October 24th, 2012


Emeralds under my Tyres

We're back from Ireland. It was an excellent time in general, but one particular point is worthy of mention at this point.

I hired a car, a 6-speed diesel Vauxhall Insignia. It came with scuff marks on the front and rear bumpers.

It did not come with that lever one usually finds between the seats for operating a hand brake.

It's just possible the two are related.


What it did have was a button. Stick a fingertip under it and pull upwards, and a noise would be heard and the wheels would be braked. Press it down, and that brake would not immediately release: instead, a chime would sound and a warning light would appear on the dashboard indicating one should press the pedal.

(Which pedal it didn't actually state.)

So I'd press the button, and then press the various pedals to get the light to disappear.

I'd done about 400 miles over the course of a few days (mostly on cruise control, where hand brakes are totally unnecessary) before finally realising that the button pressing part was not actually required. Just put the car in gear and try to drive, and the brake would release without any fuss whatsoever.

I would have found this out earlier, probably, if a manual had been available in the vehicle.

In future, I will insist on that.

An example for the Adelphi

Once upon a time, we would attend the Irish National SF Conventions, the Octocons. And perhaps we will do so again. But we will never forget our first one, for two reasons.

Firstly, on walking in to the convention and asking to register, we were recognised by the person behind the registration desk, despite the fact that bellinghwoman had never set foot in that country before our arrival a couple of hours earlier. (sacristan still recognises us, but these days with more excuse.)

And secondly, because it took place that year, and for the next few years, in the Royal Marine hotel, which is in the ferry of of Dun Laoghaire (and no, I no longer have to check that spelling).

This was one of those magnificent places, known for having been the haunt of Sinatra and Laurel & Hardy and a whole lot more. It had a beautiful frontage, and would catch the afternoon sun nicely. Just up the hill from the ferry terminal, and from the DART station, it was easy to get to as well. But it was fading, and at the end of the 90s it was slated for closing and possible demolition, or at the least conversion into flats. Octocon itself moved away and found itself for a while in the hinterlands of Co. Kildare, in Maynooth. We forgot about the elderly lady by the seaside.

This last week, we were back. The hotel is still there, but they've knocked part of it down. Happily, the part they demolished was the rather cheap 1960s (?) extension that the function rooms had been in. And they've built a new 8 storey extension in its place, with new modern rooms. It's got light pouring in through its sides and is, in general, a good piece of modern architecture. It's the right size for its position, being only slightly higher than the car park and shopping mall beside it, and it just works. By dint of arriving two days early, we got a nice room, one with an extra 7 foot of width over the normal rooms, and it had both a bath and a shower cubicle.

It had only one real downside: the bed was too soft for me.

(On the other hand, that meant it was unusually to bellinghwoman's preferences.)

As for the frequent complaint about plugs: there were 4 free sockets just above the back of the desk, and two beneath each bedside table, giving a total of 8 sockets. It's a serious gadget freak that can need all of those.

They also do a pretty good wedding, with above average food. This being Ireland, you will get steamed potatoes to go with your roast potatoes, but the beef served was both generous and tender. And the banqueting suite is not an internal box - it has full height glass along the frontage, looking down to the Irish Sea.

In general, especially if you can get the £65/day rate we got (no breakfast, but that was €9 each if we wanted it), a pretty good one.