Ireland day 0136. Friday 11 February 2022- Verification
Simple things in Ireland have a tendency to become sagas. And today I can report some positive news on two sagas that had simple origins but which have assumed complex lives of their own. Both will be familiar to readers of this blog so if the words “PPS number” and “car” are enough to make your eyes glaze over, you can log off now.
First on the PPS numbers. Readers may recall that many weeks ago I tried unsuccessfully to apply for a credit card here in Ireland. It turned out that the application probably failed because the address to which my all-important PPS number was registered was not the same as the address we are currently living in (it was registered to the temporary accommodation we were living in when we first arrived here).
When I diagnosed the problem, I thought I would just ring up the PPS office and get them to change it – but I couldn’t get through. So instead I thought I would do it online, but discovered I couldn’t until I had first “registered” my PPS number. There are instructions on the government website explaining how to do this but when I tried it failed. The error messages were unspecific and the only solution they could proffer was to have an in-person interview with a PPS officer at a government office in Dublin. Needless to say, the process to book an interview was not straightforward and involved writing e-mails and waiting for confirmatory letters to arrive through the post. Anyway, after a five week wait, both Val and I received our interview invitations, which were both scheduled for this morning. The interviews were to be held in the Gardiner Street offices of the rather Orwellian-sounding Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, in central Dublin.
And, my word, that was an interesting experience. The offices are almost completely anonymous and eventually we only managed to locate them by asking a couple of unlikely-looking characters who were hanging around in a semi-derelict doorway if they knew where it was. It turned out that these were in fact actually the offices themselves and the man on the door was a super-nice, really helpful security guard. For a moment I thought we were going into the offices of Universal Exports in some sort of dystopian Bond-ish parallel universe.
Inside, the building was Tardis-like and efficiently set up. After a brief wait in a cavernous hall, first Val and then I was interviewed. Needless to say, the process was not straightforward as the scanner which was needed to upload our ID documents failed halfway through the process. But eventually, after about an hour, we were both processed and ready to go online to complete the PPS registration process. As soon as we got back to the flat, we logged on, and tried to do the verification required to register our numbers.
I suppose given our track record with the PPS system to date, neither of us should have been surprised when it failed – for both of us. Undaunted, after a long phone to another PPS office, it turned out that our credentials hadn’t been loaded properly so they had to be changed manually. And then – hey presto! We were verified, our PPS numbers registered, and my address changed. Now the next thing is to see if it makes any difference to the credit card process but to be honest I think I will give it a rest for a week or two. Right now I don’t have the energy to go into battle with yet another online system which is probably predisposed to fail anyway.
But this wasn’t the only saga which inched forwards today. Once we had dispensed with Universal Exports, we headed into Dublin and thought it was about time to try out one of McDonalds’ much-vaunted new McPlant vegetarian things. After having watched “Cow” a couple of weeks ago, this seemed like a good idea. In fact it was OK – not quite like the “real thing” but acceptable if you’re hungry. But this isn’t the main point of this part of the story. We were passing McDonalds en route to a bookshop on the south side of Dublin that we wanted to explore but as we were on our way – and just after we had crossed the Liffey – I got a call from Stephen – the Yaris man!
Contain your excitement. We haven’t got the €600 Yaris. But we might have in a couple of weeks. Basically Stephen’s friend’s niece works in the Shannon office of the National Driver Licence Service and after a bit of string pulling, the niece has been persuaded to unearth the languishing registration documents – it turned out they had been lost and put in a pile somewhere to be dealt with at a later date. Stephen seems to have confidence that the niece might be able to extract the documents and speed them on their way, and if that is the case we might actually be able to buy the car (I hope it still works, by the way). We won’t know for another couple of weeks but at least for the first time in three months, things seem to be heading in the right direction.
After the triumphs of the morning, and energised by vegeburgers, we headed off to explore “Dublin’s Secret Bookshop” – which we knew about because it is widely advertised on the internet. So not actually very secret at all really. A bit like the PPS office, it is hidden away down an anonymous doorway in a side alley, next to a “Vintage” vape shop, and a psychotherapist. Adopting the full Bond persona, we slipped surreptitiously inside, and came upon an Aladdin’s cave of secondhand books and vinyl records. A bit like the plaster moulding shop we accidentally discovered in the morning (see photos), it was a totally unexpected find and 100% interesting.
But the day wasn’t done with us yet. After we had returned to the flat and sorted out the PPS thing, Val had organised for us to head over to Newbridge House in Donabate, to go on
“Lovers in History” champagne tour of the Georgian estate house. Although we had been round once before, it was an absolutely brilliant evening out, certainly eased by the free-flowing prosecco (not champagne sadly), banter and the fascinating insights into the colourful lives of the Cobbe family members The main concern we had was how to get home again afterwards – as the park keeper had gloomily advised us when we arrived that the footpath entrance leading to the station would be locked in a few minutes and the only way to get back to the station after the event would be to walk down the side of the Hearse Road (which I already knew didn’t have a pavement), in the pitch dark. He cheerfully told he though this would be “deadly”.
I’ll be honest – we nearly gave up and went home there and then while the gate was still open – despite having spent €50 on tickets. But we have learned that things in Ireland generally have a way of working out OK (just think PPS and Yaris) so we stuck with it and went on the tour. At the end of the tour we asked one of the guides how to get back to the station and she said “Oh sure, no problem, I’ll give you a lift. Just go down and wait in the cellar while I lock up then I’ll collect you. It’s warmer down there“. So we headed into the crypt and waited. And waited. And waited. We both started to wonder if maybe she had forgotten about us and perhaps it might turn out to be a very long wait indeed. Our alarm only intensified when we realised that the walls down there were so thick that there was no mobile phone reception. At least, we agreed, we had picked up a couple of chocolates from the reception so if we had to settle in for a protracted period, at least wouldn’t need to resort to eating each other to survive.
Anyway after what seemed like an eternity, but which was probably only about 5 minutes, our kindly lift arrived and we were back at the station just a couple of minutes later. There was only a five minute wait for a train then two minutes over the embankment to Malahide, and a 1 minute walk to the flat. From being confined to a crypt in a remote unoccupied Georgian mansion in the middle of the Irish countryside, to the warmth of our living room in less than 20 minutes was quite a remarkable and altogether happy transformation. A bit of a metaphor for the day really – surprising at every turn, interesting and ultimately rewarding. Let there be many more like it.
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)