You Always Remember Your First . .

A collection of some of the milestones in my life, some important, some quirky!

First memory . . in a cot in my parents room, playing cars by driving my fingers around the blanket . . into transport and machinery even before I could walk!

First (earliest) memory that I can specifically date: the night before my third birthday, travelling down to Mitchelstown in our old Ford 100E sitting on my mother’s lap. The alternator/dynamo was failing and the car lights were dimming . . I remember being carried up the boreen to my great grandfathers farmhouse at midnight after we had broken down just short of our destination. Then I remember my third birthday itself, and my Great Uncle Billy telling me I was a “big boy” and giving me a toy tractor to play with.

First book read. .  Can’t remember what was first, but I was an avid reader. I was really into Greek mythology as a child, and had read the Illiad and Odyssey by the age of 8.

First girlfriend . . When I was only about 6 I had a thing for Laura from down the road. Start as you mean to go on!

First time on TV . . There exists in the RTE Archives some footage of a nine-year-old me wandering through a field in Kerry picking blackberries, as part of a “Landmark” special on farmhouse holidays.

First record bought . . Jeff Wayne “Forever Autumn” from War of the Worlds, in 1978.

First Kiss . . Maggie from New Cross, where are you?

First dance . . some very kind Co. Clare woman took pity on me when I was all alone at the disco on our school trip to The Burren, and whisked me around the floor to the envy of my classmates. I can still remember the smell of her hair . .

First proper job . . (excluding working in the family business), my first actual job was a week as a door to door salesman in 1982. I must have have knocked on half the doors in Dublin, and made only £13 in commission before giving it up.

First car . . A lovely Fiat 500 passed down from my mother. If cars could talk, it would have a tale or two to tell!

First heartbreak . . Yes, it’s Maggie from New Cross again. If you want to know what went wrong, see pages 11/12 of Shiprocked, Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline.  It’s true, I really was that innocent!

First record I played on the radio . . Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation”  (on South East Sound, July 1985)

First record I played on Radio Caroline . . Percy Sledge – “When A Man Loves A Woman”

First time abroad . . England for the 1966 World Cup. (actually it was my Dad who went for the football, I was just a toddler).

First words written to start writing the book (that became Shiprocked) . . “The call came at the worst possible time . .”  (Later I realised that I needed more background about what had happened leading up to my joining Caroline, so that first line written is now many pages into the finished version).

First Draft (of Shiprocked) . . 225,000 words. Redrafted on my own account to 176,000 words to tighten up. But then cut down to 90,000 words for publication . . that was tough!

First (of many!) rejection letters . . 1993 from an agent in London. It would be another 15 years and many more rejections before I came across Seven Towers Agency, who have been utterly brilliant in supporting me, and in refusing to take no for an answer.

First interview as a published author . . The day Shiprocked was published, I was interviewed by Sinead Ni Mhordha on Phantom’s Access All Areas show. I was used to hearing Sinead interview great rock bands, and was just blown away that she was interviewing me. Forget TV3 forget The irish Times, it was sitting across the desk from Sinead that I really felt like I’d arrived!

First show on Phantom . . November 2000, the breakfast show. I started with a news bulletin, so my very first words on air were to inform the world that George W Bush had just been confirmed president following the final court hearing into vote counts. My first record was Greenday – “Minority” – as good a musicical start as any!

That’s it for now – let’s hope I have many more “firsts” still to come.

Steve


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


Does My Bum Look Big In This?

Attack of the spooky-faced arse people!

Back in December I wrote about how I put myself out there as part of a naked photo shoot for an indie rock album cover for The Red Labels, being shot by the talented Hotpress photographer Ruth Medjber.

I’ve now seen some of the pictures, and am really pleased with the results – the album is going to stand out on the shelves, that’s for sure!

Apart from the different shapes and sizes, the one thing I never really noticed on the day was how many different skin colours and tones there were, even though the group was almost wholly Irish.

The Red Labels new CD will be out soon, so my big ass and their great music will be coming to a store in a mall near you.

And check out Ruth’s blog for her great selection of band and gig photography.

Steve


Naked Ida and Other Unbalanced Songs


Ida Maria’s song I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked has been around for a few weeks now, and shows no signs of growing stale. I’ve heard a few other tracks from the debut album, and must sit down and listen to the whole thing soon.

The song is catchy, but what I really like is the attention to detail in the lyrics.

Ida’s singing helps reinforce the image of the protagonist of the song as a little flakey, but it’s the unbalanced lyric in the chorus that really seals the deal.

“I like you so much better when you’re naked

I like me so much better when you’re naked”

The line catches you out, because you expect her to follow from the preceeding like by liking herself much better when she herself is naked. The fact it is still about him being naked changes it from a general appreciation of nakedness or fun, to a signal of her discomfort with social as opposed to sexual intercourse – the latter is a situation she can cope with, so his nakedness puts her back in the comfort zone.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I like the lyrical device in any case.

It reminds me of another “unbalanced lyric” in a song by Canadian artist Amanda Marshall, in the song I Believe In You. Marshall sings about how “I Believe In You” and then demands in return that “You Believe In You” when we might have expected the reciprocation to be that “you believe in me“.

It highlights the unselfish nature of the love being offered in the song, and again catches my attention as a great lyrical hook.

Steve