Archive for the 'joy' Category

The Best of 2010

Seems somewhat appropriate given the time of year. At least the time of year that I first started thinking about this, not the the time when I actually wrote the blog.

I started 2010 as I had a few of the past few new years – in work. Hanging out with the slightly inebriated revelers of South Tyrone and Armagh and re-attaching their lips and eyebrows to their faces. Mainly in the appropriate position.

I then ended up in Texas of all places. The wedding we went for was kind of cool. Texas itself was kind of weird and perhaps not a place I find myself rushing back to. You’ll have to do better than that America!

I spent a lot of time maintaing the long-distance international relationship with my good lady friend. This involved a lot of time driving and listening to 6 years of back recordings of Emergency Medical Abstracts and learning more about emergency medicine, primary care and research methodology than I would care to imagine.

I spent some a lot of time on the train too. I tended to spend this time hunched over the laptop and this lovely program making little red notes and highlighting PDF files.

I discovered Lifehacker. Which is a little bit like discovering crack cocaine. Anything that can pump your RSS reader that much in a day can’t be good for you. I kept finding annoyingly useful things like bulldog clips, downgrading an iPhone back to the stone age of 2007 and oodles of free software.

I discovered torrents too.

Angry Birds became a dark and sinister addiction in many of my friends lives.

Our hospital went to a digital radiology system and the switch over went surprisingly smoothly and the whole thing has made getting and looking at x-rays a whole lot easier. We’ll not have anywhere to put you once we know you need to come into hospital but hey…

I got a new job teaching anatomy. Well kind of teaching. My kind of teaching at least. This made me feel slightly less guilty about quitting my “real” job in may and not doing any other work till september.

We stayed a weekend here and it was immense.

I had to say goodbye to living with these guys

I finally played a gig with a band and me singing my songs and it was thoroughly terrifying and enjoyable at the same time.

I had a stag do and so to avoid being tied naked to a lampost and degradetated we went to a small island in the middle of the largest lake in the british isles. I also proved that I have the best friends ever who would follow me on such a trip.

I spent considerable time and effort planning and getting through and enjoying our spectacular spectacular wedding affair.

Our wedding rocked like a hyperactive puppy on steroids strung out on meow-meow who’s been fed too much sugar. You should have been there.

To wind down we went to a series of tiny Scottish islands which combined unemployment, beauty, and ancient history into one.

I read a lot of books. I suppose the highlights inculde:

– East of Eden

– The Hauerwas stuff, which has hopefully ruined my career in medicine as I knew it and left me more deeply in love with the church

– The Mission of God

– Yet more Kurt Vonnegut

Of movies I’d give it to

– Of God’s and men

– The station agent

– Inception

Maybe (as i’ve been writing this for 45 mins now) I should call this the best of the first half of 2010.

Since getting married I seem to have a million more stories to tell, as if the second half the year was so much more filled with activity. Perhaps it is the simple proximity that helps me recall it but i suspect it is the lack of a full time job which gives me the time to do all the stuff.

This is kind of cool and much appreciated and not to be sniffed at. Part-time is the new full-time. Or something like that…

I haven’t talked about any of the shitty bits…

I have managed to attain a detailed knowledge of the course of the hypoglossal nerve and have discovered enough exciting books and ideas to keep me going for ages yet.

I now live in the same town as many of the “blog friends” (slightly above facebook friends on the friendship hierarchy) and have managed to fool most of them into becoming real friends.

I continue to lament the loss (or more accurately the absence) from my life of my previous co-conspirators in the North of this fair land. I continue to struggle with the simple limits of how many relationships one can keep spinning well.

The older I get and the more people I meet, the more frustrated I get at how poorly I manage to love them.

I am surrounded by grace, mercy and love. That is something special.

Now that I’m getting all weepy I suppose I may as well admit that getting married kind of made 2010 for me. Marriage is terrifying. It is impossible to get away from the fact (that John Cusack put so well in High Fidelity) that “I am a fucking asshole”. It is a miracle to be loved in return.

Of angels and angles

We have established that from every angle JESUS Christ is the key to the secret of creation

Karl Barth in Church Dogmatics
[As quoted in Christ plays in ten thousand places]

This is why i do what i do – why i live how i do. Why i live life how I do.

The fullness of life – the sheer vibrant colour of it all is often overwhelming. The spectrum from sadness to joy is intense. The experiences from despair to exultation are often overwhelming.

But this is the life we are given. Its very nature and presence is quite simply staggering. Its greatest enemy is apathy.

But yet here in Christ we find all things brought together. Our acts of love towards each other, our acts of creation in the world, our choices, our thoughts, our emotions, our reasoning. All our (in)glorious humanity the outworking of this and a movement towards it.

