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.

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. <

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.

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

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

The difficulties of recovery during a lockdown………

Well here I am again, pondering the current state of affairs and how I am coping with it all, and as with most people at the moment no matter where you are on this Globe, there are good days and bad days, positives and disappointments. A main issue for me has certainly been missing out on the professional help through this now lengthy recovery, so not being able to get out there for hospital appointments, which alongside my Cardio Rehab had to be cancelled was difficult to handle to be honest. So missing out on tailored exercise and advice, dietician, psychologist etc…….. with unfortunately no sign of anything being rescheduled in the near future, fingers crossed  all measures continue to work and it can be sorted out soon.

 

Here in Ireland our current restrictions to try and contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus are due to end in the next couple of days, and all going to plan we will move into the next phase. That will be followed, assuming all goes well, by 5 x 3 week long phases reducing restrictions each time until the end of August, yep seems like a long time, but hopefully at that stage if all is ok we will be in a much better position. As we already knew live music will be still off the menu until at the very earliest late Sept/Oct, but we really can’t put a proper timescale on it at the moment. More Festivals either postponed or cancelled recently including Bloodstock (postponed to 2021 with an extra day – nice one Bloodstock), Summer Indoors 2020 (postponed to 2021, and Uprising which won’t happen for 2020 now, but will return bigger in 2021. There are still many events that have not yet, but will be cancelled, with bands, promoters etc waiting on the right time for an announcement, holding out hope that things will get back to normal sooner than expected or simply waiting until they have rescheduled the event until they announce the cancellation of the original version. On the positive side, more Tours/shows have been rescheduled for later in the year or for the same time next year.

 

Up until now, and even with that it had only become knowledge to me over the last couple of weeks, I have only known a couple of people that had actually tested positive for coronavirus, and they had all been lucky enough to have contracted a mild dose of it and are already recovered. But sadly that all changed when it really hit close to home and the difficulties other families have run into hit me square in the face. When an elderly member of your family falls ill with this virus alongside the natural worries about them you realise that the other problems associated with the lockdown are affecting you, that you can’t go and visit them, no matter how ill they may become you can only hope they are coherent enough for a video call, or to hear you on the telephone. Once someone tests positive and they will be isolated from the rest of the people in their facility, they may be confused, needing to be reminded about the virus each day should they be suffering from dementia, more than likely they are already suffering from underlying medical issues which will make it more difficult to overcome the effects of the virus, and as the Hospitals do not necessarily have the capacity to take in these patients an increased pressure and burden falls on the care facility they reside in. The message to #stayhome #staysafe is so important, accidentally passing the virus onto an elderly person in the community will have very similar effects, and yet everyday we still see many cases of people not following social distancing guidelines. This will only lead to one thing in the end more infections and a longer time period where we have to isolate/distance/miss out on the normal things in life we had up to this point taken for granted, won’t be taking anything for granted in future.

 

Of course we have in many ways been very lucky on this island that the hospitals were not over run, the very hard working staff and a larger community effort than we have probably seen in decades has helped without a doubt, the actions of Govt to help out employers and employees may be very costly, but in the end will save us so much as a nation. Since I started to write this I had a bit of a mental blockage and it’s ended up taking forever to finish, but hey ho, so many friends have been struggling aswell, mentally, deep dips and no massive highs to balance them out. More shows have bitten the dist this week, Iron Maiden in Belfast cancelled and Rammstien in the same City hopefully rescheduled, along with a few smaller shows. It’s a real shame the Maiden lineup was unreal, with Tempt, Airbourne, Alter Bridge and Maiden headlining, one hell of a lineup. but that’s it in a nutshell, try not to let the disappointments get to you too much, what the future holds, especially for music, how we will be able to socially distance and maintain any sort of a vibe, hold onto an atmosphere, and what it will look and feel like, it’s a mystery. Have been reading a number of articles from various people in the industry and what I’ve garnered most is exactly that fact nobody knows what is going to happen yet.

Bloodstock2021

For me, well, I’m back working a full week, from home, trying to push myself a bit harder physically and lee[ the sanity there is some semblance of tact. None of that is easy, strangely enough, the things I thought would be easiest to control haven’t worked out that way, the diet has been a lot more back on track as my mam recovers slowly, Working hard on my walking, and also stepped things up a bit. Last week managed to hit 8.5km without keeling over, so then got inspired this week by a good friend that is walking 10km+ every day in May to raise some much needed funds for a very good cause, so this week I managed to his 10km for the first time Monday, maintained it on Tuesday and still hit my 10,000 steps today, but not quite the 10km, still it’s a bit increase in workload, so ensuring I’m not pushing too hard, if I need to I’ll back off again for a day and then try and hit back to the higher level again, it’s certainly been difficult at times, trying not to get frustrated with people wandering around the streets ignoring guidelines, or groups of kids that just don’t know or care, but I’ll stick to my back roads, keep doing my loops and looks some weight at the same time, only shed 10 to 11 kg’s so far, but that’s definitely a good start 😉

