Monday, July 25, 2016

Galway Bay 2016: Adventures of a near-sighted distance swimmer


Last year a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer, and it made me feel so frustratingly useless.  I wanted to do the Galway Bay Swim in aid of Cancer Care West, but knew there was insufficient time to get the training in and a boat organised.  Fast forward a year and she has had some life-changing surgery, and I was sufficiently fit to do the swim and on the waiting list to get a support boat.  As the weeks passed by with no sign of a boat materialising, I started mentally preparing myself for the possibility that I might not get to swim the bay this year, and that if it doesn't happen just suck it up.  Others who had done it previously said not to sweat it, they had gotten their boats only two or three weeks before the swim, just hang on in there as things have a funny way of falling in to place and all that.  Three weeks to go, two weeks to go, and one week to go all slid by and I was as boatless as ever.  Then on the Wednesday before the swim I got a call from one of the organisers asking had I found a boat yet?  Not yet, no.  Ok, try this number, his name is Sean, he might be able to help you.

Sean had a boat, and was willing to help me out.  I was in!


I took Friday off work to get checked out by my GP to make sure I was in adequate condition to take on the swim.  She had recently done the Lee swim with her partner, so it was less than five minutes of medical check up followed by a good half hour of talking about swimming.  After that I had to go to The Edge tri-shop to get spare goggles, water bottles, and a gigantic tub of High5 4:1 recovery mix.  On the way back I stopped off at Aldi and bought a small mountain of fatty treats, which were devoured within minutes of getting back home.  The logic was that these would be absorbed into my body (waistline) quickly, and then would be burnt off slowly over the course of the big swim the following day.  The science behind this is sketchy and made-up at best, but guilt-free binge-eating is always welcome.  This was followed by a half hour nap on the couch, which was extended to an hour and a half, and then it was a case of hastily packing up my shit and driving to Galway for the safety briefing.

The drive up and safety briefing went off without incidents, and there was a pasta party for the swimmers afterwards (sadly there was no games of pasta parcel).  When I went back out to my van, it turned out that someone had left the lights on and she was not starting.  My buddy John was on the way from Mullingar, so there was half an hour to kill until he could give me a jump start.  After a nice walkeen from Westside to Lower Westside, John rocked up and we hooked up the jump leads, gave it a minute or two to get some bit of charge going, and then ... ... ... nothing.  We tried this for a good while, but it just wasn't happening.  Someone had been leaving the lights on quite a lot of late, and the continuous need for jump starts had worn the battery out.  The good news was that I had a place to stay that night, so would not be sleeping in the back of a Hiace in a Westside car park.  The other news is that I would be leaving my van on its own in Westside overnight.


After a good nights sleep and a breakfast of porridge and more porridge, I went through my feeding schedule with John.  There was a two litre carton of double strength High5, and this was to be mixed with hot water from a flask for the feeds. First feed on the one hour mark, and then every half hour after that.  We looked at the map of the swim route, and I drew a circular motion with my finger, joking that this was the one thing I didn't want to do.  He dropped me off at the Salthill hotel where I waited for the bus, and he drove down to the docks to meet the support boat homies.  There was loads of time to kill, so I did a bit of walking on the prom, and Co. Clare was nicely visible on the other side of the bay.  The bus was right on time and brought us over to Aughinish where we could see the first wave of swimmers setting off into the fog.

The fog was a bit worrying, but after a few minutes it lifted a bit, and the support boats were visible.  This was great as it just meant sighting as far as the boats, and then follow the boat across the bay.  Then when it was time to get changed and I took my glasses off, the boats magically disappeared. On top of this, my (non-prescription) goggles had a smoky tint to them which further reduced visibility.  This was going to be a lot harder than initially anticipated.

We got into the water with the stately plump Martello tower on our left, and headed off when the horn sounded.  There were scores of compass jellyfish in the bay, floating around like souls of the damned.  I tried sighting but it was pointless.  I found myself drifting off the right of the group, but was ok with it as the dropping tide seemed to be dragging everyone to the left.  Eventually I found myself swimming on my own, and completely unsure of where I was going.  Never mind that.  Just - Keep - Swimming.  After an eternity of swimming a crew boat pulled up beside me, and pointed out that the Martello tower was now to my right.  I had succeeded in swimming around in a circle, and had not gotten beyond the first leg of the swim. 

At this point I expected them to say "For fuck sake you've made a complete balls of this, just get out of the water now!"  Instead they guided me to the first yellow buoy, and from there on a nice guy on a jet ski said he'd accompany me until I got to my boat.  As I had no idea how much time was wasted perfecting the circle stroke, I just accepted that I was now out of the competition, that everyone in my wave was way ahead of me, so it was just a case of getting on with it and finishing the swim.  Eventually we got to the triangular buoy and there was no sign of my boat.  Mr. Jetski asked what my boat looked like, and I hadn't a clue.  After a minute or so of treading water, we decided to push on, Mr. Jetski saying he'd go all the way to the finish line with me if need be.  So with no support boat, and no feeds, I had no choice but to just keep swimming.

The psychological part of open water swimming is huge.  If those negative thoughts start creeping in about not being capable, they can very quickly become real, and then they can become true.  At this point of the swim, it occurred to me that all this shit going wrong was a sure sign that God hates me and was punishing me for some vaguely sinful aspect of my existence.  This could really doom me if it took root, so I changed my mantra from Just Keep Swimming to God Is Dead.  This put my head at peace, and shortly afterwards my support boat appeared.  If you ever find that prayer isn't working, I heartily recommend actively denying the existence of God, it's far more effective!

From here on in the water was rougher, but it was just a matter of keep following the boat until I got to shore.  The feeds were at half hour intervals and it broke the time up perfectly.  After a number of feeds John excitedly told me that there was only 1km left!  Brilliant.  I put the head down and kept swimming and swimming and swimming.  It didn't feel like I was making great progress, but assured myself that whatever was left was only hundreds of metres, so just keep swimming with long and strong strokes.  After a while I saw that John was preparing another feed, which could hardly be right.  When he threw the bottle at me, he apologised and said that now there is only 1k left, the last time was actually 2k.  After everything that had happened so far I couldn't be mad at him, lauged it off, put my head down and just kept swimming.

After some serious ploughing through waves the diving platform became visible, and for the first time that day I had a clear line of sight.  Fearing that there might be other swimmers close by, I put the boot down and hammered through the last few hundred metres.  A teenage paddle boarder sat with his back to me as I came closer to shore.  He didn't see me coming, but was in my way so I just tore through him.  I heard my name being called out on the PA as I climbed up the steps.  When I got to the top, someone put a towel around my shoulders, and I walked off to get dressed feeling like Elvis having just stepped off stage.

Thanks to:
John for being the greatest one man crew anyone could ever have asked for; Sean and the family Harte for the boat, dinner and the craic; Ned Denison and his torture week for getting me match fit; Gavan for the spare room the night before; Big L for the inspiration, support, and buns; assorted Sandycovers, Myrtlevillains, and Cork Tri swimmers for training with me throughout the year; and finally Friedrich Nietzsche for my new swimming mantra!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bloggy O'Soul 2016


Festival season was arriving, and I wanted to go to Body and Soul.  In 2011 I had gotten in as a performer, and in 2014 I had gotten in on sheer entitlement.  Many other people might look on my history of playing at festivals and getting freebies as sure evidence that I have had a good run at things and am owed nothing.  What was clear to me was that my love of going to music festivals far outweighed my love of paying for tickets.  In 2014 Body and Soul sold out, and even if it wasn't, I was broke as a joke and could not afford to buy a ticket.  This was back when my career as a DJ was running dry and I had to resort to writing erotica to make ends meet.  These days I have a full-time job with regular hours and a regular paycheque, which makes it harder to justify that the universe owes me a complimentary weekend pass.

