Selected writing from the SCC English Blog, 2006-2008
The English Department St Columbaâ€™s College Whitechurch Dublin 16 Ireland
www.sccenglish.ie e-mail: email@example.com
This symbol in the text indicates further material online on the Blog
Front cover by Mikeila Cameron, V form Back cover photograph by Richard Beer Many thanks to Derarca Cullen and Peter Watts for their help with art-work, and to our former art teacher Chris Vis for permission to reproduce his cartoons from Floreat Columba (1993).
Printed by www.lulu.com, May 2008. This book is available for purchase at cost price. ÂŠ Copyright remains with the individual authors
Contents Julian Girdham
What is ‘The Perfect World’?
Remainder, In the Dark Room
My First Home
My First Home
A description of a street late at night
Something to Hide
The Greatest Pleasure in Life
I’m Just Going Outside
The Tibradden Radiator
The Person I Most Admire
It’s Your Turn
Matters of Death
The Shape We’re In
What was Lost
Beachball in the Summer Sun
Two Views of One Thing
Beware of Pity
Then We Came to the End
The Music of Chance
Review of Macbeth, Siren Productions
Will and Me
The Merchant’s Guide to Venice
Personal Reading, Personal Writing
The Grass so little has to do -
Gerard Manley Hopkins Spring
The Poem and the Journey
Lives that were not theirs
Summer in the Countryside
A Raging Sea
December 26th 2004
Preparing for Dancing at Lughnasa
Review of Dancing at Lughnasa
An Actiontrack Daily Diary
Louise C. Callaghan: poetry reading
Lluisa Hebrero Casasayas Learning the hard way
Those Sepia Photos
Shriver, Coetzee, Murakami
Paton, Lee, Frank
The Oldest Person I Know
Morrison, Plath, Banks
Rachel Acton Filion
Suddenly there was no noise
Transition Year Hike Review
The Taunted End to the Dictator
Johnston, Dickens, Banks
My First Love
The novels of Elizabeth Taylor
Remarque, Barker, Lawrence
Camus, du Maurier, Tartt
Letter to a famous person
An interview with Jennifer Johnston
Scribbling the Cat
On Teaching English
Illustrations Chris Vis
pages 29, 33, 35, 95
Rosanna Reade, VI form
13, 32, 42, 79
Rosemary Wentges, V
James Glenn-Craigie, II
Aoise Keogan-Nooshabadi, II
Zuleika Oâ€™Malley, II
Jamie Boyd, I
Eleanor Dolphin, I
Jay Kim, I
Stephanie Cafolla, I
Katie Ridge, I
Rachel Rogers, I
Kezia Wright, I
15, 21, 69, 102
Molly Buckingham, P
Lilian Glennon, P
Bronagh McHugh, P
The illustrations on pages 30, 106 and 109 first appeared in volumes of The Columban in the 1920s. 6
his is the first volume in what we hope will be a series, collecting writing from SCC English, the St Columba’s College English Department blog. The site is now two academic years old, and in those six terms has showcased a huge variety of work by our pupils – essays, poems, stories, reviews – as well as writing by staff, and plenty of news, links and much more. In 400 posts there have been over 100 poems and 80 essays and articles by pupils. Some of this writing comes from regular work in English class, some of it is specially commissioned reportage and reviews. Traffic on the site has continued to build up steadily, and now about 25,000 visitors a year come to us from all over the world. Our recent official Department of Education inspection report stated that ‘a striking feature of the College is the many opportunities that students have to display their work’, and this book gathers and celebrates such work (teachers and Editor have had only a very light hand on the tiller). This is a capacious bag of a collection, for the most part happily disordered. There are all sorts of serendipitous juxtapositions, as first former rubs shoulders with teacher, poetry with prose, humour with seriousness. The blog itself is like that.
Why ‘Going Places’? Well, places of many kinds pervade this collection. Of course, for any teenager, home is the most important place (even more so if you’re in a boarding school perhaps), and this book opens with images of the home and of that other crucial place, childhood. Isobel Hunter, David Cooper and Oli Smith write with photographic clarity about a place which is both vividly present in their imaginations, but also slipping into loss. Memoirs don’t have to wait for old age: as soon as we leave childhood, our imaginations recreate and try to rescue it. In Dancing at Lughnasa, Brian Friel’s narrator Michael says of his childhood ‘in that memory, atmosphere is more real than incident and everything is simultaneously actual and illusory’. And later in this book, Ronan Swift and John Fanagan, writing about their early reading, position their own first formative literary experiences at home (the milky bowl of cornflakes, the severed cartoon head of Macbeth). There are plenty of other versions of place here: five pieces by II formers about their favourite place in the school – a tree, a radiator, a hockey pitch, a desk, a hill; Fred Mann’s evocation of a house in Wales (score by Sigur Rós from Iceland); Philip Kidd’s queasily perfect garden (don’t look ahead to the end – and then let it undermine everything you’ve read); Lewis Mathews and Ciara O’Driscoll looking in horror from different sides of the Indian Ocean at the appalling destructiveness of the 2004 tsunami; Celeste Guinness’s branchworld; Angus Johnson’s beach scene; Joey Millar’s imagination transporting us a long way from a famous line in a Derek Mahon poem to a grubby student flat; Ben Russell’s landscape dotted with windmills; Steffan Davies’s summer 7
seascape; the Russia of Chekhov’s A Marriage Proposal; Tom McConville on Stefan Zweig’s Austro-Hungarian Empire; Vesuvius as re-imagined by Rowland Cooper; rural Donegal in the summer of 1936; Hal Downer’s room on a winter’s night; the past as seen through Opeline Kellett’s sepia photographs. And much more. And if places are omnipresent, so is ‘going’. Transition Year, as is often said, is a time when pupils undergo a series of formative transitions in their academic and personal lives (TY is heavily represented here; in the English Department we regard it is a crucial year in the development of writing skills), but in truth every year in school is a transition year. The voices in this book are of young people discovering their own expressiveness (vividly personified in Mikeila Cameron’s vibrant front cover). There are a lot of journeys here: from poems early in the book by Lauren O’Connell, Jessica Dean and Molly Sanderson to Joey Millar’s hilarious blister-inducing TY hike and Miriam Poulton’s mischievous Rough Guide take on Venice in Shylock’s time (you might get into trouble if you slip that special souvenir into a transparent plastic bag at the airport). Amelia Shirley’s opening title poem encapsulates the journeys all of us make back to our homes and our parents, and how we start to see them anew in the light of our changing selves. Rachel Acton Filion’s ‘The Path, 5.47pm’ is precisely fixed in time and place, but, like her ‘Transience’ and ‘Apparition’, any certainty is undercut by discomfiture. Writing helps us make journeys to the most important places of our minds and hearts, and builds bridges to the most important places in our lives. In a work by Emily Dickinson quoted on the blog in May 2007, the great American poet writes: There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry-This Traverse may the poorest take Without oppress of Toll-How frugal is the Chariot That bears the Human soul. The words in this book have made a journey too, from exercise book or laptop, out into cyberspace, and now, pleasingly, back to the printed page. The ‘frugal Chariot’ of the imagination can be a pretty sturdy ‘Frigate’. Have a look at Evan Jameson’s absorbing review of Ruth Padel’s book and note how a poem can be a journey in itself. Which is a cue to draw attention particularly to the high quality of poetry on show here, such as the prize-winning work by Ben Russell, Rachel Acton Filion, Fiona Boyd and Joanna Tottenham. Time and again what strikes me about Columban poets is their confidence with a line and their ability to end poems resonantly (two elusive skills). Looking at all the genres of work in this 8
