Category Archives: Journalism

5 Delightfully Obscure Easter Eggs You Missed In Portal 2

Valve’s 2007 first person puzzle game Portal was a surprise hit for everyone. The game acted and felt like a first person shooter but you just didn’t go around killing anyone. Instead you solved puzzles based on some simple – and some not so simple – physics problems. Introducing us to GLaDOS – one of the most maniacal robots in Science Fiction since the IG 88 assassin droid – and Chell, a “silent partner” whom the player took control of and completed a series of puzzles without any real indication as to how or why, Portal was a revolution in gaming.

Portal 2 exposed Portal as the prototype it was always meant to be, however, introducing new characters and completely expanding, redesigning and reintroducing us to the story. Despite being set thousands of years after the first game it might as well have been the next day for character Chell, as she made her way through the very history of Aperture Science and you were given a history lesson nobody was likely to forget. But just what did we learn throughout the game’s mysterious second act?

As Chell advances deeper through the history of the company – from the profitable 50’s to the bankrupt 80’s – there’s hardly any time travel at all. Instead we’re given clues and hints to the past and forced – mostly due to the silence of our character – to figure a lot out for ourselves and consistently break down that fourth wall. This is just one of the most enjoyable reasons that you should play this game because Valve have created a way to keep you thinking about this game hours after you’ve completed playing it.

You’ll go back and attempt missions just to check hidden corners and cracks for that secret plaque – not because you have too – but because you’ll want too. Of course you’re also welcome to review this list and have a tiny bit of help getting you started in the right direction. Naturally, there will be spoilers!

5. One of the most entertaining parts of Portal 2 is undoubtedly the voice of ‘Cave Johnson’ (played by the legendary J.K. Simmons) as he directs you through the ruins of Aperture Science’s testing areas. Although you neither travel through space or time there’s an adventure through three decades of Aperture history as Johnson’s narration gives a lot of the insight into the particular companies history during these periods and pieces together a lot of cryptic answers to questions that allow the gamer to ‘break the fourth wall’ and better understand why certain things are in certain places.

When you first encounter GLaDOS (short for Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) she isn’t happy – probably because your character is responsible for her death in the first Portal game – or probably because you are then responsible for her disconnection and resurrection as a potato-battery. In chapter 7, hidden between the first and second orange gel test spheres, is an office with a portrait hanging on the wall. Its a portrait of Johnson, and we’ve seen lots of photos of the man but this is the only one in which he’s joined by his assistant Caroline.

Upon encountering this photo GLaDOS exclaims that these people look so familiar and if you’ve managed to put the pieces together by this point you notice you’re looking at something far more significant, GLaDOS as a human, before she was uploaded into a robot. There are a lot of theories pointing to Chell’s parents being Cave and Caroline and this portrait is a solid piece of photographic evidence showing a distinctive likeness between the trio.

4. Did anyone else think it was just slightly odd that there was a ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’ included in Portal 2? The remnants of this rather bizarre event include what appears to be a Science fair featuring a number of alternative ways to harness power. As we progress through the room we’re shocked at the discovery of a potato which has seemingly been allowed to grow over the millions of years since it was first placed there and subsequently has large roots going into the ceiling. But if you take a look at the board next to this item you’ll see something quite shocking right in the corner. The project appears to have been designed by a girl named Chell.

Consider for a moment that this project is indeed the work of a young Chell. It meets with the requirements that her parents worked for Aperture (as hinted by GLaDOS) and is even more shocking when you think that their names apparently also began with the letter “C” – I’m not going to put this all together for you but if you’ve even been paying the slightest attention to what I’ve been writing then you should see the significance straight away. What’s even more unusual is that this suggests Chell is responsible for the design which essentially saves GLaDOS programme from deletion for a large portion of the game. It’s all a bit creepy isn’t it?

3. Valve created Half Life and later created Portal 2. In a statement early on the developers made clear that Portal 2 would definitely have some reference and insider knowledge for fans of Half Life. And they didn’t disappoint. Aperture Science proudly displays that on three occasions (in 1949, 1952 and 1954) they received the runner up award in a contractor of the year competition.

