September 15, 2018

P1060828

I am currently sitting on a dock in a town called Bregenz, in the very west of Austria. Across the water, not too far, as I can make out the individual buildings and towers, sits Germany.

It has been a big couple of weeks.

Travel wise, since last I wrote on here, the Lady Holly and I have moved on from Ireland, into Amsterdam, then Slovenia, then by train back to Vienna, and onwards into Austria, passing through Salzburg, Innsbruck, Bludenz and now here.

Life wise, outside of travel, my family has experienced a birth, a wedding, and a death.

So where to start, right? Let’s start with the birth.

+

Holly and I were in Dublin, waiting at the airport, when a message came through informing me that my sister Angela’s water had broken while she and my brother-in-law, Ben, had been dining at a cafe. It was just past four in the morning for us, and the news instantly broke us from our sleep deprived exhaustion into excitement. We knew it was early days birth-wise, but still, our new nephew, Eli, was on his way. We boarded our short flight to Amsterdam hoping we wouldn’t have to wait too long before more news arrived.

The day in Amsterdam was excellent. Not only was the city a treat, full of people, history, canals, and the pervasive smell of weed, but the day was also spotted with updates about the birth. It started slow, as these things seem to do, and escalated with news both good and bad. Angela would need to be induced but both she and Eli were doing well.

Our day continued. We ate waffles, walked through the red light district, visited a coffee house, and through it all Angela was was experiencing the joy of contractions. After some trouble with taxis we made it back to our accommodation, ate a quick dinner and by the time we were ready for bed Angela and co were still going strong. Just before we went to sleep we were told that she would need an epidural.

Another four am start for us, another airport, and Angela was still in labour. Then came the news she’d feared most, despite another night of Ang working hard, Eli wasn’t down far enough for her to dilate to the required diameter. She was going to need a caesarean. It was time to board our plane.

Our flight took us from Amsterdam to Ljubljana, in Slovenia; our third airport in two days. Here we were meeting up with two close friends/family, Dom and Nikki, but had an hour or so to wait before they would arrive in a car that would take the four of us to Lake Bled for the next five days. During that time our phones binged with the blessed news that Eli had entered the world, all were fine, and then best of all, that first photo; wrinkly and pink and perfect, Eli, with his two exhausted but exultant parents around him.

He is now, and will forever be, our family.

+

Next came the wedding, but before that we visited some of the most glorious countryside I have ever seen.

Slovenia is an unspoken gem of a country. It contains startlingly blue lakes that pair perfectly with their high reaching mountains and lush green forests. It has incredible gorges, magical goat branded beer, and, possibly the number one reason to visit, borek. I suggest going there with people who like to eat and drink, swim and sight-see, play card games and have nightly chats. That was my experience. I hope never to forget it.

+

Then it was on to the wedding.

My twin brother, best friend, and womb mate, Jonathan, was days away from marrying his fiance’, best friend, and long distance love, Alexandra. That has been the biggest opponent for these two during their relationship, distance. While Austria and Australia may only be two letters different it turns out that doesn’t make it any easier for a citizen of one country to go live with a citizen of the other. As such Jonathan has been living and working in London for the duration of their three year relationship, where he was able to get a visa, and has flown back and forth to Vienna probably more times than I ever drove to my fiances’ house, back before she moved in with me. Long distance is a bitch, especially when you’re already half a world away from the rest of your family and friends, but amazingly and admirably, they have made it work, and soon, hopefully very soon, they will get to live in the same country, the same city, the same apartment. A reward they have well and truly earned.

But first they had to get married. While we four had been training it to Vienna, the rest of my family had likewise been converging towards the Austrian capital. Jonathan had gotten there a week earlier after finishing his last stint of work in London before the wedding. My parents had arrived a few days before us, and my brother, Matt, sister in law, Rose, and their two kids, Ella and Harry, had gotten in a day after them. Only Ang and Ben were unfortunately missing due to the aforementioned arrival of Eli.

The happy couple’s two families met across a feast, where a love of food (and Jon and Alex) bonded both sides quickly. The day after we prepped the wedding venue, a beautiful wood and stone building located on the vine covered hills just outside of Vienna. The following day was the wedding.

