Why Novice drivers are not necessarily New drivers…

L plates

So this weekend, I found myself skulking into the local NDLS centre and drawing the curtains around my cubicle in shame while I applied not for my second, nor my third, but my FIFTH learner permit. Seriously.

And now I’ve missed the boat. August 1st has come and gone and since I still don’t have a full driving licence, it can only mean one thing – ‘N’ or ‘Novice’ plates will be coming for my little Nissan Micra as soon as I have the willpower to book (and pass) yet another driving test.

Having now bulldozed my way embarrassingly through five provisional licenses and three failed tests over the course of almost ten years, the threat of having to brand myself as a novice driver should have been enough to push me to book and pass my driving test before the ‘N’ plates came into effect. Needless to say, I didn’t and now that the dreaded date has come, I’m having mixed feelings of mortification – that at 27, I still haven’t secured a full licence – and indignation that even if I do pass this time around, I have to suffer with ‘N’ plates for a further two years.

After ploughing through the Road Safety Authority website to figure out why the hell these ‘N’ plates were coming into effect to publicly mortify us, I discovered that the introduction of ‘N’ plates is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths among learner and novice drives, “particularly among the high risk 17 to 24 year olds…(who) are most likely to be killed on our roads in the first two years after passing their test due to their inexperience.”

Well, to be fair, had I passed my driving test first-time round when I was 19, I would have been a very inexperienced driver. I had motored around the town during several driving lessons with an instructor who seemed to think there was something wrong anytime I tried to hold the steering wheel with one hand (“Is everything ok??”) and who gave me a 30 minute pep talk before allowing me to ease up into fourth gear; however, I had no experience of driving on my own whatsoever, and no judgment about what to do in certain road situations – cue painful memories of being physically trapped in a supermarket car park while I tried endless 9-point-turns to escape. Looking back, had I passed, ‘N’ plates were probably exactly what I needed to ease me into my role as a newly-licenced driver.

Fast-forward a few years and the Boyf had unveiled my dirty little secret of having been issued a notice to renew my provisional licence for the third time. He plonked me in front of the steering wheel and ordered me out onto the roads and before long, I was what you might call a competent driver…disregarding of course, my two penalty points, hefty fine, and a dented, scratched car door after my first attempt at parallel parking…which I contemplated touching up with nail polish to hide the damage from the Boyf…yep.

So, you might be wondering, after ten years, how have I not managed to pass my driving test? Well, if I’m honest, while I’m confident on the road, I’m not half as self-assured about the actual driving test (and forgetting my glasses during one exam definitely didn’t help). In theory, the test appears straightforward but when it comes down to it, luck and nerves can be the difference between a pass and a fail, regardless of your driving ability – and besides, how can someone fail for being too hesitant?? It’s called being careful!!

But now that my learner permit can only be extended two years without proof of a recent driving test, I’m going to have to face my fears and book another test soon if I want it extended beyond that. Whatever the outcome, I’m going to have plates on my car until I’m 30…

Kill me now.

Great Pink Run 2014

If you were in the vicinity of the Phoenix Park yesterday morning and you were wondering why the area was swarming with people with a fondness for the colour pink, then you may have picked up that The Great Pink Run was taking place.

Now in its fourth year, thousands of runners gathered in the city centre on Saturday, 30th August for the 5km and 10km runs in aid of breast cancer, which is the most common female invasive cancer in Ireland, affecting one in every ten women. The Great Pink Run is aimed at raising awareness and funds to aid research into the disease, with last year’s run raising €150,000.

 

Start line

For me, the term “cancer” has always been one that instills fear in me. My granddad passed away shortly after being diagnosed with cancer in his 60s and his sudden death was met by shock and devastation among my family. Knowing this disease could invoke such a reaction left an imprint on me that cancer was a terrible thing.

Up until recently, I knew very little about the various types and the different stages of cancer. The experience with my granddad made me dread things like finding lumps, going to the doctor with problems, and visiting family members in hospital who were ill. I genuinely had no idea how to react when I was told about people who had been diagnosed because I instantly feared the worst for them.

However, a mere 3 months ago, my boyfriend’s mother, who had beaten Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) 20 years previously, found a lump in her breast. After having a biopsy, within 2 weeks she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was scheduled for a mastectomy, chemo and radiation. To me, it was a nightmare. To her, it was another battle that she was more than willing to tackle.

Her optimism and spirit have made me realise that cancer is not something to be feared at all. It is something you can’t predict and can’t prevent, and if you are diagnosed with it, you simply have to face it head on like every other challenge in your life.

So when I attended the Great Pink Run yesterday, it was not just to cheer on Anne while she ran the 10km after having her mastectomy and first two chemo sessions – it was to cheer on all the participants who had been affected by breast cancer. Their enthusiasm and energy signified that we were all in this together, we were all there to support one another, and we will continue to fight against breast cancer every step of the way.

