Taxi-ng my patience

Picture the scene.  

It's a Saturday night.  You're meeting friends to see a show.  Escaping special needs for a few hours.  And as usual you have a plan.  You know what has to be done, and how long it will take to get ready.  The babysitter is booked for 7.30 and you need to be ready to go.

But special needs doesn't work like that.  At 7.25 I was still scrubbing the bathroom.  All thought of getting the bus or even driving into town was gone.   At 7.29 I rang a local taxi service and asked them to send a cab to the house in 15 minutes.

These are not the taxis mentioned in this post
But it arrives almost immediately.  Meantime I'm letting in the babysitter, hoisting Smiley into her bed, throwing on a bit of make-up and the only dress that was ironed and into the taxi before 7.50.  To be shocked to find that the meter was already almost at €10.

"Surely you don't expect me to pay that,"  I said, but just got a non-committal reply.

I nearly got sick when I saw the final amount for the 2km journey.  Once again I queried it and he said he was waiting 25 minutes (not true).  I was stunned.

So I told him in graphic detail exactly why I had to call a taxi, and told him that I would never ever contact his firm again.  I left the fare and left the cab.  It was not a good start to the evening.

Was the taxi deliberately sent early?  Did they gamble that it was an urgent situation and I would ask the taxi to wait, rather than order another one and risk being late.

Is this a scam? Was I had?  Or just a normal commercial transaction - with the usual 'buyer beware' caveat.  

Worse, I later realised that I had once ordered another urgent cab from the same firm to take aspie boy to hospital with suspected meningitis** when he was small.  When I complained about its failure to arrive, I was told:

"That's Dublin taxis for you, love."

After that incident I didn't order - or even use -  a taxi for many years: I even walked to hospital for procedures after fasting rather than hail a cab.

But back to my night out.  I did not let the stupid taxi rip-off spoil my evening.  I had a great time, but had to leave a little early as aspie boy would not go to bed for the babysitter.  So with great trepidation I jumped into a taxi once again.  I needn't have worried.   This time the journey was completely different and less than half the price of the earlier fare....

What about you?  Do you have any taxi tales?

**I added in this link as I was contacted by chance while I was drafting this post and asked to help promote Meningitis Awareness Week.

My Dad, my daughters, the car and my son

My Dad

He is better, and feeling more comfortable, so he has come home from the hospice.  And as I was in Wales again during the week, I was able to drive him home, which was lovely.  Then on Friday night my brother cooked a celebratory meal for everyone, except his elder son and Angel who have both started university. 

My daughters

It was Angel's first time in charge of the house.  I was a little nervous....especially as it was Fresher's Week.  With so much on my mind all I did was leave a bottle of milk in the fridge, €20 for food, the phone number of the other keyholder and a reminder to unplug the iron and lock the doors at night.  But she was so sweet, even texting me in Wales to let me know when she got home after a night out.  I don't think I would have done the same as a student if mobile phones had been around in the 80s!

On my return the house looked untouched - by human or Hoover.  But no sign of any wild parties either, so I think it went pretty well.

And Smiley?  Well she is exactly the same....appreciative of every bit of attention, fully grown but very different.  Like the way she still has the hands and feet of a toddler:

I'm convinced that there must be another child like her out there somewhere.  Hopefully if I keep writing about her here, I will get some answers some day.

The car

Je mange mon chapeau...

My Citroen Berlingo is like a Tardis on acid and just as odd-looking - I'm thinking of calling it Noddy as its styling is straight from Toyland.   The space is amazing: It's half the size of the old car but I can fit in just as much stuff.  It will overtake other cars even fully laden, cruise along at 80mph * and still do 50 mpg.  It really is a recession-proof vehicle.  And it has a manual gearbox, which makes me almost happy to be driving it :)

* obviously I discovered this by accident when I was driving downhill and looking at the road rather than the speedo...

My son

There's only been one major meltdown from aspie boy since our epic trip to A&E.  It was on the evening of the day that my Dad came home from the hospice.  I suspect it was due to stress caused by overexcitement after spending the afternoon at his cousin's house, but knowing why it happened did not make it any easier to deal with, I was just so upset for my Dad - who was then exhausted the next day.  