I won’t run through every detail of the day, as I think that would be more for my benefit than yours, but I will tell you it was the greatest joy watching the brother I’ve shared so much with marry the woman he loves, even if I didn’t understand a single word of the ceremony (it was in German). I’m not sure I expected to feel as full of love and happiness for them as I did. Not because I thought I would feel nothing, just because I had already seen how committed these two were to each other. But of course a wedding is so much more than just a ceremony. It’s something magic. It’s the saying of words, the signing of a document, a kiss, an applause, and somewhere amongst it all a new family is created.

I felt all of this. I saw the love on my brothers face, the unbridled happiness emanating from my new sister, and I saw a life ahead of them where no matter what else happened they would always have this, they would always have each other, and I knew my brother would be okay. More than okay. It made me so excited for what comes next.

The night that followed featured a smorgasbord of food (I made myself sick with eating), dancing till my feet hurt (including a flash mob routine to surprise the bride and groom), and hugging my brother (while consistently asking him where his wife was just to enjoy the novelty of mentioning that he had a wife).

It was an excellent day, which is fortunate, because we’ll be repeating it in a years time when they get remarried in Australia.

+

The final part unfortunately features a death.

After parting ways with first Dom and Nikki, and then Jon and Alex, so they could head off on their honeymoon, Holly, myself, my parents, Matt, Rose, and the kids hopped on a train and headed for the Alps.

Western Austria has shown itself to be some simply stunning countryside. It didn’t take long after leaving Vienna before we headed into mountain country, the enormous entities rearing up all around us on every side, with us in the middle, marvelling at the scope and size of these land formations that are such a rarity back home.

Mountains never seem to stop impressing and amazing me. There is something so exhilarating about seeing something so big that you can’t take it all in with a single glance, or two, or three. My brain wants to devour every detail, but simply can’t, so instead I look at the patchwork features, the runnels of rivers, spots of vegetation–small green patches that are in reality swarths of giant evergreens–the shear slopes where almost unimaginable sized chunks of land fell away at some point in the distant past. All of it makes me feel so small and so large at the same time, both the giant and the fly, gets my heart racing, and yet my only real way of expressing these sentiments while I’m feeling them is to say, ‘Wow, would you look at that.’

Given all this, it’s a good thing I’m visiting Austria.

We headed first to Salzburg. The kids did a mighty job of walking through the quaint cobbled old town, then up to the castle on the hill. We visited Hallstatt, the epitome of beautiful lakeside Austrian towns, then drove on to Innsbruck, another gorgeous old mountain city that made me wonder if I shouldn’t just follow my brother, pack up my bags, and move to Austria. All this was spread over four days, at the end of which we kissed and hugged Matt, Rose, Ella, and Harry goodbye as they headed on and down into Croatia.

Holly, Mum, Dad, and I continued on, driving further into the mountains to a place called Bludenz. But just before that came the news that my nanna, my mothers mum, had had a stroke, fallen into a coma, and had been placed in palliative care.

It was sad, but the sadness was lessened by her age and senility, as my nanna had fallen deep into dementia in the last few years. Mostly I felt sad for my mum. She was understandably upset that she couldn’t be there during this time, or be there for her sister, who was missing my mums support. And of course for the loss that still remained. That she was about to lose that last part of her mum that she had, even if it was mostly her physical presence at this stage.

What came next was one of the nicest days I’ve ever shared with my parents. It was our second day in Bludenz and we’d decided to take the cable car up the mountain behind our accommodation where Holly had found out a number of walks existed. Muttersberg was the mountain and even just stepping off the cable car we knew we were onto something good. The view, the town below us surrounded by mountains, was amazing. It would prove to pall against what we were soon to visit.

We headed up, the first leg of our trek being a steep consistent uphill that led us quickly above the cable car hut, and further, through the dense vegetation on the mountainside. We pit-stopped and had a snack, still unable to believe the shear beauty that stretched out in front of us. We continued on, step by step making it further uphill, legs aching at the constant incline, until suddenly we breached a ridge and found ourselves at the top. The view there was like nothing I’d ever seen before. We stood on top of a mountain, and everywhere around us, reaching right to the horizon, where more and more mountains. If you remember how much I like mountains you can start to imagine just how astounded I was. How astounded we all were. This was something special. Something I’m happy to have been able to share with my parents and my partner, and just to have seen at all. We then did what anyone would do in that situation; we sat and ate lunch.