If I had to get in, then it would have to be earned.  And by earned, I mean blagged.  After some online research, I found the details of the agency handling the publicity for the festival.  They were e-mailed, and as a blogger/freelance photographer I would like a weeked pass for the festival, as my writing style is that of the man on the ground I would not require an access all areas pass, a common or garden one would do.  Fingers crossed they follow the links and be so enamored by my writing style that they overlook that the blog was not updated in almost two years.  They replied, thanking me for my interest in the festival, but unfortunately all press passes had already been allocated.

The weekend before Body and Soul I was helping a friend move some furniture, and he asked me if I was all set for the festival?  I started explaining that I didn't have a ticket and had made no arrangements for time off work, so it was looking highly unlikely.  He looked at me askance asking was I not playing this year?  Alas no, but to be fair I'm no longer as actively involved in the DJ scene as I once might have been, and dare I say it, am no longer relevant.  A few weeks previously another friend had asked would I fancy DJing with him in Cork on Friday the 17th, but I was non-committal as it would clash with the festival.  On the morning of the 16th I texted him saying that Body and Soul would not be happening for me this year and wondering if his offer still stood?  Sorry man, the gig has been pulled, problem with the managers of the venue, you know yourself.

Just before I went to bed on Thursday evening my phone went off.  It was Mr. Whippy, he was supposed to be doing a tag-team set with Lex Woo on the Saturday night of Body and Soul, but Lex had pulled out at the last minute due to either health problems, woman problems, or both.  Sorry for the short notice, but can you fill in?  You'll get a weekend pass for your troubles.


Festival season is also swimming season, and as I could not miss a full weekend of training, was in the pool at 7am to get in a session before work. Then it was a matter of going to work and asking my boss to give me time off to go fluting around some fields in the midlands at short notice. After scoring a half day, I went home to find an e-mail from Mr. Whippy saying:

-I'm awful sorry Herringbone, but there is difficulty changing names on the lineup at this stage of the game, and they'll be ID-ing at accreditation, so I'd hate for you to waste your journey.
Sorry this seems to be so difficult,

I replied:
-No worries Whippy, I've arranged time off work, so now I'm just going to get my shit together, then head up and see what happens.  If you can get Lex's passport/driver's license somehow ferried to the festival that'd be great, otherwise I will have to be ballsier than Ballsy McBallsface!

As quickly as possible, I loaded up my van with a duvet, pillows, inflatable mattress, camera, films, flash, batteries, sufficient underwear and clothes.  Then gathering all the records used recently in my podcasts and putting them in my record bag, I was almost ready to go.  Then a slight depression came over me as I realised that all of this would be for naught if I couldn't get in.  To get over this, I sat down and watched two episodes of Peep Show on youtube, and feeling infinitely better about being a sad bastard white male, got into my van and hit the road.

The bulk of the journey was spent on the motorway as far as Mullingar, then at Delvin there was a sign for Body and Soul which sent me off on a twenty mile odyssey of country roads.  It turns out that this sign was misplaced and sending me in the wrong direction, but after several hours of motorway driving the humps and hollows, twists and turns of Irish backroads were a welcome diversion.  Greta is rear wheel drive, and the back tyres are a bit on the worn side which meant I had a wee bit of drift going on at some of the bends.  Somewhere out there is a twenty something Halford's hero in a Honda Civic who secretly dreams of being a thirty something IT worker in a Toyota Hiace.

I eventually got to the festival and went straight to accreditation to get my/Lex's wristband.  Being the genius that I am, I used Lex's real name then stood there as they went through page after page after page and could not find me.  Shit, what if the administration nightmare had blown over and now my real name is down on the list?  What was I supposed to say, that I was lying two minutes ago, but this is my real name?  After a few more minutes of this, I asked if my DJ name "Lex Woo" was written down by any chance?  Ah yeah, here it is, sorry about that, here's your wristband, have a good weekend!  Using someone else's pseudonym to get in to a festival, we are truly through the looking glass.

I drove through the boggy meadow that was performer's parking, and found a space in the hollow at the far end.  Then it was just a matter of digging out my muddy Meindls from underneath the rest of my crap, sticking on a hoody and heading in to the festival.  One of the first observations was that it was just a little bit more commercial than previous years with Bulmers, Vodaphone, and Absolut having prominent stages.  Any fears that it had lost sight of what it was about as a festival were put to bed, as I realised that any of the bands or DJs that I knew who were playing this weekend were not getting paid.  The Jamaican Village of Trenchtown had lots of red, gold, and green draped around, but only one Jamaican flag.  There was a nice funktion one system with great dispersion oozing out "Midnight Marauders" by Fat Freddy's drop, but it was not the same as having an actual JA style  DIY soundsystem playing real roots music.  As this faded out, the laptop DJ brought in The Specials' "Ghost Town" much to the delight of the crowd.  As much as I like both of those songs, they are more at home on a freshman stoner's spotify playlist than in a reggae sanctuary at an alternative music festival.

After a bit more wandering I found the Body Holidays' area where I'd be back to backing with Mr. Whippy the following night.  We'd be playing in the Big Barn, where they currently had set up as a mini cinema with the Muppet Show playing.  Up until that point there was worry about being able to deliver the goods.  My records had been hastily packed, I had no chance to practice a set, and now that the punters had a full night of the Muppet Show, anything I do would be guaranteed to be anti-climactic.  Then Rowlf came on and did a rendition of AA Milne's "Cottleston Pie".  Although this did not change any of the issues previously raised, it set me at ease.  Could it be that the message of the song is that no matter what complexities life throws at you there is a simple (albeit nonsensical) response?  Or that Rowlf's dulcet deadpan delivery was soothing in and of itself?  Or maybe it's that no matter how big or small you are, this combination of The Muppets and Winnie the Pooh is guaranteed to make you feel good all over every time.

Hearing some tasty and ballsy guitar rock streaming out of the Bulmer's tent, I wandered in to see what was going down.  It was The Shaker Hymn, and it was pretty embarassing to say this was my first time ever hearing them even though I'm friendly enough with two of the lads in the band.  The other bad part was that this was the end of their set and they sounded pretty darn good.  If I make a solemn pledge to go and see them the next time they're on in Cork, will that make me less of a bad person? 

The rest of the night was uneventful enough.  It was really just tramping about to get the feel of the place, hoping to stumble upon something engaging.  A later visit to Trenchtown payed off as the DJ was dropping dusty rocksteady that shuffled on quite nicely.  He was a long lean gentleman in a trilby hat and an Adidas tracky top, sticking to the tradition of playing the vocal then the instrumental version.  He'd occasionally get on the mic, and (thankfully) refrained from using misappropriated JA patois.  When he moved into some harder dancehall, I moseyed on some more. It was getting late, I was getting tired.  Sleepy time in van land beckoned.


As a morning person, I'm at my most productive in the AM.  This also means that once it gets bright, it's very hard for me to stay asleep.  So in spite of my best efforts to get well rested, at 8am I was tramping around the main site wearing the kurta and bobble hat that I had slept in.  One of the security guards asked if I had forgotten to get out of my pyjamas, and I said yes.  The Pachamama cafe was open and it wasn't quite clear if they were just opening up, or were still winding down from the night before.  None of this really mattered as a delightfully bleary eyed barista named Anna gave me a proper decent cup of coffee to help kickstart my day.  There was only twelve hours left until my set with Whippy kicked off, so me and my coffee sat down on the swinging benches around the now dead camp fire in the Body holidays area.  Before long, two wee girls and their parents came along.  By funny coincidence, the mother (who was just a few years older than me) was from a village just a few miles out the road from me, and had gone to school in my hometown.  We knew some of the same people, but it was apparent from the neutral South Dublin inflection that she had left small town Co. Waterford behind a long time ago.  Her fella was a furniture designer and all round cool dude, and their daughters Philippa and Spiderman were fucking hilarious.  I have a small army of nephews and nieces at this point, and playing with them is always the highlight of family gatherings for me.  In this culture saying that one likes children is something of a no-no for a single man, and it's a definite no-no for a single man who drives a van.  We played a few games of football with an imaginary ball, and if you think the offside rule slows down the action, then you can only imagine how much this is amplified when there are two preschool children who are both convinced they are in possession of the imaginary ball.  We then played hide and seek. 

