Get Ready To Usher In Spring With The Grand National

10th March 2014

While the weather remains at least moderately cold throughout most of Ireland and the UK, it’s that time of year when people begin to look forward to the spring and summer seasons. And for those looking for specific events to usher in the warm weather, Liverpool’s famed Grand National horse racing competition is a great one to mark down on the calendar.

Held annually in early April, the Grand National is scheduled for April 5 this year, and will take place, as always, at the Aintree Race Course. Taking place over a distance exceeding four miles and consisting of 30 fences, the Grand National is considered by many to be the most challenging jump race in all of Europe. The fences are larger, the field of competitors is deeper (generally 40 horses run the Grand National), and the distance of the course provides a strenuous test. For all of these reasons, this annual spring race has become one of the most popular in Europe.

Aside from the race itself, however, the Grand National event is wonderful to experience as a sort of signature festival to kick off the spring. The action really kicks off for many spectators on the Friday just before the race, which is traditionally known as Ladies Day. This is when the big hats, bright bows, and generally gaudy fashion commonly associated with horse racing can be seen in all of its stunning variety, and the day typically winds up being a cross between a fashion exposition and a celebratory outdoor festival. With the combination of Ladies Day, race day, and the high-class food and drink venues surrounding Aintree, the whole weekend makes for a wonderful experience.

Naturally, however, not everyone can make it to Aintree every year. But that doesn’t mean the event can’t be enjoyed remotely! Because the race has such widespread popularity, many choose to keep tabs on the horses and the race itself from a distance. At the online sport reference and betting site Betfair, updates on the latest competitor news can keep you in the loop. This includes betting odds and scenarios are available for those who wish to take part. It’s certainly not for everybody, but it’s one way to enjoy the thrill of the Grand National—and the excitement of the pre-race speculation and debate—even if you can’t make it to Aintree.

Then of course when race day actually arrives, you can access the action on the radio or television. According to the Aintree website, BBC Radio 5 will broadcast the Grand National, which will also be available through various Internet and television sources for live viewing. If you can’t make it down to Liverpool, you can still use the Grand National as an excuse to usher in the spring. You could just hold your own race day party and follow all the action from home.

Here’s to hoping the 2014 race is as thrilling as ever!


Will the Texaco Art Competition survive?

22nd January 2014

I used always buy petrol in a local Texaco garage, then it closed, and since the other Texaco forecourts in Cork have closed (e.g. Douglas Road, South Douglas Road). Some permanently while others have rebranded (e.g. Bandon, Skehard Road). What is happening to the Brand in the Republic of Ireland? The Texaco website says there are now 15 forecourts in Cork City and County Cork, while Maxol has 20, and the trend is for Maxol to increase.
Well, one thing is sure, in fairness toe Texaco they have sponsored Texaco Children’s Art Competition since 1955! This year it celebrates its 60th anniversary, so it is the the longest running sponsorship in the history of arts sponsoring in Ireland.

The Competition is an established part of the annual educational landscape in which some 30,000 students compete for the top prizes in seven age categories, including one exclusively devoted to special needs students.

The world into which the competition was born was distinctly different from the one in which children live today.

Past winners include: Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, artists Dorothy Cross, and Robert Ballagh, fashion designer Paul Costello, broadcasters Thelma Mansfield (Live at 3) and Terry Prone (PR expert), ICTU General Secretary David Begg…

So whatever the future holds for the Texaco brand in the Republic of Ireland we must acknowledge their kind sponsorship of the Texaco Children’s Art Competition, but how long will it last?

In 2012, the decision was taken to cease sponsorship of the separate Texaco Sportstars Awards. Teaxo said “This decision was not easily taken, particularly when consideration was given to its long 54 years history and its status as Ireland’s longest running commercial sponsorship in Irish sports history.

Across the 54 years since they were first presented in 1958, the Texaco Sportstars Awards stood as a celebration of Irish sporting achievement and a testament to the sense of pride and pleasure which our sporting ambassadors had brought to Ireland through their success in national and international competitions.”

In its 54 year history, the Texaco Sportstars Awards became a ‘who’s who’ of Irish sporting success. Giants of Irish sport who received awards during that period included Ronnie Delaney and Sonia O’Sullivan (Athletics), Johnny Cadwell and Michael Carruth (Boxing), Vincent O’Brien and Aidan O’Brien (Horse Racing), Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke (Golf), D.J. Carey (Hurling), Roy Keane (Soccer), Ken Doherty (Snooker) and many more.

