The Choir Practice

So today my friend Aisling sent me a message which simply stated ‘let’s find a choir and join it’. She was probably responding to me putting a video on Facebook* of this lovely version of one of my favourite songs (and the namesake for this blog):

…but she also reminded me that I need to buck up and set the ball rolling on some of the things on my list of things to do before I’m forty. Number one on that list is “Be a choir nerd again”. Already our conversation has escalated to me suggesting that we form our own choir in the manner of Scala and Kolacny Brothers or that other choir who do the Rammstein covers or an older version of this bunch, or even a younger version of these old cute bastards – I defy you not to feel something when you watch this:

We’re also toying with the idea of musical societies and gospel choirs, but the dancing required for the former and the God-loving aspect of the latter might put the kybosh on those plans.

Now another friend Ciara has chimed in and said she was part of a choir in Melbourne whose repertoire included many Lionel Richie numbers AND Total Eclipse of the Heart. SIGN ME UP. Now we’re wondering can we get something similar going here and are already thinking of who we could get to lead it. Imagine the possibilities! We’d be releasing an album of Meatloaf and Hot Chip covers before we knew it. Form an orderly queue….

*I do realise that this contravenes number 25

**Aisling, Ciara and I were all in the same school choir. We got to the national finals once. Celine Byrne was in our choir. She’s a famous warbler now. We all know the Hallelujah Chorus. Smug.

***Also, I have already completed number 4: Visit Sarah in Arizona. See?

Advertisements

Bananagrams, rumours and video games… how I cheated New Years Eve

Everyone dreads New Years Eve just a little bit, don’t they? Or at least, it makes them a little emotional. They’re either reflecting on what they have or haven’t achieved in the past year, thinking about who they are and are not going to be with at the stroke of midnight, and dreading waking up on New Years Day with that sinking feeling that it’s January and there are 12 long months to go before it’s acceptable to watch Ratatouille in your pyjamas at 4pm eating chocolate Kimberleys/purple Roses/Pringles/Curly Wurlies and drinking Baileys/West Coast Cooler/wine/three cans of Fanta.

There’s also the pressure to get up to something marvellous on New Years Eve, to attend an event worthy enough of the almighty turn of the page on the calendar. This year, I didn’t make any plans, but a last minute turn of events meant that the transition from 2011 to 2012 was the most pleasing in living memory.

There were just two of us. We came together in a last minute arrangement… well,  last hour to be precise, not kicking our ‘celebrations’ off until 11pm. I came bearing red wine and Bananagrams, and an iPhone to which I had only managed to add a worrying mish-mash of music from Pearl Jam, Jay-Z, Fleetwood Mac, The Jezabels and The Rubberbandits (I have a very, very strained relationship with iTunes).

Getting stuck into the wine (and bearing in mind that I was on medication which came with a warning against such carry-on) we agreed that we’d play a game or two, listen to some music, ring in the new year, and maybe head into one of the city’s many fine establishments for a wee dance if the fancy took us.

Fast forward to 12.20am, January 1 2012 and there we are, furiously scrambling to make the best words out of our Bananagram tiles, looking cock-eyed at the Ms and Ns and Ps after imbibing much of the wine, occasionally wailing along to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and The Jezabels, when suddenly we turned to each other and said ‘Oh! We totally missed the new year’.

It was actually one of the most liberating experiences I’ve had in a while. We hadn’t done the old ten-second countdown which usually ends in a cheer, forced kisses and a realisation that you still have to struggle to the bar to get another drink. Instead we high-fived, said HAPPY NEW YEAR in mock gaiety, delighted that we’d managed to outsmart THE WORLD, and decided we needed to vary our new years playlist a little….

Along we crooned to Video Games, roared all the words along with Florence and Her Machine, did the special gun dance for MIA’s Paper Planes, made up the words to Sleepyhead, sang all seven minutes of All My Friends, laughed at Tinie Tempah keeping so many clothes at his aunt’s house, and relished in shouting “OH-OH SKEET SKEET MOTHERF***ER” along to Get Low.

Out we crazied into the night, meself and himself, flagging down a taxi to take us into town to get a quick dance in. Of course, by the time we got there the cloakroom was closed and they were serving last drinks at the bar, so it was back home before we knew it, but sure who cares? Didn’t we fool new years eve?