We made it back down the mountain, dined on pizza and beer, and the next day we drove to Bregenz. There our phones binged with the sad news that Nana had left the world, in a hospital room with two of her daughters and husband beside her.

It was a good thing all told, as she’d never wished to live with dementia, nor was she really herself anymore. While death is never without loss no matter at what time it comes, it’s important to remember that although we’ve lost the person, the life they lived still exists.

I was glad to be able to be there for my mum. To be able to give her a hug, make stupid jokes, and let her talk through what she was feeling. Being overseas these last couple of months means I’ve missed out on things back home, but I’m glad I was able to be there for this.

+

I’m now in Mittenwald, Germany, sitting in the shadow of yet another stunning mountain, a grapefruit radler in front of me.

In just over three weeks I’ve met my new nephew through photos and video chat, teared up as my brother said ‘I do” in German, and lost the first of my four grandparents.

Even when I think I’ve put my life on pause, life continues on.

I’m glad it does.

Talk soon,

Damian

 

Advertisements

August 19, 2018

p1050871

++++

Words written for the year: 98,482

++++

At the moment of writing I am sitting in a low lit pub, heavily wooded, founded back in eighteen something something, and festooned with Guinness paraphernalia. There is a beer in front of me, it is black and creamy, and whenever I take a drink it adds a second mustache on top of my home grown one. Across from me sits the Lady Holly, she is looking lovely

This is a scene we have repeated many times in the past week as we’ve road tripped across the western edge of Ireland, and I have yet to grow sick of it. Far from. Were it not for the cost and the effect all the beer is no doubt having on heart and liver, I feel like I could continue this trend forever.

We’ve had many pleasant days in this wet and green country, but I’d like to tell you about just one as I think it epitomises the rest of them. The day in question was last Thursday.

We woke in the comfortable AirBnB we had rented, and I started the day by excitedly checking my phone for news of the imminent birth of my nephew. All was silent on the Eli front, so I got up and started getting ready for the day we had planned from the advice of previous tenants of our room, collected in a small book left by the owners of the house.

We were in Killarney, which has won itself the spot as my favourite place in Ireland. It had stiff competition, as all the places we’ve visited had either fine pubs or beautiful nature. Killarney, however, has both. They tag themselves as ‘the town in the park’, the park being The Killarney National Park; an impressive expanse of woodland that contains lakes, mountain peaks, waterfalls, red deer, and, for two days, two Australians named Holly and Damian. The park is large, one hundred and three square kilometers, and circles around one third of the town, giving Killarney a perpetual hug. Then there’s the town itself, which is full of character and overflowing with pubs. Over fifty in total, each one full of beer, rich food, and, come the night, traditional Irish music. But we’ll get to that.

We left the house and picked up a lazy man’s breakfast of a pre-packed sandwich at the nearby Tesco, and then traveled the short seven kilometers to the park and Muckross House; an old Tudor-style mansion that forms the heart of the national park. After doing a quick lap of the house we left it to the busloads of incoming tourists and walked further into the park, towards Torc waterfall.

The day was surprisingly sunny. We had already learnt by then that any weather in Ireland is only ever temporary, and so, counting the current sun as good fortune we hurried on, marvelling at the twisted trees by the cold blue lake before edging into the lush wet forest.

It didn’t take long before our now well worn-in boots traversed the trail to the waterfall. It was heavy with water, cascading down into the clear river and mossy rocks below. The full trees sheltered us from the now light rain, with edges of sunlight already returning. It was a fairy tale scene, one that made me look around for the nymphs and pixies that I knew had to be hiding somewhere. After a poorly taken selfie we continued on, walking a trail uphill. We climbed up above the lake, the kilometers falling away behind us. We finished the trail but found we wanted to walk some more and so entered another feature of the park; a route that took you through the workings of a traditional farm. It was spotted with old farmsteads, saddle-makers, and a schoolyard–but easily the best part was the animals. Pigs and donkeys and Irish wolfhounds and goats, all happy to receive a scratch around the ears and a pat on their bottom.

