Weather Woes

I can’t go to the shop and I don’t want to go to college. What I want is to sit in my bed sipping hot chocolate.

But I have no hot chocolate. And it’s raining.

    Maya Angelou once said ‘You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights’.

It’s been raining all week, it started on St. Patrick’s Day. Fitting, eh? We thought it was exciting; Irish weather on an Irish day. But we soon realised we were not equipped.

For two days I ran between my house and the university; a to b, b to a, feeding off the remaining food supplies in my cupboard. For breakfast, I’d tried experimenting with something new and had bought rye oats instead of normal oats. I soon realised my experiment had failed when the rye oats refused to make porridge, but I had myself believe they were perfect for an entire rainy week. And although it rains nearly every day at home, I wasn’t prepared. I assumed it would pass within a day or two and refused to buy an umbrella until the third day struck and my hair was beginning to resemble an unshorn sheep. I gave in –

peer pressure.

Because when it rains in Ireland, there are many different reactions, but here, not so much. They all buy umbrellas. In Ireland there are those who wear an anorak with waterproof hiking boots and shuffle from place to place, right hand up at their scrunched up face clutching their hood. Organised.

There are those who have no waterproofs whatsoever and pretend it doesn’t bother them by nonchalantly strolling about the place wearing clothes with dark patches. ‘Cool’.

There are those who wear knee high wellies and Paddington-Bear style coats. The Tourist.

There are those who place whatever it is they’re holding on top of their heads, sacrificing their freshly bought book or groceries to keep their hair perfect. The Fashionista.

In Cádiz, every single person has an umbrella. I saw one man holding an open umbrella in one hand and another umbrella by his side. I guess he was scared the first would break and he’d end up umbrella-less, looking like a tourist.

Something as small as the rain can tell you quite a bit about a person. Usually a lot about their hometown as well.

The Cautious One: My Chilean friend told me that she’s never gone to school while it’s raining. When it rains in her city, the entire city is shut down; all schools are shut and no one goes to work. It only happens about once a year and they all fear for their houses. She couldn’t comprehend having to go about ordinary life in the rain.

The Dramatic Foreigner: A French acquaintance refused to go to work because she couldn’t bear cycling in the rain. The next day she took the bus.

The Scaredy: My Spanish teacher waited at the university entrance for her bus which stopped directly outside the university. When she walked the three steps to her bus, she put up her umbrella.

The Caring Mother: An Italian classmate’s parents had come to visit and his mother was spending the week indoors cooking homemade pasta dishes served with rich tomato sauces, much to his delight.

The Clueless Optimists: My Mexican roommates were storing their umbrellas in the bath. I was greeted by two enormous black umbrellas wide open in the bath-tub upon entering my bathroom. I’m not sure if they’d ever used an umbrella before so I didn’t dare mention how it’s considered bad luck to open an umbrella indoors.

So maybe you can learn a lot from someone by how they react to a rainy day, but I think that previous experiences cause people to react differently because that’s all they know. It’s what comes naturally to them. I used to see no problem walking 40 minutes to college once I had a rain jacket on. ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes’, and here without a rain jacket and normality to protect me, I’ve turned into one of those people who buys an umbrella, runs everywhere in fear, hides indoors and complains. I think I’ve acclimatised well.


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Baking Bliss

What is it about food that changes the atmosphere in a room? Because it genuinely makes everyone nicer. And I don’t just mean the change from cranky to satisfied because it’s something more.

I like to bake and people often assume that because I bake I cook a lot aswell. But they’ve got it wrong. For example when myself and my sister cook dinner for the family at home, we have a system. She cooks, I bake. And if there’s no dessert that day, she cooks, I nibble. Occasionally I’m allowed spoon out the pesto. But there are guidelines; not everyone likes pesto as much as I do. Pity.

So I find myself baking quite a lot. But why bake and not cook? Yes freshly bakes goods are delicious but so are homemade dinners. I bake because I enjoy the process; the weighing, the melting, the mixing…. and the tasting part isn’t bad either! Maybe it’s because there’s a list of exact steps to follow and the testing along the way is scrummmmtious whereas in cooking it’s usually sauces and samples here and there that aren’t exactly ambriosal.

