Archive for the 'Blog' Category

Feb 11 2019

I’m Married Now. How Weird Is That?!

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The falling in love bit was surprisingly easy. I didn’t really have much say in it to be honest. I’m pretty sure I just woke up four years ago and realised I was stupidly, ridiculously, passionately in love with my silly Venezuelan man.

Darren & Simon in the Guinness Storehouse (December 2014)

Getting engaged was pretty damn easy too. It happened over a casual conversation. I think we were engaged before either of us truly registered it. And there was no fear, no nerves, no apprehension attached to it. It felt so very right and so very easy.

Then we were planning the wedding. And that’s my forte. I made a 20-tab spreadsheet. There were formulas and time schedules. There was colour coding. I built in dropdowns and budget estimators, to-do lists and detailed guest notes. I even consulted GDPR legislation. Planning is fun. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s very enjoyable.

Then the week of the wedding itself. And that’s when my nerves set in. I wasn’t nervous about marrying Simon. I was nervous about the event going well. I was worried our guests wouldn’t have fun. I was worried people wouldn’t like the custom cocktails; I was worried people would be bored by the ceremony; I was worried people would hate the karaoke; I was worried people would find the drag performance too strange (April was wonderful). I was worried there would be fights and I was worried that people wouldn’t show up.

He’s a monster. Help!

All these were mostly silly concerns, because everything went beautifully. Our friends and family had a blast. Drinks were drank, songs were sung, dances were danced and many laughs were laughed. At one point, Simon and I took ten minutes to ourselves to look over the room and appreciate the evening. A few people recommended we do this and I understand why. Much of the night has blended together for me now, but I clearly remember that moment. The moment we surveyed the scene. We also took that opportunity to make things truly official and update Facebook. We became the Maracara-Byrnes and I couldn’t be prouder of my new name.

But now what? Two weeks later. My brain has finally calmed. All the bills are paid, all the cards are opened, all the memories have been Instagrammed and the come down has begun. We’re married. I’m married! How weird is that?!

For many years, for most of my life, I’ve been anti-marriage. I didn’t understand why people needed the state’s approval, that piece of paper. I never thought this travesty would befall me. But it has. And it’s amazing. And it seems like the most natural thing in the world now. And we haven’t done it for the sake of the state (although, when you marry a Venezuelan you begin to appreciate the importance of that piece of paper) and we haven’t even done it to “shout it from the rooftops”. Magnificent as it has been sharing our big moment with our friends, it has been far more personal than that for me.

I have a new idea of what marriage is now. I no longer look at is as a heavy institution. It’s far more than a legal commitment. And it’s not about signalling to the world that I’m taken. Marrying Simon is about showing him how much I deeply love him, care for him, and respect every part of him. I respect his history and culture. I respect his opinions and ideas. I respect his ambitions and his future plans. And I know in my heart and mind that he feels the same about me. This marriage is bringing all of our individual experiences and hopes together to create an incredible future for both of us. We’re better together. It’s almost obvious to me now.

And while our lives are fun, exhilarating, and even easy at the moment, I am (oddly) just as excited about sharing the sad times and the hard times with him. I know we’ll get through them together, finding solace in each other during grief and finding humour in the difficult spells.

It’s still feckin’ weird though. I’m Darren Maracara-Byrne. I’m married. Does this mean I’ve finally grown up? I hope not. Nah, I’ll still continue to be my ridiculous, juvenile self. Except now I’ve someone beside me all the way to be just as ridiculous as I am.

Simon and Darren Maracara-Byrne

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Dec 11 2018

Oh, To Be

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Oh, to be

A cat.

Not a leopard, nor a lion,

Not a Maine Coon, a Persian, a Turkish Angora,

But a house cat, on his mat, without even a hat.

To not have a care

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Sep 18 2018

Independent Love Song

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You could say this was an independent love song
It’s nothing like to us what love meant to them
But, that’s not to say the love we have isn’t big or that strong
I’m doing it a different way

Scarlet wrote that gorgeous song in the 90s and I was reminded of it again recently. My cousin put a meme up on Facebook. Slightly cynical, it’s just a throwaway remark, more an attack on the modern world than the nature of love and relationships themselves.


But I immediately jumped on it and began a rant about love and relationships today:

Relationships are better now, because we know a huge amount about our potential partners before we even meet them in person. Because women are no longer just expected to settle down and pop out some kids. Because when relationships do fail, it is easier to leave. Because where there is abuse, there are better resources available to help the victims. Because relationships are available to all people, not just those that conservative society deemed acceptable. Because when things do work, they are as amazing as they ever were in the past. Old people, past generations, they do not have a monopoly on love. And just because we don’t do things the way they did, doesn’t make us wrong.

Maybe, in general, relationships are harder these days. Maybe it’s because we expect more of each other and hold ourselves in higher esteem, because we know we can strive for great things not just the basic restraints society dictates. But jealousy has always been there. Trust still needs to be earned. Hurt is natural; it helps us grow and discover what we truly need in our lives. ?

I have loved and I have loved well in my life. And it’s easy to be cynical about it all. Love can be fleeting and temporary, it can hurt you so badly, irreparably. But it’s worth it. It’s worth constantly striving for it.


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Jan 03 2018

Hola Mis Amigos

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So, I do tend to hold true to my New Years’ resolutions. Not all of them, but some do take hold. I like the idea of constantly bettering oneself.

This year, I am finally attacking a task that I’ve been promising myself I’d take on for three years now. I’m want to learn Spanish. Quiero aprender español.

In recent years, I’ve increased my reading, I’ve added to my knowledge base for work, I’ve improved my skills in digital media, and I’ve improved my interpersonal skills – listen more, keep in touch better, stop taking people for granted, that kind of thing. In learning Spanish, I hope to grow closer to my Venezuelan fiancé; I hope to communicate with his friends more, and with his family too (that’s the scary bit). But this should also open up extra opportunities for me professionally. ¡Espero!

So, wish me luck. And if I throw the occasional “hola” and “cómo estás” in your direction, give me some encouragement.

¡Gracias y Feliz Año Nuevo!

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Oct 11 2017

How Do I Deal With My Own Hypocrisy When Separating The Artist From The Art?

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For a number of years now, I’ve proudly exclaimed that I’ll never watch another Woody Allen movie while he’s alive. It was my bold statement of intent, a declaration that I would no longer financially, socially, morally support a man who (allegedly!) abused his own child. It was a difficult move, I felt. I was a huge Woody Allen fan and have often counted some of his films among my favourites. But I made the decision and felt delightfully self-righteous and went on about my life, smugly assured I was now a better person.

But that’s a fierce amount of bullshit and I really wish someone had called me out on it. I’ve had many conversations on this and I’ve defended my viewpoint many times. No one has yet called me a pompous, arrogant ass for taking this stance. And yet, that’s what I am. I’m a hypocrite. I’m preaching morality when it suits me. And that needs to stop.

The problem is… I don’t know what is the right thing to do. I don’t know how to separate the art from the artist. I don’t know if I should. I don’t know where to draw the lines and when I should forgive. I don’t know if it’s my place to forgive. I don’t’ know if it’s anyone’s place to forgive. But if no one is accountable… then no one is accountable. And that is the seed from which society’s moral degradation grows.

And breathe!


This week, the long standing rumours of Harvey Weinstein’s (CBE!) abuse of power and abuse of women ceased to be rumours and have led to a number of incidents coming to light and his ultimate sacking from his own company. Harvey Weinstein has directly produced some of my favourite films and has been executive producer on far too many films to recount. Will I stop watching his movies? Um.. well… ehh… no. No, I won’t. And I’ve been trying to justify to myself why this is.

I won’t be watching Victor Salva’s new movie. He’s a child molester and I should not support him.  Jon Hamm hospitalised a frat house pledge in college. Will I be watching Baby Driver this weekend. Yeah, it’s likely.

I don’t listen to the work of R Kelly (underage girls) or Chris Brown (domestic abuse), but I am a Beatles devotee despite John Lennon repeatedly beating up his first wife.

What is bad?

What is bad? Where’s the line? Are there socially acceptable crimes? Half of Hollywood shoves every kind of drug up its nose. Most of my favourite movies, TV shows, music and books probably wouldn’t exist without coke, weed, ketamine, mdma, LSD. I am aggressively anti-drugs but clearly I’ve found it easy to put that aside when it comes to entertainment. Even when the artistes are caught or are open about their drug use, I let it slide.

Murder and child abuse? Yeah, that’s usually enough to put me off. But I watched Roman Polanski’s Venus in Furs earlier this year. Polanski has been famously avoiding the US since 1978 when he was due to be sentenced for “Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a minor”. I’m a hypocrite.

How about moral infidelities or general bad behaviour. The violence of Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Eminem, Colin Farrell, etc. doesn’t dissuade me from appreciating their work. The misogyny, anti-semitism, racism or homophobia of Schwarzenegger, Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Alec Baldwin, Azealia Banks, Lars Von Trier won’t have me rallying against them.

And what about Joss Whedon, the torch-bearer for modern male feminism. The inherent hypocrisy in how he treated his ex wife and other women in his life has certainly tarnished my view of him, but it’s not enough to stop me craving the next thing he produces.


So, how am I subconsciously (or consciously) justifying this to myself? Do we forgive them? Am I forgiving their crimes and misdemeanors to allow my enjoyment of their work or am I just ignoring them. Where’s that line? If the delightful Chris Pratt were to murder a mall full of shoppers, would I protest the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie? Um… I dunno.

People can change and people can atone. I’m not sure what Jon Hamm or Mark Wahlberg did in their younger years reflects what they are today. But Mel Gibson seems to be just as bad as ever. I know none of these people personally, so I can’t say what their true feelings, opinions, actions are. But if someone has served their court decided time in prison, should we accept that as reason to move on. Jeepers Creepers director Victor Salva served prison time for his child molestation, so is it ok to watch his latest movie?

Wanted dead or alive?

The grey area get’s easier to navigate when the artist in question is dead. And easier still if they’re long since gone. It’s very easy to gloss over Wagner and Elliot’s anti-semitism, Dickens’ and Hemmingway’s misogyny, Byron’s incest, Elvis’s penchant for underage girls, Burrough’s and Carravagio’s murders. Why is that? The crimes still happened and the art still exists, but whenever I discuss the haunting beauty of Carravagio’s The Taking of Christ, I don’t preface my conversation with “well, I could appreciate this more if he hadn’t killed a man”.

