How do you know when the fog is lifting……

It’s been a very difficult and often confusing last few months on a personal level, that Fog of Depression fell heavily and it can have some very odd effects on a person, time can just drift without you getting anything done, even the most basic tasks can be started and then disappear into space. But hey, it is what it is and with some help and trying to get the right balance of medication we will get there. with a bit of luck and continuing to try and get something done each day we will get out of the mire.

Yesterday got out for a walk with the family to a wonderful calming place that I’ve mentioned before and National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin is that place for me, always has been, and alongside getting out for a lovely walk I managed to bring along the camera and take some photos, so a productive day, and with nature providing us with some beautiful colour at this time of year it’s a nice time to get out there.

My son bumped into some squirrel friends and a few ducks along the way and I don’t think we’ve ever managed to get so close to Heron’s and a Moorhen that hangs around in one of the Ponds, these are all things out in the fresh air that manage to clear the head a little and help you to feel a little more like yourself, I think I’ll get up early one morning next week and get down for a few hours. The little guy doesn’t normally take much notice of the wildlife around the Gardens, but he had a good laugh with one of the squirrels yesterday which was nice to see, and then he decided he wanted to get in a Mini Digger that the workers were using to clear out and area, can’t bring him anywhere 🙂

There is something though about being out in nature that changes the mind frame in a positive way. The quiet is generally only interrupted by the running of water cascading around, or birds rustling in the trees and scrabbling with ducks for some visitors scraps..

Really need to get the walking and diet back on track and alongside it the some of the other things will start to fix themselves. Sleep alongside exercise and diet make a huge difference, but when you are down in a hole it’s just so easy to fall off the rails a bit, or a lot, and not as easy to get back on track again when you do it. Wellbeing is a work in progress now, there is no doubt in my mind that the pandemic and issues that came along with it piled onto already strained mental capacity. What I would advise to anyone though is don’t just try and deal with it on your own, when you reach a point where you are no longer picking yourself up and feeling better by yourself, go talk to people, family, friends or professional, just do it, sometimes talking won’t be enough and medication will be needed to help you back up on the ladder, it’s a process and it can take some time, there’s not defining it to say you will be better in two weeks.

Currently, like many places in Europe Ireland is once again suffering from rising Covid cases, to an extent where our hospitals are again at full capacity and going forward it’s an unsustainable situation. Staff are overstretched and there’s clearly not enough of them to cover surges, illness cover for themselves or God forbid any sort of major incident that required a number of ICU beds, they simply aren’t available. So for the moment entertainment is back open, but for how long, I’m still missing gigs terribly, had to skip a couple last week, but fingers crossed will get to a small show this weekend, I know already that getting to live music helps me mentally, so if some form of events are still on I’ll try and get to them, but would definitely think again about Sold Out shows at busy venues, catching Covid isn’t something that would help at all right now. From tomorrow Thursday 18th November in Ireland Pubs/Nightclubs will have to close by Midnight, which will more than likely have a knock on effect on gigs planned for venues with Nightclubs, if a decision is made to not open the venues for Nightclubs they may also decide to stay closed, showing it’s still a very difficult time for Venues and Promoters, and of course for bands and workers in the industry. We can just hope that some sort of stability comes back soon, even though gigs are back in the UK and other countries they are far from stable, far from the way things should be and a lot of the time you don’t really know who’s on a lineup until you are there.

So far the new medication seems to be having no bad effects with the other medications I’m on, so that’s definitely a positive, the increase in strength is a balancing act much like my Epilepsy medication, so nothing I’m not used to and once it’s correct things should start to feel a lot better, fingers crossed. All we can do is keep working on these thing and look after our mental health as much as possible, it seems to be much more difficult in this day and age when it should in many ways be much easier, what a strange time we live in. But this week I’m not feeling quite so lost, let’s see if we can keep track of the days, as that’s definitely something that has fallen to the wayside recently, hours disappear into days, days into weeks and all of a sudden it’s nearly the end of 2021. Won’t be sad to see the end of another year which hasn’t brought much good to us all, but even mid November I look forward to 2022 and what it may bring, more gigs, better health and hopefully a World with a better way of dealing with the Covid crisis.

Musically, I have been to a sum total of one weekend of Live Music so far this year, with some luck 2021 will finish with me being at a few more and maybe even getting to shoot some of them, starting this weekend.

Shrapnel at This Is Not An Uprising in Firebug, Leicester.

Stay safe out there, even when you have been vaccinated you can still catch Covid, still end up in Hospital or very sick, so hand washing, wearing a facemask, whatever is in place, let’s keep on helping each other by doing it. In 2022 I’ld like to be able to travel to Gigs and Festivals again, in Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and Europe if I can, it may not be easy. but lets be honest, life often isn’t that easy, but we get through it, so a bit more positive thinking may be in order to help us get there.At the end of the day it’s a lot more involved than just being able to travel to a venue, the festivals this year have been ravaged by losing so many US and European acts that had either made the decision not to travel this year, were unable to do so anyway, or the sheer logistics could not be figured out to make things work. Here’s hoping to an improved time for the industry as a whole, I’m looking forward to catching bands, but most importantly to catching up with friends that I’ve not been able to see in person for 2 years now. Even if that turns into 3 years, it will happen again and that will be some feeling.