-You have to find us. 
-Ok what do I have to do? 
-First you count. 
-How do I count? 
-You say 1, then 2, then 3 (pause), 4, and 5, then READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!
-Gottit! Ok, 1, 2 ....

After that we played a game of the selfish crocodile, where I was a happy zebra that got eaten by the selfish crocodile.  The friendly lion and friendly tiger managed to get away unscathed, and hopefully the happy zebra will forever be remembered as a martyr in their hearts.  I liked that the worst possible characteristic in their minds was selfishness rather than blood thirsty, treacherous, or crocodilic.  It said a lot about their upbringing, and almost made up for their lack of interest in dinosaurs or not knowing what noise a zebra makes.  As much fun as it was, I was hungry so said my goodbyes and wandered off to the walled garden to get some tastiness into me.

I ordered a papusa from a vegan foodstand and to my delight pronounced it correctly first go!  I explained to the staff that I always get nervous ordering new food stuffs as the slightest mispronunciation can lead to withering glances from the serving staff. They smiled to assure me that no they were not that type of smug condescending, so I then asked if the papusa contains "kwinoa".  It was fun to see their smiles drop as they realised they are exactly that brand of smug condescending.  I only came here for breakfast, but ended up teaching the staff a valuable life lesson, this has been a rich experience in so many ways.  Then a young man appeared next to me wearing the most unique woolly jumper I've ever seen.  It was sleeveless, with an opening at the back which (conveniently) let the world see his ornate back tattoo, but also had an overly convoluted funnel neck which was made using wools of increasing gauges.  If one should ever find oneself in a situation that required a warm chest, cool arms, and an aired out back, this was the exact item of clothing you'd need. He also had one of those leather pocket belts that new agers seem to love even though he was wearing jeans that had a full compliment of pockets.  He ordered a juice and after taking a sip, said: "Oh my god, that is exactly what my body needed" in the dryest, most unenthusiastic manner of speaking I've ever encountered.  Due to my rich and varied life experience, I was now familiar with the middle class reserve, and have also overheard hipster-ish detachment in coffee shops.  This was a combination of both that would have been considered sarcastic except that sarcasm entails some level intonation.  The other thing I noticed, was that it was working.  The girl behind the counter was hanging on his every monotone word, and he knew it.  Well played young man, well played.

I then wandered back to the van and changed into actual clothes for the day ahead.  It was now about one o'clock, so I took my bag of 45s and dropped them off at the Body Holidays lock-up.  Often at festivals when they try to set up an area that's full of ironic fun, it can end up falling flat on its face due to being the wrong shade of crappy and naff.  Toby and Jess Hatchett, the creative force behind Body Holidays, had the necessary insight to inject their creation with as much naff as possible, and the result was so much fun!  The staff all wore blue blazers reminiscent of the Butlins' red coats, had the streakiest fake tans going, and embraced the silliness with the utmost of seriousness.  Several times over the weekend I overheard people saying things along the lines of "That terrible holiday camp was f*cking brilliant!"  The important part of it was that they had lots of fun things on the go.  Swingball, table tennis, fusball, cornhole, bingo, sock wrestling, as well as My House music venue, the Big Barn, and a chillout/feeling burnt out area called Dire Straits.  Toby is a furniture maker based in West Cork, so everything was very well crafted and his attention to detail was impeccable (the stage door in My House was a kitchen cupboard, so bands would magically appear and disappear through this portal).  If there is anything to be learned from Body Holidays is that it's easy to have a clever or funny idea, but executing it well is quite another.  Hats off to team Hatchett!

After dropping off my 45s I wandered up to the Absolut stage to catch some of Aoife O'Neill's set.  Aoife started djing with the Eclecto posse in Tralee last year (she was the Eclecto Box to Gary Fitz's Eclecto Balls), and has since moved to Cork city where she has been a regular fixture behind the decks for venues in the know.  Right now she was playing some really nice true school hip hop while brunch was being served at a full length table in front of the stage.  It was all going along very nicely when suddenly I started feeling all tingly.  "Intergalactic Throwdown" from Mad Dr. X was being mixed in, but it had been pitched down to the point that the upfront pounding bassline now sounded all warm and dubby.  It's one thing to hear a favourite song on a big system at a festival, but it is quite another to hear it being played in a way never thought possible.  Hats off to the braided lady, Aoife O'Neill, fair f*ckin' play to you!

The next item of interest was a panel discussion on Waking The Feminists featuring Margaretta D'arcy and a representative of women in Irish Theatre.  Margaretta kicks serious ass.  One of the most well worn clichées of late is people wanting "to start a conversation", which became trite and tired very quickly (and people are STILL using it).  Margaretta made it clear from the get go that she hoped to start blazing rows and arguments.  She compared herself to the mad woman in the attic in Jane Eyre who would burn down the entire house at the end, or the witch who cursed sleeping beauty for not being invited to the Christening.  The first time she was arrested was for showing solidarity with the Armagh Women's Prison Dirty Protest on International Women's Day.  She then found herself in prison with the dirty protestors, but unable to defecate for days.  This led to suspicions amongst the other prisoners that she was a government spy planted to infiltrate them.  Finally, after almost a week her bowels moved producing a turd the size of a grape, but it was enough for her to be accepted.  If Orange is the new Black steal that plot line, remember that you read it here first.  She was also outspoken in her opinion that the EU was a capatalist conspiracy to devalue women's unpaid work in the home, then get them out in the workplace where they would get paid less then men.  She then chastised the Women in Irish Theatre representative, saying that if women in theatre really wanted to be taken seriously, they would band together and do something radical that is worthy of getting sent to jail.  If you find yourself thinking "Well that's easy for her to say", then take a quick read of this.

The sun was coming out and not wanting to go back to the van to get sun screen, I sat in a shady spot in the walled garden, and caught some of Gilbert Steele's set in the Idle and Wild cocktail bar.  I've rarely met a DJ whose style I didn't like that I also didn't like as a person, and Gil ticks both of these boxes with much gusto.  When I first met him, I assumed that Gilbert Steele was a Max Power style pseudonym (as it happens Gil is a massive Simpson's fan) so our first ever conversation went along the lines of:
-Your real name is Gilbert Steele?!
-REALLY?!  Your name really is Gilbert Steele?!
-As in, your actual birth cert given name is Gilbert Steele?!
This is not the actual transcript, as in real life I kept repeating myself over and over in that manner for over half an hour.  This was several years ago in The Realt Dearg, and Gil has since gone on to become one of Cork's most respected and beloved DJs.  At Body and Soul he was dropping some really tasty mid tempo stuff, working from Mr. Scruff, to Tee Scott, to Jamie Principle, which was relaxing enough to allow people sit down and soak it up, but energetic enough to give the garden a party atmosphere.  Gilbert Steele: Great guy, great name, great DJ!

As lovely as all of this was, time had been ticking away and I still had a bag of records waaay over in my van that would need to be brought to the Body Holiday area.  In Cork, I'm known for playing laid-back sets.  If you want a DJ to keep the crowd in their seats, I'm your man!  If you want a DJ to keep the crowd rocking all night, maybe you should call someone else.  People would be wanting to dance up here, and there were so many factors that were bothering my head.  I'm gigging less than once a month, so currently don't have a working set. Also my record bag was packed in a rush, so was unsure whether I'd be able to build a set from what was in there.  Worst case scenario I could end up playing to an empty tent, and if that happens, just suck it up.