I’ve told myself that I will revisit Woody Allen’s work when he dies (I really thought it would happen last year – there was something in the air). Oddly, I’m looking forward to seeing the movies he’s made in recent years since my righteous boycott.

The art from the artist

This boycott of mine really is pathetic. But do I abandon it and start watching his films again? Do I truly accept that the art and the artist are two separate things? No, that doesn’t settle well with me. I’m uncomfortable with my current stance – I’m so much less self-assured than before. Perhaps I should be uncomfortable. The topic is so vast and complicated that maybe discomfort is an important part of keeping the conversation alive. I’ll keep on thinking about it and I’ll keep on having the conversations, but maybe I’ll try be a bit more ‘woke’. I’m open to criticisms. I’m open to suggestions. I’m even open to being told that I’m just a pompous ass.

What do you lot think?


Update: I felt I should include my Facebook post today (30/10/2017) regarding the latest allegations against Kevin Spacey and his sexual advances towards a 14 year old Anthony Rapp.

Myself and Simon recently had a fight about Kevin Spacey on the back of my blog post regarding separating the art from the artist (yes, these are the things we fight about). Kevin Spacey is one of those people who I’ve been very sure has been ‘up to no good’ for a long time (I’ve heard too many similar stories from a variety of sources to not pay some heed to them). However, I have such huge respect for his acting abilities, for what he has done for the arts and for helping create some of the greatest screen characters ever.
So now, I’m once again asking myself the question, will I dive in to the next season of House of Cards, one of my favourite TV shows, or will I silently protest by not adding to Netflix’s HoC viewing figures? I don’t know.
While I have pretty much made up my mind regarding the legitimacy of the allegation (and I believe time will prove these allegations to be true), at the moment they are just allegations. Hopefully, the legal system (and not just the court of public opinion) will decide the legitimacy of these and any future allegations. But all that aside, I am disgusted at Spacey’s tweeted response to and defense of the allegations.
To excuse oneself with drunkenness and a hazy memory is absolutely unacceptable when responding to accusations that one has assaulted a 14 year old. If he has forgotten that he assaulted an underage boy, that would point to a larger problem.
He then went one step further in the same tweet and announced that while he has had relationships with men and women across his life, he “choose[s] now to live as a gay man”. So so so much wrong with this. Firstly (and most significantly), to include a coming out moment in the same breath as he pathetically responds to accusations of pedophilia is disgraceful. Secondly, to say he is now making a *choice* to be gay is undermining and demeaning to the LGBT movement. Thirdly, as a bisexual, I am angered that he would dismiss his own bisexuality, that such a public figure would further the bi-phobia and bi-erasure so prevalent in today’s society.
I do believe that the current trend of calling out high profile Entertainment figures for their actions (including allegations of pedophilia and rape, alongside countless accusations of inappropriate sexual advances) is a fantastic move forward. Fame and money should not allow anyone to be above the law or beyond reproach.





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Jun 27 2017

Some People Say Forgive And Forget…I Say Forget About Forgiving And Just Accept. And… Get The Hell Out Of Town.

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Truthfully, I’ve never been very good at closing the doors on the past. I’m a movie buff and Hollywood has taught me to always look for closure, that final moment where you can close that door for good, having all issues resolved and that particular plot point of your life completed.

But real life isn’t like that. You don’t get over the death of a loved one by fulfilling a dying wish. Instead, you stay filled with regret that you didn’t say goodbye. That childhood bully didn’t end up fat and alone. Instead, he’s doing really well for himself with a lovely family and a full head of hair. You don’t move past a bad break-up with an emotionally charged, drunken weekend away with friends. Instead, you see that person again in a bar the following week. You sleep together again a few weeks later. You get back together, realise it was a mistake, breakup all over again, sleep with their best friend, get kicked in the nuts by their sister… ahem, this one is running away from me. My point is, life isn’t like the movies – it’s far more complicated and rarely do we get the resolution we desire.

And I really struggle with that. I like the neat packages. I like my endings to be tied up with bows.

The tagline to my blog comes from my favourite film, Grosse Pointe Blank. It’s the movie’s closing lines – “Some people say forgive and forget…I say forget about forgiving and just accept. And… get the hell out of town.” I’ve always loved the lines but I’m not sure I ever really gave them much thought beyond, “that sounds cool”. I’ve always liked the idea of moving on though.

I’ve been hurt in the past and while it’s not easy to forget and even harder to forgive (I probably still haven’t forgiven many people for the wrongs that have befallen me), I’ve found it possible to just move on. I’ve stayed friends with exes that have hurt me. In most cases, we’re better as friends anyway.

When it comes to family, I’m not sure we have much choice but to move on. They’re a fixture in your life. You can choose to be angry at that awkward wall in your hallway or you can walk past it. That wall will always be there. Is it really worth eating yourself up about it?

So, I move on. These people stay in my life, for better or for worse. Closure doesn’t come and life just simply goes on.

But I’ve recently been thinking about the last part of my tagline – “And get the hell out of town”. In the movie, our heroes are having their version of a typical Hollywood ride off into the sunset, so I just accepted those words at their face value. But maybe there’s something to it. Maybe closure comes with distance.

