A Private War – Review

Title: A Private War
Director: Matthew Heineman
Genre: Drama, Action, Biopic.
Main Cast: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Faye Marsay, Tom Hollander.
Runtime: 110 mins.
IMDb rating: 6.7/10.
My rating: 8.5/10.
Quick summary: Marie Colvin was a fierce human being, a fantastic writer and journalist and a woman at war with her own demons. She saw many battles while fighting her own. Which would be the end of her?

A Private War (2018)

Plot

Marie Colvin (Pike) loses her eye in a Sri Lankan ambush after interviewing a rebel leader. She journeys far and wide to the most war-torn places, trying to let the wider world know the human side of conflict; the innocent civilians that are caught up in the bloodshed and violent chess games that more powerful men play. She constantly puts herself in the most dangerous places, risking life, limb and eye to get the stories out there that people need to hear.
We follow Marie all over the world to places like Liberia, where she interviews Gaddafi, and the Syrian city of Homs that is under constant siege. The bullets rain down and the ceilings cave in as Marie lets the trauma she has witnessed take control and drive her to the edge. Her photographer, Paul Conroy (Dornan) is a strength beside her but he cannot save her from herself. A results-driven and unsympathetic editor at her newspaper doesn’t allow her to rest and take a break, ultimately driving her towards destruction.

Rosamund Pike, Raad Rawi, Jamie Dornan, and Emil Hajj in A Private War (2018)
Conroy, Colvin and Gaddafi

Verdict

There is not much hope or happiness present in this film. What it does do is it brings a human perspective to the table regarding war. It is easy to look at an article online or in the paper about a conflict far away and brush it aside from your mind. We already have enough to worry about don’t we? This film reminds us that we are all one race. Our brothers and sisters are out there dying in rubble and decimated rural lands and we are safe. But, if we know more about it we can possibly do something, or spread the message that it is not OK.

Rosamund Pike is superb as Marie Colvin. It was surreal to see the real Marie in an interview at the end of the movie and realise that Pike had absolutely nailed her voice. She spirals throughout the movie. She reaches depths that no person should ever reach but she is constantly reminded of the plight of others through her work. Pike portrays this hollow existence superbly. We feel helpless for her and know there is no saving grace for this fallen angel.

Dornan suits the look of a war photographer. His Liverpudlian accent may have slipped a few times amid the bombs and the debris but he looks the part.

Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dornan in A Private War (2018)

This film also raises a lot of valid points about mental health and how sometimes it is OK to ask for help or step away. People may use you for your own benefit. Sometimes the truth is more impportant than your own safety. Sometimes you have to pay the ultimate price. Most of the time, though, people have ulterior motives.

This movie was based on the Vanity Fair article written by Marie Brenner in 2012. It has inspired me to read more about Marie Colvin’s life and to read the original article. This movie is not suitable for a Friday night at home relaxing. It is something you should watch knowing that it will stay with you. And isn’t that what all great art should do?

New Years Resolutions 🙌🙌

There was a rather strange anomaly at the beginning of this month. People all over the world but most especially in Ireland, gathered together and ignored the beginning of the year until the 6th. Most people started back to work on the 2nd and a few people started back training and eating well on the 1st. Most of us, though, extended our shite eating and binge drinking for one more weekend. Obviously some people don’t buy into the whole ‘New Year, New Me’ spiel and that’s OK, but the majority of the world will try and turn over a new leaf. Resolutions are made and promises are sworn. Get fit. Eat less shit. Do more of that thing that you enjoy that gives you a brief respite from work.
The older I get the less stuff I give up for my Resolutions. Why deprive yourself of something straight away? Talk about starting the year off on a negative! Promise yourself you will exercise more or play more sport and by default you will eat better. You’ll feel the effects of the positive endorphins rushing through your body and brain and think to yourself, ‘Wow. I feel better after all of this exercise. Maybe I’ll keep it up!’ Maybe you won’t and you’ll give up on your resolutions and that’s fine. The world is going to end in about ten years anyways. Could you live with yourself if I end this life looking better than you? Didn’t think so.

This year I’ve made a few resolutions. Two weeks in and I’m still going strong…ish. I haven’t broken all of them at least!

Gym

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor weights

I’m really gonna hit the gym hard this year. I decided to go at it full throttle. Seven workouts/exercises a week. No excuses. 6:30 every morning, cardio and weights every session. NO. EXCUSES.
Laugh out fucking loud. Some people do tend to burn themselves out straight away. Do what you feel comfortable doing. If that’s five days a week, class. If that’s twice a week with a view to increasing your attendance, great. I myself have gone for at least three gym sessions a week. Football and hurling training will start soon and then I’ll be as fit and ripped as I was when I was 17. Jaysus I was a ride.