It was the trip to Wales that caused all the problems, even though it was organised to suit aspie boy as much as possible.  He was very angry about everything, with a huge sense of entitlement thrown into the mix: 

"I'd better get something good for this."  


"You're the one who needs a therapist."


"I want the living room at home, it has a better telly and I deserve it."  

I am not going to tell you how I responded to that last one, given that the living room is a console-free heaven haven...

Even this morning he woke up angry, especially when he found out that the playdate I'd organised for him was only to last two hours.  But when I went to collect him I found I had a different child.  One who said good bye to his friend and thank you to his parents, without being prompted.  And later he helped carry in the grocery shopping, without being asked.  


They always wrongfoot you!

Will Budget 2012 be any different?

We have a new Government here in Ireland, voted in on a tide of promises to keep local hospitals open and maintain social welfare levels.  But what choices are available to this Government?  It seems that policy direction is being decided by the 'Troika' of the EU, ECB and IMF, and their strategy seems to one of cutting and more cutting of both benefits and services.  This situation is a legacy of the previous Government, but will the new one have any wriggle room, will there be a new direction, or just more of the same.  And how is the Government going to sell this to the electorate?  Well one tactic is diversion, and the upcoming Presidential Election certainly seems to be taking up more media time than the Budget, but the latter will surely have a much bigger impact on the lives of so many people.

The wonderful Irish Mammy on the Run wrote last year about the budget process in Ireland and she kindly gave me permission to reprint it here as a special guest post. Sadly she is not blogging at present, but you can follow her on twitter at @treasadevine.

Read and remember, and let's see if anything changes...

How to manipulate the masses
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I have been listening and watching a few current affairs programmes recently and feeling very strong deja-vu moments. What I am referring to is the whole budget 2011 malarkey and savings of 3 billion euros. If I am not mistaken at the 'toughest ever budget' (Budget 2010) we were distinctly told 'the worst is over'. To which I remember Fine Gael's Richard Bruton quipped at the time; that was like Bush declaring "mission accomplished" on the Iraq War in 2003. Need I say anymore?

So I was not surprised two weeks ago to hear from a spin-doctorified Cowen (who must be popping happy pills at the moment as he is smiling alot more) that another tough budget is on the way. That his depts must go back to the drawing boards to find more savings. The new minister for social and family affairs O'Cuiv has categorically stated that nothing is off the cards.

We (PACUB*) suspect that also means child benefit is back again on the chopping board.  But before we know the real plans of who will get their asses kicked this time, there will be a series of kites to test the water. As I watched yesterday’s current affairs play out I noted the exact same tactics which were used with the child benefit cuts now being floated in the media (via the government) with regards to touted pension cuts.  Here's my prediction of the next few months and the work of government spin-doctors:

Step 1: Fly a kite early on
Very early on to the budget date, say May, just as the weather is getting better and people are thinking about their holidays (including TDs who take a 3 month vacation) fly a kite, that is to say, throw something out there in the open to test the public's reaction. 

Don't have the Taoiseach say it have the Minister of a particular Department (Social and Family Affairs) for example test the most contentious cut eg pension (previously Hanafin did this as regards child benefit cuts).

Step 2: Be unspecific with details
When the minister has speaking engagements or is being interviewed, get the minister to give really fluffy answers about 'not ruling anything out' so nobody feels safe. Create a situation where you can bully one group of people for a short time and then slowly introduce a second group of people with a different cut this will help later on to create disunity. Indeed if a Minister is asked in particular about cuts to pensions or social welfare have him or her say something bland about patriotism or just quote a figure of how much pensions/child benefit have increased over a 10 year period and how this is unsustainable.

Step 3: Keep the people guessing

Over the next few months, keep the people guessing never let them feel like they know what is going to happen as they might just have time to unite. Make sure you take the 3 month break of silence during the summer so people forget, go on their holidays and when everyone is back in Sept hopefully there is an ash cloud or other disaster to distract them from forming a unified opinion on any backlash to the budget.

