Martin's Blog

from a Slovenian living in Wales

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Uber blunder in Essex

Bit the bullet and ordered my first Uber ride in November 2014 when I was in London. It went very well but it was for a very short trip.

The second one was in April 2015 and it was from stansted airport to a nearby b&b about 15 minutes away. I loved the fact that you know beforehand who will be picking you up, what the reg number of the car is and where the car is on a map. The driver then called me to pinpoint the pick-up location. So far so good.

Then it all went a bit pear-shape. The driver obviously wasn’t local but that shouldn’t have been a problem as all they have to do is follow their sat-nav on their phone. The driver was supposed to get off the A120 but failed to notice this and continued the journey eastwards towards Braintree. The problem is that there were no exits for quite a while so we actually ended up near Braintree. As the driver was trying to manoeuvre the roundabouts to get back on the westbound A120 he missed yet another exit but this blunder was easier to correct.

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Finally ended up at the b&b after a MUCH longer journey. I was already thinking how many stars I will be giving the driver. However then I felt sorry for him and he did say that he will sort it out that I only pay the fee as if the journey was correct. However when I later checked I was charged for the sightseeing version of the trip. Very few stars ended up being given.

The reply I received from Uber support was comforting and I received the refund before I woke up the following morning.

I took a look into the trip and it does seem like your driver took a less than ideal route. I’ve adjusted the fare down to better reflect the typical cost of this trip if a more efficient route was taken. This should reflect on your account within a few business days.

I’ve also shared this with our driver operations team so they can follow up with Caner about his city knowledge and remind him of the standards that riders expect from Uber partners. We only want the best for our riders and that includes a driver with a good grasp of the city so you can be assured that this will be addressed as soon as possible.

Not sure, I might still give them a go next time. I guess its just down to poor driver training.

Carriacou – the island surrounded by reefs

Hillsborough

View of Hillsborough from the hospital in Belair

There are two public routes on and off the island. The Osprey ferry and the SVG flight. Now it seems to be an established fact that the ferry is a much more adventurous route meaning it is often a nausea inducing experience even for the more seasoned sea travellers. Anecdotally the trip to Carriacou is usually worse than the trip back. I managed to keep my stomach content down but it was touch and go for about half an hour.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts the island is relatively small, only 3 by 7 miles and with 8,000 inhabitants. There is very little tourism which is great if you want to experience an unspoilt and “original” Caribbean island but so so good for the locals who often struggle to make a living. The big cruise ships can’t even tie-in (or whatever the correct term is) at the island – as the name Carriacou actually means – the island surrounded by reefs. While I was there there was one big cruiser nearby but it had to anchor about a kilometre out from Hillsborough.

I found most people on the island very very friendly and hospitable and I hope to be back there in the future, enjoying their great island and helping out their four-legged critters at the same time.

 

DVLA on speed

Well, you know how many complain about government institutions being very slow when applying for documents. Just recent memories from the passport scandal flood back.
Well on Monday I had to file for a renewal for my drivers licence. Did it online as advised by the DVLA letter. Filled out all the forms, was able to use my passport photo that they had on file and to my complete amazement I received y shiny new drivers licence in the mail today.
It must have been sent in the post at least yesterday!

Appeal for donations for Carriacou Animal Hospital

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Photo by CAH

What a great experience. Lots of memories and and a moderate skin tan that will disappear quite quickly in this Welsh winter.

Although there were a lot of nice relaxing moments on the beach there were also lots of animal care that we were involved with. The beautiful scenery of the island should not conceal the tremendous work Kathy, Shurlyn and all the people that are involved and help out with the Carriacou Animal Hospital (CAH).

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!This is why I would like to appeal for your help as the hospital is not government funded and relies only on charitable donations. One of the vets in the UK has opened a Just Giving page here:

https://www.justgiving.com/carricaouanimalhospital/

All proceeds go to buying supplies for CAH. Alternatively you can also donate to the Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) who organise volunteer work in projects round the world and provide help for various causes.

First impressions

Writing this at least a couple of days into my stay. The passport control people nearly didn’t let me in the country as they seem to pretend they didn’t know about Carriacou animal hospital and to top it off the donated medical supplies got seized by customs. With the great effort from Penny in Grenada we managed to get them back the following day which meant I missed the morning ferry to Carriacou.

