In 2010, I Lived.

Looking back . . the sun and all that is Dublin can be seen from the very tip of the Great South Wall in the centre of Dublin Bay

Looking back, I can’t recall another year in my life when I have lived as vividly as I did in 2010.

Despite 2010 being bleak economically and politically both home in Ireland and pretty much everywhere else in the west, despite long hours and stress in various workplaces, despite some non-threatening but quite inconveniencing medical blips, despite my car heater dying just in time for the coldest December since records began . . 2010 was a year in which I really lived, in which old emotions were reawakened, and new ones discovered, and my store of life experience grew more than it has done in a long time.

I had set myself a challenge at the end of 2009 to start doing things I had never done before, to open myself to new experiences beyond my comfort zone. And while I didn’t get to the arbitrary goal of “10 things” during the year, I reached 5, two of which were experiences that profoundly moved or enriched me, and a third which brought back childhood memories entwined in a futuristic setting.

Not all of the great things that happened to me during the year were as a result of this self-challenge, but perhaps the attitude it engendered in me of being more open filtered through to other things too.

So what made my year?

Well, some unique experiences came about as i sought to push myself into new things.

Taking part in the Bristol Balloon Fiesta was certainly a “high” point of the year, and my first ever hot-air balloon flight, as part of a mass ascent of more than 80 balloons within an hour at dawn, was a unique and moving experience, so much so that I felt to write about it in purely descriptive journalistic terms would be . . to miss some indefinable element of the experience.

Twisting it in my mind, it instead inspired me to write a short story “A Bristol Awakening” that is neither fact nor fiction, but also both. A very intimate story, it has been received well at a number of public readings, especially by women, and I am hoping to see it published in 2011.

Launching from a Bristol hillside at dwan, with ballons of every shape and size coming before and after us

Drifting lazily and silently through the sky over Bristol, with the Avon Gorge, the Bristol Channel and Wales visible in the distance

Slightly more down to earth, though involving a different sort of (non) flying, as one of my challenges I put myself forward to the Dublin Airport Authority to be one of the special testers of the new Terminal 2 before it opened. Apart from fulfilling my curiosity about the new building, and allowing me a sneak peek at new transport infrastructure, which I’ve always been interested in, the experience reminded me of aspects of my past that I had long forgotten, and also gave me a chance to get my own back on customs, just for once. You can read the details in my post Mr. Beagle Goes To London (Not).

Something I have never wanted to do, and felt I would always avoid, enriched my life and gave me a wonderful experience when i tried it as part of the “going outside my comfort zone” element of my 10-things challenge. A visit to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, accompanied by a an impossibly glamourous companion, opened a whole new world of experience, sight, sound, and stimulation to me. I enjoyed it more than I could possibly have imagined, and do intend to write up the experience here at a later date.

Somewhere I never thought I would see myself!

Pushing myself outside my comfort zone, doing what I would not normally consider doing was one of the elements i wanted to achieve in drawing up my list of 10 things, and I am so very glad I did this.

As the year comes to an end, I’ve so far ticked off 5 things, and have more still in planning, with some space left on the list for spontenaity.

So 2011 should continue in similar vein, and to be honest, when I reach 10, why stop there?

Of course, there were other things which made 2010 an exceptional year for me, some planned, others unexpected.

A couple of things that really moved me were radio related, and did not come about as a result of my challenge list.

Going in March to Ramsgate to do a reading from Shiprocked for the benefit of the RNLI, brought me face to face with the men who came to my rescue on one of the darkest days of my life, 19 years earlier.

Meeting the crew of the lifeboat who battled through a Force 10 NE to come to our aid when the Caroline ship was aground on the Goodwin Sands was a profoundly humbling experience, all the more so because of the warmth of the welcome I received, and the support they showed for Caroline despite having been put through hell that morning and nearly losing their own lives on account of our stubborn decision to stay on board the apparently doomed vessel.

The high point of my year, meeting the Ramsgate Lifeboat crew, left to right is John G Ray, myself, and Ray Noble.

I won’t forget the men of the Ramsgate Lifeboat, and will be making another fundraising trip to see them in November 2011, on the 20th anniversary of the grounding.

The same weekend I revisited the Ross Revenge for the first time in many years, and was invited to join the current-day lineup of Caroline on satellite, which, despite the many years of my absence, felt like a real homecoming.

(I can be heard on Caroline every Monday 2-4pm, Sky Digital Ch.0199 and via RadioCaroline.co.uk )

Another emotional moment came about in May, after I had been invited to join the crew of the Dutch station Radio Seagull, which was celebrating a month long offshore broadcast, 8 miles of the coast of Friesland.

There were many memories stirred by being offshore for the first time since 1991, though the most intense of these was to come on me unexpectedly.

Back at sea, and approaching a radioship . . . ah, the ghosts are stirring!
To raise my head from sleeping, and peer through a murky porthole to see nothing but grey rolling sea is, for me, a heaven of moody solitude.