Step 4: Create a profile for low profile politicians
Get certain low profile FF people out in the public who are not ministers and are not close to the action to speak on behalf of the government. This means that very quickly on people realise these politicians don't have the answers and are just the fall guys to tire people out from guessing. These certain low profile FF people could be chosen from strategic constituencies where other parties might have a higher/stronger profile. Thus when the fall guy eventually shows his hand 'how his connections and his discussions with top ministers' eventually curtailed the cut (ever so slightly), they are supposed to reap the positive public sentiment.

Step 5: Tease out new budget cuts in new directions

Coming nearer the budget when people are sick to death of it having heard budget, budget, budget and financial ruin stories for the past two years and are tuning off into other methods of entertainment, drop the real bombs. Particularly when people are distracted with other news (eg sickness of a minister, independent TDs to step down etc)

Announce the 'real core cuts' when important news has flooded the airwaves or when the dail is about to go on the mid-term/halloween for media and there won't be time to have a coherent reaction from affected people.

Step 6a: Budget Countdown: Float new kites via Independent Commissioned reports one month before the budget, when the interest is back again on the budget - throw out several more new kites at the same time, consider means-testing, consider having independent financial consultants (Mc Carthy, Commission on Taxation, TCD professors etc) announce how they would make the spending cuts.  Make sure there are several differing opinions to confuse the masses eg 20% cut,15% cut, 50% cut, 10% cut -- talk about cutting from those on the higher tax bracket, differential rates for double income vs single income, talk about bringing in new levies.

Talk about taxation, talk about means-testing, then have experts discuss the merits and the problems with each. Then leave at least 5 to 10 options for people to get their heads around.  Generally create mass confusion so all the pressure groups cannot speak with one voice against the cuts.

Step 6b: With new information play people off each other in public, create discord.  Create public debate settings but remove politicians from the public eye. Create in fighting matches between the public eg you can create dissident voices eg Public Sector Vs Private sector or indeed wealthy Vs poor, or childless couples Vs families, single person Vs couple, double income families Vs single income families, pensioners Vs families, social welfare Vs PRSI workers etc. Make sure that the worst debates happen around the worst weather so people will not mobilise and strike in public.  Aim for October/November/early December.

Step 7: Disarm informed opinion
Never, ever share the budget breakdown with anyone. Do not arm the public with information where they could make informed decisions on how best money could be saved or resources could be re-directed. Under no circumstances make the final cuts available in case dreaded 'case studies' with real life examples start to appear in the media to garner public sympathies against the planned cuts. Make it impossible for people to say how the cuts will create havoc in their lives until it is too late for them to react.

Step 8: Threaten IMF or Europe to take over
Explain to the now bewildered public that the finances are in such a mess that International Monetary Fund or the European Commission will need to come in and take over. Threaten that their cuts will be so, so much worse in fact make out that you are 'the good guys.'

Step 9: Explain the consequences of no action
Explain the dire circumstances, outline time and time again the consequences of no action. Tell the public that no one in the world will ever again trade with Ireland, all the multi-national companies will shut up shop and leave Ireland, young people will emigrate and Ireland will become a ghost land. 

Step 10: Announce the budget and saturate the media
In announcing the budget, come right under the most common estimation of the cut say for the example the common opinion in the media is a 10% cut then make sure you come under say 8% or 5%. This is known as a sweetener, and the people are happy because they think 'it could have been a lot worse.' End every media report with politicians proclaiming that 'the worst is over.'

Next budget, repeat steps 1 to 10...

*PACUB was a group of women campaigning against cuts to child benefit.  It was led by Irish Mammy/Treasa, and I helped out in the background.  A petition with 16,000 signatures was handed in to the Government and the Opposition parties at the time pledged not to cut child benefit further.

My baby was saved, now I want to save others #healthworkers

She was still so tiny.  Less than 3lbs at 3 months old.  But she'd made progress.  Finally Smiley had graduated to the Paediatric Unit of the Maternity Hospital, which should be the last stage before going home.  But very quickly it became obvious that something was wrong.  She kept getting spiky temperatures that didn't respond to antibiotics and her electrolyte readings were crazy.  No-one knew what to do until a weekend locum thought of a very rare and dangerous disorder called diabetes insipidus.   Within hours Smiley was rushed to the local children's hospital.  That locum, whose name I do not know, probably saved her life.