Well that’s nearly 2021 done and dusted…. and is this normality, for now I guess so….

Looking back to this time last year there was still a lot of talk of things opening back up then, of gigs not being too far away, general life getting back to the normality as we had known it, but in reality we know nothing was happening until early 2021 at that stage. But for it to still be in a less restrictive but state of limbo nonetheless another year on all we can do is hope people listen to the guidance, and 2022 will be a better landscape for us all.

For Ireland well gigs have started again since last weekend, which is great, but venues are still facing difficulties and with Covid case numbers and hospital admissions rising again there could be further problems ahead. We all hope not, especially heading in towards the Christmas season. People are looking forward to spending more time with family and friends and kids playing , nobody wants another lockdown. That aside there’s enough worries around about the lack of supply of goods with shipping delays and shortages Worldwide. It pays to do Children’s toy shopping early, reduces stress and painful trips to shops closer to the date when so many people are in panic mode. With a bit of luck I’ll be able to get out to a gig next week, this one has been in my calendar for not too long short of 2 years, so hoping I fee up to it, but won’t really know until the day. Have been lucky enough to see Geoff Tate a number of times over the last few years (pre-pandemic) and the shows have been brilliant, with this one marking the 30th (or now 31st) Anniversary of the Queensryche album Empire, should be a cracker at the Button Factory, Dublin.

For me, well aside from being in the pit of depression these last few months, which has definitely taken it’s toll, I’ve somehow managed to pick up a bad cold/chest infection, it’s more than frustrating, but what can you do. The important thing for me is that it’s not Covid, negative antigen and PCR tests certainly bring a lot of relief with them, especially when you are someone that’s immunocompromised with the Heart condition etc…….. but the weirdest thing really is that I haven’t, fas as I can remember, had a cold or infection for 2 years, which brings with it a certain level of anxiety, and the whole thing feeling very strange. The cough seems to have stopped, for now at least, which is great, but not being able to take any decongestants means it’s not as easy to feel better quickly, but we will get there. On the downside, looks like I’ll have to miss the mighty Crow Black Chicken tonight, and probably Holly Humberstone tomorrow, but them’s the breaks sometimes, back in June I thought we’d be back up and running gig wise by the end of August, but now the hope is that things between now and the end of the year can go without a hitch and 2022 is going to be just so busy. Trying to lift my spirits, and do something each day, but find 24hrs can drift very quickly when you aren’t quite with it mentally.

Continue to try and write, and finish last months review from This Is Not An Uprising weekend, managed to get the Photos edited, which was something, and posting them can help with the process of doing something or completing something, but there are still times when I can just sit there and nothing comes out. I started writing this post for example a few days ago, and nothing, so this morning I just tried again and something is coming out, so when I’ve posted this I can try and finish some reviews, fingers crossed. This year, with being at home and then being ill there should have been plenty of time to work on things and keep the mind ticking over in a positive way, but it just hasn’t happened. Lets see if I can finish the year strong 🙂

Will hopefully finish Day 2 of This Is Not An Uprising today and get it online. it really was a terrific weekend with not a bad performance in sight, and always great to catch bands you’ve been trying to see for ages or new bands that you then look forward to catching again. At great Festivals like Uprising that’s always the case.

Blood Oath at This Is Not An Uprising Sept 2021 – Firebug, Leicester.

This time of year always brings back awesome memories of two sadly now defunct AOR Festivals in the UK, that I would head off to in a heartbeat, would always trust the organisers to put on an awesome lineup and would pick up tickets as soon as they were released, Firefest that took place in Nottingham and ran for 10 years of amazing weekends with an atmosphere I’ve never felt at any other gig, truly special and Rockingham that tried to take on the baton and run with it, and they did a great job for 4 years. The banner photo at the top of this post is of Jean Beauvoir at the Festival back in 2016. It last ran in 2018 and I miss both Festivals dearly.

Feeling happy, and I guess a bit lucky that none of my medication (Epilepsy, Heart, Depression) have had any bad interactions with each other, it’s a great relief, I know the balance of medication in the body and any changes to that can have side effects or different problems and so far all has gone well, nothing out of the ordinary, and most importantly everything is still doing it’s job (well we will have to see with the Depression meds) and have had no issues at all with Epilepsy for a long time now, my last fit was I think 7 years ago, a couple of small blips since, but nothing major, which is great, and once it’s all working there’s no reason to change the balance unless my Doctors decide otherwise.

This weekend is Halloween and the little guy hasn’t got too much interest in it yet, but he will enjoy the treats, and he had a great time with a Tractor during the week, we’ll see how things go next year, maybe everything will be different, but hope you all have a fun time and enjoy more treats than tricks.

Why BT were right – it’s good to talk……

Should really start with the reference in the title, as it probably only means something to people of a certain age group and older from the UK/Ireland, in the days when Telephone Landlines were the big thing, BT ran television adverts with the phrase “it’s good to talk” and it really is true………

Well it took 20 months, and just so much stuff, the Heart Attack, a Pandemic, almost losing a parent to Covid during Lockdown with some relatives and friends also being seriously ill with Covid, the difficulties of numerous lockdowns, working from home for so long, eventually losing my mother struggling with work and general life, and then on top of that all of the mess that sorting out an estate can be when your Health Service falls apart after a Ransomware attack……. so eventually I took a step and went to the Doctors to talk about Depression and it turned out they wouldn’t have been surprised were it only the Heart Attack I’d to deal with or the Pandemic that would have brought on Depression or perhaps just accelerated or increased the levels and made it more difficult to deal with ….

