Sunday, July 31, 2011

Feedback from Eircom

Blogger and Twitter once again show that companies are watching what people are saying about them online. In my recent moans (and I acknowledge that I have been moaning) I have had responses from two people within Eircom. Eircom have a Brand Champion scheme and my situation is now being looked at again.

Stephen Beynon of Eircom also has commented on my blog post "Eircom invests €100m in broadband" - Are they having a laugh? and I'm happy to out the record straight here. I suggested that it would be a waste to upgrade fixed line networks, and that wireless would be the best way to go - but Stephen responds as follows:

Picked up your link on Twitter. Installing fibre is a bit like buying spectrum for mobile service. You can continually upgrade the electronics at either end to increase speed and use new technologies. So I don't think it will risk becoming out of date. 

As for mobile, the ever increasing demand for mobile data is one of the reasons the fibre roll-out is needed. There is only Li.ogre capacity over the air so the data needs transporting from the base station by fibre. 4G will demand huge amounts of fibre and is expected to be a big driver of demand for the new network.  Hope that's useful comment.

Indeed it is and thank you the information (and correction).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Eircom invests €100m in broadband" - Are they having a laugh?

The Irish Times reports that Eircom invests €100m in broadband - I can't help having a giggle at this news. I have berated Eircom many times in this blog, and some Eircom folks have actually read my posts and reacted to them.

Eircom's new announcement is welcome news for Ireland, but I'm certain that it will have absolutely no impact on their service to my house. Their new fibre to the home (FTTH) technology is expected to support speeds of up to 150Mbps. This is about 100 times faster than they are currently supplying me. I feel as if the Government has just announced a new motorway costing millions that will carry thousands of vehicles, but the road outside my house is full of potholes. Who needs 150mbps at home? Some day of course Eircom see themselves providing TV and video-on-demand online - naturally they want to be in a position with their network to capitalise on this.

My own thoughts are that it is a mistake to spend millions on fixed cable - inevitably it will go out of date and need to be upgraded again in the future. I feel that wireless is the best way to go - much easier to upgrade, more attractive for consumers who are using more and more wireless devices, and less digging up of the streets.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

D- for Eircom - slower than 80% of Ireland

It's been quite sometime since I had a rant at Eircom. Today I ran a test at and the results are mixed - Eircom gets a D-. First, a reminder that Eircom tell me (and bill me) that I have an 8MB/sec Next Generation Broadband connection. Their engineers tell me that the line to the nearest exchange only supports 4MB/sec. As you can see, the download speed is not bad at 1.79MB/sec - and is one of the highest speeds I have ever recorded at home.

BUT - it is less than a quarter of (or half - depending on who you believe in Eircom) what it is supposed to be. On top of this I am now paying extra every month for exceeding the download capacity. I need a new package and am now determined to change from the rubbish service Eircom have been providing. Imagine look the best of the rest. UPC offer fast broadband, but not in my area. Many people have advised me to avoid mobile broadband - however, my daughter Vicki does not use the WiFi in our house on her iPhone as Three mobile broadband is much faster than Eircom.

So I am in the market for a new ISP - and will make a serious effort to change before the end of the summer.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mass on Sliabh Bhui

I attended an unusual mass on Sliabh Bhui near Askamore, Co Wexford - it was near the top of the hill. My brother Joe and I walked up the hill and arrived just as mass was starting. The main reason for going was that Dad was singing in the choir. In the picture below he is third from the right. Second left is the Bishop of Ferns (with purple hat), Denis Brennan, who celebrated mass. In the background is the town of Carnew near where I grew up, and in the distance you can see the Wicklow mountains:

It was the first time in several years that a mass was celebrated on Sliabh Bhui - the locals hope that it will be an annual event. I felt like I was intruding a bit as nearly everybody was local. Nevertheless, it was a good experience and the first time I have attended mass on a mountain. Mum, Dad, Joe, and I stopped for a thirst-quenching pint in Jim Byrne's pub in Carnew afterwards.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Inspiring new blog - "But I wanna live forever"

The Irish Independent today reports on the inspiring story of Cáit O'Loughlin (no relation to me) "Dying mum to leave her kids an online legacy of love". Cáit has terminal cancer and is showing a brave face in sharing her story with the world - she derives comfort from writing about her treatment, fears, and attempts at a normal live with her young children. She is also expecting her third child!

