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Monday, 20 October 2014

Choose Life.

Our PHSK Hockey Presentation Night was always going to be a big one. Considering the antics of a regular Saturday Night and the fact that I ended up with blood all over me (a certain Trickles dancing in his bare feet and standing on glass) from the last Preso Night, I was wondering about this one and what it would entail.
Maire and I took the day off and got ourselves pampered. Hair, tan, make-up all done and all we needed to do is get dressed. Saying this, we were still nearly late!

It was in Red Scooter at Balaclava and what a great night it was! We were told it was $100 a ticket and that included your food and drink (which was wine and beer). We were there about an hour before Una went to the bar to get something else. Five minutes later I see her ploughing through people with her hands laden with drinks, shouting like a crazy woman "It's all free! It's all FREEEEEE!".

With a room full of Ex-Pats, this simple statement almost caused a stampede. For fear of the alcohol ever running out, each person was ordering their drinks in mutliples; "Vodka, lime, soda please. Actually make that four." We all became super generous too; "I'm going to the bar, would anyone like anything?". The poor bar-staff were made work for their wage that night and I'm not sure how the venue made any money with the volume of alcohol consumed in the 3 or 4 hours we were there!

All dressed up to the nines, you'd think we'd head out to a nice bar afterwards? No... we headed to XBase; which is a BackPacker Hostel containing a bar inside. $5 drinks and figuring that we most likely wouldn't get in anywhere else anyway, we stand out like the opposite to Wedding Gate-Crashers, whatever they're called! The antics in here included one person falling over a number of times (and then texting me to say she has a sore knee and asking if I knew anything about it), people "pole dancing" (and I put this in inverted commas for a reason), numerous photos taken that were discovered a few days later that nobody seems to have any recollection of and a few DMCs ("Deep and meaningful conversations") scattered about. I was asked "Are you Ciara? Spelled C-I-A-R-A? (from FB/email) gear does NOT suit you!". I was left staring at him like 'I don't really know where to go with this' and he then tries to make everything better by saying "I mean, you look nice....tonight". I literally just turn on my heels and walk away...(to the bar of course...!)

From here we headed to Revolver (which is even WORSE than XBase - which again concretes in my mind that we have no standards AT ALL); a place where those out of their brain on drugs usually go to stay out as late as possible. We decide to call it a night at this stage and headed home. A great night, a great laugh, a delicate disposition the next day but well worth it. We have it booked for next year, but I'm guessing that Red Scooter might have learned their lesson by then?!

I had to go to Brisbane to train someone in work for the week. What an absolute DISASTER that trip up was! Firstly a couple of days before I head off I hear of a murder at the same place where I'll be staying. Some guy murders his girlfriend and then chops her up and cooks her - (and then, just to add some drama, the girlfriend turns out to be a guy) and then kills himself. Nice area so?! The morning comes and I ordered my taxi for 6am and it arrived at 5:45am. The driver gets out and immediately rings the doorbell of the house about 10 times in the space of thirty seconds, waking the whole house up. I run downstairs and bite his head off for doing it and tell him to wait 2 mins and I'll be down. We get to the airport an hour and 45 mins early for my domestic flight, but the queues are so long and so many other flights are delayed that I barely make mine! I collapse into the seat only to find that we are delayed for take-off anyway. I then have the luck to have a little girl (and I'm being nice by calling her that) sit behind me and kick the back of my chair the entire 2 hours of the journey. I ask her father to tell her to stop and he just laughs at me smiling with the two remaining teeth that he had in his mouth left. In the end I grab the air hostess and tell her to move me or get the girl to stop; which she does. We are then 30 mins delayed in landing and when I eventually manage to reach the baggage claim, I discover that one of my bags isn't there. After another 30 mins searching, I discover that someone else had taken it and then left it at the door (perhaps the toothless father?)! I scramble into a taxi, where a woman tried to tell me I was skipping the line (when I wasn't), and tell the driver where to drop me. Ten minutes later the taxi crashes into another and I'm left there as they argue in Indian whose fault it was. The look on my face indicated that I was less than impressed and required another taxi ASAP, so they quickly exchanged details and I eventually make it to my destination, frazzled but still alive at least. Could I please go back to bed and start this day again?! Brisbane is lovely though - for the jogging stretch that I actually got to see. I'll forgive you for having a murderer on my doorstep.

And typically - because my mind wasn't messed up enough, life decided to throw me another curve-ball. I got approached by a Head Hunter for a company in Europe and was offered a job there. It would be using my languages that I studied years for, it would be closer to home, a great career move and about three times the money that I'm earning now. So what's the decision then I hear you say? That's what everyone OUTSIDE of Australia asked me too. Why are you even considering this? Surely there is nothing to even think about?? Do it and pay your mortgage off, do it and go home more often, go and you'll make new friends and meet more new people...
But something wasn't sitting with me right.
Money can't buy you happiness - you can't put a value on being happy with someone, or in a particular place, or with friends; never mind all three. Why risk losing it all with something that you weren't looking for in the beginning anyway? Why throw everything that you have away in the search of more money? What's the point in having money if you have nobody to share it with or if the loneliness or separation makes you miserable?
Being half of my Dad (career orientated) and half of my Mam (socially / family orientated) made it especially taxing on my mind; with constant "What ifs"; "What if this is my only shot for everything that I've worked and studied for and I'm turning it down?", "What if I go and it doesn't work out and I can't come back to Australia?", "What if this is my ticket out of debt, negative equity and the ruin that the Recession has placed on me?" or "What if I can't deal with the wondering how it would have worked out?".
In the end I went with what I told myself I would do at the beginning of this year - do whatever makes me happy. So; I said no - much to the amazement (and perhaps disgust!) of many; but I decided to go with the dice that I've been rolled for the minute, without trying to also juggle something new. I'm struggling enough just getting through this year that I want to hang onto any shred of happiness that I have or can find. So Melbourne, I chose you; you're going to have to put up with this crazy, messed up Irish girl for a little bit longer...