book, and given the number of pupils represented (66), it would be surprising if there were any ‘house style’. But there is, throughout, a consistent openness and truthfulness. As English teachers we stress the value of clarity and honesty. We want our pupils never to be afraid of simplicity: Lluisa Hebrero Casasayas’s essay (in her second language) about her own journey to this place has a gripping purity and honesty of expression. Writing has a symbiotic relationship with reading, and we are always eager to share enthusiasms about books on the blog. Nothing is more likely to make one pick up a book than a personal recommendation. There are plenty of examples here, lots more online; it’s also important that as English teachers our own reading enthusiasms are on show. We have a really positive reading culture at St Columba’s, bolstered hugely by our top-class Library. Three pupils write about three contemporary Irish writers near the end: Lewis Mathews discusses William Trevor (this most distinguished Old Columban writer is 80 this month); Sophie Haslett interviews Jennifer Johnston; Fiona Boyd writes about the poet Louise Callaghan. We also publish the opening pages of several Transition Year Extended Essays (they can be read in full online; how good it is that work of such quality is both publicly available and preserved in this manner, and how valuable it is that pupils in future years can see what they can aspire to). And of course, Shakespeare features, too, in pieces by Rebecca Feeney-Barry and our under-cover agent in the Maths Department, Noel Coldrick. There’s only one piece in Going Places that hasn’t been published on SCC English. It comes at the end, a kind of English teaching autobiography, by our retiring Head of Department, John Fanagan, and commissioned specially for this book. In his essay we hear the thoughts of a man whose deep love for his subject has driven a vocational career of the highest accomplishment. I speak with unique and unimpeachable authority here, since not only have I worked closely with him for twenty-four years, but he also taught me. I too treasure the memory of those summer evenings in a sun-filled Barton Room discussing Henry James. The quality of writing by pupils in this book is in no small degree due to the culture John has unstintingly encouraged in his thirtyfive years teaching English at St Columba’s. His words are, as the man himself has been, an inspiration to all pupils and teachers who continue to work here, as we mark his going from this place.
Julian Girdham, Editor, May 2008.
English Teachers, 2006-2008 Liam Canning John Fanagan Deirdre Gannon Julian Girdham Frances Heffernan Evan Jameson Ronan Swift
Amelia Shirley Going Places
itting in the back seat of the car, The world outside becomes a blur
Of colours messing with my eyes. This road seems familiar, These woods, this side of the valley. I’ve been here before, A long time ago, perhaps. As we swerve round the corner, Old Barry’s pub appears ahead, The field belonging to the Fosters becomes clear. Mother looks back and smiles at me, As if reading my blank expression, As the happiness it was. We’re going home. III form. Poem of the Week, December 6th 2007
Isobel Hunter What is ‘The Perfect World’?
hen I was about seven or eight, I was asked this same question. ‘Circle Time’ was a common forum for primary school children. In this forum we would discuss our personal issues, all whilst sitting in a circle. One particular circle time sticks in my memory. We were asked what we would have as our perfect world; we came up with a number of contrasting worlds. All our own definitions of perfect, all very different. There were of course, those of us who were very selfish at that age. One boy (my first boyfriend in fact), said that in his perfect world, he would be the best footballer in the world and change little else. Even then I believed him to be far too opportunistic. The ironic thing about the boy however, was that he was hopeless at football and didn’t seem to enjoy it whatsoever.
My best friend Sian wished that in her perfect world there would be a greater knowledge of Down’s syndrome. She said that all learning difficulties would be easy to tackle. All Down’s syndrome children would have a school to go to. Sian’s perfect world reflected her and her thoughtful nature. This of course had no relevance to me at the time. I didn’t find out until two weeks later that her younger sister Clare had Down’s. Mark, a rather camp boy, said in his perfect world there would be no twins. Mark had a twin brother, a brother who had given him a bloody nose half an hour earlier. The most popular girl in my class wished in her most trendy fashion, that in her perfect world she would be famous. Her perfect world would be full of glitz, rock stars, glamour, limousines and apple martinis. She believed the cosmopolitan life would be perfect for everyone. The perfect world of Jack, was one where all children would be taught ninja skills in school. All children would also have to learn Mandarin in a New York accent. This as you may guess, was at the height of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze. He also said that in a perfect world we would eat just pizza and kill all the bad guys, all before 9 o’clock. One of the boys said in his perfect world there would be no war. His father had died tragically in the Falklands War when he was very young. The boy was rather introverted and he got bullied a lot. I still feel endlessly sorry for the boy and regret not having made more of an effort towards friendship. Even then however I knew I couldn’t change human nature. War was part of it. Some of the other perfect worlds were ridiculous, such as a world made of chocolate, a real magic school bus for every school and a world where 12
everyone had super powers. I did point out that this would probably be similar to the regulations of our world. We would inevitably end up with police forces with superpowers and laws to limit their use. For instance, no superpower use before you’re 18, or only using two powers a day. You may wonder what I imagined as the perfect world. It seemed Karl Marx had made some impact on my eight-year-old self. I wished everyone was equal; that the world would share the wealth and that there was no discrimination. My perfect world? Well, it already existed. Life was easy as a child. Up until my ninth birthday I lived in the perfect world. Life’s troubles were trivial things like who would win Sports’ Day, would I be invited to a birthday party and would my pocket money buy me skittles or sherbet lemons? Looking back, I would say that my childhood was my perfect world. I understand that childhood is jaded with promises such as Father Christmas and ‘Happy ever afters.’ I think a part of me misses that, the realisation that becoming an adult wouldn’t be part of my world. My perfect world was so perfect because I was just so happy. I didn’t have to worry about divorce, cancer or exams. So if I could make the perfect world, I would bring people back to the happiest points in life and leave it at that. That and destroy all mushrooms. I despise mushrooms. V form. January 20th 2008
Julian Girdham Remainder, by Tom McCarthy In the Dark Room : a journey in memory, by Brian Dillon
