Flat Hunting part deux

So I was a bit premature in stating that this flat hunting lark was a piece of cake nowadays. After loving the first place we looked at, I got busy sorting out a landlord and work reference which were with the agent on Monday morning.

Prior to viewing the first place we’d also arranged a viewing of a place in Lucan village, close to where we are now with Lana’s folks (but just far enough away to be comfortable at the same time!) Lana decided to go see it anyway just as it was down the road. I didn’t bother as it would mean missing a meeting at work. Of course, you can guess what came next… Lana loved the second place even more. The trouble was that there were another couple interested, and the agent would not consider letting it until I’d seen it and she had meet me. They couldn’t show it again until the Thursday and despite sending over our references and offering to go to their office, they wouldn’t budge and the other couple got the place. What it did succeed in doing was sowing the seeds of doubt about the first place. We had told the first agent we were looking at another place and not to hold the first one on our account. She got other viewers interested so we thought it was only fair to tell her we were not interested in taking it after all.

So, back to square one, and it was back onto the web to search again. The plan this time was very much to stay in the Lucan area. A few possibilities were up there, but one had already gone and the other two were a bit too close to Lana’s folks for our liking (think Everybody Loves Raymond if you know what I mean) Fortunately however, this place turned up. It’s location is perfect and the flat is gorgeous. The second bedroom isn’t as big as we would like, but currently has no bed in it anyway. We’ve asked that it be left this way and we will get our own sofa bed so it can be more of a study for the majority of time when it is just us staying there.

So, with a following wind we should be in sometime next week.

Flat hunting

The job of flat hunting used to involve scrutiny of the local paper followed by hours taken off work driving around between various viewings only to find that the flat doesn’t match the glowing description, until you finally settle on a place due to it being good enough and a sense of growing desperation. Normally things are driven by having to find somewhere before you get kicked out on the street.

Fortunately, the latter problem isn’t one we have faced as Lana’s folks have been fantastic in accommodating us whilst we find somewhere.

And of course, in the modern age the leg work of flat hunting has been largely removed by the variety of web sites which provide pretty much all you need in terms of searching, images and descriptions to build a short list. Ireland is no different, with daft.ie being the main place people head for rented accommodation. We’ve been keeping an eye on it for the past could of weeks as we get ready to get somewhere, and built up a small shortlist of places to see. The first viewing was today, and thanks to the photos supplied we had a good idea that we would like the place. All it needed was a visit to confirm and check out the area.

As the photos on the link show, it’s a lovely 2 bedroom first floor apartment, with a huge main bedroom complete with walk-in wardrobe and en-suite, all of which has won Lana over. The second bedroom is a comfortable size with a double wardrobe. The lounge/diner is a nice size and has a lovely wrap around balcony, South facing for the sun. All in all, it answers every criticism of our old flat in Southampton. The area is very quiet, with lots of greenery around and about a 10 minute walk to the local shops. About 5 minutes drive away is Blanchardstown Shopping Centre with a load of shops including Borders. To cap it all, IBM is a stone’s throw away so my lie in time will be maximised. I might even buy a bike 😉

Lana’s parents are a 10 minute drive away, and links into the centre of Dublin are reasonable.

So, that’s the efficiency of modern flat hunting. Do your research on the web and go for the first place you see!

Dublin flickr meet

Popeyed 5

I went along to my first flickr meet today, with the folks from the Meet Dublin group, including a colleague of mine, Karim (a man who is living proof that talent rather than equipment makes a great photo) As mentioned, today marked the first anniversary of joining flickr, so it seemed as good a way as any to celebrate. It was also the first chance I’ve had to get out the camera since we’ve been here.

After meeting up outside the Gaiety Theatre, the unanimous choice was to head to Merrion Square, where the AIB Street Performance World Championships were taking place. The SPWC sees various street acts from around the globe basically doing their stuff over the weekend whilst the viewing public can vote for their favourite act. Thankfully the weather, whilst overcast, held up and there was no rain other than a few spits.