Take-off

The Great Pink Run was comprised of men, women and children of all ages, dogs and even a Pink Panther mascot (although how he ran in the outfit, I have no idea). It was great to stand at the end of the race and watch as the participants sprinted across the finish line, some wearing pink T-shirts donning pictures of their loved ones who had lost their battle against breast cancer.

We kept our eyes peeled for Anne and finally spotted her, decked out head to toe in pink (below right), close on the heels of former Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan (below left).

“GO ON ANNE!” I bellowed like a loon as she crossed the finish line, beaming.

Anne

Sonia

 
The atmosphere at the finish line was one of extreme pride. I could see how much this run meant to the runners as they crossed the finish line, some of their faces etched with pain, others of determination and a sense of achievement. Yes, breast cancer is a scary thing. But the progress in medicine that has been made over recent years means we no longer ask uncertainly “What happens next?”, we ask firmly “How am I going to beat it?”

I’m proud of everyone who took part in the run this year and I’m sure they all left feeling that they had made a difference. For our part, we’re looking forward to Anne finishing her last four chemo sessions and radiation in time for Christmas, when we’ll be doing some serious celebrating…although knowing her, we’re pretty sure she’ll be squeezing in a few more runs before then…

Team

10 things to expect in this year’s X Factor auditions…

Your Saturday night starts right here! Yes, tonight is the night! Say goodbye to socialising and hello to Saturday nights in until Christmas time – eek, it’s time…for The X Factor!!

1. The Cheryl-Simon tension
Who hasn’t heard about the awkward and well-publicised conflict between judges Cheryl and Simon over her sacking from the US X Factor (hideous orange-purple outfit ring a bell anyone?) At the time, Cheryl vowed never to speak to Simon again but it appears they’ve now kissed and made up (as long as she leaves it at that and doesn’t follow in Dannii Minogue’s footsteps teehee) but Cheryl looks like a bit of a grudge-holder so I think it’s safe to expect some tension even if the duo say it’s now in the past. You’re going to have to do a bit more begging than that, Simon.

Tension

2. The intro of Mel B
Mel B was one of the stand-out guest judges on The X Factor 2013 and I’m veery excited to see how she gets on as a main judge this year. Known for being brutally honest and tough with her comments, she may give Simon a run for his money. Odds are on her and Cheryl to be in this year’s final.

Mel B

3. Simon stopping a contestant mid-song
At least once each season features a contestant being stopped mid-song by Simon raising his hand. And surprise surprise, his suggestion to try a different track results in the contestant belting out an amazing song, receiving a standing ovation from the judges and getting through to the live shows later on. Who says these things are pre-planned?!

Hand

4. The contestants who are shocked by rejection
We secretly LOVE the smug, over-confident contestants who strut on stage, all smiles at the judges, voicing their dreams to be a professional singer. But you know once they’re asked if they think they can win and they respond “Of course I do!” that they’re not going to be good. Cue insult, indignation and tears, occasionally followed by a glass of water thrown over Simon…or in the case of the picture below, a punch in the face to your fellow contestant. We try to act appalled but it makes for delightful viewing.

Punch

5. The fashion
Yes we know it should be about the singing but let’s face it, a lot of the time it’s about the fashion. What Cheryl decides to wear each week will quickly become the inspiration for our autumn wardrobe – who says dresses with folding fans covering the bosom area can’t be worn to the office?! Don’t let us down Cheryl, stick to a budget!! *ahem Penneys*

Fashion

6. Louis Walsh’s clapping
‘Where are you from?’
*beaming* ‘I’m from Ireland, Louis!’
Are they good? Who cares! Expect some big smiles and major large clapping from Louis Walsh. He just can’t seem to say no to us.

Louis clapping

7. The sob stories
So apparently, Simon Cowell has said he is going to phase out the sob stories on The X Factor, to which we can only say Thank Jesus. Every year involves a sob story which completely warps our opinions of the contestant’s voice. It doesn’t matter that they’re only ok singers – if they tell a story from their background involving heartache, sadness and grief, they’ve made it to the judges’ houses. Let them through, they’ve suffered enough!

Crying

8. The return of a previous contestant
While we love seeing old faces, sometimes the return of some people starts to border on painful. Melanie McCabe auditioned four times and still didn’t make it through to the live shows – there’s only so much patience we can have before we will her to retreat and get a nice, sensible job. Luckily, Melanie took our advice – she now appears in TV adverts which feature her having her underarm hair lasered. We’re so proud.

Melanie McCabe

9. The scary ones…
Criminey, I can barely look at this picture. The bizarre, deluded contestants are the most memorable for all the wrong reasons. Who could forget Ariel below, who is not a number but a human being, Rachel who said she even made her own cassette (to be told by Sharon that they’re now called CDs) and Holly whose mouth was so big, according to Simon, that “it was like looking into a cave.” We love them really.

Ariel

10. The winner
Most important of all, we’ll be keeping our peepers peeled for signs of The X Factor winner. Let’s be honest, we knew Sam Bailey had it in the bag pretty early on, but who could have predicted Joe McElderry or Matt Cardle? We need to have our wits about us this year…while we sit back and hope others are happy to pay to call in and vote for our favourite contestant…*smug expressions*

Smug

Is the sun about to go? 5 things we need to do stat!

