All posts by mush

Ah so that’s what it’s called…

Myself and Seán are going to see Sigur Rós in May. They’re doing a global tour at the moment and they happen to be playing in Montréal at the end of May so we took the opportunity to grab ourselves some tickets. I’ll freely admit I am terribly fucking excited to see them. Sigur Rós are epic. Their music is phenomenal. But also super personal.

They were one of the first bands that Seán introduced me to when we first started going out. They were a significant part of the playlists I used to have on my old iPod when I went to visit Seán when he was living in Rome. And we even ended our wedding ceremony to the bombast of their uber-uplifting song “Festival”.

And then there’s the whole Icelandic thing. The magical pixie folk of the mid-atlantic volcanoland do make some stunning music but the land itself holds an almost ethereal appeal to it. I had the fortune of visiting there last September and it didn’t disappoint. Now I want to go back there with himself and take a bit more time to enjoy the place. To feel the viking charm in our bones.

So there’s a whole thing there that makes the opportunity to see Sigur Rós in all their post-rock glory extra special.

Pivot.

Post-rock though. I didn’t know that was the term to describe this kind of music until very recently. I suppose I’ve never been super knowledgeable on all the labels and titles that get slapped across different types of music. But I knows what I like when I hear it. And post-rock, as I begin to scratch its trippy surface, is something I definitely feel myself liking alot. I’ve a whole heap of  recommendations lately that I have to work my way through. Top of the list is Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a local Montréal band that can give Sigur Rós a run for their complex, interwoven dreamscapes. But there’s a heap of others too that I’m digging in to.

After binging on bluegrassy, old timey, folky wolky greats on Spotify in the last six months or so since I installed the app, it’s refreshing to add something new to the mix. I wonder what the “Discover Weekly” will throw into the bag of recommendations now (side note: I’m super impressed with Spotify’s discover algorithm – it’s been uncannily good at finding stuff that I like but didn’t know).

Anyway, I think that’ll do for now. A harmless blog post that delved into nothing political, philosophical nor controversial. So very relaxing. I’ve got a post-rock playlist to compile.

Toodles,

Mush

Hello? Is this thing on? How does this work again?

Gosh. It’s been a while. Over a year and a half. That’s…that’s…a bit of time. Sorry ’bout that. But I haven’t really felt the urge to put pen to digital paper for quite sometime.

Truthfully, it’s mostly down to fear. Fear of the introspection that writing demands. Fear of the instability that obsessive introspection can bring to the mind. So I stopped writing, for me.

I have still been writing in other ways. Work ways mostly. Manuals, training exercises, slide decks, web content. Lots of words trickling out of my brain and making their way across the wonderful wide web. In many ways a good chunk of my day to day paid for employment involves the taking of words out of my head and putting them in front of other people. And that’s kind of cool.

But it hasn’t been the personal wordsmithing I was so fond of. Cos honestly, I didn’t feel up to it. And it’s taken me a while to get my head back to a place where it is bolstered against the storminess of thought that I am, of times, prone to. I’d forgotten how cathartic this could be. I let the turmoil get the better of me I suppose.

Plus there’s all that shit that’s been going on in the world. I’ve tried to avoid being another angry voice shouting into the binary chaos. The world has plenty of angry white dudes proffering unsolicited opinions on the internet. My two cents seemed unnecessary. And still does to an extent. But I think I’m ready to come back to this writing lark.

I am going to tentatively dip a toe into the world of bloggery. Other more newsy posts may follow. Some fiction too, with any luck. Cos yeah. So here it is. A clichéd post from a wannabe writer about not writing and the excuses that go with it and how the future is definitely gonna be better. But it feels good to start again.

Later,

Mush

Travelling Light

My time in eXplorance has given me a much greater opportunity to travel than I would have had during my time in UCC. So far I’ve been to Southern Ontario (twice), Calgary in Alberta, and West Virginia. And there may be other opportunities in the coming months. The possibility of seeing more of North America while being paid to do so is an intriguing one. But of course the reality rarely lives up to the expectation.

