I love all beauteous things

I was reminded that it’s been 10 years since I was involved in the recording of an album of works by Herbert Howells while I was a member of the choir of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin.

The album, called I love all beauteous things, was recorded in February 2008. The choral pieces were recorded in the church of St Bart’s Ballsbridge rather than in Christ Church Cathedral itself – as the cathedral is situated right in the middle of the city, and there’s much too much traffic and other noise that would disturb a recording session.

I have very fond memories of doing the recording. I had only been in the choir for just less than a year myself, but had already made some really good friends – lifelong friends – that helped relieve the pressure of the hard work with a few laughs along the way.

The excitement in the room is evident!

Some of the organ music was pre-recorded in Christ Church using the cathedral organ, but they had to record in the middle of the night and hope that no ambulances went by at the wrong moment!

The choir recording took three days and finished on what would have been my 36th birthday.

Anyway, I was listening to the album for the first time in a very long time on Friday, and was blown away about the beauty of the music. I can’t even remember most of it, and wouldn’t have a hope’s chance of being able to sing the pieces today – but I’m very proud to have been involved in it.

If you fancy a listen, here’s the link on Spotify:

For a special bonus prize see if you can hear my tiny solo in one of the tracks!

Lack of price transparency in veterinary care

Think of the last time you took your cat or dog to the vet. Did you know what it was going to cost before you went? Did you shop around?

Caring for a much-loved family pet can be very expensive. The ITV program Pets: The True Cost – Tonight was on last night, and revealed that the an average dog can cost its owners £33,000 (€38,000) over the course of its life, and a cat costs around £24,000 (€27,500).

Vet bills can quickly mount up, especially if your pet has a serious illness or accident. And people don't always realise that their pet insurance may not cover all the treatment costs.

I checked our pet insurance last night, and it only covers the first €4,000 of treatment in a year. And while that may seem like a decent amount of cover, an MRI scan for your dog costs €1,000, before you've even get to the cost of surgery and after-care. And do you really want to deny your pet some treatment because you can't afford it?

No published prices

Part of the problem that contributes towards surprising vet bills is that vets themselves don't publish their prices. Go on, do a search online (I'll wait), and see if you can find any prices listed on a vet's website. I couldn't find any.

The only way (besides bringing your animal in for treatment) is ring around a few vets and get a quote for a specific procedure or treatment – that's if you even know what your pet needs. And even then the people on the phone can be a bit evasive about what is or isn't included in that price – which makes it hard to compare costs.

My wife was trying recently to get prices for routine booster inoculations and for a scale/polish of our dog's teeth, and called three vets to get a quote. The prices varied hugely between the different vets, and there didn't seem to be any pricing consistency within any single veterinary practice. One vet would be the cheapest for one procedure, but also the most expensive for another.

So the only way to get the cheapest treatment, if you're concerned about costs, is to take your animal to different vets for different treatments. But if you do, where's the continuity of care? What happens if a new vet doesn't have access to historical medical records?

It's little wonder that pet owners often pick one vet – often based on location, or a personal recommendation – and stick with them for everything their pet needs, even though they often have no idea what any of the treatment might end up costing. 

Spam phone calls from Finland

Over the last couple of days I’ve been receiving loads of spam calls on my mobile phone from the +358 international prefix, which is the country code for Finland.

The phone only rings for a couple of seconds before they hang-up, and I can only presume that the spammers are trying to get missed calls showing up on the phone in the hope that I will call them back – and they can somehow make money from that phone call.

Just make sure you don’t call them back!

I’m guessing that the spammers are targeting Irish numbers because the Finnish country code of 358 and Irish country code of 353 are so similar, and people might think the phone call comes from someone they might know.

The 41 prefix of all of these numbers come from the range of mobile numbers assigned to the network DNA, but I can’t find any reference online to other people having trouble with these numbers.

I know of a few people that would always call back missed calls on their mobiles, even if they don’t recognise the phone number. So I’m going to make sure to warm them about these dodgy calls.

Update: I’ve now started getting the same calls from +46 prefixed numbers in Sweden. Am seriously considering changing my mobile number to get rid them.

Irish citizenship

I applied for my Irish citizenship today.

I had been thinking of going through the naturalization process for a number of years now. Although I was born in England, I have made Ireland my home for the last 11 years, and plan to stay here.

The process itself is a little daunting, as there's lots of documentation to gather, 15 pages of forms to fill in, and then there's the fee of over a thousand euros! But I suppose most things that are worth achieving require some effort.

The final process this morning was meeting with a solicitor to have some declarations witnessed and certified copies of official documents made. Then it was off to the post office to send my completed application.

By all accounts it should take around six months to process my application, and one of the complications is that I won't have access to my British passport for the next 6 weeks or so – so I can't travel anywhere.

And with any luck, I'll be attending a citizenship ceremony to swear allegiance to the Irish state some time in the autumn. And after that I can think of applying for an Irish passport.

Progress to date

I'll be keeping my Irish Citizenship page updated with my progress toward becoming Irish.

TLA is NOT a three letter acronym

The definition of an acronym is a word formed by initial letters that can be pronounced as a separate word.

Examples of acronyms are "Laser" (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), "Nato" (North Atlantic treaty organization), and "Ram" (random access memory).

However, "TLA" is not pronounced as a word. Each letter in it is pronounced separately, as as such it's not an acronym. If you want you can call it a three letter abbreviation, but to be more specific it's really an initialism – but that would change the abbreviation from TLA to TLI.

The Guardian style guide also recommends that acronyms are to be written using an initial capital (e.g. Nasa, Nato, Unicef), and that initialisms are to be written in all-caps but without full stops and spaces (e.g. BBC, CEO, IMF).

The lines blur, of course, when you get abbreviations such as VAT (value added tax) which can either be pronounced as individual letters or as a word.