Monday, April 7, 2014

Where've I been?!

Hi there....

Remember me? Apparently I'm this blog's author, but appear to have forgotten what I'm doing. That's not entirely true, but things have been a little bit mad for the last 6 months and I've just not had time to sit down and write!

I do feel bad for neglecting the (albeit few) but very valuable readership I have.  Normal service will be resumed shortly, I promise.

But to tide you over, here's a quick run down of the last 6 months:

 - A very good friend got engaged and asked me to be her bridesmaid. Have been organising the hen do since November, and it's this weekend. Sent out the final details for it today. I feel slightly bereft, I've lived and breathed the organisation of this hen weekend for the last 4 months. What do I do now?!! It promises to be a great weekend though, and I'm super excited. I couldn't have organised it without the truly fabulous folks at Wonky Sheep though. I'll give more details another time but they deserve a big shout out

- My parents have sold their house and are moving in 4 weeks (hopefully). I have mixed emotions about this. We moved there when I was 14, and even though I moved out when I was 19, I've called that place home for 18 years. I will miss it lots, and have lots of memories there. I think that may well be a soon to come blog post!

 - Work has been utterly stupid. I'd mentioned previously about an acquisition and work being busy because of it. That hasn't changed. But, it keeps me out of trouble...ish. Let's face it, I wouldn't be me if there wasn't a bit of mischief going on!

- One of my best friends is pregnant with her second son, due in 3 weeks. Her eldest is my godson, so I'm looking forward to the new arrival. Will be seeing them in July to meet the little one!

- I spent Christmas and New Year in Dubai with the wife. Had a fabulous time, had a spectacular view of the record breaking NYE fireworks from her apartment over looking the Burj Khalifa. That's another thing for me to blog about fully!

 - One of the girls in my close friend circle in Dublin has gotten engaged and is expecting her first child in July. Alongside this, we've started a weekly "Come Dine with Me" type effort between the 6 of us. It's been fabulous. Try and get all 6 of us together on a weekend and it takes months of planning. But for the last 10 weeks, we've met for dinner on a Tuesday. It's great, we all have such busy schedules that it's fab that we can have a weekly catch up. 

I think those are the major points. I promise I'll write something more substantial soon, I do have a fair bit to say, and even just writing this has reminded me how cathartic I find writing posts! And to tide you over, here's a pic of me and two of the girls in the pub for the rugby on the day Ireland won the 6 nations...wooooo!!! 

Much love, 

Long absent me!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Catch up part 2: Ciao Bella!

Apparently I went to Rome. But it's so long ago that I've almost forgotten I was there. It's not actually that long ago, it was 3 weeks. But given work and other stuff it feels a million years since I went. I do find that though, I can do something great, have an amazing time, and within a few days of being back to normality (or something that calls itself normality) in work, and it feels like I'd never been anywhere in my life! 

But, the joys of blogging will allow me to put myself back in wonderful, stunning, interesting, historical (and knackering) Rome. Fancy coming along for the ride? Ah go on. 

I first went to Rome when I was 5. I don't really remember it. I think it was the same holiday in which we went to Pisa, but I'm not sure. I remember Pisa as I was too scared to go up to the top of the Leaning Tower so I stayed on the lower level bit with mum. But I don't really remember Rome, I vaguely remember looking round in The Colosseum and thinking "This is big!" but beyond that, nothing. 

Fast forward 11 years and I'm 16, choosing my A-Levels. I'd done Latin at GCSE, and that class was shared with the Classics class. So during GCSE Latin I'd learnt a bit about Greek and Roman civilisation and mythology, purely by osmosis really. I chose to do Classics at A-Level, or to give it its proper moniker, Classical Civilisations. This encompassed quite a lot, and we covered Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, along with Greek tragedies, Roman satire, Roman annals and various bits of propaganda. We touched a bit on architecture etc but not to an in depth degree. I loved the subject and it was my highest grade at A-level. When the time came to look at universities I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life career wise. I had notions of being a teacher but I don't think I was ever serious about it. But, for various reasons I wanted to leave home, and I genuinely wanted to study Classics further. So I chose to do Classics & English, and after looking at a few institutions  decided upon University of Wales, Lampeter. Never heard of it? Not surprised, but here's a more in depth look at it for you!
So I spent 3 years studying Classics to a fair depth, including Greek and Roman Architecture, Roman Egypt, Roman Emperors and a whole raft of other stuff