IMG_8169-cover

So lets keep doing what we need to do, try and keep our minds from going off the reservation, if you are in the situation where you are not or cannot work, get out and get your exercise in the fresh air, it’s a life saver. Sleep certainly hasn’t been good for most people and I’m no different, staying up later and getting up early for work, broken sleep, it’s tiring, but thankfully to date no sign of anything being triggered with my epilepsy, also glad I’ve not really noticed any side affects yet from my heart medications. Video calls with friends, colleagues, family has been something that has become a new social life for many, be it quiz\es or dinner parties or social drinks, it’s just another thing to help people get through it. Have been looking back through old sets of photos checking out Landscapes from visits to the West Coast, I’ve said it many times, but the Wild Atlantic Way on the West Coast of Ireland is simply stunning, and when things eventually get back to some form of normal get yourself out there to see some of the beautiful scenery around your own country, we so often take it all for granted.

#staysafe #stayhome and look after yourselves.

The ongoing recovery update…

Well here we are having rolled into March, this week will mark 2 months since my heart attack and although I’m definitely seeing progress it is still frustratingly slow for me. As with pretty much all recoveries from surgery, but certainly from a major surgery there are good days and bad days in the months that follow. For me the operation itself was the easy bit, which wasn’t how I thought things would be, I knew I needed it so automatically got my head adjusted and of course was slightly nervous, but was eager to get through it. If may have been nearly 3 hours and a lot more difficult than expected for the surgeons, but 3 days after a heart attack I had my new Stents installed and was looking forward to the road to recovery. (to give you some idea of the relative size of a Stent there’s a cover photo above and another below).

Stent-Dr-Murtaza

Two months on and having been at home for almost the whole time since and there has been some elements of going stir crazy, although I have returned to a very limited amount of work action, a lot of days are filled with eating, going out for walks or to the shops and trying to plan various different Hospital visits or to my mam, it’s all go 😉

With the Nursing Home now on lockdown one of my walking routes is currently out of action, but it’s very important that elderly people are exposed as little as possible to the possible threat of virus infection, so it is what it is, phone calls to check things for the moment. In the meantime have gotten some of the administrative stuff progressed a little so that takes a little off my mind, I think it wouldn’t have been possible to sort from now for a couple of months.

ScreenHunter 75

Two weeks ago I had a cardio assessment in the Hospital for my Rehab Classes, all went very well and my classes have now been scheduled, so that’s good, but with the many issues that the spread of Coronavirus is now causing there is a chance that schedule may be thrown into disarray, time will tell, For now I am really hoping to get them started, I’ve gotten my walking up to around 5km a day, which is a good start, but after having a very bad week or so diet wise (well there has definitely been a valley of depression over the whole covid-19 issue, it’s one thing to be isolated because of limited physical activity, quite another to be made stay home due to an increasingly rapidly spreading virus that is more dangerous to me as someone with an underlying condition, don’t get me wrong it doesn’t scare me, but I’m sensible enough to not put myself at further risk for no reason. But this whole situation certainly has it’s effects on mental health, and that can certainly contribute to throwing a well maintained diet out the window for a short period of time, so hopefully back on track now, touch wood, and if we can get the Rehab going it will definitely help.

Was really nice to get out and about yesterday with the camera for the first time this year, just a walk in the grounds of Newbridge House and Farm with the family and a few photos of the scenery and Deer. Luckily have been able to get out for walks once or twice a day most days up till now, have avoided being out in the storms, but my estate is large enough to get out on different routes to avoid monotony and still get me to the 5km+ mark. It’s a very quiet St.Patricks Day today here in Dublin, of course no Parades going on, hundreds of thousands of people in close proximity would be stupid and a breathing ground for new infections, more and more pubs closed and most people that I’m seeing adopting the advice to avoid unnecessary contact etc……..  so was definitely nice to have a wander around some nice grounds yesterday.

The number of people there were understandably smaller than usual, but is as it should be, and aside from passing people on the path or around the park contact is very much at a minimum, none of which of course is bothering the Deer at all, they are happily munching away on grass and relaxing.

 

Sleep patterns have sadly gone right out the window alongside the poor diet over the last while, maybe it’s a little worry about everything in the back of my mind, but no issues with the Epilepsy, no fits, and continue to take medication as I always have, will just keep an eye on it and rest when I need to, being down does not help it, but keeping the brain ticking over steadies me, listening to some new music has lifted things slightly, purchasing some new items and listening to albums I’m due to review on my walks  is definitely the solution. My thoughts go out to anyone in a bad place already that now has to self isolate, if your deep in a hole just reach out to a friend or organisation and have a chat, it will help. Right now it’s looking like most countries in Europe are going to lock down for an unknown period so hang in there.folks, like any other downturn we can all get through this. How the Govt’s go about helping people who are either no longer getting a wage or are in other financial difficulties as a direct result of the Virus has yet to be seen, but hopefully common sense can be impressed upon the Banks so that stress can be lifted.

