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. <

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

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…

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 😉

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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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