk Mail notices because she interprets them as meaning 1 of 2 things; you want no unsolicited mail or you don’t want any of the stuff that isn’t political.

I think there is an element of wishful thinking there. Most people who don’t want junk mail don’t want any; they are sick of constantly recycling stuff that comes through their letter box. I have a dustbin inside my front door because at least then, dealing with it takes less effort than it would to be to bring it into the recycling bin in the kitchen.

The issue – as I see it – is junk mail is overdone. I fill the bin every week. NO kidding. And it is only going to get worse because the elections are coming up.

I don’t really know what to do about that. The Secret Candidate wants to know on what basis people make decisions. Well, a lot of them make decisions based on candidate affiliation and no bleating about individuals is going to change that, particularly when you’re a member of Fine Gael

Taking a step backwards though; junk mail causes work for people, work they never signed up to, and work they don’t want to have to do. I’m not short of stuff to do; random strangers causing housework for me isn’t top of my list of acceptable activities on their part.

I don’t feel sorry for political candidates in this respect; the point is they aren’t any more special than my local Chinese take away; they’re only ever really interested in talking to me if a) they want my vote or b) I’m not asking them for something. My experience of dealing with canvassers is not positive in terms of engagement. Terence O’Flanagan did not want to listen to the idea that I didn’t appreciate people nicking money out of my pension.

In my experience, most political candidates or there representatives do not want to engage with me. Their definition of political engagement is me, voter, agreeing with them, votewanter.

So back with the secret candidate’s irateness. Whether they like it or not, their newsletters or VotezPourMoi literature constitutes an advertisement for their personal brand. It’s rarely informative and often it’s tempered. Labour, when banging on about the jobs they created out of nothing to via Job Bridge and whatcapitalstuffcanwedofor cheap, never told me exactly how  much of the pension levy paid for that.

Whether the secret candidate likes it or not their election leaflet drops are still adverts, still unwanted by a lot of people.

It is not the only way forward.

Double parking lines and clearways

In the best scheme of things, at 7 on a Friday, it usually takes about 15 minutes to get from my house to Saint Stephen’s Green carpark. It’s not my favourite carpark (actually do I even have a carpark I actively like in Dublin – probably not) but it’s handy enough for the National Concert Hall, I don’t have to figure out how to get to it indirectly because of the oneway system, and it probably doesn’t cost me too much time versus trying to find my way to the carpark at the Conrad.

So the National Concert Hall gigs on a Friday start at 8. I left hope at 10 past 7. Mostly, you’d think that’s more than adequate time to get to the National Concert Hall for 8pm.

I made it in the door of the National Concert Hall at 1 minute to 8. And this happened because I spent a lot of time on the south quays between Matt Talbot Bridge and O’Connell Bridge going nowhere. And that was after two frustrated drivers had tried to kill me on the Matt Talbot bridge by changing lanes in front of me without looking to see whether there was anyone actually in the lane already.

Initially I figured the cause was probably bridge works for the new bridge. It wasn’t.

The only explanation I can see was that someone had parked in front of a bar not too far from O’Connell Bridge, partially blocking one lane. It caused chaos back as far as the Matt Talbot Bridge. I’m sure they were facilitated by having the car right outside the pub they were darting in and out of but it caused chaos for many, many other drivers.

I’ve long been of the view that many of the problems with traffic in Dublin could be alleviated if drivers stopped doing things like this. When I was coming home from the National Concert Hall, having elected to avoid Dawson Street as it has works on it at the moment, Georges Street was a symphony of cars parked in clearways and on double yellow lines. They were parked in bus lanes as well but as it was after 10 o’clock, and most of the bus lanes are not 24 hours that might be probably slightly more forgivable.

I’m not a fan of clamping cars. I think it’s wrong but in any case, clamping is not a solution for people parked in the wrong place.

I used to live in Brussels and there was a bus I used to take to and from work that had a junction which was notoriously difficult for the buses to get around and which was a clearway/tow away zone. Some talented driver of a Volvo parked one day and the bus could not clear the junction. It was a tow away zone, as I said, and the car was taken away as soon as the tow truck arrived.

Maybe we need to consider this in Dublin at this stage. I’m sick of hearing people in Dublin criticise driving in other cities when Dublin is second only to Athens in my experience of poor driving in western European countries.

Open letter to Amazon

Dear Amazon,

I am a customer of your dot co dot uk store and I have a Kindle which is linked to that store.

