Not very happy with the Post Office

After getting into a new hobby with Postcrossing in October last year I’ve been sending out postcards regularly almost every week except the weeks when I’ve been away, but early on in the hobby I found that the young man in my local post office would insist on printing out parcel labels and sticking them on the cards instead of using normal stamps. As I only use postcards of regular size these larger labels have often covered up some of the writing or the unique identification number, something I’ve not been happy with, although if the older guy in there served me he would use, or give me, the proper stamps. So to avoid getting printed labels I’ve used other post offices in the town and never had a problem, I’ve always been given the stamps.
Just before Christmas I went to my local post office as it was more convenient at the time, the older guy served me and I got the normal stamps for my cards, however just this morning I went in again with two more cards and even though I specifically asked for the stamps the younger guy insisted on printing out the parcel labels – it very much seemed as if he was just too lazy to get the book and take the required stamps out of it so I refused the labels and brought the cards back home. As it’s only this post office I have a problem with I was so annoyed that I emailed Customer Services with a complaint –
I wish to complain about a particular service at the ***** post office at *****Road, Bolton, BL***
I am a member of Postcrossing and send out 2 to 4 postcards every week to various people in other countries at a cost of £1.25 each but when I use this post office, which is the nearest to my home, the young man who serves in there insists on printing out a parcel label for each one instead of sticking on or giving me the normal stamps. Unfortunately the labels very often cover the cards’ unique identification numbers or other writing, or they are doubled over and left sticking up at the top, all of which I’m not happy with.
The older man in this post office has always given me the stamps on previous occasions so I know they are available, but only today I went in and *though I specifically asked for the stamps the younger one wanted to print out the labels* – this seems to me like he is just too lazy to get the required stamps out of the book. I have used other post offices in the town and never ever had this problem, I always get the proper stamps, so surely printing out labels is not the norm?
As this is the nearest post office to me I use it regularly but if this is the sort of service which is given then I will be taking my custom elsewhere in the future.
I didn’t expect a reply for a few days but I got a return email only an hour or so later –
Thank you for your email about your experience at the *****Post Office branch. I’m sorry to hear that you’re unhappy with an aspect of the service you receive in the above branch as here at the Post Office we take great pride in providing excellent care and service to all our customers.
I can confirm that if a branch doesn’t have specific values of stamps available to cover the postage cost of an item they would be expected to produce a postage label instead. *As an alternative, customers can purchase specific value stamps and apply them to their items themselves*. It may be worth mentioning this next time you visit the *****branch, as if they don’t have the stamps required in stock they can order them at any time to replenish their supply.
Thank you again for taking the time to bring this to our attention and please accept our sincere apologies for any frustration or concern you may have been caused.
Kind regards,
**** ******
Now although this reply does explain why postage labels are sometimes used instead of stamps, and I can understand that if it really is the case, I feel it rather ignores the main issue, in that even when I ask  for the stamps I still get printed labels from the one particular person in that one branch – I’ve put the significant part of my complaint and of the reply in asterisks as I feel that the matter has been completely glossed over. I would have at least expected to read something along the lines of  “this matter will be brought to the attention of that branch’s staff” but this seems to be more of a stock reply rather than an assurance that my complaint will be dealt with appropriately.
Maybe I’m expecting too much but to be honest this situation has occurred so many times in the past that today was the last straw, and no matter how close to home that particular post office is I’ll be going elsewhere every time from now on.
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A Christmas ‘must see’ in Portugal

I recently read this post from Becky in Portugal, and although I’m not particularly religious I thought this display was so amazingly lovely I just had to reblog it for Christmas – it must have taken days to put the whole thing together. Click on the links to see more of Becky’s photos of this beautiful display.

It caught my eye in Portugal

It was a lovely blogging friend who encouraged me to share this third post on the Presépio Gigante in the Centro Cultural António Alexio in Vila Real de Santo António. And I am so glad he did as it even ‘grander’ this year!

NazarethThree years ago there were just over 4000 figurines, now there are more than 5000. And it is not just figurines which are added every year to the Presépio Gigante, they also add new buildings. It is quite an extraordinary creation.

