Changing the pace of life…… sort of

Having worked pretty much non stop for the last 34 years my mind had turned a lot since my health issues, the additional depression and the pandemic towards slowing things down, stepping away from the kind of work I have done in IT for more than 20 of those years and then working out if it would be feasible to do it and still be able to live and pay bills. When things change or an opportunity comes your way to enable this it definitely should ensure you give it the respectful consideration it deserves. For some people these decisions are easy, mark my words it wasn’t so easy for me, having worked in the same company for 19 years being part of the furniture can have it’s drawbacks, and in reality the thing I miss the most already is the people, the friends I have made over the years.

For me the opportunity presented itself this year and after assessing it many times I made the decision to step back from the job, and take a break from working altogether, a big step but the right one for me I think, also having a young child with additional needs it’s nice to be around the house more for him, and although I haven’t done enough of it, help out more. So right now I finished work one month ago and I am still trying to get my head around it, can be very easy to just get lazy and do nothing, far too much sitting around the house. Todays task is to draw up a schedule for the week to get my walking back on point, and just actually do some stuff with my time. It’s a trap I think a lot of people that retire fall into, thinking you can start doing stuff next week, that’s how Depression takes hold rapidly, and I am trying not to disappear back into that rabbit hole. So please be careful if you are in this situation or approaching it.

So for the moment I am semi-retired, taking a few months off and working on getting fit and my Photography, going to take some courses around Media and Design which should help with post processing of photographs, layouts for the website etc, well it should, so keep an eye open to some changes here in the next couple of months. Something that has been important this year has certainly been returning to the Photo Pit and getting to shoot some Gigs and Festivals, the recent dip has meant things have been a bit up and down, I had a brilliant week covering Festivals in the UK and Germany (for the first time) and then this week my head has not been right and I have ended up being at home with a couple of gigs I was really looking forward to passing me by. Got to try and get back on the horse next week and work on getting the consistency back in my mind, there is still a lot to come this year.

Alongside the dip into depression has come a lovely bout of insomnia :-). what else would you need when you are not feeling great, it is always the way though isn’t it.

Today I got my 2nd booster of the Covid vaccine, so that is out of the way, have sorted out a doctors appointment and all good there, next us is to organise some of my music trips for next year, as I think everything else this year is sorted out now. Can’t do anything about delays and flight cancellations, all I can do is have everything booked, show up on time to the Airport and pray, 3 – 4 hour queues to get into security at an Airport means they have to delay flights until people get through. I do find it crazy that Airports that have not enough staff to operate at full capacity are not passing information to passengers, for example in Hamburg Airport on the way back I was checked in, bag dropped and then had to leave the Airport to join the queue for security, they new I could not make that flight with the further delays getting through the security gates, but I knew there were a lot more people behind me in the queue that also could not make it, the PA announces Final Call for our flight and I start asking people is there anyway to fast track through security and no, just stay in the queue, although I was pretty sure the plane would be waiting as if we were not there they would have to remove all the luggage for people missing the flight anyway, but you stress as there is 1 flight a day from the Airline to Dublin, so you would need to rebook, if seats available, for the following day and also try and get a hotel for the night. Nothing seems to have changed in a year, certainly Airports around Europe are still struggling with both staffing levels and just coping with the surge of people wanting to travel as pandemic restrictions lifted with 3 years worth of travelling being squashed into 1 year, fingers crossed the situation changes as the current situation is good for nobody.

Maverick – Indoor Summer 2022 – Markthalle, Hamburg

As for the music itself, well that certainly made me feel a lot better, getting to meet up with friends I haven’t seen in so long, which was awesome. Getting to see bands and musicians you know as well and of course catching new bands or some you have wanted to catch for a long time. Getting to Photography both events was a real honour, and working in the Photo Pit with friends old and new always makes it an easier and more fun experience. With a couple of remaining Festivals this year having been postponed until next year I’m hoping to shoot some shows at home in the last quarter of the year, and definitely need to get gig fit, there’s more effort involved than a lot of people realise, you certainly ramp up a lot of steps during a Festival, 2 stages on 2 floors for 2 days means plenty of running around. Plenty or editing and work to do afterwards too, and if Reviewing a Fest it gets to be pretty tiring all in all.

Core Leoni – Indoor Summer 2022 – Markthalle, Hamburg

As time moves on we go from pandemic to recessions and economic problems, the energy crisis and continued threats of power hungry leaders creating misery and loss of life in places they just shouldn’t be. All we can do is help where we can and keep ourselves as sane as possible. Stay safe, talk to people is you need help or a chat and don’t stick your head in the sand.

Getting a break to save some sanity, but everyone has the same idea.

