July 30, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 4:50 pm

I’ve been wondering how to put all this Irish Mail on Sunday business behind me for a couple of months now, and also been wishing something positive could come out of the whole thing .. simply because when it comes flooding back (and it does quite a lot right now), it would be nice to be able to say ‘well at least something good happened’.

I was finally able to achieve that last month. Since the ‘apology’ was printed in The Mail, the only outstanding matter was the issue of breached copyright with my photo. I had been getting a lot of advice from different people ranging from ‘you can name your price’ to ‘you’ll have to sue them to get a penny’. I never wanted any money from those people but at the same time, felt they should pay in some way for the hurt that was caused.

The Mail’s offer was ..  ‘a once off payment of 150 euro .. in the circumstances that the picture was used’.

The solution came to me on Friday June 19th as I sat in the garden browsing through Facebook. On the Discover Killaloe page, there was details of the Pink Ribbon 10K walk for Breast Cancer the following day. I instantly registered. It seemed the perfect thing to do with The Mail’s ‘compensation’.









Saturday was a scorcher of a day, and after initial nerves (I’d never done anything like this on my own before, and wasn’t entirely sure I was fit enough), I set off with over 500 other participants. One hour and thirty seven minutes later, I was at the finish line, eating a burger and drinking a smoothie laid on by the organisers. I was so glad to have done it.







I’m now very happy to be able to link the whole Mail ‘experience’ with such a positive outcome.  I feel this chapter is now finally closed and I can completely move on.









I won’t be writing this blog anymore, it started out something I really enjoyed doing but I can’t look at it fondly any more. Thank you all for reading it, some of you from the start, some of you when the juicy stuff started 😉 I’ll start another blog sometime soon, maybe annonymously .. who knows ….. 😉


April 7, 2010

An Apology (of sorts) from the Mail on Sunday

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 9:09 pm

Over two months after the Irish Mail on Sunday published their article about me (January 24th), I am asked on a daily basis what the outcome is and what’s being done about it. I can finally share with you all what’s been happening. I wrote at the time about the distress and upset their article – which they did not contact me about – caused to my family, my workmates and I. The support so many of you showed to me was overwhelming, and I have no doubt that it was a big factor in my complaint being taken seriously. I also received incredible support from my colleagues, who have always been the most friendly and supportive bunch of people anybody could hope to work with. I owe them a big thank you as well. 

The Mail’s original response to my complaint resulted in a reply from Paul Drury (Managing Editor) stating .. ‘ I do not accept that there is anything for us to retract or that we have done anything we should apologise for’. At this stage we lodged a complaint with the Press Council.


 After the PC received our complaint, they obviously contacted the Mail on Sunday, and within a very short period, they responded to us with this:

“Mr Drury is anxious to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, and in this regard has offered to publish an agreed apology and clarification about the article published on 24 January.  The clarification would acknowledge the fact that the newspaper did not give you an opportunity to respond to the contents of the article or to adequately explain the contents of the blog.  Mr Drury is also offering to allow you, in the clarification, to put forward any views you may have about your workplace and your colleagues, so as to address any erroneous impression that the original article may have given.


Mr Drury has asked me to say he regrets that, while it is the newspaper’s policy to afford individuals an opportunity to comment on a proposed article before it goes to print, this did not happen in relation to the article under complaint. He has advised that internal disciplinary action is being taken.”
Obviously, the fact that some action was being taken against the journalist concerned was, and is, very heartening, as was the opportunity to put forward my own views.

It soon became clear that the Mail just wanted to put this issue behind them. A week was spent sending wording over and back, and on Feb 19th no agreement was reached. At this stage, the PC stopped the process and referred the matter to the Ombudsman for a binding decision.However, on Feb 21st, The Mail went ahead and printed a version of the clarification that I had not seen, which I thought was (as an act) a breach of trust. Nonetheless, the clarification, whilst not exactly what I would have wanted, is pretty damning:













After some further discussion and reflection, my family and I decided to accept this clarification as the end of the matter. After all, the Mail had been forced to apologise and clarify, warned about its conduct, and the journalist in question had been disciplined. I am not, and never have been, a vindictive person. This was never about getting anything but the truth from the Mail, and I’m pretty comfortable that that has been achieved. I don’t want to spend my life fighting battles with newspapers, and now, at least, my friends, colleagues, and those of you who I do not know but who showed me incredible kindness know the truth. The Mail’s petty insistence that it “stands by its story” even whilst apologising for it’s own conduct and making clear that their story was based only on the fantasies of one of their journalists says more about them, I think, than any of us. Though that line annoys me, the rest of the apology I think renders it laughable, and does much more damage to that paper’s credibility than it does to me or my family. 