All this story telling serves a purpose, it puts into context my interest in Rome, and why I've been dying to go back as an adult. 
Earlier this year, after Jo and I had planned our Spain trip, she mentioned that she was going to Rome in September with Blakey. Blakey is a friend of Jo's, who I've met a few times and we get on great. He's a total mentaller, which would explain why we all get on so well! Cue me inviting myself along on the trip, finding a cheap flight, sorting out accomodation, building an itinerary with the others and counting down the weeks until the trip. 
But, as is my norm, time ran away with me, and about ten days before we were due to leave, it dawned on me we were actually going to Rome. Although we'd built a rough itinerary back in the spring, and we'd booked certain things like the Segway tour and the Vatican tour, we'd not fully planned anything else. This may sound like overkill. We were only going for 4 days, did we really need to plan it so much? Yes. Yes we did. We wanted to see everything we could in those 4 days and that meant having an idea of stuff for each day. 

Jo was a star, she gathered info from Blakey and I, but she ultimately put the trip together in terms of stuff to do. We all had the bits we wanted to see and Jo included them all, in a very logical order, along with some other little bits that she'd unearthed. 

The trip arrived and we headed off. Jo and I were there for a day on our own before Blakey arrived. We didn't waste a second. We literally dumped our stuff in the accommodation and went off wandering. On that first day we left the apartment at 4pm, and got back about 10.30pm I think. 
We wandered round Santa Maria Maggiore, a stones throw from where we were staying. 
Santa Maria Maggiore
Then we pretty much mooched, we had a rough idea of where we wanted to end up, Campo Di Fiori. Our accomodation dude had recommended it for food as somewhere that we could get nice food and not get ripped off. 
As we mooched we fell across stuff. Jo had said she wanted to see Trajan's column. At the end of a street we came out into a little square, and ahead of us was "The Wedding Cake", the Vittorio Emanuele monument. But, right in front of us was a ruin of what looked like a forum. Looking on the map we realised it was Trajan's forum. Jo got excited and exclaimed "Trajan's column must be nearby!". I smiled and said "Erm, Jo, is that it?!, pointing to the huge column right in front of us. Sometimes you can't see for looking....
Vittorio Emanuele monument

Trajan's Column
After a bit more mooching we got to The Pantheon. I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed by this. I'm not sure what I was expecting, and don't get me wrong, it's a stunning building both inside and out architecturally. But, it's no longer a temple, it's a church, and is decorated as such internally, which to me, removes some of the mystique of it. The outside is obviously old, you can imagine how magnificent it looked in its hey day. But the inside is modern and, well, frankly quite gaudy. The inside doesn't match with the outside and I struggled to equate the two. 
The Pantheon
Inside The Pantheon
After the Pantheon we headed to Piazza Navona for a look at the amazing fountains there and to have a drink. It was our first drink in Rome and we paid a higher price because of where we were, in a touristy area, but it was worth it to soak up the atmosphere and take stock of the fact that we were in Rome. in Rome! A place we'd both wanted to go to for years, and it felt very surreal to be there. 

Dinner that night was lovely and we practically rolled home. Well, no, we didn't. We got a taxi because we were so full, and tired. We drove close to the Colosseum and both got rather excited in the cab so see it from a distance all lit up, knowing we'd be seeing it in its full glory the next day. 

Getting up early on the Saturday we jumped on the metro getting off with everyone heading to The Vatican, but we branched off and went to Castel St Angelo, the old Papal Fortress. Almost directly opposite Vatican City and an incredible building. We spent a good few hours in here, it's a bit like a maze and offers some incredible views of the city from the top. As well as some fabulous views of St Peter's Basilica from various points around the building. 
Panorama from the top of Castel St Angelo, hopefully you can zoom into this and see the detail!

View of St Peter's from the top of Castel St Angelo
Saturday afternoon hailed the arrival of Blakey and a trip to the Colosseum and the Forum. I loved the Colosseum, it's incredible. It's quite breathtaking really, the sheer scale of it. And it was only when on the second level that I realised just how magnificent the building is. From the second level you really get a view across the whole building and it's just, well, wow! This experience was marred slightly, or may well have been enhanced, by some American dude saying to his wife "A lot of men died here. A lot of animals slaughtered". Much to the amusement of Jo and Blakey. I unfortunately missed the comment, but it's still funny, and it became our catchphrase for the holiday. 