August and everything after

So as summer comes to an end with a cold, damp, miserable thump (what a surprise) it’s time to review some of what i’ve been up to over august.

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I was at a wedding in a castle in Edinburgh (though not edinburgh castle) where they had the most wonderful humanist wedding ceremony. (I think we need more humanist wedding ceremonies, but that’s another blog.)

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There was great food, good wine and even some dancing – of which i did not partake i must confess. Even the Bon Jovi.

I picked up the guitar and grew some balls and played my songs in a wee cafe in Portadown. And after the first 4 songs i even started enjoying it.

And in a fit of musical enthusiasm I picked up the old electric again and played with the old band in church. Lamenting my dying guitar amp and how rusty I’ve got at playing the electric guitar.

I await my new valves in earnest in the hope i can resurrect the Hot Rod deluxe to do another 10 years of loyal service.

On a more positive not the new Pod X3 rocks. While a little on the complicated side to set up and run it does sound pretty sweet. These are the days i wish i hadn’t sold my strat to Woodsy.

In between I have actually enjoyed my work. Which is kind of new for me. I have found myself too often pisssed off and frustrated in work so it’s nice to have a wee bit more enthusiasm and positivity about the whole thing. being there less helps. Which i know sounds weird – “I love my job as long as I’m not there…” – but when I do less hours I sleep better and am more sane than usual. This has got to be a good thing.

I look forward to dropping a day a week in the middle of september and going back to cutting up dead bodies with the students.

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And then most recently was Jonny and Lynne’s wedding. Dear Jonny, whom I’ve known since I was 6 when he arrived in P2 and stole my lego. Not that I’m bitter. Dear Jonny, who I shard houses with and tears and joy with and made 9 platiunum selling albums with in the Turf Brothers. Good times.

Great wedding, though running around doing musical stuff all day. Including the first ever live turf brother’s performance.

And it was mighty craic playing in Nice Guy Eddie again (my old wedding band) and even nicer to move from dance floor to band and back to dance floor again getting to play just the songs that i remembered.

There was dancing. There was me dancing. There was me enjoying dancing.  But i blame Transfarmer for that. I blame her for everything really.

But above all else what made the wedding was the fact that we didn’t have to drive the 1 1/2 hours back from the Killyhevlin at midnight. Instead we sat about the hotel till 0130 and then dandered back to our little chalets at the riverside for a cup of tea and a nice kip.

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And so began our little two day holiday in damp fermanagh. Like the donegal trip simply transplanted to a pre-fab chalet on the bank of the river.

I took the good ship pudge out on my own for the first time but was slightly annoyed that the brisk wind meant that i couldn’t get the thing turned and embarassingly had to reverse the canoe to shore just to turn it.

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Everyone else seemed to enjoy their trip too. No one got wet anyhow.

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We visited an ice-cream shop, just for the adventure of getting lost in the Fermanagh countryside. Sat-Nav is great and all that but only if you tell it to go to the right place.

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Extended weekends rock. And it’s still only sunday morning.

Nice places to bring the dog if she didn’t keep trying to climb out of the canoe

The last time we went canoeing it didn’t turn out well. Simy’s canoe is still lying slightly crooked and bent in his garage, along with out self-confidence and desire to canoe over weirs.

But on what appeared to be the nicest day of the year so far we couldn’t really resist.

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The lime green wonder fibreglass wonderboat, that goes by the name of of pudge was back on the high seas. Or at least the river Blackwater.

Young Sparky, we put in the fancy plastic canoe, given his distaste for squatting in the open canoe. Some people it seems were not provided with knees suitable for water sports.

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Simy on the other hand appears to be the next step in evolutionary process towards man kind becoming one with the canoe. He is an anterior talo-fibular ligament injury waiting to happen. Don’t try this at home.

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On arrival at the Lough we were greeted by a vicious north easterly wind that would have been great for windsurfing but kind of made it impossible to get out to Coney island no matter what we tried.

We abandoned the idea for lying on the pier at Maghery and wondering at how somewhere so nice could be made such a horrible place by so few hoods.

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Graffiti of the day was simply the word “tits”painted on a boarded up toilet block. There wasn’t even an accompanying badly drawn pair of boobies.The whole place is like one big walking, talking under aged drinking ASBO.

We once phoned the council about camping at the camp-site at Maghery and were advised against it by the very people who run the camp-site. Apparently there had been a few “incidents” with the locals, and no one had used it since.

Despite all this it has a lot of potential for water sports and the great outdoors, all it needs is a forest park, some nice walks by the Lough shore and it could  be one of the nicest places to go in the country.

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Last two pictures illustrates the dangers available to an Irishman on a sunny day.

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Pictures of you part 4

It’s 2am.