Well 2022 seems to be the great escape for most people, if they can and especially with the costs rising as they are both for flights, accommodation and anything else you need for spending money has to be recalculated, inflation everywhere is so much fun. For us it was another staycation, but this time in the South West of Ireland, Kerry to be precise, as we continue to explore the stunning Wild Atlantic Way and the Coastline on the opposite side of the Country to where we live. But holidays and trips away at the moment are much more than just a vacation, they really can be therapeutic.

Portmagee, County Kerry on the Wild Atlantic Way

Beautiful peaceful place, but perhaps when you are feeling down that is not enough, I know that even during the depths I was in last year getting out and checking out the local scenery around my walking routes did a lot of good, and the same has to be said about being on a trip away, getting out to parks, gardens etc provides additional help without doing anything else. One big additional bonus on this trip was nighttime, the area we stayed in is a Dark Sky Preserve, what this means is that there is a lot less light pollution and the Night Sky should be more visible. While we have beautiful weather a lot during the daytime, nights were often quite cloudy, one night I noticed the Moon being bright and visible so took a walk outside around midnight and wow, what an amazing sight, spirits were lifted immediately, the whole Sky was fully illuminated with stars, constellations and sheer beauty,I had never seen so much clarity above me and the brightness of the illumination was just amazing.

View of Valentia Island from Portmagee Cottage

Sadly I have no Night Sky photos with the exception of a couple of shots of the moon, will pus one below. But there are photos here around Valentia, Kerry Cliffs and the Beaches.

One of the many stunning views from the Kerry Cliffs.

Times to reflect and sit out in the evening sunshine, just putting your feet up and watching life pass by, boats on the lake beside us, cars climbing hills on the Island opposite, this was just what we needed. Don’t get me wrong we always have our struggles, and we are never sure that plans will ever be what the little guy wants to do or if it’s just going to be one of those days, but the 10 minutes of joy can make up for anything else when away on a trip. The Kerry Cliffs were simply beautiful to check out from different angles and we would definitely recommend them for the small entrance fee, it’s well worth it. Plenty of islands to check out other than the Skelligs and I’m sure the many species of birds to be spotted around the Cliffs adds to any visit.

After getting back we were already looking at organising trips for next year and the area we were in this time around remains very much in our thoughts, alongside a return to Donegal next Easter.

But please remember, you don’t need to get away far, but a break anywhere can do wonders for the mind, your mental health or just to get a rest and fresh air, even if you can only afford or take a day trip somewhere then do it. We all need it, we have rolled into September now but the weather is still decent and perhaps last minute deals are looking better than they were. From the time I started writing this to the time I finished it there’s no doubt I got caught up in my own head for a while, and then all of a sudden some Festival Trips took over. Please remember to keep the mind active, get out of the house get some fresh air, enjoy your surroundings if you can or take a trip to the nearest park or green area.

Why’s it so hard to just get out of the house these days ?

Well it’s been a while since I posted, so here’s a little update on the oddities of life in 2022. Although many have been saying that the Covid Pandemic is over, and don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait for it to be finished, it’s definitely not and is still affecting life in general.

Over the last couple of weeks a few more gigs or Tours have been cancelled because band members have contracted the virus, have seen the same across Europe and the US, it doesn’t take much for smaller bands to have to cancel or postpone things when a date or two are going to be missed out on. There’s bound to be some issues for venues too with regards to staffing.

This week sees the start for me of getting back on the train with regards to going to and shooting gigs, tomorrow night I have Dark Tranquility making their very long awaited Irish debut. Then at the weekend I have a trip planned to the HRH Blues Festival in Sheffield, all going well, with Bernie Marsden and Wilko Johnson Headlining each night.

Between working from home full time, health issues and the added problem of Depression over the last 10 months it really has been a messy couple of years, and it’s taken a toll psychologically. I did get away to the Uprising Festival in Leicester last year, but that was it, and have struggled to get the motivation to get out to things locally over the last couple of months. Leaving the house isn’t a problem, still walking regularly, and building up the distances again to 10km a walk, so that’s good, but for sanity and the soul I need to get back to gigs. Photographing tomorrow night and at the weekend, so that should be motivation enough, and a lot of additional work to do, but it’s worth it.

Hasn’t just been a lack of motivation with regards to getting out and about, it’s massively affected writing anything, review wise, for so long now. it’s a real struggle to finish things off, and you’d thing that would be the easy bit sometimes. But I’m trying to work on it from a different perspective and we will see how it goes.

This could well be the last year I’ll be able to do multiple UK Festivals, even for individual shows it’s getting more and more expensive to travel and get accommodation in the UK from here. At the moment I think travel anywhere is expensive, but it eventually reaches a line where it becomes just too much. Checking prices for later in the year and it’s much more than usual, when it starts costing as much as a family holiday it really would be too much. The cost of living generally is going to make things more difficult anyway, so when you have additional costs for everything travelling becomes less fun. So I’ll go out with a bang this year and hit as much as I can, along with the Indoor Summer Festival in Hamburg which I’m looking forward to immensely, will hopefully be a very exciting and interesting few months ahead. With gigs still getting announced every week it looks like you won’t be able to walk out of the house without hitting one, and it’s great to see pictures of full venues for shows with small or large capacities.