Six months ago, I made a huge move. I left Ireland. I packed my bags and moved to Scotland, to Edinburgh. It has been life-changing. All of the fears I had about missing my life and my city proved unfounded. I quickly found a new life. I do miss my friends from back home, and I’ve been lucky that so many have visited and continue to visit, but I am making new friends here. Far more importantly, I seem to have left a huge amount of baggage back in Ireland. I have left behind some very negative relationships. I have left behind bad memories and empty gestures of contrition. I’ve closed the door on many parts of my life that have been open wounds for years. In short, I’ve found closure.

People, places, moments that stressed me out, made me cringe or worry or angry or sad – they’ve all fizzled away. They’re like stories from another lifetime now. And all it took was a short plane journey across the Irish sea.


I realise that this has been less of a cohesive article and more of a stream of consciousness, so thank you for reading. I’m trying my best to write regularly again and this old blog seems like a great place to start. Welcome to my new readers (the stats say there are a good few of you) and hi again to anyone who remembers the old days of my incessant ramblings.


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Jun 26 2017

The Importance Of Silence

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I have this recurring dream, a nightmare really. I’ve had it as long as I can remember. Actually, I have two recurring dreams that have stayed with me since I was a child, but I’ll address the second one another time. This one is about noise, confusion, claustrophobia, and overwhelming anxiety.

It sort of feels like a memory, but I think it’s been warped so much by time, repetition, other dreams, and other experiences that I can’t say for sure. But I’m a child. I’m around three or four years old and I’m sitting on a kitchen counter-top. My head fits neatly under the cupboard above me. I’m alone in the kitchen, but there are a number of people in the room next door – three, four, five. They’re shouting, arguing, screaming. Everyone is talking over one another, so I can’t discern any one voice, any topic, any sentence, any point. It gets louder and louder. I’m intensely closing my eyes, but the noise pounds against me. My heart races and I’m sweating. I try to close my eyes even more fiercely, but the shouting, the voices get stronger. It could be 500 people all shouting over everyone else now. I’m holding my hands against my ears, but it doesn’t help. I’m not crying – my eyes are so resolutely shut that it would be impossible. The anxiety is overwhelming. My head is throbbing, my heart is about to explode, I’m dizzy and can no longer feel the counter-top below me, the wall to my side, I can’t feel my hands, my legs, my body. I am composed of this noise now, this painful, incomprehensible screaming, shouting din.

I wake up.

For a few moments, I’m still dizzy. The noise is like a fading echo. I’m still filled with anxiety and I am flooded in fear. My heart still races and I’m usually dripping in sweat.

I don’t get this dream very often. Maybe once or twice a year. I know it occurs more in times of stress. In fact, in the greatest times of difficulty in my life, I experience the “dream” while awake. And that’s no fun at all.

I’ve never liked an over-abundance of noise. Whether that’s as a result of the dream or if the dream is a result of my hatred of the clatter, I’ll never be sure. But both the dream and my aversion to noise are so intertwined with my personality now that I don’t think the origin matters. What matters is my need for silence. Yes, in times of emotional stress, work stress, personal stress, it’s vital that I get away to a quiet space and allow myself time to find my centre. But it’s equally important to take a breather when I’m not under any great stress. I have come to realise that I need the silence to ensure the seeds of anxiety do not take root.

Truly, after all I’ve been through in my life, I am the person that can handle anything. I can, I do, and I will cope with anything the world throws at me. It’s my superpower. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I have built myself a mental toolkit to help me deal with any situation. Particularly in times of crisis, when everyone else is panicking and shouting and appointing blame, it’s like a switch flips in my head. I become very calm and very quiet. I slowly weigh up everything that’s happening and I immediately start finding solutions. I delegate. I put people to work and I calm those around me. Some people will require a warm shoulder, some people will require a sharp figurative slap to the face. Some situations need an immediate response, some a considered timely course of action. I know this is my strongest skill and it is rooted in silence. When everything else is in chaos, my mind is clear, calm and quiet.

Silence leads to self-reflection. Self-reflection leads to finding meaning. Meaning in things, meaning in situations, and meaning in life. Finding meaning is what makes us fully functioning humans, I think. Silence doesn’t have to mean a three day retreat in the mountains (although, that does sound lovely). It doesn’t even have to mean excluding yourself from people for hours on end. It could simply mean taking a ten minute bathroom break when out with friends in a noisy bar. It could mean a short walk or a long shower. In work, it can mean taking a walk around the site or a five minute moment of solitude in the server room (I am the only one with the key).

My working life can so often be a cacophony of phonecalls, requests from colleagues, questions from contractors, talks with my boss, email streams, document flows, endless piles of paperwork… too often, our culture assigns self-worth with productivity. And this is why people burn out. Solitude and silence allows us a break from the evil overlord of productivity. And while it may seem counter-intuitive, sometimes doing nothing enables us to do so much.