I can’t say thank you enough. I know I already have, but I’d like to again. As many people read my original blogpost as actually buy the Mail on Sunday every weekend, and that’s thanks to all of you who helped get my side of the story out there. I’m not one for big reflections on the world, but it seems to me that we are reaching a point where -thanks to the power of the internet – the media have to think twice before pursuing an ordinary person, and that’s a good thing.
As for me, I’m still at work, surrounded by supportive and superb colleagues, and as happy as I’ve ever been. I can’t overstate how it feels to open a newspaper and see your life turned upside down in front of 60,000 people for the sake of a cheap story, but that’s one nightmare I hope that neither I, nor any of you, have to live through again.

Thank you all.


January 24, 2010

In response to Irish Mail on Sunday ..

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 3:30 pm

I deleted my blog this morning. I didn’t know what else to do. I was minding my own business when I got a call from a good friend of mine sympathising with me about the Mail on Sunday article.

“What Mail on Sunday Article?”

“The one about you! I had no idea – I though you were happy in your job?”

“I am happy in my job – what are you talking about?”

“You told the Mail on Sunday that your workmates were sexist and treated you really badly – there’s a picture of you and everything”

And, just like that, my day fell apart. I don’t really know what to do. I didn’t know that this happened, or could happen, to people like me.

In November, I wrote a blogpost called “Women? In Air Traffic Control?”. I wrote it in response to people on Twitter and in my life who wanted to know what it was like to do my job. There aren’t many of us. Most people don’t meet many Air Traffic Controllers, and it has, in films, media, and most portrayals, been depicted as a job done mainly by men. You can read the post for yourself, it’s below.

I tried to talk in it about what it was like for me, nearly a decade ago, being one of the first women to do my job in Ireland. I didn’t then, and do not now, think my work colleagues are “Male Chauvinist Pigs”, as the Mail headlined their article. I love my job, and the people I work with. I was talking about how I felt years ago, starting out, slightly scared and intimidated by the responsibilities that people who do my job hold in our hands.

Yes, back then, some things bemused me. For example, I wrote in that post that two women weren’t allowed to work together. That was then, and things have changed, and my original post makes that clear in the very next line. For the Mail to quote that line in order to make it appear that I am unhappy in my job, that my colleagues are sexist, or that I ever felt or feel unwanted, is disgusting.

The Mail never told me they were writing a piece about my blog. The journalist who wrote it never sent me an email asking me questions about my blog. I won’t do to his professional reputation what he has done to mine, but let’s just say that I wonder whether he would have expected me to answer his questions the way he wanted.

As it is, in the middle of an incredibly trying time for my colleagues, an article has appeared in a Sunday Newspaper that says I feel abused by the people I work with. It gives me opinions that I do not have, and uses words I have never said. It does so to attack my profession, impugn my employers, and portray me as a victim of my friends.

I feel sick. Any future employer could fairly read what Luke Byrne has written about me and conclude that I am a disloyal, untrustworthy person. The people I work with today could, and probably have, read it and decided that I am not on their side, and that I think that they are sexist, nasty, bullies. None of this is true.

I don’t “do” media. Other than friends who happen to work in the media, or people given tours of where I work, I’ve never dealt with a journalist. This blog was supposed to be an account of my life, what I do, and how I got here. Today it has been transformed into a weapon to be used by an unscrupulous, nasty person against some of the people I care most about.

My first reaction was to delete everything. I wiped it all away. Then I realised it was the only monument to my actual opinions that exists for people to read. If it’s gone, then all that is left is an article that turns me into somebody else who thinks things that never did or would cross my mind.
I don’t know whether I have a cause of action. I’m not a lawyer. Maybe twisting my words and my ideas into something perverse is totally legal.

