Category Archives: Personal

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

Pedal to the upholstered plastic

I haven’t driven a car since I left my faithful Daurice in the company of my newly-adulted nieces Lara and Ellah at the end of November. For the most part, I haven’t missed driving that much. It’s pretty easy to get around here in Montréal. The metro is pretty comprehensive and the bus network is very good too. And of course there’s a lot that my own two legs can carry me to as well.

Still, there are times ahead of us that being able to drive will be an advantage. I certainly want to make a trip to the states – there’s a few college heads living in Boston plus a good smattering of Hansberrys further down the east coast. So there will definitely be occasion to get behind the wheel, even if it is a hire car.

However, because we are going to be here for almost 2 years potentially, Canadian laws don’t allow me to drive on my Irish or International licence for that length of time. I will need to get a Quebec licence while I’m here. I started the process of doing this before Christmas – I had my initial appointment with the SAAQ (Société de l’Assurance Automobile Quebec – not to be confused with SAQ which is the Société des alcools du Québec) then. It’s one of the few times I had cause to regret our decision to move to Montréal as opposed to Toronto. Because if we had headed to Toronto we’d be in Ontario and I could have done a straight swap of my Irish licence for an Ontario one. Unfortunately Québec has no such agreement with the Irish authorities in place so I have to go through a bit of a process.

Anyway, as I said, I had the initial appointment just before Christmas. At that appointment, I was told that I had to get some certificates from doctors and optemetrists (because of the high blood pressure and diabetes, they wanted extra assurance that I wasn’t going to keel over behind the wheel). That took a while to sort through with Christmas period causing a bit of a delay. Not having a family doctor also meant that I had to utilise a walk-in clinic – there was much waiting involved. Once I had the certs together, I headed for my next SAAQ appointment and got around to doing the knowledge test, which I passed.

The final stage will be a road test. I am going to get a few lessons before I book that just to familiarise myself with driving on the right in snowy conditions. Ya know, the usual like. A nice lebanese man called Elias is going to help me practice so hopefully I’ll be a properly licenced Canadian driver before too long.

In unrelated news, Tom and Sara were here in Montréal on their honeymoon. As good an excuse as any to break one of my new year’s resolutions. Fun times!

Later

Mush

Eveything is Awesome…

“…everything is cool when you’re part of the team,” or so the song from the Lego movie goes. And while not everything can truly be said to be awesome, things are going pretty well all the same (touch wood and all that superstitious guff). We’re a week into 2015 and so far I can say I’m on track with my ambitions for the year. Still a week is only a week, and there’s another 51 of them left in this year so I won’t get too ahead of myself.

I did turn 36 on Sunday though. Not exactly a milestone year it has to be said. A bit of a meh one if I’m honest. A bit like 34 except with slightly less hair. But it was still a nice, special day made even more special by the gift of Lego from my lovely husband who knows how to indulge my inner child almost as well as I do myself. Birthday brunch was had courtesy of  La Banquise and we headed out that evening to a dinner party at our new friend, Gerard’s. All in all not a bad day for a meh birthday in a foreign land.

All of the New Years Resolutions are still in play. It would be a bit lame if I’d ditched any at this stage but it’s good to keep track of the progress.

I’ve also taken to Instagram lately. I do like the hipster filters it gives you. I’ve been cross posting some of the photos to Facebook and Twitter as well but not all of them so if you’re interested in seeing my pseudo artsy pretentious snaps, look me up.

Here’s a few more photos I’ve taken over the last while:

Later,

Mush

That was then, this is now…

Twenty fourteen, eh? That was a bit of a big year now, wasn’t it? It flew, of course, like so many years do these days. The older we get, the swifter time feels like it’s passing. But despite the fleeting nature of time, 2014 will always be a landmark year for me.

At the start of last year, Seán was in Dublin studying for his masters. We had a wedding to organise, and a bunch of close friends’ weddings to attend. We had no plans for after the wedding or even after Seán’s masters apart from a general desire to go and live somewhere besides Cork for a while. I don’t think I could quite picture how the year would go from there.

By the end of January we had decided we were going to go to Canada once Seán was done with his course. In February we had sent out our wedding invitations. In March we applied for the Canadian visas (I got mine very quickly but it would be a few months before we had both visas confirmed). In April there was the most decadent of stag parties when we gave Good Friday a “Life of Brian” theme. May saw the wedding of JP and Belcy, followed in June by Cathy and Aebhric. July, of course, was our own big day and August saw my brother marry his long-term partner and saw Niall and Angela finally make the trip down the aisle. Seán finished his masters in September and I finished work in October. We stepped off the plane to Canada at the end of November and here we are now at the start of 2015 staring down the barrel of a Montréalaise job hunt. Fun times!

