I’ve had all week off… my first vacation time since returning to the UK in January when I arrived back home from my four week excursion to Australia. I actually also had Friday off last week, which was originally intended for a trip to Belgrade for football, so it’s been a good break all told. That said, instead of heading away somewhere exotic or warm, I’ve ended up in Belfast!!
I’ve done this for a few reasons… firstly, Dina was been moving over to Northern Ireland and into her new flat before staring work today (Friday) so I was over to help her move in & get to know the city. Secondly on Tuesday night, Northern Ireland were playing Slovenia in a Euro 2012 qualifying match. Thirdly, of course, it was time for a quick jaunt home to see the parents. And finally, Portadown are playing Lisburn Distillery tomorrow (Saturday) in the CIS Insurance League Cup Final at Mourneview Park.
So we headed off to Gatwick Airport on Monday afternoon with four 20KG bags in tow (on top of our hand luggage) and made it surprisingly easy to the check-in desk. Now, I had purchased an extra two bags on the EasyJet website on top of the standard one bag per person allowance that they give you so I expected no issues when we arrived…
… silly Finbar…
Apparently, according to the check-in clerks, I had bought the extra bags, but I had not bought the extra weight… so in effect I still had 20KG allowance, but I had paid £9 for permission to split that between two bags. This seems counter-intuitive to me & I do not recollect any specific warning on the EasyJet website stating that this would be the scenario I would face when making the purchase. Indeed, one clerk stated to me that he had explained this issue to EasyJet many times before & another explained to Dina that she had been caught out in the same way!!
Of course, the story had to get better… in order for us to bring the two bags on board, as hold luggage, EasyJet would charge us £10 per KG… or £380 for the two bags at 19KG each. This revelation had the effect of momentarily stunning me into silence, before creating a dismay & rage that I’ve not felt for quite some time (but would soon feel again as it turned out). One of the clerks however suggested an alternative, which was to use a company called ‘Advance Baggage’ who would ship our baggage for us, cheaper than EasyJet, but with looser timescales.
And so it was that we paid £180 in cash (apparently company policy was to reject all Credit & Debit card transactions) to a guy who was unprepared to, though eventually did, declare our bags would arrive no later than Friday. And so, significantly poorer, we made our flight.
We landed in NI, collected the hire car and made our way to Mark’s place in Lurgan for a quiet cup of tea & a nights sleep before Dina’s move in day. Frankly, I didn’t sleep well… I probably lay awake until well after 0230 before drifting off & getting a short, deep sleep, which left me less than enthusiastic for the day ahead on Tuesday.
My day started out OK, but frankly, in the middle of the afternoon, I hit rock bottom… fatigue, irritation, and frustration all boiled over as O2 my mobile phone supplier took the concept of customer service to a new low (in my experience). I’ve been having issues with my Sony Ericsson since I came back from Australia. WAP not connecting, texts not going out or coming in and incoming calls going direct to voicemail & it taking four or five attempts to make a call.
On my first complaint, they’d replaced the SIM card, with small but not complete success… and eventual deterioration to square one again. So I called up & complained again, to be advised this time that it’s the handset which is faulty & that it should be sent to the repair factory. So off I went to the store & left my phone in, expecting a two week gap before return.
This in it’s own right created an issue for me. I decided to decline O2’s offer of a replacement phone from the 1990’s at the price of £25 deposit and use my old, O2 issued, BlackBerry Pearl. Only to discover that O2 would not provide me with WAP service on it unless I paid an extra £5 a month!! So there I was, being asked to pay a second time for a standard service.
I declined, bluntly.
I did however get my Sony Ericsson back quickly – inside a week as it turned out – with promises that it had been repaired and that the software was all brand, spanking, new!! Result, except the phone is still suffering the very same issues, and it all came to a head with me in Northern Ireland.
So I called up O2, in my above described mood. I have decided I’ve had enough of O2 and went to the line that says I’m quitting O2… I explained my situation, but apparently as I have 12 month to run on my contract, I won’t be quitting & I promptly got transferred to another advisor. This geezer took the biscuit though. According to him, the fault was not O2’s but rather it belonged to Sony Ericsson… and he wasn’t going to budge… I was on the phone to him for around ten minutes, politely telling him that I didn’t care who’s fault it was, but the O2 issued phone I was using wasn’t working & he should start recognising that the customer is the one with the fault. He eventually passed me on…
So I explained myself a third time… to be fair to the third guy, there wasn’t a lot he could do on the phone, but at the very least he recognised there was a problem, and provided me with the simplest advice he could to get a resolution – which is obviously I have to bring it back to the store & he will arrange for it to be prioritised. At least someone seemed to recognise that they were there to help.
After all of that, I helped poor Dina (I say poor because she had to put up with me in my mood) sort out bits & bobs for her new flat, before heading to watch Northern Ireland’s match at Windsor Park. Clearly, the day I had had, did not auger well for the evening – Northern Ireland have a habit of making bad things worse.
We ended up drawing 0-0 with Slovenia.
Many supporters will tell you it was terrible, awful, hoof-ball and that we should have beaten a team there for the taking. My view was that in the grand scheme of things, it was exactly as it has been with Northern Ireland teams under Nigel Worthington from the day & hour he took over. I can add to this that four of our first choice players (Keeper, Central Defender & Captain, Central Midfield Maestro & Central Striker – so the entire spine of our team) were missing.
That said, we started brightly and finished strongly, created two great chances & kept a clean sheet. It wasn’t an awful result, but it wasn’t what we would have wanted. People, for some reason, seemed to only now recognise Worthington’s deficiencies and are losing patience with him fast!! I’ve never been inspired by him, but I’m really not sure who I would replace him with. The IFA probably can’t afford to sack him and I can’t see a queue of teams lining up to take him off our hands.
But the future is bright, we have a decent team in the making, with youth, experience and ability. We can compete with anyone at home & if we can just sort out a better away form we should be qualifying.
Wednesday & Thursday sort of blended into one to be honest, as we continued to sort out stuff for Dina’s flat & met up with Friends – we met up with Barry Clarke, a mutual friend from Mumbai who works for Invest NI. He’s the guy who helped Dina & I meet in Mumbai & the guy who directed her towards applying for Herbert Smith in the first place!! Legend.
We also caught two movies. On Wednesday we watched ‘The Eagle’ which was about the famous Roman IXth who disappeared on tour in the Roman Province of Britain. Frankly, despite people telling me it was good… it was not. I can see why it would appeal, but Dina fell asleep & I just dealt with it’s predictability and rubbishness. The following day we watched ‘Limitless’ which was about a man who discovered a drug that enabled him to access all the parts of his brain that ordinarily we cannot & therefore enabling him to be his brilliant self, all the time. It dealt with his addiction to such a power and also the jealousy of others but it was done in a fantastic way. It was definitely the pick of the two movies, which will please Dina as it was her pick of the two.
And so to today, Friday… Dina’s first day with Herbert Smith in the city. She had a light day in reality, but it was still great for me to wish her good wishes on her way out the door this morning. She seems to have enjoyed it, even though there wasn’t actually much work done.
Meanwhile, I stayed at home, in the front room, waiting… waiting… waiting… for the bags to turn up, which they eventually did. We’re now having a quick snack before we head for the bus station & travel to Fermanagh for the weekend, the CIS Insurance Cup Final & to celebrate Mother’s Day.
It’s bee a long week, I’m kind of looking forward to a normal week back at work to rest up!!