Here in Ireland, we’re all fully aware that the summer rolling around doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to get good weather. So when the weatherman tells us that this could potentially be the hottest week of the year so far, by god we’re getting out into that sun – especially when the statement is followed by the dreaded “but temperatures are likely to drop again by the end of the week…” Sigh.

Here are 5 things we’ll all most likely do in what could be the last warm week of the summer…sob!

Marvell at the blue skies
“It’s morning! And uh, what is this sudden brightness? Where are the clouds? What is…IS THAT SUN??” You’ve become accustomed to darkness for so long that it’s still a shock when you wake up and the sun is still shining. Throughout the day, you’ll find yourself gazing up at the sky, shaking your head in disbelief and saying aloud to no one in particular, “And there’s not ONE cloud in the sky! Not ONE!” Yep, just like your mother…

Sun

Don summer clothes
FINALLY, the time has come. You felt soo savvy last September buying all your summer clothes on sale and now the moment is here – time to rip off the tags. You delightfully pull on the flowered shorts, slip on the flip-flops, throw on the halter neck top and head out into the sun. Does it matter that you’re freezing when you walk through a patch of shade or feel a gust of wind? Nah…

Go for a swim
You haven’t swam for the best part of a year but the sun is shining, the air is filled with the sound of splashes and you’re wearing a shiny new bikini. It seems logical to go for a swim right now – look how blue the water is and how happy everyone is swimming in it! Cue shocked gasps, horrifying goose-pimples and petrified screams as you immerse yourself knee-deep in what feels like the bloody Arctic Ocean.

Devour ice-cream
You haven’t touched one in months but suddenly you can’t live without an ice-cream. Whether you’re in the mood for a fruity Super Split, a chocolate Maltesers ice-cream or the ever-shrinking Loop the Loop, it just hits the spot on your lunch break. Nom.

Get sunburnt
You’ve spent the day baking in the heat – your skin is prickly, your head is sore, and now the sun has set, the sunburn is getting embarrassingly obvious. As you trudge home, balancing your beach bag anywhere but your arms and shoulders, you pray the weatherman is wrong and the good weather lasts until next weekend when you will definitely make sure you don’t get burnt again.

For now, let’s try not to think about tomorrow when we’ll be pressed against the office window gazing out at all the students enjoying the rays. Humph, well frankly, it’s too hot for our liking anyway.

Tram-pee-lining

Fitness-3

Ok so this week I learnt the harsh truth that I’m no longer a fast-healing, bruise-bashing, restorative god of 16 anymore. And I found it out after taking part in a trampoline class.

I know I’ll be berated for this because I AM only 26 and I can hear the hackles of my elders of 30 and 40 rising, beating me with a wrinkly stick for moaning about getting old at 20 – but this wake-up call was so terrifying, I think they’ll leave me be.

After hearing rave reviews about the health and fitness pros of it, I decided to enroll in a trampoline class and see what all the fuss was about. I booked it online, rallied the Boyf to come with me by enthusiastically boasting the benefits from the website, and spent the night before reminiscing about fond childhood memories of somersaults on a giant trampoline – so much so, that when I turned up at the class and stepped onto one of the 40 or so individual trampolines, I felt a thrill of something that could only be described as pure joy.

Positioning myself in front of the Boyf so that I could turn around and smirk at him – he was the only guy in the class bar one nervous-looking chap, who had also clearly been coerced there by his girlfriend – I steadied myself and scrutinized the other girls, some of whom looked equally unsteady on the trampolines, others who had rolled up their sleeves and were already avidly bouncing around with their hands on their hips.

Our teacher, who I can only describe as an acrobatic machine sporting black lycra, turned up the music so that my ears were booming with the beat and led the first few jumps, her leaps at least two feet higher than I dared to go.

“AND TURN!” she bellowed, her voice magnified over the music by her headphone, and we all spun ungainly to the left. I put my hands on my hips and willed myself not to look down. “TURN!” I was faced this time by the Boyf who was completely unexpectedly jumping higher than anyone else in the room – the instructor included. Thrown by this startling turn of events, I lost my balance and threw out my arms to steady myself, and then “TURN!” quickly started jumping again before he caught sight of me gaping.

“NOW JUMP WITH YOUR KNEES UP!” the instructor roared, leaping enthusiastically back onto the trampoline and pulling her knees up when she was in the air. I quickly followed suit, taking little jumps and pulling my knees up as far as I could. The instructor hollered at us to spread our knees – rather than jump with them pressed together – to stretch the insides of our thigh muscles. I willingly mimicked her, pushing my feet down firmly onto the trampoline, grasping my knees as I soared into the air, and extending my legs so that I could feel the muscles in my thighs tightening.

…and that’s when it all went wrong. My 26-year-old body failed me.

I released my legs and soared back to the trampoline, but the moment I pushed to go back up into the air, I lost any ability to control my bladder. No, seriously.