Certainly I have seen some more of Canada than I would normally have otherwise done in a more static job. And the trip to west virginia was all kinds of cool in it’s own right. But for the most part, it’s been a slew of cookie cutter hotel rooms in a variety of different places. The opportunity to really see a place doesn’t really enter in the equations as you go from client meeting and training to the hotel room and back again. Emails need to be answered and the work at the office doesn’t stop just cos you’re not there.

This is not specifically a complaint, mind you, just an observation on the reality of travelling for work. I have no illusions that I am the first person to ever make these observations, nor will I be the last. But y’know, I felt like blogging a little bit and it’s what’s on my mind as I sit in my hotel room in Oshawa after a days training and email tag. One cool thing about this trip is that I got to drive here. Only a short 4 and a half hour trip from Montréal! It was actually nice to be behind the wheel again though. I miss Daurice. Although I do like that rental cars have things like Bluetooth connectivity for podcasts and GPS and aircon and all those lovely bells and whistles that make a long journey that much smoother.

In absolutely unrelated news, myself and Seán went to La Ronde on Saturday. La Ronde is Six Flags Montréal, quite literally. An amusement park with a whole passle of rides and attractions (and even moreso when myself and Seán were there – wahey!), it’s a fine time to be had if you’re visiting Montréal. It was Seán’s first time on proper rollercoasters and it was a blast sharing that experience with him. Thrilling and terrifying, I think it’s fair to say we both enjoyed our time there. I’ve always been a fan of roller-coaster based amusements, but the nearest amusement park to us in Cork was Alton Towers or one of the other UK based parks. Having a full amusement park within a metro ride of our home is certainly another plus for Montréal. We even managed to pick ourselves up some 2016 season passes that allow us to attend for the rest of 2015 for free. Noelette, I hope you’re not averse to roller-coasters cos La Ronde just moved to the top of the list of things to do while you’re here.

And finally, I’ve been listening to Troye Sivan quite a bit lately. He’s a young fella off the youtubes who has an interesting sound. I like it anyway. Here’s his most recent video:

As always, here’s a selection of photos from the last while as well:

https://goo.gl/photos/V3VA18r2zK5d1w259

Later,

Mush

Almost Heaven…

I was writing a post about my recent trip to West Virginia but I almost fell asleep I got so bored with what I was writing. Not that the trip was boring. But I was sanitizing it for fear of giving away confidential information and it was just a super bland piece of writing.

I’m struggling to write these days. At least, struggling to write personal stuff. For the blog or my fiction stuff. Work has been all consuming when it comes to personal creativity, sapping the mental energy I need to carve words out of 1s and 0s. Six months into the new job and I’m still finding it hard to get the balance right. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. I knew it would be a challenge, but there have been times when I’ve been close to packing it all in. I’ve got to learn to let go a bit more. But I’ve also got to learn what my limits are, which is another challenge. Being in a new job, doing work that’s a bit different to what I was doing in UCC, it’s sometimes difficult to gauge whether I’m taking on too much or not.

On the plus side, I’m liking the people I work with a lot. For the most part, it’s a nice place to work with plenty of genuine, sound people. Lots of different nationalities, lots of different languages make it hella diverse. It’s a toss up between the Chinese, the Canadians and the Bulgarians for most numerous nationality there. I’m the only Irish person there (although this being North America, there’s quite a few with Irish ancestry) and I kinda like it. When the going gets tough with the actual work, the people are what stop me from quitting.

And I don’t want to quit. I want to prove to myself that I can do this work. That I can step away from the nearly 13 years at UCC and bring something to another place, another organization. It would be nice if I could do that whilst also maintaining some semblance of a writing output. We’ll see how that pans out I suppose. In the mean time, I suppose I should head to bed.

Later,

Mush

Home Away from Home

If you walk out our front door and take a left or right, and then take the same again and follow the road down, you’ll eventually hit Boulevard LaSalle. Boulevard LaSalle is the eastern most road on this part of the island (and that’s real east Montréal folks, not made up east which is actually south or north or whatever crazy mixed up direction you’ve decided you’re going for today). It’s bounded by a long park and then the river. It all makes for a pretty sweet evening stroll around the streets and parks of Verdun, where we’re living now.