Get Low

Heaven is a place on earth with you….”

They couldn’t think of something to say the day you burst…”

I have this breath and I hold it tight, and I keep it in my chest with all my might…”

I get rush, I get shivers inside when you call…”

Like never before….”

And when you’re running out of the drugs, and the conversation’s grinding away…”

Dentists, dogs and dancing: My 40 by 40

In no particular order, here are forty things I think I’d like to do by the time I’m forty. Obviously I would like some of them to happen much sooner than that (in fact, I’m considering many of them resolutions for 2012), but some will just have to wait. I’m already a little bit panicked about the dentist commitment, and due to a recent dose of the blues will be striving particularly hard for number 10, but here goes….

1 Be a choir nerd again like this gang, or this lot (UPDATE 12th March 2012: Started to get the ball rolling on this one)

2 Grow my hair long

3 Cycle everywhere like one of those deadly people that cycle everywhere

4 Visit Sarah in Arizona (UPDATE 5th January 2012: Flights are booked. UPDATE #2 6th March 2012: Made the trip in late January/early February 2012, and what a time we had)

Me and Sarah, Jack Palancing

5 Have a dog

6 Have a garden

7 Stop smoking, and stop saying it’s ok to smoke if I’m drinking wine. It’s not.

8 Visit Mexico

9 Live by my wits on a beach (maybe in Mexico?)

This would do, I s'pose

10 Be happy

11 Eat less, move more

12 Make and sell (at least five) birthday cards with the help of my trusty craft box

An early prototype

13 Do an art class

14 Read The Great War for Civilisation which I got for Christmas 2005 from my brother

A challenge

Gulp, I've had it for SIX YEARS

15 Get the tattoo I’ve always wanted, and the body I’ve wanted to put it on

16 Love myself and be loved

17 Learn (some) Spanish

No idea

18 Dance in a burlesque get up

19 Play guitar properly

20 Get top of ear pierced again and don’t let it get the better of me

21 Travel in a campervan

22 Have a baby?!? (this is highly negotiable)

"Yessss. I turned Chuck Norris into sand"

23 Keep Dad‘s memory alive

24 Write a book or a TV show (or both)

25 Give up Facebook

26 Work hard and play hard

27 Lean to cook delicious Italian and Mexican food without having to spend a day cooking it and a day cleaning up

28 Attempt to wear matching underwear

29 Snorkel at El Portus again

30 Drive across America

31 Visit the dentist every six months

32 Fork out the cash to replace gap left by broken tooth

33 Go to Glastonbury

34 Have my own home

35 Learn to swim and dive properly, not just the shambolic way I taught myself

36 Get a credit card

37 Remember god-daughter’s birthday every year and send card and present (shouldn’t be too hard, her birthday is the same as mine)

38 Stop worrying

39 Run a marathon

40 Eat five a day

(41 And finally, a little non-achievable one, but how mega would it be to be like Stevie Nicks in this video?….)

Feets

It’s been a tough few weeks round my way. Christmas is always a little bit hard, and seemed that little bit harder this year. I headed to the other side of the country this week for the wedding of one of my oldest friends, which was lovely. It was so nice to see a friendly face around every corner of the hotel, as a lot of us had made the journey to the celebrations. Now that the wedding excitement is over, there’s New Year to get through, and then the daunting loom of 2012. A friend said to me recently that she though 2012 would be ‘my year’, which is a challenging yet exciting thought.

Watching another one of my friends walk down the aisle was again bittersweet, as weddings remind us of families, lost loves, old friends, nostalgia, romance, someone to depend on and best friends. As happy as I am for my old friend, it’s strange to see how much our lives have diverged since we used to be at school.

The happy couple

Fun with old friends

Gorgeous Genevieve

First dance

While she prepares to embark on her exciting new life as a wife, best friend, partner, team-mate… and most likely mother, I’ve been taking pictures of my feets…

Hogs and Cons

Come Mister Tallyman, tally me bananas….

As you may already know, I’m not currently in full time employment, so when I was asked to be a count centre reporter for Newstalk (where I worked as a student, reading the news, many moons ago) I jumped* at the chance.

