It has been a long while since I’ve had the energy or desire to blog. Not because I didn’t have anything to say (my Twitter can probably attest to that) but rather that there has been a guiding voice in my mind this year that reassures me that I didn’t need to burn myself out – especially this year.
That got me thinking a little to do a blog post that harks back to blogging of long ago, before the age of sponsored posts and influencers telling you which amazing brands are paying them to recommend products you never needed. I remember when blogs were barely a twinkle in a digital marketer’s eye, and we used Blogger and Live Journal to open our innermost thoughts, stories, and nerdiness to anyone who might stumble across it. Still, enough of me showing my age.
2020 and the world’s varying levels of lockdowns have been challenging for so many of us, and there are certainly people who have been affected far worse than I during all of this. That being said, I haven’t been immune from the mental and physical stresses that a global pandemic has brought even the relatively healthy of us, and keeping my head above water has been a struggle at times.
Your House is Your Home (Under Construction)
Buying a house is often one of the most stressful – and yet important – milestones in your life. That is, at least, how my father always described it to me. Thanks to Ireland’s colonial history (and poor property planning post-independence), we have the goal of land ownership embedded deep within our national psyche.
Renting is considered “dead money”, especially when your rights as a tenant aren’t as well protected as they may be in Continental Europe or further afield. The perspective is that your rent pays the landlord’s mortgage, and you get little in return for it than a space which you aren’t likely to be allowed to change or decorate much. Instead, it’s a means to an end; the ultimate goal being the moment you buy a home and start paying your own mortgage instead.
In June 2019, we reached that milestone of buying a house, albeit one that needed a lot of renovation work, as well as the old-fashioned “love & attention” (read: cash) injection to modernise it and make it habitable. It has been a frankly awful experience, thanks to dodgy builders, multiple pandemic lockdowns, and general unexplained delays caused by absent or unreliable tradesmen. Some 16 months after we got the keys to our new house, it is only now that we see the light and the end of the tunnel, and we plan to be settled into our home before Christmas.
I wouldn’t consider myself a gamer (or even a #gaymer!) but mobile games have kept me calm enough during lockdown… for a little while, at least!
One game I loved instantly was EVE Echoes, the mobile version of the massive role-playing game, EVE Online. The mobile version is a slightly pared-down version of the main game, but it doesn’t lose quality in terms of graphics or style. Based far in the future, you play as a customisable “capsuleer”, a pilot who is genetically engineered to integrate with your chosen spaceship, and be immortal through cloning. It is a space sci-fi lover’s fantasy, and I love it.
Another long-time favourite has been Star Trek: Fleet Command, as well as one that tugs at my childhood heart-strings; Sonic Forces.
Keeping fit was never really on the top of my agenda or interests. I attended a secondary school that was known as a “rugby school”, and I occasionally went to the gym on my univeristy campus, but I never caught that gym bunny vibe. In some ways, I didn’t care enough to think I needed it; I was relatively slim during my twenties, without looking weak or unfit. As someone who has almost always shied away from sports, performance was never a priority; any time I did go to the gym was purely to make sure I looked well.
This year changed my perspective, because I hit comfort eating hard during the first lockdown. Pizza, burgers & chips, chocolate, you name it – anything to give me a moment of comfort when living on a building site and being limited to a 2km or 5km radius was just too much for me to handle. By the end of summer, I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life; just over 80kg (12 stone, 8lb). I considered my normal weight to be at least 8kg lighter, and committed to myself to get to the gym regularly with a specific fitness and calorie deficit plan.
At the time of writing, Ireland has just entered its second lockdown, which means that gyms are closed again until the end of November. Reader, it’s Day 2 of Lockdown 2.0, and I’m missing the gym desperately, something I never thought I’d hear myself say. It’s true, though; I managed to lose 5kg (11lb) since the end of August, losing the belly and (most of) my spare tyre in the process. I’m still not as strong or as fit as I want to be, but I’m now in the mindset that fitness isn’t just for aesthetics. It’s a damn good motivator, sure, but I now have a second reason to improve my fitness; rugby.
This is where the second of my “who the Hell have I become?” moments comes in. Back in September, the Gay Project (a Cork-based LGBT community resource centre) hosted the online event, “What Next For All-Inclusive Rugby in Cork?” and I decided to attend purely to show support for the idea of a gay-inclusive rugby team.
For anyone who read Yesterdates, you might remember my short-lived stint playing for the Emerald Warriors. While I enjoyed training with them, it wasn’t the most stable period of my life, and I only lasted a few weeks with them. Listening to the panel of speakers on the virtual event, though, made me wonder if I was finally ready to give it a serious go this time.
I couldn’t be happier that I gave myself that chance. A group of us have come together to establish the Cork Hellhounds, an LGBT-inclusive rugby team. We managed to only get about 3 training sessions in before the second lockdown, but we’ve some online events planned for the next 6 weeks, and also plan to use that time to properly set up the club (paperwork, committee, affiliations, etc.). We’re still a good few months away from playing our first match, but I’ve been blown away by the camaraderie, support, and encouragement shown by the rugby community in Ireland and abroad, especially by other clubs affiliated with International Gay Rugby. Watch this space.
Connecting with Community
Although the formation of the Cork Hellhounds is definitely a prime example of connecting with the local community during this year, it’s not the only one.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to get involved with the Social Democrats, both locally and across the country. With the help of Councillors Chris Pender and Owen Hanley, I’ve established an Irish-language group within the party to look at policy and community issues related to the language and the Gaeltachtaí, and we got off to a great start earlier this month. It was great to get the support of Gary Gannon TD for the group, who mentioned it in the Dáil when giving his opinion on amendments to the Official Languages Bill this month.
I also was delighted to host a virtual panel event for the SocDems to celebrate Cork Pride, titled Where Next for LGBT+ Ireland?. This featured community leaders both in and outside of the party, and discussed Ireland’s progress in terms of LGBTI issues, but also where gaps in social and legal protections remain, and how Ireland can advocate for the LGBT community abroad.
Small Moments of Escape
It feels like ages ago now, but Stephen & I were so lucky to be able to take a few days away from
the building site home and relax in County Kerry to recharge the soul.
Luckily, the weather was perfect for those few days, and we managed to fit a lot into the trip, including meet a friend in Kenmare who was doing a cycle around Ireland for charity at the time, as well as visit the Corca Dhuibhne / Dingle Peninsula region, and stop by for a few moments of bliss by Inch Beach. Memories like those will hopefully make the next few weeks more bareable.
Going into the second lockdown, there’s a lot that could be better, but things could be much, much worse. I’m grateful for the various support networks and outlets that I have available to me, and despite the reality of Zoom fatigue, I’m still happy that there is enough going on to either distract me or keep me going.
Now, where’s that home workout kit I bought…