The week I spent at sea with Radio Seagull was bliss, with old memories awoken, and new friends and new memories made at every moment of each day. (See the posts OFFSHORE AGAIN and  Seagull Day 1 and   More Seagull Pictures and  Clear White Light and  A Ferry Large Tender as well as   Seagull Offshore – The Pictures for the week as I blogged it at the time)

But the most vivid experience of that week came for me, unexpectedly, in the middle of the night and alone, and had nothing to do with the radio side of the visit. Being given the job of staying up on watch overnight for one of the nights, while usually regarded a something of a chore, for me brought both fear and redemption, as I was finally able to lay to rest the ghosts of what had happened on the Caroline ship, many years earlier, when we drifted, unheeding, onto the deadly Goodwin Sands.

For all that the storm in 1991 had been so fierce, and our ship so run down and unable to navigate that we could not have resisted being swept onto the Goodwin Sands even if we had realised earlier that our anchor chain had broken, I had carried with me these many years a nagging sliver guilt that I should have known, should have been more alert, should have done better.

Now, here I was again, and for the first time since that fateful night, entrusted to watch over a ship at anchor at sea, and in the grips of bad weather too. I was both siezed with fear that it would all go terribly wrong on my watch, and grateful for the chance to prove myself dilligent and keep the most careful of watches. I checked our position regularly, I did a full round of the ship and checked the anchoring cables every hour, I saw us safely through to dawn, and I slayed a dragon that had slumbered in a corner of my mind for many years.

3am and all is well on board the Jenni Baynton

The week was over too soon, but I was delighted to be asked to join the staff of Radio Seagull and to contribute a weekly show from my own studio in Dublin, with my own choice of music – a mix of new and alternative music as well as classic rock, with a bit of blues and soul mixed in. Presenting these shows on Seagull have been an immensely satisfying experience for me.

(I can be heard 7-9 am and pm each Saturday, on 1602Khz MW in The Netherlands, and worldwide at RadioSeagull.com )

Phantom 105.2 in Dublin also continued to be a source of great enjoyment for me, and though I had to move away from regular weekend shows towards the end of the year due to domestic commitments, the station and its staff still feels like an extended family for me, and keeps me informed on new music trends.

There were lots of mini high points in 2010 – from an unexpectedly beautiful sunrise encountered one morning on my way to work, to, finally after all my years on this earth, a proper White Christmas.

Sunrise over Dublin Bay on a winter's morning

Snow lies thick on the furze on Christmas Day

There was also another experience, quite unexpected, which made me feel like a teenager again, one unremarkable Saturday afternoon at a railway station  in an unremarkable British city . . but I won’t go into that one here!

Suffice to say that, for me at least, 2010 has been a year in which i started living and growing anew, despite being at an age where comfort and stagnation would be more usual.

May 2011 have more of the same . . and new . . for me . . and you.

Happy New Year

Steve Conway


Choice and Redemption in Shopping Heaven

Dundrum Town Centre

Dundrum Town Centre is probably one of the busiest, and certainly one of the more upmarket, shopping centres in the Greater Dublin Area.

It’s busy at any time of year, but just before Christmas the queues of cars to get in – and out – can be legendary. This post-Christmas week can be almost as busy, with the sales on, and this year in particular as people catch up on retail therapy avoided when travel was difficult during the big chill.

I’m not a big shopper myself, and I tend to avoid crowded streets and malls at these times, and yet Dundrum is one place that I never mind coming to, no matter how busy, and never leave without an uplifting of the soul.It’s not the view of the mountains from the upper-level car-park (though that helps) it’s not the fact that my retailers of choice – Hughes & Hughes, Easons, Marks & Spencer & HMV are all clustered fairly close to each other, though that helps too.

It’s the little unintended quirks in the machinery of modern consumerism that give me a twinkle in the eye.

Firstly, I love the way the car park levels are numbered.  You start at ground level, at level 3, and go down to 2M (mezzanine level),  then 2, then 1M, then 1 and then -1. Yes, that’s right. Minus 1.

Instead of having a level 0, or starting the numbering at 4, here we have a multi-story car park that utilises both positive and negative numbers. it really appeals to the numbers geek in me!

Then, tucked away in a corner not far from the lower level of Marks & Spencer we have   . . the Optimist/Pessimist Lift.

That’s not the official name of course. It doesn’t have a name, it’s just a simple one hop elevator in a distant corner of a very large complex. I doubt that there is any other human being who boards this lift and sees it the way I see it, and views the choices the way I do.

But what other name could you possible give to a lift which presents you with one simple choice of 1 or -1 ?

And then, after I’ve made my choice (always optimism, as I only use the lift to go up, never down), and after I’ve battled the crowds and done my shopping, when the time comes to leave, I know that I can rely on the car-park payment machine to restore my faith in the future, to tell me that the future can be better than the past if only I make the effort . .

OK, so I know it is only trying to tell me that I can use a banknote, and get the difference back with coins.

But I never fail to smile when I see the way that they have worded this, and I leave the centre with some hope in my soul.

Change is possible

Happy New Year!

Steve


Christmas on Seagull, Liffey Sound & Caroline

Hello all, and a very Happy Christmas to my friends around the world.