I suppose a truly balanced life is one where we do not forget the past, but don’t dwell on it; where we plan for the future, but don’t obsess over it; and where we live in the here and now, enjoying it with the knowledge of all that has come before and the hope for all that lies ahead of us. It a nice thought, but so very difficult to achieve. I love to think I live in the here and now, but then I start thinking about that really stupid, embarrassing thing I said to that girl when I was 17 years old. I start panicking that I won’t be able to afford the flights home for Christmas, the presents for everyone, the time off work, not to mention the worry of Simon’s visa issues… and calm. Living in the here and now is not frickin’ easy. I need my time-outs. I need silence to drown out all the little niggling voices in my head.

I don’t suffer that dream very often these days, but I know it’s there at the back of my head. I know the next bout of depression is only a bad rainy day away. I know a crashing, crumbling spell of anxiety is always ready to grab hold of my collar and drag me into the pit. But I know I can deal with it and I know I will get through it all. I take my moments of silence. I breathe. I smile. I appreciate everything I have right at this moment. And I get on with it. What more can any of us do?

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Jun 22 2017

Stop Looking At Your Fucking Mobile Phone

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I’m done with it. I’m done playing second fiddle to a piece of plastic. I’m done being the third wheel in a relationship where the Internet and its myriad of distractions are more important than me, a living, breathing, moderately interesting human man.

Stop looking at your fucking mobile phone.

Yes, I realise as I ever-so-rapidly careen towards 36, I have begun to embrace my Grumpy Old Man status a wee bit early, but I’ve had enough. I may not be as exciting as I once was, I may not be able to hold a candle to cutefurryblindkittensfallingover, I may not have the yaasss gurl sass of a pouting drag queen meme, and I may not be as riveting as that 56-new-message group chat that you simply must respond to right this second, but I am flesh and blood and sitting right in front of you. Get off your fucking phone!

Simon, my life, my darling, my future… yes, I am addressing you, but I am not only addressing you.

As I waited for my lift to work yesterday morning, I witnessed four people almost die because of a) complete stupidity, and b) their mobile phones. All four (two in their early twenties, one thirties, one forties) with right-angled necks walked passed me, crossed half-way across the street to the traffic island and, without pause, walked right out in front of a fast moving car. The walker in front was leading the group, unbeknownst to her I guess, and she was hit by the car. She was tapped by the car. She was lightly bumped by the car. Thankfully, it was a dry morning. Thankfully, the driver was wide awake. Thankfully, the brakes on the car were in tip-top working order. No one was hurt and I suspect the driver was more shocked than even the bumped group leader. I swear, one of the group didn’t even look up from her phone.

Minutes later, picked up and driving down London Road, I saw the group of four again. Yes, of course they were still buried in their phones. I don’t like to wish ill will, but if one of them fell over, I’d watch that fail video.

Look, I’m no innocent. I love my phone. I could not live without my phone. When I get that 10% battery warning, my heart skips a beat and all the meditation techniques in the world cannot quell my rising anxiety levels. But even I have come to realise that there is a time and a place. Walking the streets with eyes down and ne’er a thought for safety or self preservation – this is not the place. In the cinema, with your distracting glare likely to result in popcorn, chocolate, jellies or a loose chair to be thrown at your head – this is not the place. Over dinner, while drinking with friends, during a TV show, during a discussion about mobile phone usage – not the place, not the time, stop doing it!

And breathe.

In unrelated news, I just bought the new OnePlus 5 smartphone. Cannot wait to play with it.

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Oct 11 2016

Have A Chat About Mental Health Today

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Have a chat or two about mental health today. In work, this morning, I already have. I mentioned to a couple of construction worker colleagues that Mental Health Awareness Week is all over Facebook this morning. We all agreed that it’s a great thing. We all agreed that everyone should feel comfortable talking about it. We shared brief stories of some bad times we all went through (nothing too deep, but enough to keep the conversation going).

It was nice. It was simple. No one felt uncomfortable. No one snickered and wanted to avoid the topic. It’s all about awareness and keeping the topic of mental health alive and out of the taboo.

So, I would recommend everyone try have at least one chat about mental health today. You can start simple and mention that it’s all over Facebook. You can ask other people what it’s all about. If you’re so inclined, share a story or two of your own or ask people questions about their experiences or the experiences of people they know. Everyone has mental health! And mental health problems affect almost every single person at some point in their lives. Let’s make sure that everyone feels comfortable talking about the topic. It’s only through awareness and breaking the taboo that people will feel free to seek help when they truly need it.

I’ll keep chatting about it. I hope you will too.



Mental Health Ireland

Mental Health Awareness Week

The Samaritans
Freephone: 116 123
Text: 087 260 9090 (Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder & Anxiety)
Tel: 1800 80 48 48

National Suicide Helpline (Pieta House)
Freephone: 1800 247 247
Tel: 01 623 5606

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Oct 04 2016

Repeal The Flippin’ Eighth

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Repeal the flippin’ eighth. How the hell did that amendment get enacted in the first place? Were our parents really so indoctrinated by the White Cloaked Pietists that they were unable to see that by granting rights to the unborn, they remove rights from the very-much-born?

Repeal the 8th

In nineteen hundred and eighty three, an all party comedy of errors led Fine Gael’s Garret Fitzgerald, alongside his coalition partners in Labour, to sign in to law a Charlie Haughey (Fine Fáil) drafted amendment to the Constitution of Ireland which guaranteed that the State would “acknowledge the right to life of the unborn”. It also includes “with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother” but I feel this tag-on has often been forgotten in successive years. After an acrimonious Referendum campaign that resulted in a staggering 67% favourable vote, that amendment was made law. That was thirty-three years ago this week.

