Author Archives: niall

About niall

cycling less than i plan

song of the week 30: welcome home (sanitarium)

Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” by Metallica

  • Genre: Thrash Metal
  • Single Release Date: March 1986 (album only)
  • Album: “Master of Puppets

The song lyrics depict a man trapped in a mental asylum railing against the treatments being used to control his mental instabilities. It’s obviously not working as he is preparing to kill as part of an escape attempt.

Inspiration for the song came from the book “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

For some reason these two lines have always stood out for me:

They keep me locked up in this cage
Can’t they see it’s why my brain says rage?

Lyrics

Welcome to where time stands still

No one leaves and no one will
Moon is full, never seems to change
Just labelled mentally deranged

Dream the same thing every night
I see our freedom in my sight
No locked doors, no windows barred
No things to make my brain seem scarred

Sleep my friend, and you will see
The dream is my reality
They keep me locked up in this cage
Can’t they see it’s why my brain says rage?

Sanitarium
Leave me be
Sanitarium
Just leave me alone

Build my fear of what’s out there
Cannot breathe the open air
Whisper things into my brain
Assuring me that I’m insane

They think our heads are in their hands
But violent use brings violent plans
Keep him tied, it makes him well
He’s getting better, can’t you tell?

No more can they keep us in
Listen, damn it, we will win
They see it right, they see it well
But they think this saves us from our hell

Sanitarium
Leave me be
Sanitarium
Just leave me alone
Sanitarium
(Just leave me alone)

Fear of living on
Natives getting restless now
Mutiny in the air
Got some death to do

Mirror stares back hard
Kill, it’s such a friendly word
Seems the only way
For reaching out again

Click here for a playlist of all the songs in this series on Spotify

Header image from 8Tracks.com

mud, rock, blazes

“Mud, Rock, Blazes” written by Heather Anderson and read by Chelsea Stephens

This post may contain spoilers.

This was a fascinating insight into the mental challenges faced by an endurance athlete. Unlike all the other books I’ve listened to and read on the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trails this walker was trying to set a record. Heather Anderson (Anish) already held the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for self-supported completion of the PCT in 2013 but riddled with self-doubt and insecurity she had herself convinced it was a fluke. With incredibly low self esteem and a failure to set an FKT on the John Muir Trail she decided to give herself one last chance and aim for an FKT on the AT in 2015. Not content with the female record she set herself a huge challenge of the overall FKT requiring an average of 50 miles per day to complete in just over 50 days. An average of 3-4 miles per hour meant sleep deprivation, no rest days and a constant battle to keep fuelled and hydrated while fighting exhaustion as well as the mental torment of having set a daily target that simply wasn’t achievable.

Unlike all the other AT and PCT stories this is all a personal journey and a story about her personal battles. Don’t read this if you want to know about the trail itself or about the characters that you might encounter. However, if you want an insight into the mind of an endurance athlete and what it takes to keep going day in, day out this is the book for you. In today’s world of airbrushed and sanitised perfect lives depicted on social media this was incredibly frank and honest and dealt with her negative self image as much as the achievement of battling through conditions that most people can’t even contemplate.

The difference here between 4 and 5 stars was the narrator. She reads at the start in a kind of breathless and over dramatic way that kind of trivialised the author’s achievements and feelings. I don’t know if she moderated this as the story progressed or if I stopped noticing it but it definitely became less of an issue later in the book.

This is the second audiobook I’ve listened to that came from recommendations on Splodz Blogz weekly blog Episode 110. There’s a third one in there that is next on my list.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Audible.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

hike: lough belshade (bluestacks)

On Sunday last week I went for my second guest walk with the Bluestack Ramblers Walking Club. My first was out to Inishbofin Island a few weeks ago. Before joining the Club I wanted to try a mountain walk to see if the group dynamic would be any different.