And then everything is shocked back into perspective. I get a text from home telling me that a healthy young man from our parish in Kilcloon, one of my best friend's cousins, passed away. Aidan went to bed one night and just never woke up.
Just like that his life was taken from him and a massive gaping hole left in the hearts of everyone left behind who knew and loved him.  And suddenly the decision to live my life how I want to, to choose happiness over money and to try my hardest to make the most of everything is reinforced. You get one shot and that could be a short one; you don't know when your time is up, so make the most of it and do it for you. Choose happiness, choose love, choose fun and memories and experiences will follow.
My heart goes out to the Dalton immediate and extended family and to the wide circle of friends that Aidan had. Just looking at Facebook you can see the impact of the loss of this young life has had and how widely across the world it is felt. The Parish is devastated at the tragedy and the ripples of pain are still felt in Australia for those of us who are here. I feel utterly sick at the thought of the pain that my friend Doireann is going through and at the fact that I can't do anything about it. I am left feeling completely useless and wishing I was at home to even just hug her and try help in some trivial way. Thoughts and prayers only go so far and all of a sudden December and my trip home feel like years away.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal. RIP.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Getting it all out of the way...

So it's just under 7 weeks before I go home, 69 days (and 8 hours and 15 mins to be precise) to Christmas and mid-way through October. How the hell did that happen?? I'm sitting here at my computer thinking of all that I have to write about in the last month or so because my life seems to be flashing by in the blink of an eye! For someone who hasn't been allowed to exercise for the last 8 weeks or so, who doesn't watch TV and doesn't really do much else, I never seem to have any time?! What is this concept called "Spare Time" or "Free Time" and how can I get some?!

So, I haven't exactly had the best luck the last month or so. Stress is a dangerous thing and even though I tried to keep my mind strong and free from stress, my body caved in the end.
I'm sure my body was thinking that it's been a while since it's decided to collapse in a heap; so it decided for my back to go, for me to get a virus followed by a chesty cough and cold and straight after send me to hospital with stomach pains. All in the space of about 3 weeks.

Firstly I was kitted up for a hockey match and walking across the green to go to where we warm up (on average about 10 mins before the game starts!) and I got a spasm go through my mid-back. With each step that I took, the pain was more and more intense and made me get lower and lower, closer to the ground with each movement. I stopped and turned (thinking to myself that I'm not going to make it to the other side so I'd best retreat to the Club House), and I am left on my hands and knees, crying in pain in the middle of a field before having even rocked out so much as a jog! Embarrassing to say the least. What's the definition of being unfit?!
In the end Dash and Cam had to help me stand and I was left watching the game from the sideline, in a kind of sideways "Quasimodo-style" stance. A trip to the Osteo every day for a week and a couple of visits to the GP leave me very poor and with a handful of my old friends Valium, Codeine and a strong anti-inflammatory drug Proxen. I had to decrease the dosages to allow me to work without drooling or falling asleep; the first day left me having to strip off in the bathroom and lie against the wall to cool down and stop myself from passing out! Stress-related apparently. Still, I thought nothing of it and presumed that they got it wrong.
My back going wasn't exactly the best timing and it went again when I was in my apartment, leaving me lying on the kitchen floor for about 45 mins before I could maneuver myself enough to get my phone from the countertop and call someone! Obviously after I took a SnapChat and Instagram photo. Again - priorities people...

Moving apartments without being able to lift anything or generally move at all is quite difficult to say the least. Thank God for good friends! I moved out of the place in Cromwell Road and moved to Fawkner Park in South Yarra, only 2km from work. The timing meant that I had to sleep in Una's bed for a few days and live out of bags until we got the keys to our new home. A big old house on Park Lane, right beside The Alfred (more on that later) and Fawkner Park - we drew straws and I got the middle room, with Elma getting the small one and Una getting the biggest (with own balcony, larger space and ensuite bathroom). Despite my having cleared out 4 black binbags of clothes, I still had to get rid of my desk and some other things to be able to fit in the room!

They start "Start as you mean to go on", but I hope to God that's not the case for us...
Day One and Elma takes a chunk out of the wall with her bag as she's bringing it up the stairs, telling me about how the house is freshly painted and how we had to be careful.
You couldn't write it if you tried.
Later that evening, Paul, Una, Clara and I are in the sitting room talking and Elma and Justyn were outside having a smoke. As Una was talking we could heard this water noise from upstairs and Clara and I looked at each other wondering what the noise was. Una assured us it was the washing machine, although I was sure I heard it finish earlier..? About a minute later the lights start to flicker and Clara, Una and I all look up, only to see water dripping from the ceiling into the light. It took about two seconds for it all to dawn on us what was happening before Una screamed "ELMA!" and darted up the stairs. I hobbled along behind her only to find the hall carpet swimming. Yet another indoor swimming pool feature in a place I was staying - I think I might request it at the next place just to get it out of the way! Elma had shoved her full washing basket into the laundry and closed the door, unknowingly pushing the tap on in the process when the plug was in the sink. 10 towels later and lots of "rain-dance" or "grape-stamping" moves by Una and Clara, the floor was beginning to look less like a marsh and more like carpet. We then went downstairs to find Paul had the Wheelie-Bin in the middle of the sitting room, with water flowing from the ceiling light into it, and holes cut in the architrave with a steak knife to allow the water to escape from the floor upstairs, through the ceiling and down the wall. It was like we also had our own Amazonian-Waterfall features! Rubin Carter himself had nothing on our own "Hurricane"!!

Maire turned 30 and Una suggested to come up with a Surprise Party for her. I liaised with Colm, her boyfriend, on getting her non-hockey mates there, Anna made the cake and got the photos and videos together while liasing with Veludo to book the venue and Una organised everyone when the night came and was the person for keeping me up to date. I was the decoy, and we were to go out to dinner. I had told her we were going to Claypots, but to get dressed up cos I was going to be wearing heels. We pick her up in a taxi and head to Veludos, which is around the corner from Claypots. She's jabbering away in the taxi and all I keep thinking is "keep her talking and she won't notice". Surely enough she hops out of the taxi and I direct her up the stairs of Veludos, mid conversation, and she obeys. She's still chatting as she crosses the wooden floor which is dark and has nobody around. She's still talking when we come to the curtain of the function room and she says "In here?" and opens it before being greeted with screams of "SURPRISE!" by the crowd of people who had all arrived for her! It was a great night, with Maire getting thrown out about 2am (leaving without her bag and jackets etc - which I then took) and which ended with Elaine in a trolley pushed down Acland Street by Tilly and Trickles jumping from concrete post to concrete post  in the background at 5am! Standard.