When I got to the big barn, the DJ was blasting out classics from the Doors, Stooges, and Talking Heads, and the crowd were hopping!  This would be a tough act to follow, and there was no way I'd be able to keep that energy going.  After some finagling to get the turntables set up, I kicked off with some vehrrry mellow dub reggae.  After moving in to funk and soul gems, I noticed something weird about the crowd.  They weren't leaving, in fact they were staying, dancing, and enjoying themselves all at the same time.  I made a move into latin jams and cumbias to turn up the heat, and things really started popping.  From there it made sense to go into afro bangers and disco silliness and keep things moving along.  Someone had asked me earlier if I had any Pointer Sisters, and I said yes but it's a Sesame Street record and will mess with people's heads if I play it. "C is for Cookie" is an absolute weapon of a track with beautiful female backing vocals, proper disco strings, heavy drums, and Cookie Monster doing lead vocals.  As with all great weapons, it comes with great responsibility, and has to be deployed with expert judgement and sensitivity.  These are all characteristics that I'm fairly certain I don't have, but if there ever was a time to give cookies to the masses, this was it!  It had the desired effect, and after playing some more novelty disco records, I took things down a notch by  venturing into boogie territory.  If there was a standout moment from that set, it was Vicki Sue Robinson's "Hot Summer Night".  The steady groove and constant vocal references to dancing on a hot summer night resonated with the crowd, making for a beautiful mental snapshot that I cannot find the necessary words to do it justice.  Shortly afterwards I handed the headphones over to Whippy, and headed out to get a coffee and some headspace.

After getting a coffee, I hung around outside the Big Barn and soaked up Whippy's set.  Seeing him and his magical ice-cream van for the first time in Galway market ten years ago had a major impact on me.  Since then he has been a mentor, friend, and occasional co-conspirator.  A real highlight of his set was a version excursion based around James Brown's "Paid the cost to be the boss" which went down really well with the crowd.  Lots of Afro jams and plenty of funk, soul, and hip-hop workouts later, I felt the cool night air creep in so ventured back inside to get my bobble hat from my record bag. "Do you fancy going one on one for a while".  The bulk of my scorchers had already been played, and Whippy had waaay more records with him than I did, but shur why not?  "Sure, but I play to win, bitch!"  The one on one session was a lot of fun, initially there were very obvious instances of us trying to outdo one another, but as it went on our main concern was to keep the dancefloor heaving.  It was like playing a game of scrabble as although I could plan my next move, that plan could quickly be scuppered by whatever he played.  It was really intense, in the best possible way, as we both kept fishing out the bangers to keep the dancers, and each other on our toes.  All good things had to come to an end, and the power went in the tent.  This was fortunate as I had only about five unplayed records left in my bag.  When the power came back on, Whippy took over the controls, and once again I headed off for coffee and headspace.


I woke up late and it had been raining all night.  My records were over in Body Holidays, and I had aches and pains all over from the previous nights DJing and dancing.  My original plan was to hang around until four or so, and then head away on down to Cork.  Sunday Times were closing out the Wonderlust Stage that night, but hanging around a music festival on a rainy Sunday, tired, sore, and sober can only be so much fun.  It was now two o'clock, so if I was to walk in get my records, then head back to the van, I could be on the way home by three.  So after a trudge through the sludge, slinging a heavy record bag onto my already aching shoulders, and trudging back through sludgier sludge, I was ready to hit the road.  The key turned, the engine roared into life, and the backwheels spun about in the mud as I sat in the one spot.  I repositioned my cargo so that the paving slabs and record bags were over the back axle which would hopefully help gain some traction.  This made no difference at all, so I headed up and found three lads who were getting ready to leave to see if they'd give me a push.  They gave me a push, but it made no difference.  We even tried putting the paving slabs just under the tyres and tried to get the van up on top of them for more traction, but nada.  I thanked them for their help and went back to pondering.  There was a crew Hilux parked up next to the portacabin, so I went up and asked if they'd give me a tow out of the hole, but it was being used for another job.  There'd be tractors coming along at some point and they'd pull me out.  So I went back to my van and sat there waiting for the cavalry of tractors that would come over the horizon at any moment.  It was then that I saw a Land Rover Defender at the other side of the field, and its owner was getting something out of the back.

Walking over with my fingers crossed that (a) he'd have a tow rope, (b) he'd be willing to help, and (c) that he wasn't too fucked up to do such.  With all three boxes ticked, he drove over to me and hooked the tow sling to the eye on the front of my van, with the other end going around his hitch.  He fired up the engine, eased forward, and ping, the hook snapped off the sling!  All was not lost as the sling was still intact.  So he reversed back to me, then doubled and tripled the sling over to join our two vehicles together.  We got into our respective drivers seats, he started moving forward, and I was following behind him.  Success!!!  The tripled over sling was not only sufficiently strong, it was also alarmingly short.  The front of my van was less than a foot away from his tow hitch, meaning that if he braked suddenly, poor Greta's face would be properly smashed in.  He stuck his arm out the window to signal he was about to stop, and Greta's face lived to tell the tale. We undid the sling, and I went to drive off, only to find more wheely muddy spinny fun.  This time I wasn't down in a hollow, and a group of bystanding lads with cans started pushing me to get me going.  Once I got moving, I resisted the urge to get out of the van and thank them all individually, but just kept going and going and going until I was far beyond Body and Soul, fields and mud.

Thanks to:  Mr. Whippy, Toby and Jess Hatchett (and all the Body Holidays crew), my boss for giving me time off work at no notice, the friendly dread that owned the Defender, and Jason Looney for the bail out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Being a good person.

Being a good person is not easy.  Being uncaring and forgetful might seem more convenient, but when one is a good person, consideration of the wants and needs of others is a mandatory life sentence and it proves to be harder than it seems.  The hardest part of being good, is that one's virtuousness is rarely appreciated.  It is either taken for granted and good people find themselves constantly getting called upon to do favours for others, or the virtuous person is perceived as being an interfering busy body who should really just tend to their own affairs.  But that's the best thing about good people, they are always good people, regardless of how others treat or view them.  Recently it was my neighbour's birthday, and even though I had no money to buy her a present, I thought it would be good to do something nice for her.  After all, that is what good people do for their nice neighbours.

She likes to get her hair done, but her current employment situation sadly means that she can't get it done as often as she'd like.  Fortunately for her I happen to own a comb and scissors.  I have no experience in cutting hair, but as I've had so many bad haircuts over the years, I had a fair idea of what not to do.  So using the best clip art the internet has to offer, I put together a special gift coupon for her and slipped it under her door.  Not only was it thoughtful and custom made, it was also waaay cheaper than buying a card.  And as I don't own a colour printer, being in black and white would give it instant classy tastefulness.  Good work!

A few days passed and she still hadn't taken me up on my offer.  After re-examining my handiwork, I realised that there was no way she could tell it was from me; any creepy weirdo could have slipped it under her door.  So to set her mind at ease I texted her saying: "Hey, how are you getting on, when are you coming round to get your hair done?"  Quite a while later she replied: "Thanks very much for your kind offer, but I'd rather not trouble you.  Hope you're keeping well."  I instantly got back to her with: "It's no trouble at all, this is what neighbours do for each other, right? ;P."  There was no reply to this, so I'm guessing that she underestimates my kindness, as well as my willingness to make tea and sweep up the cuttings afterwards.  It looks like the mountain will have to call round and cut Mohammad's hair.

It would be crass to turn up on someone's doorstep brandishing a scissors trying to foist a haircut upon them.  Being the good neighbour that I am, she gave me a spare key, should she ever find herself locked out.  This would really give my thoughtful present the edge it needs, the element of surprise!  Things didn't go as smoothly as I had planned.  Sure I got in to her flat, and then into her bedroom without waking her, but it wasn't long before it came apparent why hairdressers don't work on clients while they are lying down in the dark.  Holding my phone in my mouth as a hands-free illumination device, I did the best I could with the hair that was easy to get at, but when I tried to gently pry out the hair that was being slept on, she awoke suddenly and started flailing and screaming.  I wanted to calm her down, to explain exactly what was going on and why she was overreacting, that if she would just let me finish everything would be alright, but that would mean dropping my phone and I've cracked more screens that way.

So her haircut remains unfinished like the symphony it is and she asked me to return her spare key.  My landlord just texted saying he's on his way over as he wants talk to me.  I have no idea what this could be about, it's probably because he recognises what a good person I am that he feels he can talk to me about anything.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Enemy waters.