But we should not focus on the possible cancellation of anything in life, we should celebrate how good something was while it existed.

Are Travel agents obsolete

Travel agents are middle men, and just like insurance brokers the advent of the internet meant that customers could communicate directly with airlines (or insurers) directly… why go through a middle man who takes a cut?

But the death of the travel agent industry hasn’t been complete. Yes even your grandparents are now going to to book their flights to Spain, but when it comes to a complicated trip to South America, or a honeymoon spanning 3 countries the Travel Agent still has something to bring to the table.

For those who lament the loss of the travel agent, we say this: Time keeps moving on.

In the era of horse drawn transport everyone who was involved – “coach builders” – lost their jobs when the motorcar became popular.

In the era of the telegram everyone who was involved lost their jobs to the telephone operator when speech came along.

Simplifications yes, but Time keeps moving on.

and now Journalists – who write for Newspapers – are worried.

Who needs to pay people to write when others are doing so for free?

Well no, this time the change will be bad.

Citizen Journalists – such as us – will write about what we happen to see on the way to work, or out shopping, but will we attend routine Council Meetings? no Will we develop contacts with Politicians? no, but even if we did and we wrote a huge whistleblowing story would anyone care? no…

For the sake of democracy professional Journalism must live on.

What about insurance companies dealing direct with customers?
We wanted to write on that, but insurance is zzz boring!

Buying a new jacket: Berghaus vs North Face

So the time has come to replace your old jacket because it is worn out/too small/unstylish

You head to a hill walking shop/sports shop in [yourtown]…

There are racks and racks of jackets…

You ascertain that one half of the shop is the mens section (usually upstairs, because men are less frequent shoppers)

But there are so many brands and styles where do you begin?


Friends, our research suggests the following:

  • Regatta is the cheap brand
  • Colombia is above regatta but not many shops stock it.
  • Berghaus is better / Musto seems to be on a par but is only in sailing shops
  • The North Face is Best


Now onto style… The shorter a jacket is the more youthful is appears. So a bomber jacket is good, and a knee lenght coat is very “old man”, but you’re buying this for rain coverage right? so find a halfway house. Jackets can be found in many shops but to get lenght you’ll need to go a shop that specialises in hillwalking (i.e. not sailing).


Anything from EUR 65 to EUR 300

[Audio] When things go wrong on live radio in Ireland

8th November 2013

We have some experience in Radio, and we don’t like the way things are going.

Studios are being moved further apart (meaning you can’t see people in other studios),
and paper is being dumped in favour of reading from screens
(which can go very wrong in a powercut when it might emerge the screen/computer isin’t on the UPS, while the desk is)

Something happened on TodayFM, Ireland’s only National Commercial Radio Station, this week when the Newsreaders screen didn’t give them their script, to make matters worse because the Newsreader was in a remote studio of their own the Presenter didn’t know in advance that he was handing over to someone who had no content… It was handled in a smooth manner because the programme in question was a lighthearted morning show with Ian Dempsey, but it could have been much worse


1. Keep studios next to each other, with glass, and working talkback
2. Read from paper, not a screen

Listen to this recording from TodayFM 5th November 2013, 7.30am


Digiweb Ireland has *hosting* problems, but it’s *telephone arm* is PR savvy

21st October 2013, Monday

Digiweb Ireland have suffered a bit of negative publicity in the past few months because of downtime on their shared hosting platform.

Below is an extract from their service status page


Service Status


Service Status

Update: 16:20 17/09/2013
Please be advised there was a network connectivity issue between 14.50 and 15.45 this afternoon. Websites and emails would have been intermittently available during this time. We will provide an update on the cause as and when it become available.

Update: 11:00 11/09/2013
We are currently experiencing an issues receiving emails to Please use the email address to submit any queries to us. We are working to resolve this issue and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 09:30 06/09/2013
We are currently experiencing an issues with the web server This is resulting is websites being unavailable. Our engineers are working to restore this service and will have this resolved shortly.

Update: 10:20 04/09/2013
Joomla sites with subpage URLs similar to http://domain.tld/index.php/subpage/ failing to render correctly post migration on the webserver

Edit configuration.php file, updating the line

var $live_site = ”;


var $live_site = ‘http://domain.tld/’;

e.g. var $live_site = ‘’;

Update: 09:10 26/08/2013
We are currently experiencing an issue with the web server This is resulting in some sites displaying a default landing page. Our engineers are aware of this and expect to have it resolved shortly.