I kinda love Verdun. It’s an “up and coming area” in real estate parlance, which basically means there are parts that are a bit grotty and not everyone who lives there goes to work in the mornings. But it’s a great spot. We knew we were going to have to move eventually, only having secured a 6 month sub-let on our last place. It was fine and did the job for us when we were fresh off the boat, but it didn’t have the vibe that our little corner of Verdun has. From the minute I stepped off the metro in Verdun station I started to fall for the place. The metro station itself is a cavernous, cathedral-like vault of poured concrete that puts me in mind of nothing so much as the weird shrine to a nuclear war-head at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It’s fucking class.

The metro station is on Avenue Verdun in front of the Hotel de Ville Verdun (that’s city hall to the non-francophones), and I was meeting Seán there after work in early May to see if it was the kind of area to which we would like to move. A colleague of mine at the time, Val, was living out there and had a lot of good things to say about the place. Rents were apparently cheap and there were lots of good restaurants and shops on Rue Wellington (one block to the east – again, that’s real east people, y’know like the rest of the planet uses). But we needed to get a feel for the place ourselves. It helped arriving on one of the first really nice evenings of the late Spring. The sun was shining, people were balmed out on the grass in the park around the metro, and there were plenty of local characters milling about the place. Certainly the big bearded man in the long, lime green skirt seemed happy. As did the transient man on his bockety bicycle.

We took a stroll down towards 2E Ave and on to 4E. We took note of the “A Louer” signs as we went along, for follow up later. Sure they have craigslist and kijiji and various other websites for rental accommodation in Montréal, but most landlordsnladies seem to prefer to just stick a sign on the balcony or in the window and hope that a prospective tenant will be wandering past. And it seems to work too. Anyway, after noting a few potential gaffs, we found ourselves on Wellington and a little bit more in love with the place. It might be borderline hipster-central, but it just felt right to us. Fish and Chips shops that do craft beers. Craft beer shops that do amazing food. Ice-cream shops, Fromageries, board-game shops, boulangeries, marchés of the orient all jostle side by side on what is the chillest stretch of Montréal boulevard I’ve so far encountered.

With the river a short stroll from there, two metro stations in walking distance as well as being significantly closer to both of our places of work, we decided we’d give Verdun ago. So far, we’ve yet to regret that decision. We found a place to live on our second visit. A 3rd floor 2 bed gaff on 4E Av. Completely empty of furniture of course. Which meant we had that whole ordeal to plough through. But despite some near-death experiences lugging some serious pieces of furniture up two flights of stairs, our 2nd Montréal apartment is starting to take shape nicely. Of course, we still have another winter to look forward to but so far, we’re enjoying Verdun life.

So yeah, feel free to pop round if you’re in the neighbourhood – we can offer you a cup of Barry’s tea at the very least.

Later

Mush

Hi.

Gosh. Yeah. It’s been a while. I’m not even sure I know how to do one of these any more. How does one start a blog after several months absence? By just launching into it I suppose.

It’s pretty warm here in Montréal. Like proper nice warm. Not uber warm. Not heavy warm. Just nice warm. My phone says it’s 25 degrees. And it’s sunny out. It’s certainly hard to miss Ireland on days like today.

But I do. Miss Ireland. I miss home. It’s not a constant homesickness, but it rears its head from time to time. When work is being a particular pain in the hole. When I see snapchats from my nieces. When I think about my smallie nephews getting bigger and starting to talk. Family. Friends. All of it.

It’s not enough to draw me home just yet. I’m enjoying my time here. I’ve met new and interesting people and I’m living in one of the coolest fucking cities on the planet. Plus I’m here with the lovely Seán. What better company for a grand old adventure?

We’ll be back in Ireland on the 19th of December. Until then I’ve quite a bit to keep me busy. Two work trips to different parts of Canada. A trip to Minneapolis in October. Friends visiting. Even a 1D concert. And I’m sure there’ll be more. We’ve done so much since we got here (adventures in Vermont, starting new jobs, moving apartment, Montréal Comic-Con, seeing Michael Fassbender lead an all-star cast table read of the big lebowski, seeing Rodin exhibit, lazy weekends, drunken weekends, cycling trips around the city, furnishing an entire apartment to name a few), we’re certainly not gonna stop just now.

