Category Archives: Personal

MURAL 2017

One of the things that I’ve really loved about Montréal since I first moved here is the abundance of fucking amazing street art across the city. They really make the most of wall space and public space to bring art to the public and it’s fantastic.

Today, with my sister who is over for a visit, I had the opportunity to take in MURAL, Montréal’s street art festival. All along Boulevard St. Laurent, dozens of artists are given the sides of many buildings as their canvasses and asked to bring something new to the city. This takes place over a few days, so some of the murals aren’t finished, but it really is an amazing scene. If you’re ever in Montréal at the start of June I’d recommend it.

Not only do they have the mural’s been painted but they also cordon off the street to traffic for about 10 blocks. Plus there are concerts and other cool things going on throughout the time. We went during the day on a Monday so it wasn’t super hopping but it was still an afternoon well spent.

It’s something that I think other cities could learn from as well. Think about how many bland, ugly, drab buildings there are in your home town. And think about how awesome a canvas that facade could be for some artist! The colour and vibrancy that these murals bring to the city, the different visions they allow to be presented, are all fucking awesome. It would be so cool to see this back home for sure.

Anyway, I threw some of the photos together in an album here if you want to check them out.

Later,

Mush

Sunshine

It cracks the buds and gives them green, this glowing ball of heat and light. The very definition of radiant. The life to our force. The heat of our days. A skin warmed by millions of miles of light, feels healthier, glowier, lighter than the cloud chilled skin of the winter months.

We need the sunshine. But not just the cosmic-born, but the spiritual, the psychological, the metaphorical. Especially on days like today. When the dark takes the lead. When the fear that springs from that dark, gnaws at the world’s soul. We take comfort in the little rays. The helpers. The heroes. Those who pause for a beat. Wail and nash some teeth, but then get on with the business at hand. Who run towards the noise. Who offer the cup. Who wipe the tears.

The charcoal dark clouds can seem overwhelming. Oppressive. Relentless. But all it takes is a crack in the thing, to let the light in, as Leonard said. For the sun to peek out it’s head, as Jack and KG might have said.

There’s not much that can be said on days like today. Who wants to add to the noise, to the fear to the dark. Just, I suppose, maybe if we think of the sunshine, in all it’s forms, physical and metaphorical, it’ll help a little. Get us through until it hurts a little bit less, until we’re a little bit less frightened. Help us stand that bit taller in the face of the cowardly. Help understand all of the fears that cause the hate that little bit more clearly. So we can change. So we can stop it. So we can blow the clouds away.

Later, Sunshines,

Mush

Departure Lounge Two

Jesus, it’s the middle of May and “not a child in the house washed” as the expression goes! As an expression for unpreparedness, I might be being a bit fast and loose. We’re actually doing nicely in terms of the various preparations necessary to extract oneself from a life in another country. But there’s also lots more to do.

Most of it, we’ll get done before we leave Montréal. But there are some things that we won’t be able to close off completely ’til we’re back home. Which introduces the worrisome prospect of dealing with Québecois bureaucracy from across the Atlantic ocean. Can’t be helped though. Need to keep the bank accounts open while we’re on our West Coast trip.

So yeah, we’re taking a trip down the west coast of North America as a final hoorah to the continent before we leave. Starting with Vancouver, we’ll bus it to Seattle and Portland before picking up a car and driving on to San Francisco, LA, Tijuana and San Diego before jetting back to Cork via Reykjavik towards the end of July. We’ve a bit more intinerizing to do before we jet off, but it’s a solid plan with all of the AirBnB’s booked and everything. I was hoping to pick up Comic Con tickets of course, but it was not to be. Still, we’ll be in the Whale’s Vajayjay at the same time as Comic Con, so plenty of fringe nerd activities to be explored.

Still, if you have lived or live in any of these cities, hit us up with your recommendations. We’re open to ideas to spend our time on the big trip. We’ve between 2 and 3 nights in each city so time for a bit of exploring in each place for sure.

Anyway, we’ll leave it there for now.