So at least that’s a positive step forward to check it out, see what a professional thinks and try and move forwards from there. That was a month ago, and I have found it difficult to go and talk to other professionals, or to follow through with some of the online stuff or discussions I had planned to, but I’ve made some progress I think. Have dropped in and out of periods of depression in life as a lot of us do and to be honest have always had that old male way of dealing with it, stick the head in the sand until you bounce back, but this time just couldn’t bounce back.

On Top of that I managed to get away for a weekend, which I do believe was much needed, if a little stressful in itself, but just to be away on my own and go to a different environment for a couple of days, with a massive added bonus for me of being able to take in some music and bring along the camera, combining two of my biggest passions. I’ve talked before about how much I think music is good for the Mental Health of of an avid fan, especially being in a Live environment where there is an atmosphere. Luckily travelling alone has never been an issue for me and even in my current situation that remains the same glad I did it, spending some time out walking and chilling out in the Hotel Room around the gigs, all of which had already been booked anyway, so on a normal time I’d have been going over anyway. Added bonus was being able to catch up with some friends, talk through some stuff in person for a change and just see what we’ve been up to over the last couple of years. You can definitely see where the merit’s of the Hybrid work setup can be more beneficial to people than 100% working from home, just taking some time out and having a chat face to face with someone really can so some good and help to lift you, where you don’t get the same thing from a video call.

So my first Live Music in 20 months, took a while, was a bit nervous travelling, and had done my research before travelling, always wakes things a bit easier and when you know your route to and from a venue to a hotel, quiet route, and a venue that’s not crazily packed it eases things a little. Writing up the review and editing photos will of course be a little more challenging / slower than it should be, but all part of the process.

Keeping an open mind about it all, and part of the problems have most likely been part of the reason why I haven’t gotten further with starting programs or talking to professionals about it, trying to think back to what happened last week and in reality 4 days just disappeared without anything happening that I can remember, and that’s how it goes, you can be staring at a blank page trying to write something and nothing comes out, worse still have a final sentence or paragraph to complete something and sit there and the flow of words is now just like tumbleweed in an old western movie, or have phone calls to make and at the end of the day not know why you haven’t made them. Whatever it is somehow or somewhere in your mind loses all relevance, not necessarily to be replaced by something else taking over importance it just drifts.

But we will get there, today I have already managed to finish off this page, so that’s getting somewhere, have to take the minor victories along with the major ones. Most important thing though, especially as a man hitting middle age, don’t just ignore it, bury your head in the sand and hope it fixes itself, if it’s not, go talk to someone, it’s easy to bury your head in the sand and even more easily if you have come out of these things before, when that’s not happening, things aren’t fixing themselves go talk to someone, reach out to a friend or family member, but really don’t be afraid to go and talk to your GP or your local Mental Health Services, they can help, they will try and find the best course of action for you and look at why things are where they are.

Don’t be afraid to talk………. it’s good to talk…

Things we take for granted…..

Well ok, that could be a list much longer than my arm, but with everything that’s happened in general over the last 18 months, and that additional personal stuff, it was nice to take a couple of hours out on a sunny Sunday morning at the weekend, bring the camera with me and just enjoy some nature in the area that I live in Dublin. This is certainly one of those things that we don’t pay nearly enough attention to, I’m not saying I don’t look at things as I walk by, but these photos are all from one of my normal walking routes, but grabbing a glance as you walk, run or drive quickly past when out getting exercise is not the same as taking the time to enjoy it and be part of it.

Simply taking the time to stand or sit and watch the wildlife go about their daily tasks is an eye opener, it has an ability to give you a bit of a lift and brings a smile to your face. So it’s great for the mental health. The two Horses have been resident in that a field for quite a while now, and I usually raise a little smile as I walk past as their is usually someone there saying hello to them, people seem to bring their young children just to visit the Horses which is nice. The Swans moved their young Cygnets up and down a couple of stretches of water and decided they liked this small manmade pond to gently swim around.

Most people have suffered to some degree with their Mental Health during this extended period or Pandemic, have lost loved ones or just had the whole thing affect their health, so it’s important to just take a step back, get your mind out of it all and free yourself up from thinking about it. Taking a walk/run definitely helps to some degree, but taking time out for much more gentle times with some nature is an even better way to reset somethings. Doesn’t make problems disappear, but some days they can just wait a few hours and often you can look at a problem from a different perspective when you get back from some relaxation.

Photos aside the world keeps turning slowly, dates come and go with little difference, having recently lost someone I honestly couldn’t tell you very much of what’s been going on the last 3 weeks, what I’ve been doing or to be honest what day it is. On the flipside we have gotten through a lot of work, Cleared a house, started a new project to digitise a few albums worth or old photographs, some very old, a lot from my childhood, and plenty we are not sure who is actually in them – but I guess that’s half the fun, we will go through them with relatives and try and figure them out. The older photos don’t have negatives, so a bit more work involved in cleaning up the images a bit, trying to bring them back to life a little without taking away anything from what they are. May take a bit of time, but it’s going to be interesting and hopefully a lot of fun.

