The dog bar in the Cosy Cafe

The Cosy Cafe is a small cafe in Kinsale with seating outside where, even on a cold day like this, dog obsessed customers can come for a bite to eat and their dogs can have a meal too.

Diego enjoying some doggy kibble at the Dog Bar. The food and water was originally on the raised platform but it was too high for my little chihuahua. I’m sure it won’t be a problem for most dogs!
My fish and chips were delicious.

Storm Brian hits Galway

Storm Brian made landfall at Galway this morning. I wouldn’t like to be walking along Salthill now.

The south and west coasts are getting battered though.

A status orange wind warning for the coasts of Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Waterford and Wexford is in place from 10pm tonight for a period of 24 hours.

Stay safe!

The Aftermath of Hurricane Ophelia

Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland yesterday and while it was a baby compared to the monsters that ravaged the Caribbean and US it still did plenty of damage and left 3 people dead. Many areas were left without electricity or running water for most of the day. A day later and there are still areas without those basic amenities. Telecoms services were disrupted too as lines were cut and exchanges and mobile sites ran out of power. 30,000 people were without access to phone or Internet access. A red alert was declared nation-wide. Schools closed (for 2 days), public transport wasn’t running, shops and businesses didn’t open. There was a definite fear and expectation that this would be a big one. And it was. Gusts of 156kmh were recorded off Roches Point!

We were without power from just after 11am, then the mobile phone network, Eir, went down, except my wife’s phone was able to go online for minutes at a time throughout the day. Winds really picked up around 10am, and lasted until after 2pm with driving rain almost horizontal in the wind. Later in the day I walked around Blarney village and from the far corner of the square got a weak signal from a remote antenna and had just enough connectivity to get a few text messages.

Trees behind our home were knocked down by the wind, blocking most of the main Waterloo Road. Luckily the very tallest trees survived as they’re within reach of some of the houses!

Even this stop sign was twisted around by the wind, and mushrooms flattened too..

Two trees were knocked down in the village square, and someone had attempted to drive a car and caravan up that narrow road before getting stuck and abandoning their vehicle!

Power came back late yesterday evening, as did mobile data, but friends are still without power even now so it’s going to take some time before things are back to normal. Our satellite dish is broken, and it’ll be early November before someone can come out to replace it. Parts of my garden fence blew over too, but that was on it’s last legs anyway! A TV antenna ended up in our front garden, but I have no idea who owned it.

This morning there was a lovely sunrise, and the sky was a gorgeous mix of blue and soft orange. 🙂

Next weekend we can look forward to #StormBrian apparently. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as Ophelia.

Eclipse 2017 in Ireland

A tiny portion of the August 21st solar eclipse will be visible from Ireland as seen in this NASA web app that shows you the track of the Moon’s shadow across the Earth.

It’ll probably be cloudy anyway but don’t look unless you have special glasses. I doubt most people will notice anything, it might get slightly dimmer around 8pm local time for a few minutes. Wait for the photos from the US to show up on social media. 🙂

Fidget Spinners are on the way out..

A street trader on Kyle Street in Cork was selling two “classic” fidget spinners for five euro last weekend. You can still buy fancy “gold” or LED ones at inflated prices but every bargain basement or novelty store has buckets of them to sell. My son is still obsessed with his ones, but I’ll give it a week or two before they’re gathering dust in a corner along with his collection of multi-coloured loom bands.

I’m just noting this here for future me when I wonder, “what year were fidget spinners all the rage?” I still remember the early 90s as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles years.

Irish car insurance is going up because …

The large number of third party claims last year is driving up car insurance premiums in Ireland apparently. At least that’s what the friendly lady at 123.ie told me. They then charged me an extra €196 for cover over last year. Reducing the insured value of my car increased the premium!