I must add at this point that it was warm in Rome. It was 32degrees on the day we were in the Colosseum. And there's no shelter. There's also no shelter in the Forum, which is where we headed afterwards. Immediately afterwards. The Forum is quite interesting. I'm sure that it is. But I honestly couldn't tell you much about it, other than that it's hilly. And it points you towards an exit where there isn't an exit. Resulting in a mini breakdown from me that prompted Jo and Blakey to walk off and leave me. 
We trudged round the Forum, barely speaking to each other, not because we were annoyed with one another, but because we were all hot, tired and thirsty. 
The Forum
What happened next none of us are particularly proud of. We headed in the direction of the Pantheon (so Blakey could see it), and fell into the nearest watering hole we could find. Which happened to be an Irish bar. Talk about a cliche. We paid through the nose for 2 pints of lemonade each but after an hour of sitting and rehydration we headed off. 
The rest of the day was lovely, but we walked A LOT. We visited the Trevi Fountain, which is stunning but oh, oh so busy during the day. We managed to throw a coin in the fountain though. Despite being no where near the water. Just lob it over your shoulder and hope you hit the water and not a Japanese tourist. 
Just chuck the coin and hope for the best!

Trevi Fountain

Jo and I both have pedometers on our phones, and during lunch that day we set them. When we got home mine read 25,000 steps, which equated to about 21km. Now, allow for a certain degree of error here as my phone was predominantly in my bag and swung a bit. Having said that though, this was just the afternoon, and didn't take into account the walking that Jo and I had done that morning around Castel St Angelo. I'd say that 21km was probably about right for the day we had. I'm not complaining at all, I might have been a little at the time as my feet were on fire, but it just highlights how much there is to see in the city. The transport in the city is excellent but if you wander around you will see so much without even really trying!

Sunday hailed the Segway tour. Ever been on a Segway? I urge you to. It's like real life Mario Kart. It's a hell of a lot of fun. Jo and I did a tour around Phoenix Park last year, and she'd done one in Berlin too.
4 hours on a Segway, up the ancient Appian way, which is predominantly closed to traffic on a Sunday. We were the only ones on the tour and our guide was great fun. We stopped by the Circus Maximus, and went up to see the Knights of Malta keyhole. Which is as it sounds, it's a keyhole. A keyhole in a doorway, that when looked through frames the dome of St Peters perfectly. It's a lovely sight. Close by is an orange grove that offers great views across the city, looking up the Tiber towards Vatican City. 
The afternoon took us to The Spanish Steps and a bit more wandering. We had to be up early the next morning for our Vatican tour so we deliberately took it easy on Saturday night. 
Selfie on The Spanish Steps
Bright and early Monday morning we were up and heading to The Vatican for our private tour. We needed to be there for 9 and although I'd heard about the queues I was surprised at how long the queue was at 8.30 in the morning! We skipped all that though, met our guide and headed inside.
I'll be honest, I was the least bothered of the 3 of us about The Vatican. I'm not a religious person and I didn't have a lot of interest in going. But I realised I was being quite narrow minded and I'd be mad to visit Rome and not go to The Vatican. And the fact we had booked a private tour meant we'd get a personal touch. 
I wouldn't say it blew me away, I have distinctly mixed feelings about The Vatican. On one hand it's great to see all the artifacts in there, the statues and the artwork are incredible. But, on the other hand, a lot of the items in there, have been brought from other countries and civilizations. There have been 266 Popes and each one has added something to The Vatican, be it architecturally, through artwork or through additional artifacts. And the museum is jam packed with all this. Our guide told us it would take 15 years to see everything. That sounds unfathomable, but if you ever go you'll understand. We probably only saw 1 or 2% of the museum in the 3 hours we were there. I did walk around a lot of the time with my mouth open, being amazed at the stuff I was seeing. 
Papal apartment artwork
The artwork is simply incredible, and I've never been into art. The decorations on the walls of the Papal apartments, done by Raphael, are so bright and vivid, it almost doesn't seem real. It was great to see a lot of the statues and various artifacts from all over, although a lot of them seemed to be European in their style; Greek and Roman goddesses and mythological style statues, but there was a slight bittersweet nature to it. Knowing these items were no longer in their original homes. 
Cartography Hall. Stunning ceiling
Maybe I'm being overly sentimental here, there is something to be said for their preservation in the Vatican museum. And it's highly possible my own feelings about the Roman Catholic religion are causing me to think like this. However, it is the way I feel. 
Having said all that though, I did enjoy the Vatican. I'd love to go back without all the crowds (yeah, ok then!) and spend more time wandering round of my own volition. But I've seen it, and I'm glad I have.