Not too long now until the outdoor Festival season either, so bring it on. Bloodstock for sure, maybe a day or two here and there aside from that…. would love to get over and bit a farewell to KISS at Download, even if it was just for the Friday night. Aside from all that we will be doing another staycation this year, trying the beautiful South West this time around to cover off another part of the Wild Atlantic Way. There will be day trips here and there and I need to get back to the Botanic Gardens soon.

Wishing you all a very happy, interesting and safe year to come, and Rock it .

Getting over Covid, well at least this time around….. and a World gone mad…..

After being very careful over the last couple of years, taking every precaution we could, pretty much keeping ourselves to ourselves it finally happened a few weeks ago, and we are pretty sure where it came from, but it is what it is. The whole family contracted Covid, it affects different people in different ways, but we were glad that were had been vaccinated and boosted as I’m certain the affects were nowhere near as bad as they could have been. Still, personally it knocked me out of commission for a week with one or two additional problems the following week. Recovering from anything takes time, but I guess we won’t know until the proper research into long Covid has been carried out if this is going to be a problem further down the road. It’s been frustrating, but what can you do, I can see both sides of the argument regarding opening things back up fully, but following the case figures here and in the UK it has to be said that their cases come down significantly whenever there is a change in restrictions coming that week, here the numbers are still kind of high, and I’m happy to have a hybrid working environment in place for the significant future.

It entered the house through our son, who picked it up at school, there is definitely a lot of cases floating around all schools and educational facilities. My sister-in-law has contracted it twice in 7 weeks and her pre-school now has cases among the staff again, so not looking good….. some of the numbers don’t seem to be adding up, but it’s certainly still out there, can see a point soon where if Companies have all of their employees back in Offices or Businesses they will start to lose Employees for chunks of time every few months, won’t be good for continuity of business and that’s for sure. As with everything else in the Pandemic time will tell.

For me the effects were lack of sleep, being blocked up badly for a few days and really bad headaches for a week, no loss of smell or taste like the older variants, and a bit of a relapse a week or so after it had appeared to be gone, which was a bit annoying. Let’s hope Omicron is the last of the major variants, it’s certainly been more virulent but I’m sure it’s a lot less dangerous to those who have been vaccinated. With all Govt guidance now pointing to all restrictions been lifted imminently, it will be interesting to see how things go, the changes in peoples attitudes and actions, will we see a large spike again in cases or hospitalisations (hopefully not), for me I still intend to continue wearing a facemask in certain circumstances, public transport, busy shopping areas and Health Venues such as hospitals, doctors etc…… in my mind it’s just a logical thing, having only had one cold in 2 years there appear to be definite benefits to it.

Our little man has been suffering at times from a condition I’d not heard of before he first had it, Cycllical Vomiting Syndrome, luckily it’s not a severe case of it, but at the same time when you add in his autism and the fact that he’s non verbal it makes things a lot more difficult. He continues to vomit and wretch until he goes to a state where he could damage himself, tears in the asophagus or even worse the stomach lining. It’s a very draining and worrying situation for us all as you can imagine, and requires a trip to hospital as he’s also very dehydrated by the end of it. Fingers crossed he grows out of it and we’ve now been prescribed some anti-nausea medication that will hopefully mean we can at least rehydrate him so an episode won’t lead to a hospital trip again. It’s a week since it happened and I’m still really tired, just getting too old, thankfully he bounces back quickly. Thankfully for me even being over exhausted it didn’t lead to an episode of my Epilepsy, and I remembered to take my tablets throughout.

Having had the Covid and then the little guy being sick I’ve missed a Festival and a couple of gigs, which is sad, but it is what it is, and look there are plenty more on the horizon, so next week will hopefully be my return to the local scene, and intending to bring the camera along, so at least I can update the website with some new photos 🙂

Andy Hekkandi of Swedish Sleaze Rockers the Trench Dogs at HRH Sleaze III in Sheffield, 2019.

I think all of this has taken a bit of a toll on my mental health again, have been feeling down again the last couple of weeks, it’s not been good, and I’d prefer not to mess around with the dosage of my medication to help with the effects. Hoping to meet up with friends later and that will help as long as I make it along to the gathering, meeting up with people and having a catchup and a laugh can’t be bad for your mental health. The medication has certainly helped me up till now, but perhaps it can only help with so many things at one time in your mind, I also need to get back out walking properly again, or back on the Treadmill, walking out in the fresh air helps a lot for me, and stops my mind wandering towards eating rubbish foods.