Maybe not giving me a right to respond is totally legal. Maybe not even telling me there was going to be an article is totally legal. Publishing my photograph without my knowledge or consent probably is totally legal. But I don’t know how it could be. I’ve never ever felt this low. All I have ever tried to do is do a good job for the people I serve and the people I work with. I want to be thought well of, to be happy, and to be respected. How anybody who works with me could read that article and either respect or think well of me, I don’t know.

I’m sure this happens to other people all the time. Probably people who are far more famous than me. I’ve probably read and formed opinions of other people based on things that are just not true. I’ve probably talked about other people’s lives based on things I’ve read that were hurtful to them.

I just can’t get my head around it. I could never, ever, ever do this to somebody else. I don’t understand how they couldn’t ask me for a comment. Or for my actual opinion. Instead, there’s a whole page of a national newspaper devoted to what I think of the people I work with, when in fact I think pretty much the exact opposite.

I don’t know what I’m going to do – or what I can do. But I know that I’m not going to leave it at this. Advice would be gratefully recieved.

To my work colleagues, I’m so, so, so, sorry. The person in that article is not me. It’s a twisted version of me, built to suit the nasty agenda of a journalist who doesn’t know me, and has never met me. I don’t know what more to say.


Due to the overwhelming support I have received, I am unable to keep track of the comments and have decided to close the comments sections for now. I would like to thank everybody for their support, it has been a tremendous help during this difficult period. You can find me on Twitter (@mrs_schregardus ) where I can better keep track and respond.

Bad Karma

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 3:11 pm

The kindest, most selfless and generous person in my life is my mum. Nothing is too much trouble, I still leave her house after a visit with a ‘care package’ and she still saves up her money to treat me whenever she can. It was for these reasons that I was heartbroken to hear that she’d had her bag stolen on Christmas Eve.

Mum and Dad were out doing last minute shopping in their local Supervalu, and mum had left her bag in the trolley. She turned her back to pick something up and in that split second, her bag was snatched. The most unfortunate part of the story, is that Mum had a lot of savings in the bag (I dread to think how much, but definitely well into the hundreds) as she wanted to buy my Dad something nice for Christmas.

Now, of course she shouldn’t have been carring that amount of cash, shouldn’t have left her bag in the trolley, and shouldn’t have turned her back on it, but that’s not the point. We’re talking about a generation that saves a little cash every week from their pension, can’t be bothered with the banks and, mostly, a generation that trust the people around them. This experience, while might not shock a lot of us, is alien to them and has devastated my parents.

The hardest part of this for me, is trying to understand the type of person that does this. I understand someone seeing an easy opportunity to get a few hundred euro .. however, Mum had her drivers licence and bus pass in the bag so it obviously belonged to an older person, and her two inhalers, she has  very severe asthma. So as far as this thief knows, Mum was now without essential medication. I cannot get my head around the type of stone heart that would not, at the very least, leave the bag somewhere to be found or hand it in minus her year’s savings. I obviously have too much faith in people myself .. well, I am my mother’s daughter as everyone tells me

So now I’m trying to figure out how to try and put this right. A nice new handbag is my first job as soon as I get to the shops. As to how I restore Mum’s confidence and faith in people, I have no idea .. although I showed her everyone’s kind words on Twitter yesterday and she was overwhelmed so thank you all very much .. that’s been a good start

Christmas Shopping Via Twitter

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 3:10 pm

This morning, the first of my Christmas shopping arrived, by post, on the doormat. We had decided this year, to do most, if not all, of our shopping online. We figured it was the best way to go, as we wanted to stick to a budget while coming up with well thought out gifts for all the family. I have a dreadful habit of getting dreary after ten minutes in the shops (I *hate* shopping unless I know exactly what i’m looking for) and paying any amount of money just get it done and get out of there!

So last week, we searched the usual sites, Amazon, Firebox, Bookdepository, and got quite a few ideas and gifts. Unfortunately it was only after the bulk of the shopping had been ordered, that I realised the potential for unusual ideas was right in front of me .. on Twitter! I had, only a few days before, checked out Celine Blacow’s website .. (@soaperstar to all you tweeters). She makes beautiful soaps – the perfect gift, I figured, for my mother-in-law! So I placed an order, they arrived only 2 days later, and they are fabulous. Of course there are many other great businesses on Twitter that I’ve come across since, for example, Lorna Sixsmith .. or @garrendennylane.