Our last evening was spent having another wander, not too far from our apartment, close to the Colosseum. I'd not slept brilliantly most nights so had a nap in the afternoon as Jo and Blakey had a mooch. I met them early evening and we walked round little back streets filled with boutiques and shops full of character. It was like a little Camden. It was lovely and a perfect way to end our trip. We found an amazing pizza place for dinner before walking up to the Colosseum to see it lit up at night. The last walk back to the apartment was a quiet one. We were all exhausted after a great few days, but were all happy with our trip. 
Colosseum at night
In short, I loved Rome. I will go back one day. It's one of my favourite places and was one of my best holidays. There is so much to see, it's not possible to see it all in 4 days. We did a lot, we did a hell of a lot, and saw pretty much everything we wanted to see. Next time I'd like to go without a real agenda, and with a bit more time. Not that I didn't enjoy our agenda, not at all, it was needed and I was glad of the structure. But it was jam packed! It took me a week to get back to normal, but I wouldn't change it for the world. 

In other bits of news, I've recently found out I have an egg intolerance, and a sensitivity to gluten, corn and wheat. I'll expand on how this came about another time, but needless to say my eating habits have changed a fair bit and will continue as such until the new year. I am quite enjoying it though!

I was volunteering last weekend for Open House Dublin, at the only Greek Orthodox Church in Ireland, my first real volunteering 'assignment' and one I'll do again.

Greek Orthodox Church, Stoneybatter

One of the decorative domes in the church

Tomorrow I'm off to Manchester for the weekend for one of my best mate's 40th birthday celebrations. I've known Dan for just over 7 years and he's like a big brother to me. He'll probably hate me describing him like that, but he is. I see him as a male version of me in a way.  Jo (not Rome and Spain Jo!), Dan and I all worked together in 2006 and have stayed close. We're all together this weekend, along with Jo's fiance Chris(a new development that, and guess who's bridesmaid?!), Jo's sister Vikki and her husband Gareth. Carnage will ensue. It always does when we get together! 

As always, until next time, much love!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Catch up part 1: TEDxDublin

Well hello!
Seems like ages since I last wrote, and it has been a few weeks. Had a few bits going on since then so here's part one of my catch up posts!