And of course the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I was nominated not once, but three times - by Aisling, Leno and by my brother Kev. I did it after hockey training in 4 degrees and at 10pm. To say it was freezing is an understatement!! Great social media campaign and for a great cause - it even went so far as to get my MAM to do it! Now THAT'S an achievement - that's when you know that you've succeeded in your social media hype and pressure! :) Well done to all involved!

A week in the house and Una gets a virus and decides that "sharing is caring" and gives it to her boyfriend Bertie and then to me. God, that sounds weird - I mean SHE gave it to me, not him...we're close, but not that close!
I felt like I had been hit by a train, shaking uncontrollably for hours, fever and nerve pain over all of my body. I was too weak to get out of bed the first day, so much so that Elma didn't even know I was in the house the whole day. Dragged myself to the doctors the next evening, where he seemed more concerned with Irish stereotypes (I was clearly hungover or after being in a fight the night before) and with selling me an apartment ("I sell apartments too you know, how much money have you got?") than with finding out what was wrong with me. Again, he asked if I was stressed out or dealing with a lot at the moment.
$90 later, I leave with no medication and no apartment, but with a note for work.

That week I had also been complaining about heart-burn, having never experienced it in my life. The pain after eating was unreal - how did people put up with this sort of thing on a regular basis?!
The night after the doctors, Maire comes over and we chillax on the sofa and chat. I hadn't eaten in 3 days, so we went and got some take-away and then laughed about how we used to be so classy, dressing up and into fitness and now we were a pair of slobs with no makeup on, in our trackies and Uggs and eating fatty take-away on the sofa. I'll leave you to decide - what a difference a year makes, huh?!

So, I go to play our Semi-Final in hockey at Footscray vs Altona, and am literally lying in the back of Una's car with pains in my stomach. I play half a game and then the coach, Oke, takes me off. We lose 1-0 and we're out. The girl who scored was an Ex-South African player; as in - yes - the country. Slightly higher level than the Metro "Social" standard we were used to in Powerhouse St. Kilda! Anyway, they were hungrier than us for it so hats off to them. A night back to the pub for everyone else and I believe there were some sore heads the next day... 

I went straight to The Alfred Hospital with the pains in my upper stomach and was brought straight through to Accident and Emergency and seen by a doctor. I was sitting in a chair, bent over in pain, in all my hockey gear, no makeup on, sweaty from a match and not having slept the night before with pains in my stomach, when a Kiwi/Maori guy gets wheeled in on a gurney with a neck-brace on for a suspected spinal injury with rugby. The ambulance crew are trying to cheer him up as all he can do is stare at the ceiling, and so they tell him they can get him a date in the hospital and suggest me. Now, bearing in mind the only other options on the bench beside me are a 90 year old man and a nun, and the fact that the poor guy can't see the state of me; he gets all excited and is asking my name, where I'm from etc. His mates then come in and he tells them about how he's picking up and is asking me for my number. I tell him I'm sure I can reach him on 000 (equivalent of 911 or 999 for those out of Oz). He asks his mates in another language something and they all turn and look and me and then say "mm yeaaaaa man" and by this I deduce he's asking them what I look like. "I'm asking them if you're hot" he pipes up, and has the ingenious idea of getting his mate to reverse the camera on his phone and give it to him. I was quite grateful when the nurse came over at this point and threw all of his mates out and the doctor came to save me and put me in a cubicle!!

10 mins later I was wearing a little white backless number, hooked up to a drip, given morphine injections, put on a Blood Pressure and Heart Rate monitor and set up for tests. Suspected Gallbladder issue. A CT Scan, Ultrasound, XRay, Blood Tests, 3 days and 2 nights later, there is still no answer and I have to go home not really any the wiser.
"Have you been under a lot of stress lately?"
They decide that it and everything else that I've had wrong with me is linked to stress and that the Proxen (Anti-Inflammatory drugs) I was on for my back has torn my stomach and given me ulcers. I've to go home, rest and come back for an Endoscopy when I get an appointment. I haven't eaten for 6 days but I'mnot hungry, I look like death with some beautiful "Bed-Head" and all I have to wear are my sweaty hockey clothes from a few days before.
"On the up-side, think of the weight-loss!" a friend tells me, but of course I couldn't POSSIBLY catch a break with that - I was 1kg HEAVIER when I got on the scales! Story of my life!! There's a lot of fat in those Saline Drips I guess?!

At this point I would like to say that the staff at The Alfred Hospital were amazing. So nice, supportive, friendly, caring, and attentive. I realise that this is because the ratio is more like 1:4 rather than 1:8 at home, but it makes such a massive difference to your stay when you're there and you just want to go home.
The patience they have with some of the patients that were in A&E is unreal.
One particular guy was there making up problems as he didn't have anywhere to stay. He was clearly a smart guy, but he was delusional and stubborn, he kept screaming that he wanted to speak to the "man in charge"; only to change his mind when the "man in charge" wasn't falling for his story. He then wanted to speak to "the man in charge that wasn't that man" and would cry crocodile tears when the staff were encouraging him to leave. They asked him time and time again "How can we help you today", but the patient couldn't answer them and would go on a rant about some world issue or war. In the end the police had to escort him from the premises, once they got secure housing for him, after exhausting every avenue to help find out what he wanted and even after having kept him in overnight. Sad as it is, it provided great entertainment to me (high on morphine), across the aisle. I was loving the bit of agro and was disappointed when they pulled across the curtain to block my view. All I was missing was the popcorn!

Try not to stress, they said. I felt like telling them to live one week in my life at the moment and then come back to me giving the same advice. I'm only allowed to get back exercising now, so at least that's a relief and a release. Back to Pilates and jogging and bring on hitting people with sticks in 34 degree heat as my "Anger Management Classes" (Summer Hockey) get back on track next week!

So I'm sure that's it for me for 2014, that's all the drama and sickness over, the pain and costs gone! Onwards and upwards from here on out - all there is is happiness, fitness, love, friends, health, good luck and plain sailing...
Surely I was just getting it all out of the way...?

Friday, 15 August 2014

B-Double Boarder

What a whirlwind couple of weeks! I've been on a Wine Tour, to see a musical, taken my life in my hands on the slopes, taken 5 flights (in the space of 2 days), been out for birthday drinks, played hockey and looked at apartments to move into as well as the usual work and catching up with friends.