It was now close to one o’clock and having had our nature craving sated headed into town for a drink. We took our pick of one of the local pubs and settled in, me with my laptop to work on a story, and Holly with a book. A few hours and drinks later (and a lot of “fooking insert-word-here” from the locals) we decided we needed some fresh air and so, braced against the now cold, headed towards the local cathedral. We saw some green behind it and followed the footpath in, only to realise it was yet another entrance to the national park. We saw signs towards Ross Castle. Carefree and with nothing else pressing, decided it must again be the walking part of our walk/drink cycle, as so started moving. It was slow movement thanks to routinely standing under trees to wait out the latest batch of five-minute rain, but pleasant, warmed by the romance of the moment and the beer in our bellies.

A quick walk through the castle was followed by deer spotting and the fervent wish that a badger (magical or otherwise) would join us on our walk. None did and we made it back to town, taking our total kilometers walked for the day up to twenty one. We took up residence in another pub to while the evening away before hopping to a restaurant for dinner, and then from there to yet another pub called Courtney’s to await the night’s music.

We had passed Courtney’s the night before, drawn in by the sound of it’s resident band only to find many others had already followed the lure and that there was no seating available. We had been determined not to make the same mistake twice, and so got in early to score the best seats in the house. It was worth it. The band wasn’t really a band, but rather one guitarist who had invited any available friends to come jam with him. At first it was him and an accordion player. They belted out two toe tapping tracks, both exceptionally proficient at their chosen instrument. Then a third fellow joined them. I eyed his instrument case keenly, hoping with everything I had that there was a fiddle inside. There was. The next song started, rich, and fun, and improvised. Then a fourth man pulled up a seat and took out an instrument that I had never seen before and that I can best describe as somewhere between bagpipes and a clarinet. I’ve since learned the instrument are called Uileann pipes, and can tell you they were a treat to watch played. With all the avengers assembled the music rose to even greater heights that left me grinning like a pleased pug. The atmosphere was perfect. The pub, older than my great great grandmother, was full with tourists and locals alike, the candlelight giving the space an almost ethereal glow. I had a drink in front of me, Holly beside me, and music swirling around us both like water in a river.

The next day Holly wrote about the music of Courtney’s in the book at our AirBnB and I couldn’t help but wonder who would come after us, who would read her words and retrace our steps to discover the sights and sounds of this soul warming Irish town. I hope they enjoy it as much as we did.

Talk soon,

Damian

August 8, 2018

P1050467

Another track from Passenger for today’s post. As this blog has temporarily turned into a travel journal I thought this song was particularly apt. It’s called Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea. Note the lyrics.

++++

Words written for the year: 94,897

++++

Holly and I left Edinburgh four days ago. We picked up our rental car and headed north, into the highlands. A lot has happened in those four days, most good, one thing not so good, and now we find ourselves on the Isle of Skye, where we are staying in a tiny wee home for the next three nights.

The Isle of Skye is exactly as imposing and impressive as you may have been told or read about. It is a landscape so rich with stunning views that it feels like just driving around is activity enough; until you get to one of its landmarks and see exactly how much greater it will prove itself to be. This beauty, though, is not for the faint-hearted, at least, not from our experience. Mist and fog and rain are an almost constant, although it is summer and so showers of sunshine do occasionally roll across the sky. The mist shrouds the mountain tops, hiding them, forcing you to wait, hoping that it will part so you can see the true grandeur hiding behind it. And then, when it does….worth it. This seems to be a staple of this harsh Scottish isle. The promise of great beauty, but only for those who prove themselves particularly persistent or stubborn.

