Category Archives: Travel

Flying to Protest

Dublin Airport before the  sun rises

Dublin Airport before the sun rises


I’m typing this on a London bound flight. I’ve taken countless flights, but I’ve never done this before. I’m a little nervous, and a bit excited. 

Over the last couple of months I’ve met and become friends with a bunch of new people, a ber eclectic group, from models to town planners. We’ve become friends on line, and I’m going to meet most of them face to face for the first time.

I’m going to apologise now, because this is going to get a little political. If you’ve seen my Twitter or particularly my Facebook posts of late, then this will not come as a surprise.

While I’m British, I live in Ireland and in the month before the Brexit vote I was sure that the UK would vote to remain in the EU. Then I visited the UK and I was exposed to full force of the U.K. Press and my impression changed completely.

I was stunned at the arguments being used in the campaign to leave, they didn’t make any sense and in part didn’t reflect the work that the EU actually does. The suggestion that foreigners were taking jobs was the pivot point for me, the retorhric being used and the approach to the argument were divisive and ugly. The press from the BBC to national newspapers lead with similar, inaccurate stories. I know the UK had a free press, but they were publishing and republishing inaccurate information as fact, and dimissing facts dismissed as opinion.

Friends in Ireland said “isn’t there a referendum commission which oversees this?”. Unfortunately no, the whole idea of running regular referendums is new in the UK, and there is no such public body to oversee then.

This right wing campaign had all the trappings of something from the 1930s. The country is changing, and becoming something I do not recognise. As read the articles in the UK papers, the poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller came to mind:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

As the Wikipedia article explains, it impart reflects the regret that so many had at the time for not standing up to a political view they did not agree with.

And so, I find myself on a flight. 

Mattie on the Santa train, eating chocolate with Mummy. Both have just spotted Santa walking down the train.

A Very Different Train Journey; Mattie’s Christmas

12 months ago the whole family enjoyed a Christmas steam train journey. It’s a fantastic trip organised by the Irish Train Preservation Society. Importantly at the end of the trip everyone gets to meet Santa. Last year Ben, our eldest son, had an absolute blast but in the middle of all of the excitement myself and Emma took turns holding Mattie as he shook with spasms. At the time he’d only just started his Sabril, was still bloated from the steroids he’d taken and suffering from conjunctivitis. The future felt very worrying. However, this year’s trip was very different!

Over the last couple of weeks Mattie has been weaned off Sabril, and is now medication and spasm free! At his last EEG on September 23rd there was absolutely no sign of hypsarrhythmia (the EEG signature associated with infantile spasms).

The routine of giving him his medication had become so ingrained in both of us that initially it felt very weird not to dig out the syringe and mix up his drug. A mental itch, like we’d forgotten something.

On the train this year both Emma and I were stretched trying to keep tracks on both boys. I think Ben believed he was on the Polar Express – we were just worried he would try to ski down the length of the train! – of course Mattie wanted to do everything his big brother was doing too! … Fingers in this, trying to eat that, stealing toys off his big brother…

Mattie had a blast with the on board carol singers. They walked the length of train bringing Christmas joy, and in between mouthfuls of chocolate and treats Mattie would try to join in, singing in only the way a nearly two year old can!

It was such a change from last year, and so much fun.

Mattie has come a long way this year and we are all delighted – he has achieved all of the things we were unsure he would; walking, talking and such a strong and funny wee personality. It is the best Christmas present we could have asked for.

We’re also hopeful that he will have escaped the worst of the Sabril side effects; vision loss. There is defiantly no sign he has any, but we won’t know until he’s much older but even if there is some the trade-off will have certainly been worth it. In the meantime the four of us have so much to look forward to.

Next year, Mattie will have one more check-up with neurology in April. Assuming he stays spasm and hypsarrhythmia free the hospital will discharge him. So far it’s looking good!

As you can probably tell from the older blog posts when Mattie was first diagnosed both Emma and I were shocked, a bit dazed, confused, and I think it’s fair to say a little scared. During the nights sitting beside Mattie in the hospital Emma and I would do what the neurology nurses recommended we didn’t; we checked the Internet.

“Whatever you do” said the nurses, “don’t google it. The Internet is full of all the bad cases, no one likes to write about the positive outcomes.” They warned.

Perhaps maybe, in April this blog will help counter balance the current weighting on the internet. I can only hope that in the future another parent, sitting beside their little one in the middle of the night, will stumble across this blog. I hope they know that they are not alone and the blog can help allay their worries a little.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Head Colds and Flying Don’t Mix

Don’t do it. Just don’t. It hurts far too much.

Flying with a head cold can be really uncomfortable. If you’ve any tips on how to deal with it, then I’d love to hear them.

It was two years ago and I was in Barcelona for work when I came down with a soar throat and a head cold. I thought nothing of it at the time, it wasn’t until the aircraft took off on the flight home, that I experienced the worst pain I’d had in years. Out of no where someone had stuck a red hot needle into my ear and was trying to simultaneously drive it out of nose and through my throat at the same time.