Lot’s a things crop into the mind at a time like this, how short out time actually is on this rock, maybe it’s time to change things up and make some choices that will make life a bit more simple, less stressful and demanding while at the same time still being able to pay the bills, as they never stop coming in 😉

Going to try and get back to posting updates a little more often, there’s enough going on. Going to get my 2nd dose of the vaccine this coming weekend, so that’s not exactly something I’m looking forward to, but it’s another step forward. Pilot music events have begun or been announced here, so hopefully, all going well we will eventually get back to some little bit of normality in the not too distant future. Sadly however I don’t see it coming quickly enough for some of the events I have Tickets for, and will have to try and sort something out with the Tickets. Can’t see there being refunds for events in another country when it is actually going to take place. But will have to wait and see if that’s how it plays out. One in particular is going to be in my opinion lucky if they get the go ahead, even though they have done a lot to fulfil all requirements asked of them, that doesn’t really matter when it’s a liquid situation and the goalposts keep changing. If it doesn’t happen I will be there next year. One thing is for sure if things improve enough in the rest of the year 2022 is going to be one hell of a busy year music wise. so many bands will be out touring when they can. Travel, well that’s a different story – time will tell.

Things may be changing in a positive way, but……..

Well here we are in March 2021, one full year since things locked down in most places, certainly here in Ireland, and from my perspective I was just about to test the water so to speak with regards to going back to the Live Music scene. Being 100% honest, even now a year on I do not know if physically and mentally I’ll be able to do Gigs and more worryingly for me, Festivals anymore. Time will tell, but I really hope I can, it’s something I love doing.

The effort required to shoot 3 consecutive Days of any Festival is probably a lot more than people appreciate, it’s not just a case of sitting around for 10 hours and going to stand for 10 minutes of every set, that’s for sure. Take my normal situation for a Festival in the UK, lets take something in the Midlands, 2 or 3 Day Festival,

  • I would fly into either Birmingham or East Midlands on the first flight, arriving between 7-9am.
  • Make my way to the City where the venue is by Bus or Train.
  • Check into my Accommodation
  • Organise my Camera bag and Festival accreditation
  • Double check camera batteries are charged, memory cards are cleared
  • Depending on the start time for that day either lay down and rest for an hour or make my way to the venue, grabbing a sandwich on the way.
  • Check in, catch up with friends and colleagues.
  • Get ready for shooting, test the camera/s for basic lighting etc.
  • Then we begin the process, queue for the Photo Pit to open, first 3 songs to shoot, pray that there is some decent lighting for the early bands.
  • Depending on the Festival, get some shots from the back of the venue or the balcony if that’s permitted.
  • Then get back in the queue for the next band or move to the 2nd stage to try and catch the band there for coverage. REPEAT 🙂
  • Oh and try and remember to get some foot and maybe find somewhere to sit down for 30 minutes at some point.
  • Last band will either be 11:15pm or 2:15am when the shooting stops, but as I am normally reviewing as well it means I have to watch the last band of the day until they finish, so maybe 2:40am
  • Back to the accommodation, dump the photos from the memory card/s to a laptop & back up Hard Drive.
  • Edit a selection of photos picked somewhat at random and post a couple of Social Media.
  • Try and get some sleep before you get up for a shower, Breakfast and begin again for a busier day on Day 2 and REPEAT :-). You get a lot of steps in, but it’s tiring and hard work.

So we will see first of all if we do get any Festivals running this year, and whether or not I can get to one. As it stands now early March we have already had major Festivals in June postponed again to next year with Download pushed back recently, only today Bloodstock started the difficult decisions of having to announce changes to the lineup, with a number of US bands pulling out of the 2021 event due to the current situation, they are still hoping to go ahead and put the Festival on in June. Other Festivals in September are already preparing people for the possibility that they can’t proceed, as with everything in Covid times, we will wait and see 🙂

The main problem for smaller Festivals I think is that is you add in restrictions on the size of the crowd, and other stuff it makes it neither Financially viable to continue nor would it be the event they had planned it to be. From my reading of things right now, it looks like a lot of US bands will not be travelling to Europe this year, as things currently stand anyway, everything of course is fluid but for Festivals they have to make decisions a little earlier than one off shows, so as you head towards April/May you can add 3-4 months onto the events that will be effected. Another UK Festival due to take place in July is now looking like UK bands only, and there’s nothing wrong with the bands in the lineup, it’s just that some of the bands no longer there would have been a big draw for most patrons, and it does effect the vibe if it were to take place. Ryanair Flights in June are currently being cancelled so that will affect other plans.