Our first stop in the Isle of Skye was to a landmark known as the fairy pools. A cute name to be sure, but as we drove up the single lane road, which was boarded with sharp edges and thick deposits of mud that practically told us we would be bogged if we edged too far to either side, we saw that these fairy pools would require some work before we could enjoy them. We pulled as far to the side of the road as we could, slightly widened in this area as a makeshift car park– the actual car park already overflowing–and stepped out into the mud as a fine sleet, not even counted as rain by the locals, but that which nevertheless got us damp, settled over the area. We followed the mud track and other tourists down a hillside until we got to a river. The only path across was a series of stones, well submerged in the water. The first test. We, along with many others, searched up and down the river for another way to cross. There was not one to be found. The path and car park were man made, yes, as were the submerged stones, but it would seem that if you want to see this particular spot of beauty then you better be prepared to get your feet wet. After some umming and ahhing and talk of going back to the car we decided that we were worthy of seeing the fairy pools, and choose to prove it. With the water above our ankle and the very real fear that we would slip on the submerged stones and join them in the river, we stepped once, twice, three times, four, then a final fifth, until we made it across onto a wide and well laid path that made us ask the question if you can build a path, why not build a bridge? But we already knew the answer, and so with a stubborn and persistent pace began to walk up the hill, to the pools that ran alongside it. It was worth it.

IMG_20180806_151325

The next morning we got up early, had a quick breakfast, then hit the road, eager to beat the rest of the tourists to another landmark known as the Old Man of Storr. While we were successful in beating the crowds, even scoring an actual parking spot in the car park, there was one element we were never going to beat; the weather. That didn’t matter though, because we had come prepared. We had ponchos. Ponchos that were untested and may have as well have been made of cling wrap. These flimsy pieces of plastic were as unready for this mountaintop weather as we ourselves were, so at least in that way we were well matched (our fault entirely of course, they didn’t even have full length sleeves! Always test your gear before packing it) Nevertheless we covered ourselves in the brightly coloured garb, mine tearing immediately, and started walking. We had only gone a few dozen meters when the weather thought to test us further. The wind picked up, the rain fell harder, and over the loud flapping of our crappy ponchos we yelled to each other if perhaps we thought we should head back. We almost buckled, almost failed the test, but then rallied and continued up the mountain, our poor choice of clothes quickly becoming soaked. Seeing our perseverance and stubbornness, the isle rewarded us. The clouds parted, sunlight showed itself, and after around thirty minutes we had climbed into a scene I previously thought must only exist in fantasy books.

IMG_20180807_090618

The sheer magnitude of the scenery made me want to run around the mountains like a child, which I did. We made it to a peak where the wind roared and did its best to knock us from our feet. I breathed it in, full of elation and adrenaline. We then saw grey clouds approaching on the very same wind and decided it was time to head down. The inevitable happened. Rain and wind came on us once more, even stronger than before, made worse by how high we were. My adrenaline dropped as my clothes became truly soaked and I realised just how far down we had to climb. We were so poorly dressed, so very wet, all we could do was laugh, yelling at each other how mad this was over the screaming of the wind. We made it back to the car and once more the sun returned. Was it worth it? Of course it was. We drove on.

More sights were seen, more breathtaking landscape passed through, until I just had to stop commenting on it because every turn of the road revealed some new remarkable backdrop. We picked up some beers, made it back to our tiny home, and, once warm and dry, rose a toast to being perseverant and stubborn.

Talk soon,

Damian

August 2, 2018

P1050097
Frank Turner’s Be More Kind is today’s blog song. A sweet song with a poignant message.

++++

Words written for the year: 92,032

++++

I am at this moment sitting in a park, surrounded by gravestones, atop a literal mountain of bodies. I have a slight buzz thanks to the whisky tour I just completed, and I can hear the faint sound of bagpipes blown to me by the almost constant breeze. If you guessed I’m in Scotland you would be quite correct. If you guessed I was in Edinburgh you would be even more correct. I could have also told you that I just finished eating a roast pork roll that had the option of haggis stuffing but I felt like that would have been giving it away.

After a very enjoyable second week in Vienna, including a weekend away to the picturesque St. Wolfgang, the Lady Holly and I said farewell to J and A and flew to Edinburgh. It’s been quite magical. Not least because it’s festival season here, something we were dimly aware of, and which means there are roughly five different festivals taking place; all of which have a staggering amount of acts that are all competing for your attention at the same time. Because of this the city is bursting with people, with its populations likely to double this month. It does make sense however, because if you want to run a festival in Scotland it would have to be during the short summer months. In our three days here we’ve mostly worn jumpers and beanies and have been rained on every day. I can only imagine what winter looks like.

