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On July 25th to July 27th of this year I am going on a sponsored walk in aid of the Cork Cancer Research Centre – a local charity. We will be walking part of the Ring of Kerry, from Caherdaniel to Killarney – a distance of 71 km.

I can’t wait! Hiking, fresh air, good company, nice photographs and the scenery of County Kerry all in one weekend. It will more than make up for any bad weather or sore feet along the way. 

Cancer research features very highly on my list of worthwhile causes. Good friends of mine are currently battling it, two family friends have recently been lost to it, and I had a close brush with it myself last year in a very minor way.

I set up a web page to get some sponsorship and already I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of all the contributors after just two days. It’s been amazing! The donations have already exceeded my initial expectations. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! 

You can sponsor me online at this page. Every penny goes to the CCRC, and I promise I will post up some nice photos of the trip when I get back. 

 

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I’m not a huge fan of internet memes, however after reading Truce’s entertaining memories, I thought I would give this one a go.

  1. My earliest memory is falling off a swing in Shandon Park. I think I was three years old. 
  2. In 1978, my family took a boat to France where I danced to Gloria Gaynor sing “I will survive” and the Village People’s “YMCA”. It was the first time I began to take an interest in pop music. Of course, another song I was into was the “Chicken Song”, so I had a long way to go..
  3. When I was 11, I directed an audio movie featuring me (as hero), and my sisters (as villains). I had to coax, cajole and threaten them into performing in my masterpiece. The result was a mixture of bangs, screams, and shouts, with me (as hero) saving the universe while my sisters (as villains) cackled and died repeatedly. The marvelous thing about it was how awful my acting was – I stuttered my way through – compared to my siblings. Hollywood got away lightly.
  4. I played my first hurling match (at under-14 level) for my local parish in a pair of wellies. One of the players was never turned up, so I replaced him that day, complete with novel footwear. I wish I could tell you I went on to score 4 goals, but unfortunately I could barely hit the ball in those days. Despite never really mastering the skills of hurling, I managed to keep my place on the team for 2 years. Maybe having a father on the selection committee had something to do with it. Hmm..
  5. I went to an all-Irish boarding school for a year before I went into secondary school. It was a rather unpleasant experience as this was back in the days when teachers whacked kids with impunity any chance they could get. Nevertheless I managed to learn a lot of Irish. I was the first guy in my secondary school to ever get 100% in his Irish Entrance exam. 
  6. I never went to hospital during my childhood. This is despite driving a toy tractor out onto a busy road in the middle of traffic; nearly getting knocked over by a train while running after a small dog; falling off a tree in front of the house; almost drowning in Butlins Mosney; missing a bullet from a guy shooting magpies; and narrowly avoiding electrocution from a bar heater. I did however manage to cut the top of my finger off while making papier-mâché with a paper guillotine. 
  7. I was on holidays in Galway when Elvis died. Not that I knew who Elvis was. Another memory of Galway is locking myself into the boot (trunk) of the car. Is there a pattern emerging here?  
  8. Star Wars. I used to think that my white Liam Brady Texaco ball was the Death Star and that I was Luke Skywalker single-handedly fighting the Evil Empire. This was a time before plastic light-sabres or any of those fancy things. Nope, my Luke Skywalker had a hurling stick. There’s a thought.
  9. My cousins from England used to come over every year, regaling us about amazing TV programs such as Blue Peter, Doctor Who and the Magic Roundabout. They couldn’t believe that we had never seen them. The games we got up to brings back great memories. I remember pouring a full bottle of ketchup over myself in an attempt to pretend that I was grievously wounded. It would have worked perfectly except for the fact that they could smell the stink from a hundred yards…
  10. My granddad lived with us throughout my childhood. He frequently entertained us by spitting into the fire and going berserk any time he heard the words “divorce” or “abortion” being mentioned on the telly. We dreaded going on walks with him so we would often hide out in the wardrobes and under the beds. It’s strange though: the walks were invariably interesting as he told us about things like life during the War and his memories of the Titanic disaster. He would give us a few squares of chocolate at the end of each walk. 

That’s me done, how about you?

There. I’ve done it. “Colm” it is. I’ve been itching to use my proper first name for a while.

It’s not as if it is a huge secret anyway. The Irish Gaelic word for “woodpigeon” is “colm choille” – dove of the woods, just in case you were interested. “Colm” means dove, or pigeon. It is derived from the Latin word “Columba”.

“Christoper Columbus” is translated as “Christy Pigeon” in English. Lucky he didn’t come from England, or many places one the American continents would have different names today – “British Pigeonia”, “Pigeon University”, “Pigeon River”, “Bogotá, the capital of Pigeon-land”, etc.

I’ll get my coat…

For many years I have not made any New Year resolutions. I’ve always felt that this time of the year was the worst time for changing my ways – something to do with the pitiable lack of sunlight in this part of the globe.

I made no explicit resolutions this year either. However, despite myself, I have changed a few things over the past weeks that might conceiveably improve my quality of life.

  • I have cut down considerably on fries, jambons, breakfast rolls and other heart-cloggers for breakfast in preference for granola bars and apples.
  • I have also cut down on snacking. I’m eating 3 meals a day and nothing in-between.
  • I have given up smoking. Not that I was ever much of a smoker, but I have given it up completely now and I feel no craving for the stuff whatsoever.
  • I have cut down greatly on caffeine. Strong coffees and teas were not going down well with me, so I’ve gone decaf.

I already feel a lot better. My stomach has settled down a lot and my body seems to be dealing better with stress. I also hope to do more exercise, particularly during the weekends.

Life is good.