I do think that we will get some shows happening later in the year, and that’s something to look forward to for sure. Smaller local events might be good for me to test my stamina and get back to using the camera again in a live setting, so fingers crossed. Certainly my walking schedule will help, just have to make sure I’m taking rest days the odd time. I can be either doing nothing for too long a period like happened at the end of last year, or probably doing too much as I am at the moment, almost up to 500KM done in 2021 already so a day ever now and then, or my body will get overtired. I was going to do some charity stuff this month like “50 Miles in March” but i’ve already don’t 50 miles 🙂 might just do another 5KM walk on St. Patricks Day. Am adjusting my year end Target from 2,000KM to 2,500KM so that will keep me pushing forward through the months. Right I’m now signed up for a 5KM on Patricks Day now in aid of Aware, a Mental Health Support organisation here in Ireland, and in the last couple of days I’ve passed the 500KM mark since the start of the year, so will just keep going and think when the weather is a bit nicer I might increase the distances again. To be honest I’ve been a little bit mentally exhausted the last few weeks, so just glad to be doing stuff, sometimes I need to overdo things just to reboot the head and get things back on track, but hey, but listen if that’s what it takes it’s a small price to pay as long as I’m sensible enough to get a little more rest around this time to balance things out a bit, the fickle way of things. Of course the diet always takes a bad turn at these times, the exercise helps to somewhat cancel it out along with the extra rest of course, so will move on re-align and hopefully click back into place again, so many things to do as we approach more challenges coming into middle age.

The little monster finally went back to Preschool last week, and we noticed the happy change in him almost straight away, which is awesome, much happier in himself and loving being back in his school routine. So much happier to be doing his thing, which is just great to see, makes us all smile 🙂 and lifts your spirits as we look like we may be staying in Lockdown for another 6 weeks or so. There is a definite feeling at this stage that we have been doing out bit for a long time, but I guess a little more is needed, perhaps this is all due to delays with the promised supply of Vaccine, would like to be scheduled for mine so at least I know then where I stand, but as with everyone else we are just in the dark, hopefully soon.

So what else has been going on, well, work has been busy, I haven’t been able to get back into writing reviews, been busy with everything else that’s going on in life at the moment alongside work and exercise. I really would like to get back into it though, there are a lot of good albums being released at the moment and scheduled for the coming months. As strange as this sounds, as time goes on and the fact that it has been so long since I had my last fit, I almost forget about the Epilepsy at times, yes I know I said it sounds strange, after all I take tablets every morning and night to keep it under control, it hasn’t just disappeared. Well recently we’ve had a lot of great information, lots of wonderful stories from people about when they got Epilepsy and what their stories have been, through Epilepsy Ireland (really some wonderful, heartfelt stories and certainly some that I know from personal experience are not always that easy to tell other people about, brave to do it and so very informative for people that have been recently diagnosed. When I first was (well I was kind of diagnosed) some 31 years ago I had no idea where to go to in order to get information, who I could tell or talk to, but as I became a more confident person I decided to own it and I have been very open about my condition ever since. Touch wood I will stay incident free for another year and will continue to never let it dictate my life. This weekend marks the 6th anniversary of the first time I officially shot a Music Festival, HRH AOR 3 (or HRH United as it was, which also combined Hammerfest and Sleaze, was a really great weekend in North Wales and kicked off many trips to the same venue at the Haven Holiday Camp in Hafan Y Mor, Pwllheli. The main hall there is just something they don’t make for venues anymore, lots of thought in the attendees being able to see from wherever they are, 3 tiers leading from the back to the stage large bar and an exit directly into a couple of food venues, with a cpacity of over 2,000 just a great space, and ideal for small Festivals. The black & white image at the top of this post is of Swedish Hard Rock band The Poodles from that very weekend.

We did jump this week and book our family holiday for later in the year, will be staying in Ireland, so that eliminates a number of extra complexities with foreign travel, a beautiful cottage nestled in what looks like some lovely local views in Donegal, I took the below photo of Mukish Mountain from the wonderful Glanveagh National Park, the cottage for this year is just a few minutes drive from the mountain so hopefully will be able to get some nice shots, and we do love the area, so we have no problem with staying close enough to home when the scenery is stunning and we know our way around, slightly new place to stay so good to have some change. We already have some day trips sorted out in our minds and hopefully the little guy will be a little more involved it things this time around, the fresh air is always good for him. Plenty of new explorations and interesting new things to see and learn about. Having a nice break to look forward to is always a good thing for the mental health, just as much as getting out in that beautiful air and exercising helps, having a nice trip to look forward to is definitely another thing that helps.

Mukish Mountain shot from Glanveagh National Park, Co. Donegal in 2019

International Epilepsy Day

Having had Epilepsy for some 31 years now it would be remiss of me not to mention International Epilepsy Day there is always some interesting information on Epilepsy Ireland and they have some excellent videos and peoples stories which help young people or those that have only recently had their first episode.


My seizures have now been very well controlled with medication over the last 6 or 7 years, having said that it took me quite some time to come to terms with having Epilepsy, and as a much younger man believing you are bulletproof it was a bit silly but takes a little time to be sensible. Everyones experiences are different naturally, but from my life it hasn’t held me back from anything really.

In recent years I’ve continued to work in cutting edge technology, become a Music Photographer, Reviewer etc… survived a Heart Attack, lost weight and become more fit. So keeping busy is certainly possible 🙂

Reminds me of an old political slogan…….

As I mark the 1 year anniversary of my Heart Surgery it’s probably time to take stock again. Well yes it’s been one of the strangest and most difficult years we all could have had, but to try and recuperate for the majority of the year was a double edged sword. On the one hand with everyone working from home it was somewhat easier to adjust to, after all I’d already been home for a couple of months, but then again knowing that you are now imunocompromised in the whirlwind of a Global Pandemic is definitely a stress marker.