A friend Emer and her friend Etain came over from Ireland to visit Emer's sister Rita, so I met up with them to go on a Wine Tour. Something I'd never done before and was interested in seeing what it would be like. After paying $115 it marked the definitive end to my "Dry July" (which to be honest was looking more like "Dry-with-the-occasional-shower July"!) and so I got up at 6:30am from my mate's to go home and get ready to go. Just as I was about to head out the door I re-read the text and realised that I was almost 2 hours early... 2 hours seems like about 12 hours when it's a Saturday morning and you could be in bed asleep!

I headed into rainy Melbourne city at my own leisure and had a Gluten Free muffin and hot chocolate as I'd started my attempt of a GF Diet/regime that week. There were about 12 of us for the Wine Tour - all of whom were friends with Rita. It was a lovely group; all Irish barring the token Canadian and English boys. It was great to see Emer and we chatted in the bus on the way to the three different wineries. One poor girl was severely hungover and had the shakes from the beginning. Possibly the worst place you could be when you're feeling the effects from the drink the night before. 23 (mostly taster) wines later (again, there's my number 23...); we came back to the city and I went home to get ready for Una's birthday drinks and they continued on.

I quickly got showered and changed when I got home and ran down to Toorak Road to meet Lara. I sat on the side of a "Giant" shop window in my get-up; fake tan, hair curled, makeup on and in a dress. Couple with this that I was wearing flip-flops, holding my sky-scraper heels in one hand and a wine bottle (more on this later) in the other, I was slightly tarnishing the dolled-up look. Only slightly.
The last time I went out with Lara we ended up waiting on the same road, sitting outside the petrol station on the pavement, for Emma. We joked about how we were meant to be in this state at the end of the night and not at the beginning.

Lara turns up and is sitting beside me on the shop windowsill. She starts to roll a cigarette and I am chatting away about how it's BYO tonight and how I had learned from last year and put vodka and Diet Coke in a red wine bottle with a screw-top. I fail to think that a dark brown fizzy drink coming out of a red wine bottle will look weird. I've never claimed to be classy, right?! At least it was kind of clever, I thought! I'm getting her to smell the inside of the bottle when I look up and see a friend rolling by in his car, window down and shaking his head slowly in disgust at the sight of the two less-than-classy creatures in front of him. No words were said; he just cruised on by giving me that look of "disappointment" a Dad gives his child that hurts way more than any slap your Mother gives you with the wooden spoon!
Una's birthday started in an Asian restaurant in Brunswick and moved onto "The Night Cat" afterwards. A complete meat-market where the majority male clientele felt like they had the right to do a bit of Traveller-Grabbing, but a fun night nonetheless; ending at 6am and in Revellers - of course!

Next day was our hockey match and then straight into the city for me to meet Emer, Rita and Etain again. I quickly showered in the Club House and threw on some makeup before getting the tram into Melbourne. I am only 30 seconds off the tram waiting at the tram stop on Bourke Street when a complete stranger comes up and says "I'm sorry, but I saw you get off the tram and I think you're beautiful, so I've come over to introduce myself". I look around to see who he's talking to and then, after I realise he's clearly either blind or mentally deranged and talking to me, I look around for the group of friends who are bound to be looking and laughing. Nope; no friends or camera crew - but clearly deranged. He stood there asking me questions for about 10 mins before eventually shaking my hand and saying "Nice to meet you" and walking off!! Pity this guy wasn't rich and gorgeous!! After he went an old, fat, toothless man then started walking in my direction, but my "don't even THINK about it" look made sure that he didn't think that this was some sort of service that I offered at the tram stop!

The girls turned up and we went to have dinner in "Cookie" restaurant, which was lovely. We went from there to see "Les Miserables" and I was blown away from the talent and the goose-bumps that the voices of the actors gave me. What a beautiful night with a difference and we quickly said goodbye as we froze our asses off at the corner waiting on taxis.

One day at work, when I'm having a particularly stressful day, I head out for a walk at lunch and come back an hour later with a snowboard, bindings and boots. As you do.
Now I just need to learn how to use it...??!
That weekend a group of us headed up to Mt Buller on the Saturday for the day. Two cars meet at 5am and head off to the snow for the day. Una is driving her car and we make a short stop in Mansfield to pick up her boyfriend. Well that was the plan til his phone was off and she didn't have the address of the place where he was staying. Let me say now, there are a lot of hostels, lodges, hotels and general accommodation in Mansfield. Anna, Una and I put our Detective hats and start ringing round all the places we can find in Google asking if they had a large group of recruitment peeps stay at their place. The opening liners started at "Good Morning, my name is Una, how are you? I was wondering if you could help me; I'm looking for a friend of mine who is staying in Mansfield and his phone is off. We don't know the address, so were wondering if perhaps he's staying at your establishment? A group of about 20 people from Hays Recruitment..." blah blah blah and answering the mountain of questions that came after it. In the end we were like "Hi, looking for a group of 20 non-Asians from Hays Recruitment". No luck anywhere in Mansfield. We finally ended up going to the Tourist Information Office to see about more accommodation and the possibility of him getting a bus to Mt. Buller if it came to it & he called Una. Just in time :) We find out where he is and put the address into Google Maps. Our luck is in when we see it's only 2 mins down the road... that is until we turn up outside a farm house down a dirty alley and rethink about our selection of address within Google. A slight readjustment and we're on the road to find him; 20 mins outside of the search and rescue site area we were looking at.

We pick a very hungover Bertie up and head off to the slopes. When we get there, the guys without their own gear need to rent the stuff, so we wait for them as they line up. We then get Clara to get the lift passes and promptly lose her 5 mins later. Tempers are getting frayed as we try set up another search party for her, only to find her back in the queue 20 mins later. At least it's giving me some material for my blog :)

Eventually we hit the slopes (literally for some of us!) around 11am and the newbies (Clara, Ciara and Lara) and I head to the baby/Green slope and the rest head off up the mountain in their competitive nature.
45 mins later and already covered in bruises from other people taking me out from behind, Ciara classically took myself and another skiier out, who ended up kicking me in the face and looked as though he got concussion from the spectacular face-plant he did in front of the crowds gathered in the Chair Lift queue. After this, and for the safety of the general public on the mountain, the three girls head off for a 2 hour lesson and I head off on my own for the hour before meeting the other pros for lunch. At 1:55pm I see that the 2pm lunch meeting place has been changed to another place, so I head off trying to find it. I'm sent all over the mountain looking for the damn place and in zero visibility up this mountain, I'm left carrying my board (for fear of boarding into an abyss) and wandering up and down slopes for AN HOUR AND A HALF. To say I was less-than-impressed was an understatement. I most definitely was the definition of "hangry", and even a "Pretty board for a pretty girl" comment from another boarder guy only managed to make me smile through gritted teeth. At 3:30pm I find the place and get 10 mins to wolf down soup and a hot chocolate and then we're off out again.