wo recommendations from recent reading, both coincidentally about memory and the ways our minds work. A novel, Remainder by Tom McCarthy, starts : â€˜About the accident itself I can say very little. Almost nothing. It involved something falling from the sky. Technology, parts, bits. That's it, really: all I can divulge. Not much, I know.â€™ The narrator's memory has been wiped out by this mysterious catastrophe, and thereafter the story takes an intriguing, funny and eventually demented turn. Constantly interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking. Then a form of a biography : In the Dark Room - a journey in memory, by Brian Dillon. The author meditates about his home, his childhood and the ways we remember and forget. A touch of W.G. Sebald about this. Again, always absorbing. Much of the best work we receive in our Work Portfolios in the Transition Year is driven by memories of childhood; Dillon writes about our first homes that 'in the furrows and expanses of the house, we uncover for the first time the surfaces on which memory and imagination can be sent in motion, safely sliding from room to room ... to remember such a place is to reconnect with our most solitary sense of ourselves.' November 26, 2006
David Cooper My First Home
remember them well: the cold stern brick red tiles paved across the kitchen floor. The hard oak kitchen table that always has a scent of varnish, like it has recently being painted, level with my chin. The lazy Susan is carelessly placed on the middle of the table and creaks as it's turned. New plain wooden chairs surround it like campers around an open fire. I can still picture the irregular knots in their wood. My mind leads me to the Aga. A saturated blue towel clings to its sleek cream surface, trying to dry. The dirty worn dog bed rests on the floor beside it. Even now I can see the little Jack Russells scuttling out the creaky door as the 14
sound of the rusty decayed steel bread-bin opening flows through the air. Next door is the playroom floored with some type of cork squares. The overly bright light bulb is bare and plain, and operated by a would-be-white plastic switch that I struggle to reach. Irregular lines on the back of the door catch my eye. I laugh at my stupidity as I recognise them. The heights of my siblings and me at each birthday are engraved into the door. I scan the various shelves along the wall, crammed full of toys and board-games. I have to climb the towering wooden mass that makes up the piano in order to a pull a game off one of the shelves. I drift to the stairs; they're like a thin layer of baby grass covering a steep slope. My foot warms as it touches this green carpet. I clamber up to my bedroom running my hand along the smooth banister, partially broken from where my brother fell into it. I enter my room and squint in as my eyes begin to adjust to the light. I scan it carefully trying to take in every detail. I recall the blue and white chequered patterned wallpaper that blankets the walls. A strip of toy cars painted on the wall cuts the room in half. A handmade cupboard and desk separate the pair of steel blue beds. The desk is a shade of sky-blue with animals stencilled onto it as well as DAVID in capital letters. Light floods through a small window in the corner of the room, but still not enough of it. I climb into my bed, the small duvet enveloping me and making me feel safe. I always feel safe in my bed. I'm never afraid of the dark as long as I'm in my bed. In my house. That house. In that house, I always feel safe. IV form, TY Work Portfolio. June 9th 2007
Oli Smith My first home
y first home was beautiful. I was only eight months old and I had just moved from Australia. My parents borrowed a bit of money and we settled down in our big house on the top of a hill overlooking the beautiful French village of Montelimar. The town is known for its manufacture of nougat, so as you drove into the village that lovely sweet smell would hit you. The house was really old. Everything was carved from brilliant French stone. The staircase was a beautiful stone that spiralled all the way down to the lower floor. Every morning I would wake up to the sound of the church bells ringing all over the valley. I would put on my sandals and in my pyjamas I would walk to the basement floor and out the back door, down the street to the bakery. The baker knew me and would have six pan-au-chocolats waiting for me. I could smell the sweet pastries mingling with the ever-present scent of the nougat, a delicious aroma. I would give him fifteen francs, say thank you and walk on home. As I was always the first up, I brought in the milk and took in the post. The house had been built during the French Revolution and therefore was peppered with secret escape tunnels. Two had collapsed but the third still remained in very good condition. As half my house was built into the hill, my garage was a hole in the side of it. This being the opening of the tunnel I spent a lot of time in there. About once a week, because it was forbidden to me, I would sneak into the garage and follow the tunnel the whole way to the other side of the hill. My dad made a bit of money as a writer, and my mum was being a housewife, but between them both they weren't making enough money. Eventually we had to sell the house, and move away. I was five and Ireland was cold. My first home was beautiful. It was where I built a lot of cherished memories. I loved it because it was a beautiful house and a beautiful village, with good weather and good people, but most of all I loved it because my sisters lived at home and in Montelimar my family was together.
IV form, TY Work Portfolio. June 10th 2007
Emily Plunket A description of a street late at night
oise, there's too much noise, coming from every direction possible. Trying to hear yourself think, let alone sleep, is a mission in the city, but you do eventually get used to it. Near and far, distant and clear, in the distance sirens blaring as they speed to some kind of emergency. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of red flashing lights, but that's only when they're close. Horns angrily being punched by tense fists, car tyres sliding and screeching as brakes are slammed on, people's raised voices in all sorts of languages and accents, some understandable, and some not. The sound like the dishwasher makes when you turn it on lets me know a plane is about to land, or has just taken off. Closer, the hustle and bustle of people going out or coming back or just generally moving. Music pumping from the hot and sweaty nightclubs and the strong smell of food. The Indian and Chinese usually send up a good waft, making my taste buds tingle, and then there's the chipper which I'm convinced you can smell the grease from. I can smell the day's industrial building's produce as it clogs my already stuffy nose. The air from the sea, on the other side of town, is unsmellable anymore as night intrudes and the lifecycle changes. The buildings stand like trees, tall and straight, their leaves shielding us from all outsiders. They look down on us, following our movements, making no judgments, watching the nightlife emerging from their trunks. Embedded in their bark are little shafts of light which illuminate the city, some never going out. Every so often footsteps trudge by, or quicken to the click of high heels, or stop, or keep going. The city is an ever-changing place with ever-changing people. My street, Albert Street, used to face another street of plain semidetached houses. We now face an Indian restaurant, a Chinese take-away, a chipper called ‘Midnight Fries’, some sort of hardware store, a store that sells ‘everything’ when in fact selling nothing worth anything, and a little supermarket. The pavement, once grey and new, is now speckled with white from people's dirty eating habits and uncleanliness. The doors are still the same though. First is the big blue door with a half-broken brass knocker and no letterbox. Then there is the orange door with the white graffiti writing which says something in another language. Then the red door which is in desperate need of another layer of paint, another blue one, a green one with a fancy knocker and doorbell, and the yellow door, which actually belongs to the couple who run the Indian restaurant. I've always wondered if it is yellow from their curry. Then finally the white door.
