Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Last Post

Closing a decade long chapter in our lives, Claire and I have had to face a lot of final moments over the last few days and weeks. Everything from seeing friends before we leave, to going somewhere we haven't been in a while. Work and play all have their share of closures, some easier than others.

The last week at work. I hated it. Not because I didn't want to be there. I very much did. I love my job, and just didn't want to have a "last week", or, worse, a "last day". I could feel this growing sense of gloom with each passing hour. Once the dreaded day arrived, I managed to hold back the tears amid repeated reminders of why I love my work, from my co-workers, other teachers, parents, and most of all, the kids themselves. I finished my day at noon, but left some time after half two. I dragged out the last moments as far as I could. But still the time came. As I walked out of the gates for the last time, my body cracked and my breathing shuddered, and I finally cried.

The last time with friends was never going to be easy, but I am so lucky to have so many, I was fooled into thinking it wasn't all that painful after all. Saying good-bye at our going away party was fine. I knew I'd be seeing a lot of my friends between then and now. Saying good-bye to my Early Childhood Studies friends was slightly more painful as I really was the last time we'd all be together as this group. It was numbed by speedy departures, avoiding long good-byes and leaving that clutching feeling you get in your chest until after the fact. I also avoided going back as far as any of their cars in an effort to escape the inevitable, final flood of emotions. And there was always the chance I'd see any of them before I left. I still had days to go before the flight! I was still in Ireland, still in Cork. It wasn't time yet.

Time.

The last time eating in Puccinos, where we had breakfast almost every Sunday for five years. The last time we celebrate New Years together. The last time walking around UCC. The last time wandering aimlessly into Other Realms. The last time I go to the weekly Sunday morning breakfast. The last meal from Lennox's. The last time playing BattleStar Galactica. The last time gaming online in the same time zone. The last time hanging out and just chatting. The last time we'll ever just be together as one group, one fellowship, one amazing collection of the best people anyone could wish to call friends.

The last day. Time was starting to run out.

I chat to Kris. I hand him my keys. I say my good-byes. I feel my eyes water, my mouth turn dry and my voice shake. I want to stay longer, but I can't. I don't have time.

I hug Ashka. Claire puts her in her carry case and we pack her stuff into the car. All the way to Cork I rest my hand on her. She doesn't complain like she usually does when she is locked up in that small box. She just sits quietly while I cry. The city lights are ahead. It's almost time to let go.

I stand outside in the night air. All around me are people that have written in the chapter of my life I am closing tonight. There isn't anything I can say to tell them how important they are to me. Instead we just joke and smile and fight back the tears. My voice shudders briefly. Time to go.

I sit on the step of the stairs. Ashka purrs softly on my lap, and I feel those tears returning. She's our baby, our child that we've raised and loved. She's staying with the best people we could hope her to be with until she can come back to us, but we'll miss her terribly. I hold her tightly and whisper things she doesn't understand. Time to leave.

I try to say something. The words stumble out. I hug them both and step outside. The door clicks behind me and I turn to Claire. "You ok?" I ask. ""Yeah. You?" "No. Let's go home. We have too much to do and too little time."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The "You're Almost Finally Rid Of Us" Party Details

As the vast majority of you know, Claire and I have been planning our trip to Canada for some time now. For those that don't know, here's the cliff notes:

I've always wanted to live in Canada since I was a kid. MacGyver seemed to like it, and I liked MacGyver, so it was a match made in heaven. A few years ago Claire and I talked about it and slowly started the ball rolling. Finally, last September we applied through USIT and booked flights for the 27th of January, 2011. Well, after a delay with my Visa application on account of needing a full medical, our Visas have arrived and we're good to go. While the initial Visas are for only 12 months, we are looking into all the options open to us to stay longer.

And so, we need a party to thank you all for being the best friends anyone could hope for! You lot have been great. I've been in Cork 12 years and Claire 11 for , and we've both made far more friends here than back home, and much better one's too. If that's the case, then why, you may ask, are we leaving? It's not you, it's us. We want to try something new, somewhere new. We want to explore our horizons while we still can, and find what's out there. We're still (relatively) young and free to travel. We don't have kids yet, though we do have Ashka, our beloved cat. Thankfully, it's easier to leave a cat with some friends than it is to leave a child, though in the absence of any kids of our own, we're going to miss her terribly until we get her shipped over once we settle down.

Anyway, enough of that. Suffice it to say, we'll miss you all, and you're more than welcome to come visit. But before then, party!

When: This Saturday, 15th of January
Where: Food in Wagamamas from 6:30pm then on to the Franciscan Well for the night, probably around 8 or a little after. Whenever food is finished.