Moon – Nov 2020

Adding to that of course my release of Gigs and Music Photography simply wasn’t available, in the first couple of months before lockdowns began, I just wasn’t either physically able or recovered enough to even think about it, doubt I’d have lasted standing for as long as a support set even. Wasn’t supposed to be doing any exercise for a couple of weeks after I got home, and I know from my own stupidity I should have been heading that advice. Of course there haven’t been any gigs here since, and I’ve gotten the camera out a bit, shooting the moon, garden birds and a trip to the Zoo, some pics littered around this post, but it’s very little for 12 months of time at my age, feels like a lot of wasted time.

So what would I say after 12 months – A Lot Done, More To Do….. once used by Bertie Ahern as a campaign slogan, but sums things up pretty well as to where I stand a year on. I have worked hard for a number of months during that time, losing weight, becoming more physically fit and altering my diet. But that is I guess only part of the story, along with the good feelings from achieving minor goals and targets, the darkness can still seep in, I would be surprised if any of us have been able to completely avoid the shadow of Depression in one for or another over the last year. For me the ups and downs have maybe been less frequent than in a normal year, but also perhaps more severe.

While initially in the first recovery stage things started to close down, so my physical Cardio Rehab was delayed for a couple of months, me rather stupidly starting exercising sooner than I should and pushing too hard too quickly., and dealing with trying to organise care for a relative things got on top of me pretty early into last year, and it’s happened a few times since, doesn’t coordinate directly with lockdowns, that’s for sure, but times of stress, going through a near death of a family member from Covid and all that entailed it makes me ponder the future alongside the present. Whether working in the position I do, or the type of work will be possible long term, I remember talking in the hospital to a couple of more experienced men on the very subject, once was back in suffering from angina (but who had been in and out of the hospital so much in the last 20 years that all the staff in a busy hospital knew him and came up to visit) and the other to have something replaced in a complex operation as overtime things had changed and both had to take early retirement and also scale back the amount/type of work they did. It’s a difficult one to think about, there’s obviously monetary issues involved, that goes without saying, but long term the viability of pushing a body that’s not as strong as it once was may mean that I need to make a decision before it makes the decision for me. Another attack could take any voluntary thoughts on it null and void.

Starling with a nut in the back Garden Dec 2020

But hey, like I say ups and downs and achieving goals has been a big lift. That family member somehow coming through the Covid virus, along with another elderly relative and a couple of friends that were seriously ill, and in reality 8 months on are still recovering. Watching my little boy, who is growing and developing all the time, but still has to work hard and we still have a long way to go, can be frustrating and very noisy, but we will all get there. If the vaccine does get out there quickly enough and spread out there widely enough maybe the 2nd half of 2021 will see some Gigs return to the calendar, when they do restart get out there and get to see your favourite bands, the shows will be amazing with the pent up energy from bands and patrons alike even if there are restrictions involved the atmosphere should be off the charts. There’s of course the slimmer possibility that we get Festivals back of travel for Gigs, at this stage I’d settle for some local stuff to get started.

For now 2021 is still 2020, the problems remain, the virus continues to cause pain and suffering, the hospitals are at full capacity, but we will see how the vaccine’s change things, if indeed they can. For me each week this month I cut out something else that brings me closer to what I should be eating again…..almost back there now, and back to getting proper exercise (do believe the hype, a good walk in fresh air – even if it’s cold is brilliant for your Mental Health), just gotta make sure the blips don’t last longer than a day and become less and less frequent. No hospital appointments until October 2021 and hopefully will be reducing the medications by 1 or two in the coming weeks…….. have managed to avoid Covid up until now, so touch wood can continue to do so until I can get vaccinated, how long that protection lasts time will tell, but one thing is for sure this Virus will be with us just like Flu or the common cold, with much more serious side affects, so people, don’t just decide everything is fixed, be diligent and stay home if you are asked to, stay safe.

Me out Walking, great exercise – Nov 2020

So what’s in the plan for 2021…. your guess is as good as mine

Apart from personal hopes and aspirations for this new year it would appear that everyone is staking their house on the recently available Covid Vaccines getting us out of this horror scenario, and they well might do just that. But something in me just makes me scratch my head. Look let’s all hope that we are on the road back to some form of normality, it’s what we need. What I have found bizarre over the course of the last month or so is how Governments have decided to give the information out to their nations subjects.

Lets take the countries close to me here in Ireland. The UK was the first country to start the rollout of the Vaccine, and that’s great, doesn’t require the amount of bluster that has been made of that, but the more worrying thing for me was that once they started telling people they made them thing they’d have it in a couple of days, and that it’s all sorted. Now, sure lifting peoples spirits and helping with mental health is great, it’s important, but there like here in Ireland it looks like that was the trigger to people no longer taking the precautions seriously, it coincides so closely with onslaught of the new strain it’s a massive problem. The numbers for new cases and deaths have now approached 10 times the daily totals back in March at the 1st lockdown, with the problem being the amount of people that are going to get sick before the vaccination rollout catches up with the numbers….. capacity can’t be there for healthcare and a massive vaccination program alongside taking care of the increasing hospitalisations, it’s the same staff doing both. Hospitals in this region are either at or close to capacity should their be any spikes from here we are all in trouble, so lets just hope it comes back under control.