At some point in the last year I crossed the line from swimming for exercise to training.  It is impossible to pinpoint the exact moment when this happened, but it was set in motion when the Sandycove swimmers handed my ass to me this time last year.  It was a rude awakening that showed me that I was not the swimmer I thought I was, and that I really needed to up my game.  Before such a thing could happen, I'd have to find a scapegoat.  Fortunately for me, my afternoon swims in the Mardyke were always marred by slower swimmers getting into the lane with me and interrupting my session.  While a swimmer of my calibre is perfectly entitled to tell them to get the eff out of the fast lane and over to the medium lane where they belong, my good breeding and impeccable lane etiquette forbids me from doing such.  So even though it was all their fault, I would still have to change things up if I wanted to get ahead.  From what I'd heard, the only people who used the pool in the early morning sessions were the UCC swim team.  As it was summer holidays for the students, it would mean that I'd have the fast lane to myself if I came in for the early morning session.

Which I did, save for the half dozen or so triathletes who were bombing up and down the lane so hard that the water was boiling.  In an interesting twist of fate, I was suddenly the slow one in the fast lane.  This was offset by my excellent lane etiquette, but my session was every bit as stoppy starty as when I was trying to work around the slowies in the afternoon swims.  After a few sessions of trying to do my own thing and failing miserably, I realised there was no other option but to fall in behind them and try to keep up.  I had a few fears around this:  Would I be able to keep up?  Would I ever be accepted into their group as an equal?  Would chasing a stranger's toes for lengths on end lead to me developing a foot fetish?  Fearing rejection, I sneakily fell in at the back of the group and did my best to keep up.  Halfway through the set I was exhausted and crapped out.

The next session saw me crapping out after two thirds of the set which was a definite sign of progress, and I noticed that my shorts were creating a lot of drag, especially at the turns.  While this was a valid excuse as to why I was getting pantsed in the pool, shopping for Speedos was next on the agenda.  A remarkable invention, not only does it create a minimal amount of drag in the water, but it also has the unique ability to maintain one's decency while simultaneously removing one's dignity.  There are two key requirements to making them look good: having a male model physique and being hung, two boxes which remain unchecked in my case.  Cashing in my remaining dignity paid off as the next morning I managed to finish the set.  The set also managed to finish me, so when everyone else was doing a few hundred metres cool down, I was so wrecked that had I barely enough energy to pour myself out of the pool and lollop off to the changing area.  Progress!

So I decided I'd keep turning up until someone asked me not to, and as practice and persistence pay off, I kept getting better.  Not only that, but as two of the better swimmers in the group emigrated to Canada, and another could not train during the school year, the standard had dropped considerably.  What a stroke of luck, I was becoming a better swimmer in a worsening training pod!  Even though it was an informal session, it was still all about training - less talky-talky, more swimmy-swimmy, and one woman had taken it upon herself to keep things running like clockwork.  Not only could she dictate the set to a large group of swimmers without caring if she came across as bossy or controlling, she was also pretty damn fast.  Usually good swimmers can be spotted, as often the faster ones are taller than your average bear, with impressive shoulder-chest-waist ratios in the men and unusually square shoulders in the women.  She was on the shorter side of average height, with nothing impressive or unusual about her shoulders, just a lean, sinewy physique coupled with a lot of drive and speed.  Her tumbleturns showed that she was a runner who had gotten into triathlons rather than a swimmer, but she was still kicking seven shades of chlorine out of me.  Her drive, stamina, and overall steeliness made me question as to whether she was actually human and not some sort of triathlon terminator.

Persistence pays off, and using the Boss (as she is affectionately known) as a marker, I noticed that I was catching up bit by bit, and by December I was on a par with her.  Success!  As I was sick over Christmas, I missed out on a week of training and eating, and as a result lost some weight and tone over the holiday period.  This meant that on my first day back in January I felt the unwelcome wobble of bingo wing as I overarmed my way up and down the pool.  Christmas seemed to take its toll on the Boss too, as she had a few extra curves that weren't there previously.  I put this down to over indulging herself on turkey over the festive season - with its high protein to fat ratio, what serious athlete wouldn't?  Admittedly, it suited her and humanised her considerably.  Even though I was weaker and flabbier than I had been in December, I was still holding up well against her, so I took a bit of comfort from that.

After a couple of weeks training I started to firm up again, but in spite of keeping the same training schedule as me and doing the same sets, the Boss kept her turkey curves and was starting to fall behind me.  More and more often I was leading the sets, which was impressive progress considering I had started training with them six months ago.  Perhaps it's time to get a killer whale tattooed onto my back so that everyone will know that I'm the apex predator of this lane?  As the mornings got brighter the Boss was getting noticeably bumpier.  Christmas dinner was a distant memory and it was becoming apparent that there was a little boss on the way.  As it turns out, I only started catching up with her when she got pregnant, and any perceived progress on my part was her body slowing down to support the new life inside her.  So in my eyes, she was no longer a triathlon terminator, but human after all. 

This didn't last.  She has a job that requires a certain amount of travel, and these were the only times she'd miss training.  Getting flown around was out of the question for a woman in her condition, so over the course of her pregnancy she didn't miss a single session.  This meant that someone who couldn't walk up more than one flight of stairs without assistance was nailing three kilometres in the pool, three mornings a week.  One of her more recent checkups revealed higher levels of red blood cells, which meant that her plans of breeding a champion marathon runner were coming together nicely.  On Monday of last week she gave birth, having been training in the pool on the previous Friday.  From what I hear, mother and daughter are doing well, and nobody has any idea when she'll be back in the fast lane.  Until then I have my own things to take care of, first on the agenda is to find a decent therapist who will help me shake off this newly acquired foot fetish of mine.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bloggy O'Soul


Last Wednesday I decided that I wanted to go to the Body and Soul Festival that was on that weekend.  As I had no money and no ticket, deciding that I wanted to go was the best I could do.  I had enough money in the credit union to cover the cost of diesel to drive up and back.  After that I'd be stuck up in the midlands with no ticket, no money, and just enough diesel to drive back home again.  Also my rent was due, and I didn't even have enough money to cover that.  So maybe it would be a good idea to try to shneak into the festival and dodge my landlord for the weekend.  As a millennial, this means I have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and an underdeveloped work ethic, so it would appear that someone owes me a free ride to Body and Soul.  I scrolled down through my phone book, skipping over all the invaluable music industry contacts I have built up over the years, and instead texted my eldest brother who works in an off-license in the barren wastelands of North Tipperary.  At some point on Thursday, weekend tickets sold out, so any chance of getting a spare off someone at discount or face value was going to be impossible.  Then at quarter past four on Friday evening my big brother phoned me to say that he had gotten two tickets from the Bulmer's rep, all I had to do was drive up and collect them at the gate.  Finally, all my hard work had paid off!


I would be staying in a friend's place just outside Mullingar, so camping or trying to sleep on a deflating mattress in the back of my van was out of the question.  He was currently in South Africa, but his landlady would be able to let me in.  So after some hurried shopping (four litres of bottled water, three rolls of camera film, and two packets of fig rolls) and an even more hurried packing, I pointed Greta in the direction of Dublin and sped off up the motorway.  She still overheated when been driven hard over long distances, and while jacking up the heating still kept the engine cool, the current heat wave meant that it felt like I was driving an oven.  So shortly after the toll booth on the M8, I pulled over to the hard shoulder and took off my trousers.  Extra special prayers to the almighty were put out that I wouldn't need to stop and ask for directions at any point, or that I wouldn't get pulled over by the Gardaí for any reason ("Could you show us your license and PLEASE keep your hands where we can see them").  The good news is that neither of these things happened, but the bad news is that driving sans pants is so bloody comfortable that I may never go back.  This could earn me a very interesting reputation when I start work placement in a school in September.

