2016

Looking back on 2016, it was a hell of a year personally. Mostly travel and craic with family and friends. The undoubted highlight was the fortnight in June with Ireland at Euro 2016. As much as to remind myself how grateful I am for a great year:

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  • January: Sang backing for Aslan to a sold out Vicar St crowd. Genuine bucket list one that. Songs in the Key of D also performed The Foggy Dew and Amhrán na bhFiann for relatives of 1916 rebels in Clontarf Town Hall.
  • February: The first of two trips to Manchester for United games this year. A 3-2 win over Arsenal is ideal.
  • March: I sang as part of the audience choir at RTE’s 1916 Centenary spectacular in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. Professionally, it was a big month as we published the new version of Dublin.ie – the official site for Dublin city and county.
  • April: The first of the year’s weddings as Gaz and Shaz tied the knot in Kilkenny. A stag weekend in Galway followed directly after as Ciaran said goodbye to the single life. I took my parents zip-lining in the Dublin mountains.
  • May: Another stag in Galway with Dar and co. Weekend trips to Portlaoise and Kilkenny to visit mates and see the ever excellent Devious Theatre Company’s Heart Shaped Vinyl.
  • June: Understandably dominated by the Euros. We flew Dublin to London before the Eurostar to Paris. Staying aboard a barge on the Seine with views of the Eiffel Tower was incredible. The craic with other supporters (“Go home to your sexy wives” to the Swedes returned with “Go home to your ginger wives”). Wes’ goal against Sweden. TGV to Bordeaux and our beautiful house for the week. The disappointment of the performance against the Belgians. TGV to Paris. TGV to Lille for the Italy game. The sweltering heat inside the stadium. Robbie’s goal. Falling off a wall and breaking my elbow (sober). TGV to Paris. Getting my elbow semi-cast and seeing the sights. TGV to Lyon. Leading the French for 45 mins whilst being baked alive by the midday sun. Singing our hearts out as we always do. Being applauded down a street by French supporters in Lyon city centre. Train from Lyon to Geneva. Geneva to London flight. London to Dublin flight and we’re home. Unforgettable.

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  • July: A follow up scan confirms the elbow is broken and I’m recommended surgery. Can’t have it immediately though as I’m to Benahavis in Spain for Dar & Sibeal’s wedding. A beautiful occasion and gorgeous Spanish weather. Straight into surgery on my return, two titanium pins to stabilise it and lots of physio ahead. I make the mistake of going to Paul’s stag do in Edinburgh a few days later. The body simply wasn’t up to it.
  • August: Over to Toronto for Ciaran and Darcy’s wedding early in the month. I had dinner in the revolving restaurant atop the CN Tower in 2008 and I was lucky enough to enjoy lunch on this trip. A gorgeous lake front wedding and delighted to catch up with them both. The month is rounded out with another wedding, this time in the Kingdom with Paul and Anne.
  • September: A camping trip to beautiful Bantry with Peter and Darren. Eagle Point is a beautiful facility and we make the most of local’s hospitality along with sampling the West Cork Garden Trail. The final weekend of the month is spent in Manchester as United beat Leicester 4-1.
  • October: We revive Songs in the Key of D choir and I’m on the organising committee. We get back to rehearsals ahead of a planned December gig.
  • November: I’d imagine Irish rugby fans are losing their minds akin to how we were in France as Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time ever in Soldier Field, Chicago. A week later, we’re back on the road for Ireland’s away World Cup qualifier against Austria. An overnight in Budapest before travelling up to Vienna for the game and it’s damn cold. James McClean gives us our first win over Austria since 1963 and we party the night away with the locals.
  • December: SitKoD rehearsals culminate in our biggest gig of 2016 in front of 270 people in Blackrock College. Proud that we’re back on track and we’ve got bigger plans for 2017. Christmas parties and a busy work schedule close out the year.

Lucky.

The winding Thames

The winding Thames

A quick post of a shot I took out the window of our Ryanair flight back from Gatwick tonight. I was over to catch The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX and catch up with a good friend. The view was amazing on a crystal clear evening over London and you can catch a good few landmarks in there (click through for larger version).

To Athens!

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I wasn’t expecting the scream. I’d landed in Athens not an hour before and was getting the tour of my friend Cait’s apartment. I’d be staying there for the 5 nights I was over and the reason for her exclamation suddenly became clear. There was a pigeon sitting dead still in the corner of her room. He seemed shocked, almost as much as us, and we stood there for a minute trying to figure out how to remove him. Luckily he was sitting beside closed doors to the balcony. A gentle open-the-door-and-position-the-curtain-and-poke manoeuvre had him off and gone but he’d invited a friend over. A cockroach friend no less. A jar, spray and the aforementioned doors relieved us of his presence and the holiday could begin.

I’d never been to Greece before, let alone Athens. I also didn’t know I’d booked a trip that coincided with the General Election. Perhaps that’s why the flights were cheap. 🙂 It turned out to be a fantastic week in the company of a great friend. Friday saw us visit the Acropolis and the accompanying museum which opened to the public in 2009. A key motivation for the construction of a new museum was that in the past, when Greece made requests for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the United Kingdom, to which they had been carried away, it was suggested by some British officials that Greece had no suitable location where they could be displayed. Containing over four thousand objects, it’s a stunning addition to Athens and a proper home for all historical artefacts from the Acropolis and Parthenon. I’d advise anyone thinking of climbing the Acropolis to visit the museum first. It’ll give you a better context to what you’ll see up there. Friday night saw us catch up with some of the Athens CouchSurfing group (for those unfamiliar with the concept click here) and hit the Exarheia area of the city for beers. It’s the area of the city where students and anarchists hang out and we enjoyed some beers in a bar owned by a Robert Carlyle lookalike.

Saturday meant a trip to the Panathenaic Stadium, which hosted the first Olympics in 1896, and dates back to 329 BC (in its current marble form). I’m not sure how much we paid in but it was well worth it with a self guided audio tour included. If you’re in Athens, please don’t miss it. As the sun went down and the super moon rose we stopped into A for Athens, which has a stunning open roof terrace facing the Acropolis. It was one of those picture perfect moments.

sixdogs

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Sunday involved a nice walk about the city, a tough game of five-a-side and beers in the coolest bar I’ve ever been, Six Dogs. It’s a gig venue but has a big multi-tiered open space at the back with trees and a canopy. Monday was a trip to the Archaeological Museum and whilst I saw some amazing artefacts, one in particular stood out: the Antikythera mechanism. Discovered aboard the wreck of a 1st century BC ship that ran aground off the Greek island of Antikythera, it’s an ancient mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions. The museum have put a stunning exhibit together with artifacts and statues from the wreck but the Antikythera mechanism just blows your mind. The complexity of it for its time beggars belief.

Friends have asked since whether there were visible signs of unrest. Whilst there were no protest marches during my stay, there were burned out shops/businesses (the Attikon cinema being a particular
shame) and riot police in Syntagma Square. At the time of writing the political situation remains uncertain so there’s trying times ahead. I’m looking forward to visiting again at some point over the next year and I’ll hopefully take in a few islands then.