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

The most stressful thing so far in the pandemic lockdown…

Look, it might night sound like much, or something that is even very important, but it’s certainly the most stressful thing for us all as a family during this most recent Level 5 lockdown period here in Ireland. As I’ve mentioned before our little boy, who is 5 by the way, is Autistic, he’s also very strong willed, strong and stubborn. One thing that he hates above all else so far in life is getting a hair cut, he doesn’t like people messing around his ears too much and the buzzing noise of a hair trimmer freaks him out.

Unfortunately during this form of lockdown it’s not possible to get a visit from his hairdresser, who is brilliant, but still struggles a lot to get any sort of shape to his hair before he completely loses the plot. It is what it is, but I hate the distress it causes him, his poor little heart rate goes through the roof (and to be honest so does mine, although he had relaxed a little over time and she can at least get a job done on it without us having to hold him still) do as you can imagine, that causes my heart rate to elevate quite rapidly and higher than a fast 10KM walk, which can’t be good for either of us. I know mammy feels the same, so a simple thing of cutting hair causes so much stress for the 3 of us, it’s crazy.

Anyway, it’s been coming, his hair was growing longer and longer, and the fringe was annoying him most getting in his eyes, but generally all too long for him and bugging him, so you can’t put it off indefinitely and with the lockdown period set to be extended Today was the day. We have managed to do it ourselves once, wasn’t great, but not too embarrassing to be out in. His preschool reopens tomorrow finally, so decided to give it another shot but that may have been a mistake.

We have a special children’s hair clippers, that’s quieter than most, so as not to affect children that don’t like noise around their heads, but still he hates it, and because he hasn’t been having regular cuts – and obviously as we don’t know what we are doing – it’s a big struggle from second number one. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m well used to using clippers, have been cutting my own hair for nearly 20 years with one, but that’s so not the same as trying to cut someone else’s hair, someone that’s wriggling, moving constantly, getting upset and just doesn’t want to do it. So starting off, I was the one calming him down while his mother tried to cut, but she has no experience at all with clippers and wasn’t comfortable doing the job, so I took over and asked for guidance, as I was cutting backwards effectively. The job just has to be done quickly, and get the main sections as complete as you can, so for this one, the fringe had to come up quite a bit. Also different than doing my own as I use a No.1 guite, effectively just the blade, and today we were using a 12, so not scalping him. Tapering I don’t do, trying to do it when the subjects head is bobbing around trying to get away from you is a million times worse, poor little guy.

It sure wasn’t looking Salon styled, no it certainly wasn’t. But needs must. in reality I was getting as stressed as he was, and that’s not good for someone with heart issues, his mother thankfully doesn’t have those issues, but just as stressed, and she was supposed to be guiding me, but that’s hard to do when you are hoping to get him not to have his ear cut off, we don’t need a Van Gough without the Art 🙂 So to de-stress it may be another session on the Treadmill tonight, we will see

So I tried to get as much of the bulk off as possible, tidy it up a little, bring the fringe back up so it wasn’t near his eyes (if only it had been straight) and the most difficult, get the bits around the ears. I’d give that bit a 6 out of 10, and the end result in how it actually looks, well more like a 3 maybe. I don’t think people have any idea, and I do know so many children that hate the idea of haircuts, and get upset when placed in the situation, but multiply that when the child has Autism and is very strong on top of it. hey it’s done for another couple of months (even if it will start looking even worse in a couple of weeks – you have to laugh. The funny thing is that he calms down quicker afterwards than I do, what’s that all about 🙂 we will try and sort out a couple of little bits when he falls asleep tonight, otherwise he’ll be in the lockdown haircuts of shame…… poor little guy, it’s as bad as the old days where mothers put bowls over kids heads and trimmed around them.

In the battle of man vs hair, this time hair and little boy definitely won….. he was back happy and laughing watching Blaze and the Monster Machines and we were both in need of either a lay down or a large drink. Until the next battle… he may be a little embarrassed about the hair, but come on, covering your head with a bear is not the long term solution 🙂