I am now realising why my room was so cheap. overlooking the late club with the pumping beats. Sleep will not come easy.

To close the course we had a game of emergency medicine jeopardy. Being Americans this kind of made sense. Except to us, who were mainly foreign national doctors who had no idea of the rules. There was free candy – and proper candy like Hershey bars. Can’t say i’m a fan.

Good course all the same.

Armed with such knowledge I’m ready to go back and diagnose the life out of my patients. At least i would do if we had a machine. Anyone want to lend us 30 grand or so?

Managed to meet up with the office who was down on some clandestine interview or something. Enjoyed a pint and some food while it pissed down outside.

I know this sounds kinds of dubious but I spent this evening meeting up with someone i met over the internet.

See i told you that would sound dodgy.

I know Zoomtard vaguely through the blog and always fancied meeting up for a pint. Seeing as i was in Dublin…

[Brief interlude – drunken irishmen appear to be spilling each others blood outside the room]

(… and Maynooth is in Dublin in my geography) then we should meet up. After a series of emails I ended up in a room in Maynooth with a NASA astrophysicist and some post grad students talking about the meaning of life.

It was immensely enjoyable as you can imagine. Random is always enjoyable.

This was followed by a party where i managed to meet people i vaguely knew from back home.

I even talked to people i’d never met and may even have talked to girls at one point. If i wasn’t careful there may even have been dancing.

This is quite frankly exceptional in my book, having spent the past number of months either miserable, working or hiding and avoiding having to meet life head on.

I may even have had fun – otherwise known as enjoying myself. It has been a while.

Anonymous fun is always so much more fun – i don’t know these people, they don’t know me – why does that make it so much easier? I dunno.

Nice bunch of people i must say. If i say that the hospitality was good then that probably means i’ve been hospitalised which is not quite what i wanted to say.

Postcards from far way part 6

We pitched the tent for maximum view though it is unfortunately a tad exposed to the wind.

At 2am the wind was blowing a gale and the slightly loose bit of the tent was flapping almost loudly enough to completely drown out sparky’s snoring. Though only almost, he still broke through on occasion.

This would never have happened if simy was here – he knows how to put a tent up proper. it’s all rectilinear and even tension on the guy ropes.

I got a crap night’s sleep. That about covers it.

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Woke to a blustery cold morning but still barely a cloud in sight. After a leisurely cuppa and an improvised brekkie we headed for the hills up the highest peak in the Cuillins on the advice of the bloke in the shop who said it “wasn’t too bad”.

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I figured that directions up a mountain aren’t quite the same as those you need to find the nearest filling station and so I bought a map just to be sure. I’m always more comfortable when I have a map.

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We rocketed through the first 500m to the loch at the base of the ridge and enjoyed a lovely lunch of churizo and stale bread.

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The next bit is known as the great chute which is basically an exceptionally slow river of shale that the mountain slowly ejects from the split rock through the repeated process of freezing and melting.

Climbing up this is 2 forward and 1 back which is all a bit discouraging and a little bit disconcerting when it’s at a 45 degree angle.

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The view was worth it. The view is always worth it. The ridge itself was simply petrifying. It has been literally years since I’ve done any ridge walking and I’d forgotten the dizzying sense of scale it gives you.

Sgurr alisdair (could be a sigur ros song) stands at 993m and looks across to the appropriately named inaccessible pinnacle which we could see nutters with ropes attempting to scale.

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It was now that we realized that getting up is less than half the battle getting down is where the tricky bit really comes.

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Ridges start as shale slopes that become increasingly steep as you ascend. To become near vertical just at the ridge itself. It makes them relatively straightforward to traverse but a real nightmare to get off.

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We (wisely) laid up and descended down the way we came. Which turned out to be a lot more fun than we thought cause when you’re descending it doesn’t really matter if the ground you’re standing on gives way. In fact that’s just what you want. It ends up as a (less than) controlled slide down the mountain. Lots of fun.

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By the time we reached sea level again the legs were like jelly. Bring on the endorphins.

There is still something wonderful about a good shower when you haven’t had one for a few days. When your face and hands are a bit burnt from the exposure and all your muscles ache.

Tucked up in the tent full of BBQ and chocolate, listening to sparky chortle intermittently to Puckoon. I’m ready for a night of blissful unconsciousness listening to the new Anathallo.

Here’s hoping.

His band and the street choir

Seeing as everyone had an Ulster Hall story I figure I have mine too.

Listening to Bloc Party with Simy open with “So here we are”, one of their “quiet ones’ yet still probably the loudest gig I’ve ever been to.

So anyhow it’s reopened, the Northern Irish music scene wanted to celebrate the fact. Though to call it the Northern Irish music scene is a tad exclusive as it’s nearly all young, skinny guys with guitars and messy hair. Perhaps hardly representative of the music made in this place.