This increase of tourists is not a bad thing however. One, because we ourselves are tourists, so who are we to complain, and two, because the city is crackling with energy. Everywhere we go there are buskers performing, people handing out flyers asking (arguably begging) us to see their show, pop up bars, pop up venues, tour groups, comedians, and a general sense of excitement and holiday mentality that can usually only be found at Christmas; all surrounded by the stunningly old and stunningly well maintained city of Edinburgh. It’s quite the atmosphere.

Speaking of Edinburgh’s age, we’re staying at an airbnb in the new part of Edinburgh–new meaning it’s roughly two hundred and fifty years old. Which sounds a little crazy until I consider that the old part of town is roughly eight hundred years old, or more. It’s all a little staggering. The bedroom I’m staying in was built roughly seventy years before my hometown of Melbourne was even founded. The gravestone next to me, which is one of the newer looking ones I should note, is two hundred and fourteen years old.
As you can imagine, a city with that much time under its belt it has a substantial amount of history trodden into its cobblestones. We’ve only done a couple of walking tours in our short time here but it already seems that any one spot in Edinburgh has a dozen stories attached to it; most of which are brutal or comical or both.

It is a city of filth and festivals, cholera and culture, bloodshed and beer. It’s a place where you can find multiple pubs on every street, where graveyards are also park lands, where it’s heroes are scoundrels and dogs (literally), and where history drips out of every crack to soak into your imagination and shoes.

I love it.

++++

Remember to look after yourself, disconnect when you need to, go for a walk even if it’s raining, put your phone in the other room and read a book for an hour. The world can wait.

Talk soon,

Damian

July 20, 2018

P1040671

Music today come again from Vance Joy. 1) because I’m still loving his new album, and 2) because I was listening to it as I wrote this blog.

This one’s called Saturday Sun.

++++

Words written for the year: 88,407

++++

Hello from the sunny riverside twenty-second district in Vienna. It has now been just about a week since the Lady Holly and I boarded our first plane for a twenty four hour trip from Melbourne to Vienna and I am happy to report I am now well entrenched in holiday mode.

I’ll give a quick report as I don’t wish to provide a beat by beat travel journal nor do I want to be too braggy (a little braggy, yes, but not too braggy).

Day 1 was spent washing off our jetlag and the fine musk one gets when one spends a day sitting in an airplane/airports. After a vigorous shower and a much needed teeth brushing we were able to fully indulge in the company of our hosts, Brother Jon and soon-to-be-sister-in-law Alexandra. It’s been so great to be back with the two of them. The fact that I can video chat with them whenever and wherever I am on the globe is amazing and all, but the technology hasn’t really caught up to being able to compete with the feeling of receiving an overly long hug from my womb-mate and best friend. To add to that the two of them have been hellbent on plying us with rich delicious Austrian food and we’ve been only too happy to let them. Which was mostly how day 1 went, devouring the delicious combination of food and good company while also having an explore around the very green and very beautiful twenty-second district.

Day 2 kicked off with more food and drink, as J and A had prepared a belated and extravagant thirtieth birthday breakfast for Holly. It was outstanding and varied, complete with giant balloons, cake, and a truly unique present that I’ll tell you about in a later blog. A relaxed second day followed, the afternoon being spent swimming and sunning at the nearby river. What is most amazing of all is how comfortable I immediately felt here. How familiar it all is. No doubt due to being able to hang with some of my favourite people. Showing that home really is about the people you’re with and not the location.

Days 3 to 5 were spent exploring. With Alex back at work and Jonathan completing a two week German course while we’re here, Holly and I were free to go and do all the touristy things they’ve done a number of times before.

Vienna has proven itself to be a charming city. Coming from a place with such a short western history, it always blows me away just how old european cities are; and Vienna is no exception. Their buildings are big and beautiful and have seen and experienced more of time than I can really wrap my head around. There’s something about hearing of people and their exploits from the 1700’s and then realising that these people once walked where I am walking, looked about at the same ornate interiors, and then realising that this titan of a structure whose innards I’m passing through will last for centuries after my own demise. It’s humbling and oddly thrilling.