This Christmas weekend you can hear me on both Radio Seagull and Radio Caroline, and I will also be a guest on a special show on Liffey Sound in west Dublin.

 

Christmas Day on Radio Seagull 0700-0900 CET / 0600-0800 GMT, repeated 1900-2100 CET / 1800-2000 GMT

Available on 1602Khz AM in northern Netherlands and east coast of UK, worldwide at www.radioseagull.com

Boxing Day / Stephens Day / Dec 26th on Liffey Sound in West Dublin, you can hear me read my short story “Schrodinger’s Bus” as part of Niamh Bagnell’s Scrapbook Christmas Special, between 4 and 6pm.  Niamh’s show will feature a wide range of writers and poets who have dropped in on her during 2010, and is guarenteed to be a good listen!  96.4FM in West Dublin, or listen worldwide via http://liffeysoundfm.ie/

 

Mon 27th on Radio Caroline 1400-1600, via Sky Digital Ch. 0199 and around the world at www.radiocaroline.co.uk and via the iPhone app.

Thanks for listening / reading this year, and I hope your Christmas is a lovely one.

Steve

 

 

 

 


10 years ago on Phantom breakfast

It’s now 10 years since, arriving back in Dublin after years living abroad, I discovered a darn good pirate radio station broadcasting rock and indie music on 91.6fm – Phantom FM (as it was known in those days).

Within a few weeks I had approached the station and become involved myself, my two years on the weekday breakfast show kicking off a very happy 10 years involvement with the station through it’s various phases as a full-time pirate (till May 03), temporary licenced station (twice in 2003/4), web only (while waiting for licence and legal results 2004-2006) and the current incarnation as the fully legit commercial station Phantom 105.2 from October 2006 to the current day.

I’ve had the best of times during these 10 years, and even though I finally had to cease doing regular weekly shows earlier this year due to other commitments, I still can’t tear myself away entirely, and crop up from time to time filling in for other presenters who are away.

I’m going to be doing a series of posts over the next few weeks looking back at my fondest memories from the last 10 years.

To start off, here is a look at the music and ads being played on Phantom back in my earliest days on the breakfast show.

I’ve transcribed this from a recording I hold of a complete shoe from 18th December 2000 –  10 years ago today.

News & Weather was written and produced by myself as was travel, in addition to presenting the show itself.

In my first months back in Ireland I did not have a car, and there was no bus which would get me in to Phantom in time for the start of the breakfast show, so I would arrive in as live programmes were ending at 11pm the night before, and spend the night in the studio, sleeping on the floor with a cushion for a pillow, a coat over me for warmth, huddled up against a little heater.When the show ended at 9am, I took a bus across town to a fulltime job in the IT industry, worked till 7pm, got home by 9, and had an hour to relax before getting the bus back in to Phantom for another night on the floor.

Ah, those were the days . .

In the dead of night, nothing is stirring in the old Phantom 91.6 studio except the needles on the mixer, as a night-time mix went out on auto. Qite a cosy pleace to sleep for the night, if a little cramped, and it was impossible to be late for the breakfast show.

The show below would be absolutely typical of the music played by me at the time. The tracks with an asterix * are A-List tracks, everything else being my own free choice. For the A-lists there were about 30-35 in the studio, refreshed regularly, split between new Irish and new International.

18 December 2000

(7am – news & weather)

*Marvin – No Good At Maths

(link)

Damien Dempsey – Chillin

Turn – Antisocial

Whistler – Faith In The Morning

(link + travel)

(ad – Phantasm)

*The Yo Yos – Home From Home

Offspring – Self Esteem

(link)

(7.30 news headlines)

*P J Harvey – Good Fortune

(link)

Therapy – Screamager

At The Drive In – Cosmonaut

Limp Biscuit –No Sex

(link + travel)

(ad – Wild Eagle tattoo studio)

(ad – Temple Bar Music Centre)

*The Crocketts – 1939 Returning

The Pixies – Here Comes Your Man

(link)

Pedestrienne – Soundwaves

The The – Infected

(link)

(ad – Whelans)

(ad – MCD Finlay Quayle & Primal Scream)

(8.02am – news & weather)

*The Walls – Some Kind Of A Girl

(link)

Smashing Pumpkins – Rocket

*Green Day – Minority

(link)

Bell X1 – Offshore

(link + travel)

(ad – Wild Eagle tattoo studio)

(ad – Temple Bar Music Centre)

(ad – Phantasm)

(link – competition for NPB tickets)

*Amen – The Price Of Reality

(link – winner of tickets to NPB)

Rush – Spirit of Radio

(link + 8.30 news headlines)

The Frames – Rent Day Blues

Liz Phair – Ride

(link + travel)

(ad – Wild Eagle tattoo studio)

(ad – Temple Bar Music Centre)

*Juliet Turner – Dr Fell

Eels – Novocaine For The Soul

(final link)

Candice – Maybe I

*JJ72 – Snow

Ash – Shining Light

(ad – Whelans)

(ad – MCD Finlay Quayle & Primal Scream)