 

All live Music events in Ireland have been cancelled or postponed for the significant future, right now they are cancelling/postponing events through the end of April and a few in May/June, well you have to understand that Tours span Europe and also span months so anything starting in April and running into May will go, and right now I would personally be surprised if the big gigs planned for June and some of the larger Festivals didn’t get pulled in the coming weeks. I missed out on HRH AOR last week and with their other Fests Hammerfest and HRH Prog IX having also now been cancelled I’d expect HRH Blues to go very soon, it’s just not possible to get artists around the Globe at the moment, nevermind insurance etc…….   was really cool to see Code Orange going ahead with their Album Release the other night in an empty venue but being Livestreamed to fans all over the globe, it will be the way of the future for the moment I think and at least bands and venues can probably recoup some costs from it, remember to go support your local favourite bands, if they can’t play and have had to cancel shows/tours they are losing money and may have t-shirts that were for a Tour that you can go pick up from their website or a CD etc…. and help them survive, same with promoters, if a show is cancelled, don’t just look for a refund, wait for the rescheduled date and if you can’t make it get a refund and buy a ticket for a show later in the year, we all have to help out in these difficult times. So my return to Photographing gigs will quite possibly be pushed back until the 2nd half of 2020, hopefully things will improve quicker than that and some local gigs get back on the calendar quicker but we will have to wait and see, the longer stuff is off the longer it will take to restart.

Most importantly, continue to follow medical advice, thoroughly wash your hands for 20 seconds, use hand sanitiser where appropriate (mostly entering shops), but get shopping delivered where possible, don’t go sit in a pub all night, don’t sit beside someonre on a bus or train when there are spare seats, or avoid using at all if possible, the reality is even looking at the UK they are hoping to keep the number of deaths under 20,000 – right now there are 56, just think that if they expect the peak in a month or two so at some point there the Death rate would be well over 1000 per week, some very difficult times ahead, no matter where you live, so stay safe, do what you are asked from a safety perspective and we can all get back to normal at some point and start doing the things we love again – I’m going to get back to writing reviews (yeah I know I say that on every update, but I’m working on them).

Love and light to all    DevilsHorns DevilsHorns

The next step on the road to recovery……..

Well it’s been just over 3 weeks since my Heart Attack, and I guess my impatience is starting to grow, as I mentioned last time I would not be the best patient in the world.  There are no hard and fast methods or details on how far you should push yourself during recovery. With regards to exercise I did manage to find an example table of distances to walk within time periods from week 1 to 6 following the attack/operation, on the Scottish Heart Foundations website. What I had initially forgotten about/ignored was that Week 1 does not start until 10 days after the Attack itself, meaning I’d started longer distances way too early, of course everyone is different, but I walking too fast too quickly. Very hard to balance a walking pace when you are naturally a fast walker, but will continue to try.

 

Food wise, well I’m not saying I wouldn’t destroy a large bar of chocolate right now, but the dietary changes have not been as difficult as first expected, being someone that eats a lot of potato and used to eat a lot of fruit and veg it’s just simply been a case of swapping fruit in as snacks and adjusting meals to be a lot more veg based, not a massive problem, eating breakfast every morning and working on 3 square meals a day hasn’t been too difficult at home, but when I go back to work it will all become a little more difficult….. massive reduction in my salt intake alongside sugars, no sweets or fizzy drinks since it happened, The odd treat will happen every now and then, but if I can stick to what I am doing and maybe add in some foods that I don’t normally eat then the variation will help the situation as well, it would be nice if there was a safer alternative to salt as a flavouring agent .Plenty of stuff to learn with regards to meals, nutrients etc, working hard on what is probably the most important part of the process and that’s getting correct portion size, which is certainly one thing that was out of control.

 

It is quite difficult to figure out what to do in the period between being discharged from the Hospital after the operation and the time Cardio Rehab begins, obviously we are all different and levels of exercise alongside the rate we can increase workouts. Having found to my detriment the danger of pushing too far too soon, it’s careful one step at a time stuff now. and try and rest up as much as possible. At this point I still have to figure out how the transition back to work will happen, but will discuss that with my own Doctor, the relevant parties and something will be worked out, the benefit of having a very understanding employer can not be overstated, they have been excellent. Taking the extra time required to be ready to return to that environment will hopefully make all the difference, Still hoping that I’ll be able to make the HRH AOR Festival in 5 weeks, it’s a goal I’ve set myself, but if it’s not possible the decision to be made will be to for health reasons and not just feelings.

 

The lineup of gigs and Festivals for the year will no doubt have to be amended, don’t think there’s any chance I’ll be able to do so many back to back events, but will see what can be managed sensibly, and also if we can get photography back on track. Haven’t picked up a camera since before Christmas, so perhaps that’s the next step in my recovery, next week is the aim just taking some photos of the birds in the back garden, and besides there is a new lens to try out.

 

We are all smothered with a heavy cold now, so that’s certainly not helping this morning, but hopefully that will pass over the weekend and I need to get to the Doctors on Monday morning to sort a few things out, there is always something else to do.

Stay safe and look after yourselves……picked up a little capsule last week that holds a couple of asprins in case of emergency and attaches to your keyring so alongside my spray I think that will be coming out with me everywhere from now on.

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