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Covid Plague Interior Highways Life In Eire

Isolation, On The Other Side Of The World

I guess I/we have been reluctant to write about the elephant in the room as we’re all currently still wading through the muck of it, in one way or another. Much like the term of the previous American president, we all just want the utter shitness of the pandemic to end. That’s really what it all boils down to, doesn’t it? End of post!

But that obviously doesn’t really help. Merely clock-watching doesn’t bring that horizon any closer (a la the detention room clock in The Breakfast Club).

Texting, voice-messaging, emailing, and video-chatting with y’all has helped tremendously and been a lifeline for us (so thank you, first and foremost). There has also been plenty of insightful writing on the subject of survival techniques from notable mastheads the world over, which have really helped us (the recent Irish Times piece on languishing comes to mind). We’re grateful to have all of you and these helpful resources in our lives. We only hope that we have been, or can be, as supportive to you and yours in your hour of need.

This however has been extremely difficult as deep down when one person’s tank is running low, and another’s is empty, there is very little fuel to go around. Certainly it makes the task of nurturing and looking after one another as we normally would very difficult. I think most of us have thought about this—or felt a variation of it beneath the surface—during this Covid era.

Adding to this the inherent limitations of today’s communications technology and its a miracle that we can even get our intentions across at all. “Zoom fatigue”—yep, obviously real. It just doesn’t cut it compared to the nourishment of real company, instead clearing the low bar of being “certainly better than nothing”. Texting/messaging: this suffers the “mental bandwidth” problem on the input and output stage, not to mention the absolute pain in the arse that is having to hunch over and exclusively use one’s opposable thumbs to operate (perhaps there’s some savage irony in that from an evolutionary perspective). I know I’ve had my fair share of messages that I’ve rightly bollocksed-up the intentions behind. If you have received one of these from me during this time (or prior) then I am deeply and genuinely sorry and intend to rectify this.

But it doesn’t stop there. We can add to the severe shortcomings of communications technology the full-scale information assault we face in our daily online existence and the “fog of war” maddening-effect-of-prolonged-crises-with-unobservable-endings. It really is a bloody miracle that anyone can currently stay in touch over long distances at all.

Anyhow, here’s something that might help. I’ve been thinking about Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs recently in relation to this, and I wonder if it might give us some better perspective on ourselves and our relationships.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Image courtesy of Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs#/media/File:Maslow’s_Hierarchy_of_Needs2.svg

As a napkin exercise (or serviette as we Aussies call them) I have taken each layer and tried to quantify based on our circumstances right now, starting with the bottom (first) layer and moving up to the fifth at the top. I’ve issued each layer a value between 1 and 5, 1 being uncertainty/lack of needs being met and 5 being certainty/sufficient needs being met. So if you’ll indulge a peak millennial talking about himself flagrantly on the internet:

  1. 4.5 – our mattress leaves a lot to be desired, but otherwise we’re “grand” on all things at level 1.
  2. 3 to 4 – civil disobedience here at the moment makes this a grey area to me. The current gov has responded poorly in many regards and demonstrated a lack of genuine leadership, sure, but we’re not in the position of Brazil—or India. Far from it. It can be unpleasant walking through town after dark with groups of lads getting on the piss, but they’re just going mad like the rest of us. We don’t know their circumstances, and while the littering is bad as a result there are no riots, looting, or anything close to that sort here. Thank God.
  3. 2 – The hardest part to all this for us has undoubtedly been going into lockdown the moment we finished getting set up in March last year. Yes, we have had each other through this and we are so very grateful for that, but if you are reading this now its most likely that we haven’t seen you since 2019. Again, not to state the bleeding obvious, but nothing beats that real in-person connection and the ability to plan to do so. We miss y’all.
  4. 3 – Prestige* aside, this is where I see the languishing splitting us right down the middle. Finishing Mr Robot and every other show on Netflix, or Prime, or whatever stupid streaming service—yes it is a valid accomplishment (hence the middle score of 3). But alas, it is a pyramid after all. How do we know when we can return to focusing on this level? Do all the lower levels have to be satisfied, or become more certain to us, before this can improve? If “survive” is at the lower levels and “thrive” is at the higher levels, then this feels like one area where upward progress stagnates—and it is hard to stay hopeful about. Yet in spite of this I have no doubt that as restrictions start to ease in Ireland grabbing a pint with friends will be both relationship needs being met and an accomplishment.
  5. 3.5 – OK, why the high score here? Surely the highest level would yield rubbish results? Well, personally, I can say that during this time there have been bouts of pretty bad depression that have returned for me, but also pockets where it has been a creative boon being furloughed from work. I’m an enterprising and creative person, yet I’ve always worked in service industries/roles (because…life). I have attempted to use this time to get to some creative projects completed before returning back to the later. Some of the time I have recently spent on these projects has been incredibly positive. On the other hand, I know for a fact that this isn’t entirely the case with Aoife, who has worked her job through this entire time, so I’m sure her score here would contrast mine. This is one way in which we want to identify and address each others needs to make sure we both build up to thriving together over time. Starting with a bloody holiday ASAP! Amirite?!

