30 August 2014

Rematch Day

As I type this, it's about half an hour to "throw-in" and the start of the match--or more accurately, the rematch-- between Mayo and Kerry in the GAA All-Ireland semi-final. The winner will play the winner of Donegal-Dublin. We were puzzled about which sport this is. Rugby? Soccer? Hurling? None of them! Turns out it's Gaelic football, which is similar to Australian rules football. Sounds complicated to me, involving as it apparently does counting steps allowed while holding the ball in the hand, special sorts of kicks and bounces, and stuff like that. They play in shorts with no padding or helmets. This is quite a big deal here. Flags have always been flying, but the sheer number of them has increased dramatically in the last weeks. The game was actually played last weekend, but they played to a draw, so the replay is today. It had to be moved to Limerick instead of being played at Croke Park in Dublin, because US college football is being played there--much to the unhappiness of Mayo fans. There is some anger at the fact that this totally Irish event is being pushed aside for US college football at the major GAA stadium in the country. On the bright side, Limerick businesses are pretty pleased, since they are getting a lot of visitors that were unexpected until last weekend. I've read that the B&Bs are full to capacity.

Here in Ballinrobe, the signs have been going up on businesses and flags have been flying on homes, businesses, town monuments, and cars. Red and green is fluttering all over town--feels like Christmas! There are a few different flag designs and they come in all shapes and sizes. People have strung bunting on their homes (we have some on the deck railing from past years--it's all faded now), tied large flags to the luggage racks on the roof of their car, have flags sticking out of the car windows, attached them to windows, and planted flagpoles in their yards! A few cars have Mayo wind socks flying from their car windows. If they lose, there will be some pretty bummed out Mayo-ites. Or Mayoians. Or whatever.

We were out walking today and commenting on how few people there were out and about. We did stop to chat with a woman who was walking with her dog in the opposite direction--she greeted us with, "I've seen you before," and proceeded to ask us questions and tell us about her dog. She was quite friendly. There was a garda car parked across the street waiting to catch speeding folks. She said they can read the speed from down the road and sure enough, a car came alongside us and the garda was out of his car, walking across the street, and gesturing with a couple of fingers that the driver should stop. The driver stopped and got the ticket and went on their way. After we'd walked on, the garda got someone coming the other way. Traffic was pretty light for a Saturday--crossing the street was not as much of an adventure as it usually is.

On the way home we stopped at the library, which had no one in it besides us and the librarian. When I commented on how quiet it was, Mary replied, "It's because of the match." That must've been about noon. The match starts at 5. It's kind of like the Super Bowl in the US, I guess, where the partying and preparations begin early. I told Mary I hoped she'd be home in time for the match and she said she'd be home in plenty of time, since she would be getting off at 4. As we were leaving, an elder woman wearing red and green was entering. Almost game time!




25 August 2014

Persistence and Awareness Required!

Unless you enjoy being overcharged and ripped off, you have to pay close attention to any transaction involving money here. In my last post, I reviewed the many ways Eircom has ripped us off. I would estimate that we have paid them around 60 euro in fees that we should not have had to pay, but it would have been more than that if Bill had not been persistent and if we had not paid attention to our bill and questioned the mistakes.

He was on the phone with Eircom again this morning to demand that something be done about this 15 euro plus VAT charge for "invalid payment type" on our most recent bill. This came about because they did not properly take care of setting up the direct debit. The first guy he spoke to was rude, did not listen, was most unhelpful, and suggested that the problem was probably that we did not have money in the account. When Bill kept repeating that the bank has no record of a direct deposit being set up, the information fell on deaf ears. Bill asked him what the cancellation fee would be and was told that it would be whatever is left on the contract. Bill ended the call, took a few deep breaths, and called again, hoping to speak to someone different. This was successful and he spoke to a much more competent person who was not rude, who listened, and who proposed a solution. He said that this is a not unusual problem and that while he was not authorized to take the 15 euro plus VAT charge off the bill, he could issue a credit on next month's bill, which he did (or so he said). He also said that he would send Bill paperwork so that the direct debit could be done over. In the meantime, Bill paid online so we would not get hit with more fees if they tried to do direct debit again. There is nothing we can do at this point except watch the bank statement and wait for the next Eircom bill and whatever drama will be included.

