So, apparently travelling with people can actually be pretty great too! It’s not something I have much experience with and usually avoid but I took my chances on a sun-craving starlet who needed a break and headed off to Spain for a long weekend. And it was super awesome wonderful.
We landed in Barcelona airport and headed on a coach down the coast to Lloret De Mar. It was a little bit of a tough journey with a delay leaving the airport and the MANY pee stops that the other people on the bus seemed to need. A lot of stag and hen parties head down this direction -that could be a headache if you ended up in the wrong hotel or hadn’t the best of patience, but we got over it and made it to our destination in just a few hours, and cue epic relaxing and sun bathing.
Lucky to get smashing weather I managed to attain a wonderfully streaky scalding to bring home with me. As a pale Irish person this is as much as I can hope for. It’s gradually turning to a light tan after the inevitable few layers of skin that peeled off. Couldn’t ask for more.
Lloret is a small and idyllic little haven with beautiful night lighting and stunning views. Exactly what it said on the tin. There’s a statue that supposedly grants wishes if you touch her foot and look out to see. I imagine she was some kind of foot fetishist and will do anything for anyone to touch her feet, but I reserve judgement and didn’t ask her any questions about it, just touched the foot and made the wish. Hopefully this lady luck will pull through for me.
I’d say Lloret could be a pretty messy destination if you wanted to party. There’s a strip of clubs and bars along Lloret Beach that look like they could get pretty rowdy when the sun goes down, hence the hen and stag attraction. I heard it once referred to as ‘regret de Mar’ by a visitor who got caught up in the night life and didn’t have the best or most clear memories from it!
But we didn’t get mixed up in any of that nonsense and found the quieter side of life by the ocean. We found our own little patch of beach and some more homely and down to earth bars to frequent. One particular favourite was called ‘ROOM’, which had a multi-lingual book corner (Banksy album included) and here I tried my first hookah smoking apparatus. Very tasty!
Once again, holidaying on a budget. All in this trip cost us less than £400 each including flights, buses, accommodation, food and all spending money (ie- mostly cocktail money). For the spectacular location, great hotel, beautiful weather and relaxed holiday atmosphere, I’d say it was more than worth it. I can only speak for myself but I for one had a great time and you know it was really nice to be in good company and not winging it by myself for a change.
Maybe George Orwell had a point when he said ‘beauty is meaningless until it’s shared’.
I have found it to be true that a clear space leads to clear thinking. I believe the reason that humans are so usually inclined to seek order is because of the conditioning we undergo throughout our early years and onwards.
Do you remember doing four piece jigsaws as a toddler? Or being asked to group together the blue shapes and separate the red shapes into different piles? We learned definition and difference through sorting tasks and we learned, and in most schools, to tidy up after play, to sequence in early math and to put things in the right places.
Do you remember how many times you repeated those tasks over and over until you had it right? And how many times you got shouted at when you left things where they didn’t belong. Sometimes I still get an earful! We live and we learn.
We carry these repetitions forward with us. The need to sort, to clear, to tidy they become natural processes which our brains seek out. When you have repeated something so many times it becomes automatic and every mess starts to trigger a need to tidy. We develop an in-built need for order.
Sometimes people lose track of just how much order is appropriate for them. They start to loop and order unnecessarily, even unhealthily, or they refuse to order even when they need to and want to. It becomes a self-punishment, not to allow oneself to fulfill one’s basic needs.
Of course there are many reasons why people go either way and fall far from their natural healthy need for order. Once, for a while, I just got tired of it I think and I stopped caring. I stopped a lot of things and not until I started sorting things out again did the ball begin to roll, like a pin ball that had a knock-on effect on other little pin-balls and I was able to score some points again. It was the small things first but they led to the big things after, until gradually I started to feel again like I was getting my whole life together. And strangely it all started with some socks and old mail.
Before we start let me just say that I am not saying there will be ever a zombie apocalypse. I’m not crazy. I am realistic. However, when bored in work sometimes my colleague and I put our imaginations to good use and discuss our plans for this fantastical unlikely event.
We had thought about where we would go in the event of a zombie apocalypse and how we would ensure our survival. We work in a high security zone at the airport so we think we will possibly set up camp here and we’d then have all sorts of vehicles at our disposal – planes, vans, cars, cherry pickers etc. We’re also pretty sure that the zombies couldn’t penetrate the perimeter. It took me twelve weeks to get security clearance for this zone so I mean..the administrative delays should work in our favour here and keep the zombies from getting badged and gaining entry in a hurry. If people who work there are treated with such unforgiving caution and suspicion then zombies will surely fail under similar scrutiny.