It’s now made me feel bad that I ordered so much stuff from the UK   However, I have decided next year’s shopping will be done as locally as possible and through as many Twitter friends as possible. Who’s with me??

Women? In Air Traffic Control?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 3:10 pm

Up to twelve years ago, the amount of female Air Traffic Controllers could be counted on a small number of hands. At that time the Irish Aviation Authority decided to start official Student Controller Programmes, training up classes of people from scratch (up to then people joined as assistants and slowly worked their way up). So suddenly, ATC found itself bringing in classes with a 50/50 split of male and female cadets.

Initially the older male controllers were bemused with our arrival. On our initial tour of the centre, there were comments like ‘finally some eye candy’ and ‘do we need so many secretaries’. Then the penny dropped that credibility in here would have to be earned. The two years of training, passing exams and simulation exercises were tough, but we were well prepared for a life as a controller. What we weren’t prepared for was being on a team – teams that were predominantly male.

On our first day, we were given a run down of how things went ‘on the floor’. No junior controllers to sit together in a sector (understandable), and no females to sit together. I distinctly remember being removed from a sector because I was sitting with a female controller. Thinking back, they were leaving themselves wide open, and it wouldn’t be done today, but this is what we were faced with and as newbies, you just kept the head down and let your work speak for itself.

Today things are better although we’re still noticeably in the minority. I’ve been the only girl on my team for a while now. There are pros and cons, I’m well looked after by the guys and they’re quite protective of their ‘girlie’. On the downside, as the girl, I’m the ‘organiser’ of the team. The Christmas party, team outings, Birthday/Retirement/Congratulations cards and presents .. all left to me to sort out. Also, the ‘banter’ between the guys can get quite inappropriate, and while I don’t generally mind, it gets tiring being the only girl sitting there trying to appear ‘not bovvered’

Interestingly, Nationwide were filming in the centre last week for a segment on careers. I managed to avoid them for an hour when I was cornered in a sector, with them asking if they could film. I said surely they’d enough footage by now but they explained I was the only woman on duty all day and they had to get that shot for all the female students out there.

Finally, I’m always intrigued by people’s reaction to what I do. When asked, I usually take a deep breath and think ‘here we go’. (I’ve been known to answer I’m a nurse when I’m too tired to go into the whole thing) I try not to take offense at the look of shock that follows ‘I’m an Air Traffic Controller’. Generally people are just interested and find it an unusual career choice, but my favourite reaction to this was when an older man asked me did that mean I was ‘hoping to be an air hostess some day’ .. I think that says it all

Pet Therapy

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 3:08 pm

It was only recently, when I wrote an article for a friend’s magazine about the effect pets have on stress levels, that I gave a lot of thought to the pros and cons of having a pet in my life. As a child, we always had a lot of cats and dogs, there was always at least one animal in the house.

When I moved out of home ten years ago, I was going into rented accommodation so taking my dog at the time was out of the question, so she stayed with my parents. I ended up renting for seven years, all pet free, and hated not being able to get a cat or dog.

So finally when we bought our house three years ago, I immediately got a cat. Alex was working abroad and my shifts are all over the place so a dog would’ve been too lonely. Cats, once they get fed, generally couldn’t care less if their humans are home or not!

When we got Jake, he’d been kicked by his owner, had a broken leg and a pin in his hip. He was terrified of people but, very slowly and very surely, he started to trust us and settle into our home. It was amazing to see him starting to trust us more and more.

We got a second cat, Molly, before the summer. She was the sweetest cat, had the biggest eyes, and always wanted cuddles. Unfortunately, Molly died suddenly three months later, we don’t know why, I found her one morning. It was heartbreaking. I realised this was the side of having a pet that ten years of being pet free had made me forget. Finding Moll, the shock, the sadness, having to bury her ..  it was a horrible time.

I’ve been weighing up whether to get another cat and while it’s a little soon just now, the good parts of having a pet greatly outweigh the bad. It’s a very good feeling to take an abandoned/abused animal out of a sanctuary and watch it grow in confidence and enjoy it’s life. From a selfish point of view, there’s no nicer way to relax and de-stress than curling up with a pet .. and husband of course

The Invasion of Daytime

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 3:07 pm

November 7, 2009

The Invasion of Daytime

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melanieschregardus @ 7:48 pm

A comedian once commented that if people work by day, the night-time leaves you alone, and if someone works by night, the daytime constantly invades you. As a shiftworker, I could not agree with this more.