Anna and Una go ahead of a very hesitant me, who is less than comfortable with the slopes I'm on and the height I'm at. In my eyes, I thought snowboarding was going up a chair-lift (which in itself scares the crap out of me!) and then boarding down to the bottom and repeating. The fear of having to get on a chair lift, in front of loads of people, with one foot strapped to the board and the other free, on slippery snow and with zero skills is quite overwhelming! And it doesn't end there - the fear comes again when it's time to get off. You have to slide off the Chair, snow-board down the slope with one leg attached while wrestling with others to get off the chair and not collide in a heap; all the while trying to stay upright. Others make it look so easy gliding off into the distance, where I'm left making unintentional snow-angels on the ground or eating the snow from someone else's boot!

I didn't realise that, when boarding, you're actually to go down various different slopes that don't reach the bottom, but come to another chair-lift which brings you to another area of the mountain and EVENTUALLY you manage to reach the bottom. The slopes were mostly blue (with a touch of Black which sent me flying on my ass and made ME Black and Blue!), but I wasn't enjoying it at all - I am too much of a scaredy-cat to be doing things like this when I'm not good enough or comfortable. I was literally looking at it as a means of getting to the bottom of the mountain without killing myself or anyone else. After falling on the Black part of the slope and getting a dead leg, I was finding it more and more difficult to stop myself from falling; which was then hurting me more and making me more tired. In the end Anna and I were the last ones on the Chair Lift and the mountain was closing and it was getting dark. I had one more slope to go down but I couldn't do it, so I asked a guy going by on a skidoo to give me a lift to the bottom. He said he'd come back for me in 2 mins, so I told Anna to go ahead and I waited for the guy. And I waited. And waited.

20 mins later it's getting darker and I'm still up the mountain on my own standing on one leg holding my board when a guy on Ski Patrol comes along and asks if I'm OK. I explain that I'm waiting for a lift (as you do up a mountain in the dark) and he says he'll wait with me. "Rob" (we're quickly BFFs in the following 15 mins that I'm waiting) eventually radios for help and a stern looking female turns up to bring me down the mountain on her skidoo. Once I'm dropped off, I limp around the corner to meet up with the rest of them where Una gives out to me telling me that I'd "better get better by tomorrow or Oke and Jessie (hockey coaches) would kill her". After a few drinks and some photos we head down the mountain and get home at midnight; falling into bed wrecked. Next time I go I'll be sticking to the bottom of the mountain til I'm able to do the basics before I decide to tackle what seemed like Mt Everest to me! I'm clearly not that Aussie yet - although not true according to a little foreign old lady who then told me that I looked so Aussie despite coming from Ireland; whilst also congratulating me on the level of English that I seemed to speak so well too! It's only taken me 32 years...

A work trip to NSW quickly followed the snow trip, so I was up at 4am on the Monday (bed at midnight) and 4:30am the Tuesday also (bed at 1am); 5 flights and lots of driving and not much sleep left me almost delirious for the next couple of days. A few of us headed to Newcastle, Narrabri and Moree for a bit of an educational crop/assets tour. I decided to go for a walk for an hour when the other two were in a meeting in Newcastle, but I quickly retreated to the car after 30 mins of beeping, shouting and one guy hanging out of a work van for the laugh with his mates. Clearly females were in short supply around here if this was the way they were at 9am on a Monday morning!

As a side note - how cool is this art work? Graffiti on the side of a building in Newcastle!

Onto Narrabri where we went to see the work grain facilities. I decided to get a closer look on how the grain is tipped into the back of a truck and outturned from the site. I ask the truckie if I can get into his B-Double truck that was on site so that he could run me round the site from the outloader to the weigh-bridge. Clearly making his day, he agreed. Opening the door of the truck I then noticed that I had a problem - there were no steps or obvious way of getting from the ground into the apparent 10-foot-high cab. The truckie was telling me to use the "ladder", which I was failing to see. I couldn't imagine how this fat, hairy, gappy-toothed older guy had managed to get into his seat and I was struggling to get my foot onto the only thing that I could see that was in any way like a step - and this was about my shoulder height. I looked like some sort of monkey handing from a branch for it's life, legs swinging trying to grip onto something to help me climb. The driver shakes his head and says "hang on there and I'll help ya".

That was all I needed.
There was no way on this earth that this dude was getting his hands on my ass to push me into the truck! In some sort of super-human strength I pull myself into the cab using just the handle on the side of the truck and I'm in. I don't think he's ever seen anyone move so fast as he was still sitting open-mouthed with his hand on the inside door handle when I was upright and bouncing on the passenger seat. Again we were BFFs by the time he ran me around to the weigh-bridge; telling me about his doctor appointment later (TMI - not sure I wanted to know this) and showing me photos on his phone of other trucks that he was driving and sleeping in. He was outside my door within seconds of stopping the truck and showing me the "ladder" (two spiked bits of steel about 3 foot away from the door) as I was trying to quickly shimmy out of the truck without hitting him in the face with my ass. Funny - he didn't seem to mind... As I said; BFFs.

Moving onto Moree I was going to go around the site there in the same fashion, but the weigh-bridge women wouldn't let me. There were only five truckies in the yard and there was "no way in hell" they were going to let me get in with any of the ones that were there. A bit harsh I thought at first, but after seeing number one who looked like a serial killer and number two who was clearly after relapsing into his heroine addiction again, I didn't argue. I needed to live a bit longer; if only to improve my snow-boarding...

Monday, 28 July 2014

"You can't polish a turd"

OK what happened??? How the hell is it almost August already?! What happened to June never mind July??!
It was only when I sat down to do my blog that I realised that I somehow missed 2 months in the blink of an eye! I was already freaking at turning 32 never mind to have an extra 2 months added onto my life without my having done anything worthwhile!