Turning up at the meeting point it was nice to see some familiar faces from the first day, to be recognised by some and to see some new faces also. The group demographic was quite similar but tilted more towards the older 60+ range. This surprised me as I expected a younger group on the tougher walk. There was also a good few more men this time and the mix worked well for socialising.

from bluestack ramblers facebook page

The walk started high above Lough Eske just outside Donegal Town. It followed part of the Bluestack Way before heading off into the lower slopes of the Bluestack Mountains. The initial terrain was gravel track before changing to a grassland and bog mix. Ground underfoot was damp and boggy at times but easily manageable. I was surprised how much easier going it was in comparison to the terrain on Barnes Gap. I think this area has been used much more for sheep grazing which has kept the heather at bay and kept the grass at a shorter length.

On the way up we were following a faint track that was either a reasonably well established hiker track or a sheep highway. Either way it was a convenient guide to a small river crossing with a waterfall, that must be impressive in Winter, and a climb up a small gully that brought us to the first of many small lakes.

lough nacollum

Retaining the height we had gained we continued along the lower slopes of the main Bluestack ridge and were soon at a great viewpoint high above Lough Belshade. We had a great view of the basin the lough sits in and a great feeling of the surrounding higher hills.

wide angle view

With a slight breeze and a great view this was to be our halfway point for lunch. However, the breeze quickly dropped away allowing the dreaded midge to rise, resulting in a very hurried lunch break and putting us quickly back on the track.

The way back was slightly different. We dropped down to a slightly lower level to wind our way among a few of the other small lakes and streams. This was a really nice walk back and I was surprised at the number and variety of little loughs as well as the small waterfalls and streams wending between each of them.

lough fad

loughinisland

lough anabosin

We soon arrived back at the gravel track and dropped down to the parking area where we started and I took the opportunity to enjoy the great views of Lough Eske that I missed getting ready to hike earlier in the day.

This hike was a very different experience for me. With it being a guided walk all the concerns about route and navigation were removed. While I was equipped and aware of my location, in case I got separated from the group, I didn’t have to worry at all about where we were going and I was able to relax, enjoy the scenery and chat to other members of the group.

While I won’t give up solo walking I’ve decided that I’m going to enjoy being a member of this club and have already signed up. There’s a hike every Sunday and I’m planning to go on a more challenging walk next week up Dooish in Glenveagh.

Header image by Pixabay from Pexels

forty words for sorrow

Forty Words for Sorrow (John Cardinal and Lise Delorme Mystery #1) by Giles Blunt

This post may contain spoilers.

This was brilliant! I have recently finished the TV series and was a little apprehensive about reading the books so soon but if anything it enhanced the books. The story was virtually unchanged for the TV production and going by the books was excellently cast. The only real change I noticed was that the senior officer was male in the book and female in the TV show as well as the reason Cardinal was under suspicion by senior officers.

The basis of the story is that John Cardinal has been demoted within the department for irrational focus on the case of a missing child, claiming that it was related to another written off as a runaway and that they were both the work of a serial killer. A body is discovered which appears to be the missing girl and Cardinal is brought back into the fold.

In the background Delorme is brought into the homicide department and partnered with Cardinal with an additional task of investigating him for supplying information to the head of a serious crime organisation. The two of them work together to identify and apprehend the psycho couple kidnapping and torturing victims.

This is one of the best detective stories I’ve read for a long time. The quality of the writing is superb and the characters are hugely interesting. I’m sure it was enhanced by the TV show but I could feel myself immersed completely in the situations being described and able to picture them clearly. The descriptions of the landscape and weather of a Canadian winter were so detailed. It was fab.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

first wild camp: lough altan

After a successful backyard test of my new Helm Compact 1 tent a couple of weeks ago the plan was to get out on an actual wild camp pretty quickly too. I’d decided Sunday 24th would be a good bet as I was able to book the Monday off work and it fitted in around some of the other stuff I wanted to do on other weekends.

The plan was to travel over late afternoon and take my time getting to the camping location. I would have loads of time to enjoy the location and cook dinner and also have plenty of time in the morning to cook breakfast before packing up and heading home.