This is just my street. Dogs bark at all hours, the milkman comes far too early and people need help remembering the day. A city is not a single community. It is made up of hundreds of little semi-communities all heated by the same bright sun in the day, and all covered by the same dark blanket protecting us at night. We lie looking at the same twinkling diamonds in the sky as everybody else around town, and around the world. As I sit and look around me I feel at home. Everything is how it should be and the city is still moving, beating in my pulse, keeping me alive with it. IV form, TY Work Portfolio. June 9th 2007
John Fanagan Something to Hide, by Penny Perrick
've just finished Something to Hide by Penny Perrick. It's a biography of the Irish poet Sheila Wingfield who died in 1992. She isn't much read now and hasn't been for many years, but some of her poems (a number are included in the appendix) are quite appealing. Her life was fascinating: rich, beautiful, married to the Powerscourt heir, in later years addicted to drugs. I found the book hard to put down: it's a fascinating story and Penny Perrick does it justice. I strongly recommend it. February 17th 2007
Lauren O'Connell Life
ife a sparrowâ€™s flight through a room surrounded by darkness, in one window and out the other. For a brief instant a glimpse of light warmth on the feathers gone. How could it yearn for light, for warmth for life knowing only the darkness? Now how can it not? V form. May 1st 2007
Jessica Dean Journey
f life itself let loose its wings and drifted on the draughts of death, not tied down by mortal things, dependent upon no breath. Though all above does not see down and down may not see up, we cannot see ahead our time for all our eyes stay shut. And at the end we go to a place where we are purely souls, and we see that after all this time, finally, we are whole. III form. May 3rd 2007
Anna Traill Happy Place
hilly wind blowing down my neck, Sound of seagulls. No waves, but ripples, Ripples in the forgotten sea. Loose sand gliding over the golden sheet, Colours in the sky, Every shade of a prism, Tranquillity taking over, Peace and quiet, away from everything. Just to think. Nobody here, Just me and myself, Myself and I. Itâ€™s more than enough, donâ€™t need anyone else, Sitting in my oasis, Not a care in the world. Forgotten bad thoughts Bring new ones to mind. Someone calling my name. This place, I leave behind. III form. May 3rd 2007
Fred Mann The greatest pleasure in life
he greatest pleasure in my life is relaxing. There are a number of things that make me relax, and one of them is thinking about being curled up in front of the fire, in my house in Wales. It is dark outside and since you are halfway up a mountain, the wind is howling, but you are cosy, warm and there is music playing. On his bed beside the fire lies my dog. After a day of running and chasing after rabbits he is exhausted and is almost in a coma. Next door in the kitchen the supper is cooking gently and the smells are aromatic, a scent of heaven. I ask my father if he wants to play chess and he agrees. We play a few games, and then I go back to the sofa and I lie back looking at the deep red ceiling criss-crossed with giant oak beams painted black as the nightâ€™s sky. My eyes glaze over and I start to imagine stars appearing in the ceiling. A new smell â€Ś I know it well; it is meat being cooked in the fire. At this I begin to wake up and get ready for dinner. After eating I lie back on the sofa and think of bed, but there are a few things that need to be done first. I get a big mug of tea and walk outside. The howling wind has calmed and as I walk across the lawn to a seat, I think of what I would like to do tomorrow. I never get to think about it because as I reach the seat everything changes. I lie on the seat and look up and there, like a gift, is the most beautiful sight in existence, the heavens, twinkling as if God was looking down on me. 22
It never ceases to amaze me day after day, night after night. I try to count the stars but I get lost after about ten, so I decide just to stare and concentrate on one star, the biggest and brightest of them all. I watch as a shooting star goes past. I follow it into the distance until all I see is black over the hills. I am almost asleep in the garden. Down in the valley I hear sheep bleat. Then from behind I hear a clink of metal. I brace myself for the impact. I know what is going to happen and, as I expect, I feel my dog jump onto the seat I am lying on. He begins to walk on my chest towards my head. Eventually just as I expect he starts licking my face. I push him off and pull out my iPod and put on Untitled 1 by Sigur Rós, the most relaxing song I can think of, and just lie there still, staring at the stars. Not thinking of anything in particular, just waiting to give in to the unbearable cold. But for some reason I don’t, and I lie there for what seems an eternity. Then I just get up and drain the last of my stone-cold tea and make my ascent into my bedroom, wondering what the next day will bring and hoping I will be able to relive that night once again.
IV form, March 10th 2008. See the YouTube clip of Untitled I online.
Cordelia Mulholland Voices
barely audible whisper
The murmur of quiet words
Unspoken statements That seem to go unheard Unpredicted choices An underlying tone So many different voices The silence on the phone Great speeches unforgotten Anonymous whispers from above The warm words of wisdom The hollow words of love V form. May 3rd 2007
Joseph Millar I’m Just Going Outside and May Be Some Time (prompted by a line in Derek Mahon’s poem ‘Antarctica’)
om won’t arrive for a while yet, so for the time being I have the flat to myself. I close the door, and drop the keys onto a table that is too big for the room. Beside me is a cardboard box. It is filled with my things: books, CDs, clothes, and it’s depressing to see how easily my life can be compressed. The word MOVING!!! is crayoned onto the side, accompanied by three nauseatingly blasé exclamation marks. In this empty flat, the box acts as a sort of centrepiece, and that alone should highlight the aesthetically destitute home I made for myself. I’m standing in Dublin’s only sensual deprivation chamber, and what’s worse, I’m paying €300 a month for the pleasure The only other attraction in the room is a sofa. It is the type of sofa made when Styrofoam filling was the pinnacle of domestic panache, and by the looks of it, it was last cleaned then, too. When I lower myself onto the cushions, a thick layer of dust rises, giving the room a strangely serene, LAskyline-esque smoggy hue. Compared to it, mustard gas resembles air freshener. So, this is home.
The next room has a bed in the corner, and I choose it as my own. I place an Arctic Monkeys CD on the pillow, a sort of reservation slip that only wellgroomed, student-cum-rebels would understand. There is a set of drawers in the corner, and I fill my clothes into one of them; the other three remain empty. The room is still startlingly bare. I make a floor mosaic with my CD cases, but in the end it is overly bright, and reminds me of doing jigsaw puzzles when I was young, so I just lean the cases against the wall. I sellotape a picture of The Clash up onto the wall, and for a moment I remember that I’m young, and angry, and shouldn’t be feeling homesick, but then I realise that my room is windowless, and that’s kind of depressing. I’m almost happy to return to the smoggy, yet naturally-lit haven of the sitting room. The fridge is empty except for a six-pack of beer I bought in preparation for my college life. I asked Tom to buy some necessities on the way over here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he interprets that as another six-pack of the same beer, and a take-away pizza. I sit on a stool, and drink one of the cans. I’m not trying to get drunk, and I don’t particularly like the taste, but I’m eighteen years old, and it’s my first 25
day of freedom. If I had a CD player I would probably have played I Predict a Riot but to be honest, I think Waiting for my Real Life to Begin would have been more suitable. Tom arrives later with two six-packs of beer, and a couple of girls we used to know, and I remember that this is The Life, so I get drunk, and anticipate the mature smugness I will get by feeling hung-over the next morning. V form. October 2nd 2007
Molly Sanderson A Path
omewhere along this rocky road, I shall find a path. A path that is only filled with the blooming flowers of the cloudy skies. A path that has the sense of happiness, peace, pure tranquillity. This is where I shall bathe in the silky, silver lake. Lie in the blades of green grass. This is where I shall smile, cry with the thought of joy and laugh at the evil. This will be my point of happiness. III form. April 30th 2007
Sophie Millar Photos
he closed her eyes, blindfolded and protected.
she didn't want to see who had left maybe an honest smile had disappeared or the carefree hair was it the clear skin with natural flush or the favourite teddy bear instead she closed her eyes, blindfolded and protected she laughed with the speech of truth she laughed at the speech of falsehood she treasured the sound of a smile in a voice and she closed her eyes, blindfolded and protected she escaped into the sounds and ran with the flow of words she dodged the bites and stings of haste and sought comfort in the running race thatâ€™s why she closed her eyes, blindfolded and protected II form. May 4th 2007
College Places In June 2007, many II formers wrote about their favourite place within the College. In the following pages are five of these pieces.