So to sum up, mine looks more like the leaning tower of Piza—or an in-progress game of Jenga—than a pyramid. No wonder things feel wonky and uncertain.

I also have a theory that, due to the pandemic, many of us find it hard to relate in conversation when one or more people of the same social class or generation have found their needs structure hollowed out suddenly and due to circumstances completely out of their control.

This exercise has helped me to identify some of what has up until now been quite hard to pin down, and once I was able to do that I realised I can do at least a few things about it. Starting with owning a better understanding of what I’m going through and hopefully being better in all relationships as a result.

What about you? Feel free to do the exercise either privately or you are welcome to leave it in the comments below.

*Re. prestige: IMO one reason Instagram et al. is complete dog shit is because we default to showing a perfect pyramid when actually we are but rickety scaffolding underneath at best—held together by duct tape and each other’s love and support. Just my 2c!

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Covid Plague Interior Highways Life In Eire

Habituary

This Feb is the perfect month. Well, certainly for making/breaking habits. It starts on a Monday and ends on a Sunday, with exactly four weeks in between. After being sloths and generally relishing the remaining Christmas tidings (as a pacifier against the reality of ongoing lockdowns) we have decided its time to change the circumference of our waistlines and make other various lifestyle improvements.

Seeing that many habits can be made or broken in 28 days, we are setting about to do exactly that in February. Here is going to see at least a few more months of lockdowns, so we wanted to put a sort of levy in place to buttress against the boozing and overeating of Christmas/Winter/various other justifications, and start making positive progress in 2021.

We didn’t make joint plans/goals for this year, but I don’t think that means we have given up on the idea necessarily. I don’t know if I can speak for all of our Irish/European comrades when I say this, but certainly the last 12 months has forced us to be more stoic and pragmatic. The goalposts have moved, almost on a constant basis throughout this crisis, but that doesn’t mean Aoife and I won’t (or shouldn’t) attempt a field goal when we can. I see stoicism as an optimistic strategy at its heart, though some folks associate it with cynicism or austerity. I want to make the clarification here that even though we, like all of you reading this, have undoubtedly had ups and downs throughout this crisis, we are ultimately optimistic about what is to come. We’re not giving up the game, just making a change of play.

We have instead focused on habits, what we can do now with what we have in front of us (this really is stoicism 101). If we can implement these things every day for a month we are confident they will set us up better for what is to come. Sure, if things here open up in summer and I am back at work then we would love to aim for a trip somewhere, anywhere. It doesn’t have to be mediterranean. When you can’t travel more than 5kms from home for the most part of a year, Brighton will do. Brighton would do quite nicely actually. I digress…

So my daily Make habits are:
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Journalling
  • Some form of intellectual exercises (audiobook, Duolingo etc.)
  • Music or other creative outlet. Even if the creative juices aren’t flowing—because its basically like trying to force breeding in captivity—just to put arse in chair.
  • Going for walks and getting some fresh air
My daily Break habits are:
  • YouTube
  • News Media*
  • Reddit
  • Any other form of mindlessly sitting on a device for hours on end
  • Sugar / shit food

We would love to hear what yours are, if you have taken a similar approach, so please feel free to shoot them at us in the comments below.

Alternatively, if you’re a more fixed-goals oriented person and you feel comfortable sharing what your goals for 2021 are, we would love to hear about it in the comments section.