It was as if every time I used my leg muscles to launch myself into the air, muscles in other places got lazy. Really lazy. Suddenly, all my efforts were being put into tensing my kegel muscles as much as I physically could, while trying to maintain my jumps as low and light as possible.

“AND JUMP! LIFT THOSE LEGS!” Now I was facing the Boyf again, his body ironically like a child’s in his ability to soar, tuck his legs in, land lightly and ascend gracefully back into the air again. And here I was, like Kris Kardashian, who was forced to do pelvic floor exercises after a similar problem made her wet herself when she laughed too hard. And she’s nearly 60!!

After several torturous rounds of bouncing, where I barely appeared to be moving, we moved onto sprints up the beams that bordered the trampolines. I didn’t trusting my body right now – running the legs off myself could unleash a whole new spring of dilemmas. I embedded myself safely in the centre row while the Boyf and the only other guy bounded forwards to the special sprinting lane.

Thank the gods my body seemed still able to preserve some dignity for the sprinting, as well as the crunches, sit-ups, planks and weight-lifting that followed. At this point I was hot, I was sweaty, muscles I didn’t even know I had were unbearably stiff…and now I really did need to pee. So when the instructor announced that we were going to end the class with a bit of bouncing to cool down, a feeling of dread loomed within me.

A moment later, there I was – body suspended mid-air, legs spread wide, resigned and bracing myself for the inevitable…that there was no way on earth I would be able to clench my kegel muscles in this position.

I turned my head to convey my horror to the Boyf to find him beaming at me as he flung himself in the air, the instructor whooping appreciably at him.

Then the music beat ended and the instructor had us all stretch on the beams (the Boyf resembling a lynx as he executed the perfect lunge), while I did my best to remember I’d be clambering into a hot shower in half an hour.

Once the class ended, I leaped over the three trampolines separating me from the reception and flung myself out the exit and into the car, surreptitiously turning my body to the side so that I would not be sitting directly on the seat.

“I think,” I gasped, as the Boyf hopped into his seat, a wide smile on his face. “I’m going to need a thicker leggings next week. Oh, and a nappy…”

20 reasons why Toronto is AWESOME…

My cousin Kathy recently emailed me to say she was moving to Toronto in Canada for the summer, inquiring if there was anything she would need to know before she went over. I couldn’t phrase in my email what exactly I missed the most about Toronto since I left there two years ago after a year abroad. Was it the brilliant maple leaf flag, the distressing but hilarious socks-in-sandals trend, or just hearing the word “awesome” echoed all around me?

Well, yes it was. Oh, and about 20 other things too…

1. The bread
It’s true you’ll miss the bounce of a Brennans slice pan, but you’ll gain some satisfaction when you whip out a slice a week after you’ve bought the pan and it’s still completely fresh. There’s something both fascinating and suspicious about bread that doesn’t seem to go off.

2. Poutine
Speaking of food, Canadians do something with gravy that at first glance just seems wrong – they pour it over chips and then add cheese on top of it. Intrigued (or repulsed)? Try it – it’s surprisingly delicious.

WENDY'S RESTAURANTS OF CANADA - Oh Poutine! Grab your forks

Poutine – grab your forks!

3. Basement apartments
Not too fussy about the view? Then rent a basement apartment! The rent is cheaper and you can relax listening to the sounds of your landlord pottering around on the floor above you. Be warned – emailing each other about rent is pretty cringey when you can hear the notifications beeping in the room above…

4. Snow shovels by the door
The cold in Toronto is NOTHING like the cold in Ireland. Thinking of taking your glove off to snap a picture? Hello, frostbite! Winter in Toronto means 5am rises to dig your way out of your own drive and then again later when you arrive home. Yes, the snow is beautiful. No, the chilblains are not.

Canada cold

5. Salt grit
With snow and slippery ice comes the salt grit. Prepare for any fabric that touches the snow to be coated in it. Salt on your boots, salt on your coat, salt all over the house. Maybe consider taking your shoes off before destroying a perfect stranger’s home…yes, that was me.

6. Rollerblades
Once the snow has melted and the stoney grit has gone, it’s time to…rollarblade! Oh yes, throwback to ’90s Ireland! The parks are full of people rollerblading in summer so join in! But maybe practise braking first as people don’t tend to take kindly to you flinging yourself into their herbaceous border to stop yourself flying down the hill…er, yes again, this was me.

7. Free health care
Very handy if you’ve fallen over on the Rollerblades and now need medical attention. A lifetime’s worth of health concerns are about to be investigated…free of charge!

8. Starbucks
Dying for a frappuccino but just walked past a Starbucks 2 minutes ago? Fear not, there’s another at the next corner…and the next…

9. Super SUPER size me
So you’ve enjoyed your frappuccino and now you want a sneaky McD’s, but are we getting the pauper sizes here? Why does Super Size in Ireland just mean Medium in Canada? It’s time to loosen that waistband…

10. Guaranteed summer weather
Toronto ain’t so awesome for their 10 days annual leave – less than half the annual leave we get in Ireland – but what it lacks in holiday time, it makes up for in the promise of hot, sunny weather during the summer…time for one of the many Hollister bikinis you’ve invested in!