So I pulled up at the cottage outside Mullingar, whipped on my jeans, and stumbled out of the van fumbling with my belt and flies as the landlady came out to greet me.  She kept stables and explained that she was only just back herself, having been at the vet to pick up enough semen to cover a mare.  I know very little about horses, so to me it sounded like the mother and father of all money shots and not another term for AI.  So after a grand mug of tae and quick trip to the jacks, I was back in the van and heading to the festival.  There is a bizarre law of the lever logic with these excursions, as that I get closer to the destination (or fulcrum), the more effort is required on my part.  Initially this was apparent as I got to the last few miles leading up to Ballinlough Castle, whereby the magical combination of festival traffic, silage tractors, and cyclists on a narrow winding Westmeath road had brought things to a standstill.  The next bit was going to be even more tedious and problematic.  I had to pick up two tickets that were not in my name, nor were they in my brother's name (who at least shares my surname), but in an envelope marked Rob Bennett.  I have no idea who he is, I'm sure he's quite nice and all, but if problems should arise, I was to ring Edmund Flavin who would be able to sort all of this out.

As I quite accurately predicted, this did not go smoothly.  "I'm here to pick up two tickets, they are in the Bulmer's pile in an envelope marked Rob Bennett."  (Shuffles through a stack of envelopes for a minute or two) "Ah yeah, here it is, could I see some photo ID?  (Takes my passport)  You're not Rob Bennett?  I can't give these to you to you so."  "Well you see they were put aside for my brother, and I'm here to pick them up.  I was told to call Edmund Flavin if there was any problem."  "Who's Edmund Flavin?"  "I have no clue, but I have his number here, so let's see what he has to say."  So I got him on the phone, and after explaining to him that I was me and not my brother, I handed my mobile over to the man in the box office and watched him talk and talk and talk, while I stood there holding my breath with my fingers and toes crossed.  He handed the phone back to me just before my eyeballs burst out of their sockets.  "That's grand, just give me fifty euro and the tickets are yours."  I thought I was getting comps, so even though they were waaaay cheaper than what the plebs were paying for them, it was still beyond my budget.  He explained that there was some sort of charity tie in, that the money would be donated, and that the minimum donation per ticket was twenty five euro.  This would not be a good time to explain that I had no money and that my plan for the weekend was to use one ticket to get in, and then sell the other one so that I'd have walking around money.  As it was now sold out I could even have sold it at a sufficiently inflated price so that I could cover the rent that was due in Cork.  I explained that I only had twenty euro on me (the reality was that I only had twenty euro, but at a push I could have siphoned thirty euros worth of diesel out of my van).  He took the twenty euro and handed me the tickets.  "Will I come back to you with the remaining thirty?"  "You're grand, enjoy the weekend!"  So without further delay, I sold on the spare at the very fair price of one twenty, got my wristband, and I was in.

After having such a lovely jaunt at Electric Picnic on my own, this would be no different.  Anyone who has ever been to a music festival with a group of friends knows how torturous it is to get about, as a mini committee meeting is needed every step of the way.  "I want to go to the main stage", "I need a piss", "I want a burger", "I want a beer", "I need to get something from the campsite", "Hey look chairplanes, let's go on the chairplanes" and so on, and so on, ad nauseam.  Fortunately, as the world's most personable misanthrope I have a habit of bumping into someone I know every fifty yards or so, so loneliness would not be an issue.  My trusty companion for the festival would be my Minolta slr, and I was so intent on taking photos that I even brought along a bounce flash to show that I meant business.  So much so, that I'd barely gotten a few hearty strides inside the perimeter when an attractive girl ran towards me asking if I'd take her picture.  "Sure," I said and she waved her boyfriend over and struck a pose with him.  (Click/Flash.)  (Excitedly)"So what's it going to be in?"  "The shoebox in my flat where I keep my photos, why do you ask?"  As the realisation dawned on her that I was not an actual photographer who will catapult her to some level of fame, and just some guy fluting about with a camera, I wasn't sure whether to feel sorry for her or be slightly tickled that she was the victim of her own vanity.  The good news for her is that I have since acquired a scanner, so now she has some level of fame amongst the ten or so people that read this blog.

Again, there would be no gameplan, there was no one that I really wanted to see over the weekend, which meant lots of faffing about while drinking tea, which is not too far removed from what I normally do.  After a good hearty faff, I went in to Midnight Circus to check out Shane Linehan's set.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that we're friends, but we are well acquainted.  A few years back I designed a few posters for him, and once when I lost my car keys he had a guy who could jimmy the door, break the steering lock, and hot wire the ignition ready to come round within minutes (fortunately I managed to find the keys).  When I bumped into him outside South Infirmary in 2011, he said he had been messing around on Ableton for a few months and finally had made a track he was willing to self release on vinyl.  Not to be outdone in terms of ambitions, I revealed that someday I hoped to get my act together sufficiently and buy a van.  For all our crazy talk back then, Shane is now a record label boss and one of the more respected producers and DJs on the scene today, while I have my own van.  His set wasn't too deep with just the right amount of dirt, and it was a sheer joy to see someone I know rocking a big system at a festival.  My knowledge of house is fairly limited, but I did recognise a few of the tracks as I'd been listening to his mixes in the gym these last few months.  Unfortunately the day had been long and my body was tired, so I had to clock out early and leave his set behind.

All that was left to do was wander back to the car park, hop in my van, and drive back to Mullingar to kip down for the night.  I remembered walking through the campsite on the way in, so it would simply be a matter of following the line of tents and I'd find myself back at the main entrance.  I figured there can't be too many tents at a music festival, so there would be no chance of getting lost.  After half an hour of this, I thought it wise to go back the way I came and find a steward or someone who could point me in the right direction.  It was easily an hour later before I was back in my van.  Friday is done.


I got up late enough and had a decent feed of porridge and scrambled eggs for breakfast.  To get myself suitably intoxicated for the day ahead, I jogged out to Lough Ennell, then stood there for about 10-15 minutes with my hands on my hips panting loudly as I gazed upon the lake.  I gave it extra welly on the way back, hoping to build up sufficient runner's high for the rest of the day.  After a shower and a shave, I headed in to town to pick up a few bits and take a few snaps of the Joe Dolan statue.

It was only when I finished snapping (several pictures were taken from all angles, what you see above is the best of the best) that I noticed the ice-cream shop across the street, and how his right hand is just begging for a cone.  Unfortunately by the time I got served, the sun had gone in, and taking a picture of a statue holding an ice-cream cone while it's overcast makes no sense whatsoever.  So I was left with no other option than to eat it myself while tooling around town with my camera, before hopping into Greta and heading over to the festival.

One of the painful lessons from the Picnic was that festival tea is muck.  To get over this I brought in forty bags of Barry's Gold Blend with me so that no matter how deranged, depraved, or dehydrated I might get, I wouldn't have to resort to sub par tea.  Most of the vendors thought it strange ("You brought your own teabags to a music festival?!?!?"), but humoured me and only charged a token price for the hot water, milk, and cup.  To make sure I wasn't completely mad, I went to the one group of people who would definitely understand.  When I asked the girls at the Rebel Burger Company if they had Barry's Tea the response was "What d'ya expect, we're from Cork like!"  When I showed them my precautionary stash, it was met with nods of approval.  "First rule of travel: If you're going somewhere foreign, always bring Barry's Tea."  One of them then launched into a story about how a cousin of hers accidentally drank Bewley's at Electric Picnic and had to be rushed to hospital to get his stomach pumped.  At this point another one broke down into tears as a close relative of hers had a similar experience but wasn't so fortunate.

Back in 2011, I played at the festival.  It was a major coup at the time, but the real victory is getting called back to play again the following year, which didn't happen.  So I have gone down the slippery slope of being a DJ with festival experience, to being like that uncle who was in a band once.  Since it was looking unlikely that I would ever be asked to play at a major festival ever again, it was necessary that I take matters into my own hands.  So not only did I have a hefty stash of Barry's Gold Blend in my pocket, I also had a Sesame Street record player and a bunch of 45s in my backpack.  So when the time was right, I sat down in a quiet(-ish) spot in the Walled Garden and started playing.  My set lasted about an hour, there were considerable gaps between each of the songs, but I did manage to gather a small crowd, all of whom swore their lives had changed for the better as a result.  So when anyone asks if I DJed at any festivals this summer, I will nonchalantly reply how I did an intimate set of seven inches in the Walled Garden at Body and Soul.  It was really nice, so chilled, shame you missed it.