Coffee

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor coffee beans

Buying coffee out is so got-dayum expensive. Sure, save a bit by using your keep cup but you’re still paying about three euro every time you get a cup. And that’s just Spar, Centra and other garages. Obviously I’m talking about the largest size because I’m an important man with important places to be.
Seriously, though, this year I’m allowing myself three coffees out a week; 1 during the week in work and 2 on the weekend with K. 3 coffees, depending on where you go, will cost you upward of 10 euro. And that’s fine, because Mommy needs her caffeine! I’m Mommy.

Lunches/ Meals Out

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor subway mcdonalds

I was a terror when I started this new job for eating out and getting a big lunch every day from the shop. Now that I’ve settled in a bit I’ve started bringing my own lunch every day and eating a bit healthier. Chicken and rice is my main meal. I might have some hummus in the morning or afternoon. The point is, I’m not spending as much or eating enough to feed a family of five every day. The plan was to just have one meal out on the weekends and cook for our other meals. We may have failed in that regard the last few weeks but I’ll speak a bit about that in a future post.
K told me I eat like it’s gonna be my last meal 🤣 we weren’t short of food growing up I can tell you that for nothing! I must be living vicariously through my ancestors from An Gorta Mór and am just making up for their lost time!

Reading

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I used to be a savage reader. I could even read the big words. I’d look them up and down, say them out loud really slowly, mocking them with how easy I made it look. Now, I find it a struggle to replicate my previous excellence in the field of literature.
I’m not going to attempt the book a week challenge. I’m going to build up to it. One or two books in January will hopefully turn into three or four in February and so on and so forth. If I can double my tally each month and my maths is correct I should have read 4’096 books! That’s some going! VERY realistic.

I think we all have our own journeys and falling into dry January or the walking/running challenges give us a sense of conformity and uniformity that humans crave. What happens when the 100 walks are finished, though? Do you give up straight away? Do you go on a mad binge the 1st of February to celebrate the end of a sober month?? I personally go mad every February to celebrate St. Brigid. I go on the lash for four weeks straight, knitting huge blankets and trying to cover big areas of land with them. I smoke joints rolled with the rushes from a Brigid’s cross and talk to God. He’s a sound guy. Other than that though, I keep it pretty tame.
The point I was trying to make before I sidetracked myself with a fantastical story about getting high with the used rushes from a religious symbol, is that moderation is the key to keeping things going.
My resolutions will break from time to time but I won’t fret. I have a good feeling about this year, guys ✌

Bad Day For the Cut

Title: Bad Day For the Cut
Director: Chris Baugh.
Genre: Action, Comedy, Gangster.
Main Cast: Nigel O’Neill, Susan Lynch, Josef Pawlowski.
Runtime: 99 mins.
IMDb rating: 6.5/10.
My rating: 7/10.
Quick summary: A quirky but gory look at a mild mannered farmer who loses the one thing keeping him sane…His mammy. Violence galore and cultural clashes make this film an enjoyable one. It’s on Netflix so head on over.

Bad Day for the Cut (2017)

Plot

Donal, played by Nigel O’Neill, is a middle aged farmer living in the countryside near Belfast. His quiet existence of living under his mother’s thumb is rocked when she is murdered in their home. Donal himself is targeted two nights later. After killing one assailant and taking the other one captive, Donal sets off towards Belfast city to find out more about his mother’s killing.
Donal, his Polish attacker Bartosz (Pawlowski) and Bartosz’ sister Kaja go on a meek but unmerciful rampage against those who robbed Donal of his mother. He might just find out some things he’d rather he didn’t.

Verdict

Thumbs up from Donal and Bartosz!

This is a sort of hidden gem on Netflix. It caught my eye immediately and I’m so glad I turned it on. It captures the predicament of many rural Irish adults and farmers especially; do they leave and do their own thing or stay in the family house and take care of elderly parents?
Donal is devoted to his mother and despite her abruptness with him we see their tight bond and her love for him. Obviously he takes her death hard. The attempt on his life by two inept attackers, from the same crowd that killed his mother as it turns out, spurs him on to find out the truth once and for all and exact revenge.
The movie moves along at a nice pace. We are brought all over Belfast in an hour and a half of action. While the action is impressive and varied, it is the individual performances of the actors and the development of their characters that give this movie such a high score for me. Donal has lived in the countryside all his life while Bartosz, attacker turned friend, has lived in Poland and Ireland and is several years younger. There is a brilliant scene where the younger man explains mobile phones to Donal, the older man getting visibly annoyed with the technology. The fact that this light hearted moment is immediately followed by Donal daring his life to go and rescue Bartosz’ sister, Kaja, makes it a much more solid showing of the bond that has grown between the two.

I am a great fan of all things Irish, especially Irish art and creative productions. If an Irish film is done well it is a breath of fresh air. While this film shows small town life, it also invests in the human relationships that are vital to us and give us life. Donal may have been feeling a bit of wanderlust with his new van at the beginning of the movie. I wager that by the end he had had enough of travelling and meeting new people for quite some time. Typically Irish, if you ask me! Rave on about travelling and lament your home in the country once you’re out and about 🤣

The film ends on something of a cliffhanger which I’m afraid to say I wasn’t a fan of in this instance. I know that Donal is fed up of fighting and just wants to go back to his cottage but the dilemma he faces at the end is too easy to solve. I won’t ruin it for you here but Donal should continue fighting and bring this story to a close. Other than that, please watch this when you get a chance or need something to throw on Netflix when you’re chilling out after work!