I was asked to write this mini post by Heather and Steph in support of Save The Children's campaign to increase the number of #healthworkers in poorer parts of the world, especially East Africa where the lives of thousands of children are once again under threat from drought conditions.  They are likely to die from simple preventable childhood illnesses, never mind rare problems like diabetes insipidus - which Smiley no longer has.  And that's another story...

Save The Children has enlisted the help of the Mummy Blogger community (apparently that includes me!) to get as many people as possible to sign this petition before Tuesday when it is due to be presented at the UN General Assembly.

So I'm asking these bloggers to get involved as well, and all the details are here:

I've found some reasons to be cheerful

I really need to take part in Michelle's Reason's to be cheerful weekly link up again this week. It's all about the good news, and yes I do have some!

1.  Angel's Debs.  She had a fabulous time, and was dropped home at 6.30am the next morning, happy, but in a good way.  And with apologies to my Facebook friends who have seen this already, here she is in all her finery before she left...

2. I finally got to collect my (nearly) new car, chosen because it cost me nothing to 'buy' and is wheelchair accessible and very cheap to run.  I have never been so unexcited about a car purchase in my life, but even though it looks quite mad, it's actually quite nice to drive...

3. Finally, if you see a group of madly excited mothers letting hair down in Dublin City Centre on Saturday night, it's probably the autie mums out on the town.....and I'm going with them :)))))

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Cutbacks cause crises - my aspie boy is the proof

Do cutbacks save money?  Well not in my son's case.  Since his first mega meltdown in January, I have been writing, emailing, phoning and begging for help for aspie boy.  All I have got is meetings and arrangements for more meetings.  But no action, no real help for him or the rest of the family.  He is on the waiting list until September was the message I got over and over again.  I am assuming that the waiting list was due to cutbacks, I would hate to think that children in need were kept waiting for any other reason.

One thing was useful - a workshop on anxiety and that did help me to develop strategies to avoid meltdowns before they passed the point of no return.  Sometimes they worked.  But sometimes they didn't.

Since the end of summer camp (July Provision) things have been horrendous and almost every day has been a struggle, despite the whole month of August being organised around his needs.

For the first time I was looking forward to the start of the school term, and I did enjoy the peace and quiet in the mornings, but I soon began to dread the beep beep of the taxi horn announcing his arrival home at 2.45pm.  There were meltdowns almost every day.  Again I contacted everybody and organisation I could think of, but I made very little progress.

On Sunday morning, at about 6am, he woke and went straight into meltdown.  And this time he crossed a line.  What he was saying was unacceptable and unthinkable and I knew I had to do something drastic.  Luckily he did accept that he needed help, so I left Angel in charge of Smiley and we headed for the local children's hospital. He was still in his pyjamas...

We arrived and were taken almost straight through and put in our own room.  FINALLY we were being taken seriously.    

They listened and they saw.

I wasn't sure what I wanted or expected to happen, but after the on-call team had spoken to me and then him, it was decided that he needed to be admitted.

It took a long time and a lot of persuasion before I could get him upstairs to the ward and then I had to dash home and sort out Smiley and overnight care for the girls:  I know Angel is 18, but she was too upset to cope on her own.  And she had already been caring for Smiley for almost 9 hours without a break, which has never happened before.  My absence tipped aspie boy back into meltdown again, even though his Dad was there.  And while it was horrible for everyone, including my son, at least some people who mattered were finally getting to see and understand the kinds of problems that have been happening at home.  When I came back into the hospital I was able to help him calm down.  I stayed the night and all seemed well in the morning.  We were able to see everyone we needed to before lunch, and there was even an understanding that a child with aspergers finds it hard to wait indefinitely.  Plans were made, letters written expressing concern that my son had ended up as an emergency patient because no services had been provided and short-term help was also arranged.  We were able to leave the hospital feeling fairly confident that we would be able to cope, and get the help he needs as a priority.