Unfortunately the weather turned out terrible that weekend with heavy rain, thunderstorms and flooding in some areas including our main shop in Derry. I’d been keeping an eye on the forecast for a while and luckily it suited my boss for me to revert back to my usual Wednesday off and I decided to postpone until the Tuesday evening.

This meant a dash after work and less time to enjoy the evening. To make things easier I decided to stop in Letterkenny and grab a burger and chips so that I wouldn’t be under time pressure when setting up camp. That turned out to be a very smart move as I was invaded by midges and cooking would have been out of the question.

The spot I’d chosen was on the shores of Lough Altan, below Mount Errigal and on the edge of Glenveagh National Park. I parked at the Errigal car park before heading back along the road and taking the signed track for Altan Farm. I hadn’t been in this area for a very long time and the track turned out much wetter and harder walking than I expected and also longer. The bag that felt lighter than expected the night before somehow became 10 times heavier after crossing this boggy track.

Despite these slight difficulties the walk in was amazing. The impressive views of Errigal and Mackoght were soon replaced by those across to the Aghlas and Muckish in the distance. The setting sun was putting on an impressive show and the colours of the mountains were just stunning.

Treated to a stunning sunset I was soon down on the shores of the lough enjoying the waterfalls and being eyeballed by the suspicious sheep.

The sheep had the grass well grazed and I soon had a suitable camp site identified and my tent erected. During this time though the breeze dropped away and I was invaded by hordes of midges! I was forced to retreat to my tent and enjoy the views from behind the relative safety of my internal mesh fly. It wasn’t until almost 11pm when the temperature dropped with darkness and I was able to open up again to make a hot chocolate before bed and take the crucially important night photo of my tent.

Overnight I had a decent sleep. I was quite unsettled until 3.30am when I had to get up for a pee. At that stage I was convinced I would get no more sleep that night but next thing I knew it was 6.30am! I’d gone for a slightly thicker foil mat and that combined with my inflatable sleeping mat and summer sleeping bag kept me warm and comfortable all night. I was very pleased with the tent too. The fly worked great at keeping the midges out once I was zipped up and although it wasn’t easy I was able to get my gear sorted and change for bed without having to get out at all. The two porches were very handy for storing my gear and giving me a sheltered spot to use my cooker. A+ for the Helm Compact 1 ✅

When planning this camp I had a tentative plan at the back of my head that I’d be able to get a dip in the waterfall and maybe even a dip in the lake to get a really refreshing start to the morning before cooking a bacon bap for breakfast. However, the morning dawned grey and humid with barely a breath of wind, the midges were celebrating and I was the banquet! They were even worse than the night before and I was forced to pack up camp from inside the tent before dismantling the tent wearing a hat and buff over my face. Even at that they destroyed my eyes.

at home I was able to assess the battle scars

Breakfast was skipped as well as any romantic notions of wild swimming or exploring the waterfalls. Instead it was a quick inspection of the old house and off up the hill to try and find a breeze and some relief.

I was relatively untouched all the way back to the van but if I stopped for anything more than a few seconds I could feel the bites starting again so I kept plugging on all the way back. A quick change and into the van and on my way home again. I stopped on the way and treated myself to a lovely breakfast roll and all was right with the world again.

closing the barn door but now i’m prepared

Despite the midges I had a great time. I loved the post-work mini adventure type escape, the walk in was amazing and waking up with that view was just unreal. I’m pleased how my kit worked out and I’m looking forward to seeing where my next adventure will take me.

The YouTube link below will take you to the video I made of the experience.

the heretics of de’ath

The Heretics of De’Ath (The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage #1) by Howard of Warwick.

This post may contain spoilers.

This was recommended to me by my best friend who has read of number of the series and really enjoyed them. I really wanted to enjoy it too and tried really hard, especially as he recommended it, but I just couldn’t get it. If it hadn’t been for him I think I would have given up part way through and not have pushed through to the end.

