Friday, 27 February 2015

Album of the Month #5 | The Coronas | The Long Way

I'm not quite sure if I've been living under a rock, or that my ears haven't been pricked in the right
direction with the last while. I am forever discovering albums and songs far later than the talented folk intended me to. Nevertheless, late is better than never?

I was gravely disappointed with another album that was released earlier on in the month and I was in much need of some decant tunes to get me through the hunch. "The Long Way" was kindly given to me along with a few of others on my last day of work experience in a radio station in Dublin. I am now well over the hunch.

We've all heard of The Coronas, we all know a few of their very radio-friendly songs, but have many young'uns like myself listened to the rest of their stuff? I'll put my hand up and say that I haven't, not because I didn't want to, or don't like their work - it's just something that hasn't cropped up. That will change though, I'll make a pledge to that. So it'll be no surprise that I'm speaking of their music in this stand-alone album and not comparing it to previous records.

I'm the type of person that likes to cut to the chase, and today is no exception. In short, I love it. Every song, every melody, from start to finish. I have the God-awful habit of pressing the Skip button far too often than I care to admit - I haven't done it once in this instance. I shamelessly knew all of the lyrics after a couple of days. That should speak for itself, really. The lads are also up for Meteor's Song of the Year for All The Others, so they're obviously doing something right.

All The Others, Just Like That, Get Loose, How This Goes and maybe possibly even What a Love - will supply you for the catchy songs that will stop you in your tracks whilst brushing your teeth to jam to, You might find yourself subconsciously singing the lyrics to your loved ones down the phone. 

I'm not even being satirical or condescending, because these are things that have actually happened.

It also got me through an excruciatingly long essay on Elizabeth Bishop this week.

The album-titled track The Long Way, is a game changer in the middle of the album, there's definitely something Snow Patrol-esque about it, but almost better. Silence That Scares Me Now, At The Same Time and Tell Me Again will definitely leave you wondering what happened in the background to inspire Danny O'Reilly and his band mates to put together these songs.

The strongest point to this album is undoubtedly the way each song builds, curves and shapes throughout, how it sounds, and also the ability to differentiate between the tracks. Far too often lately tracks played one after the other begin to sound like one 45 minute, long-winded saga of a song. But you'll be glad to know that this doesn't happen here.

So do I think you should give it a listen? You bet your bottom dollar I do. There's going to be a direct Spotify widget on the right hand side as always for the month of March.

What have you been listening to this month?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Dealing with Chronic Fatigue

Disclaimer: In this post I wish to differentiate between chronic fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. CFS is a condition that is diagnosed separately - however, some people, like myself, suffer with chronic fatigue due to one or other underlying conditionsFatigue-related issues affect people differently in accordance to severity and other factors. I am also speaking from my own experience, what may work for me may not work for others. 

I have felt the need to write a post dealing with this issue as it is something I feel that hasn't been spoken about enough in the wider media. I have dealt with constant tiredness/fatigue for as long as I can remember as a side effect of severe scoliosis combined with a mild muscular disorder. It is something that always been there. There isn't a day that goes by where it decides to tuck itself away for my benefit. Over the years I have been able to recognise patterns, find out what things tire me out and what I can do to work around it. It's taken a long time to figure it out, but it's half the battle. The other half? At the best of times my energy levels are totally unpredictable.

There are more fatigue-related conditions out there then you would think; muscular disorders, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, diabetes, sleep apnea, cystic fibrosis or even Chronic Fatigue Syndrome itself to name but a few. If you google "fatigue related conditions" you will be able to see for yourself how widely this can affect people.

The most common misconception with having fatigue is that you are somehow seeking to be that way, or lazy. This, is in fact, incorrect. To go in hand-in-hand with this, there is the assumption that you are always tired, and never up to much activity. It is understandable that this varies from person to person, but I know in my own case - I can get bouts of energy from nowhere when I least expect it. For example, I went for a walk in my own village today and yesterday. It was the same route that I took - but it was easier for me to walk it yesterday than it was today. Why? I've absolutely no idea. It's a prime example of what I am trying to get at.

At this stage in the game, most people I know would be quite aware of my energy levels and how likely they are to be consumed quicker than the average person. However, I have always felt that my stamina has been underestimated at one time or another. As long as I have some things put in place - I am more than capable of getting the most out of my day.