When we first encounter the earliest examples of Aperture they’re talking about the invitations extended to Scientist’s and Astronaut’s who have come to test with the program. In the next area Aperture has aged about 15 years, with Johnson mentioning they may be known to the homeless people who have volunteered to test because of the 1968 senate hearings into missing astronauts, hinting at the fact that this is part of the reason the company has run into difficulty. There’s also a photo of Johnson, looking significantly older than in his photo with Caroline, hanging in the lobby of the foyer in this area. Whats perhaps more significant is that while observing this Johnson makes a direct reference to ‘Black Mesa’ saying they can “kiss my bankrupt…” before being cut off by his assistant, Caroline. He alludes that his disgust is due to companies who have managed to steal ideas that he created. Black Mesa using Aperture technology? You never know…

2. Despite being an all powerful super computer GLaDOS obviously weakness appears to be Ornithophobia. There are many unanswered questions about the appearance of this solitary bird in Portal 2 such as how it got that deep into Aperture labs, how it survived, whether this proves the existence of intelligent life above ground and why the only living creature (asides from Chell) to be featured in Portal 2 is this solitary bird. At one point in the game it appears that the bird is looking over a nest although whether he – or she – is protecting eggs was left completely unexplained until the DLC at which point GLaDOS interacts with some baby birds in Art Therapy.

This in itself poses a more fundamentally important question as to where the birds’ mate is? The Caroline portrait and the possibilities of it’s meaning come back to us at this point. It also leads to a different theory which is perhaps even more fascinating: the many, many connections between Portal 2 and the Greek legend of Prometheus, who was “punished by the gods for giving the gift of knowledge to man…cast to the bowels of the earth and pecked by birds.” Many cultures have different superstitions regarding birds in the house. In traditional Irish culture, for example, if a bird flew into the house, it was a portent of death. Interesting that GLaDOS is being pecked by birds as Chell awakes from her fall into the bowels of Aperture science. Maybe you’re both already dead by this point? In fact, perhaps the whole game is a mythology based around death, which just sees Chell on a journey to the afterlife.

1. This reference takes the top spot on this list because of it’s ability to cross the boundaries between games and reality. Anybody whose ever picked up a personal turret from the likes of Forbidden Planet (or any other good alternative retailer) can attest to that. In the game you see turret’s being assembled and packed for shipment which almost seems pointless given the collapse of civilization (or so you’d assume) in the years previous. You might even wonder where the finished turrets actually go and if there are nothing but warehouses and warehouses of finished and packed turret’s ready to be shipped?

You see the turret box at various points throughout the game, but the side of the packaging with the most surprising information is only visible in the room where Wheatley tries to kill you with a circle of faulty turrets. According to this illustration sentry turrets were designed – or at least marketed – with the intention of nursery protectors. That might explain their soft voices and gentle tones. I also want to give full credit to the makers of the official ‘Turret Sentry’ action figure which features the same – identical – artwork upon it’s side. Full credit for detail. Personally I’m only disappointed you can’t get a real life sized turret to guard your nursery.

Life sized turrets have been made by fans and are available through certain custom outlets, but without those soft tones and the ability to attack intruders its just not the same.

Pitmen Painters – Sunderland Royalty Theatre

If there’s one thing that Lee Hall’s script for ‘Pitmen Painters’ does, above all else, it is to remind us of our obsession with social mobility. Over eighty years later and the story portrayed by these miners is as true now as it was then, loyalty to working class routes and a struggle to see art as anything other than an exclusive domain for the wealthy, the underlying theme being a fixation on an individual’s role in the social strata. What one could, as opposed to should, achieve.

The story follows a group of pitmen, who take an art appreciation class from 1934 unable to find an economics tutor, hoping for something a little different. What they soon experience is that they’re actually very talented artists, fit for exhibitions and public displays of the work, working class routes and lack of life choices expose their own renaissance, like Van Gogh before them (an artist with which they resonate) they offer something different to an art world, and social class, devoid of change yet constantly hungry for something new.