11. Nude beaches
If you decide to enjoy some of that summer weather and you fancy a perv of the nude beaches on the Toronto Islands, prepare yourself for a mass of horrors. Naked old people…playing tennis…sipping cocktails…legs spread on sun loungers. Not the Baywatch scene you imagined – cover your eyes and run away STAT.

12. Gay Pride
Late in June, downtown Toronto’s streets fill to capacity during the vibrant World Pride Parade. With body paint, floats, blowers, confetti and condoms being lobbed at your head, it’s a fun day out for everyone!!

13. Wonderland
Afraid of heights? Maybe avoid Behemoth, the highest and most terrifying roller-coaster in the amusement park. Opt instead for a season pass and spend the humid summer days on any rides involving copious amounts of water.

The ascent...to death

The ascent…to death

14. “It’s hot eh?”
“It is eh!” During my time in Toronto, I vaguely grasped that “eh” could mean “isn’t it?” It is usually tacked onto the end of every question so I think the safest response is probably just to say “yes, it is!”

15. Raccoons
Spotted what looks like a lame cat loping across the road while you’re walking home at night? It’s probably a raccoon, an adorable-looking animal in pictures but one who rips apart your carefully tied bin bags and snaffles all your rubbish. Luckily raccoons don’t rip apart and eat you, a fact I was forced to confirm via Google after I came face-to-face with one one evening.

Smelling my fear...

Smelling my fear…

16. Tim Horton’s
Timmy’s! A coffee, wrap and cookie all for about $5, you really can’t go wrong.

17. Pronunciations
For those of you (myself included) who thought Newfoundland was pronounced as you see it: New-found-land, it’s actually pronounced Noofunlan while the natives are called Noofies. Oh, and you are currently in Trawna but you’re originally from I-er-land. Otherwise they’ll ask “What land?”…”em, our land.”

18. Seasons
One of the best things about Toronto is the varying seasons. They actually have a wet spring, hot summer, crisp fall and snowy winter so you no longer need to pack sun-cream, a coat and an umbrella “just in case” – hurrah!

19. Holiday decorations
Toronto have the best decorations EVER. During Halloween, gardens are transformed into graveyards and pumpkins frame every doorway. Come Christmas, every house has a towering sparkling tree visible from the window, lights donning every roof, and reindeer and sleighs propped up all over the snowy gardens…sigh.

And the most awesome thing about Toronto? They have…

20. …Milk in bags!
Yes, the rumours are true! An Eco-friendly way of selling milk, you’ll no longer be popping to the shop to buy a carton of milk – you’ll be popping to buy a bag of milk. Eek! Just don’t drop them or it’s goodbye to those new sandals.

Canada milk

Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

Never have the words “Out, vile jelly!” had such an unprecedented reaction on a class as it did on an autumn morning less than 10 years ago. We all burst into giggles as our teacher read from a thin red Shakespeare book entitled “King Lear”. The play was quickly morphing into a bloodbath and now poor Gloucester had just lost his eye. Really, it was like watching an episode of Game of Thrones.

Shakespeare has never been my cup of tea (queue general gasps and outcries). When I was about twelve, I remember reading Angela’s Ashes, an autobiography by Frank McCourt, where he wrote about discovering Shakespeare plays after spending a long spell in hospital as a child. He referred to speaking Shakespeare as similar to “having jewels in my mouth”. Well yes it would feel like this, if you understood what the hell you were saying.

During our English classes, we pored over King Lear and went through it sentence by sentence, offering suggestions to their meaning and scribbling notes in the margins, praying to god that the relationship between Edmund and Edgar would come up in the exams.

So when I heard that today would have been Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, I thought back to our time preparing for our English exams. First, the Junior Cert trawling through The Merchant of Venice, which surprisingly created some unanticipated tension in the class about whether Antonio would end up losing a pound of his flesh to Shylock (and more importantly where on his body did he plan to get that pound from??) Then before we’d gotten over the shock of Transition Year, we progressed swiftly onto King Lear for the Leaving Cert, a play filled with nonsensical ramblings from the Fool and a loss of our faith in humanity after Cordelia’s outcome.

Really, William Shakespeare was a pretty depressing guy. He had no qualms about killing off half the main characters and destroying people you were desperately holding out for to redeem themselves. Every play was a Red Wedding, and not one person warned me in advance. The vile jelly still traumatises me to this day.

And yet, I was still delirious enough to think my grasp on the Shakespearean language was good enough that I could go to see not one, but two Shakespearean plays. As I sat in High Park in Toronto with my sister whom I was visiting, I let A Winter’s Tale wash over me without any clue as to what was going on. Two years later, when I decided to be brave and return again, this time to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I feverishly flicked through the programme before the play started to get as basic a synopsis as possible before I lost my head completely. Needless to say, it didn’t help in the slightest. I spent the majority of the play admiring the fairies and wisely nodding my understanding whenever any of the actors caught my dozy eye.