The author has a very good style, reminiscent of Terry Pratchett and his humour. In fact I’ve seen this author compared to TP but there’s absolutely no comparison. TP created a rich world full of diverse characters and detailed storylines. This, unfortunately, was incredibly dull!

Hermitage is a monk in a very weird monastery in medieval England. During a long and pointlessly obscure theological debate another monk apparently drops dead. Suspected of murder, tasked to report to the Bishop and eventually marked for execution Hermitage finds himself embroiled in a bizarre plot of political corruption to swindle money from a building project. Befriended by Wat, a weaver and dealer of pornographic tapestries, they attempt to find the truth.

It sounds interesting but that’s about as deep as the story gets. The writing was humorous at times but infantile on many occasions. The lack of a story created a need for bizarre and incomprehensible situations to move the book along but it was ponderous with. When the cause of death is finally established and the political plot finally exposed it was simply ridiculous and I’ve actually forgotten what it was already.

A book with the potential to be very good and one I tried hard to enjoy but couldn’t. I will try the next one to see if this was just a poor start but I won’t be in any great hurry. There are 23 books in the series and the author has a loyal following so maybe I’m just missing something?

My Rating: ⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

song of the week 29: chelsea dagger

Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis

  • Genre: Rock
  • Single Release Date: August 2006
  • Album: “Costello Music

The song is named after Jon Fratelli’s wife Heather, a burlesque dancer whose stage name – a play on Britney Spears – he borrowed for the song. Fratelli described the tune as “a rock ‘n’ roll gig in an old speakeasy or something like that.”

To me this song is just a whole lot of fun!

Lyrics

Well, you must be a girl with shoes like that


She said, you know me well
I seen you and little Steven and Joanna
Round the back of my hotel
Oh yeah

Someone said you was asking after me
But I know you best as a blagger
I said, tell me your name is it sweet?
She said, my boy it’s dagger, oh yeah

I was good she was hot
Stealin’ everything she got
I was bold she was over the worst of it
Gave me gear, thank you dear, bring yer sister over here
Let her dance with me just for the hell of it

Well you must be a boy with bones like that
She said you got me wrong
I would’ve sold them to you
If I could’ve just have kept the last of my clothes on
Oh yeah

Call me up take me down with you when you go
I could be your regular belle
And I’ll dance for little Steven and Joanna
‘Round the back of my hotel, oh yeah

I was good, she was hot
Stealin’ everything she got
I was bold she was over the worst of it
Gave me gear thank you dear bring yer sister over here
Let her dance with me just for the hell of it

Chelsea Chelsea I believe that when you’re dancing
Slowly sucking your sleeve
The boys get lonely after you leave
It’s one for the Dagger and another for the one you believe

Chelsea I believe that when you’re dancing
Slowly sucking your sleeve
The boys get lonely after you leave
It’s one for the Dagger, another for the one you believe

Click here for a playlist of all the songs in this series on Spotify

Header image from 8Tracks.com

50 states of the usa

“50 States of the USA” written and read by Anna McNuff

This post may contain spoilers.

It’s not commonplace that a good author also has the ability to be a good reader. Anna McNuff is brilliant at both! Not only is this an excellent description of her challenge but she reads it with passion and a huge sense of fun. She obviously loved her time during this book, revels in reliving it and it pumps out of the speakers. I’m totally convinced that this is a book enhanced by being an audiobook version.

I’ve read and listened to a number of books on endurance activities now. Most are based on long-distance hiking of the PCT or AT and a couple on long distance cycling. The most notable of the latter was Mark Beaumont’s story of his world record cycle round the world but this story has more in common with the best of the hiking stories I’ve listened to.

While many adventure stories focus on either the journey and the places encountered or the organisation of getting to and through the challenge this story is mostly about the people the author met along the way. While she camped plenty she managed to spend a lot of time staying with friends, friends of friends and hosts through the Warm Showers association which this story is an excellent advertisement for.