We think that it would be best to monitor zombie behaviour strictly to begin with and get an idea of what we’re up against before proceeding with any rescue or clean up attempts. Our fight tactics will differ enormously depending on the type of zombie we face. If they can swim, shit! If they can climb well, shit! But we’ll deal with it accordingly.
It also occurred to me during a lunch time discussion that we may be able to implement that old Cruel Intentions policy of ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’, and actually befriend/ raise or negotiate with the zombies depending on their nature. We might be able to feed them well enough to keep them on our side or to tame them. I’ve always been good with animals, even scary dogs treat me with a certain understanding so I don’t know that zombies will be any different. I will use my psychology skills at understanding human behaviour to understand the zombie nation, put myself in their positions and attempt to create a safe place for us to communicate and work together.
All in all, I think if it happens, we’ll handle it.
Civilian fatalities in wartime have climbed from 5 per cent at the turn of the century … to more than 90 per cent in the wars of the 1990s. (Unicef)
Violence is the kind of knee jerk reaction that belongs in history rather than the present. But are world leaders becoming less civilized rather than more?
It used to be that civilians, especially children and women, were kept out of conflict. War was fought between armies in a field far enough from the general population to spare the lives of the innocent. Now they’re bombing hospitals, aid centres, nursery schools and refugee camps. Entire cities are being destroyed and everyone left in them.
I want to write objectively and factually about this but I’m emotional. In my dreams I see the dilapidated buildings in Syria, and crying, motherless children outside them who simply don’t understand and don’t want to die. Why does any political conflict give any institution the right to leave them there like that? Wars are not with children.
They aren’t with civilians either. When a conflict begins there is a lot of generalising – you may have heard someone say of Northern Ireland in the 90’s- ‘the Catholics are fighting the Protestants. But as a Catholic child in the 90’s I wasn’t fighting anyone other than my brother and occasionally my parents or grandparents. I was playing hide and seek and worrying if I’d ever get my first kiss or if my teddy was sleeping ok with a new pet in the house. Whatever issues the politicians and activists had then, I wasn’t involved.
The issues surrounding political and geographical conflict, conflict for resources or territory or power, are and should be fought between political institutions in a delegated territory for this purpose. I can already hear the disdainful voices saying I’m naive and that’s not how it works, but to that I would say call me whatever you like, I’ll take it because I know that whatever label you attach to this notion, it doesn’t make it any less valid.
Political states have reduced themselves to the base logic of careless children in a playground who fight with no concern for those around who might get hurt. Eventually the teacher must come along and split this up and show them how to resolve their disputes like adults. Fighting over territory with destruction is as logical as two children fighting over a paper plate – if you rip it in half it’s no good to anyone.
The sheer destruction left behind after conflicts like we see today is unacceptable and there must be a better way to conduct these affairs. What we need is an effective governing body who can oversee conflict resolution fairly. Like a business, if you’re in a position of responsibility and you severely fuck up or break the rules, you’re fired. That’s the end of it. If you are a nations leader and you incite hatred or cause violence to break out, you’re fired. Show discrimination, negotiate poorly, fired. Trump hasn’t even started and he’s fucking fired. Politics should be governed like a workplace. If you can’t play by the rules, you’re out and the competition can line up outside for the big post.
Again idealism one may cry, but didn’t every good idea start somewhere. Just because it seems impossible doesn’t mean it is. The light bulb sounded like a radical idea when it was conceived but after try and try again it became common place.
In order to bring about a better standard of global conflict resolution the idea needs to be given some gravitas and the seeds be sewn for change with some belief that it can and is possible to find a better way. It can’t be difficult to find a better way given how diabolically awful the situation currently stands.
Sure it would take a lot of work, a lot of agreement, a lot of dialogue, and education, and negotiation, but this must start or it will never finish and we will be doomed to watch the recurrence of disaster over and over again. The collective unconscious cannot withstand and progress in the knowledge of the current state of suffering. Suffering is like a domino affect that will only knock over more suffering in turn. Consequences, physically, psychologically, collectively are not short-lived.
We, the global we, cannot flourish with this current penchant for destruction.
I may be getting a few years ahead of myself and bear with me for being an idealist…BUT, I think that one day it will be possible through advances in science and technology to enable human beings to overcome death as we currently know it.
Join me for a second in a realm of imagination where I suggest to you that human beings are, in a big picture sense, moving towards the proverbial light of everlasting life.
Before you get worried about what this might mean in terms of overcrowding let me first reassure you -thanks to Nasa’s new Keplar telescope 1,284 new planets were discovered yesterday and scientists believe that some of these may be habitable.