I still can’t believe I’ve left Cork, and in particular UCC – my very own comfort zone. But this is one of the things that I love about being married to Seán. He’s always challenging me to do better, be better, to not accept the conventional way of doing things. I don’t always agree with him, but in this I am glad I saw the Seán-way. This past month in Montréal has been a real adventure. Getting to grips with a new country, a new culture and a new language, even, have been frustrating at times, but ultimately rewarding.

And so now, we look toward the coming year. What’s it gonna bring? It will certainly be different from the past year. But no less of an adventure. So I suppose, as is tradition for the start of a new year, I’m gonna set me some goals for renewal. Resolutions by another name.

Drinking

Since October, there has been a constant stream of excuses for nights out. Even though I probably drink less per night out than I was doing this time last year, I have had more nights out this last quarter than the previous three quarters of the year. So I’m gonna try a dry January. I don’t think I’ll ever give up the booze completely, but I can definitely stand to cut down.

Swimming

Montréal has free swimming pools. I am going to enjoy the heck out that particular state-funded initiative. In the absence of a gym membership, I want to be hitting the pool maybe 4 or 5 times a week. The nearest open pool is about a 20 minute walk, which will also be a help.

Eating

We all over indulge over the Christmas period, and I am no exception. The move to Montréal has played havoc with my routine, making it hard to stick to a sensible diet. And of course, there is the poutine. So it’s time to get back on the sensible-eating-wagon. This will also be a boon financially cos food can be a bit pricey here. ‘Specially if take-away is a factor several times a week. Ultimately, I want to see myself consistently under the 98Kg mark (I’m currently scale-less which might be for the best – I don’t want to frighten myself into a take-away binge).

Writing

My scribblings took a bit of a back seat last year with the busy-ness of the wedding prep and the Canada move. It’s my goal to push past this and get back into the swing of regular keyboard mashings. A first draft of a book would be a serious accomplishment so I’m gonna try for that.

Speaking

I need to get my French on this year. I’m starting off on the 13th of January with 6 hours a week for 7 weeks. Plus I’m gonna complement that with various apps and homework and things. The aim is to be as comfortable in French as I am in Irish by the end of the year. If I take nothing else away from Montréal except that, I’ll be a happy Mush. And that would open up a whole range of opportunities for our eventual return to Europe.

Adventuring

We want to make the most of our time here. It’s a vast country, sure, and we’ll barely get to see a fraction of it. But we’ve a whole heap of opportunities here that we wouldn’t have back home. So this year, I want to:

  1. Do some skiing
  2. Do some jumping out of a plane
  3. Do some trips to the US
  4. Do some Just for Laughs comedy festival
  5. Do some convention attending

…and so on

So yeah, that’s the plan, those are the goals. There will of course be other things cropping up over the year. But if I achieve most of these goals this year, I’ll be a happy man. We’ll see how it goes.

And here’s some photos of Christmas for those who have read this far!

Later,

Mush

Away in a Manger

I think it’s safe to say that I’m a Christmas head. I love everything about it – the songs, the food, the presence, the general good will to all folks. It’s a most wonderful time of the year. People are generally in a good mood, there’s a real festive spirit with Christmas jumpers and Santa hats a-plenty.

If I was at home, I’d probably be on holidays from work, enjoying a well earned rest. However, having not been working since October, I’m not quite feeling the Christmas cheer as much as I normally would. I don’t think Montréal is any less Christmassy though. In fact, with the permanent snow cover, the place has Ireland beat for physical displays of Christmasness. The shops have their decorations up and are blasting out the festive choons as much as any place at home. But I’m a small bit out of the loop.

I suppose it doesn’t help that we haven’t moved into our more permanent gaff yet. Once that happens on Monday, we’ll be able to put up a tree and get some presents under it. And that’s another thing. I would usually endeavour to get the shopping done by the middle of November so that I can enjoy the run in to the holidays. This year, it’s gonna be the 23rd or 24th before I have everything in place. It feels – funny. Not quite right. I didn’t send any cards this year either for the first time in over a decade. That too feels a bit off. Once I’m settled I’m gonna make an effort to send some postcards and we’ll definitely send some out next year, but not sitting down with a Christmas movie on the telly while I’m scrawling out my cards has kinda really made me feel the difference between being at home and being here.

But all that aside, I’m still looking forward to it. We’ve been invited over to my friend Eoin’s house for the dinner itself so we won’t be lonely. And skype will keep me connected to my nieces and nephews on the day hopefully. Plus of course I’ll have the lovely Seán by my side. So anyway, if I’m not talking to you before next Thursday, wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Joyeux Noël

Mush