After a quick walk around the park I started to take in a few of the acts. My creative juices weren’t really running, and to be honest the acts were difficult to shoot, but I think I got a few decent ones. There was also a lot of opportunity for candid shots. It was hard not to just put the camera down and enjoy the shows, the highlight being Popeyed, an Australian acrobatic/hand balancing duo.

The best of the bunch of photos I took are up on flickr in this set (slideshow here)

I missed out on the pub meetup afterwards due to losing myself in the park, and not remembering the name of the pub. However, on my way back to the car, I did stop to take some shots of a group of skaters outside the Gaiety which I’ve yet to process.

All in all, a lovely day, and just one example of why I’m already loving living in Dublin.

Blog and flickr anniversary

Yesterday (15th June) marked a year since the first post to this blog. It started off on wordpress.com as a place to talk about WebSphere ESB, but has really developed into a rather general blog through my interests, especially as I picked up photography as a hobby. The blog started out on wordpress.com where it picked up about 15,000 views before I moved over to hosting it with Register1.

A quick look at Google Analytics shows that the new site has, since the 31st January, totaled 5,434 visits by 4,437 unique visitors. Additionally, an average of about 40 people subscribe to the feed for the blog. I’ve not really developed this blog too much since I moved it over, which is something I plan to remedy.

Talking of anniversaries, today also marks the a year since signing up for flickr and posting my first photo. I’m marking that by heading out in a while to meet up with some other Dublin based flickr members for a meet, and so will probably post another entry later on with more info about that. The stats for flickr currently stand at 17,175 views of the 361 photos I’ve uploaded.

Reading list

Fuelled by an unusual amount of spare time, and the fact that there’s a branch of Borders not far from us, I’ve been on a bit of a reading spree recently.

I had good intentions of reading James Joyce’s Ulysses before we came over to Dublin, but shamefully I didn’t get through the first chapter before I put it down and moved on. My defence is that I did make it through the 75 page introductory essay about the book as well. I’m determined to read it fully at some point, but as anybody who has picked it up will know, it isn’t a light read 😉

I moved onto a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time: Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. The Watford manager Adrian Boothroyd has been quite vocal in referencing this book as one that guides his management philosophy and it is also one of those books (like The World is Flat) which you always here referenced by people in interviews. I’ve pretty much finished it and am very impressed by both the message and the way it is put across. The style of writing in which Gladwell uses engaging case studies to illustrate his essential point about how small changes can lead to the “tipping point” which turns a product from a small niche or a declined market share into an overnight success. It’s a formula I’ve seen used in many books I’ve read which were written after this, such as the aforementioned The World is Flat to books like Freakonomics.

Another one I’ve been dipping into rather than reading cover to cover is Alasdair Cockburn’s Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game, which is more of a one for work than for pleasure.

The following are on my stack of ones to get to:

Dublin – the first week

We’ve been here just over a week now, so it’s probably about time for an entry to say what we’ve been up to.

I’ll leave work aside as there’s not a whole lot to say other than it is going well and I’m tackling the steep learning curve of both the product and the work we have ahead. One slight annoyance is that a bit of a mix up between recruitment and HR means that the latter don’t actually know about me! This primarily manifests itself in a distinct lack of the company paying me the money I am due at the moment. This makes it pretty hard for us to go out and sort a place to live, but I’m sure it will be sorted.

So for the time being we are enjoying the gracious hospitality of Lana’s folks, who are treating us very well, especially in the nutrition department 😉 Whilst we are keen to get our own place sorted it is nice to know that we aren’t going to be homeless in the meantime.

Lucan itself is out on the west side of Dublin, outside of the M50 motorway and very close to some lovely countryside. It is also a short 15 minute car ride away from the IBM location in Mulhuddart which gives me a pleasant and stress free drive to/from work each day. We’ve taken advantage of the close countryside to venture out for the occasional walk along the River Liffey of an evening, especially as the weather over the past few days has been fantastic. One downside of the weather is that my hayfever seems to have gained a new lease of life over here. Compared to Southampton it is worse, but I guess that is down to not being so close to sea air and having lots of greenery around instead.