I can be a bit of an information sponge. I like learning about new things, I'll happily watch documentaries about just about anything and I love hearing different perspectives on things. Earlier this year a colleague mentioned Ted Talks to me. I'd never heard of this, and thought she might be talking about the film Ted. Turns out it was nothing to do with the film and was a website, featuring talks of varying lengths on a plethora of subjects. I was hooked.
I downloaded the app to my phone and I was listening to talks on my way into work on the bus and in bed. I wrote about some of the stuff I sampled in a past blog post.
The majority of the talks seem to be from the US but there are also a lot of talks from TEDx events. These are events held around the world, fully endorsed by the TED brand, but organised by an outside party. A few months back, a friend (Aisling of the awesome mentioned that TEDx was coming to Dublin in September and that she and her boyfriend had bought tickets. I dropped a quick mail to my mates but wasn't too surprised when they weren't that interested in coming along, so I phoned Ticketmaster, told them where my colleague was sitting and managed to get a seat close by. Another colleague did the same for her and her husband and we were all rather excited about the prospect of the day of talks. 
As we all know, my summer has been a bit of a mad one, and before I knew it TEDx was quickly upon me and I'd not looked at any information re speakers etc. A bit of research between myself and Aisling unearthed a fair bit of info. 
TEDxDublin 2013 was being organised by Science Gallery and besides the main day of talks (running from 1-7pm), there were also a number of before and after events being organised for TEDx ticket holders. There was kayaking down the Liffey, a 10km run, paddleboarding and a grafitti workshop. But the one that grabbed my attention was a walking tour of Dublin with one of the city architects, Ali Grehan (also a speaker at TEDxDublin 2012). The walk was free, and all particpants were invited for juice and fruit afterwards at Science Gallery. I booked my place, and was not at all phased that I'd be going to this on my own. My fellow attendees were unable to make the walk for varying reasons, but this didn't bother me, I'll talk to anyone, yes I know, you're all mightily shocked at this! 
The day before the walk I got an email to tell me we'd be leaving at 10am from an urban art installation on the corner of Dominic St and Parnell St. For those of you that don't know Dublin, although this is technically city centre, it is viewed as being a bit 'out of the way' and it isn't the nicest part of town...this information will become relevant later. 
I got up early on the Saturday, I made a packed lunch and I headed off for my day of fab TEDx stuff. 
The walk lasted and hour and was based over quite a small area of northern inner city Dublin. It's an area of the city I don't really know. I've lived here nearly 7 years and I walked streets on this tour that I've never walked before. This is for a number of reasons really. I've never had any real cause to wander through the Parnell St/Parnell Sq area of the city, and in all honesty, I didn't think there was anything to see there. I was wrong. 
The walk started in Granby Park, which if you search for on a map you probably won't find. An area of wasteland at the bottom of Dominic St had been turned into a community space by Upstart. The installation was only there for 4 weeks and I was disappointed I'd not heard of it before. It was a small space, probably about 100yards in length, filled with a multitude of things. The majority of it was a covered space with tables and chairs set out for various activities. There were little art installations and at the top of the space there was an ampitheatre made solely of wooden crates, and performances had been held within it. There was also a 'Dream Farm' which was a small perspex box with various plants in it. By turning a handle on the outside you watered the plants and kept them alive. Such a simple concept but wonderfully represented. (i'm not explaining it well here, but it was fab!). The whole installation had been created to try and make use of vacant spaces in the city. One thing that had been observed within Dublin was that there weren't many open, social, interactive, creative spaces. Yes we have parks, Merrion Sq etc, but they're few and far between and although they have events through the year, they don't have semi permanent interactive spaces. Upstart wanted to change this and Granby Park is an excellent example of this. Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, Granby Park has now been dismantled as the site it was using is required (and always was) for building upon. Anyone was welcome to come in and take part and the site was run entirely by volunteers. I know I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for future stuff like this throughout Dublin. 
The Amphitheatre

Dream Farm
We spent quite some time in Granby Park as there was a lot to see and Ali was giving us a background of the concept. We then moved on and walked round Parnell Sq. Ali told us about the Rotunda Hospital, which was the first public maternity hospital in the British Isles, founded in 1745. It's also the oldest continuously operating maternity hospital in the world. Two facts I'd never been aware of. Heading round Parnell Sq we stood outside the Garden of Remembrance, which although I'd heard of I'd never known where it was.
Garden of Remembrance
As we stood outside the garden, looking across to the Hugh Lane Gallery, Ali pointed out an empty building to the left of the gallery, an old school building. She then went onto say that this old school building would be the new location for the Dublin City Library, now located in the Ilac Centre. I was rather ashamed to realise that up until this point, I didn't even realise that the city library was located in the Ilac Centre. Dublin is a city of culture, and the library's current location isn't a particularly functional one. Yes it works, but compare it to libraries in other capital cities and it comes up wanting. The plan is to relocate the library into the old school building on Parnell Sq, providing conference rooms and other areas fitting for a city of culture and its library building. Timescale on this is yet to be confirmed, they're in the early stages of assigning an architect for the project. 

The Hugh lane gallery itself is a lovely building from the outside, and is closely located to the Dublin Writers museum (which I had no idea was there, and will be visiting!), and the Abbey Presbyterian Church, a lovely building, standing out from the other architecture on the square. 
Hugh Lane Gallery
Abbey Presbyterian Church

The walk continued then down O'Connell Street, down the Quays towards Samuel Beckett Bridge and then over the river and up to the Science Gallery site on Pearse Street. it was a stunning day, and although the rest of the walk did interest me, I was captivated most by the stuff on Parnell Sq. Ali did make a very interesting observation about the whole landscape of Dublin City though. In the main, it lacks tall buildings. The SIPTU building stands out as being one of the tallest. And it comes down to brass tax. Tall buildings are expensive to build, and tall, well built buildings are definitely expensive.