I'm sure that when the people behind Web 2.0 and blogging were creating these free tools for us all to use that they never expected blogging to take off in the way that it has done, and that there would be inspirational stories recorded by seriously ill people. It is easy to write blog posts, but it takes courage to bare your soul and share your deepest fears with everybody in the world. Check out Cáit's Blog - But I Want to Live Forever, it's written from the heart, is very new, and well worth a read. Let's hope that Cáit continues to inspire for a long time to come.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Yesterday Roma and I visited Kilkenny City for the day. We started out with lunch in the Kilkenny Design Centre - nice, but pricy (€32 for both of us). We then toured Kilkenny Castle - I enjoyed this even though we had been in the castle before. The grounds of the castle are beautiful and there were a lot of tourists about.

Kilkenny Castle
We toured the city centre and stopped for coffee. Every second shop was either a coffee shop or a jewellers shop - there'd are a lot in the city centre.

Roma and I spent a day in Kilkenny 25 years ago just before we got married - 21st June 1986 to be precise, a wonderful romantic day that I will never forget. We had good fun remembering the day and where we went. It was also the day that France beat Brazil (on penalties) in the Mexico World Cup - a game I wanted to see. We had a late lunch in Langtons while the game was on TV at the other end of pub. I got to see the penalty shoot-out and bits of the game - Roma had an early indication of my addiction to football! Here's the shoot-out on YouTube:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fridge Magnets

What is it about fridge magnets? They serve no useful purpose, but yet I buy them wherever I go. I have magnets from the USA, Canada, Spain, France, UK, Ireland, Austria, Italy, and several more countries. It's one of my "to do's" on my travels - buy a fridge magnet. I travel a lot less nowadays than I used to, but I have gathered quite a collection at this stage.

Like most people, I stuck my fridge magnets to the fridge. However, when we had our kitchen redone last year, our new fridge had a wooden door - not magnet friendly. I put all my own magnets in a box and hoped for a future day when I could display them again. The day arrived today! How do you display fridge magnets without a fridge? Go to a metal shop - I went to Carnew Iron Crafts where Johan and Tony provided me with a stainless steel panel to stick my magnets to. Excellent value and great service - thanks guys!

Fridge Magnets

The panel now rests on my wall with 110 magnets so far attached. There is still lots of free space, so I'll be on the magnet hunt for the next few years. Clean, innocent, and cheap fun.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review - "Gallipoli" by Peter Hart

Many books have been written about the battle on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. It is a battle that shows up the futility on war above all other battles. On the Allies side 162,000 men were killed, while 186,869 Turks also died. The campaign lasted 259 days, so that works out at just over 1,300 soldiers on average being killed every day. Peter Hart has written another excellent book about the First World War. In addition to being an excellent account of the battle as told by the soldiers themselves, it is also a hugely sad book as you almost cannot believe some of the decisions that were made, and how lives on both sides were thrown away needlessly.

Image from
Peter Hart is a military historian at  The Imperial War Museum with access to oral histories gathered from war participants. I have previously read and reviewed another of his books "1918 - A Very British Victory".

The following extract (page 283) sums up for me the message that Hart pulls no punches is getting across to the reader:

"Taken as a whole the scheme was utterly unrealistic. It demanded feats of endurance from the assaulting columns climbing to Sari Bair which would have made Hannibal think twice; it asked raw troops to perform like veterans and sickly veterans to put their illnesses behind them; it required leader-ship from incompetents; it sought to create diversions by attacks that bitter experience had already shown were bound to fail. And worst of all it assumed, despite all the evidence so far accumulated, that the Turks would fight badly".