Also, with Chinese New Year around the corner, we want to wish y’all a happy new year! Regardless of your calendar of choice (ours happens to be a Taylor Swift calendar courtesy of Anika), the Chinese calendar seems like a good timestamp of the changing seasons (in the case of the Chinese, it is welcoming the coming Spring) and here, where the seasons have real and tangible effects of everyone’s lives, that is important and something to appreciate. So we wish health and happiness in the new year to you and yours, and bring on Spring!

* Trump is gone, but news media still appears to me to be in an existential death spiral. I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with separating the ought-to-know stuff from the parasitic, mentally harmful info. I’m not talking about fake news, the facts have been hard enough to swallow this last year—and in recent years. I noticed an uneasiness in myself when I have looked at the news, especially on weekends, and a spike in anxiety. I haven’t figured out entirely how I am going to manage this one going forward (weening-off-methadone approach perhaps), but if anyone has any success stories, suggestions or recommendations please let us know!

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Interior Highways Life In Eire Moving Abroad

Day Two of An Overseas Job (and The Rest of The Day’s News)

Well today was a big improvement on yesterday, both practically and emotionally. The best news of all was that we got a place to live(!)

In the space of 24hrs Aoife looked at a place on the inner north, facetime’d me a squiz, and managed all the leasing and paperwork while I worked up here in Dublin. A monster effort from her that paid off big time. Photos / videos to follow soon!

On the work front, it was better today spending a full day at work here. I was able to become more familiar with the processes and how a day plays out with the Dublin lads. A little bit of craic thrown in there too. I’ll be heading back down to Cork tomorrow, whereby we will get the keys and then move in over the weekend. I’ll then come back up Monday to Dublin, work the week, then head back down again thereafter.

Getting the keys will be a big boost for us no doubt, as finding a place is by far the biggest challenge the countries’ renters face. Followed closely by finding an affordable place.

Hopefully with a decent night’s sleep in the industrial complex, and provided no security alarms go off again during the night, I’ll be back to report on the move in over the course of the weekend. Until then…

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Interior Highways Life In Eire Moving Abroad

Day One of An Overseas Job

Today was a frosty start—literally. More snow had fallen last night than we’ve seen since being here. Cars and the countryside were an inch or two thick with it, which made getting to the train a bit slow going, and I had to catch the next one to Dublin.

Once here one of the lads picked me up and it was hitting the ground running on arrival with training.

Later on my trainer, Ian, and I drove around the corner to the uniform shop and picked me up some gear. I then drove the van around to Lidl and just couldn’t make the hill start without stalling it. Geez, talk about embarrassing. It’s been more than ten years since I’ve driven a stick and it showed right then and there! Given that 95% of vehicles here are manual I’m going to have to upgrade my license quick smart. Irrespective of if we need to get a car I would still like to get it and finally put THAT training to bed. Life has been so insanely busy recently that essential life stuff like that has repeatedly taken a back seat for us both.

Coming back to the accomodation, which is above the office, I felt pretty weird and lonely. I’m not gonna lie. I mean, it could be the fact that I’m eating a chicken tikka masala freezer meal (quality as expected) on my own in a flat above a warehouse in the middle of an industrial estate. I’d say a good dose of missing familiar faces and voices too. Something just feels a bit weird and sad though. It’s like an organ transplant and I’m the organ.

I was waiting for when I’d feel something like this; displaced or questioning motives etc. etc. Sure it will take time to get in the groove of things here, and we’re getting closer to finding a place to rent, but something about full time work has always felt like a prison to me. Like the cars, 95% of work here is full time. I’m not ungrateful for the job and the opportunity, quite the contrary, but I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the need for art and life in the picture there too.

The tricky thing for an artistic type (which I believe both of us are) is that life can constantly feel like a procedural flowchart of either dead ends or impossible prerequisites. Chicken and eggs scenarios, and that’s even before getting to negative thinking in terms of lack or scarcity. It is hard no matter what you do. I know graphic designers, choreographers, instrumentalists, you name it and it’s the same for them. Everyone has to, or has done more than their fair share of, jobs that pay the bills. I think it’s fair to say we’re not lazy. It’s not that we don’t want to work full time. We want to work ceaselessly outside of a prison of time.

Sure, I’m generalising again here, that most people do something they don’t want to do, or at best have their great days and not great days at work. I also don’t know anyone who’s ever had a 10/10 first day at work.