View down the Liffey towards Samuel Beckett Bridge
SIPTU building on the left, Custom House on the right
It was a beautiful morning and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk. Back at the Science gallery we had some free fruit and smoothies and I chatted with some fellow walkers before heading up to the main TEDx event just up the road in Grand Canal.
Outside the theare I overheard a woman tell her pals that she'd booked to go on the walking tour as she thought it would be around the Grand Canal dock area. But after learning it would be on the northside of the city she'd decided not to go because, and I quote, she had "absolutely NO interest in walking around THAT part of the city", and had decided to spend her time better I resisted the urge to go over and smack her for being such a bloody snob. Yes it wasn't in a great part of town, but that was its main appeal, the hidden gems it unearthed!

There were 12 speakers throughout the day, averaging 10 minutes each. As is the norm with TED the subjects were incredibly varied! (at some point soon, all of the talks below will be up on I'll post links when I can!)

Fiona Newell, Psychology Professor at Trinity College, spoke about what we all see as beautiful. Using different research data she explored the phrase "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and outlined some very interesting ideas. For example a symmetrical face is said to be more aesthetically pleasing than a non symmetrical face. And a person becomes more attractive to us the more we see them. She used the recent example of the blobfish being named the ugliest creature in the animal kingdom, but said that continued viewing of the blobfish could make it attractive to us! She also said that babies are more likely to focus on an aesthetically pleasing face than any other, although I forget the reasoning behind this!

Easkey Britton, Irish national surfing champion, talked about how surfing can be used to overcome fears and anxieties. She also talked about her project to get women in Iran surfing, and the experiences she'd had whilst conducting the project. Read more about her here

Constantin Gurdgiev, Finance lecturer at Trinity College, talked about the shifting global economy and the trends within it. I'll be totally honest. I was lost for a lot of this talk. Although he clearly knew what he was talking about, I struggled to follow the concept! 

Dave Smith, creator of Mabos, talked about Mabos and the concept behind this space. All they wanted to do was build a 5 storey robot! The basic message of this lecture was the red tape and blockers that small creative enterprises face, and that we as the public can help this by visiting these spaces/projects/installations and making them worthwhile. As he says "What sounds more interesting, living in a city with a 5 storey robot, or one without?!"

Sean Love, Executive Director of Fighting Words, a creative writing centre in Dublin helping children to write short stories and realise their own creative writing potential. He lead the entire audience (1700 people) in creating the basis of a short story, to demonstrate how the Fighting Words workshops run. We were later told that we'd broken a world record for a Fighting Words story inception!

Quantum levitation was next on the list, and we were shown this TED Talk from 2012. It's a fascinating concept and one that was demonstrated in front of me later out in the foyer, by the fabulous folks from Science Gallery. 
Quantum Levitation or locking

Quantum Levitation or locking
Fergus McAuliffe, Environmental Scientist at Cork University, spoke about how science can alienate people by using incorrect language. Everyone can understand scientific concepts, if the right language is used. But he was also not just talking about scientific presentations and concepts. He used a prime example of "Death by PowerPoint", a slide FILLED with words. One that you as an audience member will never read and fully absorb, and its presentation will likely make you switch off completely. I fully realise that I'm presenting you with a LOT of reading in this post, but I am trying to break it up with pics to make it more digestible! 

Niamh O'Mahoney, Applications Engineer at Shimmer, spoke about the emergence of technology in the medical profression, and how that although placing a lot of reliance on technology in this space may sound scary, it is likely to provide more accurate results as you remove the personal opinon aspect, and can deal with the raw data as its presented and founded from your body.