Anyway, as we finish off Feb 2022 and see horrific events on the edge of Europe the future is yet to be written, but all we can do is hope, pray and trust leaders to make better decisions to protect people

Lots of love and prayers to anyone affected by the events in Ukraine, I know I’m not alone in not being able to comprehend what you are going through in these crazy times. <

Balancing the Meds, the everyday stresses and strains, a new year and trying to make your World work better for you.

Well here we are in 2022, and what a strange messed up year 2021 was, it started with the same high hopes we have now for the upcoming year, the hope that Covid is reducing in strength and severity, and that we will soon be able to get back to a more normal or familiar way of living.

Once again we all have had to continue to embrace a lot of changes with more Lockdowns here in Ireland and many other countries, Working From Home becoming more the norm than the exception, everyones schedules being thrown off track, whether you are an adult or a child. schools reopening and closing again, and of course the newer variants affecting kids more for the first time. So a lot to cope with for everyone. Keeping life balance along with mental health has been even more difficult over the course of 2021. One thing is for sure I am not the only person to get to a stage where it all became too difficult to deal with. Glad that I didn’t continue to dig don deeper into the hole this time and bury my head, In August 2021 I took a big and important step and decided to seek some professional help rather then just try and fix it myself, and that was a wise move. Life’s stresses and strains, the loss of my mother (which if being perfectly honest I probably haven’t grieved properly for ye) and all of the stuff that comes with that, depression takes it’s grip, so I went to a Doctor and started working on it.

After trying some different things we decided to try medication, and personally it seems to be the path that makes sense for me, everyone is different and how it affects you and the type of person you are will have a lot to do with what is best for you. So now I’m taking two slow release medications, one for the Epilepsy and the other for Depression, the one good thing is that having taken medication for many years and adding to that with the heart meds, nothing is a surprise, just like the Epilepsy meds it’s all about finding the balance that works for you with regards the amount of mediation needed to help and make sure it works without causing any issues. Still working through that but there is no doubt that it has helped me significantly, I’m not there yet, but on a new dosage the last couple of weeks and it should be taking affect now. All I would say is listen to the experts, take the time out of work or whatever that you need to, don’t rush it or you will end up back to square one and that won’t help at all. Besides it does take time to find the right dosage for you, so keep working at it with the doctor/s and keep talking about it. Other things you may need to thing about are changing things in life that are not helping you to keep ahead of things, of course some changes will be more difficult, the younger you are and depending on circumstances , it may not be possible to change working, reduce hours etc, but if it would mean helping your mental health, you need to check out all the options, it’s of no benefit to anyone for you to be out for months anyway.

But the most important thing, if it’s all getting too much for you, go talk to someone, a friend, family, a GP or more specialised Professional, talking about these things isn’t as difficult as it seems when you go and do it.

So balancing everything out is very important, of course things can be a little more difficult when people can’t do their hobbies/pastimes that help people to relax. Personally I’m looking forward to 2022, admittedly with some trepidation as it didn’t work out so well in 2021, but hoping that we will get back to living our lives, or whatever the new norm is this coming year. The Music Industry has been hit so had over the last couple of years,, for everyone that works in it, fingers well and truly crossed that I get to see and shoot some shows this year, it’s a much needed outlet for a lot of people and has been sorely missed. One manage to get to one event in 2021, the This Is Not An Uprising weekend, and it was brilliant to see a couple of friends and safely attend a show, but it’s not happening over here at the moment and more Tours are being rescheduled every week (have never had/seen so many Gig Clashes before, caused generally by everything being rescheduled multiple times and ending up on the same nights) if things get back on track quickly this coming year will be crazy for Gigs everywhere.

Shrapnel – This Is Not An Uprising 2021

Getting out for walks is still very important, so need to get back to walking properly now, has been a bit sporadic the last couple of months while trying to sort things out, but walking is good for the mind, listening to audio books, spending time in parks or gardens for some nice nature to change things up a bit, nice to have a different bit of scenery to the same Roads I’ve been pounding for the last couple of years. Still I managed to walk over 2,000 KM in 2021, which isn’t bad, will see how we get on this time around. Planning some more trips to the Botanic Gardens and further afield and will bring the camera along too.

Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin

Travel wise, well I’m already resigning myself to missing the first few trips of the year, but hey what can you do, when stuff gets cancelled, postponed or simply travel becomes so difficult it’s not worth taking the risk, there will be future Gigs, fingers crossed.

So wishing you all a Very Happy New Year and hoping 2022 brings us all more good stuff than 2021 did, stay safe and communicate, like the old add said, It’s Good To Talk……….

Here are some resources for Mental Health Services in Ireland, they are easy to find online these days in many countries and since Covid there are more online resources available like video course etc……..

Aware. – https://www.aware.ie/programmes/online-self-directed/

HSE – https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/lho/northdublin/mentalhealth/mentalhealthsucidesupportdublinnorth.html

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