After I brought my records and player back to the van, I spent some time trying on different hoody and sports coat combinations until I finally found one that made it look like I didn't put too much effort into my look.  I then bumped into Ollie, an old buddy from college that I hadn't seen or spoke to in a good ten years.  Once upon a time we used to get tonicked up, turn off the lights, and play The Prodigy's "Electronic Punks" video from beginning to end several times over the course of a night, busting out the most bucked out shapes imaginable (it was our way of acknowledging that Leeroy Thornhill was the king of Prodigy dancing).  Many key anthropologists now believe that those VHS get downs we had in Corrib Village were the original precursor to the Youtube parties of today.  Even though it was the same video every time, which had to be rewound (and rewound, and rewound), the absence of ads or laggy connection meant that it was also vastly superior.  It was really nice to catch up with him, and when we went for pizza at the Big Blue Bus, a conglomerate of my favourite Cork DJs (only two of whom are actually from Cork) were lashing out the tunes.  It was one of those weirdly sentimental moments with the sun low in the sky, eating festival standard pizza and having the craic with a friend from the ever more distant past, with present day friends providing the sound track and shenanigans, while all sorts of everyone on all sorts of everything flowed around us.  Every now and then when one of my favourite tracks dropped I just got up and gave it socks with reckless abandon, and then seamlessly sat back down to pizza and chats and whatnot with Ollie.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Cawley
Later on in the night, I was wandering past Radioshack and was drawn in by Al Wilson's "The Snake" and was obliged by the immutable laws of the universe to pull out my best Northern Soul moves.  At the best of times, proper Northern Soul dancing requires a tight combination of well practised moves, athleticism, and amphetamines.  At that moment in time I had none of the above, was fairly knackered, and was wearing hiking boots.  Still, the immutable laws of the universe are there for a reason, and while it was not going to be pretty or well executed, it had to happen.  My energetic, spirited, and well-meaning moves lasted for about three songs, after which I was utterly crapped out but felt strangely liberated.  My mother always assured me that I was a great dancer, so I'm certain I was hardly the honkiest mofo on the dance flo'.  So if anyone out there has video footage of me and my moves that night, please feel free to keep it to yourself.  I then did a few more hours of meandering around the festival before deciding to call it a night.


I got up early on Sunday with the plan of touching in with some friends down by the Chakra teepees.  While everyone was having a good time overall, complaints about poor nights sleep, not having access to a proper jacks ("I haven't had a proper shit in three days", quote of the festival and best chat up line I've heard to date), and all the usual stuff that's part and parcel of a weekend like this.  Then everyone looked at me and said: "It must be alright for you, having the van to sleep in and all?"  I said it was, but what was even alrighter was having a flat to stay in for the weekend.  Porridge and scrambled eggs for breakfast, as well as having a proper shower and shave before I got in that morning really took the edge of things.  When their glowers started burning my skin, I hastily and tastefully started backpedaling.  "I say that I had a shower, but to be honest the water pressure wasn't THAT great".  Their glowering persisted so I shut up.

The light was good so I wandered off, shooting as many snaps as I could.  Local heroes "Sunday Times!" were playing at the Jook Joint at three, so I had a nice bit of time to go around supping tae and befuddling vendors until then.  The lads started off their set with some nice simmering jazz, and I found myself curling up on the grass and having a semi conscious doze as it washed over me.  As it worked its way up to midtempo house and boogie I came to, and sat up to find that I had gotten a wee bit sunburnt while I slept.  Hurrah, a proper festival credential!  As much as I was enjoying their set, I had it in my head that I wouldn't be staying much longer, and so went off for one last walk with my camera.  It had been a good festival experience and I didn't want to tear the arse out of it by staying too late, but still didn't want to leave too early for fear of missing something.

Once again, it was Radioshack that lured me in.  I could hear some wonderful Brazilian piano track winding its way out so I had to stop by for a listen.  A woman, probably about ten years older than me, was behind the decks, and she just kept racking up more and more beautiful music.  There was a good half hour of piano based Latin American grooves, before she worked her way into afrobeat, and then into soul, funk, and dub reggae.  There was nothing fancy about her mixing: no sharp cuts or complicated blends, but every segue was a perfect mini masterpiece, and all of her selections were seriously spot on.  I sat there transfixed for ages, occasionally breaking down into tears of joy at the sheer beauty of it all.  Al Wilson's "The Snake" popped its head up again, but I spared the world my moves this time.  When she finished up I thanked her for the set, told her that she made my weekend, and started heading towards the main entrance.  Now there was nothing left for me to do but get back to my van, drive to Cork, and hide from my landlord like it's an Olympic sport!

Huge thanks to my brother Ian O'Brien, Bulmers, Greta Greenbus, Claire Moloney, Gavin, Tanya, Kevin, and all the other pure sound folk that I spent time with that weekend.  It was wonderful!

(The rest of my photos can be seen here)

Monday, April 14, 2014

The educational adventures of ...

After spending a few months moping about having no job, no money, and no prospects for the future, I got an unexpected e-mail that threatened to change all that.  In their infinite wisdom, UCC decided to offer me a place on the Professional Masters of Education programme.  What this means is that I'll be doing Secondary School Teacher Training.  I never thought of any of my old teachers as being Professional Masters of Education, but then again, they qualified under the old system which was the H-Dip (the new PME is like the Dip on steroids, or maybe just the Dip with jumped up notions about itself).  So if everything goes well, in two years time I could be an actual grown-up with an actual qualification looking for an actual job, which is easily the most outlandish statement I have made to date.

I always thought I would make a good teacher.  This was because I was focusing on the three Cs of  corduroy, crosswords, and cups of tea while ignoring the teaching part.  One conversation with a former teacher revealed that eighty per cent of classroom time was dedicated to discipline, and she seemed to imply that the other twenty per cent was devoted to education without any mention of the three Cs.  What can I do if the students don't respect me?  One thing that I have learned from my life experience (and the father in Everybody Hates Chris), is that people will either respect you or they won't, that it has to be earned, and that if someone chooses not to respect you, then there is little you can do to change that.  A sobering thought for anyone about to face a room full of adolescents who will make it their mission to bring you to the point of mental breakdown.

Fortunately, while there is the priceless firsthand education that one gets from life itself, there is also the more dispensable and often pointless education that one gets as part of an Arts degree.  If there is one thing I have learned from Psychological Studies (the poor man's psychology), it is that fear is more easily instilled in groups of people than respect is cultivated.  The Christian Brothers favoured the classical conditioning approach of finding the mouthiest student on day one of first year, and beat him to within an inch of his life.  They would then sit back and enjoy the silence from there on in, and would only beat the students for their own amusement.  As corporal punishment is now considered physical abuse and has been outlawed, other methodologies will have to be employed to reach the desired outcome.

So the plan is to generate a decent backstory.  No one in their right mind would respect or fear an out of work DJ with no marketable skills who has resorted to teaching.  As I'm now in my thirties, it is reasonably plausible that I was doing something else for my twenties, when in fact I was doing nothing.  As I'm tall, freckled, and a bit of a culchie, it wouldn't be beyond belief that I was once a Garda.  Right now you're thinking "Ha!  Young people don't respect the Gardaí, especially not the failed kind who become teachers!"  Picture this: What about a solid police officer, who one day discovers that his partner (and best friend) is corrupt and had been taking bribes from a local drugs kingpin, causing an argument and fight to break out resulting in his partner's death?  The ensuing grief, guilt, and general disgust had left me so disillusioned that I handed in my badge in an effort to distance myself from my troubled past.  That would posit me perfectly as being essentially a good guy, but also capable of killing a man with my bare hands.  That could work.  Why not take the story up a level and have me as the corrupt one who was taking bribes, and then killing my partner when he threatened to rat me out.  Everyone knew it was me, but insufficient evidence meant that they couldn't make a case, just hand in your badge and nothing more will be said.  Essentially corrupt, amoral, and capable of killing a man with the assistance of some mob goons.  That could work even better.