One of the most famous attacks in the battle was at The Nek. 600 men from the 3rd and 8th Light Horse went over the top in four waves at The Nek and "into legend". They were gunned down "in seconds". There were 372 casualties, with 234 dead. The third and fourth waves knew that after the savagery of the first two attacks that they would fail and likely be killed, but they attacked anyway rather than disobey direct orders. Peter Weir made a film about this attack in 1981 - "Gallipoli" starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, which shows the terror, bravery, sacrifice, and utter waste of this attack at The Nek. I watched this film again after finishing the book - it almost breaks your heart. I have absolutely no doubt that if I was 18 years old in 1915 that I, like thousands of others, would have joined up - both the Munster and Dublin Fusiliers suffered badly at Gallipoli. 96 years later - all the soldiers who fought at Gallipoli are dead. But what a waste in 1915.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Home - after 2,420 miles (3,895 kilometres)

I arrived home early this morning after 3,895 kilometers on the road (km sounds much more than 2,420 miles!). It was good to finally arrive home at 01:45 and park my bike in the shed. I gave it a hug and a kiss for getting me home. Right than I felt at one with my bike - we had been through such a journey together.

The main highlight of the trip was Andorra. Coming out of the top of the clouds into superb scenery following Pat on his bike was awesome - an unforgettable moment. Also highlighting for me was the perfect roads, easy navigation, the trip to La Manga with Roma, the perfect riding weather in Spain, making the ferries on time, and the (mostly) trouble free mechanical performance of the bike.

The lowlights were few - but rain in France and North Wales, a sore ass on the way down, some twisty motorways, tolls, wearing a helmet with sun burn, and driver behavior in Spain gave me some things to remind me that such a trip cannot be perfect.

The best drivers in Europe
On this trip I traveled through five countries: Ireland, France, Andorra, Spain, and the UK. Easily the worst (in this unscientific study) were the Spanish. They drive far too fast and much too aggressively. From motorways to the twisty narrow roads of northern Spain, they drive too close up behind you, wait, pass you out if there is at least 10 metres of road available, and then cut in front of you as if there was a prize going for who could get the closest. One old guy in a Merc did this to me three times on the Autovia between Valladolid and Santander - the one and only time I gave an "up yours" signal on the road. In France - they are not much better, but the French are much better at lane discipline. In Andorra - clearly the presence of a tourist on a low bike that cannot corner too fast on the many twisty roads was an annoyance to them. They also don't see the need for having lights on in very low visibility in the clouds. So who are the best drivers in Europe? This falls to the drivers in the UK. They are much better at keeping to the speed limit, and they are less aggressive on the road. I felt least threatened on the UK roads. The only place I saw a police check-point? In Blackrock about a mile from home!

This has been my third trip to Europe on the bike - I went to the Algarve in 2005 (3,210 miles), and Sigean in France in 2008 (2,072 miles). So where to next? I'll probably not ride down to Murcia in Spain again. I would definitely like to tour Northern Europe, with Finland a probable destination. Southern Germany and the Austrian Alps would be good - riding around the mountains in Andorra has given me an appetite for this scenery. France is always a good bet in that the weather is a bit milder, je peux parler un peu de français, and it is easily reached by ferry. So I've done trips in 2005, 2008, 2011 - will 2014 be next to kept the three year sequence going?

Ride to live, live to ride.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Last Leg

I finally made it to the last leg of my journey home - I'm on the Stena Nordica from Holyhead to Dublin where there is free WiFi (unlike the two other ferries that I have been on)! The Nordica is due to arrive in Dublin Port at 0:45 tomorrow morning - I'm looking forward to being home.

Earlier today I was on the Pont-Aven from Santander to Portsmouth. Despite hoping to sleep late, I woke early - lots of toilet flushing in neighbouring berths meant no chance to get back to sleep. The ferry arrived bang on time at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, but it was nearly 3 o'clock before I got going on the road. The photo below gives some indication of the queue at passport checking:

Barleys in Poetsmouth

The guy on a Harley next to me (not in photo) showed me his iPhone holder for his bike. It's designed to be a water-proof cover which is connect to the bike's battery. He also had Bluetooth activated so that he could take calls on the road. With TomTom SatNav - he had everything he needed. No data roaming charges either as the iPhone can use GPS. Now there's an idea for my next trip!

After leaving Portsmouth I made a wrong turn at Winchester, but I got some petrol and was soon back on the road to the English Midlands. A second stop north of Birmingham for petrol with only £23 (and no credit card) meant a choice between fuel for the bike and fuel for me. I bought £22 of petrol and a Snickers (89p). This was enough. Once I saw a sign for Holyhead - 50 miles with over an hour to go to final checking at 21:45, I could start to take it easy on the road. Despite this I had some delays with road works and stopping to put on rain gear (the rain stopped 2 mins later). First thing on board was some fish & chips with mushy peas. Delicious! Now for some catching up on news thanks to Stena and their free WiFi.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Bay of Biscay

As I write this post I am somewhere in the middle of the Bay of Biscay on the Brittany Ferries ship - the Pont-Aven, travelling from Santander in Spain to Portsmouth in England. The ship has WiFi on board - the price is €5 for one hour or €10 for three hours. I thought the €10 option to be reasonable value given that we are so far from land. However, the connection cannot be re-used and will run out regardless of whether you log out or not. This seems a bit mean and petty - it cannot be for technical reasons as I know it is quite easy to allow people to log on more than once using the same details. Shame, but nice to have nonetheless.

I set out from Madrid this morning at 8.30 and kept going for 166 miles until I needed petrol. I stopped at a small town where I also relaxed for a few minutes for a coffee and a pee. I wasn't the only animal to pee as a dog used my front wheel to pee on - little bugger! Today was much cooler than previous days - in fact I was glad of my leather jacket in the morning air. Yesterday I could barely stick it in the afternoon heat of central Spain. Riding towards Northern Spain is also interesting as the scorched level landscape gets left behind and some green fields and forests start to appear. As always in Spain, I found navigation easy enough and got to the ferry port easily enough. I'm glad I did not splash out on a SatNav. At the port I queued up for check-in with about 20 other Harley-Davidsons - boy did we make some noise!

The ship is very nice - it doesn't seem to be very full. Being Brittany Ferries, it is actually a French ship. The crew are even French - unlike Irish Ferries where everybody seems to be Polish. I even practiced my French! The ferry trip is 24 hours, so a long evening and morning ahead. I'm hoping to sleep a lot, but already I have heard kids running up and down the corridor outside my room, have heard a baby crying, and the walls are very thin. On top of all this I managed to get some nasty sun-burn on my thin-haired scalp while out on deck earlier reading the paper. Nearly three weeks in the hot sun (30C plus) of Murcia without any bother and wearing factor 20 to 30 all the time, and I get sun burned in Santander in two hours in temperatures of about 25C. Idiot!

Tomorrow is a race against time. As there are a lot of Harleys on the ferry, and I am on the lowest deck, it could be some time before I get off the Pont-Aven. It is due to dock at 2pm. I'll ride straight to Holyhead (about 320 miles), but I'll need two stops for petrol - the ferry to Dublin leaves at 9.30pm. The trip should be about 6 hours, so there will be no time for hanging about.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Trip Home

In about 4 hours I will be starting the journey home on the bike. Target today is Las Rozas de Madrid, about 250 miles from where I am staying - Las Rozas is to the north east of Madrid. I´d like to have the time to tour Madrid - but some other time will have to do. It is cloudy but hot here, 42C before noon. I´m packed, have a tank full of petrol, and am ready to go. Hopefully I will arrive back in Dublin during the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Torre Pacheco is a local town that we visited just towards the end of our holiday. A quiet sleepy place that will be on our list of "to do´s" next time. We stopped for a drink at a Rock Bar which had cool records on the wall - including a copy of Don McLean´s handwritten "American Pie". It also had an interesting plaque on the wall quoting a line from a Beatles song ("The End") from the Abbey Road album - I got Vicki to take the photo. There are Beatles fans all over the world - including a small town in the south-east of Spain.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

An accident in Spain

Different road signs, different rules, different types of road, different car, left-hand drive - it was a strong possibility that we would be involved in an road accident. It happened yesterday evening in San Javier. Our car collided with a BMW as it was exiting a one-way street from the wrong direction, while a local driver was entering the same street (from right direction). We had no injuries, but the driver of the other BMW was taken to hospital in an ambulance as a precaution. Thank goodness for insurance.

It´s strange to be at the scene of an accident and not understand a word that anybody is saying. The Police had no English, but between them Roma and Vicki managed enough Spanish to understand and explain everything. The driver of the other car was Romanian, and it is clear that he was driving his son´s cool two-door BMW. The son appeared not long after the accident - we could not communicate with the Romanians at all. They were very gracious and did not blame us at all for the accident. After a lot of form filling, the Police cleared the accident scene.

The Police were excellent - very efficient. The car-hire company, Centauro, were also excellent. They had a tow-truck on the scene within an hour and provided a replacement car in the nearby San Javier airport straight-away. Very efficient and pleasant to deal with. I would recommend Centauro not only for their service in dealing with this accident, but also for the fact that they had a very short queue in the airport while other car-hire companies had very long queues.

No injuries, a quick replacement car, insurance - we are lucky. Below is a (poor quality) video of the scene.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

"Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt" moment

I try as far as possible to visit Harley-Davidson dealers wherever I travel. I buy H-D t-shirts to show off where I´ve been. On a boiling hot day I set off for Murcia Harley-Davidson. I was tempted to just wear sandals, shorts, and t-shirt (like every other biker on the road), but put on my boots, jeans, and leather jacket. Hot stuff, even in the wind of the open road. I enjoyed the ride anyway as it could be a few more years before I get to ride in this heat again.

My bike (in front) outside Harley-Davidson Murcia.

Murcia is about 20 miles from our apartment with excellent roads. However, there are some very twisty bits through the mountains that mean you go very slow (less than 50mph). This of course means that drivers in cages (cars) like to drive very close behind. I don´t get why they do this on a three lane motorway? It unnerves me, and must be dangerous for them too. However, I think overall that driver behaviour is the same in Spain as in Ireland - with a similar proportion of idiots on the road.

Harley-Davidson Murcia is quite a small dealer, and goes under the name Steel USA. It has very few bikes, in fact stock in everything was very low. Prices are still the ridiculously high Harley prices - only in America have I seen good value in Harley parts. I got my H-D Murcia t-shirt (€30 in a sale), and picked up another €5 t-shirt being sold by the local HOG Chapter. At least that was good value.

Another reason for riding to Murcia was to test my "solution" to the ignition problems my bike experienced earlier this week. Eveything went fine, and should be OK for the trip home.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Yesterday we visited the City of Cartagena. Like everywhere else in Spain, I found it very easy to drive through and to find parking. We parked at the Plaza de España which is right in the city centre and near the main shopping areas - it´s a bit like parking in St Stephen´s Green in Dublin. As we arrived during the afternoon siesta we had time to have lunch and walk around. The port area was first - it´s a big port with lots of cool architecture, the photo to the right of Roma and me is in front of the Peral Submarine, which was built in Cadiz in 1884.