Eircom seems to have a particular gift for incompetence and/or dishonesty, but you have to be quite diligent all over where money is involved (I must say here in all fairness that the electricity people seem to be competent and we have never had one problem with them--you can plug in with confidence!).

The bank charges fees for everything--even using your debit card to pay for something. Every time you use the card, it's a 20 cent fee. If you want to talk to a live person, it's 40 cents. That could add up, which is why you often see lines at the ATMs--especially on Friday afternoons. The ATM is in the bank and people go in to get their money for the weekend--or at least I assume so. We were told by the woman who set up our account that Friday afternoons are always crazy. The fee seems ridiculous, especially because they are pretty unreliable, but they are up front about them--if you read the fine print, you'll find them stated.

It would appear that things are taxed at different rates here. We don't shop much and have only had a few instances where tax was charged and then only at one of the grocery stores. Aldi seems to tax stuff that Tesco does not and some of it is taxed at 10% and some at 23%--I have no idea what gets taxed at what rate. I have bought stuff like a slow cooker that I expected to pay a tax on and there was none. I bought some gum at Aldi and was taxed. There is a VAT on the electric bill and although this is included in our Eircom bundle price (in theory, anyway), they added 3.44 euro VAT to the invalid payment fee of 15 euro.

I am bummed that the local grocery store just down the street from us has also become quite unreliable and we now have to pay very close attention when paying for our groceries. They seem to have a problem with the programmers who input prices and stuff that is supposed to be on sale does not ring up at the correct price. Since I buy a lot of their sale produce and it can be as much as half off, it's easy for me to be overcharged. It does not seem all that simple for the checkers to fix this at the register, either. There have been several occasions when I've pointed out a mistake and the checker has stood there trying to do some kind of calculation in her head and then figured out how much to charge me for the next item to make up the difference. Tesco is better with this kind of thing. I have had an issue once with someone scanning coffee 3 times when we only had two bags. I didn't notice this until we got home,so we saved the receipt, went back, talked to the woman at the service desk, and said we'd take another bag of coffee instead of a refund. She was fine with that. People do try to make it right and at SuperValu, it's certainly not the fault of the checkers--it's the computer programmers or the people who input price information. They will often have sales that are mix and match 2 for a euro or 2 for 2 euro. If you buy one, you don't get the sale price--you have to buy in multiples of two. But then the register rings the items up at full price and takes all the discounts off at the end. This makes it harder to watch what is going on as things are being scanned. For someone there alone, who also has to fumble with their cash and bag or box up their groceries, it can be easy to miss these overcharges and they can add up fast.

So whether you are paying for a product or a service, you have to pay close attention and you have to speak up when it's wrong--which seems to be quite often. If you don't get a satisfactory solution the first time, you might have to try again with someone else. People usually try to make it right, but it takes some effort to keep an eye on everything! It's quite easy to shrug it off when it's a little here and a little there, but then those little bits start piling up and pretty soon, you've paid out quite a bit of money that you should still have in your pocket. I shrugged it off the first few times at the grocery store or I opted not to go there on the first day of the sale, when things often scanned wrong. But the problem just kept on happening and getting worse, so now I don't shrug it off. I also don't shop there as much, but when I do and when they make a mistake, I politely call their attention to it. I am tired of overpaying!

23 August 2014

The Many Scams of Eircom

When we first moved to Ireland, we knew from reading about the experiences of others, that it would take a while to get an internet connection. Like every other thing we have encountered here, this was a more complicated and longer process than it should have been, but I have to say that it tops the list. If there is one thing that Eircom knows how to do well--and it appears to be the only thing they do well--it is finding new and creative ways to rip people off. My suggestion to anyone needing internet service in Ireland would be avoid Eircom if you possibly can. They are terrible. I have written in the past about the hassles we had at the beginning. These have never ended. There has not been one month when Bill has not had to get on the phone and deal with some kind of billing problem. The lies trip easily off the lips of the people on the phone, too, so you can never actually believe the BS that comes flying out.