After this crippling experience, where I began to doubt I could speak the English language at all, I came to the conclusion that you cannot just read or watch a Shakespearean play once – you have to analyse the story to death before it can be easily followed.

As a result, the amount of studying and memorising I did for the two Shakespeare plays we studied in school meant I was never likely to forget them anytime soon. To this day, a party trick I like to pretend is mortifying but is my secret pride and joy, is to recite by heart the intro paragraph of King Lear that begins with “In sooth I know not why I am so sad…” Mm-hmm the WHOLE quote. Trust me, that entire paragraph was going into my Leaving Cert essay regardless of what the question was.

Now as May closes in with the welcoming promise of the summer holidays just within our grasp, I feel a jealous pang as I board the Dart half-unconscious after a long day at work to find the students chattering happily and taking up all the seats. I miss those days. Even though the exams were tough, study was a nightmare and Shakespeare made learning quotes a living hell, I’ll admit it, I do miss school – and Shakespeare – sometimes.

But as Marianne said in another of Shakespeare’s plays, All’s Well That Ends Well:

No legacy is so rich as honesty.

…so I’m happy to admit it.

Shakespeare

An animated childhood

So there I was, flicking through some posts online, when an article from The Daily Edge entitled “8 cartoon characters everyone found strangely attractive” (http://thedailyedge.thejournal.ie/attractive-cartoon-characters-1399014-Apr2014/) caught my eye. Intriguing I thought, thinking dreamily of Aladdin, and then gasping in horror at the example they had used…Captain Planet.

First of all, Captain Planet is NOT hot, but more importantly since when was he blue?? Has he always been that colour? And has his mission always been to save the environment? My deteriorating memory got me to thinking about what other animated series could have gone over my head as a child.

After some hefty (and thoroughly enjoyable) researching on YouTube, it turns out I may have missed quite a bit. Either I was quite a naive child, or I’m being completely over-rational.

In any case, here’s a list of my top 10…oh, the memories!

1. Rugrats

From the intro with Tommy’s nappy being tossed in the air to Chucky riding what can only be assumed to be a hoover, Rugrats was a personal favourite show of mine until they started introducing all the extra characters (Dil, Susie and Kimi anyone?) Now when I look back on it, I start to wonder – was Betty DeVille a lesbian? Were Angelica’s mom Charlotte and her assistant Jonathan having an illicit affair? Why was Stu Pickle’s hair purple and would Tommy ever outgrow his nappy? Since the show finished up in 2004, I guess we’ll never know. Hold me, Spike.

Source: wikipedia

2. Doug

wikia.nocookie.netThe most frustrating show by far, because when was Doug ever going to tell Patti he loved her? Wheeeeen? Years of tuning in and I never actually saw the moment happen…sigh. And speaking of Patti, did the animators think we wouldn’t notice her new Jennifer Lawrence-style pixie haircut?! She just wasn’t the same after that…

3. Dexter’s Laboratory

Let’s be honest, we all secretly wanted one of Dexter’s experiments to go right without Dee Dee demolishing the lab again. But what was with their mother and her cleaning obsession?? She was never without her yellow gloves so my theory is she had underlying OCD. Their house was waaay too sparkly.

wikia.nocookie.net

wikia.nocookie.net

4. Scooby Doo

I always felt like Colombo when I watched Scooby Doo. Those pesky kids always managed to (literally) unmask the villain at the end of the show. But there was deeefinitely something going on between Fred and Daphne behind the scenes. They weren’t wearing those matching neck-ties for no reason.

fanpop.com

fanpop.com

5. Hey Arnold!

Probably the coolest cartoon character ever, Arnold spent most of his days being stalked by a psychotic school bully Helga who, in addition to wearing a large pink bow on her head, had a very suspicious unibrow which I’ve only just noticed…and now cannot stop staring at…

wikia.nocookie.net

wikia.nocookie.net

6. The Jetsons

During the intro of The Jetsons, you’ll see George Jetson in his flying car dropping his children off at school and then dropping his wife off…at the shopping centre! With his wallet! Feminists everywhere would be burning their brassieres right now…

 

7. The Flintstones

So clearly Fred Flintstone had anger management issues, we’re not denying this, but were our suspicions misguided? Maybe we should have turned our misgivings towards Barney Rubble – the one character in the show who did not have any pupils!!

fanpop.com

fanpop.com

8. Recess

Randall was possibly the creepiest kid around on TV. Not only did he wear little cigarette pants, he had an unexplained hunch and spent most of his days running around in a pair of clogs and rubbing his heads together in glee…a terrifying combination.

wikia.nocookie.net

wikia.nocookie.net

9. Kim Possible

Easily the sassiest cartoon character ever, Kim was a secret agent who also managed to be a top student and head cheerleader with a part-time job – biatch. But let’s be honest, we ALL wanted to be Kim Possible. It’s time now though to return that crop top and combats to Penney’s and stop answering our phones with “What’s the sitch?” We’re embarrassing the kids.