Something is Rotten in the State of Cork

Violence ruled the city’s suburbs streets last weekend. It seemed that the newsworthy incidents would never cease. After the horrific and tragic loss of life on the Bandon Road Thursday evening there was no sign of the violence stopping. A man was assaulted in Blackpool on Friday evening near the church by two men armed with a hammer and a bat. On Sunday night a man was set upon by numerous men who emerged from a car armed with hurleys. A bareknuckle boxing match took place at the entrance to the theatre prior to the armed attack. Less than ten hours later a man was attacked in his own home before being doused with petrol and set alight. The Mayfield resident was put into an induced coma in the hospital and needs a ventilator to breathe. This spate of violence, while alarming in volume, has raised eyebrows but not much else. There has been a number of aggravated attacks and deaths in and around the city in the last five months. The most shocking were carried out on homeless men.
Frankie Dunne was violently murdered and dismembered in a derelict house on the Boreenmana Road in December. His body was discovered on Saturday the 28th December. He was only identified from his fingerprints as his severed arm was found outside Castlegreina house. His killer is still out there.
Timmy Hourihane was savagely beaten to death by the Mardyke in October. His tent was smouldering nearby and he died from his injuries in hospital later on.
Both of these murders were barbaric and the victims were two vulnerable members of society. It can be argued that every city has its own problems with unsociable behaviour and violence, but the degrees of ruthlessness and cruelty that has been dished out recently is disgusting. What is the cause of the recent spike?

There is every chance in the world that all of the attacks, bar the horrible death of Cameron Blair on Thursday night, were gang related, family feuds or retaliations of some sort. Perhaps they all just happened to fall on the same weekend and that we’ll have a quiet year with regards to violent crime from here on out. I would be surprised if this rise persists and fully expect things to return to normal, whatever that may be, from next weekend onward. That, however, is not the end of the problem.
There are 700* Gardaí in Cork City with 294 of these stationed in Anglesea Street. As the Gardaí generally work three different shifts of ten hours a week, covering all hours of the day, and usually work six days on and four days off, this equates to roughly sixteen guards being in the station at one point in time. Allowing for some overlap, let’s say there are around 25 Gardaí in Anglesea Street on a given shift. To cover the whole city and some surrounding suburbs, that is nowhere near enough.
There are only 38 Gardaí in the Watercourse Road station. There are 53 in Mayfield. How are these paltry numbers supposed to deal with violence that hasn’t been seen before when the numbers aren’t there to even walk a regular beat. Very rarely do I see any guards walking around town late at night. A squad car may pass once in a while and do a quick check of Patrick’s street where nobody is anyways and then drive off again back to HQ. The numbers aren’t there and either are the resources.
In the case of the hammer and bat attack in Blackpool, the two assailants were actually caught in the act of bludgeoning a man in the head with said weapons. Both were questioned and released without charge. Now, I know that files need to be prepared and that the victim in question discharged himself from hospital following the assault and perhaps decided to not press any charges. Bear with me, but if you, as an officer of the law, actually witness the assault and your prevention of the attack from continuing was probably the only factor that saved the victims life, how do the assailants walk free? There is no allegation, only a group of detectives’ word that these men probably intended to end someone’s life. The mind boggles.
Similarly, in the hurley incident by Blackpool cinema, a bareknuckle boxing match between the victim and one of the assailants takes place before the victim was ganged upon. The guards didn’t arrive for a half an hour. I hardly blame them either. Having seen the video of the boxing match I wouldn’t have gone near the area, uniform or no uniform.

Violence seems rife all around the country at the moment. Criminals and thugs don’t seem to have any need to worry about repercussions. Why would they? Most prison sentences issued for assault, rape and/or murder are being held up and pushed back, so that when someone is finally convicted their sentence has already been half-served. Often times the Gardaí and their resources are so stretched that even bringing in a perpetrator is difficult. The sad thing is, if someone tried to break into my house and God forbid I, my brother or my father killed them, I fear that the law would be quicker to put us behind bars for manslaughter; And Cameron Blair’s murderers are still at large.

*Numbers correct as of October 2019.

'In One Eye, Out the Other' – Review

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Hickey (centre) with Dom McHale and Laura O’Mahony, his CCCahoots partners

I saw Tadhg Hickey’s one man show in the Riverbank Arts Theatre in Newbridge this past Saturday.