Here are some of the problems we have had:
1) We were told by another service provider at the beginning that it would take 4-6 weeks to get connected--if we already were wried for their service, which was unknown. We would have had to sign an 18 month contract or pay for a bunch of extras. Since we knew by then that we would probably not be here for more than a year, none of that seemed like a good option. Bill called Eircom. They told him 10 working days and a 12 month contract for 35 euro a month, including VAT. This included a phone line, which we did not want, but is required for the broadband. He agreed to this. We waited for our modem, which was supposed to be mailed to us. It never appeared and when Bill called to find out where it was, the guy said that the work order had never gone forward and it had never been mailed. He did not know why. In the meantime, though, we'd gotten the paperwork which gave us 14 days to opt out of the contract. By the time we got the modem, that was long past and we'd already gotten a bill for the phone line, which we were assured was activated and ready to go.

2) When the modem came, we set it up and nothing worked. Bill called for service. The guy showed up within a couple of hours, bringing a new modem which also did not work. He checked the line. It didn't work. He left to check at the exchange and everything seemed to be fine there. He traced the problem and informed us that there was no active line coming into this apartment. He found a line we could use and hooked up the modem. Mind you, this means we were billed for a nonexistent phone line after being assured up and down that it was activated. One of two possibilities here--either many of the people working at Eircom are incompetent or they are deliberately trying to rip people off.

3) The first bill we got was about 50euro--this was for set-up fees and the phone line (that we did not actually have) and the VAT. Bill was assured on the phone that there would be no set-up fees, the VAT was included in what was supposed to be the 35 euro bundle price, and of course, there was no active phone line at that point anyway, so we were paying for nothing, although we did not know this yet! Bill was told it was so high because the internet had not yet been set up, so the bundle price wasn't applicable. Nice move--avoid sending the modem so you can provide no service and charge people more for it!

4) The next bill came after the modem had arrived and the wifi was operational. It also included set-up fees. Back on the phone Bill went. He was told that the fee was a one-time thing that would not appear again. He complained about the previous bill as well and the woman gave him a credit for some of that amount. This bill also contained a "past due" 150 euro fee for something. Even though it was supposedly past due, this was the first we'd heard of it. Turns out it was a deposit that we were supposed to pay if we didn't want to do direct debit with them. It would be returned later, they said. Here was a tough choice--allow the direct debit or send them money and hope it was returned. Bill opted to set up the direct debit.

5) Last month's bill arrived with the deposit still listed, but everything else correct. He called again and was told that the 150 euro charge would stay on there until 3 successful direct debit transactions had been completed. So our monthly bill of 35 euro would be direct debited, but not the 150 euro deposit. Bill was watching the bank and the bill online. The monthly charge disappeared from the bill, but not from the bank and a few days later, the charge was back on the Eircom bill. He called again and was told that it got kicked back to them from the bank and the person he was speaking to did not know why. He paid the bill on the phone and we went to the bank where they told us they had no record of Eircom setting up the direct deposit. The bank is another idiotic institution, so we have no way of knowing who messed up here--Eircom or the bank. Either way is equally plausible. And either way, we're paying for it, not the incompetent morons running these companies.

6) The latest bill came today. We have been charged a 15 euro "invalid payment fee," presumably because the direct debit, which they may not even have set up, is not operational. There is also some VAT added in for some reason. That will be this month's conversation with the billing department.

At this point, I am considering reporting this company to the consumer protection people. Given what I know about the sheer BS that spews forth from almost every other Irish company/institution I have had the misfortune to deal with, I am not sure it would be at all helpful. In any case, if we cancel they will charge us fees for that--and probably VAT and stuff on top of it. I am really hoping there is some other option available when we move. There has not been a month when the 35 euro bundle fee we were quoted has been what has been on the bill.

This kind of thing is exactly why I am not bothering to attempt any kind of involvement in anything here. I have had a couple of good experiences dealing with institutions/businesses, but mostly it's been nothing but hassles.I go into any situation involving groups of people with caution, wariness, and the expectation that things will unfold in bizarre and ridiculous ways. I really do not mind living quietly and apart from the kind of stuff that goes on and when I can do that, I find myself quite content. I think that when we move I will probably seek out involvement in something, but experiences like this--which are ongoing and highly annoying--make me just want to go out walking or hang out with a good book, some yarn, and a bunch of podcasts and let the BS go on around me. It's there and seems to be normal operating procedure here. That's fine, but I don't have to step in it.

Anyone wanting to learn the art of the scam would do well to go and work for Eircom, where you can get paid to have training in exactly that!

14 August 2014

Ending and Beginning

Summer is definitely ending here. It's not quite fall yet, but you can tell it's coming. I am struck lately by how much August in Ballinrobe reminds me of August in Fairbanks, Alaska. There's that same nip in the morning air and looking at how the plants are changing the landscape and changing in the landscape reminds me a great deal of my 9 years in Fairbanks. I am delighted. Ever since we left Alaska 10 years ago, I have missed it most during August, September, and October. I liked the transition from summer to autumn that took place during those months. When August began, it was the tail end of summer. The fireweed was blooming near the top and white puffy seed balls would blow around in the air. By September, there was definitely a nip in the air and we could expect one day with brilliant blue skies that served as a background to golden yellow birch and aspen leaves. Look down and the forest floor was a bright red. There would have been a frost. We'd go out and pick low bush cranberries (lingonberries). By October, we were waiting for snow and by Halloween, winter was upon us with temperatures well below zero.

I do not expect the similarities between here and Alaska to hold much beyond August. It will not get very cold here and may well not feel like a real winter at all. That's OK. It will be cool enough. What makes me so happy about this August is the same thing that I missed so much when I left Alaska--this season in-between. It was a surprise to me, this similarity to what I have missed so much, but it's been a very happy one. In the places I have lived since we left Alaska, hot weather would just go on and on and on. I would grumble my way through October with the windows open, wondering when it would feel like fall. I would tell Bill that my body was still on Alaska Seasonal Time. Now I can be on Ireland Seasonal Time :-) It's still too hot when the sun beats down, but we have both felt chilly when we go out walking and the sun was behind the clouds. Mornings are nippy. The plants are starting to look a bit ragged in some cases, but in others, they are simply different. I have started to notice and appreciate the structure of plants that are no longer flowering in the same way I have always liked looking at trees without their leaves. They are quite beautiful in their own way.
The river level is low these days. There's a good deal of vegetation in and alongside the river.

The reflections are lovely.

There are new kinds of wildflowers blooming that were not around earlier in the year.
When the sun comes out, the sheep like to rest near the cool stone walls.
The sun sparkles off the dewdrops on the plants.
Walls bear traces of past plants, which reflect their own kind of beauty.
The sun and the rapidly moving clouds create an amazing and ever-changing sky and color-intensifying light.
So as the fireweed blooms and we say good-bye to summer, I find myself glad to be in a place where summer isn't endless and is, in fact, quite manageable. If we must have summer, this past one was OK.
I feel quite content in this in-between season. As always, I am curious to observe how the seasons keep changing and how this little patch of nature responds. I like it here.






07 August 2014

Charity Shops

We've moved long distances (2500 or more each time) 3 times in the past decade. We've taken less with us each time. The first big move we made came almost 7 years into our marriage when we moved from New Hampshire to Portland, Oregon. We hired a moving van, but packed everything ourselves.

Eight years later we moved from Portland to Fairbanks, Alaska. This time we had a U-Haul. Bill, Heather and I were in that and a friend and his son were in our truck with our animals in back. We bought them a plane ticket home. Even making the trip with extra people and paying for lodging, food, and their airline tickets, it was still cheaper than it would have been to hire a moving company.

Nine years after that, we were moving from Alaska to southern Oregon. This time we decided to leave all the big stuff behind and mail ourselves boxes of other stuff. We mailed 22 boxes to ourselves. Some of these were plastic totes, which we used again for the next move! When we got to Oregon, we set out looking at thrift store to find furniture. We found what we wanted and later got a few things on freecycle. A friend let us use a kitchen table and chairs that had been her mother's. We did buy a new mattress and tossed it on the floor and later a friend gave me a mattress and box spring that was practically new but that she couldn't use. There hadn't really been much in the way of thrift stores in Fairbanks--just a Value Village--but there was a spot at the transfer station where people could leave items that were still good for other people to take and use. When we left Fairbanks, we brought a lot of stuff there.

Five years and two weeks after arriving in southern Oregon, we were off again, having freecycled a lot of stuff and given other stuff to people that wanted it or to the local Hospice thrift shop. We headed east and took 99 days to go across the northern part of the country before stopping in Niagara Falls for 5 months. We had almost nothing, but we slept on our air mattress until we got a futon to toss on the floor. The Salvation Army store was just down the street from the motel we were staying at, so we could go get some dishes and things before moving into our apartment. Once we got the truck unloaded, we went back and found chairs and a plastic patio table. Nice and light and easy to carry upstairs, so we used it as our kitchen table.The guy who had been living there left the couch.

After Niagara Falls, we landed in Maine and once again got what we needed at thrift stores or from Craigslist. We'd left 10 boxes behind with a couple of different friends in Oregon, and when we were settled in Maine, they mailed them. These were mostly books, but there was some other stuff, too. By the time we got it, it was a year and a half or more since we'd left and I honestly wondered why I had felt the need to pack some of that stuff. We donated a lot of it to the local thrift stores and sold a couple of things on ebay.

When we left Maine a few months ago, we were down to bringing 4 checked-in bags and a carry-on apiece. I chuckle at the thought of how we brought a little less each time we've moved. This time there was no need to look for pots or pans, plates and bowls, furniture or appliances. We walked into the flat and just about everything was here. We did walk down the street and buy pillows, sheets, and towels (we bought these new). Apartments and rental houses seem to almost always come furnished. You can see how this affects the kind of stuff that the charity shops sell here. We've been in the couple that are here in town and some in different towns, and what we see is mostly books and clothes. There are usually a few bits of bric-a-brac as it's called here, and a few bits of kitchenware and rarely some furniture, but mostly it's clothes and books.
Here in Ballinrobe, we have two shops--one benefits Hospice and one supports people with sight loss. I have bought clothing to wear at each one and of course, we've gotten lots of books at each one as well. They are both good stores. I have wished in the past that there was a larger selection of things like larger bowls and bakeware and stuff like that. I had to go buy a few things like that at the 2 euro store rather than buying used, as I prefer--looking for something secondhand is always my first choice, but it's not as easy here, since the charity shops just don't get many donations of such things. There are often signs in the window asking for donations of housewares, furniture, and bric-a-brac. When we walked by this morning, I was pleased to see a sign in the window of the NCBI shop that stated that they were having a sale on children's clothing--25 pieces for 5 euro. That is a great thing because families are large here and school costs are quite high. Kids wear uniforms to school, but it's good that parents can get a break on clothes for non-school hours. I'm sure many really need it!

06 August 2014

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I was awake early this morning and decided to get up. The sun was shining--but happily, not for long! Soon it started to cloud up and before long, the rain was coming down hard. I love mornings like that. The mail carrier buzzed us and Bill went down to pick up a package. He was surprised that it was the anniversary surprise he'd ordered for me only yesterday--3 350 yard hanks of aran tweed yarn--one blue, one green, and one purple. Yay! Our anniversary is not for 2 1/2 weeks still, but it was a nice surprise on a nice morning in our nice flat located in a nice neighborhood.

In spite of the boy racers and weekend drunken revelers on the main road, we do live on the edge of a nice little neighborhood with a diversity of people. There are people of all different ages here, from families with children of all ages, to middle aged folks, to elders. We frequently see some elder gents riding wobbily on their bikes--no helmets of course. Last week we were walking down the busy street one afternoon when we saw one of them turn from our road onto the busy street and slowly pedal along as the traffic slowed behind him. I was a bit fearful for his safety, but then I reminded myself that he'd probably been doing the same thing for a long time and knew what he was doing.

There are Irish people, Polish people, Muslim people, and at least a couple of us from the US in this little neighborhood.

To give you a sense of things, here is the busy road as seen from our doorway:
You can see the metal poles, which are all over the place in town, and you can see the bent one where someone obviously had a problem coming around the corner. Our bedroom windows are just above where Bill was standing.

This is the view down our street as seen from across the main road:
And our entrance door--the only way in:
Our bedroom windows are the one above the blue door and the one above the ground floor windows. There is a different apartment to the right of the stairwell and on top of the optometrist, but we do not share a wall with that apartment because the stairwell is in between. There's an older guy who lives underneath us.

Beyond our building you can see the terraced houses on the right. They have different colored doors and there are two #6s, both with green doors.

Here's the view from down the street down the street a bit, looking back toward our flat:

Our sitting room window is the top one on that angled part of the last building on the left.

A little farther down the road is the green space:
I think it's great that this is here. You can't see them in the photo, but the Tidy Towns people have made little corner flower beds and someone regularly mows the grass. The kids in the neighborhood play there a lot. The gardens (yards) are very, very small, so it's nice for the kids to have a big play area!

Surrounding the green are what would be called duplexes in the US, but are called semi-detached houses here. It seems that you can buy just one half if you're so inclined. Sometimes one side is painted one color and the other is painted another color--this works most of the time, but I have seen examples where the colors of the two halves don't really go well together! For the past couple of months, there have been people out all around town painting their homes, businesses, and walls.

Many people walk here, so there are always people coming and going. We start to notice their habits--the guy who lives down the street and always goes to the library when they open so he can use a computer, the older gents who go to Centra to buy a paper every morning, the woman who always walks down the street with her shopping bag, and the family who go out to the store--mom, dad, 4 kids on foot and one in a stroller. We used to see an older guy out with his older dog. Both were very, very slow. The dog had legs that were only a few inches long and he was as slow as his person. They went well together. Last week I saw the guy without the dog and I worried that the dog was sick or perhaps was deceased. We don't see the man out there walking by himself. He stopped at one point and kind of turned around and looked. He seemed a little bit lost.

It's funny how in such a small area, you can go from a bustling town center, to a small neighborhood, to a rural neighborhood, complete with cows and sheep in the fields. From the green space in the last photo, it's a few steps to the end of the sidewalk and a few more to the field with the hungry cow. I like being able to easily move from one to the other.




05 August 2014

Searching for Signs of Autumn

We went out after lunch to go to the library. I found the book I went there for and some bonus books that I found on the one shelf on the one library cart devoted to new books. This was a good day. One of the difficult adjustments for me here is finding myself without access to a good library. I had, apparently, gotten quite spoiled.

After that we went to Tesco. We'd gotten a voucher for almost 3 euro off a purchase when we were there a couple of weeks ago and it was going to expire in a couple of weeks. We wanted to use it before that happened. The coffee and biscuit supplies were bulked up a bit as a result!

On the way home, I suggested we walk part of the way by the river. This is my favorite place in town, aside from our flat. I love walking by the river--it's so peaceful and it makes me happy and content to be there. We only walked a little way today, because while it was nice and cool in the flat and even on the deck, once we got downstairs, it was hot and stuffy. All the more reason to look for some evidence that autumn is coming--and I found what I was hoping to find.

Leaves are starting to turn and the plants and flowers are starting to fade.


The blackberries are starting to get some color.
The leaves can be quite striking.

As we were climbing the few stone steps to Bower's Walk, which takes us to Main St, we spotted a bit of yellow in the grass at the base of the stone wall. Bill went to see what it was and discovered a child's fleece shirt. It was wet, but not mildewed and there was no smell, so I kept it and carried it home.
I just did laundry this morning, but I hung the shirt on the line when I got home. It can dry and air out--and if it rains tonight, as they say it might, it can get rinsed off. I can wash it in the next load and use the fabric for something.

As we came out of the gate at Main St, I spotted this on the wall:
I have an idea for turning this into a small hanging art piece. I put it with the other found objects I plan to use in various ways.
At least the long-suffering Tidy Towns folks will have a little less litter to pick up!







04 August 2014

Love the Sky!