 

10. Earthworm Jim

I don’t actually remember this show – I threw it in for the Boyf who claims it was the best series going in the 90s…ahem. All I have to say after watching the intro for this show is that earthworms in spacesuits are possibly the most horrific sight I have ever seen. I don’t know who thought of this idea, or why, but I am very concerned.

deviantart.net

deviantart.net

Finally…

After all that, there’s one series that I never doubted for a second. Royal elephants in four-piece suits living in a mansion with a human for a nanny? Ah, Barbar, I never lost faith in you!

A purr-plexing decision

After six months of saying “I’m broke”, “I’ll book it next month”, and “I’ll book it once my credit card is paid off” – I finally did it. I booked my cat Saphira in for her booster.

I felt genuinely bad for putting it off for so long and I really did mean to do it after the reminder letter arrived in the post with the happy-go-lucky pictures of cats and dogs on the front, licking their paws and beaming in their oh-so-vaccinated expressions. I felt pure guilt looking at them and felt even worse when my mum started receiving reminder texts after three months of no-show.

The sinfulness had weighed on top of me so much that I became convinced that without her booster my cat would contract Feline AIDS while she was pressed up against the window watching the other cats sauntering past, even though they were ten feet away from her and most importantly, separated by a solid pane of glass.

My most feared moment came when I left the window open to air the apartment, and a neighbour’s cat decided to pop in for a visit, obviously not expecting to land right on top of Saphira who was sitting underneath the windowsill.

Hearing the terrifying sound of shrieking and spitting, I barrelled into the bedroom, whacking my shoulder off a chest of drawers and feeling the promising throb of a painful bruise surfacing. Saphira was sitting where I left her underneath the windowsill, surrounded by tufts of back fur and staring at me innocently with her wide orange eyes, which really spelt “I may or may not have killed her”. Luckily, the black cat had chosen flight over fight and had leapt straight back out the window again, but my trepidation overrode my finances and so I booked her in for her booster the next day.

I’ve had Saphira since she was just a 12-week-old kitten, more closely resembling a blue ball of fluff in my hand than a living creature. Even though we were warned that Persians were not the highest of jumpers, Saphira managed to leap onto my bed the very first night we had her, curling up happily to sleep. This should have been our first clue that she would turn out to be quite an unusual cat.

Saphira

Saphira’s favourite pastime – sleeping

Almost 10 years later, I count myself as well-trained in the ever-varying, hormonal imbalance that is Saphira’s personality. Never has an animal switched so rapidly from being a purring, arching, snuggling bundle of joy to something that more resembles the exorcist child, grabbing your hands firmly in both paws and biting them to bits.

Cats, I have discovered, are as far apart from dogs as it is possible to get. While my black Labrador would leap all over me on my arrival home, when I finally hunted Saphira down she would look at me witheringly as if to say “Oh….you again.”

 

Some days, she’s in a great mood – I hear her bell jingling when I come home and I catch her peering around the door at me to see who has arrived. Of course, when I stretch down to pick her up and swing her around, she leaps ebulliently into the air and sprints out of reach.

Patiently waiting for dinner

Patiently waiting for dinner

She is smart too, and regularly stands stationary beside her food bowl if she needs a top-up, mewing delightfully at me as I fish out her food. Other times, she will watch with interest as I laboriously clean out her litter tray, patiently waiting for me to finish, before leaping into it and unashamedly squatting before I’ve even put the lid on.

And every night, without fail, Saphira will jump up onto the bed and curl up on my feet to sleep. Sometimes, she even snores.

However, I have grown accustomed to warning people when they come to visit that Saphira does not like to be touched, petted or picked up by strangers. She will hiss at even the most soft-spoken of people and scratch at the slightest motion of a hand towards her. I have the scars to prove it.

And then, as the months start getting warmer (or as warm as they can get in Ireland), Saphira starts to go into heat. And suddenly, far from being the moody, imperious cat we all know and love, she transforms into an animal that clearly wants nothing more than to be released into a room full of men.

Saphira in heat...suddenly bff's with the Boyf

Saphira in heat…suddenly bff’s with the Boyf

She stretches onto the carpet and rolls around in her most seductive of manoeuvres. She spends the nights yowling like a banshee and the days perched on any surface that has been in the presence of a male – my brother’s bed being her favourite spot. Sometimes, I swear her yowling sounds like she’s wailing his name: “Niiallllll……Niiiiiiiiiiiaaaallllll.” It is terrifying to behold.

But within a few days, after you reach to pet her and she turns to look at you out of the corner of her eye, as if to say “What do you think you are doing?“, you know she’s back to normal. Which is why, when the vet suggested after giving her the booster that I should consider neutering her, I was somewhat dubious.