I don’t need to remind any Irish readers how tight a hold the Roman Catholic Church has had on this country for eons. I was interested to discover that one of the main groups to oppose the 8th Amendment in 1983 (before and afterwards) was the Irish Council of Churches. This is essentially a club for all Christian churches who are not Roman Catholic.

In 1992, we held three abortion related referenda on the same day (because we do love to confuse the Irish electorate – Nice Treaty anyone?). One was rejected, two passed.

The Twelfth Amendment proposed that the possibility of suicide was not a sufficient threat to justify an abortion. This was thankfully rejected. Our Nation has already a terrible track record for mental health, particularly in relation to suicide, without muddying our constitution further.

The Thirteenth Amendment specifies that the prohibition of abortion would not limit freedom of travel from Ireland to other countries where a person might legally obtain an abortion. The proposal was approved and further popularised the delightful Irish idiom, “taking a trip to England”.

The Fourteenth Amendment specifies that Irish citizens have the freedom to pursue and learn about abortion services in other countries. The proposal was approved and ensured Doctors and Nurses could no longer be persecuted for providing patients with information relating to abortion.

Repeal the 8th

In 2002, there was yet another referendum, The Twenty-Fifth Amendment. This again, attempted to remove potential suicide as a legitimate reason to allow a woman access to an abortion. It was narrowly defeated. It was a referendum that starkly showed the rural/urban divide in Ireland and clearly highlighted that the issue of abortion was a passionate and divisive one, which needed to be urgently addressed on a State level.

So, eleven years later, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 was enacted, which did provide for abortion in circumstances where life was threatened by a risk of suicide.

Our politicians have been consistently terrified of losing votes, losing seats, losing access to brown envelopes. As a result, for far too long women have been treated as second-class citizens, incapable of deciding what to do with their own bodies. The fact that so many of the heel-draggers and anti-abortionists have been women is saddening to say the least.

That was a hop-scotch history of the people’s vote on abortion since the Eighth Amendment was enacted. I have purposely skipped the countless extremely important legal cases that drove each referendum, including and not limited to The X Case; The C Case; A, B and C v Ireland; and, of course, the heartbreaking death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012. I could spend weeks talking about these and more, but I’d rather push forward to why abortion should be legal in this country and why the Eighth should be repealed.


So, repeal the flippin’ eighth! For the past few years (the first annual March for Choice was 2012), there have been march after march, protest after protest, campaigning, lobbying, shouting and screaming, all leading to one inevitable point – a new referendum on the issue of abortion. One that will see the removal of the 33 year old Eighth Amendment.

Frankly, my own personal opinion is that women have the right to choose what they do with their body and the State should not be allowed to intervene. I understand that it isn’t as black and white as that. The fact that this is one of the most widely debated topics in politics and beyond everyday politics proves that the complexity of the issue is why there does need to be some State involvement.

That involvement should be supportive, not demeaning. That involvement should be educational, not criminalising. That involvement should be positive, not overwhelmingly negative.

The crux of the Eighth is that is equates the life of a woman to that of an embryo. A foetus is not a child and an embryo is most certainly not a child. A woman who has become pregnant (for whatever reason) should have the right to choose whether she wants to allow an embryo become something more. That is a woman’s choice, not the State’s.

The vast majority of women who want and need abortions are unable to access them in Ireland under interpretations of this law. The law will allow abortions where the woman’s life is in danger. However, a woman may not seek an abortion in Ireland if she is pregnant due to rape. Come on!!!! The latest national statistics from Rape Crisis Centres show that approx 197 women and girls who attended their centres in 2013 were pregnant as a result of rape. 25% of these survivors went on to terminate the pregnancy, meaning they either had to take a trip to England or illegally take abortion pills in Ireland (which, incidentally, could result in imprisonment for up to 14 years under our law, for them or anyone who helps them). Are you infuriated yet?

Repeal the 8th

Women have already died in Ireland having been denied life-saving abortion procedures. Do I honestly need to keep talking? Women have already died because of laws created by our country. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

At least 150,000 women have traveled to other countries to procure abortions since 1980. And those are the ones who were lucky enough to be able to afford the emotionally horrific journey. Thousands of women are unable to travel for abortion services due to family, legal status, financial situation, or health.

I keep repeating myself, but the life and health of a pregnant woman has to have a much greater value than our constitution places on it, than our State currently allows, that “our Church” would ever admit to.

So, join the fight to Repeal the Eighth. Keep an eye on any events that are coming up. Donate to the cause. Get on Facebook and Twitter. March with us. Be proud Irish men and women and support the right to choose.

Repeal the 8th


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Dec 16 2014

I Can’t Swim

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Apparently it’s the most natural thing in the world. If you throw a baby into a swimming pool (and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to do that every time you hear a screechy infant?) they will, with natural grace, begin to sink, thrash about, find the surface and learn a valuable lesson in how little trust you should place in adults. Thankfully, I was an angelic child who never drove his parents to attempted infanticide.