As a massive fan of CCCahoots, there was no chance that I was missing a performance of Tadhg Hickey’s one-man show, ‘In One Eye, Out the Other’. I had the pleasure of seeing Dominic McHale and Laura O’Mahony, the other members of the comedy trio, in the raucously funny ‘Improvised Panto’ in the Opera House. I couldn’t miss out on seeing the man that brought ‘Partrick’ to our phone screens in the flesh. Hickey performed this performance with First Fortnight, First Fortnight is a charity that challenges mental health prejudice through arts and cultural action.
After watching Tadhg’s interview on the Six O’Clock show with Muireann and Martin, I knew we were in for an interesting performance. He spoke genuinely about his own troubles with drink, mentioning that there were some elements of truth to the events portrayed in his performance. I knew I would laugh. I knew it would probably get emotional. I knew it would stay with me after the end.

We are introduced to Feargal – a happy-go-unlucky alcoholic from the great city of Cork. His whole family were alcoholics and as any young fella growing up in such an environment would, he began to love the drink. He knows he is a bit of a ‘head-the-ball’ and acknowledges how he comes across to those in a more, shall we say, sober state. Yet he loves talking to somebody, anybody, to get away from the aching loneliness he faces everyday.
Feargal takes us on a fractured journey through his past, present and future. We meet a whole host of characters from pop culture and religious culture as well as some of Ireland’s feminine sporting heroes. Sonia O’Sullivan, St. Anthony and E.T. have the craic with Feargal in his house one night, while a love affair that will live through the ages with one Katie Taylor is as explosive as it sounds. If you just read that sentence and thought to yourself, “Fuck it, that sounds mad, like,” you’d be dead right. It is mad. It is mad and it is brilliant.

This hour long performance is self-deprecation at its finest. Well, it may border on horrifically insulting oneself but it is hilarious for the audience. Feargal may be a raging alcoholic but he is painfully self-aware. He talks about crying himself to sleep, and a new venture, crying himself awake. He knows that his upbringing by the world’s drunkest family did him no good but he is too scared to work on himself. His adventures with his imaginary friends are hilarious but almost sad to watch. We, the audience, and Feargal both know that he’s talking shite. But he’s funny, so he continues and we let him.
Despite being full of dark humour (the word ‘Auschwitzian’ is used in the opening monologue) there are chinks of light towards the end of the show. I won’t ruin the ending because it is profound and needs to be seen, but I will say that Tadhg Hickey’s voice is astounding. I have been scouring the internet trying to find the song he sings as part of the choir but alas, I have had no luck.
Feargal’s childlike sense of wonderment is infectious. The mastery of Hickey and the way he delivers the performance is that he and the audience both know it is a cheap mask over a mind numbed by alcohol. Feargal just wants to talk and chat and it is our duty to listen to this misfortune’s story.

I would highly recommend this show for absolutely everybody. The elderly man next to me gave a few chuckles but nothing else more throughout. I honestly didn’t think he was enjoying himself. However, towards the end of the play when poor Feargal shone a light into his real life, my neighbour held his breath, shocked by revelations he had not seen coming.
I spoke to Tadhg after the show and he spoke of how different audiences evoked different feelings from him. Depending on how the audience reacts to the opening segment, you could be in for a riotous night akin to a stand-up show, or, in my case, you may be sitting in a room where you could hear a pin drop. We were all rapt with attention.
As I am a fan of dark humour and uncomfortable jokes, I wanted so hard to guffaw and laugh out loud. I think the rest of the audience might have looked between me and Tadhg and wondered who was the man with the addled brain and who was the performer if I dared to react.

I am looking forward to seeing this show again with a more lively audience. I don’t think that the message of the show will cheapen with more laughs. If anything it will be more impactful, especially the last ten to fifteen minutes. The collboration between Hickey and First Fortnight is a special one, shining a light on a Cork star and the diverse ways our mental health can be affected.
They say ‘Never meet your heroes’, but I can say that I’m delighted my girlfriend made me go up to say hello because Tadhg Hickey is a fantastic performer and an absolute gent.

A Guide to Hillwalking and Mountain-climbing for People who don't know what the F**k they're doing! – Cardiac Hill

Why is the red path bigger than the other paths?

Oh, boys. Cardiac Hill/The Cardiac Steps are aptly named. 20 to 25 minutes of steps and uphill climbing and clamboring. Your legs are on fire straight away, your heart beating out of your chest. You look at your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner ahead of you and wonder would they notice if you quietly slipped back to the car? An elderly couple pass you out, smugly looking back as they haul themselves onto a fresh rock. “Tough ‘aul climb, in’t it?” The Kerry drawl stabs you in your chest, driving you to complete the climb out of sheer, Cork spite. That’s right. It’s another edition of my special guide to hill-walking and mountain-climbing! What qualifies me to write a guide to such activities in different locations around Ireland, you ask. Nothing. Nada. Níl.

Sugarloaf was a walk in the park, literally, compared to the steep and unforgiving climb on the other side of Torc waterfall. You can read about my first climb here.
This post is a much more honest version of the climb!