Beyond that Vienna is the right size of city for me. Big enough to have plenty to see and do, but small enough to be able to navigate it easily. It’s also exceptionally clean and green for a city, another fact that wins it to my favour. I was always going to be biased towards Vienna, due to two of the people who live here, but nevertheless it has won me over. Also, I mentioned the food, right?

Day 6 was a mammoth of a day. Back in March, on Holly’s actual birthday, our gang of friends gifted her with a voucher for two people to take a cycling tour through the Wachau valley, and she chose me to go with her! What a sweetheart.

The day was exceptional. After meeting up with our tour group we trained it down to the valley where a number of bikes waited for us. We then pedalled our way through some of the finest scenery I have ever seen. The weather was perfect as we slowly made our way through old cobble-pathed towns, then out into the open air, vineyards on one side of us and the Danube river on the other. The photo above should give you a taste of it. Then, to make an already enjoyable experience even better, wine was added.

We rode for most of the day, lazily stopping to drink yet more wine–our international group now fast friends thanks to the addition of alcohol–before finally returning back to where we started and reboarding the train back to Vienna. We started the day at nine o’clock, and finished it at the same time, just with a pm instead of an am, so we definitely got our (friends) money’s worth. We were tired but satisfied and happy.

Day 7, today, has been a recharge day. We slept in, cooked breakfast, and now I’ve spent most of the day writing.

It’s a good life.

Talk soon,

Damian

June 19, 2018

IMG_20180615_133247

Snow Patrol have a new album out, Wildness, and while their last couple of albums didn’t grab me, this one has. It has a good mix of slow melodious ones to pull at the heart strings, like today’s blog song, What if this is all the love your ever get, and some more rocky ones. A very satisfying mix.

++++

Words written for the year: 82,103

++++

WordPress, the company I host this website with, reminded me it was our anniversary the other day. Four wonderful years and I, most ashamedly, had not remembered. In order to right this wrong, and because after four years of writing words on a website I’m still keen to continue, I thought I would write a blog about why I blog.

More often that not I use this blog as a kind of therapy. It’s a way for me to get down any insecurities, usually related to writing, or pinpoint particular thoughts or feelings about certain things. Whether that be death, or fear of failure, or my now fiancée or just a train trip . It’s superbly useful. Often by the time I finish one of these therapy blogs I feel more grounded, yet lighter. I know my mind about something, I’ve worked to pull it into a defined shape, and by doing so I’ve lessened the swirl or detritus moving through my head. It truly is a wonderful thing, and a large part of why this part of my blog is labelled ‘Journal’ (see menu bar) is because in a very real sense that is what it is.

I also blog because I like reading other peoples blogs. When I read something that is open and honest, when I can tell someone else is therapising and finding the form of their thoughts, that’s usually when their blog is most engaging. It’s also, uncoincidentally, when they’re closest to defining some truth, and, because of their hard work, I get to gain that truth, and devour it for the ripe apple it is.

Which brings me to the third reason, in case it helps someone. That may sound corny, and is, but I don’t mind corny sometimes. Corny, when done right, is genuinely touching. I’ve read blogs that have helped me, either through the truth nuggets I mentioned earlier, or just by passing on information; whether that be writing advice, well thought out opinions about some issue, or by suggesting things to read. And sometimes bloggers just share photos of their dogs, which is something I will be thankful for every time. I believe the uglier parts of the internet become balanced out by people sharing photos of their dogs. So, if I discover something cool, or have a thought, or have a problem that someone else has, even if I don’t have an answer for it, then I hope by writing it down and posting it to the internet it gives someone something they need. Often, that someone is me.