This discovery comes just one day before Tesla offshoot company Hyperloop tested a vehicle which purposes to be able to carry people and goods at the speed of sound. If that can be done, so can commercial space travel. It’s not unthinkable. So not only may we have enough space for a growing and ever-lasting population we will also have the technology and resources to spread it out to more distant territory.
Generally, whatever it takes to make it work – they’re working on it.
Advances in artificial intelligence have come a long way since the Eliza program was written at MIT in 1964. Now, not only do we have a whole selection of chat bots and help bots but we can also create bone marrow from machines and use 3D printing to create new organs. If that isn’t moving in the direction of entire body preservation in the future I don’t know what is. Some say that when the atmosphere on earth changes beyond our ability to adapt and thrive here we’ll be at the stage where we will have machine based versions of ourselves to upload into and that the artificial shell will carry us forward.
So then also say that we do find a way to continually heal and fix the human body, increasing life expectancy – the question becomes how do we preserve the soul and our consciousness? Because without this our bodies are all but useless. And further do we need to find a way, or is it the light that never goes out?
This I can’t answer yet, I don’t know if that’s being worked on , but no doubt it will be looked at and theorized over. For every problem there is a solution. For every question there is or can be an answer.
And for anyone who thinks even the idea of this is sacrilegious, just remember the story of that little guy on the roof when the world flooded who wanted God to save him. He refused the helicopter and the boat because he believed God would save him. When he got to heaven he asked God -‘why didn’t you save me?’ and God said, ‘well dude, I sent a helicopter and a boat but you still weren’t happy’.
Maybe God just works in mysterious ways.
I know that the news I refer to is not hard evidence that any of the technologies or scientific discoveries we are holding in our hands today will one day enable a deathless utopia for womanandmankind, but join me in dreaming that maybe, just maybe, we’re heading on the right path.
I don’t know about anywhere else but in Ireland confidence is very often not celebrated as it should be by peers. You do well at something and you are often likely to be met with a sneering ‘oh well look at Mrs important, think you’re sooo big’. It’s a common slur for bitchy people to use the phrase ‘well she just loves herself!’ as if that is a terribly arrogant thing to do. But rise above it, love yourself, appreciate yourself, be good to yourself. No matter how little people celebrate your strengths you know you have them so flaunt them. They will carry you forward and encourage others to place their confidence in you too. Set an example in thinking you can.
2/ Non-believers In You
I don’t mean abandon them completely- but abandon the impact they have on you. Think about it. When you suggest a new idea or venture, many people may brush it off or roll their eyes or try to tell you how it won’t work, but if you believe in it – think it through and go for it if you want to. Sometimes we can take on the disbelief of others and let it hold us back. They cast doubt and we follow suit. This is self-sabotage. Stop it.
I’ve heard it said that failing to plan is planning to fail and this runs very true. If you want something to go well, think it through first. Consider it well, plan for every eventuality and be prepared for anything. One step ahead of the game and the game will not catch you out.
4/ The Inability To Handle Criticism
Criticism as long as it is constructive is very, very good. Let yourself find out where you go wrong and better it for next time. Burying the head in the sand is not helpful. Blaming others for any misses at success is not helpful either. Take responsibility, ask for feedback and constructive criticism and work to better the areas you fall down in. If you don’t know or won’t admit where you’re going wrong, you can’t turn it around.
If you look at your goals and you see only obstacles, that’s your perception, not the reality. Abandon the obstacles and change your view. It’s like a mountain walk – yes you might be going up hill and there might be trees and rocks in the way, but you don’t turn back, you look for a way around and usually, you will find one if you look hard enough, or ask for some directions.
In a dilapidated rural village in Ireland in the 90s my older brother raised me on In Utero and Incesticde. He sold mixed tapes and second hand singles from his bedroom and I had my own home-recorded radio station next door in mine that didn’t actually air outside those walls. I graduated from Celine Dion and Michael Jackson fandom to a fully immersed baptism of fire in grunge at the tender age of nine. I cut my teeth on Live Through This and my aunt Catherine watered my foliage with Babes In Toyland and The Pixies. I lived and breathed this music. I clung to songs like they were the branches of the trees I climbed to get away from the monsters below.
When Kurt Cobain died, I remember my brother climbing onto our roof as if he’d jump to join him. Luckily, our roof wasn’t that high, and he wasn’t that serious but I’ll never forget it. Music ignited a passion in us both, a drive and a fire that we had for no other avenue.