Update: 12:00 15/08/2013
We are currently experiencing a delay in sending mails. This is being caused a large mail queue. Our engineers are working to resolve this and expect this to be resolved within the next half hour.

Update: 13:50 08/08/2013
Our phone system has been fully restored. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 12:00 08/08/2013
We are currently experiencing an issue with our phone system. Our engineers are working to resolve this. You can email support issues to and we will respond to requests as quickly as possible.

Update: 10:00 08/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
Websites are now loading and functioning correctly.

Update: 10:10 07/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
Websites are currently loading in read only mode. The web server will need to be restarted at regular intervals to maintain site availability.
We are currently working on rebuilding the server from a backup on a virtualised platform. This will take approximately 24 hours to complete. Once this is done, full service will be restored.

Update: 09:15 07/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
The server is currently unavailable. Our engineers are performing essential maintenance on this server to restore access as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 18:00 06/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
All sites on the affected web server are currently loading in read only mode. This means no new changes can be made to websites but they will display for clients/customers until the system can be restored to the optimal performance.

Update: 15:45 06/08/2013
The web server is currently undergoing essential maintenance. This process is taking longer than expected to complete and full service should be restored by close of business today.

The delivery time for messages on one of our mail servers has been increased due to a large number of compromised accounts sending spam. This issue has been resolved and our engineers are in the process of deleting these spam messages from our mail scanning system. This has generated a large queue of emails that need to be processed through and as this queue is cleared the time between the sending and delivery times on messages will be returned to a normal service.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 12:15 06/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
Our engineers are have made some changes to the server to improve performance. To finalise this, the server will need to perform several checks before it can be fully restarted. This process will take approximately 1 hour to complete. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 14:45 02/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
In order to restore performance we have built a new server and are currently restoring all data from backup. The restore process will take approximately 60 hours. We will then sync any new data onto this machine and set it live with the same IP. i.e. no anticipated website or code changes will be required. The degradation in performance was a mix of a persistence brute force attack on wordpress sites coupled with a degradation of disk performance. Our engineers will continue to monitor the situation over the weekend.

Update: 09:45 02/08/2013
We are currently experiencing an ongoing issue on
Our engineers have isolated the issue and are actively working to mitigate and resolve this issue. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 12:35 31/07/2013
We are currently experiencing an issue on
This is causing intermittent website loading issues and FTP connection issues. Our engineers are working to resolve this issues and expect to have it resolved shortly.

Update: 17:25 04/07/2013
Our web and mail servers are now responding correctly. However due to the previous issues, there are a large number of requests that need to be processed. This will be cleared shortly and mail and website response times will return to normal.


Well, that page doesn’t mention the other downtime the company has had since 17/09/13. It is now 21/10/13 and in the past 30 days there has been more downtime, and sites have been slow to load.

Twitter confirms this:

October 2013


Looking at what the status pages deosn acknowledge Digiweb customers were unhappy

September 2013

August 2013

June 2013

The Bishop of Cork tweeted about his digiweb hosting problems!

So today (21/10/13) we are surprised seeing Digiweb trying to get some positive publicity. It’s telephone arm is offering discounts to Old Age Pensioners in Ireland on the back of the loss of a free telephone service for OAPs. The change was introduced in the Irish Government Budget on last tuesday.

Here is Digiweb’s press release from today (21/10/13)

Digiweb, Ireland’s largest independent telecommunications company, is to step in and offer those affected in Cork by the Budget 2014 scrapping of the telephone allowance the €114 per year back in monthly credits.

The measure, which the Government claim will save an estimated €44 million per year, impacts up to 300,000 people nationwide, including pensioners, carers and disabled people.

Digiweb, which operates its own telephone service in areas throughout Cork, has made the decision to offer a monthly credit of €9.50 to people who reside in these areas and who have been affected by the telephone allowance cut.

Declan Campbell, Digiweb MD of Consumer Operations & Services “having listened to the people affected by the Budget, Digiweb have made a decision to immediately offer affected people the €114 that the Budget has taken from them.”