Setting off

Don’t think I have ever travelled with so much luggage. Besides my own stuff I will also bring over some consumables like surgical gloves, flea treatment and so on. Got some great plastic containers that are nice and waterproof.

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Those 4 boxes above was how I got everything from the WVS. I was a little worried about how I am going to get all the luggage from the long term car park, on the bus and then on the terminal. Found a great solution as BA who I am flying with has early check in so I was able to check in all my luggage the day before (between 4pm and 10pm). Parked in the short term car park and plenty of trolleys about. No queues at check-in … brilliant 🙂
So tomorrow when I set of I don’t have to be at the airport 3h prior to flight but later. Also I just need to cary hand luggage from the long term car park.

Had a little walk round the North terminal … didn’t feel at all like a vagrant.

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Improving the chance you are reachable when on-call

Recently I have been on-call a lot – as a veterinary surgeon, of course. However the village I am staying in has very poor mobile reception, especially indoors so I have come up with a system to improve my chances that the clients can reach me when I am on call at home. I also do not have use of a land-line, but I do have a WiFi connection.

As often the case when staying in an area with a poor mobile signal the indicating bars can come and gome at will and I often end up with a nice stop sign that indicates I have absolutely nothing, zilch, nada of a mobile signal. Moments when this happens are impossible to predict. So how will clients be able to reach me if that happens?

I found a solution in FlyNumber and a separate voip provider. In my case Sip2Ssip however you can now use Fly Number as a voip provider as well. Not to be to technical, Fly Number provides you with a local phone number which you can use to redirect calls to a VOIP (voice Over IP) provider, which is a fancy abbreviation for a internet phone connection. This internet phone connection can be established for example on you PC, laptop or, even better, on you smartphone.

Prerequisites:

  • an account with Fly Number or any other phone number provider (however I found this one the best by far)
  • an account with a VOIP provider like Sip2Sip, Fly Number, Skype…
  • a WiFi signal with a working internet connection
  • smartphone

Basically I setup a new UK number (as this is where I live). I set the number up so that all calls get forwarded to an ITSP – I already had an account setup with Sip2Sip which FlyNumber recommended. I have a Samsung smartphone where I have installed Zopier and linked it to my Sip2Sip account. However after the recent JellyBean upgrade I seem to have got the phone to take incoming voip calls through Sip2Sip.
I am working at this current practice for 2 months so I went for the three month FlyNumber account but with no repeat subscriptions.
I also setup my phone to redirect all calls when I am unreachable to the FlyNumber I purchased.

So as long as I am logged onto the wifi in my accommodation – or anywhere else and if the mobile signal is lost, then my calls will go via voip to my mobile phone. Brilliant.

Update February 2015

I have been contacted by Fly Number about this post as they monitor any mention of their company on the net. They offered me three months credit if I put a link to them. Well as this was after I wrote the article and as I don’t get a lot of free stuff I said Yeah 🙂

Chikungunya what? Is that a local chicken dish?

Sun, Siyang et al., 2013

The Chikungunya virus / Sun, Siyang et al., 2013

Soon after starting planning my volunteer trip to Carriacou I was given advice about vaccinations I would require. These were basically for rabies and tetanus. As I was tested and proven that I already had enough anti-bodies against tetanus (Clostridium tetani) all I had to do was to get my rabies shots. Great. Cashed out over £110 for this and thought this was it.

Then later I heard about this Chikungunya virus that was causing issues round the world but it was also prevalent in the Caribbean. Turns out this virus causes a quite nasty disease. OK, not exactly ebola grade badness but can still be lethal in extreme cases and can also cause severe joint pain that can linger for months and even a few years. And, you guessed it, absolutely no vaccine for it.

Want to know more? optimistic version and slightly less cheerful version

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Image reference

  • Sun, Siyang et al., 2013 “Structural Analyses at Pseudo Atomic Resolution of Chikungunya Virus and Antibodies Show Mechanisms of Neutralization.” Ed. Werner Kühlbrandt. eLife 2 (2013): e00435. PMC. Web. 5 Jan. 2015.

Volunteering for the Worldwide Veterinary Service on the island of Carriacou

After months of preparation I will finally been taking a trip to the Caribbean island of Carriacou to do a few weeks of volunteer work for the Carriacou Animal Hospital (Facebook page here). The trip was coordinated in conjunction with the WVS (Worldwide Veterinary Service) who has offered me loads of support and guidance.

