UPC Problems

More fun and games with the UPC so-called customer care department this weekend.
After inspecting my cable TV bill a bit more carefully than usual, I noticed that UPC were charging me for the use of two digiboxes. Now back when I lived at my old house last year, that was accurate, but since I moved I’ve only had the one digibox (a DVR).
So I got on the phone to customer care on Friday evening, and spent the next 90 minutes trying to resolve the matter. My first call to customer care established that the DVR was registered on my account as an additional box, and that another box (the one I don’t have) was my main box. So the first action was to switch those around, so that the DVR became the main box, and the other the additional. The idea was then to delete this additional unknown box, to ensure I wouldn’t continue to be charged this additional charge.
I then raised the subject of getting a refund for all of these additional charges, dating back to December when the house move happened. And the guy said he wasn’t authorised to apply credits to my account, but that he would email someone to request it. I severely doubt, of course, that this will actually result in me getting my money back, but I couldn’t be bothered to argue with him at the time, so I left it at that.
And I thought that was the end of the matter until, several moments after putting the phone down, the TV signal on my DVR was replaced with a You do not subscribe to this channel message. So I was back on the phone to customer care, and back in the queue. During the first call, I had waited about 20 minutes in the queue to speak to a person (thank goodness it’s a freephone number), and the wait times for this second call were just as bad.
Anyway, so I eventually got through to a young lady and explained the problem. She read through the notes on my account, and said she would have to put me on hold to speak to the engineers. So I went on hold – but never heard what the engineers said, because she had dropped my call back into the main telephone queue. So there was another 20 minute wait, and then I had to explain the problem again to someone new. At which point the same thing happened again. Instead of being put on hold so that my issue could be resolved, I was just dropped back into the main queue again, and had to endure another 20 minutes of on-hold music.
I wouldn’t mind, but UPC only seem to have 2 or 3 different pieces of music on their on-hold system, and all of them are corrupt, so that the music randomly drops out and all you hear for a few seconds is static.
Eventually, after a total of 58 minutes on hold (yes, I was keeping count) I spoke to yet another customer care rep. This one, thankfully, knew what he was doing and resolved my problem within a matter of moments – simply be resending the TV provisioning command from his computer. There was no need to speak to an engineer, and no need to put me on hold. A few taps on his keyboard, and my TV channels were reactivated.
Of couse, that’s not the end of it. This morning I got an automated text message on my mobile from UPC, asking me to ring them to arrange an appointment to collect the digibox… the one I don’t even have.


Today (18th April) marks the one-year anniversary of me moving to Dublin… an event that I’m choosing to call my Dubliniversary. Not that I’m planning to celebrate the day in any particular way – except perhaps for a couple of drinks after our concert this evening.

I arrived in the city last April in the middle of an abnormal heat wave, with nothing more than a suitcase and the promise of a singing job in the cathedral choir. I had no place to live, no friends, and no day job. I was also leaving behind a very comfortable life in Edinburgh that I had established over the proceeding 12 years. And for what? Why had I quit a well-paid job, said goodbye to all my friends, and moved out of my lovely flat? Was I having a mid-life crisis or something?

Basically I had only one reason for coming to Dublin, and that was to try out the cathedral lay clerk lifestyle. It had been something that I’d always wanted to try ever since, as a boy treble, I had visited and sung in some of England’s finest cathedrals. I had missed the chance of being a cathedral chorister, but I could always dream of singing at the very highest level one day as an adult.

But why come to Dublin in particular? Wouldn’t it have been easier to go for a lay clerkship in Scotland or England? Well, I did enquire about becoming a lay clerk in Edinburgh, but was told there were no places available (interestingly, now, a year later, they have just issued an advert for a tenor), so I had to look further afield. And the problem with a lot of English cathedral roles is that the weekday Evensong services typically start at 5.15pm or 5.30pm – with call times for the choir being between 4.45pm and 5.00pm. So unless you have a day job with flexible working hours, or you happen to be a school teacher, then the start times can be a bit of an issue.

In Christ Church, however, our weekday Evensongs start later in the day at 6.00pm, and the choir warm-ups begin at 5.20pm. And that later start time, coupled with the fact that the choir only sing on Wednesdays and Thursday outside of the weekend, means that the singing role is a lot more compatible with a career.