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From Roscrea to home

My final morning in Roscrea saw me getting the 9am coach to the airport ; my flight wasn’t until 1.50pm but I would have been cutting it a bit fine if I got the next coach at 11am, especially if it was late, so I was better being on the safe side. Michael wasn’t coming home until two days later but he came up to the bus stop with me to see me off and for once the coach was bang on time. With a slight delay going through Dublin city centre I arrived at the airport at 11.20 with a good couple of hours to kill, and once I was through the security check (with no problems) I spent some time looking round the shops before getting a sandwich and a drink and whiling away some more time in a quiet corner.
As I’d been walking through the airport building I’d noticed a run of large back-lit pictures on the walls, advertising Skoda cars – the pictures were based on several Irish myths and legends and though each one prominently featured a car I thought they were lovely enough to take a photo of. Luckily that section of the airport wasn’t too busy just then so I got my shots without anyone getting in the way.
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St. Patrick
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The Children of Lir
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Cu Chulainn
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The Salmon of Knowledge
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Tir Na Nog
Although the plane from Manchester a few days previously had been packed the one going back wasn’t ; I’d pre-booked the same window seat but with no-one sitting in the two seats next to me I could have spread myself out if I’d wanted to. There was no-one in the two rows of seats behind me or across the aisle and only one person in front of me – that’s the first time I’ve known a flight to or from Manchester not to be full.
As we got over to the English side of the water I tried to make out where we were but though the day was cloudy and I didn’t recognise anywhere I still took a few photos. It’s only since I’ve been back home and done a lot of studying of the map book and Google Maps that I’ve realised exactly where we were – passing a part of North Wales which I’m very familiar with.
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Turning towards the Dublin coast
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Right : Anglesey and the Menai Straits – centre : cloud over the Snowdonia mountains – centre foreground : Conwy estuary, Great Orme – moving left : Llandudno, Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay
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Right : Barkby beach – centre : Talacre beach
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The Dee estuary – right : Talacre beach – left : Mostyn Dock
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The River Mersey – right : Birkenhead – left : Liverpool
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Approaching Manchester airport
It was 2.40pm when the plane landed at Manchester and by the time I’d got through the airport and walked all the way to the station I’d just missed a train and had to wait half an hour for the next one. Although it wasn’t ideal it was only a minor irritation and I could live with it, but what I didn’t know then was how many things would go wrong in less than 24 hours. But regardless of any disasters to come I’d still had a really nice time in Ireland – and my day in Dublin had inspired me to want to go back to see more in the not-too-distant future.

A walk to Mount St. Joseph Abbey

Although Roscrea is only a small town and is surrounded by countryside there are no really good dog walks anywhere unless you take a long walk out of town or drive to somewhere so the only place I could reasonably go to with Trixie was Mount St. Joseph Abbey, two miles along the country road from the bottom of Nellie’s street. I’ve been there a couple of times before and in spite of the frequent passing traffic it’s a pleasant walk past open fields.
I wasn’t far from the monastery grounds when I experienced the second great coincidence of the holiday. Houses along the road were few and far between and as I got close to the last one a man suddenly appeared through the gate onto the road, startling Trixie and making her bark. He spoke to her in a friendly voice and apologised to me for startling her, we got chatting and I mentioned that Trixie wasn’t actually mine. When I said who she belongs to he told me he knew the family and Michael’s dad and said he knew a young lad from the family also called Michael – and he was really surprised when I told him that’s my son. That was so unbelievable – two miles from town in the middle of nowhere and out of the blue I meet someone who knows Michael!
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Wandering round the monastery grounds I noticed that the church door was open – I would have loved to go in and look round but I didn’t know if it was allowed and there was no-one around who I could ask so I wandered past the guest house and round to the back and discovered a lovely peaceful apple orchard with a couple of benches set alongside the paths. One of the paths led through an archway to a courtyard beyond, it looked a bit like a farm yard and as I didn’t know whether it belonged to the monastery or was private I didn’t go any further.
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The monastery grounds
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The guest house
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Part of the apple orchard
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Back on the main path I made my way round to the stream with the man-made waterfalls, and though it was in shade just like last year the full sunshine did make things a bit brighter. From the stream I made my way through the woods back to the main path then with the last three shots taken I set off on the 2-mile walk back to Nellie’s.
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Some local residents across the stream
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Back at the house, and tired out from her long walk, Trixie curled up on her cushion and didn’t move much until later in the evening – two miles each way is nothing to me but obviously she isn’t used to walking so far all at once. Later on I popped up the road to take some photos of the Christmas lights in the garden of the house a few doors away – they add something new every year and this time it was penguins and lights on the ground – then I settled in to watch tv for the rest of the evening.
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Before I went to bed I packed my case and backpack ready for the morning as I had a reasonably early start and I didn’t want to be on the last minute. It was strange though – compared to here at home Roscrea is such a small quiet town that I wouldn’t want to live there permanently, but over the last few days I’d got so settled that somehow I felt reluctant to come home. Michael’s dad may no longer be around but it’s nice to be part of his home and the Roscrea life for a short while, and I know it won’t be long before I go back there again.