Talking of the fine weather, we took the opportunity of a trip to the seaside on Saturday. We had to go down to Blackrock to confirm our wedding cake choice, and drove onwards past Dun Laoghaire to a small beach at Sandycove, right next to the Joyce Tower – setting for much of the first chapter of Ulysses (a book which I’ve shamefully discarded far too early on – see my next post) We spent a good few hours just chilling out, reading and watching the world, whilst getting a few rays (and some sunburnt legs on my part)

On Saturday evening we went into the centre of the city and grabbed a very nice meal at the Siam Thai restaurant on Andrew Street. After that we fancied trying out a comedy club. I’d read about the one in the International Bar, but Lana was put off by the fact that it was a popular underage drinking haunt in her youth. She had bad memories of time spent throwing up in the toilets 😉 Instead we went across the road to The Bankers who had a stand up night on in their upstairs bar. Unfortunately it turned out to be more hit than miss. The MC was good value, but the four acts were generally disappointing. The odd good joke, but they failed to keep the audience on a roll, and there were some painful silences at times. Still, with a few beers consumed, and half a bottle of wine from the meal I was happy enough to enjoy the highlights.

This week has finally seen a bit of stormy weather arrive, but it won’t put me off going along to some 5-a-side football I’ve seen advertised on one of the work noticeboards. It’s one mission accomplished to find an alternative to the old Monday nights at Romsey School. At the weekend I’ll be heading into the city once again to take part in the second Dublin flickr meet. Conveniently Saturday sees both Bloomsday and the AIB Street Performance World Championships taking place, so there should be no shortage of photo opportunities to capture. Incidentally, Saturday is also the first anniversary of the upload of my first photo to flickr, so it’s a nice way to celebrate.

So all in all, so far so good.

First day

Well, my first day at IBM Ireland has drawn to a close, and so far so good. The team seem great, and certainly full of enthusiasm and no little amount of talent. Given the warnings about traffic I set off quite early and ended up grabbing a paper and a coffee in a nearby village as I arrived at the site way too early. After getting in a little later I sat in on the daily team meeting, and spent the rest of the day in a fairly typical fashion for a new joiner – getting my laptop set up and attending a couple of meetings. Of course, I have the advantage that I know all of the ins and outs of the company and it’s systems, so at least I’m saved that headache and learning curve.

There’s a few noticeable differences between DSL and Hursley – DSL is not a cashless environment in the same way as Hursley, which makes things easier and less hassle as you don’t have to worry about loading money. There are two canteens and a sandwich bar (which was very good) and loads of vending machines. I’m in a large, very open-plan office which is fine. Other than that, things are pretty much the same though I’m sure other differences will become apparent over time.

I’m using a loaned T42 Thinkpad at the moment whilst we wait for a hardware order to come through. I’ve installed the internal Linux client based on RHEL 5 as I had on my old laptop, and am just waiting for the various IDs to come through before I can get going in anger.

Over the next few days I’ll be spending a lot of time getting up to speed with both Lotus Connections and the work the team are doing at the moment. Then starts the job of getting on with helping the team to define and deliver new features and function into the next Connections release. On first impressions, it’s going to be fun!

The move so far

Here’s the story of our move to Dublin, at least so far.

Last Tuesday two men and a van turned up from the relocation agents to pack up all our stuff for shipment over to Dublin. The original plan was to do it all ourselves, and I’d already arranged for the hire of a van and booked a ferry ticket. That would have mean two long road and ferry trips in the space of a week, so news that my contract included a relocation allowance made things much simpler. After Lana had spent a lot of time packing stuff up into boxes we bought from Staples at over £2 each she was slightly dismayed when I told her they would be repacking everything themselves. 51 packages later and their long wheel base transit was packed to the brim. I have no idea how we fitted so much stuff into a 1 bedroom flat! It was then being taken back to their depot, put on a truck and taken over to Dublin where it is being held in storage until we require it. One thing I was glad of was that they crated up my LCD TV. The thought of moving it myself had been giving me kittens.