The problem with playing for a St. Kilda team is that you become friends with people who genuinely aren't staying around for very long. The good thing is that they're mostly Irish, so I'll see them again. Poor Chaz mentioned that unless you're going for Permanent Residency or becoming an Aussie citizen then she's no longer going to make an effort to become friends with you to save herself the hurt! We said "See you later" to Lynnie who left us over here in Oz and headed home to Ireland. Goodbyes are not allowed, so it was a quick hug and a kiss and the Heaven's opened to make us retreat quickly back to the car before we even had time to get upset.

Contrary to that we said "Hello" to the beautiful Indie Rose, Ruthie's daughter, who was born June 23rd at 3:20am weighing in at 8lbs 13oz. (Told you it was a girl!!) The little munchkin is so cute, you can't put her down! Ruthie and Steve moved to Narre Warren just before Indie was born and I love visiting them! Especially since the first time I went I got pizza and the second time I went I got cake! The way to my heart is through my mouth clearly... Here she is wearing an outfit I bought her. As you can tell from the expression on her face, she is obviously LOVING the pink...

More anonymous flowers to my work brightening up my day and week and obviously creating a stir in the office; with various different unsuspecting males in the office being pin-pointed as the culprits by the girls! Funny!

The rest of the month was filled with hockey and food - the usual!
I signed up for a Half-Marathon for October 12th and got going on my training plan. I only do about three runs a week, but it's killing me! I am most definitely not a person designed to be fit... What's that? "Probably cos you eat so much Ciara"? :)

On the subject of food I'm finally having to take the whole Gluten Free side of things seriously. I generally order GF food when out, but won't hold myself to it and will eat whatever I want really; much to my own demise. Not that I've been tested for it (cos the test is almost $400!), but I know when I eat it that I feel rotten and can take a couple of days to recover. I guess it means I've to be more organised and prepared in future...and yes, probably less gluttonous! :)

A particularly bad week lead to a massive spending spree in the DFO (Discount Factory Outlet), which in turn lead to a big clear out of my wardrobe. A crushing blow was felt after I spent $150 on a pair of 2XU skins and had them 30 mins before I was tripped at hockey and ripped them. Gutted doesn't describe it!

I'm also moving apartments on Sept 1st and have all the joys associated with that. I've started to do a clear-out of clothes and crap that I have accumulated whilst being here in Oz. How one person can have so much stuff is beyond me. Especially seeing as though I came over to this country with only 23kgs?! I have already got 4 bin-bags of clothes and shoes to share with friends and then give the remainder to the Op-Shop; still leaving me with full shelves, drawers and a crammed wardrobe; yet I never have anything to wear. The less I have the less I have to move, so I'm hopefully going to whittle it down to a more manageable amount to move. It took me 3 hours to put my bed together - I wonder how long it's going to take me to take it apart?! Looking forward to moving, but the stress of the preparation and the actual move is something I'm dreading. I will have to do a special blog when I move to fill you in on the entertaining moments of the past 7 months...

We also said "See you later" to Mairead, who left Australia with a bang. Mair had a farewell party in her house with about 50 people in attendance - I'd say 48 of which were Irish! The poor non-Paddy-minority were mostly scared off with the antics of the drunken eejits dancing on the tables with beer boxes on their heads, smashing artwork over each other's heads, breaking glasses, putting mattresses in front of doors and trying to jump through them, reenacting River Dance in the sitting room or getting sick on the carpet. The last bit was funny when someone in particular was cleaning the house the following morning and saw that another person from the party had been sick on the carpet. They started ranting and raving about how disgusting it was and "how the hell could someone do that - do they not have any shame?!" etc. They were quickly silenced and promptly put in their place when they were told that they themselves were sick last night. On the dance-floor.

As you do. Standard.

I had decided to do "Dry July" (purely for financial reasons) and so probably should have been shocked and disturbed by the scenes that were taking place around me in my sober state. You would probably think that everyone there had a problem, given the amount they were drinking (random bottles of gin, red wine and vodka getting mixed together with slushy-sugar). However, I think I might have more of a problem; given that I wasn't at all shocked, traumatised or on my way to a mental asylum after witnessing the night's crazy goings-on. At one stage "shots" were being handed out to all who were there. Kind of the person to perhaps prepare the shots for all and to distribute them; but we find out the next day that the shots were, in fact, the leftovers of drinks that were found around the house. Waste not, want not, and all that I guess?!
(Note how I'm not naming any of these people by the way?! I'm such a good friend...)
Leaving the local cheesy nightclub last, completely sober and at 5:30am Sunday morning, wasn't exactly one of my finer moments either. Nevertheless I had to publicise it on Facebook with the mandatory status update. Obvs.

Kenny had her 40th a week later. Panic set in among the Irish / English crew, who were deciding how they were not going to be able to treat it as one of our regular night's out, how they couldn't drink before heading out to the classy cocktail bar, who were wondering how long they had to behave themselves for and how the hell they were going to do it! Genuine discussions were had about how we had to bear in mind this was a different style of night that we would be used to; filled with mature,  sophisticated people - we were to be "ladies" for as long as possible.
We lasted about 2 hours I'd say.

Turning up at Laika Cocktail Bar in St. Kilda, we were greeted by the most beautiful, elegant, classy captain around - Kenny! (Man, if I could look like her now, never mind at 40 I'd be happy!) We all had gone to the effort of dressing accordingly and comments were made from some that they wouldn't recognise us off the pitch. One even said that we looked like females now! Nice.
Dry July went rapidly out the window for me when Maire and Una twisted my very flexible rubber arm. There was no way that our team were going to be able to maintain the "classy, mature" image that we were trying to uphold for Kenny. Within a few hours we already had someone who passed out on the floor under the bar, someone on the stage singing with the band, someone getting asked to leave the premises, another who was getting in trouble for having no shoes on, someone else who asked another girl to take her home, a domestic dispute in a taxi about one of the couple being racist, a few having to go home early (obviously not the ex-Pats) and the hangovers the next day were less than ideal. I received various phone-calls the next day asking me what had happened and a number of the girls still hadn't recovered two days later!
I guess the main thing is that we tried....??

As a good friend advised another the other day "You can't polish a turd." To which the latter butt in "No, but you can roll it in glitter!"

My hockey friends: turds rolled in glitter.