This makes it all sounds fairly straightforward.  It wasn't.  There were the difficulties involved in persuading my son to agree to go to hospital, and then go along with the treatment and the way the hospital operates.  Lots of arrangements had to be cancelled and new ones organised and once again my friends just dropped everything to help.  At the same time my Facebook friends were with me every step of the way providing support, advice and information to help me get through the day.  

But why did it have to come to this?

Even if you don't care about the emotional fallout for this family, just do the maths: so far I've attended a number of meetings attended by well paid professionals.  At the hospital there was a medical team, a nursing team, and a psychiatric team, involved in his care.  It must have cost a fortune.  Surely it could all have been achieved 7 months ago when I first flagged the problem for a fraction of the cost and without all the heartache and pain and upset that we've all been through this year.  Would it really have been more expensive to listen to me, listen to him and help him?

This weekend my family was in a crisis.  A crisis caused by cutbacks I believe.  And a crisis that cost.

No-one told me I had to host a debs party...

I should have taken more notice.  I thought it was all organised.  Angel said she wasn't that bothered anyway.  She didn't really want to go.  Now, just 4 days before the event, the debs has become THE DEBS.

You see it's all new to me.  At my school we just had this dance thing in the school hall at the end of 6th year which involved learning to waltz and wearing a long dress, which I made myself .

This is something different entirely.  A stretch party limo has been booked - and even the mention of 'party limo' has me putting my fingers in my ears.  They are going to a hotel and the bus will bring them home again at 7am.  She has the dress and everything else has been ordered off EBay.  Every morning another parcel seems to arrive....

That was supposed to be all.  But now it turns out that the original plans to do a little send off for Angel and her pals at a friend's house are not going to work.  Instead my ex and his family are coming to my house to see The Dress, and presumably Angel as well.  Cue complete panic.  Since hearing this I have already cut the grass and waged war on the weeds.  But I have a busy weekend ahead and I was not born with the domestic goddess gene, so apart from baking brownies and cookies, what else should I do? 

There is one corner of the house where order is maintained : the hot press - or airing cupboard as they say across the sea - but I lose interest after that, and the ex-laws are not very likely to be looking in there.  But what will they spot?  How can I avoid looking like someone who wields a mouse more than a hoover?

Should I tackle the cobwebs in the cornicing or the dust on the door tops?  What would you do?

Update on my Dad : he is now in the hospice, and while he is not feeling great, he is happy to be there.

The Gallery: From Then 'Till Now

I'm not a big shoe-lover, but Angel is.  And this is a very brief history of her shoe collection from 18 weeks to 18 years...

For this week's Gallery over at Sticky Fingers

Five things I want you to know about my father

Dear Children,

Since my father and your grandad is ill, you may already be starting to forget how he is when he is well.  How he loves bringing Angel shopping for clothes, chasing aspie boy around the park and then losing to him in chess, and playing gentle games with Smiley.

But there is much more to him than that, and these are some of the things I want you to know about him...

1. He loves you all very much.

2. He is the cleverest person I know.   Growing up with him as a father meant daily conversations about politics, economics and society.  Relaxation for him rarely means watching TV.  Instead he plays board games, sport or starts another discussion.  He was always challenging my ideas - often with an original angle.  Now I always ask his opinion before making a difficult decision, because his advice is usually the best.  And I seek out other clever people, because I enjoy their company.

3. He was the first person in his family to go to university, but Brideshead Revisited or Animal House it was not - he got married!  Being ahead of his time, he and my Mum decided to have fun and travel during their twenties and leave child-rearing until their 30s, much to the consternation of their own parents...

4. He was working in computers in the 1950s, when few people had even heard of them.  In the 1960s he set up his own computer business and I can still remember his first computer - it filled an entire room.  When I was small it was a special treat to be allowed to press the 'red' button and watch the paper tape emerge from the depths of this giant machine.  Today he uses a Mac, partly due to my obsession with all things Apple!

5. Life has been good to him and it can be for you as well if you have a positive attitude, live life without fear and seize the opportunities that are offered to you.

Love Mammy xx

Thanks to Ella for this opportunity to write about my Dad, who is the main person I am thinking about right now.  The theme of her Friday Carnival is ‘Five things I want you to know about your father’, and it will go live on Friday 9th September.
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