11 December 2006

Reasons to be cheerful (Part II)

In this, the second of an open-ended series of reflections on the year that was 2006, I present in approximate chronological order the Top Ten Events that affected my life this year.

1) Death. A heavy topic to start this list with, but that's how the year started for me. In January I found out that my grandfather was very ill. My parents separated when I was eleven, and I have not been close to my father or his family since then. A few years ago I reestablished contact and travelled to Oregon to see my grandmother, who was ill at the time; two weeks after my visit she passed away. I had a work trip to California planned for January and when I heard my grandfather was ill I added a stopover in Oregon to see him, and catch up with my father. I arrived in Portland a few hours after he passed away. Although time and distance meant we were not close, his passing made me ask a number of questions about myself, and how I was living my life.

2) Booming Back. In February I started a blog, this very blog in fact. I have made attempts at starting a blog before, but none ever got past setting up the account and spending a few hours trying to come up with an apt name. The thing about a blog is that the interweb is littered with dead space, it is a veritable graveyard of expired blogs and websites, all with a permanent 'under construction' sign on them yet with no actual updates since 2004. As I am hopelessly prone to loosing interest in almost any project that I start, the fact that I am still posting almost a year later, with a healthy average of well over one post a week, must be considered to be a major milestone. Even more so when you consider that, on the basis of a number of comments posted on the blog, somebody somewhere is actually reading this.

3) Berlin. Possibly the highlight of what I laughingly refer to as my musical career. There is an old Chinese story about a Mandarin that dreams he is a butterfly; when he awakens he asks himself if he is a Mandarin that dreamt of being a butterfly, or if he is a butterfly dreaming he is a Mandarin. In June I awoke and discovered I was no longer a Mandarin. I had the good fortune to be at a sales conference in Berlin, and on the last night of the conference an outdoor beachparty had been organized at a venue opposite the Reichstag, and I had been asked to DJ at it. Also appearing that night, just before I was due to go on, was David Hasselhoff! The Hoff has to be one of the defining memes of 2006, catching the wave of the user generated content revolution through YouTube and Google Video and catapulting himself back into the spotlight with a series of media reported incidents ("cutting himself shaving" at a hotel in the UK, being ejected/not ejected from Wimbeldon and Heathrow, etc). In June of this year he truly was a god, and when he stood on a balcony in Berlin and belted out such classics as "Freedom" and "Ooga Chaka" there was not a single cynical eye in the audience. I came on after him and played to over 900 people from all across Europe, and I can honestly say I have never played to a more electric crowd in my life. I finished up my set with "99 Luftballons" by Nena, in German of course, and the crowd was absolutely wild. We went back to the hotel where we took over the bar and I played until 5 or 6am, when we were all kicked out and headed off towards our 9am flights back to Dublin and elsewhere. I have played at a number of other corporate events this year, including a great night at the Mansion House, but none have felt like a real gig, and no night, corporate or not, has been as fun as Berlin.

4) Buying an apartment. Although the Very Understanding Girlfriend found the apartment in December of 2005, we actually managed to secure it at the start of the year, and move in June. I have spoken at length before on the wonders of this place, especially in comparison to our previous flat in Rathmines, with its ruminating neighbors, unique water features in the living room and insulation that was less effective at keeping the place warm than the plethora of cobwebs that held the water tank in place. While we said the we wanted to find a nice house with a garden away from the hustle and bustle, and instead have ended up living in a two bedroom apartment in the city center, the ability to live a Green and pleasant life in Dublin without too much effort makes up for everything else.

5) Slipped Disk. In June I slipped a disk, possibly the most painful thing that has happened to me, and was flat on my back for three weeks, and in considerable pain for months after that. One Saturday I went down to Kilkenny to see Bob Dylan and the Flaming Lips with the Very Understanding Girlfriend, came back at about midnight, and then went out and DJ'ed until 7am at a party at my mortgage broker's house (how rock and roll). The next day I finished off moving boxes from our old flat to our new apartment, and brushed aside cheerful advice offered by many on the subject of lifting with the knees. On Monday morning I woke up, looking forward to the first three days off that I had taken all year, got out of bed and promptly collapsed on the ground, unable to move. It took me half an hour to be able to crawl to my mobile, call the Very Understanding Girlfriend, and ask her to come home and save me (which she did). Anyone who knows us also knows that she too has a history of back trauma (though her's happened in the far more glamourous location of Bangkok), and will appreciate the irony of the situation.