I’m sure that after a bit of time they will get on top of the problems, but it does take time, so people, please continue to follow the restrictions, keep safe and keep others safe.

For me my mother will be vaccinated soon, which will be another weight off my head, but there have been more cases and deaths in nursing homes….. let’s hope that’s the last of the Covid related deaths, touch wood. We face into a new week with the uncertain and unknown of starting virtual learning with a 5 year old autistic child, the main uncertainty of course being how he will take to it, if at all. We”ve already put together some ideas if hw won’t interact with it, but we are hoping his abilities with a tablet with help immensely. But aside from that we would love to be able to take him to visit his grandmother, it would certainly be great for her.

Me, well I had a really bad December, no beating around the bush, no pretending I didn’t, I fell back into bad habits, the exercise regime almost ground to a halt for a few weeks and Chrismas saw a lot more overindulgence than it should or than it will next year. It’s one thing to have a treat or to loosen up a bit over the holiday period, but it’s another to be stupid about things. pulling a muscle somewhere certainly wasn’t helping, made it easier to just not get out and that then increases the Devil on your shoulder. But we live and learn (hopefully) have managed to get things back under control diet wise and back out walking again, just have to build up again bit by bit, so should be back to normal this coming week weather permitting, and if not it’s time to make use of the treadmill. and I will make use of it. I’m trying to get back into reviewing some music again, so headphones on, music or audio book and an hour on the treadmill should do it, will help focus the mind too. If it turns out to be too much to take on right now I’ll have to stop away again, time will tell.

There are definitely somethings in life I’m going to have to sit down and thing more about for the long term and the good of my health, or what’s left of it ;-). things that at the age of 50 I didn’t think I would have to, or should have to. But whether stress of perceived, or brought on by myself or it’s just actually brought on by what I do, maybe it’s time for something with a little less strain, I already know there are certain things I can’t do, so perhaps it’s time to put a little more focus on what I want to do in parallel with what I should be aiming for. That’s a very difficult thing to contemplate, but though calls could also make things a lot easier. With some more health issues in the family and the loss of another friend over Christmas it all gets put back into perspective again.

We’re already pretty sure that our trip to Kerry in March is out of the question, I’ve ruled out Festivals until at least July, so will be another quet 6 months. We are trying to tie down some days for Donegal around then, because hopefully we’ll at least be able to get around this country more easily. Weather should be good then too, so will get the camera setup sorted for that. (The pic is from our Donegal 2019 Trip)

Speaking of music, the vaccine programs have gotten people pretty excited about the restarting of live shows, and I really can’t wait to go to a Gig, but realistically, summer time at the earliest. There are so many things that need to be falling in place before it can happen, I’m positive, but not thinking too short term about it, when it happens so many of us will be back in a happy place, it will be amazing. But one step at a time, one bridge at a time to cross.

So to everyone, stay safe

The bizarre to the ridiculous, 2020 just fades out in a damp fizzle….

There have definitely been some worrying trends of late, here in Dublin, like many other places around Europes ( and indeed the World ) we are in the midst of another Lockdown related to Covid-19. For me that’s not a hugely different place to Level 3 restrictions here ( essebtual retail only open, stay within 5 km of home and no mixing, no pubs restaurants etc open ), with of course the exception of the 5km travel restriction. But will continue to work from home, my son is still in preschool, but that may change and my wife continues to work, but that’s well within the 5km cordon.

We have rolled rapidly through December and finally the end of a very grim year and a scary one for me personally, so going to bed at 9pm last night and just letting it just slide by seemed like the only logical thing to do. I started 2020 with a real bang, but honestly a heart attack wasn’t what I had planned for the year, and almost 12 months later I’m still not 100%. I had thought I was back to normal, but the last few days have brought some discomfort again. Think I’m just overtired and overdid things over Christmas. Back to my usual diet now, so hoping everything settles down over the weekend. Touch wood.

Hope everyone’s had as a good a Christmas as possible, and lets just hope 2021 can be a better year for us all.

We had a nice family trip to Dublin Zoo the other day, thankfully we managed to get it in before the lockdown kicked in. They had done a lot of work to get a route that reduced the chances of big build ups of people and could cause distancing problems. Most of the animals were out and about and it was nice to get out there . Here are some photos from the visit. Was a very bright winters morning.

No Resolutions this year, it’s pretty pointless at the moment lets be honest, but I do intend to continue with exercise, from very meagre beginnings in 2020 where after the operation walking 1 or 2KM was a big struggle ( I started exercising too quickly after the Op ) and caused definite pains in my chest, to eventually walking well over 1,400 KM in the year. So might set some little targets for this year and see where we get. I always walked quite a bit as I don’t drive, and haven’t cycled since I got Epilepsy ( that’s an insurance thing ). But reality is I used to walk around the City to different venues for Gigs but quite often was stopping off at a fast food place along the way, or a pub when I was still drinking.