The downside? I didn’t get that natural start to becoming an Olympic Gold Medal swimming champ. I have vague memories of swimming lessons in Presentation College Bray. I have more distinct memories of a freezing, filthy cesspit. That was the locker rooms in Presentation College Bray, not Bray itself. Although, there’s an argument to be made.

When I was a kid, we often holidayed in Trabolgan in Cork. Their very awesome pool had a wave machine, a giant snakelike slide and a gradiated pool which meant I could always avoid going in too deep. I still have ridiculously fond memories of that pool, even now. However, I also have one fleeting memory of nearly drowning in said pool.

A siren went off every fifteen minutes or so to announce the wave machine was about to go tsunami on our asses. Myself and the other pathetically cowardly, weak-willed, scrawny, pitiful, wretched excuses for small humans would usually accept this siren as a call to abandon pool (or at least move to the paddling end in a feigned attempt at bravery).

On occasion, some of us would pluck up a modicum of courage and wade a couple of feet deeper, allowing the weakened waves to lap against our torpid torsos, proving we were real men.

I’m not sure what age I was when this happened. I guess I was about ten or eleven, which means I’ve been holding on to this traumatic experience for nigh on twenty plus years.

While attempting one of these fetes of bravado, I ventured a few inches further into the pool than I perhaps should. One of the waves that I had been so fascinated with was slightly larger than I expected and caught me harder than I could handle. I was knocked backwards. Then the previously insignificant undertow grabbed me like deaths hand in one of the horror movies my grandmother allowed me to watch at the time but my parents would have banned (my childhood relationship with and my ultimate love of horror movies is something I’ll talk about another time).

I’m not sure what I thought, but I’ve no doubt my brief period of existence flashed before my eyes. I kicked wildly and could feel myself being dragged deeper, in over my head. Water flowed into my mouth, my throat, my lungs. My screams were non-existent, but I tried to scream them none-the-less. I have a tiny photograph in my head of my final moment – my eyes were open, I was deep under the waves above, looking up at the water’s surface which was probably only inches away, but it may as well have been three miles from my face. This was it, my final moment, my last farewell, my death.

Then I was thrust forward and upward. Up high, out of the water. I came back down with a splash and was submerged again. The same sudden thrust happened again. My arms were wrenched up and water burst out of my mouth. I coughed briefly before plunging back into the spray again. With one final boost up and out, I caught a glimpse of my dad. He was swimming beside me, pushing me up out of the deep, closer to the edge of the pool. I found my footing, I was well within my depth, I was saved, I was alive. Coughing, tears, embarrassment, and panic followed. But I was alive.

So, you’d imagine that after that encounter, I would have made it my business to learn how to swim, to ensure I never endured anything like that again. Nah!

Nowadays, I love going to the pool in my gym. It’s not so deep that I can’t stand and breathe the wondrous air, so I never worry. I can float. I can wade a bit. I can flap my arms and kick my legs and slowly but surely flounder my way from one side of the pool to the other. I actually find the whole thing relaxing. No, I don’t need to swim.

Watching people doing endless lengths of the pool, plunging their heads and bodies deep under water for what seems like minutes on end, thrashing their arms and legs pointlessly from one end to the other – this all seems far too much like hard work to me. I’m happy as I am. And if I do end up dying because I fall from a ferry while crossing the Irish Sea, then so be it.

I can’t swim and I’m ok with that. The title of my next post? –  “I can’t drive”. 😛

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Nov 06 2014

I’m In A Choir. Did You Know I’m In A Choir? I’m In A Choir.

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Paul-PottsI love singing. I’m no Paul Potts (I’ve a better waistline for starters), but I really do enjoy it. It’s relaxing, thrilling, challenging and, above all else, so much fun.

So… I’m in a choir. I joined the ‘Songs in the Key of D’ choir about a year ago and since then have met some amazing people, enjoyed singing the bass parts to some incredible mash ups and have performed the National Concert Hall twice. Who’d a thunk it!!

The ‘D’ in Songs of the Key of D stands for Dublin. It’s a Dublin choir, but certainly not in the traditional sense. We’re made up of Dub residents from all walks of life, all ages and all nationalities (well, not ALL nationalities, but we’ve a few foreign bodies in our mix). The music is a mix of traditional, modern, Dublin based and Dublin inspired songs (ok, there are a few loosely connected tracks in there too, but you’ll still love them when you hear them).

Next year, we’re going back to the National Concert Hall, hopefully to sell it out again. But before that, we’re hoping to record an album. The music ranges from the traditional Foggy Dew to the more modern mashups of songs like The Script’s Man Who Can’t be Moved and Boomtown Rats’ Tell Me Why (I Don’t Like Mondays). One of my favourites is the mashup of U2’s I Will Follow and Sinéad O’Connor’s Mandinka. We even bring things right up to date with our pretty awesome cover of Imelda May’s Mayhem. 🙂

Do you want to help us? Ah, you do! Go one sure. We’re in the middle of a big fundraising drive. We really want this album to come together and our founder Eoin Kilkenny has kicked off a FundIt campaign to raise some monies.

It’s a crowdfunding campaign, so you will get something back for helping us out. Here’s what Eoin has to say:

It’s important to us that the city reconnects with some of the music that has made it so special and that it’s sung by the people living there in 2014.