You would think that building stamina/strength would contradict with being tired? Wrong! Think about it; if you don't service your car, put on the new tyres it needs and stock up on oil, your journey isn't going to be a long one. It's the same in this case. If I don't eat well and keep up with the exercise that I can do - I tend to go downhill quite quickly. This results in finding generally a lot harder; school, sitting, walking, anything. It's true to say I can't do the same amount of physical activity as everybody else, but whatever I can manage is important. And if I keep to my routine as best as I can, it means I'm at my best to carry out even everyday tasks.

How I sit, where I sit and how long I sit is one of the most important things for me. If I am going to sit for a lengthy duration of time, I acquire my own seating. The chairs that I use are quite discrete, thankfully and easy to transport. They just look like a smaller version of an office chair with a couple of extra buttons and levers. This is more strongly linked to my spinal issue but I do notice that if I sit in the wrong type of seat for too long - it wears me out. My chair has covered some mileage, I have brought it to 3 weddings, away-trips with school, most of my work experience placements, my summer job last year, concerts, workshops, you name it - it's been there. Yep, it's red, yep, at times it sticks out like a sore thumb, but to be frank - I don't really care. I justify this by saying; Is it not better to be able to stay longer at an event in a comfy red chair than to go home home early for the sake of sitting on whatever everyone else is?

"I think I just need a little rest" is forever going to be the most common thing I'll ever say. But when I mean little rests, I do literally mean for a short space of time. This is nearly always the way with anyone that suffers with chronic fatigue. For example, in my school I have a little room where I have an electric recliner that I can go in if I feel like I am about to keel over. Sometimes I go in for 10 minutes of lunch-time or for a free class if I have one. It's amazing to see the difference of what 15 minutes of a rest can do for me. Honestly, a short rest period for me could mean either staying the full day at school or going home early. It's quite important. On the other end of the spectrum, like for example last week I was busy in Dublin, you can read about it here. Together with the week, the weekend and the 4 hour car journey on Monday, I was quite jaded out. I had to take a couple of days for R&R, otherwise I would have been wrecked for the whole of this week. Once I had a couple of quiet days at home I was fit to get back to normal. Resting is in no way shape or form going to cure my fatigue problem, but it helps me to deal with it as best as I can. 

With this in mind, if I am planning a day away from home, I need to be able to plan where I can stop off for a quick cup of tea, or if I am going for a long walk somewhere new, I need to know if I can sit somewhere for a couple of minutes. Last week I was walking around Grafton Street and a wave of tiredness came over me like a tsunami - or just a little blip as I like to call it. I had to down-tools with whatever I was doing at the time, and somehow I managed to bring myself to the nearest coffee shop. I sat for maybe 20 minutes, got something quick to eat and some tea and I managed to go hell-for-leather around the place for another hour. Some people look at taking a rest, even a small one, as a sign of weakness. I disagree - I see it as being wise. If it means that you can keep going with the rest of your day afterwards, it's more so a sign of strength than anything else.

Anyone that knows me well, knows how much I hate being amongst large groups of people. Admittedly, it's my weakest spot, either at school or out and about. My balance is compromised and it's extremely difficult to weave my way through swarms of people. I try my best to avoid these situations by getting to where I need to get to before everyone else. (You'll always catch me wearing a watch!) When it's all done and dusted I either leave a couple of minutes earlier or I let the crowd go out before me.

It's hard being Bionic Woman the whole entire time. There are occasions where I'm just having a particularly hard day energy-wise. There's no point being stubborn and struggling through it. An example of this would be having to link onto someone the odd time if I'm out walking. It might look odd to an outside person but you just have to do what you have to do. 95% of the time no one takes any notice.

It's incredibly difficult to fit everything into one post, but I think I've outlined the main points. Living with chronic fatigue can be an inconvenience, but I don't let it dictate my life. There are thousands upon thousands of people in Ireland alone, young and old that go through something similar for one reason or another. Understanding is the key to getting on the best that you can with this. It's important not to feel guilty because everyone's body works in different ways.