Olivia Plunket My Escape
pick up my book and pen, open the door, and begin the journey to my favourite place. I walk along the stony path and then onto the grass, and past an oak tree. Then I see it, the sycamore tree, surrounded by grass, with leaves that come in thousands. It has vines that cling on to it as if it is all that they have. The branches seem never to stop growing, and new ones are forever appearing. This tree has seen many things in its life. It has many memories and if it could speak it could tell many stories, for I'm not the only person who lies beneath it. I've never climbed it for I do not want to disturb the nature that lives there. When I reach it the smell of freshly cut grass surrounds me with the warmth of summer. I listen to my music when I'm there, but I can still hear the soft singing of the birds in the background. This place doesn't come alive, for it is always alive, surrounded by nature's wildlife. The grass always seems soft, and where I lie the only ray of sunlight that can break through the leaves shines directly on me. This is a place I can go alone or with another, but whenever I come I feel free. I usually go into Chapel before I go to the tree so I can lose myself in the piano, and go to my heaven of music. The best thing is that nobody is ever there - it is so peaceful and I can just sit there, content with myself. The book I write in contains everything and anything that goes through my mind, mainly poems and memories, but what it really is, is a book of emotions. When it begins to rain and I'm lying there I do not move. I simply let the rain soak me up and drown my thoughts, still listening to my music. The rain falls hard, but I can barely notice it, for at this time the pain inside me has made my body numb. So I lie there motionless, letting the rain run off. If I had one wish in the world it would be that I could lie there forever. It has become a part of me, my own place to let go of my worries. Even though most of the time I'm there, I'm alone, I never feel lonely. The silent tree doesn't speak or disturb me, it just understands me. I don't think I've ever felt safer, for I am wrapped by its presence. 28
At night it's at its peak, and I'm in my element. It sways softly in the wind, and creaks soothingly. The leaves make shadows in the starlight. The stars make the dark blanket sparkle like a million diamonds, and the moon shines brightly, stunning me. Here the world seems to stop and let me be. I lie beneath this tree, day or night, and write in my book of emotions. I watch the clouds and leaves move slowly as everything else seems still. This place is my pain relief, my world that I've created, and I go there frequently because in this cruel world of hatred and love, it is my only escape.
II form. June 19th 2007
Amelia Shirley The Hill
hen I come to The Hill, I always check behind me to make sure that no one is following. I prefer to be alone when I lie in the dewy grass and stare into the blue. It's a small walk down the far side of the senior cricket pitch. Once you come close to the big grey wall that surrounds the school, you follow it for some time, until you reach a small clearing on the bank that carries on as far as the eye can see. I often like to lie in the damp, frosty grass and discover the clouds, but my view gets interrupted by branches of the small, twiggy trees that grow there. I may lie and watch the sunsets turn from purple to red to gone, or let the rain fall upon my face and slowly trickle into my eyes and ears. From The Hill, I can see what feels like everything, from the monstrosity of the M50, and the speeding vehicles, to the greenness of a golf course and a man distraught at missing his putt. The sounds are quiet, but at the same time deafening. The screeching of brakes, the hooting of horns, the chirping of crickets and the song of birds, sends a huge contrast of sounds to my ears. When the sun decides to rest, and the shadows move overhead, a sudden breeze begins to blow, and it's almost as if the buds on the branches seem to wither and become afraid of the night. The raindrops plop off the thin blades of grass and the dandelions are blown about in the wind, swaying to and fro. The Hill doesn't have a particular smell that I can recall, other than maybe the fumes produced by the cars. Other than that, if the grass had a smell, or the sky or the sun, or the rain or the clouds or the birds, if these things had a smell, the word I would use, might be ... freedom. II form. June 19th 2007
Robbie Hollis My desk
n the left corner closest to the window in dorm 1.4 of Glen House is my desk. It is covered in fake wood plastic sheeting to make it look like wood. A little graffiti tells me who has had the desk in previous years.
There are books strewn across it as well as pens, papers and other various items such as my iPod dock pumping out loud music, my blue game boy (Pokemon all the way!) and my fish tank. My fish tank is small and rectangular and has slightly murky water in it. There is a black base and a black lid. The fish food sits on top in its little blue container. In it there are lots of small grey stones covering the bottom, a shell, and a rock pyramid for the fish to swim through. On the back and bottom glass there is a line of jelly-like stuff where we sealed up a crack. As for fish... well there aren't any, following two recent funerals a week apart from each other involving a toilet... Above my desk is my book shelf which is sometimes quite neat (not really at the moment). There are revision papers sticking out of books, and books falling off the shelf itself. Above it on the roof are some papers and an acoustic guitar that has no strings. The guitar is falling apart and when it did have strings was quite rattley. It is awaiting repair in the summer... and there’s a little bass guitar made from various Coca Cola cans. Under my desk are overflowing drawers. One of them doesn't go in properly. They have items in them that range from jocks and socks to sweets to videos and there is even some strawberry jam in a little tub for my toast later. There are nail clippers and Thai letter stamps and a wireless computer mouse. Under my desk on my chair is a blue Oakley one-strap rucksack which I use for travelling. On it I have collected over 200 baggage tags from airports which I am hoping to enter into the Guinness Book of World Records. There is also my green Adidas kit bag with my red and black Adidas football boots and my red and white Nike football. Beside my desk is my cricket bag with ‘Gray Nicholls’ written on the side. In it are my pads, helmet, gloves, bat and all the other stuff I need. My tennis racket is beside that and my saxophone case beside that. Leaning on the desk is my real bass guitar with its sunburst-coloured front. My desk with its blue chair and junk is my home while I'm in school and that is why I love it. II form. June 19th 2007 31
Harry Brooke Signature Tree
ne of my favourite places in this school is this magnificent horse chestnut. It has branches the size of small houses. The leaves alone are the size of me. The branches never stop going higher and higher. This tree has many good characteristics, one of which is as a great hiding place because its leaves cover its bare branches like a huge green shield. Not many people know about it, because it's just another tree to them. The leaves act as a shield so no-one one can see into the tree and see what's really there - not just wood. All you can hear when you are around this tree and there isn't a car or a bus moving, is the twitter of a magpie or the cawing of a crow. Sometimes you can be very lucky and see a squirrel jump from rustling branch to branch. The tree has hard scratchy bark which is a great grip for climbing, but very like sandpaper. Its leaves are huge green and fleshy. All you can smell when you're around this tree is dried sap but you have to climb to get to it because the pollution takes over. In the day the place is still full of the movement of magpies, crows, squirrels and little bugs, but at night everything really comes to life. The tree itself turns into the weeping willow in Harry Potter, swinging its branches wildly at any movement. The birds wake up as if turned on by a switch and fly full speed around the tree avoiding the branches like a game of dangerous dodge-ball, with the occasional bird getting hit, and feathers flying everywhere. The squirrels jump onto the branches and ride them as if on a roller-coaster. The bugs watch this spectacle as if in the cinema with the occasional 'ahhhhh' or 'ohhhh' as a bird gets hit or a squirrel gets blown off. But the party-goers at this spectacle are the woodlice who down at the bottom of the tree dance, laugh and shout as if there is no tomorrow. But when the sun rises and the people wake up, this nocturnal tree falls asleep and all you can hear is the twitter of magpies. II form. June 19th 2007 32
Jack Armstrong The Tibradden Radiator