I have a lot of issues with the way information is being disseminated from the leaders of many Govt’s, Almost telling all that the vaccine will have everyone immunised in a couple of months and ignoring the face that physically they just don’t have the capacity to do it that quickly. I have no doubt it will get there, but realism is much better than just being hopefull. Lets hope a lot will have changed by the time we hit the Summer. Still hoping that come September I will be able to make a planned trip from last year, so will keep that in the back of my mind as something to look forward to. August/September/October there is lots planned Gig/Festival wise, but what happens is anyone’s guess.

Somethings will change in the next few weeks, can remove one of the tablets from my daily intake once I hit the 1 year anniversary of the Operation, will be nice. Also it’s been great that throughout all of the ups and downs I remain another year Fit Free, the Epilepsy never reared it’s head no matter how tired I became, or whatever the effects on my body illness has made me. Another bonus was being able to visit my mother last weekend, may be the last time again for a little while but we will see if the last set of changes stay in effect and I can see her next week again. She’s done amazingly well to beat Covid, pass the 90 mark and still push on.

The last few weeks have been very difficult, I’m sure that led to losing control of the diet, so next year will be very careful with that, I know the saying “ah sure it’s Christmas, it won’t kill you”, well maybe it will, no point in working hard through the year and then letting it slip so badly when a bit of depression and a festive season hit. It’s not like I don’t understand the consequences of not following the plan. I do think that the way things have been going in and out of Lockdowns has not helped with anyone’s Mental Health, at some points it certainly looks like there is no end in sight, and that’s where you get dragged into a bit of a mental battle with yourself. Just got to try and dust yourself down and move on with things, and if you can’t perhaps it’s time to talk to a friend or a professional that can help, we all need a helping hand sometimes so never be afraid or ashamed to take it.

Still ticking along…. as the World slowly rolls too

Strange, I never got around to posting this one back in June, have been a bit remiss with updates in recent months, but he in reality there hasn’t been all that much going on, in and out of lockdown……..  so here’s  what I was thinking then and I’ll follow up with a new update…..


Well here we are in June 2020, and it’s a very strange, different and often quite confusing World to the one I stepped away from temporarily on the 10th of Jan……

The weirdest thing is probably that as time has gone on and different countries have eased restrictions to varying degrees the confusion has actually grown, the types of activities you can take part in mean that when travel does start to open up more next week it’s going to be confusing as hell for people travelling, expecting that they can do the same things as they can in their home country, there certainly won’t be any foreign travel for me this year, but just take it at a very basic level, if I travel to any other country, will I be expected to self quarantine for a period of time either when I get there or when I return home, well I don’t really know, most countries have been desperate to create these Travel Bridges, to allow economies to get going again, especially in countries dependent on Tourism as a main industry. The quarantine question has changed massively, initially the plan was people would have to self isolate for 2 weeks when arriving in a different country, have their stay there and then come back and do the same on the return end, so reality is a one week holiday would take 5 weeks. This currently isn’t the case  anymore,  But should things reverse like they have in parts of China, Germany and now perhaps South Korea it very quickly becomes unworkable. Then of course there is the problem of what will you be able to do when you arrive in another country, what is open, are masks compulsory, what is public transport like now can I get from A to B without too many problems. It really is a bit of a lottery and to me would be a pointless exercise right now.

 

As you may get from this Site Live Music is a massive part of my life, listening, being a part of, photographing, I miss it massively, was reminded by some people on a Festival Forum yesterday just how long it’s been since I actually attended a Gig, 185 Days, damn there have been times when I haven’t gone more than a day or two without going to something, or have gone to more than one in a day. Right now what the future holds is anyone’s guess, all we know is that for the foreseeable future there certainly won’t be any live shows in any kind of way that we will recognise, Venues/Promoters can’t make it financially viable with 20-30% capacity at a show, travel restrictions for artists & bands will more than likely make planning any Tour a nightmare, and there’s no saying that people will have any appetite to return to small sweaty venues until some form of vaccine or treatment is available. In an industry that generally works a year in advance from a planning perspective the damage, and continuing damage could be catastrophic. Hopefully Governments will finally step up and start to provide packages that will help save live venues and help to safeguard the industry as a whole. For me I’ll continue to support Artists/Promoters/Venues as much as possible, and even though I have purchased Tickets for gigs late in 2020 and moving into early 2021 I honestly doubt we will be getting back into venues this side of Christmas, that’s for sure. What does this mean, well assuming they can kick off 2021, and the situation has improved for us all, well then we can look forward to an absolutely bumper year for gigs next year, everyone will be on the Road then, trying to earn some money, and hopefully just to get out and do what they and we all love. With a bunch of postponements  already announced I have a calendar next year that’s been filled rapidly. It’s bizarre and crazy, but yeah, gigs in the list for next November.

 

As the days go on the ups and downs perhaps become more severe, having been at home now for 6 months, pandemic, lockdown, recovery thrown in it gets a bit more difficult and depressing, It’s great to have home life and all that goes with it, but really missing gigs and friends. Nothing more to do but hope for a vaccine, remedy or working treatment. Hoping people will just do as they are asked I think is a lost cause. The people that have been following the rules to date will continue to do so, but sadly there’s always going to be a core of people that either don’t believe the problem is real or continue to believe that it just won’t affect them so the cases will go back up at some point.

Lets hope for a break in this and a change for the better.