Whatever is going on in the world will just have to wait for an extra few minutes until I'm ready, gathered my breath and had a decant cup of tea. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A Week in Dublin

Is it possible for 4 weeks to cram into 2? That's what this week and a half has felt like. Catherine where are you? You might ask. Why haven't I been blogging you might point out? It is the clichéd thing to say that work got on top of me; but *drumroll please* that is what happened, tada. Two weeks ago was manic - with books and study and tests and generally stuff that isn't worth writing about.

But ONE thing is worth writing about, I was Dublin last week on work experience in a really cool place that is all things great in the world. Today FM - an Irish national radio station were kind enough to accept an application I made some time ago as part of LCVP, a subject I'm doing for my Leaving Certificate.

It's a land of creative goodness and is related to what I want to do in the future - journalism. I'm both very happy and lucky to have gotten the chance. It was a bit of a trek from the West coast to come up, but I reckon it was worth it.

I was mainly with Joanna on the marketing team, who was kind enough to take me under her wing for the week and show me around the radio station. I've done some work experience placements in the past; and one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed this one was because I always had something to do. Whether it was archiving, drafting press releases or editing interviews - I was able to say at the end of every day that I did something different and exciting.

I even got to sit in on a live show with Louise Duffy and Anne - they are two of the most inviting, fun and interesting people I've met in a long time. It was great to see some of the behind-the-scenes that happens when putting together a show. O Emperor came in for a live session last Tuesday, prior to this I was uneducated in how the whole thing operates. I've come home to the West in the knowledge that sound engineers, like Gavin are the sole reason why your favourite bands sound like the descent of angels from the clouds above on the airwaves.

The news department was a realm, a world I was very eager to explore. Fingers busily tapping on keyboards, phones being picked up and knocked off, the latest news and happenings throughout the country, and indeed the world all around you, people discussing what really happened, finding leads, deciding what approach to take to a story - I think it's clear from my description that's it's my kind of bliss. It's not everyone's idea of fun, but it's my cup of tea.

To top it all off, on my last day, Hometown, an Irish boy band popped into the office to give all the ladies a rose, I know, sweetestthingever. At the time I was transcribing an interview from audio to text so I was in my own world, pretty sure it happened though.

Yeah, it happened
I've only touched on some parts but all in all it was a great week - I met some great people and got an insight into what this line of work would entail. I count myself to be very fortunate to have had this chance, let the Leaving Cert and all its menacing claws come at me!

While I was in the Big Smoke, I did get up to other things. I was on the hunt for a couple of places to eat nearby, in and around the top of Grafton Street. Due to my lack of geographical awareness and sense of direction - it had to be close by to where I was working. (Google Maps became a thing last week..)

Accents Tea and Coffee Lounge on 23 Stephen Street Lower was a pleasant discovery just around the corner. I had arranged to meet a friend, neither of us knew what to expect. 

The staff were very friendly, the tea was great (which is always a plus). It's the type of place you go to to literally hang out with friends. As soon as I walked downstairs, I saw a man in a suit panned out in an armchair listening to his headphones, a little while later I saw a group of people playing Jenga. It's that type of place, very chilled. I would say it's like a modern, hipster version of afternoon tea. Going by the menu, it's not a place you would go to everyday, as a lot of the food on offer is sweet, but if you're looking for a relaxing place to wind down and have a good cuppa - this is the place. 

My weekend also included a trip to the Shelbourne Hotel on Saturday to watch the rugby, because that simply couldn't have gone undone. Myself and my sister were lucky enough to get seats close enough to a television after mastering the act of weaving through crowds. Sadly, we didn't bump into any rugby stars - we'll catch them next time.

I visited the National Concert Hall for the first time to see Declan O'Rourke live with the RTÉ Orchestra. I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of Declan and have adored his music with the last 10 years or more. He sounded just as sharp and beautiful has he did when I first listened to him. The hall was sold out and it was great to see. I wasn't sure how I would enjoy the Orchestra live with O'Rourke, because I've seen him with his guitar before and loved it. But it was amazing, really. It was seamless. He performed a mixture of new and old material and also some of his own favourites. There was a great ambiance as they say. It felt like I was going to see a friend sing a few songs - you can't ask for much more than that. 

Fast forward 4 days and I'm sat in my own sitting room catching up on the soaps and regaining my energy from the busy weekend, drinking my own tea and sleeping in my own bed - nothing better

What did you get up to this week?