St. Cronan’s Church, Roscrea – a feast of stained glass

My last full day in Roscrea arrived with sunshine and blue sky and after breakfast my first task was to find some nice artificial flowers to replace the ones I left on Michael’s dad’s grave last year. Although I really wanted a single large arrangement I couldn’t find one so I settled for six small bunches, three red and three white, and back at the house I filched a length of Nellie’s green knitting wool and tied them all together into one arrangement before taking them up to the grave. While I was up there I noticed that the lantern and plaques that Michael and I had left at the time of the funeral were looking a bit grubby so I took them back to the house, gave them a good clean then went to return them to the grave. I took my camera with me too as I’d seen that the church was open so I went in to see if I could get some photos of the stained glass windows which I didn’t get shots of on a previous occasion.
The construction of St. Cronan’s RC Church started in 1844 just before the Great Hunger and in spite of the best efforts of the parish priest and the local community it proved impossible to complete during the famine years. After various fund raising efforts both in the community and in America the church was finally opened for worship in 1855 although it still didn’t have a roof at that time. In the 1870s the towers flanking the west end of the building were added, and before his death in 1902 John Francis Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral, said that the hand carved altar pinnacle and screen was the most beautiful piece of church architecture he had seen in Ireland. In 1913 lightning seriously damaged the apse so restoration and redecoration was carried out on the whole church, then in the 1920s the statue of St. Cronan was added, which now stands above the main door.
It seemed like I was the only person in the church at that time so with no interruptions I wandered round freely and managed to get shots of every stained glass window in there. Someone belonging to the church must have been there somewhere though as only a few minutes after I’d gone out I heard the main door being closed and locked from the inside – it seemed I’d got my photos just at the right time.
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St. Cronan’s RC Church, Roscrea
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Back at the house Nellie made me a coffee and a couple of sandwiches then I got ready for the next part of my day ; earlier in the holiday I’d promised Trixie that I would take her for a good walk and as it was still a lovely day weather-wise that’s just what I was going to do.

Dublin to Roscrea – I survived the coach ride

Over the last two-and-a-bit years I’ve travelled to and from Dublin and Roscrea enough times to know that the coach service doesn’t always run on time, especially when it’s coming from the airport, so I was a bit surprised when it arrived at Dublin’s main bus station bang on time at 4.30pm, and with only a handful of people to get on we were on our way within minutes. All went well as we went through the city and its outskirts but once we left civilisation behind and got onto the open motorway things began to change.
Although it had been a reasonably mild day in the city the temperature must have dropped as darkness fell and the front windscreen of the coach misted up ; the driver put the heater on to clear it and it was okay for a while but then he turned the heater off and within minutes the windscreen misted up again. He drove for several minutes with it like that then instead of putting the heater on again he leant forward out of his seat and cleared a small space with the back of his hand – and for the rest of the journey he drove with a misted up windscreen and just a small space to see through which he constantly cleared by hand. This wasn’t a good situation at all, and it was made worse by the fact that every time he leant forward to clear the windscreen the coach would drift to the left and go over the lines onto the hard shoulder before he corrected it.
As if all this wasn’t bad enough the whole of the coach had to listen to a football commentary on the (rather loud) radio – and whenever we drove through a dead spot where the radio went off tune the driver would lean down to his left and try to retune it, which again caused the coach to drift over the lines onto the hard shoulder. The only time he turned the radio down was when we stopped at Portlaoise – it was obviously only for his own benefit as once all the passengers were on board he turned it up again louder than before. I’m not even remotely interested in football in any way but I can tell you who won the Merseyside Derby that day, who scored the winning goal and which minute it was scored in.
I was sitting in the front seat across from the driver so I could see everything he did and the sequence went like this – drive for a bit, lean forward, clear windscreen, drive, lean down, fiddle with radio, drive, lean forward, clear windscreen…etc. If I could have got some photos or a video of his antics I would have done but unfortunately it isn’t allowed. The coach should have arrived in Roscrea at 6pm but it was 50 minutes late – since leaving the last stop in Dublin it had only made one other stop, the one in Portlaoise, so there was no real reason why it should have been so late getting to Roscrea. I can only assume that the driver was going a bit slower than usual because he couldn’t see out of the windscreen properly.
This was the first time I’ve ever witnessed such appallingly bad driving from someone who is supposed to be a professional driver and needless to say I was so glad to get off that coach in Roscrea – it was going on to Limerick from there so I only hope the rest of the passengers made it to their destinations without mishap. I refused to let the experience put a damper on my day though – I’d had a lovely time exploring Dublin (or parts of it at least), I’d seen some things I knew about, many I didn’t, and got lots of good photos, so apart from that dreadful coach journey I considered the day to have been a great success.