Explaining it to Aoife earlier I just said that it feels like time is slipping through my fingers. I don’t think you necessarily have to be a creative professional to feel that on your first day, or any given day, at work. I guess my gist here is that we think Ireland should adopt the four-day week and/or six-hour workday too(!) It sounds like a good idea right? Do we have to strike and protest like the French? How can we make this happen? Let’s think it over by another cup of tea…

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Interior Highways

I. Interesting, rad and enjoyable things

One aim I have for this year is to be better at sharing things and so I’m aiming to use this site for building a compendium of recommendations. Prior to now I’d used sporadic WhatsApp/FB messages with friends and loved ones to share things in a manner inarguably sloppy, sporadic and somewhat difficult to process. For a long time I’d thought about properly sorting things into emails however I’m actually the worst at this so moving forward, I’m going to try and write these posts and then there’s easy hyperlinks too!

Without further ado, some recent things that are worthwhile sharing:

  1. To start, this undeniably enjoyable street art from our new city located on the South Mall, Parnell Place. Not sure of the connection Alf Stewart has with Cork but holy cow, anything that immortalises one of my favourite ‘Strayan ockerisms is a bloody winner. Here’s a fun response from the icon himself, too! On the whole, the Cork streets are home to mesmerising art pieces with the standout for me the Irish historical figures located on Kyle Street.
  1. The first book I’ve read in 2020 is the much-acclaimed Michelle Obama memoir Becoming*. I’d heard that Becoming was genuinely extraordinary writing however I was completely unprepared for how engrossing the narrative structure is and how effectively the key motifs around education, economics, structural segregation, community, rhetoric and policy is communicated. I can’t recommend this highly enough, not least with regard to relevance around how subsequent USA administrations are managing civic issues both on a federal and international level. Also, an additional comment that Obama’s expertise is formidable – prior to reading this memoir, my understanding of her experience was limited to her work in law – with her work post-FLOTUS a continued pursuit of essential social change that shows genuine leadership.undefined
  1. Sincere thanks to my rad brother-in-law Andrew for alerting me to this interview with Andrew Scott, Irish actor extraordinaire, on the famed podcast How To Fail with Elizabeth Day. This episode is a stand-out and kicks off a new season of How To Fail, with this conversation with this hallowed actor an all-round treat and I’ll also take the opportunity to highlight a slightly different interview here with some of his lesser-known fans, too… A stat that’s additionally worth sharing: Scott’s cult character on Fleabag Season 2 has spiked sales in Marks & Spencer canned G&T.
  1. I genuinely love grocery shopping and when I’m somewhere new, supermarkets and chemists/pharmacies are my ideal place for an excursion, especially when this involves sourcing snacks, etc.: enter, Deliciously Ella Salted Caramel Cups. These are a winner, albeit a treat in every sense of the word as they are a bit ‘spenny. More generally, we are actively acquainting ourselves with supermarkets in Ireland (so far our favourite is Dunnes Stores, in particular the Bishopstown location where Simon picked up a cashmere beanie from!!!) and subsequently getting amongst brands and treats not available in Australia. Last night we tried the infamous Salted Caramel Cups. Needless to say I’m thinking about them right now and they were an outstanding pre-dinner-walking-home-from-Tesco snack. Honourable mention here to this local brand, Cali Cali Foods, for their chipotle hot sauce as well – more of a salsa-y relish than a hot sauce and deliciously smoky, too – we’ve been enjoying this with loads of meals!

Finally, our hearts are heavy with the bushfires and national emergency happening in Australia. This crisis keeps evolving and we are trying to stay informed with regards to how we can all be responsive on a community support level as well as mobilise as citizens. One component is ensuring that all of our voices are heard so that action is taken on localised and national fronts for both recovery and structural changes plus funding to environmental and preventative policies are made. In terms of the scope of damage and the extent of the fires, this photo essay here puts into perspective that this crisis did not happen in the space of days – ordinary people, emergency services and journalists have been engaged with this for months now.

*One last note, my preferred place to buy secondhand books online is Better World Books. Not only is their selection stellar, they donate to world literacy programs plus they donate books, and their work saves books from becoming landfill (they reuse, repurpose and recycle). I will note that books can take a little while to arrive however it’s worth it – check them out!