There's a reason I'm not a poet

Make your own kind of music

On one of my rare weekends off my friends and I managed to fit in a nice bit of music, seeing two artists that I didn’t think I’d get to see in Ireland live, never mind in the same weekend: Sufjan Stevens and Feist. The former was playing two sold-out nights down in Dublin, and the latter was doing “An evening with…” as part of a local festival to celebrate the playwright Brian Friel. To be honest I had absolutely no idea what an evening with Leslie Feist would entail, but I wasn’t going to snuff at the ticket price of £15 to find out.

Four of us headed down to Dublin on the Saturday, stopping off at an artisan farm-house coffee shop/florist/grocer for a game of Spot The Middle Class Hipsters (I’ll stop making so many hyperlinks soon I promise) before a jaunt around Dublin for a few hours. I’d seen Sufjan once before, and remember being amazed as he finished off the show with his 25-minute long epic Impossible Soul, with giant balloons and beach balls falling from the ceiling into a crowd of indie ravers.

His newest album Carrie & Lowell has a slightly different tone, written following the death of his parents. It’s a beautiful (if heartbreaking) piece of work, and so on the night gone was the youthful exuberant wing-clad songster I’d seen before, and instead stood a man crafting some really beautiful music out of his grief. So many of the songs created such an encapsulating soundscape, each cast in front of brilliant backdrops: videos of his family growing up, or stunning vistas of sunsets, forests or oceans. Other songs were haunting: the audience not muttering a word, the whole concert hall together in silence.

The whole thing was just so impressive, that the imagination of one man could make such a beautiful and expressive show. I really enjoyed it. Also at one point he moved away from his acoustic roots and back towards his electronic ones and a space ship happened. It was class.

The Feist evening was a different affair, but one I still really enjoyed. Essentially she was interviewed by some woman (I think an actress but I don’t remember her name) about her musical influences, who inspired her to make the music she does, and where does her inspiration come from. Granted I would love to see her gig but this was the next best thing and I found the whole thing fascinating.

She gave a really intriguing history of her muses, in particular talking about the Archive of American Folk Song– something I didn’t know anything about. Basically a guy called Alan Lomax and his father travelled across America speaking to people in small towns and Native American tribes, capturing the music that the people were singing over the space of a decade. It was a really interesting talk exploring singing in the folk music/in the home setting versus modern day music, which she argued in a sense is being made for consumption rather than expression. It was all pretty fascinating.

She also played two songs at the end of the night, and answered a few questions from the audience. Obviously I wanted to take the opportunity to speak to her, so I stood up and asked some lame crap. But I don’t care how stupid it may or may not have been because now she totally knows my name.

Feist knows my name. She called me young man.

What a stud.


Seeing Red

This is what I’m playing at the minute

So I’ve moved on from my FY1 year and have been working in A&E for the past month now, and I think my experience so far can roughly be imagined by the fact that I’ve had three whole days off in that month. That includes weekends by the way.

In a word? Relentless.

Part of me is a little sad that I was off last weekend, because the whole “I’ve had one day off so far” was such a badge of pride at week three. But the majority of me is quite happy with the fact that I actually got some me-time.

The thing is though, that while I’m working essentially every day, the shifts aren’t that long: say like a 8-4:30, or 11-7, or 4-12. So you often get either the whole morning off or else the evening, and so I’ve actually been able to make a fair amount of plans over the past while, which has been nice. In my previous jobs I had days that were much longer, and so committing to things was harder in a different way.

I have been enjoying A&E, and I think over the four months I will have certainly learnt a lot. The place I’m working in just opened up a new A&E department, and man is it shiny. So it’s a nice place to work in. On a good day, you’re enthused by the variety of things you’re presented with, by the enthusiasm and hard graft of the people you’re working alongside, and by the hilarious people that come through the door (intentionally or otherwise).

On a bad day, you’re overrun by swarms of people coming through the door, you’re filled with blind fear and your mind is thinking “oh pants I have no idea what’s going on with this person and I’m too young for this crap and I can’t decide if they’re going to drop dead if I let them walk out the door or if they’re just a bit drunk/weird/insane” (delete as appropriate).

But I’m getting there. Getting a bit more confident with dealing with diagnostic uncertainty, with judging levels of safety, and assessing what the person actually wants you to do for them today. And there’s time for improvement. So obviously by the end of the four months I’ll be an absolute boss at everything. Obviously.

