Belfast Telegraph

Power to the people? I'm hanging on the phone

By Pól Ó'Muirí

Another day, another power cut. I left the house with the electricity on and returned an hour later to find that there was no power.

I rang the emergency NIE number only to get an automated response, confirming that faults had been reported in my area and I should ring back in three hours if the power was still off. Three hours! What was I supposed to do in the meantime? Write by hand and send off my articles by carrier pigeon?

The nicely-spoken women who used to answer when you rang to report a fault have gone. There is no sympathy - and no additional information - to be had from the instructions that demand you 'press one' on your telephone.

The women did at least tell you why the power had gone out.

In one case, a farmer had managed to drive his tractor into overhead cables, leaving everyone in the area without electricity.

Such information usually helped to quell your anger, NIE could not legislate for a farmer doing that. That comfort is now gone.

NIE will not talk to you. Their machines will talk to you and they will take your money but you do not deserve a human response.

I have no idea why the power went off and could get no idea when it might go on again.

Was it another wayward farmer? It would be nice to find out.

I know I am just a customer but a real, live human voice on the other side of the telephone makes me feel more than just a number.

As Blondie might say: "Don't leave me hanging on the telephone ? "

Bertie bounds North

The most cunning of them all - Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern, not former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho - landed another sucker punch on Sinn Fein with his very cautious announcement that his party intends to organise in the North at some stage.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan played the news perfectly - neither gushing nor rushing to embrace Bertie - but welcoming the attention as further proof that the SDLP is not a spent force but rather a potential partner for the most successful political party ever in Irish politics.

(Expect many SDLP delegates at the party's annual conference in November to dump We Shall Overcome for their own version of Danny Boy: 'Oh Bertie boy, the polls, the polls are calling ?')

Sinn Fein, on the other hand, are reduced to issuing sour statements along the lines of "about time you caught up with us".

You can understand their annoyance. Ahern's statement is really bad news for Sinn Fein as it shows that not only have Fianna Fail 'not gone away, you know' but they are 'coming to get you, you know'.

We're Zoe, Zoe sorry

The BBC continues to apologise. For a second time, the flagship children's programme, Blue Peter, has had to issue an apology. Viewers voted in a poll to name the programme's cat, Cookie, but the pinko, know-alls in Blue Peter ignored that democratic vote and decided to call the cat Socks. (What the cat makes of it all, we don't know.) It can only be a question of time before the programme reveals that the famed models of sticky-back paper and plastic washing-up bottles - "here's one I made earlier" - were not in fact made by the presenters but by child labour in a Vietnamese sweat shop.

Black as white

The race for the nomination of the Democratic Party's presidential nomination grows ever dirtier. The Rev Jesse Jackson, black civil rights activist and senior party member, has accused potential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, of "acting like he is white". Both men are black. Is "acting white" the African-American equivalent of calling someone 'a Lundy'?

Fishy tale won't rock the boat

Marty Mc: A Deputy First Minister's Blog

Well, you think you know someone and then they go and surprise you. There's me working with Big Ian all this time and not a word about the Causeway Centre and yer man Sweeney. I am not going to make a big fuss about that - after all we are all friends here - but what really, really, really annoys me is that Ian Jnr went fishing with yer man but didn't invite me along.

Everyone knows I love to fish but "leave Marty out of the boat" seems to Ian Jnr's attitude. I mean, it's not as if I would have rocked it. I shall bring legislation before the Executive: Emergency Policy 1916: Ensuring Parity of Esteem and Cross-Community Consensus on Angling Expeditions. That'll teach him.

Murphy showing signs of irritation

Paris Hilton: Cultural Attache to Ulster

Minister Poots - or Ed Babe as I like to call him - is, like, so annoyed. It seems that one of his fellow ministers, Conor Murphy, is going to put up road signs in Irish. Eddie Baby and his colleagues don't like it one bit. " Signs in Irish will just confuse motorists. There'll be people crashing all over the place in Augher and Clogher," he said. He kind of freaked when I, like, mentioned: "But isn't Eochair and Clochar Irish anyway?" The minister was not happy with my cultural input and snapped back: "I said Augher and Clogher, not Eochair and Clochar. Wash the wax out of your ears. You need to spend some time in detox."

"Are you sending me to the Betty Ford clinic, Ed Babe?"

"No, to the Ulster-Scots Institute," he said.

"Is that in Augher Eochair or Clogher Clochar?" I asked.

"Neither. It's in Rosslea."

"Oh, I know Ros Liath - it's in Fear Manach." At which point he just groaned and left. I guess I better not drive there. Might cause an accident.

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