Preparations

This time around I realised that a drink-free night before a tough climb for a newbie like me would be paramount in my preparations. We had a much smoother process this time around. I was slowly becoming an expert at packing for an hour long walk/climb.

  • Instead of heading out to ring in the New Year, we had an earlyish night in the beautiful city of Cork, soaking up the last bit of civilisation before braving the wilds of Kerry…
  • Myself and K are back in the gym and giving it socks to get fit again. She’s already incredibly fit but I need a bit more work! General exercise will make these walks seem like another challenge, but less of one. Just another notch on the bedpost of hill walks and mountain climbs.
  • Pack a lunch to have after the hike. We packed crackers, bananas, cream cheese, an Aldi wrap and some chocolate. Fill those water bottles!
  • I was better prepared this time and brought a small bag with me for our bottles of water, extra layer, hats, gloves and room for our jackets and hoodies if we got too hot on the climb up.
  • Drive all the way to Torc, park the car, brace yourself for the climb and realise that both pairs of hiking boots are sitting neatly by your back door. Success!

Thoughts Throughout

Only two options when you’re this high up: keep going, or try get back down the way you came!

I felt more confident in the lead up to this climb. Having been in the gym and getting a bit fitter each week I felt good. Read on and see how that hope was dashed, restored and dashed once again at the top.

  • Beginning: OK, not too bad. These are actually fine. Cardiac? Ha Ha. How I laugh at thee! Oh, what was that? These aren’t the steps at all and it’s just a rocky, muddy path that leads us to the steps?? Cool, cool, cool, cool…
  • 20 steps in: What have I done to you, Oh Lord?? Why have you forsaken your son, Father?!
  • Halfway: I am 90% sweat and 10% fiery muscle. There is nothing left in this world but steps. Steps are the Gods, the past, the future and most definitely the present. I give thanks to the steps, for they have given me stability in uncertain times. All hail the steps!
  • Three Quarters: Aha! Level ground! Fuck you steps, you motherfuckers! A few stray rocks are no match for me…..More steps! A steep incline?!! Noooooooooo!!!!!!
  • Top: I am Man. I own mountain now.

Afterthoughts

So…I’m still fairly dramatic! Did I question my faith and transfer my allegiance to the steps? Perhaps! Did I think it would help me on my quest up Cardiac Hill? Of course! Would I abandon my religion for a boost up the rocks? Definitely!
The initial ascent and climb up the steps is tough but it is manageable with a few breaks. A lot of breaks. Not long breaks. Just little ones where you catch your breath, put your hands on your hips, look around and simultaneously admire the view and your surroundings and curse them.
I had a great sense of achievement after this particular climb because it was physically challenging. My legs were on fire, my heart was racing but we got up there! I was admittedly in much worse condition than K but sure look, we’re a team 😀
It was a nice walk down. We stopped off in a grassy area just off the path. Tall oaks and various other types of trees dwarfed us under their leaves and trunks. I stood under them and duly obliged for another ‘candid’ photograph.
We finally looped down to Torc waterfall, joining other groups and families as they looked on at the cascading blue and white foamy water splash over the rocks.Everyone was happy, bar that one screaming child. His sister was smiling, though, so I assume she hit him or took his toy. Anyways, everyone was happy except that one child. It couldn’t be more Irish and perfect if I had envisioned it. One cranky fucker at odds with everyone else!

I don’t have any immediate plans for another walking/hiking/climbing adventure. My manager (who has never climbed the steps but claims “It’s not really climbing”) was talking about the MacGillycuddy Reeks and Carrauntoohil. They might be a bit above my paygrade just yet but we’ll find something in the next few weeks. I secretly love being dramatic if you couldn’t tell!

Is Cork City losing its charm?

There are no Echo boys anymore. Only Echo boys all grown up and still calling the familiar chant down the city streets. I haven’t seen Michael O’Regan in quite some time. Maybe his absence is part of the reason I am becoming disenchanted with the city I call my home.
Living abroad puts double-glazed rose-tinted perspex on your glasses. You miss everything you’d normally miss about your hometown; the people you like; the restaurants and foods you’d normally get; your favourite bars and clubs; and the diversity and multicultural vibe that a city, especially Cork city, could bring. The longer you stay away the more obscure things you miss. I found myself missing the walk from the city out to Blackpool, of all things. While I would much rather walk the 20 minutes from the Opera House to the shopping centre than get on a shitty bus that takes 20 minutes to get from Parnell to the top of Patrick street, now that I have a car I’d rather drive! I missed walking down back roads, like. That’s what being away does to you. You may miss the countryside and develop a new found appreciation for the green grass and the rivers but you’ll also miss the familiarity of walking home from town through a somewhat rundown piece of the city.
To my credit, I didn’t lose my grá for the city straight away. I had some amazing nights out, some lovely afternoons strolling around and one lengthy walk from MacCurtain street to halfway up Washington street, just taking in all the things I hadn’t seen in a year or two. Walking around this Saturday morning dimmed this vision.