In other news I’ve moved out of my house and am currently back at home while we look for a new place to rent. Turns out it’s pretty difficult in Belfast to find somewhere suitable, but we’re making some progress with a place now and it should hopefully work out. I’ll also be starting up Chinese lessons again later this month- custard bun 4lyf


Tie the knot

So it’s been two weeks or so now since my sister entered into the Super Grown Up world of married life! No more singe pringle ready-to-mingle for her. As he’s moved over to the Emerald Isle, the deal was that the two of them would get married where he’s from in Wales. And I’m not talking about Cardiff, I’m talking about the type of Wales where the family potatoes are served at the wedding (and great potatoes they were mind you)

As there was a lot of wedding stuff to bring, between various dresses, decorations and the like, and so we brought three cars over with us. Which meant we got to have a great amount of driving around the countryside and see the place. When the weather was nice it made for some beautiful scenery.

But yes let’s focus on the day itself. One brilliant aspect of the day was that family had gathered from all different parts of the UK, and people had come from other countries just to attend! My uncle came from USA, and my cousin with his family from Japan. So it was a great atmosphere because everyone was specifically there for the day, and our family pretty much took over every single B&B and pub in the area. The welsh contingent were so welcoming and there was just such a lovely vibe around the whole week.

With all the build-up and preparation that went into the wedding, I was expecting my sister to be quite stressed, trying to make sure that everything happened according to schedule and that nothing went too drastically wrong. But in her own words, she wasn’t so much Bridezilla as Bridechilla: I was so impressed by how relaxed she was, and she spent the day walking about with the biggest most genuine smile on her face, really seeming to enjoy herself. Spinning around with your veil while dancing to Robbie Williams’ Angels seemed to be a fun point.

But the whole day did (generally) go to plan very nicely. I’d made myself a chronological list of usher jobs and worked my way through them as the day went on, and thankfully all the effort my sister and mum/her bridesmaids put into the day paid off swimmingly. Apart from the minor issue of showing up at the church without any rings- I think that one caused a bit of stress. But thankfully they made their way up the aisle just as the priest was about to bless them, so no harm done.

The day was filled with so many personal touches, with references to Audrey Hepburn (my sister’s idol/hero/obsession) in the order of service, the groom’s dad getting up and singing Myfanwy & Danny Boy during the mass, and the venue sporting a 1897 steam engine that the groom’s dad had painstakingly restored and polished brilliantly! The speeches obviously had my mum and other sister bawling, and the food obviously had me making good-food-noises. Oh man the food, highlights include creamy garlic potatoes, cranberries and a huge platter of mini desserts that suddenly arrived and had my attention for at least 20 minutes. Apparently the caterers for one part of it recently catered for the Queen. Only the best for us of course.

There was a ceilidh, a band fronted by the groom, and a crapload of dancing. Needless to say I had to step outside to cool down from all my boogieing about five times throughout the night, and after we made our way through the choruses of Tell Me Ma, B*witched’s C’est La Vie and The Corrs’ What Can I Do To Make You Love Me (spot the irish wedding) the music came to a close at three in the morning. My feet were delighted but my sister was a bit heartbroken it was all over so didn’t let us go to sleep for another two hours.

Then the next day the two of them headed off on a tour of the west coast of America and a cheeky wee flight to Barbados. I’ve never liked them.


Wey Aye Man!

Last weekend I was over in Newcastle visiting two friends of mine who are currently working over there. One of them went to school with me, so I’ve known him for a fair amount of time, but obviously as we’re now living on different islands I don’t tend to see them as much as I’d like. So, I decided to take the opportunity to play the rude card and invited myself along to stay with them. (Thankfully they didn’t seem to mind)

They’re both Real People now, with jobs, a mortgage and two cats. The set-up they have there is sweeeeeeet, living in a really nice apartment in a new development with a bunch of their friends living nearby and some fruit and vegetables growing on their balcony. We spent the first wee while catching up and chatting before playing some Super Smash Bros (standard) and heading out for some cake (also standard) in a wee tea house in a nearby town. Such yum.

I didn’t really know much about Newcastle before I went; all I’d really heard about the city was that it was a really fun place to go to university in, so I’d kind of envisaged a 1970s-style city filled with block-like grey buildings. Which was wrong: because of the Tyne River, there are a whole load of bridges around the place, which actually run through the city, so you can end up walking along streets underneath these humongous adqueduct-style bridges, which cut an impressive shape next to all the sandstone buildings. So yeah, it made for a very nice city.