My twins were in great form this morning. I had to deal with the drama of not allowing one of them to bring in his blankie into the playschool. Later he broke down in tears and then tried to do a runner from me, complaining that he didn’t have a dinky toy that the other guy had. Upon arriving at the playschool, I had to wrestle one of them to the ground in order to put on his slippers, while the other lad jumped onto my back. They grabbed onto my legs when I tried to leave, and I got a lick in the face (instead of a kiss) from one of them as I tried desperately to extract myself from their grasp.

Upon leaving the playschool, I looked at their teacher and said “I didn’t bother to send them to sleep last night – I just fed them large doses of sugar all night instead”.

She understood.

Some of you are aware that, these last few weeks, I have been going through a health-crisis that had the potential to change my life dramatically. One minute everything was plain sailing, the next minute I was plunged into a world of anxiety, where control over my future had been placed, quite literally, into the hands of other people.

I’m glad to report that I was given some good news over the weekend. Hopefully now, I can put these events behind me, even if it means that I need to face the future somewhat more tentatively than I did in the past.

I have been overwhelmed by the goodness in people who heard about what I was going through. Friends, family members, colleagues and Internet friends all conveyed their concern in different ways. Many people, I know, felt more worried than I did myself. They reacted to my news in a way that often surprised me. I could see in their faces, their tone of voice and the words they used, that it affected them on an emotional level that I haven’t quite managed to reach myself.

How did I get through it? Simple really. I didn’t get a chance to think about it. It all happened far too quickly. Over the coming days and weeks, maybe I’ll have more time on my hands to consider how this little soupçon of mortality has affected me. I’m beginning to appreciate that my time on this incredible planet, with all its fascinating fellow travellers and its sights, sounds and stories, is very brief indeed.

This is going to be a crazy week.

I am back in work in Dublin today, trying to compress a full week’s work into one day. Then I have an internal training conference to attend on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday I have to be down in Cork to meet my doctor (and hopefully get the thumbs up), and then I scoot back up to Dublin so that I can attend my graduation ceremony!

And all this could change in an instant..

Well, I don’t have a pain quite yet. Give me a few hours though.

I had a routine operation today to have a mole removed. It wasn’t a big thing – just a routine procedure under local anasthetic with a small area of skin removed for further examination.

Suspicious Mole

I realise I’m a total wimp though, when I read Phred’s recent blog entry.

You can all squirm now.

A bunch of euro

After a prolonged period of avoiding the task of managing the domestic budget, I have finally succumbed to the pressure. I’ve spent some time over the last few days rummaging through the bank accounts and figuring out the current financial situation.

It turns out things are OK (ish), so, always the engineer, I began to figure out some way to keep an eye on expenditure that makes sense to me. What I have come up with is something quite nifty, well to me at least.

Now most of you are probably one of two types: the first type (the Surfers) don’t care too much about money: so long as there is some loot sloshing around somewhere, everything is fine and dandy. The other type (the Turfers) are ultra-organised: with discrete, and closely monitored categories for expenditure: clothes, petrol, groceries, dog shampoo, I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter, that kind of thing. I firmly belong to the first group with a small proviso: I worry, every so often, about how close I am to there being no loot to slosh around. I’m a Surfer with a small “s”.

The idea of classical budgeting sends me into goosebumps. Who says I can’t buy the latest book on Japanese toe-painting because I have already overspent on my monthly Oriental Book Purchasing Budget? Gaaa!

Instead I have come up with the concept of a “run rate” – how much dosh is available to be spent on a daily basis, and how am I doing against this figure. The run rate is calculated by subtracting all non-distretionary expenditure (bills, in other words) from my monthly income (salary, wages), and then dividing this remaining amount by the number of days in the month.

I exclude bills because I don’ t have much control over them. I could, of course, decide not to pay them, but then burly people would come to my door and start stamping on my flowers. Or worse. Not nice.

So, if my monthly salary were 1000 euro, and I knew I would need to pay rent, electricity and cable next month of 400 euro, then my run rate would be 600/30 = 20 euro per day. If I go over this amount any day, that’s bad. If I can stay under it, that’s good.

That’s pretty much it. A small elaboration is where I look at my last week’s expenditure compared to the total weekly run-rate (20 euros x 7). I do that just so I don’t feel guilty about blasting money on a 180 euro book on Japanese toe painting if I so wished. (I also use a monthly run-rate, but as I said, I’m an engineer at heart).

What’s nifty about this is that I don’t need to keep too many figures in my head, and the whole analysis thing can be done on a computer in 5 minutes or less. It means I can monitor frequently how I am doing, thereby changing my spending behaviour in mid-course if that is what is required. I don’t need to wait until the end of month to start pulling out my hair. It also means I can decide very quickly if I can afford something or not.

That’s the idea anyway. The practice may be different but we’ll see.

So what about you? Are you a Surfer or a Turfer? How do you manage your budget?

The whole experience of my Masters results has taught me to be suspicious of reasons and justifications, even when they seem blindingly obvious.

Had things not gone well with my thesis, I would have been able to fall back on a some very plausible reasons as to why I did not succeed. People would have understood, sympathised and consoled. I would have had a convenient comfort-blanket at hand to justify my failure. No-one would have been any the wiser, including myself.

The thing is, though, that I succeeded despite these set-backs. The obstacles put in my way were not, in themselves, sufficient reasons for failure. Huge though they were, they didn’t stop me from getting such high honours.

What I have learned, therefore, is that it is sometimes possible to succeed despite external adversity. Blaming other people or the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is not always the most honest means of justifying failure. Often, perhaps, failure comes from within.

That’s a very good thing, too. Failure from within provides an opportunity to learn. While I can’t always do much about what happens around me, when it comes to me and my behaviour, change is possible.

I think I have learned more from this experience than just the subject I studied.

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