Fourth, it helps my writing. It gets me out of my head. I don’t edit this blog. Nor do I plan it out, beyond I-think-I-have-a-topic-I-want-to-write-about. These aren’t well sculpted essays, these are the free form thoughts of a man named Damian, and it’s the free form part that’s important. Often I write these blogs when I’ve hit a wall with my creative writing. Either because I’ve don’t know what happens next in a story, or because I’m not feeling it that day (that’s what’s happened today). So, instead, I write a blog. It’s like the honest man’s version of procrastination. But the funny thing is that by doing so it opens those walls, or inserts doors, or whatever the correct analogy is. Often by the time I’m done I’ve figured out a solve, either by distracting my mind, or because writing something, even if it’s just a stream of consciousness, gets the juices flowing, leaving me ready to dig back in to the creative writing. It also helps me work at defining thoughts and describing them, at communicating ideas in a way that is (mostly) clear and concise. Which is a skill I can transfer to all forms of writing.

Mostly though, I do this blog for me. Not only is therapy, hopefully helpful, and a writing tool, but it’s also a record of me. Of my short ill-defined existence. It’s a digital log of the part inside my skull, the part unseen, the part that no photo can capture. It’s a mental photo album. One I can look back on and remember all the thoughts that came before, and the place and person I was when I had them, that when combined, and looked at from a distance, look like the person I am now.

That is priceless.

And that is why I blog.

++++

Talk soon

Damian

May 25, 2018

P1060463

New music from Passenger today, an acoustic version of a track entitled Hell or High Water, from his upcoming album. Always a good thing.

++++

Words written for the year: 75,394

++++

On Wednesday I had my first evening at home in over a week. A crazy and tiring but wonderful week that included a night on stage with my mates for the last episode of our podcast and a standing ovation that I will never forget. But on Wednesday I was at home, and even though I spent it catching up on house stuff that had been neglected due to aforementioned busy week, it was lovely. I cleaned and organised and finished the night by cooking a large cut of silverside (or corned beef if you prefer).

I quite love silverside, for a number of reasons. The first is that it’s delicious. The second is that it’s delicious but also cheap! The third is that you can make reuben sandwiches with it, which I suppose still ties into the whole deliciousness thing. And the final reason is memories of my dad cooking silverside on a weekend for the whole family. On those days just about everyone was happy. Dad because he got to put his energy into something that wasn’t work, something he could be proud of and share with people. Mum because she didn’t have to cook. And the rest of us because, as previously mentioned, silverside is delicious. Such a simple thing, but such a good one. And now I get to make it for me and my family, aka Holly.

Saying all that, we didn’t actually eat any silverside on Wednesday. The size of the cut was such that it needed three hours of boiling, and, because I didn’t start it until six, that would have meant we wouldn’t have been eating until nine. What I did instead was parcel it up into two person size servings and freeze them; as it de-freezes surprisingly well. I ended up with seven portions for both Holly and I. Seven meals featuring silverside. It’s an oddly appropriate number, because in seven weeks today the lady Holly and I will be heading overseas, and we won’t be back again for three months.

Yeah, I know.

Given the length of time I like to see it as travelling instead of holidaying. To me the distinction is that a holiday is a temporary thing designed towards recharging and relaxing. Whereas we’ll basically be paying ourselves to see, do, and experience things. Things that definitely don’t include being strapped to a desk looking at spreadsheets and emails; so that’ll be nice.

Saying all that this trip will include moments of relaxing. Of course it will. I don’t think it’s a good or wise thing to go hard on travel for a fifteen week stint. It will wipe you out, make you sick of airports and buses and eating out, while also making you miss your own bed (and toilet). No, instead, this trip will have mini holidays within it. Times where I can write and Holly can read. Where we can rest in the foothills of some mountain and just exist for a little bit. I expect it to be magic.

To add to this magic, this trip will have family included as well. Not only will I get to meet my nephew Eli upon our return (currently in utero) but while overseas I’ll get to see my best friend/brother get married off to the love of his life, in Vienna of all places. I never saw that one coming. Not as crazy for her family I’m sure, seeing as they’re all Viennese, but still. We also get to travel with family. Across Slovenia with two of my favourite people, going for walks and drinking whisky. We’ll pass through western Austria with my niece and nephew (and their parents) and get to share in their excitement and exuberance. Then on further, into Germany with my mum and dad, where we’ll visit fairytale places, drink beer and eat rich foods.

And through it all I’ll have Holly by my side. And when we get back, I’ll marry her.

Seven weeks.

Seven Fridays.

Seven silverside dinners.

Can’t wait.

++++

Talk soon,

Damian