Anyway, I won't have to worry about that for the time being.  Right now there are more pressing issues, like finishing today's crossword and then hitting up the charity shops to see what corduroy wonders they have to offer me.  There might even be a teacher-tastic geansaí or two waiting for me out there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Want anecdotes, will travel.

I get a lot of complaints about this blog, mainly about my use of certain language that others deem offensive and unnecessary.  The most common complaint about the blog is that there is not enough of it, the posts are too few and far between.  The problem here is that there needs to be something to blog about, some sort of story or anecdote, and mine is quite an unremarkable life.  I did the whole 'blogging about having nothing to blog about' routine twice, so that means that I can't use that old chestnut again (for at least another six months).  As much fun as it would be to go meta and start blogging about blogging (and then go Inception and be 'blogging about blogging about blogging about ...' ), it would be far too self-indulgent and be the literary equivalent of wanking myself off to the smell of my own farts.  A few months back I accepted an invitation for lunch in a convent, hoping that it would spark off a wacky adventure, or at least an amusing anecdote that would be eminently blogworthy.  Unfortunately all the nuns were incredibly nice elderly ladies, and I ended up having an animated conversation about the music of Ennio Morricone with one of them.  As a mark of respect to them as people and as a token of my gratitude for feeding me, I vowed not to make any mention of that Monday lunchtime on this blog.

Last week a friend asked if I'd be willing to drive my van over to England to pick up a record collection that was for sale, but had to be collected before the end of the week.  This would mean driving from Cork to Wexford, a few hours on a ferry, then driving from Wales to Hastings (the south east of England, almost France) and then all the way back again in the space of twenty four hours.  He'd cover all costs, give me a few euro (as well as a few records) for my troubles, and on top of that he said it would probably make for an interesting adventure to blog about.  I said: "YEAH, LET'S DO THIS!!!" (it was every bit as enthusiastic as that), but when we sat down to do the sums it turned out that the trip was not financially viable and would have to be scrapped.  Just as I was resigning myself to a future devoid of amateur courier antics and anecdotes, I got a phone call from a production company who were shooting a horror film in Cork and needed some props brought down from their workshop in Dublin.  When I asked what sort of props, the reply was a load of dismembered mannequin parts.  If driving to Dublin to fill my van with a load of fucked up shop window dummies is not the makings of a fine anecdote, I don't know what is!

The deal was that I had to be in Dublin city centre for nine in the morning, so I had to get up at four to get my porridge and scrambled eggs into me and be on the road at five.  As I was going to be sitting in my van for hours on end, there would be no need for a jacket, and if all went well I could be back home by lunchtime and in the gym in the early afternoon.  I sped off into the foggy darkness with the heating up and the radio on, and at around half six all the lights on my dashboard lit up at once.  This is never a good sign, but if they flashed on and off in a discodelic sequence it would probably be a bit more pleasing.  I pulled into the hard shoulder, popped the bonnet, and used the flashlight on my phone to see if anything was amiss.  As I'm not a mechanic, the only diagnostic test I could run was to see whether or not the engine was still there (which it was).  So I hopped back into the driver's seat and turned the key to hear a repeated clicking noise that sounds absolutely nothing like an engine roaring into life.  I tried this a few more times and then the dash lights started flashing on and off in a discodelic sequence, which was almost as good as having a fully working van.

So I called my insurance helpline for breakdown assitance, and when they asked me where I was, the best I could come up with was in the dark and fog, about halfway between Cork and Dublin.  I then called the film production crew and told them that I hope that they and their mannequins burn in hell for all eternity (fortunately for them I don't believe in an afterlife, so I didn't mean a word of that).  So after about two hours of sitting in an increasingly cold van, the tow truck showed up and towed me to Cashel (it turns out I was up beyond Thurles, so had made pretty good time up till the point the van crapped out).  The nice tow truck man said that it was probably a mechanical fault, that it looked pretty serious, and that I might want to consider saying my goodbyes and digging a sizable hole for my two ton friend's final resting place.  He said they'd run a few more tests when we got back to the garage (checking under the bonnet again to make doubly sure that the engine was still there) and that they'd call me when they had an answer.

As stated previously, I have a belief that there is some sort of governing force in the universe that is shunting everything about in a seemingly random manner, but is really indicative of a grand design.  So, why does the universe want me to be in Cashel of all places on a foggy Thursday morning?  Having boarded at a nearby secondary school, there is every possibility that I will bump into one of the attractive girls who was in my class (but way out of my league), who will admit to having always fancied me but was too shy to make an approach.  Who knows, maybe it will be a case of she didn't fancy me then, but it has not escaped her attention that I have grown more handsome with every passing year (note: it has been thirteen years since we sat the leaving) and that she now realises how much she has to have me.  Hopefully she won't ask what I do for a living (out of work funk dj, it's a step below out of work actor on the food chain) or the reason I happen to be in Cashel that day (my clapped out pikey wagon was rescued by the paramedics earlier that morning and they are now trying to resuscitate it - hardly the greatest line for wooing a lady).  The best way to allow this to happen would be to get a newspaper, and sit in a cafe with a pot of tea doing the crossword while I let the universe work its magic.  The universe got interrupted about halfway through my tea and crossword, as the garage phoned me saying to come over as they had some news about my van.

The problem was neither mechanical nor serious, but electrical and ought to be an easy fix.  I can't remember the exact wording, but it was along the lines of the alternator was the main cause of it, and that he had done the equivalent of putting a plaster on the wound so that I could drive back to Cork and get it seen to by a dedicated auto electrical type.  After doing a wee bit of research online, I decided against using the guys who were highly recommended but way over in Mayfield, as after dropping off the van I'd have to walk all the way home again, and then trek over at a later stage to pick it up after it had been repaired.  Instead, I'd make the smart move and just bring it to whoever was closest to me.  I got on the phone and he said it would be first thing Tuesday morning before he could see me, but that was cool as I didn't expect to get it sorted immediately on the Thursday before Paddy's day.

A few minutes after first thing Tuesday morning, I pulled up in the disabled spot outside his premises and sat there for another ten to fifteen minutes waiting for him to turn up.  He said it was probably worn brushes, that it wasn't a big job, and it would be done by that evening.  I handed over the keys (assuming he'd pull the van into his workshop to get started on it), and then went over town to sign on.  It was after six that evening before I remembered I had a van to collect, and when I tried ringing him there was no answer.  I walked up the road to see if he was on the premises, but it was all locked up and my van was still in the disabled spot since that morning (I have a very distinctive parking style, I'd recognise it anywhere).  On closer inspection it turned out that the driver's door was unlocked and the bonnet had not been closed properly.  I had mixed feelings about this: on the one hand everything that was in the van could have been stripped out.  On the other hand, it showed that he had been working on it.  Further inspection showed a "Parking Disc Required" sign on the street, so I could be in for a world of fines for that day.  There is nothing to do now but suck it up.  Besides, the van is probably done, I'll be able to collect it first thing in the morning.

Except it wasn't done.  It was the alternator alright, but instead of it being the brushes (the most common fault and the easiest fix) it was another part (slightly less common, but not all that difficult to fix), but it should be done after lunch, call back around two o'clock.  Which then became around half four,  which in fact meant around six, which was actually about twenty to seven.  In the end (i.e. about two hours ago) I was just happy to have my van back, even if it did take longer and cost a wee bit more than planned.  Now all I have to do is sit back with a nice cup of tea, and worry about how on earth I will pay for the parking fines that come from two days of being in a disabled space without a disc.  I might even have a few figrolls while I do this.