I decided to have a walk around the city before going into the library to read my book for a few hours. The rain kept me away from reading outside and the warmth of the library beckoned. I left Paul street and made right towards Grand Parade. I crossed over and walked up Patrick’s street, stopping in to Golden Discs and Easons along the way. Golden Discs was a ghost town and Easons is set to move location to make way for a Sports Direct. Savoy is closed down and an eyesore on the main street. Starbucks and Carrolls Irish gift shops line the top of the street before Merchant’s Quay. I turned down Winthrop street and walked in the direction of the bus stop, passing out coffee shops preparing for the wet day and the heavy black doors of closed pubs. Maybe it was the rain. Maybe it was the early hour and fact that the streets were fairly empty. Maybe it was a mixture of all of the above. There was no buzz in the place. Cork city just seemed like another commercial haven, sleepy-eyed workers resigned to opening up and suffering for another day.
Walking down South Mall towards Grand Parade was depressing. In a monotone street full of dull browns, blues and greys, Fred Zeppelins was the only beacon of colour with their flame dancing above the door. Two worn out bus drivers smoked fags outside the Maldron, glancing at me as I passed by. I started thinking about the city some more and the only word that came to mind was, “Miserable.” The new Lifestyle (new in the fact that it is one of the newest additions to Patrick street) just looms over the rest of the street. Grey and black fill the sky. Even the two McDonalds has conformed to the same dark green at Dawn’s Square and Winthrop street, uniform in colour and bubbling violence after nights out. The pubs and clubs all look the same in the evening, and I’m not even going to mention the menacing tension that pervades Oliver Plunkett street, Washington Street and the fountain after 2 AM. Queuing up for Hillbilly’s almost guarantees you a front row seat for a brawl, a scrap or handbags at ten paces.
Sitting in the library, in between reading and scrolling through Twitter, I couldn’t get my mind off of the state of the city. Cascades of sneachta and Class A fall from our pockets and rob us of our senses, fueling aggro and tension.

Something was rotten in the state of Cork. Perhaps the sheen on the city when I returned had turned to slime and I was watching it greasily slide over my home by the Lee.

Go tobann, I received a text from my girlfriend. On my walk up to meet her outside the hairdressers there was a bit more buzz around the place. Franchises and brands still filled the streets but once I left the main thoroughfare and stood on Paul Street I started to see a bit more of the city I left behind. Independent coffee shops and natural food stores popped up. Inside in the Cornmarket Centre, under TK Maxx and beside Lidl, Peacock & Ruby, a funky clothes shop, thrives.
North Main street may look bleak and dreary with roadworks and closed shops but Mad, Tony’s Bistro, St. Peter’s visitor centre and loads of other great Cork institutions still function and prosper.
After I met K, we got out of the drizzle to protect her new, beautiful haircut by treating ourselves to lunch in Bracken’s. I got the toasted sandwich with bacon, melted cheese and an Americano. It was unbelievable. I would recommend the cafe to anyone but particularly that sandwich. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Afterwards, we hurried down French church street and got mochas in O’Connell’s Hot Chocolate. We also treated ourselves to a brownie and a slice of carrot cake, slightly breaking one of our resolutions for the New Year. That’s for another post.

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Stunning art with important message beside Paul st. car park, Cork City

On the drive back home I noticed the stunning mural with a stark message on the environment on the wall beside Paul Street car park. The vibrant colours of the kingfisher in action trump any dreary Cork day anytime. Not to get too deep or preachy but I had a sort of epiphany. Driving through Blackpool past Murphy’s chipper reminded me of the hidden gems all around the city and its surrounding areas. The city is not the be all or end all. Take a drive out to Blackpool, or even walk 🤣 Go to the cinema, have a look around the shopping centre or get a sloppy foley in Murphy’s some evening. Make the treacherous journey to Wilton and have a late night Tesco shop. Great craic, I promise you. I don’t need to tell you about KC’s in Douglas, surely. In short, town used to be the place to be; hanging out on Paul street; drinking bottles at the 100 steps by the Heineken brewery; hanging out upstairs in Subway. As we got older it was nights out in Gorbys, Cubins, the Roxy, the Brog. You name it, we were there. Maybe as I get older the more I see the grimy side of Cork in the nighttime. Maybe I am becoming more cynical as I grow up. The fact remains, though, that while Cork city may lose some of its charm as we get older, if we don’t look in and around it, we’ll never find the magic again. It is there if we search.

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I’ll do my best to find more quirky, charming and cool spots in and around the city and shine a light on them!

Thunder Road

Title: Thunder Road.
Director: Jim Cummings.
Genre: Indie, Comedy, Drama.
Main Cast: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson.
Runtime: 99 mins.
IMDb rating: 7.1/10.
My rating: 9/10.
Quick summary: A bizarre man goes through an extended mental breakdown as he loses all closest to him. This independent film was based on a short film of the same name which won awards at Sundance. A slow burner that always threatens to boil over the edge. Highly recommend.