Friday, 25 July 2014

I'm actually related to Superman

I know I'm biased but there's no denying of the fact that my little brother is a machine.
The facts are there, the stats are in for all to see and I would like to hear someone deny it.

I knew Kev could never sit still growing up. Kev would run down the hall, would run to his room, would have his legs on the table or swinging from the chair. Kev was already red-faced from tearing around the garden or running with his tongue out as he played football.

I knew Kev was fit.  I knew he was nowadays weirdly into fitness, triathlons and random cycles across the entire country, but I don't think that I fully grasped how far he was going to push his body and how far his body would take him.

July 20th 2014, Roth in Germany.
3.8km swim followed by a 180.25km cycle followed by a 42.2km marathon ( to be precise.

The temperature soared to over 34 degrees Celcius (93.2F) with the water temperature in the canal even reaching 20.2 degree Celcius (68.36F)!
9 months of preparation leaves Kev feeling comfortable throughout the whole race. He completes the swim in 59 mins 16 secs, the 180.25kms of cycling in 5 hours 20 mins 50 secs and the running in 3 hours 26 mins and 23 secs. That's a pace of 4 mins 40 seconds per kilometre for the marathon - after already completing the swimming and cycling beforehand... 

To put this in perspective; Kev didn't stop for 9 hours 51 mins and 34 seconds - about the time it took me to recover from my hangover from the night before. As I said before; we all have our talents...

Mam and Dad went to Germany to cheer him on along with some of Kev's friends. After the event I got an email from Mam gushing about how in awe of her son she was. She said, and I quote: "What an achievement for Kevin. I was telling everyone we were going to Germany to support Kevin in his Ironman, not realising what a huge event it was. All I can say is that he is amazing. He went around the different events sometimes with a smile on his face. Even to the point at one time on the bike he shouted "Hi Mam!". The heat was something else. We were absolutely roasted just standing on the side as supporters. I knew he was fit enough to complete the course, but was worried about the heat. I shouldn't have bothered.

I don't think anyone can truly appreciate the achievement that he has just accomplished. In true Kev-form he didn't boast about it on Facebook, didn't tell anyone in passing if asked "How was your weekend?" or even mention it on our family Whatsapp thread! I would have had it tattooed on my face if I'd have done something like that! I posted his results and photo on his page when I got them and it has already reached 203 "Likes". Posts of congratulations and incredulity flood his Facebook profile and I'm delighted to see that his mammoth efforts have been returned with such praise from friends and family. He deserves every ounce of it and should be able to wear the medal for a year after completing such a task!

Mam and Dad go to the airport to collect him upon his return from Germany and made him a sign. I can't stop telling everyone I meet about how fantastic my little brother is and marvel at how he is an Elite Athlete. How proud am I?! I can't get enough of reading about how difficult it was and the reviews from others who went. I am beyond inspired and immediately set out on my 12.5km jog in preparation for my Half-Marathon in October. 1 hour 15 mins later I come back sweating and wrecked, smiling about how Kev had almost done his Half-Marathon in that time! 5km the next day and I'm done in and can barely complete hockey training afterwards, so my coach has to have words with me. Clearly I have to reign in my newly inspired unfit self and start with baby-steps!!

How amazing is the body? To think of, with training, the lengths that you can push it? I find it hard to just physically get out of bed after training late the night before, never mind training every day and to the lengths that some people do. I laugh at how we joke saying Kev would have been diagnosed with ADHD or something if he was born in these times, as he could never sit still and had so much energy. To think about all those years ago when Kev had surgery on his cruciate ligaments and was told that he probably wouldn't be able to do sport again. I remember seeing him white as a sheet on the chair in the hall with his knee in a sickening abnormal sideways position, when he had dislocated it multiple times playing GAA (Gaelic Football).

I smile and wonder if he knows how great he is. I wonder if he realises what he's done and how inspiring he is to others. 131st out of 3,500 participants & 33rd in his age group - unbelievable!!!

As my cousin said "A Doctor and an Elite Athlete - you're not making it easy for the rest of us Sweeneys Kev!"
And in the words of my little sister: "Not everyone is as lucky as we are to be able to say they're actually related to Superman".

Kev has done his own blog of the day, the preparation, his feelings on the day and the elation of crossing the finish line - please read!! My Ironman

Another emotive post by my friend Jen in The States, who was also inspired by Kev is available here - check it out!!

Monday, 9 June 2014

With friends like these...

This blogging thing takes a lot longer than you expect!! I spend some weeks trying to think of anything at all that I did that was worth noting down and then other weeks trying to note everything down so that I don't forget it!!

I got my hair done a couple of days before my birthday night out and was shocked cos of the change (which probably isn't that bad, but is just taking me time to get used to). When I was leaving Shauna's apartment, a homeless man passed me, looked me up and down and shouted "I'm never dating a blonde again!", which obviously did wonders for the confidence in my decision to change the blonde to Ombre/Balayage!

Saying that though, I went to hockey training the day after my birthday and was greeted by coach who said "Hi Ciara - you look very....pretty". I smiled at the compliment and said "Thanks Jessie!!". He quickly brought me back down to earth with "Well I was going to say Porn Star, but I went with pretty instead". Wow. Clutching at straws to find a compliment in that sentence somewhere...

I took the Friday off work as a "present" to myself, and got my nails and tan done. I was in the nail salon getting a pedicure when another nail technician asked me if I'd like the massage chair turned on. I said yes, not realising that I'd be pretty much beaten up while I sat in it! At one stage it was so violent that I had to yell at the assistant to come over and turn it off before I was having to go back to the Osteopath! The Thai lady who was doing my pedicure then proceeding to cut me twice and left a bruise on my shin from her "massage" - I was going to be left worse for wear from this "pamper session"!!
I was getting my manicure done when someone sat beside me to get their nail fixed as they'd chipped it. It was only when I looked sideways that I noticed it was a guy and he was wearing mustard-yellow nail varnish. Now, whatever you're into man, knock yourself out; but at least choose a nice colour!!!

I got my makeup done on the Saturday and was transformed into a completely different person. Oh how I wish I was either rich to be able to afford to get it done all the time or simply good at putting it on! At the moment I'm just grateful that it exists!!