The thing is, I’d forgotten all about that last experience, until I took this last work flight. A trip to Turin, connecting in Paris, 4 days before the flight I came down with a cold, I had hoped it would clear before the flight, but unfortunately I had no such luck. Instead my sinuses became blocked.

The pain retuned on the flight to Paris, and with it came hearing loss. It took about 2 hours until my hearing had recovered. Unfortunately this coincided with the next flight to Turin. I sucked sweets, swallowed water, blew my nose – in short, tried everything I can think of to try to prevent the pain, but nothing seemed to work.

24 hours later my hearing is just about back, but my ear still hurts. I’ve my fingers crossed the cold clears up before the flight home. Just in case it doesn’t I looking for any tips and tricks I can use to prevent the same pain. If you’ve any – please let me know…

Mattie at the Disney Store for the first time

Mattie’s Check Up Results

Tuesday 5th November

I’d just sat down at the meeting, the first speaker had stood and was about to start talking when my phone buzzed.

I’m away from home, in Israel attending a meeting for work while Emma and Mattie are back in hospital in Dublin for Mattie’s check up. Waiting for news, when the phone buzzed I grabbed it eagerly.

The Check Up Results are In

Emma had just arrived at hospital and had texted to give me an update:

"His genetic screening came back clear - it's official :)"

This was great news. Infantile spasms can be caused by a genetic disorder. The hospital had taken a blood sample from Mattie when he was first admitted to check for this. It takes a long time to run the relevant tests. We had only just got the results back – and it was great news! It means that Mattie is officially categorised as “idiopathic”; subset of all infantile spasm suffers who happen to have a great prognosis.

30 minutes later, after Emma and Mattie had seen the Doctor, the news was even better:

"Our boy is amazing! :) they are delighted with him :) aren't concerned about the eye flutters only said if we see it in clusters or out of waking that we should be worried :) see them in 3 months and an EEG in the middle :)"

It speaks for itself really! We are delighted. He’s not out of the woods, he’s still on his medication and we have to watch him. But it does mean that the medication seems to be working! – we’ve still got to watch him just in case, but it does give us so much reassurance that his development is ok.

… Now I’m pretty sure there is a meeting going on ….

The Disney Expression

After the appointment at the hospital Emma took Mattie to the Disney store in Dublin for the very first time, his expression is brilliant:

Mattie at the Disney Store for the first time

Mattie at the Disney Store for the first time

Mattie’s Checkup is Coming

Saturday November 2nd

I should be packing bags for a work trip which starts tomorrow (Sunday) morning. Next week, when I’m away, Mattie will be returning to the hospital for a check up. Thoughts of this have trumped my ponderous packing.

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Random Thoughts on the First Experience of Silicon Valley

Driving down the street passing by offices for most of the major players in my industry as just surreal: eBay, Intel, NVidia, BroadCom.. even some new comers, Evernote.

I’ve heard Peter Day (BBC World Service Business podcast) talk about how important Silicon Valley is – but when you see these names and how close they are it really brings it home.

Knowing that staff from these companies socialise together and the mixing of ideas, insights, and concepts that come from that – well it is easy to understand why there are so many startups in this area.

But does that mean that the same success can’t be had else where ? Well no. But you can understand the advantages of being here, or at least visiting here would bring.

That doesn’t mean of course that all the ideas that come out of here are going to be great – I in particular think that google glasses concept is just nuts. If glasses were such a good idea, we wouldn’t have contact lenses, and hose people who didn’t need glasses would all be buying empty frames… But hey ho…

It is now time to head home. Honestly, it’s been educational and fun, but now it’s time to head back home and I’m looking forward to that too. I’m even looking forward to my long, and delayed JetBlue flight to JFK … once I get there I’m hoping to get some sleep or an hour or two before meeting my family and heading back to Dublin. It’s been two weeks without them – and I’ve really felt it. To most people the idea of a 7 hour flight with two babies, while tired yourself, wouldn’t seem like a good idea – but right now, it sounds like great craic!

But I do have to share my last bit of California wonder – I’m sitting here, in a bar, typing this on an iPhone via a bluetooth keyboard, while listening to music from my iPhone on some bluetooth headphones, and I’m bopping away in my seat – yet as I look up, i’m not drawing a single glance – which is impressive, given my big hair. Maybe there just a new definition of geek here in birth place of it all ?

Travelling Ergonomics on a Shoe String

A set up for travelling ergonomics

A set up for travelling ergonomics

Ergonomics needn’t be expensive. I’m on an extended trip, where I’ll be travelling out of the office for about 3 weeks. During this time I’ve got a lot of work to do and will be spending a long time working on my laptop in Hotel rooms. I knew this was coming. So I packed a spare full sized keyboard in my check-in luggage – safely trucked between my jeans and t-shirts.

On arrival here at my hotel I was able to set up this.

Using the bag for support I could unfold my laptop and make a good working area. It really is much nicer than sitting hunched over a laptop all day. I hope this helps if your travelling too. If you’ve got any other suggestions for travelling let me know, it would be good to share.