This post is a bit rambly, unfocussed, all over the shop. Blame the months-long hiatus. Blame my work addled brain. How about we just look at some pretty pictures instead?

Yes, No, Maybe, I Dunno, Can you repeat the Question?

So I’ve been quiet for the last while. Various reasons. The new job, the new life, the new city. The ups and downs of life. All of it has kept me away from the blog. But with the Marriage Equality referendum a little under a week away, it would be remiss of me not to say something, especially given how vocal I’ve been for Marriage Equality in the past. I’ve proudly supported the marriage equality campaign since before the referendum was but a twinkle in Enda Kenny’s eye.

To be honest, I’ve been reluctant to add too much to the noise that surround the whole thing. It’s been an exhausting campaign and I’m thousands of miles away. I can’t imagine what those who’ve put shoe leather to pavement and knocked on doors are feeling. Still, even in Montréal I’ve been able to follow the swings and roundabouts of the referendum campaign. The frustration at the tactics of the Iona Institute and it’s many shell organisations, or whatever the fuck they are, is just as palpable here. The misinformation and the scare tactics have not gone unnoticed. It still hurts to be referred to as “grotesque”, “disordered” and less than ideal. I’m sure you’ve heard it all at this stage. And the counter arguments too. It’s been hashed and rehashed repeatedly.

But do you know what? I get it. They’re scared. They’re seeing the last vestiges of the power structures that kept Ireland in hoc to the Church and the gombeen men of the last century being stripped away. And it rightfully frightens the shit out of them. Change is tough. Change is hard. And when you’re so caught up, so vested in maintaining the status quo, you’ll do anything to keep hold of the reins. I don’t blame the soft no voters either. As Panti herself pointed out in her Noble Call, it’s no surprise that a lot of people are still “a little bit homophobic”. Growing up in the Ireland that we grew up in will do that to you, and the older you are the more under the influence you’ll unfortunately have been. That there are so many of my parent’s generation who are in favour of a yes is a testament to their strength. So it’s not surprising that some people just feel a bit “ick”. Of course, just because it’s not surprising, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt still to see people wavering and dithering. To see them allowing themselves to be sucked in by the lies of the iOnanists. Whatever, it just sucks.

What doesn’t suck though, is the positivity I’ve seen from all walks of Irish life coming out in favour of a yes vote. Just yesterday we had Daniel O’Donnell joining Mary McAleese, Eamon Coughlan, Brendan O’Carroll, Bosco and countless others. For me though, the most heartening support has been from ordinary people. Straight people. For whom marriage equality will not directly impact. But they saw the right thing had to be done and didn’t stand idly by. Like my friend Rebecca who’s thrown herself into the Yes Equality Cork campaigning. Like our wedding photographer Ronan Palliser who put together the little video below of his own volition to stand with us. And countless others. It sickens me that we’ve had to ask for marriage equality. That the LGBT community has literally had to go door to door to ask for the right to marry. But it embiggens my heart to see so many others take up the fight, to stand with us. To say that it’s not right that we have to ask but that if that’s the way it has to be, they will help to make the answer yes.

Of course I want you to vote yes. I could go on about civil rights, fairness, equality. But you’ve heard that all before. For me it’s personal. I married my love last July in a humanist ceremony. He is my husband in my heart. But on paper he is my civil partner. There was a reason we had the legal bit the day before our ceremony. It would have meant the world to us to have both the legal and the ceremonial tied together like so many of my straight friends and family have been able to do. But it wasn’t to be. But hopefully some day soon we’ll be able to take our place as equals. As a married couple in the eyes of Irish law. Please. Vote yes on Friday 22nd May.

Later,

Mush

Update: I just wanted to add this link as well – https://storify.com/Viriconia/dunnes-canvass-exchange – t’was reading this helped me see the leaders of the No campaign for what they really are and inspired me to put virtual pen to metaphorical paper.