Plot

Officer Arnaud (Cummings)

Jim Cummings plays Officer Jim Arnaud, a Deputy in what seems to be a small American town. He has just lost his mother, will potentially lose his daughter and judging by his descent into madness will probably lose his job too.
The film follows Officer Arnaud as he battles his own demons with the help of his partner and friend, Officer Nate Lewis (Nican Robinson), and his daughter Crystal (Kendall Farr).

Thoughts/Verdict

Crystal Aranud, played by the wonderful Kendal Farr

I really enjoyed this movie. From the very beginning we know that we have an extremely unpredictable protagonist, or antagonist depending on which way you view him. He is both endearing and alarming all at once. The opening scene in which Officer Arnaud reads an eventful eulogy at his mother’s funeral sets us up for the chaotic timeline we follow.
Although he is an unnerving man and a person we might all avoid if for some reason we were forced to be in a small room with them regularly, he shows an unconditional love for his daughter. The scene where he perfects the hand-clap game she plays with her friends is perfect. The camera pans to show his practice set up of drawn hands on a piece of paper sellotaped to the wall. It is superb storytelling that shows his true, kinder side that morphs back into his aggressive, macho side in one of the very next scenes.
This movie is not for everyone but if you give it a chance you might just laugh and smile throughout.

Jim Cummings is masterful and extremely funny as the neurotic Officer. This movie was based off a short film of the same name that won numerous awards at SxSW. I loved it and would recommend it to everyone. The last scene alone nearly moved me to tears with Jim sitting alongside his daughter watching a ballet recital. The camera pans to his face as he fights back tears and a strings performance of ‘Skinny Love’ by Bon Iver plays out. It is strangely beautiful, just like this movie.

Officer Lewis (Robinson) and Arnaud

A Guide to Hillwalking and Mountain-climbing for People who don't know what the F**k they're doing!

There used to be a time when I would scoff at the idea of doing anything productive on New Year’s Day. It was a day for the hangover and an evening for the bed. Sure look, you might be cheeky and go for one or five pints in the evening but that’d be it. The 2nd of January was always the day of reconciliation and getting back on the right track. Perhaps, depending on the day that the New Year fell, you might only start thinking about getting your act together on the following Monday.
This year, though, I joined a lot of others and made sure that January 1st was going to be a new start for me and not just the calendar year. Yes, I went out for New Years with my girlfriend, Katie, and we had an absolute blast. We weren’t out too late and were home at a semi-reasonable hour. We had plans for the New Year and we were going to stick to them.

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“A mother from Wicklow and a father from Rio. Neither a hurling stronghold!”

I wrote a little bit already about climbing the Sugarloaf. I’m talking about the one in Wicklow, not the one in Brazil. Neither a hurling stronghold. I think that the world needs something like a guide for people like me when it comes to outdoor hiking (as opposed to indoor hiking) and I’m willing to give it to them. So folks, count yourselves lucky as this is the very first edition of ‘A Guide to Hillwalking and Mountain-climbing for People who don’t know what the F**k they’re doing!” This week I give you my preparation and thoughts and feelings as I traversed the mighty cliff!

Preparations

First of all, I did not for a second think that drinking a fair amount of alcohol the night before was a good preparation for my first proper hike in years and my first of 2020. However, it worked, so here is a provisional list of stuff you need and things you need to do before your first climb.

  • Have a bit of a night out beforehand, as a treat. Nothing too mental, mind. Have a few pre-drinks, a nice meal out and maybe four or five double whiskeys and you should have just enough of a headache the next day for the fresh air to feel good in your battered body and mind.
  • Now, you should have your clothes ready, or at least have an idea of what you’re going to need. Most important are your shoes. I had no idea of the exact terrain we would be facing but I assumed a bit of mud and a few rocks. So, naturally, I went for old runners with half the sole worn off for maximum mediocre grip. Sorted!
  • You’ll also want to misjudge the weather and completely disregards weather apps by wearing at least two layers of coats and jackets, a hat but no gloves and light pants. Your legs and hands will be cold but your body and head will be burning up!

Thoughts Throughout

I journeyed through a thousand human emotions during this relatively short walk. I saw the face of God on top of that summit, and it was glorious. Alternatively, I stared into the sun for too long and almost collapsed. You decide.

  • Beginning: This actually isn’t that bad. It looks like it gets fairly steep at the top but Katie said it’s fine and I trust her. I’ll be fine. Grand.
  • First Slope: Oh God, I taste whiskey and duck empanadas at the back of my throat. Why did I get the last double when we were leaving? I hate myself. It’s so muddy!
  • Final Climb: I tweaked the muscle at the back of my knee there a minute ago. Ah fuck. I don’t want to tell Katie, though. I’ll be fine. The Gods blessed me with a spare knee, right? Oh, I’m light headed.
  • Summit: This is genuinely lovely. First achievement of 2020. This is my year. This is my decade. I am just in the happiest place right now. The climb wasn’t even that bad.
  • Descent: I am going to absolutely brain myself on one of these rocks. What fucking shoes am I wearing??!! OK, just slow down your breathing behind this random lady and her baby, you don’t want them to think you’re some ragged animal hunting them.
  • Bottom: Sweet Hallelujah, sweet level ground how I did miss you!