I know that you sell books in French, and German through your dot fr and dot de stores in Kindle editions.

I live in Europe. I speak fluent French and fluent German. I occasionally order books  – actual hard copy books – from both stores. The number of books I can get in either language on to my Kindle, however, is restricted to what is on offer in the dot co dot uk store.

I realise you need the Kindle to be limited to one store. But the array of books available across Europe, that would be great. Surely, given that the European Union has some small pillar regarding the free movement of goods and services across its internal borders, this has to be possible?

Could you maybe have a look at it please?

 

It’s My Life…

My twitter feed is full of moaning this morning, mainly by people who are not Garth Brooks fans moaning about people who are.

We seem to have an issue in this country whereby people judge others for the simple sin of not conforming to their narrow definition of what is being acceptable. It’s a problem, and it’s writ high in the reaction to the Garth Brooks concerts. He’s just sold out three nights in Croke Park.

To put that into context, so have One Direction.

So there are a lot of Garth Brooks fans about. Given that he doesn’t, compared to One Direction, get that much air play on most of the radio stations here, and hasn’t played here for quite a while, in music business terms, that’s quite the achievement.

My twitter feed is full of people who have:

  • never heard of Garth Brooks
  • if they have, are dismissing concert purchasers as culchies
  • dismissing concert goers as lacking class and intelligence
  • suggesting they’d be better off spending their money on 2 or 3 bands which are less famous shall we say.
  • despaired for Ireland because Garth Brooks has sold out 3 nights in the biggest concert venue in the country

All this misses one major point. There are people out there – approximately 200,000 of them – who have done a quality/price assessment and decided Garth Brooks is worth the money. Good luck to them. They are out to enjoy themselves.

So motivation – Out to Enjoy themselves. 

The moaners, the complainers are not. They are out to put people down, judge them, be nasty. It’s sad if that’s what constitutes enjoying themselves, but hey…this is Ireland. You’d never get on with living your own life and let other people live theirs right?

And yet, I think the whole idea of living and let live is likely to result in more happiness than bargying on about how stupid Garth Brooks fans are for queuing for tickets. It’s just a pity not enough people realise it sometimes

declaration of interest: I own no Garth Brooks CDs, no One Direction CDs (although you should watch this by the way) and I have tickets for neither concert and tried to get tickets for neither concert. I really just wish people would focus on what makes them happy rather than complaining about other people making themselves happy.

Book review: Eruptions that Shook the World – Clive Oppenheimer

I found this book fascinating.

Oppenheimer draws together strands from geology, history, archaeology and the current world to assess the impact of volcanic eruptions, the direct consequences, the indirect consequences. He provides an indepth technical understanding of volcanoes and their behaviour, the terminology used by experts in the field. He looks at a number of cataclysmic eruptions in history and highlights how they changed humanity’s world and humanity’s view of the world.

 

UPC price updates

I had an email from UPC the other day informing me of contractual changes which would also include an increase in price of 7.92 in my package.

My package already cost 85.99, negotiated after a similar letter some time last year; not absolutely certain but I think it was in the last 12 months. At that point, it transpired that although I was under the illusion I was on a package, I wasn’t, and so I was being nicely charged for separate products.

At the time, I voiced some discontent that UPC, in writing to me to tell me they were charging me more money, had not thought to provide me with the information that if I changed to one of their bundle products I could save, oh it was about 30E at the time.

So, some calculation done, it appears my monthly charge from UPC would go from 85.99 to 93.51 but I could save 3.50 if I signed up for MyUPC. I believe I already have this but it’s irrelevant.

Currently, the top price available bundle that you can buy from UPC is 80E, one of the Horizon bundles. It is – according to the literature on UPC’s website – a faster broadband product with a greater download allowance. I can’t see the upload speed but I assume it’s at least 10Mb up if we have 150 down. ACtually I can’t even see what the products are at the moment because UPC’s site is not responding and unfortunately, when I tried to call them just now, I wound up on hold for their phones ringing 20 times. I do not have time for this unfortunately.

So again, I am asking – this time publicly – why can’t UPC, when they are writing to tell me they want more money, that I can also available of different more modern less expensive products.

I’m currently a full time student and 13E a month, over the course of a year long contract is quite a bit of money. It represents almost 2 months of a 80E a month contract for one thing.

UPC are looking for comments on their customer service at the moment.

 

 

waves and numbers and stuff