So, Una planned a birthday party at her house - there were pink balloons, pink cups, pink straws; some of which would be normally seen at a Hen Party if you know what I mean? She said she themed it around a 4-year-old's birthday party! :) Emma and Panda made me a pink birthday cake and I was inundated with presents, well wishes, drinks and love. What a way to make a girl feel good! I got over 135 posts on Facebook wishing me a good day, loads of texts, I got loads of presents: hair studs, running gear, chocolate, jewellery, a handbag, wine, clothes, scarves, flowers, beautiful cards and many more things! I was completely and utterly spoiled!

There was about 25 of us at the night - we went to The Wolf and I and from there to Temperance. I managed til about 1:30am in my shoes and then the flip-flops came out (thanks to Emma for bringing them!). I held out til 2:45am and then left. There were mostly guys in Temperance and after our usual "wild animal" antics, I saw many of them with their mouths open and one fella in particular scream out "I F*CKING LOVE HOCKEY!!!!". At least we gained a fan! The majority of the night's activities will remain under wraps though - or I could have a few less friends :)

Some of us were thrown out, and some left due to a sudden "illness" - with even a couple not making it cos of a similar illness, but I won't name anyone :) I think we were actually quite tame and did PHSK proud :)

Next day I wake up about 4 hours after going to bed. I stumble to the kitchen, shove 2 Nurofen into my mouth with a slice of bread and wash it down with 2 glasses of water, all the while thinking "I'm dyinggg.....". I decide to check Facebook as I'm trying to get as much water into my body to stop me from imploding due to dehydration and the first post I see is my Dad commenting that my little brother came 2nd in the Double-Olympic Triathalon in Athy.
I think of how proud my parents would be of me right now as I hold onto the countertop to stop the earth from the swaying-thing it's doing. Yet another reason to be thankful for distance and another reason that compounds my assurance in the fact that I must be adopted.

Went for $4 pizza at The Lucky Coq on Thursday evening with some of the hockey girls after a long 13 hour day at work. Cheap wine and cheap pizza never tasted so good! JD and Tilly informed me of the last time they were there; there was a pizza leftover from the people who were there before them and then, after a couple sat beside them on the sofa, the man starts digging into it while he waited for his own order to come?! WHO THE HELL DOES THAT?!?! Gross!!!

Birthday cake at work too - man I'm far from thin (as Dormer likes to constantly remind me), but I think I need to be grateful that I'm not obese considering the amount of my life I spend eating?!?!

FroYo was (obviously) had on Saturday after I cleaned the apartment with Maire and Tilly in YoChi on Carlisle St - the 4km walk back home was needed to work off the MILLION calories I consumed! It was then I discovered it was National Donut Day, so I had to have a pink donut in honour of it. Considering I never even eat donuts I have no idea why I did this - probably cos it was "my birthday week"...

Friday work lunchtime I ask Matty if he wants to come to lunch and he says yea. I mention that we should ask Daniel and Adam and he quickly sends them an Instant Message and returns to me saying "they're a no". I tell him that he's clearly a rookie at this and he should have left me to do the asking. He's laughing at me, thinking I'm clearly full of it and so I send Adam a few messages saying that I can't believe he's choosing to spend his lunchtime with a bunch of sweaty men (gym) instead of with me and a couple of sentences more he's on board. I get back to Matty informing him that Adam is in, and the look on his face is priceless!! He messages Adam something who feels as though he has to come over to explain himself and then we head off to Temperance for some Lunch Special, which was delish.

On the way back to work we walk past a bad-assed looking individual; sitting on his own outside of the bar. Matty informs us that it's Mel Chancey - an ex-boss from Hell's Angels. I wanted to go back and ask to take a selfie with him, but funnily enough the guys weren't so keen on the idea. Matty was laughing nervously saying that he didn't imagine that our mate Mel would be too keen of us all hanging off him; one with his arm around his neck pretending to strangle him, me doing a duck-face selfie pose in front and another one of them pretending to punch him in the face. Imagine how great the photo would have looked though - I feel like my blog really suffered from their cowardliness... ;)

The "Queen's Birthday" long weekend came and I didn't do much Sat or Monday, but Sunday I went out on a day-long bike ride with Kiwi on his BMW GSA R1200 (which has loads of "cool" things on it that I was going to blog about - but I erased the message on my phone with the details, so we'll just stick to the name for now and say it's great!) This was the 6th its kind in the country and something which he has months and has never really ridden - despite some people still being on waiting lists for theirs to arrive in the country! We were lucky with the sunny and dry weather, but it was definitely fresh!

We went around the entire Melbourne Bay, heading to Mt. Eliza, Mornington and Sorrento. We had an old man nearly run us off the road on the highway and a kid kick his football out in front of us in Rye, but all good. We then took the ferry to Queenscliff and from there to Torquay where we stopped for food. Fish and chips and a glass of red wine later to warm up a bit we headed off and visited Bell's Beach and then took the motorway home.

A long day, and no sleep from my flatmate having a house party the night before, left me exhausted and I was actually falling asleep on the back of the bike on the way home! Great day though and I had to go to bed for a bit to warm up when I got home! Let me know when the next ride is Kiwi :)

Well, another year old and supposedly wiser; although I know for a fact that's not true. Wise would be to save your money and not blow it on your birthday, wise would be to stick with the hair colour you have, it would be wise to pick an outfit and stick with it, instead of panicking and buying another two and then going with the original anyway. Wise would be to bring a change of clothes to your friend's house for the next day, instead of being stuck with a tiny pair of shorts and a jumper and having to walk Chapel St in the pouring rain, with your streaky tan and fake eyelashes still on from the night before. I'm sure there's a photo of me in the dictionary beside the definition of "Walk of Shame" right now. And, looking for some comfort from my beautiful friend, who shall remain nameless due to the language, was futile; "You look like a complete whore". Well that's twice in one week so. Not even a pair of sunnies to darken the reality of day.

It was worth it though. The streaky spray tan that's still patchy 10 days later, the MAC makeup done by the Nordie who shared mutual friends with me, the dress panic-purchasing, the neon shoes bought impulsively when looking for a black handbag (as you do), the cuts on my feet from wearing them that night and the workout they got, the Balayage hair change that scared the bejaysus out of me, the helplessness at the side of the pitch that I felt having told the team I couldn't play due to being beautified and then watching them lose the first game this season, the spending of way too much money for the past 3 weeks, cos it was "my birthday week" and the awful realisation that I'm now 32-years-old. This is living I wouldn't change it or the people I share it with for anything.