I think dinners are like caterpillars; it’s the dinners we need but baked goods we crave. People apprecite and are thankful for a dinner but it’s generally the dessert they fuss over. People look at caterpillars and keep on walking. People eat dinners and keep on living. We stop and admire a butterfly, we stop and compliment a cookie. A slice of cake. A brownie. An éclair. Never the lonely dish of brussels sprouts.

Yet this doesn’t mean I bake in search of compliments.

So in Ireland yes, I bake quite frequently, I enjoy the process and I adore the end result;freshly baked goods. Baking is relaxing, fun and rewarding.

But since I’ve arrived in France, I haven’t been baking. I stopped baking for a number of reasons – the lack of ingredients, the lack of weighing scales, the cost and the fear that I’d be eating what I baked alone. Although, in hindsight, I don’t see why that was a problem.

But last week I decided to bake. With a twist. Chocolate chip cookies made with avocado. And they were a hit.

You almost couldn’t detect the avocado (I left the cookies on the table and went out for a jog and while I was out, one of my housemates and her friend tasted them and although they were full of compliments, apparently he bit into it and asked ‘why is it green?’)

While I was out on my jog, another housemate came home, grabbed two and left a note. The note assured me that my housemates aren’t health freaks and that they, like everyone else appreciate a good bake. Let the baking continue…


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The Dormant Patriot

New Blog I’ve set up as a project for University

Hypnos Hermes

Before I came to France, I wasn’t the patriotic type.

With dark brown hair and blue-green eyes, I’m as close as you’ll get to your typical ‘Galway Girl’. The twist here is that I’m no longer in Galway. I’ve decided to spend the next year abroad as part of my degree requirements. So until Christmas, I’ll be writing from Chambéry in the French Alps and after Christmas I’ll take you to sunny Cádiz in the South of Spain.

Since arriving in France, there’s been reason for me to switch on my ‘patriotic button’. It’s been left dormant for far too long.

People generally take particular interest in my field of study because most people are of the opinion that studying more than one foreign language is a nightmare, let alone a challenge. So when people here ask me how many languages I speak and I answer – English, Irish, French…

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M for Mistakes. M for Matilda

People condemn mistakes. We are told never to break rules. We are punished for adventure. Yet. To understand why the rules shouldn’t be broken, we need to break them. Action and consequence. ‘Rules are made to be broken’ they say and this is frightfully true. Most lessons I’ve learned have come from picking myself up after a disappointment. Disappointment after a lapse.
That’s the public’s excuse for a previous misjudgement.
Every mistake is followed by disappointment, but every disappointment is not preceded by a mistake.
The best way to learn or to grow as a person is through experience. When I was seventeen, I went to France for five weeks. During those five weeks I thought I’d made a huge mistake. I had embarked on this trip completely alone, in the hope of improving my French. I didn’t have a proper meaningful conversation for over a month, just words here and there, and a sentence when I was lucky. At the time, it was hard to see the seeds I’d sown on that trip, and equally as hard to see the plants that had sprouted. My French, with or without a proper conversation, had improved immensely yet I remember when I returned I said to my friend ‘If you paid me five thousand euro, I wouldn’t do that again.’ I couldn’t see past the horror at the time. And yet, I don’t regret it. As unpleasant as it was, it was not a mistake.
The only genuine laugh I had on that trip was when my sister rang me from Ireland because I was alone in the house when the rest of the family had gone to a party. We laughed at what a few hours earlier had been the cause of so many of my tears. Wasted tears. Because the mother of the house screamed because, after she had told me to eat a tomato as one would eat an apple, I’d accidently squeezed a seed or two onto her jacket. Her good walking jacket. For when she climbed that mountain once a year when they were staying in their chalet. Because the dad had told me I could eat next door with the grandparents, only to come back from their house a few minutes later to tell me I’d be dining alone and eating leftover pasta with slices of ham for dinner. Because the little girl of the house who smacked me in the face and ripped the cover of my dictionary off was the mum’s ‘angel’. Because they bought five pain-au-chocolat’s every morning even though there was six of us in the chalet and that morning I’d eaten one of them ,which ended in tears. This time not mine. Mainly because they took life too seriously, as too many of us do.
I learnt a lot about myself on that trip, and I learnt a lot about others. I learnt never to let someone feel excluded, that company is an honour and we shouldn’t take anyone’s company for granted, not even that person who talks about something you despise, someday you’ll find yourself wishing they’d walk around the corner and tell you about how last night their snot exploded. I learnt that an edible meal should be cherished not put to the side because it doesn’t please one’s taste buds. So if it wasn’t a mistake that made me grow, what was it? The experience.
I learnt the difference between mistakes and experiences.
I was listening to the soundtrack to Matilda the musical and one of the recommended videos on the side on my screen was ‘Matilda forgets her line.’ I didn’t click into it and I never went looking for it again but from memory it had over 100,000 hits. Why do people want to watch a nine year old girl falter? Experience over mistake. We can’t use ‘mistakes teach us and help us to grow’ as an excuse. Watching someone under-perform must give certain people pleasure. What I’d like to know is if those same people went on to watch videos of that talented girl singing perfectly in a different video. Most likely not. ‘Each time my friend succeeds, I die a little.’ – Gore Vidal. There may be a little Vidal in all of us, and that’s expected. Any more than Vidal is too much. Vidal said ‘friends’ for a reason, because friends can forgive us when we become jealous. Friends are put into our life to push our boundaries, and to comfort us if we don’t knock them down. Getting joy out of watching someone you don’t know ‘fail’ is different. Success breeds success.
Does failure breed failure? I presume failure follows failure.