Wagamamas is not a booking. As far as I know from past experiences, they don't take bookings. So the plan is to turn up and try to get everyone sitting reasonably close together. Alternatively, if people let me know before tomorrow if they'll be there, I'll try to use my pull with the manager to get us a bench. I'll need to know how many to expect though, so if you're interested in food, RSVP.

And that's it. I've tried to email everyone I can think of, or at least everyone I have an email from. I'll also be txting my entire phonebook, so some of you might be getting the important details twice. Three times if you got my email, read my text and have my blog bookmarked or in a Reader Feed! But I'm not going to be able to reach everyone, so spread the word. Everyone is welcome. This is a chance for us to say "thank you" to you guys. If someone that knows us hasn't heard about all this, then tell them. They haven't not been invited, we just don't have contact details for them. Please. Everyone is invited to come along. It's open to everyone from my best friend (You da man, Ted!!!!!) to my worst enemy (I HATE YOU TED!!!!!!!!! (But, in the spirit of leaving the country, even you, Ted, oh nemesis of mine, is invited to the Well for drinks. But no food. No food for you. Thankfully we're eating in Wagamamas and I know how you're allergic to wooden benches, glass paneling and the public)).

See you all on Saturday!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Musing

Recently I've been enjoying the stabby-stabby fun of Ubisofts latest offering, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, which I got from my wonderful brother for Christmas. As is the norm for me, I started up the single player game and utterly ignored the multiplayer aspect until I finished the campaign and learned what fate had befallen my hero of Renaissance Rome, Ezio Auditore da Firenze.

Upon venturing into the online portion of the game just this last weekend, I was stunned by how much I enjoyed it. I was so taken, in fact, that I was compelled to write to Monday Musing, a weekly section of the UK Xbox Dashboard. Here is what I sent them last Saturday:

I've hunted Aliens through the deepest, darkest jungles. I've gone one on one against Locust Drones in dark, underground caverns. I've battled Spitters and Tanks among abandoned streets. I've fought the worst of the worst, the stuff nightmares are made from, in games spawned from the darkest, most twisted minds. Despite all this, my heart has never raced as fast as it does after a game of Ubisofts latest offering, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood.

Like most players, I played through the single player campaign first, relishing the fantastic story laid out before me, as well as the beauty of Renaissance Rome. The multiplayer sat on my menu options, untouched. Only once I had exhausted Ezios story did I venture into the world of Abstergos recruits.

And what a world they have crafted! Brotherhoods multiplayer experience is easily one of the most fun aspects of any game I have played in years. Nailing that precision kill and vanishing into a crowd is thrilling. Stalking your prey through busy streets, finger poised over the X button, about to do the deed when suddenly...BAM! Someone shoves a hidden blade deep into your back, and the world spins slowly as your own intended victim walks away, probably none-the-wiser about how close he was to death.

Congratulations to Ubisoft for crafting the most heart-pounding game I have ever played, without the need for scare tactics or shock-horror moments. No monsters, no demons, just other humans that could be as deadly as you hope you are. I'll send you my medical bill when my heart inevitably explodes.
This evening I got home from work to discover that I had 93 messages in my Xbox 360 Inbox, several of which were Friend Invites! Amazingly, the good guys at the Xbox UK offices thought my meager Musing was fit for publication on the Xbox Dashboard! Every Xbox registered to Ireland or the UK could see my thoughts on Assassins Creed: Brotherhood! I was popular!

Thankfully, my faith in humanity was upheld by the generally fantastic Xbox Live community. The vast, vast majority of messages were positive and polite. Some disagreed with my opinions, but thanked me for sharing my thoughts, one gamer summing it up nicely as "To each their own". In the minority by a long shot were those with nothing useful to add to the conversation beyond one-word insults or, in one case "Do you work for Microsoft. If so, why did I get banned?" If you're reading this, I don't know mate. I wish I worked for Microsoft so I could get all the Arcade games I wanted, but I don't, so I can't!

I've been trying to respond to as many of the nicer comments as possible, mostly just thanking them for their comment in a cut and paste format. Those who disagreed in a polite fashion got a response thanking them as well. People of all ages took the time to say hi, so I'm trying to return the favour. There have been a handful of voice messages, which have been odd to listen to. They're all nice, but range from really young kids asking me questions as if I'm some new god, to older gamers who didn't feel the need to fumble over the onscreen keyboard.

This whole strange event has happened at the start of my last week in school before we make the big move to Canada. At least I'll have an interesting story to tell people I meet when we arrive. This, and that time last week when we had dinner in the same restaurant as Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Wood, but that's a story for another post.