I have put over £1,000 towards the trip but the CAH, WVS and I are also looking for any charitable donations of veterinary medical supplies. Get in contact with WVS here: /www.wvs.org.uk/how-to-help/donate/

I have also created a JustGiving page where you can donate
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

carriacou-mapThe island has about half the population of Haverfordwest – the town in Wales where I currently live. The 8,000 inhabitants that live on the island that could fit into Pembrokeshire about 18 times are known to be very pleasant. Carriacou is renown to be the safest and the friendliest island in the Caribbean. Not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that they are big fans of rum and they have apparently over 100 rum shops.

The CAH, ran by Kathy, Shurlene and Hans, is very active in the welfare of pets on Carriacou and performs a lot of neutering and spaying as well as everyday animal healthcare services. I will hopefully be reporting to you on how it all goes when I get there. And getting there from good ol’ Pembrokeshire will not be that straightforward. First I will have to drive to Gatwick (near London), stay over there as the flight is an early morning one. Then there is the flight to Grenada but it first stops in St Lucia, all the time I will have to bear in mind that I have to end up in Grenada and not Granada – a town and province in Spain.

After that I have to, again, sleep over as the flight is to late for me to catch the ferry to get me from St George’s on Grenada to Hillsborough on Carriacou. There is a plane shuttle between the islands but I would be late for that as well (its also a little more pricier). I figure after a long-haul flight I would have been sick and tired of hearing the safety brief and the knee crunching legroom. After that I hope to be picked up at the airport to end at CAH.

That is the plan. Stay tuned 🙂

Luggage FUBAR riding a motorcycle

Had a great trip to the Algarve recently and rented a Honda Shadow motorcycle for a week. On one of the last few days of my stay there I planned a trip to the south-western tip of Portugal – Cabo de São Vicente and Sagres. However all did not go well from my start in Albufeira. As I knew I was going to be on the road for at least an hour, perhaps 1.5hours I decided to strap my rucksack to the back of the bike and I used bungees to secure it. As my rucksack as well as other rucksacks have lots of dangling bits I decided to use a waterproof cover to wrap around it and make it more streamlined.

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This is what my Samsung looked like afterwards

I checked several times during the trip that the luggage was secured. However then I didn’t for a while as I was confident everything was fine. Just as I crossed the Portimao bridge I checked again and with my horror only found my bungees where the rest of my rucksack was. I few chosen words were well placed at this point and I was horrified to think what all I had inside: my Samsung Galaxy S3 smart-phone, my Nokia C2, Canon EOS 450D, my spare glasses, contact lens case, wallet, passport, a small pump-spray and an insect lotion. Needless to say there was a few things in it that would a) break and b) get stolen and would be VERY missed. I was able to turn around at the next exit and was surprised to find my bag in the middle of the opposite lane just coming out of one of the Lagoa roundabouts, 7.5 km up from where I realized my luggage was missing. I the Portuguese police are reading this I promise I didn’t break any land speed records.

Well, the damage was sort of suspected. While I was quickly going through the sorry content of my rucksack a guy pulled up claiming he was (at least) one of the drivers who failed to avoid this unexpected obstacle in the middle of the road. He was driving a Mercedes so I know my bag was driven over at least once.

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This was the state of the Nokia phone. The LCD was out but the phone sort-off still worked.

Basically the insect lotion exploded and smeared itself equally over the inside of the main compartment. The chemicals in the lotion was apparently not very nice as it somehow discoloured the fabric of the rucksack. Of course the smart-phone was FUBAR. The screen as seen here and not turning on.

I was quite surprised about the Nokia. The screen was cracked and basically unusable but the phone still worked. The problem is that nowadays I call people by selecting them from a list in my phone-book so I don’t know any numbers by heart. My surprise cam when I saw my spare glasses. The plastic case they were in was COMPLETELY shattered – it was in lots and lots of tiny bits but the glasses them self were fine. A little smudged – nothing a quick clean didn’t fix. The frame was not bent and the lenses were intact. The only thing that was off was that one of the little plastic pads that sit against your nose had fallen off. I just popped it right back on. I am wearing them right now as I am writing this. Well done Silhouette for the frames and Essilor for the lenses 🙂

 

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