But it is known for its night life, if the number of hens and stags you see traipsing about in tiaras and fairy wings are anything to go by. So we went to a pub on the Friday night, which is one of the oldest/if not the oldest pub in the city. It used to be a market and so is filled with apothecary drawers and more nooks than you can shake a cranny at. Because I’d ended up staying up late pretty much every night of the week playing Final Fantasy, it ended up not being too late a night out.

We got up the next day and after I had some caramel cake from the tea house for breakfast (ideal) we headed out to Beamish, an outdoor museum showcasing the history of the North of England, looking specifically at how life in towns and the country was around the turn of the 20th century. With coal mines, a pre-war school, ye olde sweete shoppes and a Freemason hall, it made for some good viewing and was great fun. They were also running a 1950s day, so lots of people had dressed up specifically and were getting their hair did in the style of women back then: it was all very impressive!

Carrying on in that theme, after a yummy Chinese stuffing-of-the-faces that evening we headed out to a swing dance night! One of my friends’ pals is into swing dancing, and the group she’s affiliated with were doing an event for people to come along and learn a few steps before a swing band started for people to practise their moves. People were encouraged to dress up so I pretty much just wore my oldest-timey work clothes and dance my little white boy heart out. Turns out it was some serious fun. It ended up being one of the sweatiest nights out I’ve had in a while what with all the jumping about and lack of air con, but I ended up being pretty decent at it and had bucketloads of fun.

So yeah: Newcastle is officially sanctioned by me!


Hear Me Roar

Like several other million people in the world, I’ve been hungrily watching the last 8 episodes in the new series of Game of Thrones. I’ve read all the books over the past two years or so, and since moving back to NI have been having a right royal binge through the previous episodes, in order to get myself up-to-date to watch the most recent series alongside my friends.

I’ve really enjoyed this series in particular: the show has now reached a point where there are significant deviations in story lines from the books, so I’m left not at all knowing what’s going to happen next. The books also have the drawback of having to sit through the endless whining of characters that you don’t like- whereas on the show they’re on-screen for like six minutes top and then you move on and don’t have to endure the half hour it takes to read through them moaning about their mummy/daddy/daughter/sister issues.

The series also provides great opportunities to geek out. Last year my housemates got a Game of Thrones board game for their birthdays, and we had a pretty brutal session which involved the perfect amount of attacking each other, stabbing people in the back, and generally kicking each other in the crotch when we were down. Always fun.

Geeking out also has its rewards: a group of us went to a Game of Thrones pub quiz last week. And it’s no underestimate when I say that we bloody well tanked it. Not only did we come first, but we also won the speed round (winning £45 for our team) and didn’t get a single question wrong the whole night. I mean, they were kinda piss-easy, but that didn’t stop sitting on the Iron Throne they had made at the end of the night any less sweet.

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Ain’t no white walkers here



Slight delay in posting this but my Chinese classes have ended! Aww. By the way in case you didn’t know I’ve been taking Chinese classes. And they’ve been great fun! It was a bit strange cause nearly everyone else in the class had come from the “level one” beforehand, and so there were a bunch of times when they were talking about vocab that I didn’t know as if it were common knowledge. But generally it wasn’t difficult to keep up, and the course I did a few years ago gave me a really good grounding in the language, so I was quite happy in the class.

I feel like I made a bit of progress with the language, but as I’ve obviously been working this time I haven’t really had the time much to sit down and just geek out on my zhongwen like I did a few years ago. And as the course wasn’t as intense (ie there weren’t two exams at the end of it) there wasn’t really any pressure to study in between classes either. So I probably didn’t advance as much as I could have done. Which isn’t really the end of the world.

So it raises the question of what to do next. I’m currently thinking of taking a gap yah after F2, and during that time I’d quite like to go to China for a bit and explore. Ideally I’d like to be able to survive on my own while I’m out there, which would obviously involve a bit of speaking the language. I don’t feel like I’m there yet, so a bit more learning is required.

My next placement is A&E, and what with the irregular shift patterns I don’t think I could realistically commit to going to a class at the same time each week. Well, maybe I could, but I feel like I need a contingency plan. So I’m thinking about the possibility of getting private lessons; they’d be less fun obviously because you’re on your lonesome, but I feel like I’d learn quite a lot.

So yeah, the dream of becoming Asian is still alive.



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