Graham Alex’ has, arguably, the most important role in his part of ‘Harry Wilson’, Dental Mechanic. Harry is a socialist, probably because of his complete disillusionment in faith following his service in the Great War. Through his dialogue the experiences he’s had in the trenches and his subsequent return to the “normality” of working life clash violently with the groups art teacher, Mr. Lyon (David Farn), who leads a privileged lifestyle and less hazardous occupation but also served in the Somme. Both men are attempting to define art for the benefit of the group, but there is an underlying theme that neither man is right nor wrong, they simply have different ways of seeing the same challenge.

Helen Sutherland (Corrine Kilvington) offers Oliver (Matt McNamee) a patronage. He turns this down because of his conflicts with breaking from a group dynamic. Scared to leave the mine, as it’s the only thing he knows, there is a clash within him to see painting as any sort of profession.

So too does Sam Elliot’s unnamed young man clash with his Uncle George Brown, the fantastic Kristian Colling. Unemployed and looking for definition at a young age, Elliot abandons a chance at a prescribed occupation, going instead to fight for King and country. Killed in action, his removal on stage comes as a void, he is unseen and unheard in passing, albeit briefly, but we do notice his absence. It’s a dialogue heavy play and much of that is driven by six men who always seem to have something to say, their artistic pursuits are universally the same, but individually – much like a rock band – the members have individual tastes and styles they fight to assert. Even silent in the background, none of the performers drop their character.

As the play draws to a close, there is a toast given on the eve of nationalization, a hope for a better future and that the experiences of two world wars in a generation have improved chances for the working man and a fairer distribution of wealth. Over half a century later and it seems we’re still hoping. That said; director Caroline Chapman and cast produced a performance which had me hanging on every word. And when something resonates this much, we’re not really loosing that much at all. Outstanding.

Sunderland Remembers Ruby Presidential Visit on Wearside

A Sunderland resident has been fondly remembering an historic visit from US President Jimmy Carter to Wearside. Michael Gough, an amateur documentarian and filmmaker, captured the event using his Super 8 millimeter film camera on May 6th 1977. “I remember the moment of deciding to buy a cine camera in 1967 very well” Michael says, who also used the device to capture footage of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

Mr. Carter, who served as US President between 1977 and 1981, was America’s 39th President and visited Sunderland on this month forty years ago in an official capacity. Having just three weeks notice to prepare, the visit was very informal by Presidential standards, Tyne Tees Television capturing the event for American networks and the footage of which is now preserved, alongside Michael’s work, by both Yorkshire Film Archive and the North East Film Archive.

Mr. Gough, a now retired educator who moved to the area in the early 1970s with his wife Linda, captured the President’s visit much like any other event he felt might have been of greater significance. “I realized that if I only made family style home movies there would be a very restricted audience so I explored subjects that would appeal to wider audiences” he said recently, speaking to reporter Wayne Madden.

“When I decided to film Jimmy Carter my expectation was that it would be a newsreel filler which might remain of interest for a couple of years. Who was to know that ‘Welcome to Washington’ would do so well and still be shown 40 years later?” Michael remembers the day itself very well, but says that there wasn’t much time to stand on ceremony off camera.

“I was working only a few minutes’ walk from Washington Old Hall. I filmed it during my 1 hour lunch break so I only had about 45 minutes free on location. The filming was a rush to get crowds before Jimmy Carter came, see him at the Hall, then rush away before he planted a tree on the green. There was no planning at all. I simple [sic] responded to what was happening and tried to get enough pictures to tell the story. It was all a bit too rushed to feel any particular emotion or recognize the historical significance.”

President Carter visited the city as part of his tour of the North East, taking a tour of Corning Ltd glass works accompanied by then British Prime Minister James Callaghan. The centre, which was originally part of Sunderland Glass Works, was bought out by the American Corning in 1973 and closed its doors in 2007. Corning in America has worked exclusively with Steve Jobs since 2006 and are perhaps most famous for providing the hardware glass which encases the iPhone.

President Carter arrived in the region when Air Force One officially landed in Newcastle Airport at just after 9:30am on 6th May. As part of his visit to Sunderland, his Presidential motorcade traveled over the Wearmouth Bridge, cheered by people lining the route. Seated in a Daimler car he was formally greeted upon his arrival in the city by the then Mayor of Sunderland, Charles Slater as well as Fred Willey, then MP for Sunderland North, Gordon Eagier, then MP for Sunderland South and other distinguished guests.

President Carter also took time to visit Washington, particularly Washington Old Hall, where he laid a tree sapling alongside Prime Minister Callaghan. The Old Hall is the ancestral home of George Washington, first known as the “de Wessyngtons”, who settled there from 1180AD. One of the smallest buildings in the possession of the National Trust, it is from a member of the family in the thirteenth century that departed Durham, from whom President Washington could trace his lineage. It is also one of the reasons why Sunderland City and Washington USA signed a unique ‘Friendship Agreement’ in 2006 leading to the establishment of Sunderland Shorts Film Festival.

The Washington coat of arms has been said to have inspired the flag of the United States. An example of the Washington coat of arms or shield can be seen in the cloisters of Durham Cathedral. Holding a special ceremony of American Independence every year, the building is often overlooked by tourists in the region, an H-shaped manor house in the heart of Washington village.

Indeed, it is this friendship and jovial attitude which filmmaker Michael Gough remembers most clearly from the day itself, a parallel on how things have changed in the intervening years regarding visits from such a high profile head of state. “I remember being amused by the intended anonymity of the American security guards who stood out like sore thumbs as they wore hearing aids and secretly talked up their sleeves.”

Mr. Carter made a second, far less public, visit to the region in 1987 by which time he had left Presidential office. In 2013 he sent a letter of thanks to Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes after Mr. Forbes had returned to him a framed photo taken on his original visit. Speaking directly to our reporter Cllr Forbes said: “Newcastle has great memories of President Carter’s visit”. “As a result of it our city was twinned with Atlanta – a great transatlantic friendship which has remained strong for the last 40 years. I took a photograph of the event with me on a recent visit to Atlanta, which the mayor’s office arranged to be presented to President Carter.”

The former President, who turned 93 in October, is still very much active in public life and was seen attending President Donald J Trump’s inauguration ceremony earlier this year. This is despite the nonagenarian recently informing an audience he had voted for Bernie Sanders.

At a talk on human rights issues, Mr. Carter went on to say “dissatisfaction with the existing system of politics” resulted in President Trump’s election. “People were willing just to take a chance and to abandon democracy and what we knew about its basic principles and try something new, no matter what it was,” he added.

In Feb 2017 Sunderland AFC Manager David Moyes issued Donald Trump an invitation to come and meet the team ahead of their mid season trip to New York. “If Donald Trump wants to come and see the boys, he’s very welcome,” Moyes is quoted as telling The Express. In a four day bonding session the team were photographed jogging around Central Park and being put through their paces on several exercise routines.

It is not believed that Mr. Trump was aware of or was able to respond formally to Mr. Moyes invitation. When our office contacted the Office for Presidential Correspondence on the matter we were unsuccessful in receiving a response.

Semi Comatose Clock Watching

After the last couple of months and suffering a recent crisis in employment, I found myself both needing a job and also a boost of confidence, suffering a betrayal at the hands of someone I once considered a friend.

There’s been a lot written in the UK media about the lack of employment opportunities in the United Kingdom, certainly there is perhaps written more about Universal Credit and other forms of income benefit. At the time of writing this piece there is a debate in Parliament and among the people about whether a scheme like Universal Credit can work for those most in need, or whether it actually causes more problems than it answers. Examples in mainstream media include a woman named Keeley Sheppard who found herself both pregnant and sanctioned by the Job Center for attempting to move into a new home and start a family.  

Unfortunately for some, I’m not here to talk about that debate or answer those questions in this article.

What I can tell you is that I spent about a month on income benefits this year before finding a job in a call center. I signed on because I had no other form of income, no savings and more outgoings than incoming. There was no question that I depend upon a regular income in order to be able to function on a basic level. Many debt collectors will call this priority billing, things like rent, water, gas and electric. These are the fundamental building blocks which society will see as you needing to have covered before you can afford to have a pint, watch a film at the cinema and buy a copy of South Park Fractured But Whole on XBox One

The so dubbed Brexit hasn’t helped either, and asides from British PM Teresa May saying everything and yet nothing about Britain’s ongoing negotiations to leave the European Union, the reality is that those on the front line of poverty – those who need help the very most – are nervously waiting to see whether their indefinite leave to remain is upheld, whether their average cost per month rises or whether that job is still able to operate lucratively in the UK.

What I’ve been hired to do in the call center and who I’ve been hired to work for is irrelevant. In any case, I’m almost sure I’ve signed a document which prevents me from disclosing that publicly, least of all my background in Journalism means that it would be hugely inappropriate (and most definitely litigious) to give any indication about the nature and cause of my work. On the contrary, I’m actually very grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded me by my new employer. It is a job, and a wage, which has allowed me to attempt to rebuild employment and confidence and it is certainly better than remaining unemployed. It also helped prove to me that for those willing to work there are jobs to be found, jobs which are open to members of the public from all backgrounds and jobs which will given consideration as long as you are willing to work hard and be honest.

But instead of focusing on that, this article represents a look at some of the individuals I work with, those who remain unnamed and certainly unidentified in anything but trait and demeanor. I list some of these characters here because they have presented me with a rather whirlwind tour of the world in the past few weeks and I’ve encountered probably the most diverse and complex group of people I’ve met in my entire life. From ex military and ex convicts to those who are returning to work after a long absence, the diversity and difference in each and every individual has left me honestly mind blown.  And I’d like to share some of my favorites with you now.

Ex Military
Recently out of the armed forces, and possibly returned from a tour of duty overseas, the military man is both dutiful and curious. Punctual to a tee he is almost always too early, and will blame excuses like his drill sergeant for teaching him good habits. He will rarely speak about his service, especially any active combat duty, but will reminisce with stories of unusual situations or awkward encounters (such as communal showers). He is also a wealth of knowledge for both his chosen discipline (Air Force, Royal Navy, Armed Forces etc) and knows a lot more about the other disciplines than any “civi” you’re likely to meet. Follows orders and is especially grateful you’re not all getting frog marched through a field or turning over your bunk.

The Ex-Convict, or Penitent Thief
Much like a scene lifted from the Bible (Luke 23:40) the ex convict sits to your right and tells you why a life of crime doesn’t suit him anymore. It reminds me of an interesting ‘Breakfast with Frost’ episode I once saw when I was far too young to realize it’s importance. David Frost was actually broadcasting from live within HMP and his co-hosts were serving prisoners.

The thief always has a number of stories about times when he just managed to evade the capture of the law. He has convinced himself this job is beneath him from the moment he turns up, and he might even be right, but does the job to a tee from the second the clock strikes. His language on the phone is polite as a vicar addressing a Sunday sermon and afterwards he smiles and boasts that the people he’s talking too don’t realize what a danger he was once declared upon society, sitting in the dock while he brandished a knife towards the judge.  Of course, whether you believe his stories or not, you’re likely to engage as the fiction is more entertaining than the work you should both be doing.

The Addict
It’s unlikely you’ll ever speak directly to the addict. The two weeks training before the job are probably about as much time as you’ll collectively spend with him. When it comes to actually doing real work the addict is useless. He (almost always he) finds the job overwhelming, beneath him, disgusting or whatever adjective lets him leave – possibly by assaulting a supervisor or stealing equipment – claiming to his adviser that the two weeks he spent there were actually a month and that creative differences prevented him from continuing. Creative differences being that the company operated during the hours of daylight and asked you to wear both trainers to work every morning. Will also attempt to add you on XBox Live randomly at somestage.

The Return to Work
Confidence is key. The middle aged, possibly divorced, mother of three returning to work has a lot of confidence. It’s also potentially misfiled under helpfulness. You’ll see photographs of her children and hear stories about her last holiday abroad while being amazed she can bring such a well prepared lunch to work every day. It’s healthy and nutritious and a lot better than those “Starbar’s” you keep purchasing from the vending machine. The return to work mom is normally with an agency, who have gotten her this job so that she can have weekly wages while you agreed to monthly. It makes you wish you’d joined through an agency and also that you miss your mom. 

The Hipster Teen
Having accumulated a massive amount of savings in unexplained wealth, the hipster teen is not the subject of a CAB inquiry, but rather the one person who simply doesn’t need to be there. It normally takes the teenager three weeks to realize that nobody else is working in this job out of choice, and that given they themselves have a choice, decide to depart for another job at the earliest opportunity.  Besides, they’re young, don’t need to pay bills and live with their parents. The idea of a job is good on a CV for UCAS applications (which they’re making late after deciding to take some time out, really find themselves) but a number of jobs embellished to make it look like they’ve held three in the space of 18 months (at an age where that would be advantageous) means you hate them about as much as their denim dungarees, Taylor Swift haircut and their ‘appreciation’ for Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad, to be serious for a moment, is a critical masterpiece and has changed how we think about television. It is not – not – simply an art project.

Breakdown can take many forms. They can be someone who starts crying at the person on the other side of the phone randomly during a call. For no reason. They can be someone who stands up, smiles politely and then puts their fist through the computer monitor screen causing serious damage and a nasty cut on their hand. Or it can just be that person who casually mentions on a tea break that you’re the first person they’ve spoken too as a friend since the doctor declared them sane and released them from the hospital. I want to be clear, I’m not taking pot shots here at anyone with mental health difficulties, as I know returning to work can be a distressing and awkward time. Actually, those who are so honest as to make these admissions are among my favorite colleagues to work with, people who are the most human of everyone and don’t let work and regulation rob them of their basic honesty.

Ultimately, it all these people and more who have made me thankful to still be with my current employer. When I originally wrote this article I was attempting to define myself into a label through which I fit, but at time of writing realize that in reality the ability for me to succeed – and even grow – in my current employment is because I represent a portion of all these labels (yes, even the convict). A BBC article in October 2017 quoted Paul Farmer, co-author of the Thriving At Work report, as saying that “In many instances, employers simply don’t understand the crucial role they can play, or know where to go for advice and support.”

So it is with the warmest sincerity that I thank my employer for the normality and sense of normalization I have found working with them. Not just removing me from the financial uncertainty of most self employment and unemployment but also providing me a real way to continue to improve and build upon my most recent achievements.

Rocket Man, Burning Out His Fuse Out Here Alone….Ramblings of a Journalist

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it’s cold as hell. And there’s no one there to raise them – if you did”

Presenting a Radio Show, March 2017, at Nova Radio North East.

When I was a young man, about 14, I got a week’s work experience at a solicitor’s office. It was part of a work experience at school where you got two weeks off and were encouraged to go and find voluntary employment, a potential first chance to see what working life was like. I didn’t want to be there. I was jealous that a friend of mine got a job at the Irish Sun, his uncle worked with them, but I have no idea what he did. Instead, I ended up going around door to door looking for work and ended up getting a call from this solicitor’s who offered me a weeks work.

I remember it snowed really awfully that week and I walked into work. The solicitor phoned his receptionist and asked if I’d come in, because he wasn’t able to make it, and was shocked I’d even turned up. They closed an hour for lunch and the elderly receptionist had little enough to do, whereas I had virtually nothing to do. I was probably more concerned with the stories I’d heard from friends about employers giving volunteers money at the end of the week. I’m sure that would be true if they’d actually done honest work and made a contribution but it would have probably been easier if I’d just looked at the bad weather and decided to play truant like a normal teenager.

Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel and myself in 2010 in Newcastle. Pictured shortly before my emergency operation.

The next week, after the solicitors, I still had a week left of my experience and no placement. My mother, I believe, knew a cleaner in a local school. And that school had a radio studio – a local community station called Dublin South FM. Through some miracle I was asked whether I’d like to go and do a week’s placement at a radio station. I accepted gleefully and arrived for work. Over that week I worked on several news stories where I first learned how to tailor a story for different news mediums. I can still remember my first news story, it was about the Stena Sealink, a passenger ferry in Dublin. The ferry had crashed into the wall of the port in Dublin and it was my job to take the pre existing story and tailor it into a news bite for the presenter to read on air.

That week I also learned about creating a radio show for the first time. There were Mini Disc’s as far as you could see stockpiled behind the presenters desk and I was encouraged to create my own radio show. I created a show that lasted for an hour, played tracks like REM’s ‘Man on the Moon’ and talked about the latest film releases inbetween songs. At the end of the week I gave the MD with the show to the volunteers at the station and went away. The show was never broadcast and I never manged to get that copy or any copy of it again. I never heard, in fact nobody ever heard, my very first radio show.

That station had a thing called DJ for a Day and you could sign up – you’d go in for two hours on a Saturday night and present a radio program. I started presenting from August 2002 – shortly after Guns N’ Roses appeared at the MTV VMA’s and also after returning from a family holiday to Portugal. On the very first show we broadcast, that is, both myself and school friend Allan Roche – we played tracks like Nickelback’s ‘Bad’ and a cover of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ by the band Orgy. I remember being too embarrassed to say the track on air and asking Allan to introduce it specifically. 

Director Morgan Spurlock (a huge early inspiration for me) and myself in 2008, pictured in Cineworld Dublin

From Halloween night 2003 we began presenting ‘Headbanger’s Ball’. A regular Sunday night program – in exchange for volunteering at the station every Sunday. I can still hear the firework’s in the air going off outside the window of the station, because it was Halloween night and I put the microphone outside the window to capture the atmosphere. Maybe we both were thinking, for a second, that this was all for us. Some nights after we’d finish the show, especially on Saturday’s, we’d go out into town or meet up with friends. It was a huge social event that the week seemed to revolve around.

When it came to choosing subjects for University I wanted nothing more than Journalism or Media. Maynooth, Griffith or Tallaght. Anywhere that would accept me. Of course, as a self funded student depending on academia I was unable to secure the correct points and had to accept a course run in an alternative college which – rather unusually – led to a British qualification in Southern Ireland. This, however, did allow me to make the leap to a course in my chosen college of Tallaght and pursue the course I’d originally wanted to do to begin with. I graduated with Honors in 2008.

If I’d known just how much the world was likely to change since that time I would have done a lot of things different. But life is always easier when looking back. My chosen profession of Journalism saw a critical and dramatic change, with not only an effect on how the medium was consumed on a mass market level but the change of who exactly had the chance (or the right, perhaps?) to call themselves a Journalist. In 2005 we could never have imagined that streaming videos, home brew journalism, blogging and internet reporting would become the norm and what little chances you had of real tangible journalism on any level would collapse even further.

In many respects my career has had several peaks and several drops. It has contained a number of astonishing moments and great memories. I’ve had some rich stories and mementos from a great time spent in front of the microphone or in front of the camera. I’ve got a plethora of stories I can bring out at any one time to entertain a room full of strangers or write the perfect speech for my brother if he ever lets me be best man at his wedding. He has to, of course, get married for that to actually happen.

Def Leppard singer Joe Elliot and myself. This was taken in April 2011 after I finished working on a BBC Three show ‘Geordie Finishing School’ and used the money I’d earned from my first ever BBC paycheck to see Joe live in concert.

I once got told the Irish are famous for stories. I should hire myself to appear at weddings, funerals and bar mitzvah’s, tell assembled guests great tales and conquests like a living, speaking blog. Fulfill the purpose of both informing and entertaining people. And yet within myself I often feel like one of the loneliest people in the world. Still trying to achieve something he can’t quite reach or still attempting to shake a feeling of regret that it wasn’t different. I’ve never classed what I felt as depression it’s just always been there, it’s always been present – at times it disappears and then reappears – just a reminder that I am constantly making my own decisions and where those choices have led. Especially when it has been dictated by someone else.

Of all the things I’ve accomplished and I’ve done, the only thing I truly regret is not being harsh enough when things needed to be said and action needed to be taken.

In both 2009 and 2017 I was offered the opportunities I had been longing for. To  be a part of something at the very heart of Journalism. In both cases these jobs came to an end just as they had begun. And I’m not sure I ever recovered properly from the first one. I spend my time looking at work I’ve completed over the last years wondering what might have been. Almost lost in a thought as that fourteen year old boy who had a eureka moment when he discovered the thing he wanted do – inform people.