One of the down sides of my job is nightshifts, and more specifically, trying to sleep between nightshifts. It’s funny driving home from a night duty, exhausted and ready for bed, seeing the world gradually waking up. It gets less funny though, when all these people start invading my ‘night-time’!

Generally I seem to get about two hours uninterrupted sleep. This is obviously when the postman is sorting out his postbag, the DHL/FedEx/UPS men are loading up their deliveries and the salesmen are working out their sales pitches. So from about hour three, it all kicks off.

When the postman (the worst offender of the above list) has something too big to go through the letterbox he hammers on the door, again, and again, and again. I lie in bed fuming, willing him to just leave one of his ‘you missed a delivery, please pick it up’ notes, but no, he keeps hammering. Finally I think ‘ok, maybe those notes are very complex to fill out’, so I get up. Opening the door, looking like it’s about 2am in pyjamas, with hair all over the place, and the light obviously hurting my eyes, I’m greeted *every* time with ‘oh I didn’t wake you did I?’. In my mind, the air has turned blue. In reality, I mutter something about shiftwork, hoping that one of these days that fact may just stick with him. I have now been hoping this for three years so it’s getting less likely! I have been tempted to get one of those ’shiftworker trying to sleep’ signs for the door, but the vision of said unobservant postman saying ‘oh I didn’t notice that’ already makes me want to hurt him.

The plus side of all of this, and trust me I’ve struggled to find a positive, is that coming off nights sleep deprived and cranky, is *the* perfect time for making all those calls that everyone hates making. You know when you’ve discovered that the bank/insurance company/phone company [insert appropriate impossible-to-deal-with institution here] have messed up? Generally I hate calling these places and never get anywhere, but if I’ve just come off nights … Let’s just say Alex is quite happy to let me loose on them!

The last thing that interrupts my daytime sleep is the cat (unless it’s raining, then he’s happily curled up with me), but getting Jake was entirely my idea so I don’t expect any sympathy

Making Friends – The Modern Way

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 3:06 pm

It’s so easy to make friends as a child, other children in the neighbourhood, in their class, children of their parents’ friends. Children just seem to gravitate towards each other. But when school/college ends and everyone moves on and gets on with their own lives, how do adults make new friends?

I’ve been very lucky recently in meeting a lovely group of people through Twitter, the microblogging website. People use Twitter for all kinds of reasons, business, networking or, in my case, personal interaction.  I first ventured into Twitter out of sheer nosiness. My husband was on it for networking and met some of his fellow Tweeters at an Open Coffee Club. I started to get curious about the names I was hearing and wanted to know what it was about them that entertained my hubby so much. So I got myself a Twitter account and starting interacting with Alex’s contacts, then their wives and suddenly a whole new range of people outside his contacts.

It was just a few months ago that I found myself having a ‘virtual girls night in’ with some of the ladies on Twitter. We were all tweeting about the wine we were drinking and having a good old chat, when someone suggested doing it for real. It seemed a strange suggestion, to actually be in the same room together, yet at the same time felt like the most natural thing in the world. A few of us met up shortly after that, had a night of good food, good wine and great company.

It was taking a bit of a leap of faith for everyone, as the reality could’ve been so different from the odd 140 character message on line, but the risk paid off. I’ve met a truly amazing group of women who are supportive, funny, encouraging and hopefully friends for life!

Hello World!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 3:05 pm

So, I have finally decided to get a Blog! Big breakthrough for me as I’m quite the technophobe, but I have the odd thing to say and it’s probably a good idea to rant somewhere else and give my poor husband a rest. This blog won’t be work related (unless you count the odd funny story about pilots or co-workers), just mostly whatever’s going on in my head at the time (I’m already feeling the need to rant about bad driving and this country’s customer service .. but all in good time!).

It’ll take a while to get used to this whole setup so I apologise in advance for half written posts or dodgy links that have taken you half way round the internet to get here (I think that demonstrates my lack of IT knowledge!).

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