he Tibradden radiator has been running most of the school year. In the winter it keeps you nice and snug while sleeping in a metal bed that always slopes towards the middle. The radiator is a creamy colour and it always shows the dirt. It had a buddy who stayed with him every night - they were very close. It loved the attention it was getting from the Tibraddeners as we sat beside it after rugby training, dripping with the rain from outside. At break and lunchtime we also sat beside it, with the bed used as a sofa The real mystery is the things that were accidentally dropped down the back where it was all dark and dusty. The examples of what we put down are things like milk cartons, yogurts and bread. After a few weeks the smell started storming around the room with puffs of dust coming out of the mouldy bread. Some of the memories are quite sickening. For instance, one day we came back from lunch with a milk carton. One thing led to another and the small box fell down into a dark and cosy place. It was left in this dark dusty place for a few weeks when finally it saw light again. The stench was unbearable: woffs of decaying milk swarmed into your face. It taught us a small lesson; you should never mess with the Tibradden radiator. Everything used to break in Tibradden, but never the radiator. The radiator tried its hardest to heat the room while every window was open in the summer but against us Tibraddeners it hadn't a chance. At the end of our reign in Tibradden the radiator had seen better days. It was covered in plaster from a little accident that happened a few weeks before the end of term. It also had paint taken off it from a few knocks and bangs. When the day came, it saw all its friends go home for the summer holidays. We would not have felt like Tibraddeners without the wonderful creamy radiator with the loving soul. The new guys have moved in now and I hope they treat it the same as we did. II form. June 19th 2007
Stephanie Brann The Astroturf
he Astroturf is used for many different sports, but the sport I play most on it is hockey. One of my strongest memories of it is running on it, and when we play matches it is pouring down with rain or it is really sunny and all of your energy gets taken out of you. These are all good memories though. Another memory is that as soon as you arrive down there with your hockey sticks, you are told to go and run a few laps. Then once you get into a fun game, whistles are always being blown by coaches who are trying to tell us what we are doing wrong. I would say that most of the time we would all go and make the same mistake again without knowing it. On a cold damp day, there isn't really much colour to the place at all. As you are running around the pitch all you can really see is a dull green for the surface of the pitch and a sort of dull grey for the rest of your surroundings. This is mainly in the winter but in the spring it is completely different. In spring, the pitch has a happier and brighter atmosphere. Everyone usually arrives down with smiles across their faces, ready to go and have a proper session of hockey. I think one of the big disadvantages of the pitch is that there is no water fountain anywhere nearby. So when you have finished a hard session, you have to climb the steep steps going up towards the pavilion and then walk back to your house. The two goals at either end of the pitch always seem like they are so much narrower than they actually are. It is really frustrating when you have so many chances to get the ball in and for some reason the ball just won't go anywhere near it. On either side of the pitch there are a few other goals that you can practise shooting into. But, because they don't have a big fence behind them, the ball sometimes goes straight over the railing. When it happens more than once it can be the most irritating thing, having to climb over the fence and search for the hockey ball in the long grass. Another thing that can be annoying is that when the ball goes out at either corner, it always seems to go behind the football nets and then you get tangled up trying to bring the ball back onto the pitch. When you are exhausted and your legs feel like jelly, you can just lie down flat on the ground, spread yourself out and feel like no one is around you. All you can see is straight ahead of you is the sky...
During the summer term, the pitch is used for athletics, football and tag-rugby. The girls usually do athletics and the boys do football and tag-rugby. When it comes to athletics, a lot more people than me would prefer for the pitch to be about half the size, as we are usually asked to do sprinting races form one end to the other or a couple of laps. But if the pitch was half the size, it would definitely not be as much fun. The astroturf is one of many things I like about this school. Mainly, because I play one of my favourite sports on it. Even though I have said so many negative things about it, I think that is what makes me love it so much. II form. June 19th 2007
Shane Lavin The Person I Admire Most
n exotic braid of wisdom is always visible, Growing longer as years turn to decades.
It has given her the experience of the highs and lows We may sometimes look forward to, yet often fear. Their brittle shells get stepped on and crushed Until her presence offers wings to those who witness The smile that can encourage us all to rise to a higher state. Although heartfelt joy battles the overpowering pressure of life, The common obstacles continue to become increasingly larger challenges. But there exists a pulse of strength which scarcely escapes Her soul through the open windows of her eyes. One that gives her surroundings an unfathomable desire To cherish the life we all live, Yet rarely live for. V form, Poem of the Week. January 9th 2008
Ellie Russell Itâ€™s Your Turn
e used to close his eyes, as he thought out his strategy. And I never considered his long fingers cold and tired as he moved to checkmate with a grin. But now as he lies on this bed, Each breathe more shallow than the last, I realize that those times are over And this smile is different. It's a wave goodbye, As he lays his king down, And leaves the table. VI form. April 12th 2008
Hanne Grainger Matters of Death No matter how strong, no matter how weak, no matter how tall, no matter how small, no matter how beautiful, no matter how ugly, no matter how smart, no matter how stupid, it takes us all eventually and never give us back.
V form. April 12th 2008
Sophie Haslett The Shape Weâ€™re In
he's far too thin. Everybody agrees on that. In those shrunken hotpants and skinny vest she looks positively ill, like an urchin from Oliver Twist, albeit one with this season's Prada handbag and hair extensions. But just how skinny is Victoria Beckham? How would it feel if she sat on your lap? Would she be heavier than a kitten? If you hugged her, would she break? We do know that she wears jeans with a minuscule 23-inch waist - the size, apparently of a seven yearold child (it also happens to be the circumference of my head). But Victoria Beckham is not alone; she is merely leading the group of a frightening 'New Look', which has come to dominate our lives. Other exemplars are Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, Mischa Barton and Keira Knightley - women who do not have an ounce of fat to share between them. You might not give a tossed salad how much these bony birds weigh, you might not think it's our business. But it is. It matters because hyper-thin has somehow become today's celebrity standard and thus the goalposts have moved for us all. Images of Lindsay Lohan's chest-bones desperately reaching out to greet strangers, or Keira Knightley's xylophone of vertebrae, countable at 30 paces, have burned themselves into our consciousness so that Ăźber-thin no longer looks odd. It no longer shocks. But it does make you look at your own teenage, warm, soft body in a hard new light. I have seen this kind of thin before - in anorexic girls in hospital, from eating too little. Little did I think that those poor girls that you avoid eye contact with were to become celebrated, a glory to which women of all ages might aspire. And we do. After all, the mantra is that thin gets you noticed. And these girls that grace our magazine covers are definitely noticed. They are associated with glamour and success and I have met a girl as young as ten who is unhappy with her figure. Size 00 - a logical impossibility when you pause to consider it is now Hollywood's dress size of choice. Icons of the past such as Marilyn Monroe would never get the job today. We only have to realise that to know that something's up. The bottom line is that clothes look better on people who are thinner. It's nothing to do with men (as they all prefer curvy girls) and everything to do with competition between females. Four in ten of us are on a permanent diet. Ninety eight percent of us hate our figures. We know exactly how much we ate for lunch and therefore how much we can eat for dinner. We're living under a siege of our own making, bedevilled by a sickening guilt as we lick the last chocolate smear from a Magnum. But perhaps we should look harder at Victoria's sick little body, at her desperate little jeans. Perhaps we should train ourselves to see the permanent 39
hunger of the hyper-thin. Strip away the gloss, starve their 'lovely bones' of the oxygen of publicity. In the final analysis, doesn't the responsibility lie not with them, but with us? V form. January 27th 2007 Also published in the Irish Times on February 27th 20007
Julian Girdham What Was Lost, by Catherine Oâ€™Flynn
atherine O'Flynn's brilliant dĂŠbut novel (winner of the Costa First Novel Prize) has just arrived in the Library and is strongly recommended.