*Actually, ‘jumped’ is a lie. I feebly held back, wondering if I could fake a note from my mother alá fifth year P.E. class. I had covered election counts before, and remembered them to be stressful alternate universes, where politicians are celebrities and RTE reign supreme. But then I remembered the buzz, the passing of hours in mere seconds and the satisfaction of doing a good job. So up I signed.

Reporting from a count centre is all about making friends with the right people, being au fait with your technology, working to the tighest of deadlines, and being prepared to be shouted at. I trotted off to the National Show Centre in Swords on polling day (Feb 25th) to set up my equipment (well, a kindly tech guy had obviously arrived before me, ensuring that all I had to do was plug a few things in).

What does this button do?

Count centres are invariably in sports halls, community centres or similar. They have that dusty smell…you know the one I mean. The smell of old floorboards and too-high ceilings, ancient sweeping brushes and decrepid caretakers. So the minute you walk into one you’re instantly transported back to some time in your youth when you were bored in assembly, or nervous about a volleyball game.

The smell of socks and nerves

I can remember when I reported from my first count. I think it was local elections and I was working for local radio in Kildare. My news editor told me to get to the count centre, ‘find a tallyman’, and prepare to be there for 20 hours. Being fairly green and more than a little afraid of the editor, I nodded meekly and began immediately inwardly fretting about what a tallyman* was, how would I find one, and what if they told me to frig off and stop annoying them? I recognised that same inward panic at an election meeting in Newstalk last week, as those who were new to the count centre game wrote ‘tallyman’ about 6 times in their notebooks and haltingly questioned how they were to possibly report on votes that hadn’t been counted yet.

*a tallyman (or woman) counts the first preference votes as they come out of the ballot boxes. Each political party/politician has a team of tallypeople and they are able to predict with remarkable accuracy who will be elected and in what order. Unless there are a lot of candidates or the way the votes will transfer is not very clear, a tallyman can give a fairly clear picture of how the whole count will go.

Of course, nothing is ever as bad as it seems. You do find a tallyman, and they do tell you what the News Editor screaming down the phone back at base wants to hear. On top of providing Newstalk with tallies, my tasks for the day included bringing the counts live to studio as they happened. This required an almost supernatural knowledge of what the Returning Officer (the person in charge of overseeing the count) was thinking and what time he was going to announce the results of each count. He was also liaising with the RTE staff, so it was a matter of having eyes in the back of your head to ensure that Newstalk knew when to blindly go live to Swords. Remember they were doing the same thing with 40-odd other count centres around the country. Let’s just say that tensions tended to be on the high side for most of the day.

Other tasks included knowing what each candidate looked like, identifying them when they came in, asking Newstalk whether they wanted to take them live back at base, interviewing them myself if they weren’t going live, taking the count live while also trying to get whichever politician had been elected/eliminated in front of the Newstalk live microphone, filing news stories, and inputting the count results online as they were read out. Remember that I was based two flights of stairs up from where the action was happening, and you’ll understand why my high heels were swapped for horribly sensible flats within an hour of arriving.

Despite the tension and the dust and the unladylike sweating, there is an undeniable buzz about election reporting. The cheers when a candidate arrives or is elected, the nervous wait for those later counts to see where the transfer votes will go, the tears and emotion when a candidate makes it and the tears and emotion of a different kind when a seat is lost, and a former TD is almost instantly transformed back into Clark Kent.

People may vilify and denounce politicians until the cows come home, but no matter their political allegiance or shady past, worthy achievements or cowardly actions, there is an undeniable shine to those who are in the moment and at the top of their game, and it can be a sorry sight to see one fall from grace and favour in the eyes of his constituents in the blink of an eye. I watched Trevor Sargent walk into the count centre in Swords to cheers and tears. He knew, and they knew, that his time was up. For half an hour he was the man of the moment, everyone wanted to know his thoughts and thank him for his work. But the moment he was eliminated, he became yesterday’s news. He was bumped from interviews on RTE Radio and Newstalk, and kept waiting to go live on TV until it looked like he could bear it no longer. He left the count centre in the smallest of whimpers, having come in with a bang, having served as a TD since 1992.

But like I said, he was forgotten the moment the door closed behind him, as those elected after him were cheered and hoisted on shoulders.

I was one of the lucky ones. The count in Dublin North was quick and painless, and after a mere 14 hours I was able to pack up and leave, with four Dáil seats filled with new (and returning) TDs. Even as the four were lining up at the podium to give their victory speeches, the lights in the building were being switched off and the people were filing out, already giving out about the new government. All in a day’s work.