6) A Beard. As a consequence of lying flat on my back for three weeks, I grew a beard. When I was able to get up and move about again, I decided to keep it more out of an unwillingness to spend any time shaving than out of a true desire to be more hirsute. Although I have a history of bad hair decisions, I have not radically altered my appearance for almost five years now, and a change was long overdue.

7) The Have'. In late August I flew out to the fabulous town of New Haven, Connecticut. The Very Understanding Girlfriend had been at a conference in Toronto and was passing through the Have' on her way home. I was originally supposed to come with her but had to cancel when I put my back out. Three days before she was due to leave Toronto, I surprised her by booking flights to the Have', and arranging to arrive there the same day as she did, and fly back to Dublin with her four days later. As it happened many of our old friends happened to be in town that weekend, so we got to catch up with Tom and (now his wife!!) Julie, Agent LeClaire, Chris (who had been in Dublin only a few weeks previously) and Tim and Nicole, who we hadn't seen since their wedding day (the last thing the Very Understanding Girlfriend and I did before we moved back to Dublin). It was amazing and felt like no time had passed at all (except that everyone was married, and some had kids, so in another way it was like an awful lot of time had passed), and we all had a great night out in Miya's, the best sushi bar in the world.

8) Electric Picnic. Why was this a highlight? To be honest the event itself had nothing to do with why it makes the list, though I did enjoy it (except for the camping part). At the Picnic, I met up with my sister and her fiance, who both travelled over from England to be there. It was great to spend time with both of them, something that I do far too little of. Both my sisters are amazing people, and are very patient with me (especially given how bad I am at keeping in touch with them), and it makes me so happy to see the lives that they have created for themselves in far away places (well, Waterford feels like its far away). It was also the Very Understanding Girlfriend's birthday, and it was great to be able to celebrate that with my family. As her brothers all live in Dublin, I actually see them far more than I do my own family, so it is always great when the situation is reversed and we both get to spend time with my siblings.

9) Ten Years! On October 22nd, the Very Understanding Girlfriend and I celebrated our ten year anniversary. On the 21st a good friend of ours got married, and he asked me to DJ at his wedding. The night was great and ended with thirty minutes of break-core (which I'm sure was an unexpected educational experience for many of the guests), followed by a rousing rendition of Yellow Submarine as the last song, in which the bride and groom were encircled by all of their friends and serenaded. After the song was over the groom ended the evening by congratulating the Very Understanding Girlfriend and I on our ten year anniversary. It never ceases to amaze me that she said yes when I asked her to step out with me, and that amazement grows with every passing year. She is my sun, moon and stars, and that is all that needs to be said about that.

10) The Seychelles. In November of last year, we took a week off and went to see the Alhambra in Granada. It was an amazing place, but very, very cold. This year we said we would go somewhere a bit warmer, and so I typed "beach", "Holiday" and "sustainable" into a popular search engine, and was rewarded with a listing in the results for Bird Island in the Seychelles. The northern most island of the Seychelles is a private hotel and nature reserve, home to over a million birds and the world's oldest living tortoise, a breeding ground for Hawksbill and Green turtles, crystal blue waters and unspoiled beaches and employing a number of ecologically friendly practices such as solar panels for all hot water heating and fans instead of air conditioners in the rooms. Bird Island was literally paradise for us. We spent almost two weeks on the island swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and most amazingly, observing turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. We had been instructed by a resident conservation expert on how to observe the turtles, note any markings and check for tags, and we spent a number of days patrolling the island and keeping a log of turtle activity. On two separate occasions we came across a turtle as she had already built her nest and was laying, and this has to rank as one of the most amazing experiences of my life. However I was slightly disappointed at the complete lack of nunchucks, shuriken or pizza that the turtle seemed to possess, but maybe that's just a boy-turtle thing.


At 2:21 pm, Blogger arjedre said...

I'm glad to see that your materialistic reasons for cheerfulness came before those silly non-material things like friends, family, and experiences.

At 2:52 pm, Blogger unkie dave said...

The Very Understanding Girlfriend also commented on the order of these posts. I think my next list should be "The Top Ten ways in which I intend to divest myself of all materialism". In my defense it is also important to note that only the apartment made it onto both lists, proving conclusively that you can't buy happiness.


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