'Crime was out there. Undetected, unseen. She hoped she wouldn't be too late.' Our detective from Falcon Investigations is Kate, a ten year-old heading for her daily self-imposed holiday surveillance shift at the new local Green Oaks Shopping Centre. Together with her assistant Mickey the Monkey (who she made from a Charlie Chimp the Gangster craft kit), she keeps an eye on the centre's customers, staff, shops banks ... It is 1984. Not so much Big Brother as Little Girl. The story then shifts to 2004. Kate vanished twenty years ago (and is seen on CCTV in images reminiscent of the James Bulger story). The new protagonists are security guard Kurt ('he'd been looking at the same monitor screens for the past thirteen years') and music store assistant manager Lisa, stuck between nightmarish senior management and deranged floor assistants. What follows is a kind of mystery story - what happened to Kate all those years ago, and how are the lives of Kurt and Lisa affected by this? What Was Lost is both very funny and very moving. Catherine O'Flynn captures perfectly the ferocious seriousness of childhood, and the heartbreaking emotional void beneath this child's detective role-playing. There are many other vivid minor characters - the sad (and sweet) sweet-shop worker Adrian, the appalling ranting manager Dave, the security guard Gavin (who manages to be both boring and sinister). This is partly a story of lives of quiet desperation, taking place against the background of a post-industrial deracinated Britain (thus the ironically named centre). In the end, it also becomes a love story. One further mystery : it was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2007. Only long-listed? April 16th 2008 40
Zachary Stephenson Light There is a dim light Glowing in front of us. What could it represent? Maybe it is Godâ€™s light Keeping us safe; Or a signal fire Looking for help. Perhaps it is comfort For those with grief, Inspiration for an idea, Courage for the cowardly Or soothing for the stressed. As it illuminates our lives I am certainly glad There is light.
Josh Kenny Solitude My place of solitude is a field, Not far from my home. The air is fresh, the ground is moist And I can see the mountains perfectly. In the middle of the field I sit On the wet green grass Listening to birds and relax, Forgetting the past. My field is a place of joy, relaxation, Solitude and freedom. I form. April 25th and 26th 2008 41
Kezia Wright Place There the treetops meet the sky And there the leaves flutter in the autumn wind, As they bid their tree goodbye. There grasses of green arise from the fields While sounds of the lambs Throng the springy air. There a soft wind blows amongst the boiling heat And gentle waves lap against your feet. Daylight never ends And flies buzz in the sticky heat. There snow blankets the land And icicles drip onto the morning frost. The land is still, When the bitterly cold wind marches in. There the sun will spread its wings And shine brightly once again. There purple evenings are home to the giant moon. I form. April 26th 2008
Jamie Boyd Driftwood I started out in life As a huge and mighty crate, Filled to the brim With ammunition for an army. Till one day tall and powerful waves Crashed down on our ship Making it toss this way and that way, Men shouting orders Slipping and sliding. Suddenly a rogue wave hits And flings me into the raging sea, I smash open and all the bullets Sink to the oceanâ€™s bed. And I begin to drift. Drift far and wide, To the edge of the world. I may get washed up, But the ever-moving sea Will pick me up again, And drift away I will again. I form. April 25th 2008
Jessica Dean House Speech : Braces
adies and Gentlemen, tonight I’m here to talk to you about a subject that has a huge impact on my life…….Braces! People with braces get such a hard time. You don’t stop to think about it but, when you see the images shown on TV of the typical ‘dork’, they always seem to have braces. Take the show Ugly Betty for instance, which I’m sure you’ve all seen. She’s actually really pretty in real life but, for the show, they’ve obviously thought- ‘Hmm ... how can we make her Ugly Betty?’ So they stick some braces on her. Well, thanks very much, how’s that supposed to make us feel? And then of course, there are the ‘clever’ names people have come up with – Braceface (obviously), Chainsaw Chops, Tinsel Teeth, Cageface, Metalmouth, Railway Face … and the list goes on. Ok, sometimes you’ve just gotta get over the fact that you’ve got a whole load of metal glued to your teeth, because it’s all worth it in the end. But I still remember when I first got them; it was agony, the worst part being that I couldn’t talk or eat anything. It was funny though - when I got back to school, it was like I was suddenly part of the ‘braces gang’, you know? Like we had a connection or something. Every time you pass another metalmouth you give a little sympathetic nod and say ‘ah, you too then, eh?’ Occasionally though, when you’re bored, braces can come in pretty handy. I think it was Poppy who first tried to peel an orange on them, which didn’t work and resulted in peel being stuck there for ages. Then of course there was the time when I decided to see exactly how many earrings I could hang off them, so yeah, very useful when there’s nothing to do. But then, how could I forget probably the most embarrassing event of my whole life? It happened all thanks to my braces. I had just had these elastics put on which went from my top teeth to my bottom teeth, possibly the most repulsive things ever. Ok, so I was talking to a group of friends and then the next thing, this seriously HOT guy comes over to talk to me. So I was being all ‘cool’, you know, doing the hair-flick and everything, and we were getting on really well until I went and made the stupid mistake of smiling at him. Suddenly he goes - ‘Wow, that’s really cool, you have pink elastics!’ and so I was like – ‘Whaaat? No, no I don’t.’ I had this horrible sensation creeping up on me, and I must have shown it because then, trying to 44
reassure me, he said quickly ‘Oh no no! They’re really cool and everything, sorry, I just didn’t know that you could get them in pink!’ Of course I still didn’t cop on to why I suddenly had pink elastics. They were definitely normal-coloured the last time I’d checked. Then it finally dawned on me. I had eaten pizza about an hour before and the tomato must have turned them pink. So, me being the tactful and subtle person that I am, didn’t say – ‘Oh yeah, I had them like specially ordered.’ Oh no, that would have been far too cool; instead, I did a big dorky snort of laughter and said in my most unattractive voice - ‘Oh no no, they’re not actually pink, I just ate pizza and I eh, must have forgotten to take them out!’ Yep, seriously hot stuff. And that’s not to mention the time when I was doing one of my famously loud laughs in front of that same guy and one of my elastics pinged out and hit someone. So yeah, I really made an impact on that poor lad. Then comes the nightmare that goes along with having braces - the dental appointments. Seriously, as far as I’m concerned, my orthodontist and I are mortal enemies. It was his fault that I ended up with pink elastics in the first place because he ‘forgot’ to tell me that you’re supposed to take them out when you eat. Our main area of disagreement is that I manage to break, on average, at least two brackets (as he so kindly informed me) between each appointment. But he’s not the ‘openly angry’ type, oh no. He just waits until I have a big pair of pliers jammed in my mouth and then the lecture starts. It’s the same every time: ‘So how many broken so far?’ I try to answer but, of course it just comes out as a gargle, and so he proceeds to tell me – ‘Ah yes, it’s, six times now I think’. Of course my mum thinks the whole situation hilarious because he’s the first person to give me a lecture who I actually have to listen to. In the past, my usual reaction to these riveting lectures would have been to cough, just as he’s bending down to get a better view of my teeth, and hope that I have a really nasty and contagious chest infection.