Digiweb’s network covers approximately half a million telephone lines in the country so many people affected will quality for the Digiweb Telephone Allowance Scheme. In this case if people’s lines are covered by the Digiweb network and they transfer their telephone line to the company, Digiweb will provide a monthly discount of €9.50 (inc vat), which adds up to €114 per annum. A quick call to 1800 28 58 28 will allow Digiweb to check if people can avail of the Digiweb Telephone Allowance Scheme.

Declan Campbell from Digiweb, expressed his sympathies with all those who have been affected, “as a telecommunications company we absolutely understand the importance of being able to keep in touch. After last Tuesday’s budget, this is going to be very difficult for many people to do. So we felt this was the right thing to do.”

Digiweb, is a full-service national communications services provider. It provides nationwide broadband and telephony access as well as web hosting services to residential, small business and public sector customers.

AIB scam letter?

I just received a letter purporting to be from my Bank – AIB.

I say “purporting” because it rings a number of alarm bells.

It asks me to post a copy of my Passport/Driver’s licence (sic) to a PO Box address in Co Clare.

In these days of Identity theft this letter has many hallmarks of a scam.

  • Incorrect terminology: Why do they call it “Driver’s Licence” – the correct term in Ireland is “Driving Licence”
  • Dodgy address: Why is the return envelope addressed to a “PO Box”, and not some building that I can confirm belongs to AIB
  • Unusual location: Why is the PO Box in Co Clare, and not Dublin as you would expect?
  • Poor English: I called the number displayed on the letter 1890 40 80 90 and the phone was answered by a person with a foreign accent who did not have good English. They did not say “AIB” when they answered.

aib scam

Ultimately this doesn’t appear to be a scam because the main website of the Bank at refers to the letter, so unless there were great hackers who combined a paper letter posting exercise with a hacking exercise! this must be legit.

But AIB, please, next time can you use an AIB postal address. I know it’s cheaper to outsource but it rings alarm bells.


Ireland’s first independent “safety deposit box” facility

People of Ireland ;) Do you keep money under the mattress? Afraid of banks? This might be the answer! Ireland’s first independent safety deposit box facility will open in September as a result of an initiative by two Irish entrepreneurs. Up to twenty jobs will be created directly in the company and in supporting service providers. Merrion Private Vaults is the brainchild of jeweller Seamus Fahy and media owner, David Walsh, and is located just off Merrion Square in Dublin. The vault, which has been constructed using the very latest state-of-the-art security technology, will have several thousand safety deposit boxes of varying sizes. Clients will retain a safety deposit box for an annual fee that starts at €350 incl VAT. The company is now taking advance bookings for the safety deposit boxes and has received in excess of 900 enquiries to date. Independently-managed safety deposit boxes for individuals are a well-established service around the world but is new to Ireland. Traditionally banks have provided boxes in various branches but are now ceasing or have ceased to provide them. Seamus set up a website to gauge the level of interest in such a service in Ireland. “The website garnered over 900 enquiries, primarily from all sections of Irish society and also from international business people and families living and working in Ireland. “People from urban and rural areas have indicated that as the bank closed its branch in the area, they have nowhere to put valuables. Home burglaries – often with extreme violence – are on the increase. The CSO reports 27,000 home thefts a year, this means there is an average of one burglary every 20 minutes,” he said. By keeping your valuables in Merrion Private Vault’s safety deposit box, you can remove them from your home insurance policy and reduce your premium. The Merrion Private Vaults facility has been designed and built from scratch, using the very latest state-of-the-art security systems. A leading consultant, who is regularly commissioned by Lloyd’s of London insurance to assess such premises around the world, assisted the founders in constructing the vault and choosing the most appropriate technology to keep it secure. Such is the standard of security at Merrion Private Vaults that Lloyds of London has approved the system and is the main underwriter and insurer for the company.

Shops cannot have “sales” in Belgium when they like

Talk about Euro regulations….

In Belgium, a trader can only sell products under the name ‘sales’ (‘solden’ in Dutch, ‘soldes’ in French) twice a year.
Both periods of sales are determined by law. The first period is like in Ireland and the UK and is the “winter sale” after Christmas, from 3rd to 31st January, and the second period is from 1st July to 31st July.

Those sales are the seasonal renewal of the range of the trader. This is done through an accelerated selling at lower product prices.

Before the start of the sales there is a waiting period: from 6th to the 30th June. During this waiting period, it is legally prohibited by law to have sales in the clothing, footwear and leather sector. That seems wrong to us. Surely a shop should be allowed to discount products whenever it likes?

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