Rewards available to funders include advance copies of our album, copies of arrangements, tickets to an exclusive Christmas concert on Dec 2nd in UCD, and even a chance to sing with the choir!

All members of the choir are volunteers and in order to keep the choir as open to everybody as possible we don’t charge members a fee to join. Therefore, we would really love your support to help us raise the money to record this new album. It is important to us that this unique group has the opportunity to record the songs of their city, and so they can be kept alive through time.

We are aiming to raise over €6,000 to help us cover the cost of rehearsal venues, sound engineers, mics, mastering the tracks, designing the CD case and producing the final CD. The total cost will be over €11,000 and while we hope to raise some money through a fundraising concert and private donations – this Fund it campaign will make the bulk of the album costs. Through your generous funding we can make this album for Dublin City!

We’re half way towards our target of €6,000. If we don’t reach our target, we get nothing and the album won’t happen. And I’ll cry! You don’t want me to cry, do you? (don’t answer that)

We’re raised over €3,000 so far and we have only a few days to go. Please have a look through the rewards and help us out. If you think you’ll come to our next gig in December, then why not use this as an opportunity to buy your tickets early?

Songs in the Key of D has been an amazing group for me. They are all wonderful people and I can’t wait to see what we do next. Please help our campaign and be part of the group’s future. C’mon, look at these lovely people…




Follow Songs in the Key of D on Twitter

Add Songs in the Key of D on Facebook

Support our FundIt Campaign

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Feb 13 2014

Be My Valentine

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I’m having a week of home truths. I’m attempting to be honest with myself, to stop deluding myself. I’m trying to stop lying to myself so much.

And the biggest lie I tell myself at this time of year is… Valentine’s Day isn’t such a big deal, it’s just another day.

I was chatting with Anto on Tuesday evening and we both wholeheartedly agreed – it’s a load of shite, means nothing, Hallmark holiday, etc. But the problem is that I don’t actually think that.

There’s a pathetic, hopeless romantic inside me. I love the idea of Valentines. I love that there’s an entire day dedicated to love. I love the cheesiness of buying flowers and chocolates. I love the idea of a romantic candlelit dinner. I love the cute, anonymous cards. I love the balloons and the oversized teddy bears. I love it all.

But, I’m alone. I’m single. I’ve no one to share this awesome day with. No one will buy me a dozen red roses. No one will surprise me with a nice meal in Trocadero. No one will buy me chocolates and tell me they love me.

Maybe it’s better that I keep deluding myself. Because this Friday, while I put on a smile and laugh with friends, inside I’ll be watching the happy couples and I’ll be so very jealous of what they have – each other.

So, if Mr or Ms Right is out there, can you please get in touch. Like, soon. Be my Valentine! Please!

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Jan 30 2014

My Joycean Nightmare

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So, this is the reason I got sweet FA sleep last night.

My Joycean Nightmare Image

My Joycean Nightmare

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Jul 18 2013

Miss The Rain

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I‘m done. I’ve had enough. It was pleasant for a day, but now I’m pissed off, I’m uncomfortable, I’m sick of it. I don’t like this weather. I miss the rain.

I miss the rain. I miss the dark and the cold and the grey clouds and the big jackets, wet feet, chilly nose. I miss it all and would happily take all of those wintry symptoms over this icky, unpleasant heaviness.

I know we’re not supposed to complain about this “wonderful weather”. I know we’re supposed to embrace it and say things like, “sure, it’s like being on holidays”, “it’s like we’re in Spain” and “it’s a great day for the beach”. Well, I can’t stand the frickin’ beach. It’s not Spain – it’s humid, muggy Dublin. And it’s not like being on holidays – I have to go to work.

I have to leave my apartment already sweating. I have to travel on a hot bus for 40 minutes. I have to sit in a poorly air-conditioned greenhouse of an office for 10 hours before hopping back on the same sticky bus for another 40 minutes. I don’t do any of those things when I’m on holidays. Do you?

And if another person tells me that I’m tempting fate by complaining about the heat…argh! Ghosts are in your imagination, there are no vampires, aliens do not abduct redneck Americans, there is no God, werewolves are only in movies and there is no such thing as tempting fate!!! If there was, I’d be practicing my rain dance.

I can’t be alone in this. Surely at least some of you agree with me. We can’t all have bought into this insane mass hysteria. We’re in Ireland. We’re not built for this. We’re built for duffel coats and boots, for whiskey by the fireside and dark nights indoors listening to the splattering of showers on the window. I miss the rain.

I don’t want a tan. I’m perfectly happy looking like my pigment was removed at birth. I like wearing clothes and I hate seeing overweight, hairy alcoholics wearing nothing but tissue of shorts, putting their moobs on show for the world.

And as I finish this post, I lie here naked in bed on bed, sweating, too warm to sleep, windows wide open. Bring on the thunder and lightning, bring on the break in this weather, bring on the clouds and grey skies, bring on the storms.

So, who’s with me? Who wants to tempt fate and do raindance? Let’s extinguish that big yellow torturer above and welcome back the comfortable familiarity of the beautiful overcast sky. I miss the rain.

I miss my big red hat too!

I miss my big red hat too!

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