“She’s her happiest when she’s in heat,” I explained desperately. “And I don’t want to rule out kittens…”

“At 9-years-old, I don’t think she’s likely to produce a litter,” he said tactfully, trying not to smile. “And she might be a little less hormonal if you neutered her.” He also mentioned the health issues she was susceptible to if she was not neutered, which was really the deciding factor, so I duly booked her in for the procedure. Right on cue that evening, she went into heat…for 2 weeks. I’m still convinced that it was her way of telling us that she was perfectly happy this way.

Saphira's drug of choice - catnip

Saphira’s drug of choice – catnip

What I was expecting to be a routine vaccination had morphed into something bigger and scarier, and I was in two minds for several weeks after booking the appointment whether I was doing the right thing. Saphira’s ever-changing personality has always been a source of great amusement and intrigue, but ultimately health overrides all else – and so we are going ahead with the neutering.

I have a box of catnip ready for her arrival home, which she will probably shred to bits unless strictly monitored, and hopefully a new cat scratching post, which will no doubt be completely ignored.

It doesn’t bother me one bit if Saphira arrives home every bit hormonal as she was before she went into the vet. She’s a very special cat with a unique personality which I wouldn’t change for the world, and that’s worth any amount of scratches.

The top 10 moments of the Oscars 2014

1. Jennifer Lawrence falls AGAIN
One of the most memorable moments of last year’s Oscars was Jennifer Lawrence tripping on her way up to the stage to accept the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The every classy Jen showed grace and humour once more when she tripped over an orange cone when exiting her car on the red carpet at this year’s Oscar awards. Host Ellen Degeneres couldn’t resist teasing her by saying, “If you win tonight, I think we should bring you the Oscar.”

Getty Images

Getty Images

E! Entertainment

E! Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Jared Leto’s speech
Jared’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor was one of the most beautiful speeches I have ever heard. He spoke about the political conflict in Ukraine and Venezuela without making it seem like a lecture, he thanked his family without being too sentimental, and he spoke of the continuing AIDs epidemic reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia speech. “To all the dreamers out there watching this tonight in places like Ukraine and Venezuela: I want to say we are here and as you struggle. Make your dreams happen, to live the impossible. We’re thinking of you tonight.”

Invision

Invision

“This is for the 36 million who have lost the battle to AIDS, and to those of you who have ever felt injustice because of who you are, or who you love. Tonight I stand here in front of the world with you, and for you,” Leto said.

 
3. Ellen calls Liza a drag queen
One of the ‘ooh-er’ moments during Ellen’s opening monologue was when she referred to Liza Minnelli as a drag queen, saying brightly, “Hello to the best Liza Minnelli impersonator I’ve ever seen…Good job, sir.’ Liza looked seriously unimpressed by this, while there was a mixture of  laughter and shocked gasps among the audience…

Youtube

Youtube

4. Pharrell Williams dancing with the front row actors
Pharrell did a terrific performance of Happy and had every member of the audience on their feet. Hats off to Lupita who got jiggy with Pharrell when he came off the stage to meet the front row actors.

Invision

Invision

5. Darlene Love singing her acceptance speech
Best documentary went to the inspiring backup singer ode 20 Feet From Stardom. One of its stars, Darlene Love, accepted the award singing the gospel tune His Eye is on the Sparrow, which rose the audience into a standing ovation for the singer.

Getty Images

Getty Images

6. Ellen Degeneres delivering pizza to the hungry actors
One of the best moments of the night was the sight of Meryl Streep eagerly reaching for a pizza slice while Brad Pitt handed out plates and napkins all round. Best part? The pizza delivery guy was actually that and not an actor – love it!

Invision

Invision

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Pink singing Over The Rainbow
As a tribute to the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, Pink took to the stage to sing the iconic Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Donning a red ruby slipper inspired gown, she received a standing ovation from the audience, which consisted of Judy Garland’s children Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft.

8. Ellen’s brilliant selfie
Host Ellen Degeneres wanted to break records for how many times a selfie of her with actor Meryl Streep could be retweeted. After surrounding actors Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, Julia Roberts and co jumped in for the picture, her tweet broke records after being retweeted 1,076,971 times in less than an hour. Poor Liza Minnelli (it really wasn’t her night) tried to squeeze into the picture too – alas, she didn’t quite make it and was caught on camera trying to grab Julia’s arm to pull herself in…morto.

Liza Minnelli fail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
9. John Travolta’s gaffe
Still cackling away at this one – if you didn’t catch it, John Travolta was introducing the singer Idina Menzel who was performing Let It Go from the animation Frozen. For some bizarre and still unclear reason, he introduced her by saying, “please welcome the wickedly talented, one and only Adele Dazeem.” Whaaaat, he wasn’t even close!! We’ll have to blame it on the squinting, but Travolta later said “I’ve been beating myself up all day. Then I thought … what would Idina Menzel say? She’d say, Let it go, let it go!” Hmm, good save…

10. Lupita Nyong’o winning Best Supporting Actress
Thank god Lupita won this!! She was the most obvious winner of the award and was so delighted when she was announced as Best Supporting Actress for her harrowing role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. Her speech was another favourite of the night: “Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition. It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 21.45.03

“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.” A well-deserved win.