So that’s why I’m here in Dublin. But what has the last year been like? Well, I’ve really enjoyed it. It was a big upheaval to start with, but it helped a lot to have a ready-made group of potential friends available in the choir. I’ve also grown to love this city and the Irish people, and have started to feel much more at home. The job market for IT people is also quite buoyant at the moment, so I’ve not had too much bother finding work. I’ve also got a rather cool, if quite pricey, apartment that’s only about a 10-15 minute walk from the city centre.

As to how long I’ll stay here… who knows? At the moment, it’s quite open-ended. I’m certainly planning to be here till at least the summer of 2009, and then I’ll have a think about what I want to do next. That might mean moving back to Edinburgh, going elsewhere, or staying here in Dublin. When I first moved to Edinburgh, it was only going to be for 2 years, and I ended up staying for 12 – and it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility for that to happen again.

Multiple Mobiles

Latest figures reveal that mobile phone penetration is at 114%. That is, for every 100 people in Ireland, there are 114 active mobile phones. And if you remove all the young children, elderly, and luddites who don’t have any mobiles, then the ratio of people to phones must be even higher.
It’s easy to understand. Lots of people have separate business and personal mobile phones, and others may subscribe to separate mobile services for different usage patterns.
Myself, I have three different mobile subscriptions that are in regular use, and various other unused (but activated) prepay SIM cards. This may seem like a lot, but you need to consider that I maintain somewhat of a dual telephony lifestyle – with active mobile numbers in both Ireland and the UK. And in addition to the two phones, I also have a mobile broadband subscription for my laptop – although I’m planning to cancel that soon, as I’m not really using it all that much.


It was, perhaps, the most undemanding choir tour I had ever been on. Usually these tours are organised to try and cram in at least three or four different concerts. But in Loreto, our only commitment was to sing a single concert on the Thursday evening.
We were performing with a local Italian orchestra, orchestra, and conductor. And we would need two rehearsals on the proceeding evenings with them, to ensure that everything would gel on the night. But apart from that, the rest of the time – during the day – was our own.
Now Loreto is quite a small town, and apart from the magnificent basilica and the picturesque cobbled streets, there’s not an awful lot to see or do – particularly in March when it’s off-season for tourists. But we managed to find a rather pleasant café to sit outside and watch the world go by. The coffee drinkers in the group, of course, were in 7th heaven – gulping down those expertly-made espressos as if there were no tomorrow. And the shopping wasn’t bad either, as long as you’re keen on religious memorabilia.
The music was very satisfying too (well our part anyway – I didn’t hear any of the other choirs singing in the festival), and the orchestra was excellent. We started our concert with a short selection of contemporary pieces, but the main event was an abridged rendition of Handel’s Messiah.
Every seat in the basilica was taken, with quite a few people standing at the back. A whole load of the town’s dignitaries were also in residence – indicating that this was a really big deal. And they were a very appreciative crowd. Our standing ovation at the end seemed to go on for ever. And as we were leaving the building afterwards, I think we were all being stopped by people offering congratulations (I’m assuming it was congratulations, as my Italian is none-existent… in response I just smiled, nodded, and said “grazie” a lot!).
It was a brief first taste of Italy for me, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would definitely love to go back in the near future and see a bit more of the country.

I’m ready for my close-up

Some rather exciting news is beginning to leak out this morning regarding the cathedral choir. It seems that a TV production company that makes documentaries for RTÉ is going to make a fly-on-the-wall series about the Christ Church choir. For the next 2-3 months we’re going to have camera crews watching our every move – attending rehearsals, meetings, and all the sung services in the cathedral. As well, a small selection of the choir (presumably some of our more colourful ‘characters’) will be filmed at home and at work outside the cathedral.
This is obviously a very big deal, and will have a significant impact upon the cathedral, in terms of raising its profile as a tourist attraction, and financially (both the cathedral and all those taking part will be getting paid!). It will mean an awful lot of disruption, but hopefully it will be a lot of fun too. As a choir, of course, this will be a great opportunity to raise our profile and attract some new singers.
Update: I should probably add that this story is, of course, a complete fabrication. April Fool!