A Month in Review – Feabhra 2015

Holy Shit! I haven’t blogged in forever. It’s been that kind of month I suppose. A buttload of stuff has happened to be honest. The Canadian adventure has certainly kicked up a gear. Some of the highlights include:

  • Getting a job (I start with eXplorance as a Professional Services Consultant tomorrow, 2 March)
  • Passing my driving test (I shall soon have a Quebec licence in my hands once they post it out to me – I passed the test last Thursday, 26 February)
  • Meeting the amazing Ms. Panti in person at an event in Concordia organised by the lovely Emer O’Toole
  • Driving to Vermont in the states to visit the Bostonians
  • Finishing my French class
  • Hitting the top of Mont Royal
  • Enjoying the fuck out of my remaining time off before the world of work begins again.

I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to putting my shoulder to the proverbial grindstone again. I’ll still be working in the 3rd level sphere, just for a private company who make Learning Experience Management software (stuff for helping universities and other organisations manage their feedback, questionnaire and survey systems). It’s a bit nerve-making, the prospect of a new job. But I’m up for the challenge.

And seeming as this is a monthly review post here’s how I’m getting on with my 2015 goals and objectives.

Drinking

Well February was definitely not a dry month. Plenty of nights out. Too many perhaps. But then again, I head back to work this month so that will help to knock things on the head a bit. We’ll see how this one goes. Not making any promises to complete sobriety but I’ve a hankering for a quieter March.

Swimming – Exercise

Swimming took a bit of a back seat this month. I got to the pool a bit, but not nearly as much as I should have. Interviews, driving lessons, french lessons, and my own innate laziness conspired to see me not doing as well as I should have. The good news is that there is a gym very close to work which I will be joining so not only will I get more pool time in, there’ll be gym and weights time too. I’m looking forward to that actually.

Eating

Yeah, big fail on this. Totally over-indulged. February was a bit of a holiday. In the back of my mind, the start of work has been my target for renewed vigour on this count. Must try harder.

Writing

I’m pretty happy with February’s progress, writing wise. I’ve a basic outline of the book put together and the rough scribblings for a few characters. My word count for the month was over 8,000 and I am aiming for 9,000 in March.

Speaking

I finished my 7 week French course last week. It was fun and I definitely feel the improvement in my speaking and in my comprehension. Myself and Seán found ourselves at a comedy event as part of Montréal’s “Nuit Blanche” and I understood 2 and a half jokes (out of a 40 minute set). I’m actually counting this as a victory. I continue to work at using French in everyday things and I’m pretty confident doing the basics now (shopping, ordering food in restaurants, ordering pints in bars, renting cars, making appointments and that kind of thing). However, with work starting, I am going to put French learning on the back burner for the month of March. I’ll look into more French classes again in April but I’m going to need some extra brain space this coming month.

Adventuring

We’ve had some of these definitely. We headed to the states for a weekend to visit some of my college friends. Seán got to try downhill skiing and I got to try driving in horrendous snowy road conditions. Thrilling for all involved. We’ve also done a few things in Montréal including climb to the top of Mont Royal (not a big hike but worth the couple of hours wander that it takes).

We made an attempt at Nuit Blanche here in Montréal (akin to Culture Night at home except things actually stay open late here). To be honest, I didn’t enjoy it immensely. It was grand like, but a bit chaotic and manic at times. Dowtown Montréal was jammers and the streets were full of drunken and/or stoned idiots. Still at least we gave it a bash.

Anyway, here’s a brief selection of photos from the last month.

Later,

Mush

A Month in Review – Janvier 2015

We’re a whole month into 2015 so it’s time to take stock and see where I am with my various new year’s resolutions. It’s fair to say I’ve had some successes and some not-successes over the course of January. But it’s important to take stock and see where I can stand to do better.

Drinking

Well, “Dry January” was not so dry. We had visitors early in the month and my resolve crumbled at the prospect of showing folks from home the sights and sounds of Montréal. So I managed about 9 days. Still, one of those 9 days was my birthday and I’m quite happy to have had a sober celebration. Some of the other not-so-dry days included our manniversary, the Superbowl and a Friday night after a long week.