After this it was time for the girls to go shopping and for me to see some sights. My first port of call was the Roman Theatre discovered only in 1988. It has had a lot of restoration work done and was a big thrill to see something built 2000 years ago. I got to stand on the stage - it is quite a big theatre. After this I went to the Civil War Museum - there was not really that much to see, but interesting nonetheless. After this I went up to the Castillo de la Concepción, which is one of the high points overlooking the city - fantastic views, especially of the port and the Roman Theatre from above. Final port of call was to the Carrefour Supermarket on the edge of the city - a massive shop with good value. Dinner was in the nearby Foster´s Hollywood restaurant. Very ordinary and not recommended.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Quick post

I´m really into the laziness of a sunshine holiday now - I even stayed away from the computer for a few days. We have lounged by the pool, gone to the beach, more shopping, and some exploring of the Mar Menor area.

Good news on the motorbike front - I cleaned up the ignition area some more and figured out what was causing the bike to cut out. Hopefully clicking the ignition into the correct position will work - I´m off to Harley-Davidson Murcia tomorrow just in case. If I get back to Dublin OK I will have it checked out fully in Motorcycle City.

I played my best ever game of golf yesterday! I played Terrazas de la Torre on my own (it is still soooo quiet here) - for a lot of my game I was the only person on the course. I had three birdies (I hardly ever get one), and eight pars (I´m usually happy with three or four). My gross score was 78 (par 72) - the first time ever I broke 80. And my total Stableford points score was 48. I have never played so many times in such a short period - they say practice makes perfect. Looking forword to another couple of games before we leave on Sunday.

Saturday, July 02, 2011


Yesterday we visited the city of Murcia which is a lovely place to walk around. A lot of historical buidings and plenty of shopping are all within a short distance of each other. We called by the Harley-Davidson shop, but forgot about siesta - I´ll have to call back to check out the bikes and get a t-shirt. As in Alicante, there is free public WiFi provided in the city centre - this was handy for keeping in touch with Vicki as Viber provides for free iPhone to iPhone calls whch we did over WiFi. There is even a Murcia App that you can get to help tourists get around. Something for the Failte Ireland to think about.

The first port of call was a small square in front of the main cathedral - we stopped for a very cold beer to check maps. We decided to do some shopping and headed off for the high street (Gran Via). Roma and the girls had good fun checking out the clothes shops. While I got fed up pretty quickly, I did buy a t-shirt for €9.95. We had dinner in the Tomato Tree which was very tasty.

Murcia is very easy to get into by car - parking is plentiful, and there are lots of shops and restaurants to choose from.

Today I played nine holes of golf in Terrazas de la Torre and managed a lot better - four pars included in a total of 20 points for the nine holes. Very good for me - getting better!

Friday, July 01, 2011

La Torre Golf Resort, and suckish golf rules

Yesterday I played nine holes of golf at the La Torre Golf Resort for the first time. Development on this resort is finished and the place has a "complete" feeling that Las Terrazas de la Torre where we are does not even come close to. The golf course is excellent - a bit easier for Roma and me. The fairways are wider and the rough is rougher - I lost two balls in the first two holes. Nevertherless, I managed two pars (my first in Spain!), which always makes one feel better. Overall a better day on the golf course.

One of the very large bunkers at La Torre Golf Resort.
Golf rules and etiquette sometimes suck. While I had a collared shirt on, Roma was warned by the course marshall that while it was OK today (by the time he reached us we were already on the course), next time she would not be allowed to play unless she was wearing a collared shirt too. Later, Vicki and her friends were refused access to the driving range because they did not conform to the rules. When Roma went to get them a bucket of practice balls, she was also refused. What an introduction to golf? In the sweltering heat there was no relaxation on the rules.

I once played golf with my brother Joe in Barrow GC in England when an ordinary member coming off the 18th insisted that Joe (who was wearing jeans) dress properly. All he had was pull-ups which he had to put on over his jeans on a warm day. Needless to say these came off at the second hole and we went on to complete our game without further offending the sartorial senses of anyone. They had accepted our green fees beforehand, and our cash in the bar afterwards without fuss.

I love playing golf, but it is the petty rules and their implementation by petty "officials" that take some of the fun out of it.