Anyway, there may be a law enacted by the end of the year to force insurance companies to tell you why your insurance is going up. It might not tell you much as the current rise in prices might be due to Setanta Insurance going under a few years ago but I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

RSA, who provide motor insurance for 123.ie beat expectations when they announced their profits for 2016. That’s the British arm of the company however.

Operating profit for the year came in at £655m, compared with a company-supplied consensus forecast of £626m.

Unfortunately, the Irish section isn’t doing so well..

Meanwhile, the former chief financial officer of RSA’s Irish business was yesterday fined £35,000 and banned for three years by Britain’s accounting watchdog.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said it had fined Rory O’Connor and banned him for three years from the accounting profession for approving “materially inaccurate” financial statements.

Mr O’Connor also agreed to pay £18,000 towards the watchdog’s legal costs.

RSA said in 2014 that a review of its businesses found that the accounting irregularities were confined to its Irish business, where there had been “inappropriate collaboration” among a small number of executives in Ireland.

It was forced to inject £200m into its Irish business at the time and RSA Insurance Ireland said yesterday it has strengthened its control framework since 2013.

They’ve also had to set aside £50m “to cover the costs of accidents in 2014 and 2015” according to this Irish Times article

RSA Insurance Ireland’s operating loss widened by 62 per cent last year after the country’s once-largest provider of motor and property coverage was forced to set aside £50 million (€59.1 million) of reserves to cover the costs of accidents in 2014 and 2015.
The local subsidiary of London-listed RSA Group posted a £42 million full-year loss compared with a £26 million loss for 2015. The performance was described by the parent as “disappointing”, especially as it had returned last year to writing new business on a profitable basis, as it and the wider industry hiked rates.

We shopped around, and rates from other insurers were comparable. Roll on the electrification of cars and autonomous driving!

Meteor and Three Won’t “Roam Like Home” in the EU but I’m ok with that

As reported in the Independent, it seems that Meteor and Three have found a loophole in EU legislation to get rid of mobile roaming charges. Of the Irish telecoms companies, only Vodafone “is publicly saying that it will let customers use every bit of data abroad that they’re entitled to at home”.

Concerned, I contacted @Meteor_Mobile on Twitter and received a response within minutes. If you have a Meteor bill pay plan you’ll get “up to 5GB of roaming data”. Pay as you go customers must still buy a roaming add-on. The new limits will be introduced early in the summer so the roaming page will be updated then I expect.

It’s disappointing for PAYG customers, but as a PAYG customer I’m willing to stay with Meteor because their monthly cost is relatively low. I rarely make phone calls or send SMS texts and I make heavy use of their 7.5GB data offer for €10 a month. It wouldn’t be worth my while upgrading to a bill pay plan. I’d need to spend €20/month €25/month to get that amount of data or more and the call minutes and texts would go to waste. 1GB of roaming data is €14.99 for PAYG customers, or I have the option of buying a sim locally for even better value.

Moving to Vodafone isn’t really an option either. The closest offer is still twice as expensive, as I wouldn’t use the €10 credit left in the account each month.

If I was travelling around the EU every month I’d certainly upgrade to a bill pay plan but the monthly cost of a PAYG data plan is a no-brainer. It’s better value for my usage.

Edit: a few hours after I posted this the European Commission warned Irish mobile operators that there wasn’t any loophole.
I couldn’t find any mention of PAYG customers specifically but this BT PDF makes no distinction between bill pay and PAYG customers. (One wonders what will happen there when BREXIT happens.)

This means BT One Phone customer’s will begin to see their UK allowance(s) decremented when they are Roaming inside the EU. If a customer has used up all their UK allowance they will begin to be charged their normal UK PAYG/Out of bundle or Overage rate while roaming inside the European Union.

Edit on June 12th: Meteor have updated their roaming page. PrePay (PAYG) users who pay €10 for 7.5GB of data at home will have 2.1GB of roaming data which is super!

Forever McDonalds

Google Photos created an animation from a number of photos I made outside the McDonalds in Douglas last year around this time of the year.