Swimming

The pool, too, has been seen less than I would have liked. The pressures of the job hunt have meant that I have had to skip some planned sessions. But I have managed a few sessions at least, every week.

Eating

I feel like I’ve had more success when it comes to keeping on top of my dietary needs. Sure, there have been stumbles (mostly related to having the munchies after a night out) but by and large I’ve been under my calorie goals most weeks in January. Still, I will need to pay more attention to this in order to maintain a good weight.

Writing

It took me a while to get back into the swing of writing. My aim was to write 4,000 words of the novel in January and I managed 3,481. The goal for February is 8,000 which will require a bit more effort. It can be hard to get the creative juices flowing when also trying to apply for jobs (the time and mental effort it takes to plan an application or attend an interview does tend to detract from the creative process), but I am determined to follow through on this one. By the end of the year, I aim to know one way or the other if I am cut out for the life of a writer.

Speaking

I’m about half way through my French course, and I’m actually enjoying it. The French is coming back to me. Having homework again after so many years is a bit of a pain in the arse but a necessary evil in order to improve.

Adventuring

Adventuring is another area where I have had some modicum of success. During our trips to the Fêtes des neiges, I have managed to give skiing a try (even if it is only ski du fond). It’s become abundantly clear to me that downhill skiing is not something I want to try now. I’d be happy to do more cross-country, but the prospect of hurtling downhill on a pair of wooden planks fills me with nothing but dread.

We’re also going to hit the US for the first time during our Canadian adventure. We’re going to visit some college friends of mine who spend their weekends on the pistes of Vermont this Friday. This will also give me a chance to practice driving before I go for my road test.

So yeah, it’s been a mixed bag of a January but overall, I’m feeling good in terms of the goal achievement prospects. I’ll do another one of these at the end of February as well.

Later,

Mush

Do you wanna build a snowman?

So every year Montréal holds this winter festival called “Fête des neiges” in Parc Jean-Drapeau. They basically transform the famous PJD into a bit of a winter wonderland. All sorts of winter activities available for all ages over the four weekends starting 17 January.

Seán and myself took a wander down there this weekend just passed and had ourselves a blast. We were looking to do some sort of winter activity in January that wouldn’t cost us too much – with us both still looking for work, we become ever more money conscious as time goes by. So Fête des neiges looked like it could offer us what we were looking for. We opted for the “ski du fond”, or cross-country skiing, to start with. First off, we bought ourselves an Accropass which entitles us access to a bunch of the activities at the parc on any of the weekends of Fête des neiges. It also entitled us to a half hour extra ski rental. That set us back $19. The skis themselves were another $21.85. Not too shabby we thought. Certainly within our budget.

Of course, it wouldn’t be us in Montréal without some sort of mixup. I swear, sometimes a certain “je ne sais quoi” conspires against us when we try to do things here. Cultural differences perhaps. Or maybe we just keep encountering folk who are not too concerned about customer satisfaction. So we asked where did we need to go to start the ski du fond and were directed to a place near where the skating was happening. No sign of ski du fond. We had a look at the map and found a place where we thought it might be. We weren’t sure though, so we asked 3 or 4 different Fête des neiges employees / volunteers. They didn’t know either. So we just went ahead and took ourselves cross country along what we thought was the ski du fond course.

Turns out it wasn’t and that it was indeed actually near where the skating course was. Sign posts being mysteriously absent in all cases. Ah well. We still had a blast. It was an incredible day, cold-as-balls for sure but with fantastic light. We followed up the ski du fond with some food from one of the food trucks. Our first experience of a Pogo (a corndog to our American friends, a frankfurter covered in corn stuff to everyone else and it was fucking outstanding) followed by a trip up the big wheel from where we had incredible views of the surrounding areas and the city across the river; Parc Jean-Drapeau is on an island in the middle of the St Laurent river and it turns out I’d been there before nearly 15 years ago when a bunch of my college class mates made the trip up from Boston for the Canadian grand prix.

Anyway, despite the discombobulations over the location of the ski du fond, we’d definitely be fans of the Fête des neiges. We’re gonna head there again this Saturday if any of the Montréal folks fancy joining us.


Later,

Mush