Our home life wasn’t always happy so we found solace in our ever-growing cd collections. Marilyn Manson, The Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, Led Zeppelin, Megadeth, Nirvana, Nirvana, Nirvana. We wanted to hear it all, every record ever cut. It was as if every artist was an old familiar friend who would know how we felt when no one else did. We didn’t really have many close friends in real life but in the sound frequencies and radio waves we felt connected to the greats.
I got through my school years dreaming of an escape to the hubs of rock history. I constantly felt like I was being trailed through academia when I just really wanted to run away and soak up the melody in the airs of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle. These places were completely romanticized in the music I listened to and the books I read. I longed for a more tangible view. But I didn’t have the money. I didn’t have the planning skills either, no experience, no strategy. I was trapped. So I made do with what I had and lived out a rock fantasy where I was- dressing like I’d just stepped off the ‘Almost Famous’ set and drinking like I could keep up with Lemmy.
Pressure mounted at school, I drank so much coffee to get the work done and then I couldn’t sleep, so I started smoking pot daily which was very available in the town nearest to where I lived and I’d tried it a few times before enough to know what it did. It gave me some respite from the constant churn in my head that never stopped. I got my first job working in a bar and I started to find my people- other people who were weird and liked music obsessively and who questioned their sexuality and religion like I was doing. Open minds were very welcome in my life right then.
The war in Iraq loomed and I, being a sensitive soul, was traumatized by the idea of this. For someone who could not sit in the room where Schindler’s list was being watched, the notion of an actual war going on, and our taxes contributing to it, really weighed heavily on me. I joined Youth Against War and I wanted to make a difference.
But after rallies, and networking events there was again a lot of drinking. I was fifteen, I was meeting a lot of people who were interested in the same things as me and having been lonely for a long time I couldn’t resist the colourful company I now had the option of.
Around the same time, my parents sat me down, my mum crying and my dad coldly explaining that he was having another affair and was leaving to be with his younger lady. I’m pretty sure this event was the tipping point between dabbling with drink and drugs to becoming quite reliant. My world was turning upside down. My parents proceeded to get back together and split up repeatedly for a few months, each time as bad as the last. I buried myself in my music, work and the anti-war effort, and inevitably the drinking.
I partied with my new hippie music fan friends. We went to a lot of gigs and started a make-shift commune after the war began anyway and our exams finished. I had my own ‘summer of love’. It was all an escape from reality for me. I don’t think I had a moment of happiness in any of it that wasn’t induced by mind-altering substances. The same could be said for the years that followed. Inside I wasn’t really, truly happy for a long time and eventually it would show.
When I went to uni I wasn’t ready. I was really deeply troubled. The previous two years of a-level studying, working, and living in the countryside with my, at that stage suicidal, mum, had really taken its toll on me emotionally. The more I worried, the more I had needed to drink to cope- music alone just wasn’t cutting it any more. I lay on the floor of my room in halls on the first night there and wondered if I should kill myself.
I was lonely, strung out, and had no way to get inebriated. That was the main problem. It was withdrawal and thankfully the intensity passed and I went back to being in a manageable state of hopelessness. My dad sent me a card at the time that said ‘hang in there’ and I wondered if it was a prompt to hang myself. I mean, that’s a fucked up thing to deduce from a little card that is meant to mean ‘I’m thinking of you, stay strong’..but the choice of words struck a nerve in me, and I clearly thought my father was a sick bastard by that stage. After everything he’d put my mum through I didn’t know if the good guy in him still existed.
All I really wanted to do was play music. I wanted to be surrounded by it, to live it, and just immerse myself in music culture. I remember telling my dad once what I wanted and he was very angry. He raged at me to ‘take my head out of the clouds’. To be fair, I didn’t have an alternative concrete plan of direction but I felt like I belonged in the music world somewhere. Not the boring classical music world we learned about in school, but in rock ‘n’ roll. That was my real home.
The thought of more academia just killed me, but it seemed like the direction I was being led and pushed, and I did have the grades and brains for it, so they and the exam scores said. But I was so broke and ill-prepared that I lived on rice and peas for most of that year. My uni expenses were just another thing my parents could fight over so I was afraid to ask them for help. I found out years later that there had been a uni fund for me but my dad had cashed it in and likely bought flashy cars. He had obviously had some kind of severe mid-life crisis. Funny he never really recovered from it.
I got by on the student grant anyway but I didn’t get much work done. I couldn’t settle or engage in the classes. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I did a little work but then just cut classes and played guitar and listened to music. Neither my head nor heart was in it. I tried to join a band but the first audition didn’t go great and I was really pissed with myself for failing at the one thing I really wanted to succeed at.