After our respective final days of work on Friday I left Lana at home for the evening whilst I popped out to watch the England v Brazil game. When I came back she had put the remaining stuff (clothes, essentials, etc.) together in the lounge, and was seriously worried about it’s ability to fit into my Ford Mondeo hatchback. So worried in fact that she decided to throw a load of stuff away, including a brand new duvet and the entire remaining contents of our bathroom 🙂

The Saturday morning involved loading up the car (it all fitted fine) and a final clean of the flat before returning the keys. Despite being our home for three years, there weren’t any tears shed about leaving it. Onto bigger and better things.

We then trundled up the M3/M25/M1 for two hours to reach my folks’ place in Luton for a stop, some lunch and to say goodbye. At around 8pm we started off on the trek up to Holyhead in Anglesey, about 250 miles away. We’d booked the ferry at 2:40am on Sunday morning, so had plenty of time to get there. The reasons for such an unusual ferry time were simply to avoid any bad traffic and also to enable us to arrive in Dublin at the start of a new day. We’d also prefer to go via Holyhead to Dublin than Fishguard to Rosslare as the latter still have a 2 hour drive up to Dublin after you get off the ferry.

The plan worked as we made it up to Holyhead in four hours flat, including a short stop on the M6. With a couple of hours to kill before the ferry we planned to get some sleep but this was thrown out the window when the guy in front got his four dogs out of the car for us to play with 😉

Once on the ferry (useless fact of the day: The Irish Ferries ship Ulysses is the largest passenger car ferry in the world – almost as big as Joyce’s book!) we found a spot, stuck our pillows down and were both dead asleep before we even left port. We woke up three hours later as we pulled into Dublin port, to be greeted by fog and rain – a real Irish welcome and a contrast to the hot, sunny day we’d had in England. A short drive through a 6am deserted city centre (if only it was always as uncongested) and we arrived at Lana’s folks in Lucan less than 30 minutes after leaving the boat. Straight into bed again then up a few hours later to unpack the car.

Since then we’ve just been relaxing and getting into the swing of things. Today is a public holiday, so everything is pretty quiet. The weather has been better so we popped out in the afternoon to do a dry run up to the IBM location at Damastown. It is 6.5 miles away and took about 13 minutes. The drive was quite similar to my old commute to Hursley – lots of country lanes. It remains to be seen how long it will take at rush hour though.

Talking of which, I start work on Wednesday, whilst Lana starts looking for a job. On Tuesday I have to go down to the Social Welfare office to hand in my Form 12a which will hopefully mean I avoid emergency tax. I also need to go to the Vehicle Registration office to notify them that I’ve bought my car over and start the process of getting it re-registered.

Of course, the other main item on the agenda is to start looking for our own place to live. The housing situation over here is a blog entry all of it’s own, which I’ll have to write someday. The first aim however is to get a place to rent. Sometime after the wedding and once we’ve fully settled down we might think about whether we want to buy.

Farewell Hursley

Today is my final day in the WESB development team, my final day in the Hursley lab, and bar a couple of days holiday my final day in IBM UK.

Thing is, I’m too excited about moving to Ireland and starting my new role in Lotus to get too emotional about leaving. When I started here as a grad I shared the common view that I’d stay for a couple of years, get some good training and a good name on my CV then go off to find something new. The thing is that like most of my peers I found that life was too good in IBM and especially in Hursley. Nearly nine years later and I’m finally off. It’s been a great place to work, and a superb bunch of people to work with. However I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little stale in my current job. I’ve spent all of my time in probably the two most interesting types of job in the lab (product development and lab services) and the time is right to try something new. Yes, I’ll still be in a development role, but a fresh product, fresh organization and fresh surroundings will provide new energy. As I’ve stated before, I’m looking forward to thinking about stuff which appears in a browser to an end user rather than designing and writing middleware. The Lotus Connections calls I’ve been on already have proven that I’m making the right move. There’s going to be some exciting stuff happening in the future of the product.

The next time I write an entry in this blog we will be over in Dublin and I’ll be getting ready to start my new role on Wednesday. Can’t wait!