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Television’s bad for you? Think of what ‘Friends’ and ‘Father Ted’ alone have taught you!

People say TV is bad for us; that it rids our head of the good stuff, and fills us with nonsense. But I beg to differ. Without TV I would know a lot less, and I’m not one to watch documentaries.
One such example is Ross in the comedy series ‘Friends’. What’s his profession again? Oh yes, a paleontologist. I’d say 90% of 16-30 year olds know what a paleontologist is. Not because it interests them, believe me it doesn’t, but because Ross from ‘Friends’ is a paleontologist, and well that’s pretty cool! Of course, Ross was given this job to suit his nerdy persona, but I’m sure many paleontologists have Ross Geller to thank for not having to repeatedly explaining what they do; the public already know.
‘Friends’ isn’t the only example, I often hear friends say ‘Oh I only know that because I saw that on CSI last night’. It’s often that you’re watching something and you wonder what exactly they’re talking about; keep watching and you’ll find out. I remember watching Father Ted years ago. It’s probably over ten years ago by now, but I remember it like it was yesterday (maybe that’s because I’ve watched it so many times since). Mrs. Doyle made some cake and in an attempt to entice Ted she declares: ‘There’s cocaine in it!’ I remember my brother laughing and I joined in. Coke, in a cake!? Madness!
Every time I watch that episode I thinking of that. The sheer innocence. My brother, being older than I, turned to me and said: ‘You don’t know what that is.’ Of course I wouldn’t admit to that, but somewhere along the way I learnt it, and I always remember how strangely, Father Ted was the first time I heard of cocaine.
I remember watching Harry Potter, and learning how to perfect my patronus from that. Oh no, wait, that’s just my imagination, never mind. For your information, mine was a frog.
Books, of course, teach us lots about society, but people don’t condemn books so that’s not the problem. It’s how people underestimate what we’re learning from TV. Take chat shows, they often involve stimulating discussions and you never know what you’ll pick up. You can also learn of the latest singer, author or rugby player without having to pick up the newspaper.
Indubitably, if it came down to it, I would choose books over the television. They’re portable, magical, insightful and they allow you to use your imagination a little more than a TV would. Nevertheless, we’re not to undermine the importance of TV and what it can teach us, unknowingly. So before people begin to say TV’s bad for you, think of the good points, what odd facts has it taught you?
Did anyone else have experiences as above, or was that just me?

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My ‘foolproof’ way to choosing books has failed me.


Different readers have different opinions on how to decide if a book is worth reading. ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ they say, but we all do that from time to time. Library visitors are notorious for it. They’re not paying for the book so at least it won’t be a waste of their money. If all the book covers in a bookstore were black, I’d say half the people would walk straight out. A lot of effort is involved in searching through aisles of books.