I wasn’t feeling healthy, inside or out. I came home in the summer and didn’t go back. I couldn’t afford to, and I wasn’t fit to. My mum would call me crying all the time and I was so stressed out at being far away that I couldn’t concentrate. I really didn’t want to live with her again but I couldn’t be so far away either. So, I moved into the nearest town to her and I did immerse myself in music as much as I could. I worked for my dad for a little while to try and wrap my head around where he was at, but it made me again want to kill myself and I just about finished up my contract there. I remember screaming at him and slamming the car door on the last day because he was telling me about his holiday plans with his girlfriend while he dropped me off at our old house which mum could no longer afford on one wage and couldn’t manage to sell either. She was dying inside and he was going on holiday and couldn’t give a shit.
After that, I didn’t have a job, or a course to sink my teeth into, and every relationship I had had seemed to end with me being cheated on which was really, really, not what I needed at that time. My confidence was totally shattered and I was miserable and in a rut. I started to shut down around people and in general. There were a few friends I had that I really valued, but mostly I didn’t trust anyone and I started to push everyone away again and retreat back to my songs and my own company. I wasn’t much company for myself either.
The next few years were a haze. The unhealthy habits continued although I gradually struggled to wean them down. For a while I felt too messed up to work, too confused. I went on benefits for a while to give myself some time out. I did some free lance theatre and events work and I hung out with local musicians and music fans, but mostly just I hid from the world and i tried to pick myself up again internally. There was a lot of silence in me.
Eventually I got tired of being too broke to eat so I took the first real job I could find. It wasn’t an ideal job for me, but it paid a steady minimum wage, which was better than I could get free lancing in events or entertainment work at that time, without qualifications or a driver’s license, and it actually was probably the best thing for me. It was easy, apart from some of the difficult people I had to work with, and I gradually relearned how to be me again. I started to have some money coming in which helped pick me up. Eating well and getting exercise contributed massively to my recovery, and I would never drink on the job, or go to it hungover, so I did wean down the bad habits to weekends only. I could afford to go to the gym for the first time ever and I felt in a good enough place to go back home to my mum’s and do some saving so I could learn to drive and get my first car. My mum was getting better too by then.
I made a lot of mistakes and I lost sight of my dreams. It happens so easily, a slippery slope, when things get tough and you start living day to day or you start living for other people. For a long time all I aspired to do was to get myself and my nearest and dearests through the current hell, there was no space for dreams. Until, not quite suddenly, but eventually, there was time again, and there was money, with which comes opportunities and choices that I hadn’t seen before.
I realised, when I remembered who I was again and started to come back to life, that I was actually kind of a rocket before all the drinking and depression started, and I could do a hell of a lot better than where I was, in a dead-end, minimum wage job with bosses who treated me like crap. I remembered that I was once a force to be reckoned with and I started to stand up again. I studied again. I made some friends who helped me to build my confidence back up and I played guitar, a lot. After five years, I left the dead end job and I joined a contracting firm where I could climb the ranks.
I was so ashamed of what I now call my hazy years that I forgot all the value in them for a long time. I resented them for where they took me and maybe I needed to do that to move forward but when I pick up my old cd collection now, a 360 disc case, and I caress my way through the pages, I have so many memories that part of me can be thankful.
When I pick up Babes In Toyland’s ‘To Mother’ album I remember being fourteen in a nice kitchen in Liverpool where my uncle is cooking egg fried rice and my aunt is telling about seeing Kat Bjelland and the band play live, and Kat is in a frilly dress and red patent shoes looking like a little doll, but screaming her lungs out, and I remember imagining this and being euphoric at the vision. When I pick up Bon Jovi’s greatest hits album I remember being at their gig in Dublin and I bounced, high, from one end of the stadium to the other, continuously until the show was over. Afterwards I busked in Temple Bar to let the busker go for a break. I even made him a few punt with a cover of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and the typical ‘Wonderwall’ rendition.
When I pick up Counting Crows album I remember a friend no longer with us. I remember their album playing in the car as we drove to Dundalk to go drinking once. I remember dancing down the street with him, laughing and joking around. Stopping so he could roll a spliff on a windowsill.
As much as I can look back and be ashamed that I lost my way and I feel sometimes that that’s what I should do, in a way I’m glad too. I shared a lot of nice moments with a lot of nice people over some very nice music. There were good times in all the bad and the main thing is I got to the other side eventually and am in a place now where I have control over my own life again and I can find a way, (and afford!) to follow my dreams once and for all.