Throughout the book the author is continually surprised by the warmth and generosity of the people she meets but I’m positive that it is partly her own wonderful nature that brings this out in people she encounters.

If you want an uplifting experience and to hear an encouraging story about society in general but especially American society then this book is for you. It’s so nice to hear positive stories about America and especially small town America that seems to get bad press in many media.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Audible.

Republished as “The United States of Adventure

Header image source: fossbytes.com

song of the week 28: fear of the dark

Fear of the Dark” by Iron Maiden

The title track of the 1992 album by the same name this track wasn’t released as a regular single but was released in 1993 as a live single to promote the live album “A Real Live One“.

The lyrics are about a man that is afraid of the dark but from a paranoid feeling of being watched rather than a phobia of the dark. It was apparently written by Steve Harris who had his own fear of the dark.

Lyrics

I am a man who walks alone
And when I’m walking a dark road
At night or strolling through the park

When the light begins to change
I sometimes feel a little strange
A little anxious when it’s dark

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a phobia that someone’s always there

Have you run your fingers down the wall
And have you felt your neck skin crawl
When you’re searching for the light?
Sometimes when you’re scared to take a look
At the corner of the room
You’ve sensed that something’s watching you

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Have a phobia that someone’s always there

Have you ever been alone at night
Thought you heard footsteps behind
And turned around and no one’s there?
And as you quicken up your pace
You find it hard to look again
Because you’re sure there’s someone there

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
have a phobia that someone’s always there

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark

Watching horror films the night before
Debating witches and folklore
The unknown troubles on your mind
Maybe your mind is playing tricks
You sense and suddenly eyes fix
On dancing shadows from behind

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Have a phobia that someone’s always there

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Have a phobia that someone’s always there

When I’m walking a dark road
I am a man who walks alone

Click here for a playlist of all the songs in this series on Spotify

Header image from 8Tracks.com

dark sacred night

Dark Sacred Night (Harry Bosch #21, Renee Ballard #2) by Michael Connelly

This post may contain spoilers.

Connolly has created a superb character in detective Harry Bosch, supplemented that with his excellent half brother Mickey Haller and recently introduced a very intriguing new character with Renee Ballard. In this novel he brings Bosch and Haller together in one interlinked story.

This is an interesting concept. Bosch is well established as a bit of a lone wolf and with no hesitation about stepping outside of the line when circumstances require it. Ballard is also very much a loner. She is effectively homeless, working the unwanted night shift and with her dog as the only consistent relationship in her life. When we first met her we were given the impression that the “late show” was a punishment for lodging a harassment complaint against her former superior officer but in this book we get the strong message that she likes working it as she doesn’t have to interact with many other colleagues. In fact she’s particularly happy this time as she’s running solo with her partner off on leave. The author blends these two lone wolves together very well.

I particularly liked the way he took the chapters and focused them on one character at a time. Their stories overlap and become more and more entwined as the story progresses but it’s really good to see it told from the individual points of view. It also helps with the momentum of the plot as he brings them together more frequently as it picks up pace towards the end.

On top of all of this the author has created two very interesting cases to be worked. Bosch is working a cold case as a reserve officer with a local police force (San Fernando Valley) but trying to solve an old case of the brutal murder of Daisy Clayton. This has become particularly personal with Daisy’s mother now living in his house as she gets clean from her own battle with drug addiction. Ballard comes across Bosch and eventually takes on the Clayton investigation as a hobby case to work it officially from within LAPD.

This Clayton investigation is the basis of the recent Bosch: Legacy TV show which made this feel very familiar. As a fan of Bosch on TV I can’t help but overlay Titus Welliver’s portrayal on to the book character. Despite the huge variations it doesn’t cause any problems for me and in some ways, enhances the books.

I found the partnering of Bosch and Ballard very enjoyable in this book and it seems there are more to come. I would like to see Ballard getting another book of her own though as she is a brilliant character in her own right.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels