02.08.2010 - 03.09.2010
Having bought a new laptop in Plymouth on our arrival by ferry, we had some software installed and set about restoring the backup from the external hard-drive. Alas our computer troubles were not over! We discovered that the backup, which had been professionally done by our computer man in Cape Town, inexplicably contained only about 5% of all our data. We now had to get used to the idea that all the work done on our stolen laptop for the previous 18 months had gone - besides screeds of Sandi's other data that was needed during our travels. But more was to come, when a week later in Ireland, we discovered that when they had loaded our new software, the new hard drive had became corrupted. After a few more hiccups, which we won't bore you with, and some indescribable to-and-froing between computer experts in RSA, Ireland and Microsoft, we finally have our new laptop working as it should.
We spent the rest of our short time in Ebford packing crates to be shipped home, and stocking up on materials and equipment needed for Sandi's new workshops, scheduled for 2011 launch. The R&D work related to this venture continues unabated, which keeps Sandi busy, busy, busy.
Judy's dahlias were in full bloom, and we were sad to bid farewell to Rob and Judy's delightful cottage, which is to be demolished to make space for three new cottages on the property.
We caught the ferry from Pembroke harbour to Rosslare, and spent the first week working in Toomevara. Our B&B was a grand old three storey house on a huge property, run by a young couple with a lot of very cute kids. We pondered how such a young couple could afford such an enormous property. For David’s birthday we went into nearby Nenagh and had some delicious seafood chowder.
David had 2 daytime shifts in Carlow on the weekend, and we opted to sleep in the van as it was warm enough.
We then had 3 weeks in Monaghan, staying in the GP's home, so we relished the home comforts of our own cooking and wifi and Skybox TV.
We enjoyed following Must be the Music and X Factor series on BBC. While David travelled to Gorey and Letterkenny for weekend shifts, Sandi stayed at "home", trying to research and rewrite as much of the lost computer data as possible. On Sandi’s birthday she prepared a delicious meal, including a banana caramel flan - a favourite from her childhood. We both really appreciated e-mail and phone calls from home for our birthdays. Thanks again!
There is very little of merit to do or see in Monaghan; the most exciting event in the area is advertised below!
A walk in Rossmore park is the only way to stretch one’s legs without breathing in exhaust fumes or being run over. It is an enormous forest estate, the paths of which are poorly signposted, and one could easily be lost for months.
In Monaghan we really felt the bite of the new tax regulations, as the GP deducted 50% tax retrospectively to March, when David first worked in the practice, resulting in zero pay for the third week. Ouch - quite an unexpected shock!! Very disheartening to work a whole week for "nothing". David engaged an accountant in Monaghan to help claim back the maximum tax at the end of the year. So we're holding thumbs.
The speeding fine incurred in Cork in March also came back to bite us. We should have received an option to pay the fine of €80 by post, but only received a summons to appear in court in September! After many enquiries, we learned that there remained no option but to make written representation to the court, which resulted in a judgement of €140. Rather unfair considering our speed had only been 70km/hr, but sometimes one has to draw a line and move on!
The Irish gardens are very pretty in summer with colourful begonias and geraniums. We were rather critical of the gardens in an earlier posting of this blog, and we apologise for that.
Finely manicured hedges and bushes are a national favourite, as almost every garden has some. Hanging baskets in public areas of towns and in front of pubs are charming.
Spending a lot of time on the roads in Ireland provides its challenges. We often get stuck behind slow farm vehicles on the roads, and can't overtake for miles! When this happens we both tend to drift off on our own reveries, which makes best use of a frustrating situation.
At filling stations, one longs for the friendly attendant who cleans your screen, checks the tyres, water and oil as well as filling up. David is tired of getting diesel and grimy smudges on his hands when filling up, and complains that it requires far too much effort to check the oil, water and tyres. Signage on the roads is generally inadequate, and speed restrictions very confusing.
Some home visits were to addresses such as “House next to public toilet, Passage East” or “no 1 white wall” or “The Ruins, Post office square” which turned out not to be next to the post office at all, but where the post office used to be 200 years ago! Fortunately the driver of the medics car knows the area pretty well, but the same does not apply when David is doing house calls when working in a private practice.
The new motorways radiating out from Dublin are very good, but one finds very few services for fuel, rest or food along these roads. The other roads vary enormously in quality and have no rest stops at all, forcing one to drive for hours, before finding a garage that might allow one to use their loo. Often David resorts to African style and uses a bush!
Although the Irish medical system is great in that it provides care for all its people and immigrants, a lot of equipment is thrown away instead of being recycled. The government can ill afford to be so wasteful in the current economic climate. The patients waste resources too, calling for attention at any hour e.g. David was woken at 3.30 am one night to attend to a man who had flatulence for the past 3 weeks! The patients have little reliance on common sense and are fearful of every fever. The doctors too are fearful of litigation and practise defensively. David's summation of the Irish system is "fearful, wasteful and defensive". Although 10% of David's income goes towards a PRSI tax, we cannot use the health services. A dental visit, which David recently had to resort to, made a significant dent in the Nye coffers - so we have an added incentive to stay as healthy as possible.
While Ireland is promoted as a classless society, there is a distinction between upper and lower classes. As a generalisation, the upper classes are educated, slim and often display the features of classic Irish beauty, invariably with easily understandable accents. The majority of people we have had dealings with [i.e. the rest, or the other class] are usually overweight, generally with coarse features, on social benefits, pregnant, mumble with a heavy accent that is often unintelligible, and rely on drinking for pleasure. Both classes may have material wealth, which means that this distinction is not evident by looking at people's cars or houses.
One particular social observation, which tends to make our blood boil, is listening to those on benefits complain about their perceived raw deal. All we can think of is how hard our fellow African people have it, and how little they are expected to survive on - and how relative the Irish perceptions are. There is a really avaricious, materialistic mentality here among the younger generations, who have an attitude of entitlement, which is considered by older Irish folk as one of the dubious legacies of the Celtic Tiger boom years. It's been interesting to read that many of the Eastern European immigrants, who have been working here for a long time, are going back to their home countries because it's no longer economically viable to stay in Ireland. These critical observations aside, we have been struck by what a caring society this also is. The Irish do a great deal to help the unfortunate, like the Pakistan flood victims [lots of radio and TV appeals for citizens to send money to aid these poor folk], and others in need. It appears though that this altruism is generally forthcoming from the people, not the government, which is often the reality of grass-roots aid. So fair play to the Irish [wo]man in the street for their compassionate hearts.
While working in Waterford for a week, we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary at la Boheme restaurant, where we had a very good meal, which was a real treat.