Toodles,

Mush

Poorly Does It

I am poorly. It sucks and I hate it. After many years of battling chronic illnesses in Type 2 Diabetes and High Blood Pressure and for the most part winning, I now find myself at the mercy of the battle between my own body and tiny, tiny creatures. At least, I’m assuming there are tiny creatures involved. Could be lack of tiny chemicals too. Or a combination of both. So despite being at the peak of my good health I am laid low.

Suffice it to say, I feel like crap and have done on and off for the last few weeks. At first, I was putting it down to increased exercise. Or the change the in the weather perhaps. Something to explain the intermittent light-headedness, evening fatigue and occasional headaches. Perhaps it was the overdoing things at the weekends, I thought.

But alas, after one of the most underdone weekend I’ve had in a long time, the symptoms persist. And that meant engaging with the Canadian health system.

So, Canada has a reputation for having a world class health system. And in a lot of ways, it’s pretty good. Certainly in comparison to the country directly to the south. But it has its issues too. Like the fact that it’s nigh on impossible to get a family doctor and if you are lucky enough to get one (which I was due to my aforementioned chronic conditions), it doesn’t mean you can make appointments at a moments notice. Leaving you at the mercy of the walk-in clinic system.

The walk-in clinic system works as follows. Get up at 6.30am to be at the clinic for 7am when the doors to the building open. There is already a small queue at this time. Head up in the elevator to the clinic itself and wait until they open the doors at 7.30am. A sizeable queue will have formed by this time so it’s important to get there early. Once they open the registration desk, you register (assuming you have a medical card – if you don’t, you’ll have to go to a private clinic instead and fork out a ton of money). The doctors come on duty at 9am. Which, even if you’re the first in the queue means you will be seen at 9.20 at the earliest.

Quite the fun times. Thankfully, the clinic I go to also has blood testing facilities in the same place so if you have to get tests done you can get them done in the same visit (again, only if you have the medical card, otherwise you have to go to the hospital and pay cash). And then you wait. For a week or two weeks. And they’ll only call if they find something. Woop. Nothing stressful or anxiety inducing about any of that.

Anyway, I’m just complaining cos I’ve spent the morning in the clinic and I’m not feeling myself. Hopefully it gets sorted soon.

Toodles,

Mush

Eff Five

The long weekend. As a necessary here in Canada as it is back home. A time to chill out, log off, refresh, do whatever is necessary to recharge a few batteries. For the most part, this mission was accomplished.

I like to disconnect every once in a while. Take myself off and indulge somewhat. Like taking a cinema day. Just heading off to the movies and taking in a whole bunch of them in one day. The most I’ve ever managed is a quadruple bill but I haven’t had one of those in a while. This weekend, I did a double – John Wick 2 and Kong: Skull Island. Both perfectly fine. Neither of them particularly taxing, mentally. They hit that sweet spot of mindlessness that is often necessary for putting the brain in the off position.

In between both, I had a bit of downtime so kindle, beer and hot-dog filled the gap. Yet again I’m happy in the company of myself, my device and some form of sustenance. A perfect opportunity for the disconnect. Plus it gave me a bit of time to check out Moose Bawr again. I like this bar in downtown montréal. They play good music, serve good food, and serve beer in litre (or bigger) sizes. A perfect movie interlude. And they serve delicious deep fried balls of sausage, called Moose Balls that are fucking delicious. Go there. Now.

Sunday was a little less F5 refresh and a little more F11 enter full screen mode, with some impromptu sessioning with some pals. It’s the impromptu that makes it the best type of sessioning. The sneaky pints on what would normally be a day of complete rest. Sure, it kinda made Monday a bit of a right off, but worth it none-the-less. And I finally watched a full hockey game (even if it was only on the telly) which the Habs went ahead and won, bless their shiny skates. Allez les Canadiens.

But alas, all long weekends must come to an end. Back at it today then. But at least the Bixis are on the roads again – lovely fresh aired cycle from Verdun to Peel instead of the stuffy crowded metro. I’ll take that.

These posts won’t always (or often) be anything profound. I know right? You were expecting such great things.

Toodles,

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

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?