During another break, Aisling and I went for an explore and were mesmerised by the 3D printer demos in the foyer. I could have stood for hours watching this little printer make those little Xs!
3D Printer!
Kevin Thornton, Michelin starred chef, spoke about how important it was to make sure that we ate seasonal food. He used many examples but the one that stuck with me was lamb. He only serves lamb in his restaurant in spring. He said that spring lamb is divine, full of flavour, the way it's meant to be. Commenting on someone's expression that New Zealand lamb was delicious, he was astounded that people would rate NZ lamb over the fresh lamb from their own countries, but the demand of lamb all year round meant that NZ lamb was thriving and Irish spring lamb wasn't appreciated the way it should be. He had a box of apples from an orchard, one for everyone in the audience. He asked us all to take one, to smell it and appreciate the seasonality and freshness of it before enjoying it. I don't like apples, so I gave mine to Aisling, but as we walked out of the theatre later, 95% of people were eating the apples given by Kevin. It was lovely to see!

Shane O'Mara, Professor of Experimental Brain research, talked about zombies. Yes, zombies. it was brilliant! He talked about the zombie epidemic and the recent documentaries like The Walking Dead. It was a cleverly done lecture, amusing, but with real scientific info behind it. He'd obviously looked at zombie characteristics and determined what brain injuries would cause those symptoms. Fascinating really!

Cathal Garvey, creator of Indie Biotech talked about our constantly changing and evolving world. The basic message was that no one or no thing is perfect, it's just the "least worst thing that's managed to survive". It sounds harsh but it's true. We as humans are constantly evolving and adapting to new challenges, as is the world around us. 

And last but by no means least was Lisa Domican, a mother of 2 autistic children. She developed GraceApp, to help children with autism express their needs independently. Both her children struggled with verbal communication and she found that pictoral guides helped them communicate effectively, but most crucially, independently. She was fascinating to listen to, and as I've mentioned previously, someone close to me has been identified as autistic so this lecture was of great interest to me. I was moved to tears when at the end of the lecture Lisa recounted a story of her daughter Grace. Lisa was away from home and had phoned home to say goodnight to her husband and the children. Grace was still struggling with verbalising her wants and needs, but at the end of the phonecall Lisa heard Grace say "I want Mummy". Lisa's voice broke as she told the tale, and I have tears in my eyes now writing this. Those 3 words represented a massive amount, both to Grace and Lisa. 

Wow, that's a lot of writing! Hopefully you've stayed with me and been interested in what I've said. I'll hopefully update the links in this post with the lectures once they're uploaded.
I found the day incredibly informative and enjoyable, not least because Aisling and I acquired 2 Xs made by the 3D printer! We were like little children! So as a reward for staying with me, here's one final pic, of Aisling and I with our Xs. How happy do we look?!
Aisling and I, independently organised!
Until next time (when I'll regale you with tales of my trip to Rome), much love.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A random outpouring about spiders, music and massages

So it’s big spider season. You know the ones I mean, those big bastards that appear at the start of the autumnal weather. My mate Vicki calls them ‘Shelobs’ and she’s right. They’re massive. And I hate them. I know they can’t hurt me, and yes, they’re more scared of me than I am of them, blah blah blah. Save it for someone who likes them. I want them out of my living space by any means necessary.

I live in an apartment, have done for the last 5 and a half years. We’re the first people to have ever lived in it, which may explain why we didn’t see any spiders for the first 3 years. I was loving this, all my friends were giving out on Facebook about the rise of the hairy beggars each Sept whilst Claire and I were sitting pretty.
Until one morning 2 years ago I woke up to find a dead one by the side of my bed. I tried not to think about the fact it may have been on me in the night, and convinced myself it was long dead and had been blown out from under the bed by a draft. I think I was kidding myself though. A few days later I spotted one legging it from under my sofa to under Claire’s sofa one Sunday evening. Cue Claire and I armed with the hoover, gingerly moving the sofa until we got him (they’re always boys in my head!). Since then the only ones I’ve seen have been in the bottom of Barry’s plant pot. (We have a bamboo type plant called Barry. We named him as we’ve killed every other plant we’ve had so thought that naming this one would increase longevity. So far so good). And the ones in the plant pot were contained and easily thrown out of our 3rd floor window.