                My own particular strategy is to pick up a book and read page 58. I don’t know why I chose page 58, but I did. So if page 58 interests me, I’m hooked. If not, well I might think about giving it a go if it’s been previously recommended, otherwise, straight back on the self it goes. Pity the author didn’t put more thought into page 58 eh? In my opinion, every page matters. In a quality read, there shouldn’t be a bad page, never mind a bad chapter. A difficult task, but that is what makes certain books so beautiful.

                This seemed like a pretty foolproof way of judging a book and assessing whether it was a good read until the other day. Tragedy struck. I found myself in the hands of a book I did not particularly want. I didn’t have the chance to read page 58 before I accepted it you see; traumatising. So I left the book in my bag and I decided I’d give the book a chance. Everyone deserves a chance, right? Well every book also deserves a chance. So I took the book out of my bag, ripped of the plastic covering (yes, there was covering) and went to page 58.

                There was no page 58.

                Page 58 does not exist. In place of page 58 was a blank page, no numbering; nothing.

                Naturally enough, I put the book down. Cautiously. My ‘foolproof’ guide to assessing books had failed me. I now do not know what to do with this book. It’s often said everyone deserves a second chance, so maybe this book deserves a second chance? What do you think? Should I turn to page 158 and try it? 258? 85? Or go for the old approach of does the first sentence encapsulate me.

                So the book is sitting in my bag, waiting to be opened. Waiting to be read. I suppose at the end of the day, books are there to be read. Maybe I should give the poor lad a chance, I just don’t know where to start!

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Aon Craic? Níl…The Late Late Toy Show

The Late Late Toy Show, now an established tradition in the winter of an Irish child. ‘Every self-respecting Irish person knows Christmas begins when the Toy Show’ one my friend remarked the other day, and I’m beginning to see she had a point. The Toy Show sets the bar for Christmas; informing us which presents are ‘hot’ this year, which ones are fun, which ones are good value, and more importantly these days which ones are Irish made? Once the Toy Show is over, Irish children can write their letters to Santa. Up the chimney they go. ‘Christmas trees for sale’ signs are put up. Christmas songs start to play in shops. The Toy show is the starting point of the Irish Christmas.
Yet one question prevails: Who is the Toy Show’s audience? From the title, one would presume children, yet watching the toy show last Friday night, I can assure you that children are not the show’s target audience. The fact that the Toy show is on at 9.30pm prevents most children under ten watching most of it. Of course, kids are allowed stay up for this ‘special night’ but most of them will have fallen asleep before Ryan Tubridy’s announced the all important competition, which is, of course over eighteens only.
Practical reasons aside, Ryan Tubridy provided many ‘laugh out loud’ moments for the thousands of adults viewers. When one of the children showed us their extravagant toys magically made money disappear, Tubridy wittingly remarked ‘Are you the next Minister for Finance?’ along with some more mentions to the budget throughout. A child’s dentist toy turned into Tubridy dramatizing a trip to the dentist.
Within the first few minutes, he’d used the word ‘demonic’. How that word ever had a place in The Toy Show beats me, but it was there, to baffle all younger viewers. Of course, the man can’t help using his wide ranging vocabulary, but I’m sure if the room was full of children, he would’ve opted for ‘evil’.
Lastly, I wondered, is the Toy Show for Ryan himself? He claims it’s better than Christmas morning and seemed to enjoy himself immensely, having a laugh with the kids and acting like a child. He was in his element. Poor Garret, the camera man received endless abuse from Tubridy ‘Go on, aim for Garret’, ‘Garret loves when you mess up his camera’, ‘again. Again. Again.’
I can’t decide who the late late toy show’s intended audience is so I’m forced to conclude, it’s everyone. The whole family; from the granny to the new born. Since 1973, it’s been pleasing families and has unofficially been the starting point to the Irish Christmas.
One last thing: Well done to Ryan Tubridy himself, it was enthralling. Although that could’ve been down to the lovely young Irish kids around the country that just don’t realise how funny they are.

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