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The idea was to get 14 Northern Irish bands and let them play 2 songs each. One of their own and one cover of a band that they’d seen in the Ulster Hall previously.

Pretty impressive to get 14 bands and near 4 hours of music for a fiver.

The Knights pulled the luck of the draw and ended up first on, some time, it seems, before the sound engineer turned his ears and brain on so the sound was terrible, though the guys completely nailed DC‘s “Something for the Weekend”.

Being first on is never easy, the venue’s only half full, no one is drunk, no is warmed up.

There was Kowalski and Cashier No 9, both of whom passed me by as dare I say it decidedly average. Though at least the sound guy had it sorted by then. Decent version of “this modern love” – mainly notable for the drummer nailing the drum roll near the end.

I love the Panama Kings. Though it’s still killing me that I’m singing their cover in my head but I can’t name the flippin band (Skeeno arrived home and told me it was Ash – most dissapointed in myself)

Foy Vance caused a wee bit of a moment. After opening with “afternoons and coffee spoons” (anyone remember the Crash Test Dummies) in a new hat he played a new one that got so quiet and moving that you could have heard a pin drop in the place. Pretty stunning stuff. By far biggest cheer of the night.

I’ve never heard of Lafaro before now. I’ll never buy any of their music, but live those guys kick ass. I could listen to loud rock and watch drummers all day as long as its live, I just wouldn’t listen to it in the house. They swaggered with more stage presence than anyone had pulled off so far. They looked like a proper rock band.

Iain Archer had the unfortunate task of following the loudest act of the night with one of the quietest. Him and the pilots playing “songbird” while again the sound guy falls asleep and forgets to turn up the drums. I despair sometimes. The new Iain Archer album is the best thing since sliced bread so I think this didn’t do him justice.

He then had the unfortunate task of introducing Barry Gary Lightbody as one of the special guests of the night. Being actually kind of famous this overshadowed the rest of what Iain Archer did. They played a hugely dodgy version of The Frames “lay me down” which no one on stage seemed to know how to play apart from Phil Wilkinson drumming. Not particularly impressive I must say.

Recovered slightly with a decent version of “chocolate” which is a pretty damn strong song no matter what you do with it. Unfortunately followed by that horrible “chasing cars” song which was always on repeat on the radio in the ICU in NZ so I have horrible associations with it. Plus as a song its a bit shit which doesn’t help.

Somewhere around here I get a bit lost in the order but Neil Hannon turned up with an old battered piano and made my day by not only playing the best Divine Comedy song ever (and that’s saying something) “tonight we fly” but also playing a Pixies song. Both purely on the piano and both purely wonderful. And he got away with a nice Pop Idol joke while he was at it.

Fighting with wire and jet plane landing are both bands I’ve only heard of. There’s certain degree of Belfast-centrism going on in the music scene, so perhaps Derry bands get overlooked a bit.

They did manage to be fairly impressive. Good cover of “you really got me”, and a really good cover of Rage’s “know your enemy” though the slightly chubby, dull looking guy doing the rap was all a bit odd. Never mind the two chaps on stage wearing masks.

Duke Special had a lovely sound though he did manage some ill advised crowd surfing at the end. What was most disappointing was the fact that a fully packed Ulster Hall could keep neither Duke Special nor Foy Vance in the air for longer than 5 seconds. I think crowds are out of practice when it comes to their role in crowd surfing.

Ash were a bizzare almost country trio for the night, with the drummer acting as second guitarist.

I remember Therapy as a band that was sort of famous in Northern Irish circles back when I was first getting interested in music at all. They weren’t my cup of tea then and they certainly aren’t now. Though they certainly have a bit of life about them that’s for sure. And a fruity choice of expletives. I’m sure the BBC will thank them for that.

Simy apparently works with (or did work with I’m not sure) the bassist from Therapy. Apparently he works with computers. How rock and roll. Fame loses all its shine when you’ve been to school with them, or you live with them or they work in Tescos.

There was a huge finale were they got everyone on stage and they all sang “Teenage Kicks” (which had to be sung at some point) and there were even fireworks at the end. It was like a Bon Jovi concert in that respect.

At least they didn’t sing some awful charity song and put their arms round each other and sway.

Whole night was great. Perched on the rails at the sound desk at the back where you’ll always find me. Makes me glad to live in this place.

Came home and heard that a policeman was shot and killed near the hospital. Completely threw me. One episode is something, you have two and you’ll soon have a series of murders. Bastards. And the whole effing show kicks off again. We can’t go back down that road. We simply can’t.

GOD have mercy on us all.

Makes me want to pack up and leave this place.


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