Afterthoughts

You know, I’ve recently found out that I can be a tad dramatic. Just a small bit. Just a smidge of overreaction. I didn’t voice any of this on the hike and a lot of this is exaggerated. I did have a little moment of, ‘Oh God, this isn’t that bad but I am still incredibly unfit.’ Maybe the excess of drinking, smoking and takeaway isn’t beneficial, even if it feels so good! That’s another topic for another post.
The Sugarloaf is easy. I was short of breath after reaching the top and the final climb over some rocks is a bit tough for my first climb in years but it is worth it for the views and the intrinsic sense of worth upon completion.
This weekend Katie and I are going to tackle the Cardiac steps and lads, I’m a bit nervous. The word ‘CARDIAC’ is in the name. She has assured me that they’re actually not that bad. While I trust her, she warned me that the Sugarloaf was fine and I almost died there….although I am a little overdramatic!

Types of People you Meet on Public Transport

Christmas is over! We’re halfway through the first official week back to work and for most of us that means we’ve been getting the dreaded beast that is… PUBLIC TRANSPORT! Delayed buses, slow trains and jam-packed coaches with no knee room are our new reality. I say ‘our’. I mean ‘your’. I own a car now. I’m a big boy.
Let’s have a brief look at some of the absolute creatures that board our buses, trawl our trains and assault our senses.

The Smell

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When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year

I’m going to preface this one by saying that we don’t know a person’s background or the circumstances that bring them to have such a smell permeating the air around them. All I know is that they smell horrendous and it doesn’t matter how bad you feel for them, they are coming for the empty seat next to you, and they’re gonna encroach on your side of the seat. Smelly travels, fellow passenger.

The Leer

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“Do I look like a resonable man to you, or a peppermint nightmare?” The Hitcher, The Mighty Boosh, Season 1, Ep. 8

Oh, Jaysus. Look at the cut of this fella. It’s not even the way he looks or what he’s wearing. It’s the cold, dead look in his eyes that screams, ‘I’m undressing you with my eyes and there’s nothing you can do about it”. I mean, I find it uncomfortable when I glance over and a leer barely feigns breaking eye contact with me. I can only imagine the hardships the womenfolk go through day after day, leer after leer, uncomfortable encounter after uncomfortable encounter.
So I just wanna take a minute to say, stand up sisters! No more leers! No more leers! No more leers!

The Space Invader

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If I was an alien being brought to this world with no knowledge of the human race and someone asked me to point out a creep, I’d point all forty of my tentacles at this motherfucker. A close cousin of the leer, the space invader knows no boundaries. His knees touch yours with nary an invitation. His elbow takes the armrest even though he has the window seat. Come to think of it, it’s a booked seat and he doesn’t look like an Ellen.

The Talk Show Host

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“And next up on Samantha’s phone is Sharon! Sharon is having trouble with Mark, her on-again-off-again boyfriend of 12 years and father of her two kids. Tune in whether you like it or not because you forgot your headphones, there’s a traffic delay up ahead and Samantha is only itching to give some advice. STICK AROUND for the shock twist when Samantha rings Mark to tell him she’ll meet him ‘there in a minute la’. STICK AROUND AGAIN for Cameron, Sharon’s other best friend who is on the same bus apparently and hears the second phone call and confronts Samantha! I’m Cian Dalton, on the late bus to Mahon! BUSWATCH!”

The Group Project

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The boys cheering for the bus before coming on to intimidate me 😢

For some reason you sat on the top deck. For some reason you sat near the back. Suddenly, a group of young lads and girls get on and they’re all wearing similar clothes. They sit near the front and they are loud and boisterous, laughing and slapping each other’s shoulders. Could they possibly just be having fun? Could they just be kids joking between themselves? NO! NEVER! They’re laughing at me! They’re going to trip me up! They’re going to look at me over their shoulder and snicker and chuckle and it’s all about me!

The Luggage Carousel

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Imagine trying to squeeze past this A-hole on a packed subway!

This passenger comes in two forms and all shapes and sizes. They can be found after a full day’s shopping, possibly with a friend, occupying eight seats and avoiding all eye contact.
Other times they can be found on an absolutely jam-packed bus , one hand holding a pole to steady themselves and the other hand resting in the middle of the pile of bags strapped around their shoulder. You know what I’m talking about. They will maneuver this group of bags our of your way, into your way, around you and him and in ways that defy the laws of physics. Always when you’re trying to get off at your stop. Pricks.

Best of luck back on the grind, guys. Is there anyone I missed out on here?