This year has been different though. A few months back after going to bed I went back into the kitchen to find a young monster sat in the middle of the kitchen floor. I caught him in a glass and turfed him out over the balcony. He was big enough but looked like a juvenile.
Then Sunday night, I was in the bathroom just about to brush my teeth when Claire comes out of her room with a cry of ”oh oh oh oh big spider BIG spider!”. I’m about to go to her aid when I hear her grab the hoover and figure she’s ok. After a few mins of the hoover having been turned on I hear her curse; “I can’t find him!!” I gingerly open her door to find her stood on the bed, hoover hose in hand, facing the curtain. She tells me he was on the curtain but has moved. She moves the curtain and I spot him on the other side, but I jump in the process so causing her to nearly fall off the bed. She sucked him up with the hoover and we relaxed a bit. She did move some stuff around to look for any more before going to bed and swore never to open her window again. I did a check of my room but seemed to be ok. I also left the hoover hose propped upright behind the sofa just in case he crawled back out. Yes yes I know. But you can never be too sorry.

Monday night came, similar situ. I was in the bathroom just about to brush my teeth when from Claire’s room comes a cry of “Oh god there’s another big one!”. This time she’d been on her bed when she saw him in front of the wardrobe, so she chucked a magazine at him and squished him. We spent the next 5 mins discussing the fact that we’d never had so many, and that this one could have been anywhere last night etc etc, but I said he was dead now. I headed off to bed, after doing another sweep of my own room. For the next 15 mins I could hear Claire moving stuff around again, and got up this morning to find she’d had a bit of a clear out and there was a pile of stuff to go to the bins.

The joys of facebook meant that someone told me that spiders apparently hate peppermint….I looked this up and it seems to be true. It’s not the smell, Spiders don’t have lungs, it’s the taste. Spiders have taste buds on their legs seemingly so they dislike strong herbs such as peppermint. I happen to be in luck in that I have pure peppermint oil from Egypt and have made my own fly repellent from it (which works wonders!), so figured I may as well give this a bash. My flat now has a constant aroma of peppermint and so far so good re spider sightings. I am hoping there is one in the bottom of the plant pot so I can conduct  an experiment. I’ll look later.

I love music, I make no secret of this, and have blogged about it before here. I listen to the radio at work most days, generally Absolute Radio. I’ll pick a decade each day normally. Their no repeat guarantee during the day is great, but if you listen to the same decade or the main station for days on end, you do notice some repetition. Not a criticism, it’s to be expected. Just means I make more of an effort to mix the decades up. They don’t always play the super mainstream stuff either, which is good. 
But every now and then, Darren will send through a little suggestion list of tracks he likes. I’m always open to new stuff so like the suggestions he makes. The best one he’s given me so far is Awolnation’s Sail. It’s a truly brilliant track. The music hooked me in, then the lyrics did. If you don’t know it I urge you to listen to it at least once. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I adore it.

On the flip side though, I can absolutely detest songs too. Often songs that everyone else loves. Prime examples being:
The Stranglers: Golden Brown (it’s monotonous and moany. I hate the way he sings it and I hate the melody)
Van Morrison: Brown Eyed Girl (Grrrr, just grrr. I think it’s the melody, but I dislike it intensely)
John Lennon: Imagine (I abhor this. It’s drony and dull)
House of Pain : Jump (Over played at uni, I really hate this)
The Foundations: Build me up Buttercup. (Again, over played)
Tiffany: I think we’re alone now. (Although I do dislike this, I will dance to it and do the actions. Might as well take the piss.)

I’ll prepare myself for a bit of a backlash about the ‘Imagine’ confession….

Ever been for a sports massage? I’ve had two in the last 2 weeks after doing something to my neck. Oh good god. Although awesome, I do feel like your one is trying to bore into bone through my skin. I have quite a low pain threshold so it’s a struggle for me, but, it’s bloody worked and my neck is fixed. Ended up buying a course of 6 so am going to go once a month now to try and sort out the underlying tension I have got there. Only trouble with going on a lunchtime is that you’re a bit spaced for the afternoon at work! La la la la!

Off to Rome next weekend with Jo and Mike. Can’t wait, got 4 full days there, we’re going to do everything. Super ‘cited! 
Oh! And this weekend is TedxDublin. Fucking delighted I’m able to go to this. Huge thanks to Aisling for the heads up about it all those months ago. I’m going on a walk around Dublin before hand too, with a Dublin City Architect as our guide, as part of the before events for the gig. Squeee!!! Yes I’m a big nerd, I don’t care. It’s awesome.

I shall report back. Until then, much love. Alles Bestens…may as well use some of my German skills…