We left for our walk a little after 10 this morning. The sun was shining and the bright blue sky was dotted with a few fluffy white clouds. Our neighbor was hanging clothes on the line and we stopped to chat with her for a few minutes. I've had many people in many different places tell me that if I don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change. Here that is often true and today was one such day.

We walked outside and decided to skip the main road and go the other way--down our street along a winding country road that comes out on a larger road which leads back to town. The traffic noise faded as we walked toward the end of the sidewalk. A few minutes into our walk, we came across this really hungry cow:
The sound she was making as she ripped up mouthfuls of grass was somewhat loud!

A few steps further down the road and the sky looked like this:
A little further on:
A few minutes later, we each felt a drop of rain and then another. Then it started to sprinkle. Then it rained. I got my hat out of my backpack and enjoyed the fact that I was walking in some nice, cool rain instead of the heat and blazing sun we had a couple of weeks ago.

We got home and the laundry was still on the line, getting soaked. A couple of hours later the sun was out and there was a good breeze blowing, so I expect it will try soon enough--if she gets it inside. It's pretty cloudy and looking like rain again as I type.

I love looking at the sky here. The clouds are amazing and constantly changing.



Living in Town

One of the problems with living in town only became apparent to us after we'd been here for a while. At first, we really liked being where we are, just a few minutes walk from the grocery store, the library, the bank, the post office, and even the river walk.  It was pretty quiet. Then it started to warm up and we opened the windows. It was no longer quiet. Boy racers speeding down the street, revving engines and squealing tires became part of the regular soundtrack of our daily lives. Sometimes they speed around the loop that makes up downtown Ballinrobe--around and around they go. The traffic noise is annoying--people drive fast here in general, whether they are driving compact cars or large farm equipment. Large trucks come down the main road that is at the end of our street. There are times when the noise outside is disruptive when I am trying to listen to something using headphones. This is one thing during the day and evening. The most annoying time is weekend nights. As I type this, it is almost 1:30 a.m. I am sitting here listening to music from the pub down the street. They do not even seem to start playing until 11 or so. I suppose we are lucky that there is only one pub on our street. Drinking culture is a feature of life here and a culture of binge drinking (whether at "the local" or at home) is a big problem. Downtown Ballinrobe consists of a kind of square bounded by roads that lead into one another. In this small area, I have counted 7 or 8 pubs.

 Right now I am hearing the music. In a couple of hours, I will most likely be awakened by drunken revelers on their way home from the pub. This happens every Saturday night (tonight is a bonus night, as it's bank holiday weekend)--they come out of the pubs in groups and they yell, sing at the top of their voices, laugh hysterically, or just stand around talking loudly. Last weekend someone was trying to get people to be quiet, but to no avail. People are quite inconsiderate. I was talking to a friend about this and she mentioned that it all seemed very juvenile. It really does--it's the kind of behavior you'd expect from teenagers.

I have always found the noise factor to be one of the unpleasant features of summer, because once you open the windows you do hear people's conversations, lawn mowers and other machines, traffic, fan or air conditioner noise, etc. One year my head was actually humming for a day or two after we put away the fans and shut the windows. This is the first place I have lived where it is people being deliberately rude and behaving badly that causes the unpleasantness. My friend mentioned laws against public drunkenness and I have no idea whether such laws exist here, but even if they did, who would enforce them?  Gardai are not even around when the problems are happening. When we took a taxi to Claremorris a month ago, the taxi driver mentioned that one street that was not good to live on because drunk people tap on the windows coming home from the pubs. The buildings are right on top of the sidewalk. Things are worse in larger towns, of course. A woman recently won a judgement against a pub in Dublin because she slipped and fell in a pool of vomit that wasn't cleaned up, hurting her back. Festive.

There went a boy racer--squealing around the loop.

Tomorrow when we go out for our walk, we can expect to find glasses on outside window ledges at the pubs--these may or may not be intact and they may or may not have anything in them. There will likely be broken glass on the sidewalks near the pubs. I am likely to be tired from being kept awake by rude, obnoxious, drunk people.

There's the boy racer again.

I look forward to the day when we can close the windows again and not be bothered by this stuff anymore. By the time next summer rolls around and the windows will need to be opened, we will be living somewhere else. It will not be in the center of town.