My Big Fat Irish Civil Partnership

I usually tend not to comment too much on issues I feel I may be ignorant about, but I have worked myself into quite the rage over Fine Gael Election 2011 candidate Lucinda Creighton’s comments that (and I’m paraphrasing) the primary function of marriage is to procreate and raise children. She has said that while she supports the Civil Partnership Bill, she feels that marriage is the preserve of heterosexual couples. So, to borrow a saying from many others who have already commented on the issue, she thinks all people are equal, but some are more equal than others. Lucinda Creighton, by the way, is the Fine Gael Spokesperson on Equality.

I glanced at thejournal.ie’s Facebook link to their poll on the issue earlier, before getting into the car for a 40 minute drive, and spent those 40 minutes getting into a state where it would be normal for some teeth to be gnashed.

How can it still be possible that the ‘institution’ of marriage is still so inextricably linked to Catholic, or even Christian ideals? I put the word institution in inverted commas because I don’t like calling it an institution. I think it makes it sound like a old fashioned, cobwebby practice, based on old fashioned, cobwebby traditions.

As I sit here, I’m finding it quite difficult to decide which point I want to make first, or how to even make those points. In my eyes, marriage has two functions:

1: It allows two people who are in love to make a commitment to each other. It also allows then to make that commitment known to their families and friends, and to celebrate that commitment any way they see fit.

2: It has a legal basis when it comes to property, money and in some cases, children.

With those functions of marriage in my mind, I struggle to see how any politician or government has the right to legislate on who can enter into a marriage. Why is there a difference between a ‘marriage’ and a ‘civil partnership’? I’ll tell you why. It’s because a large number of people still associate marriage with the Church. I can’t say the majority of people associate it with the Church, because I don’t have those figures, but I would say that it is a large amount. I probably have seen it that way too in the past, but because I’ve seen friends get married outside of the Church, in Humanist ceremonies etc, and because I believe that people of any sexual orientation should have the right to be married, I’ve stopped thinking that way.

I will be attending a wedding in a few months where the ceremony will take place in a registry office because the bride has been married before, and therefore is not allowed to have a ceremony in a Catholic church, because the Church does not recognise divorce. But, because marriage is a civil contract, it doesn’t make even a smidge of difference that the ceremony won’t take place in a church. She’ll still be married at the end of the day, albeit without having stood in front of a priest.

Therefore a marriage (ie a civil contract) and a civil partnership are essentially the same thing. Only they’re not, are they Lucinda Creighton? Because people still like to think that couples are ‘married in the eyes of God’.

I think I’m so angry because I don’t see why somebody who wants to take a seat in Ireland’s house of power, who wants to stand for the human rights of the people of this country, and who claims to speak for equality, would make such a personal, and probably religious-based statement on such a senstive topic. Yes, she’s entitled to her opinion, but it is her own, personal opinion, and one which I believe she has now made an election issue.

I’m also angry at the continued hold the Catholic Church has over so many aspects of Irish life, from schools to marriages to lifestyles. Again, people are entitled to their opinion, from the most devout of Catholics, to those who just hold on to a little bit of faith (but I’m afraid I can’t reconcile myself with those who hold the opinion that evolution is a myth. I just can’t get my head around that one). But when that opinion threatens to continue to influence the running of a country and the treatment of ALL of its peoples, then it is WRONG.

I’ve never paid much attention to the religious affiliations of Irish political parties, although I must admit that my ears pricked up when I saw it mentioned that Eamon Gilmore had ‘come out’ as an Atheist. I always thought it was such a shame that to be the president of the United States, you have to constantly tell the citizens how mad you are about God, whereas here in Ireland, you rarely hear politicians use the G word or refer to their religious beliefs.

Now though, I realise that that was my own ignorance, and that it’s still there, an unneccessary and oudated undercurrent. Thanks Lucinda, for bringing it to my attention.

Postcards from Italy and Beirut

Sometimes I get a bit frantic and worry that not enough people are aware that this song exists. It’s just SO beautiful and moreish and makes we wish I was one of those waifish, naturally tanned beauties who can frolic around wearing fur gilets and flowery dresses, barefoot on the grass.

See here for more on some of my favourite songs