Then came the time when I had successfully managed to break three brackets in one go, and he had had to stay on an extra hour just to fit me in. I was screwed. As I went in, I noticed that this time, he was wearing a protective mask. He was onto me. As soon as I sat down and had some light thing stuck in my mouth, the usual question followed – ‘So eh, three this time then is it? Did you actually read the sheet I gave you that told you what you should and shouldn’t eat if you actually want your braces to work?’ Ehh, DUH!! Of course I 45
bloody read it! But who the hell is gonna believe that gum could pull a bracket out? You have to test these things. Has he never heard of ‘learning from your mistakes’? Then, to make things worse, he decided to drop a bracket down my throat, doing so with a little – ‘Whoopsie!! CAROL? Would you get me another lower bracket please?’ He didn’t stop there though, oh no. Just to top things off he went and dropped this tooth cement stuff down my throat as well. Yep, so that pretty much sums up the relationship between me and my orthodontist. That was my last appointment, and my next one is on this Thursday and I have managed to break yet another bracket. I want to dedicate this speech to all the metalmouths out there who have to go through this traumatic experience, and I want to say : Don’t just smile ... sparkle! IV form. October 4th 2007
Josh Kenny Beachball in the Summer Sun A beachball in the sun, Its bright colours colliding With the sun’s warmth, Rolling in the summer’s breeze, On the sandy surface of the beach. Bouncing and rolling along the sand, As though it has a mind of its own, Until the breeze weakens, And the ball comes to a standstill In the warmth of the summer sun. I form. April 26th 2008
Annabel Sharma Two Views of One Thing
see, you see, we see. But what you see, I Do not see. How is that when we Look at the same Thing? It sits there and Tempts our thoughts As if all was glory. It is our dilemma, That we will have To overcome. Two views of One thing. V form. May 3rd 2007
Rowland Cooper Petals
he sun shines, Clouds drift lazily Across the azure sky, And new flowers are opening, Turning their faces Towards freedom. The last to bloom Is our shrub of roses. Its scarlet petals Take no orders From their fellow flowers. They live by their own rules. Spring's finale of Pinks and whites Is spattered with bloodColoured beauty. The gorse is snapping on the hill, Behind the house, while The lakeside is reverberating With the sound of exploding balsam. Where is the queen of the garden now? All that remains is a stalk of thorns ... The only beauty left behind Is swirling petals in our memories. VI form. May 1st 2007
Benjamin Russell Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry, 2007 The Long Cry
t was a long, narrow corridor With many doors. The wind came in through the cracks In the old, paint-faded windows And tittered and whistled and echoed Off the walls, worn by fingers: Generations of children Sliding along, Their faces black and white and silent. And then the piano, That music So soft and slow and lilting; the beauty of slender Slavic fingers. So steeped in woe as it was, I could barely hold back the tears. And with my voice low and still I began to sing.
Benjamin Russell Steps
wo little girls stood in the corner Giggling, holding hands. Birds chirping and the smell Of ill-used petrol. Iron bells clanged in the clock tower. All the stones were crimson and gold Sunlight. The old man was still Held up by his wooden friend, Long since varnished with the worth of use. And as a dog howled far off, A wolfish impregnated scream, The people hurled their gifts Of blackened thoughts And polished light.
n my head I can see people fighting.
I canâ€™t see their faces, Just their bare arms, Their bloodied fists, The odd speck of hard white bone. And littering the ground Like some god-awful celebration, Like funeral confetti, The empty shards Of their broken glass smiles.
Benjamin Russell Pride of Place
ipping your fingers In my eyes, Like little pots of finger paint, You painted the most awkward picture ever. Such a dull brown colour. And I still couldnâ€™t see.
he other day I drew a face On the bottom of my shoe, On the soul. It was a hard looking face With a strong chin (so handsome - my mother would say) And a stiff upper lip. No tongue. But there was a sad softness in his eyes. A melancholy something To his monotone brow That made me wonder How he felt Getting stood on Every day. VI form. April 29th 2007
Tom McConville, Librarian Beware of Pity, by Stefan Zweig ohn Fanagan spotted Beware of Pity languishing in the Library office - you must Jread it, he said, pouncing on it, it’s a wonderful book. And wonderful it is. An
Austrian officer from the First World War, the much-decorated Captain Hofmiller, holder of the Order of Maria Theresa, the highest award for gallantry the Emperor can bestow, claims to a new-found writer acquaintance that he ‘escaped’ into the war and that his heroism stemmed not from courage but from emotional cowardice. And now, cynical of the adulation he receives and aware of the probability of a new war - it is 1937 - Captain Hofmiller tells his story to the author; not of his courage in the trenches, but of the events of 1913. An invitation to dinner draws the young Leutnant out of the boredom of barracks life and into the social whirl of the wealthy von Kekesfalva family. He enjoys himself hugely, and at the end of the evening is seized by a good idea. Not having noticed her affliction - her legs have been paralysed by a polio-like disease - he asks the daughter of the house to dance. She collapses and he flees back to the barracks with her anguished shrieks ringing in his ears. The next day, ashamed and horrified by his gaffe, he sends flowers. To his surprise he is invited back and is soon a regular, even privileged, guest. He brings to the troubled house his ‘pity’, that is to say his affability and his youth. The von Kekesfalvas are rich and cultured and he penniless, yet it is he who gives; quickly this ‘giving’ intoxicates him. It is an easy gift, however, for it is pity without responsibility, and by the time he understands that far more will be asked of him than he is prepared to give it is too late. He is enmeshed in an adult world of consequences. In an intense and sombre book, Zweig lays out the psychological destinies of his characters - the wealthy von Kekesfalva family in thrall to tragedy and secrets, the immature and isolated young cavalry officer being manoeuvred towards the stricken girl. There is no right and no wrong, only human frailty set against the contrasting backdrops of the callow heartiness of his brother officers and the call to selflessness of the moral exemplar, Dr Condor, to which the young Leutnant cannot rise. And as Captain Hofmiller tells his story the implications at the centre of his confession quietly restate themselves: that often courage is not heroic; that true pity, true courage, demands the continuous gift of the whole self; that the mass slaughter of war cannot erase one untoward peacetime death; that no insult is contained in that ratio, but instead its opposite, for most subtly and most importantly by the placing of his story Zweig insists that for all its incipient sadness, it is the single human life that best articulates the essence of existence, and that that articulation best occurs not in the massings of fascism, of war, but in the individual days of peace. 52
Reading it brought to mind two other masterworks from those times Joseph Roth’s Radetsky March and Sandor Marais’s Embers. Wonderful books both, and both also available in the Library.
September 20th 2006
Julian Girdham Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris
his début novel is a virtually unique book - an entire novel told in the first person plural, starting:We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled.
What follows (set in a Chicago advertising agency) is an extraordinary technical achievement, but also a consistently funny and often disturbing take on American life and the workplace. It’s also about the nature (and lack) of our individuality, and the ways systems and institutions seep into the fibre of our lives.
See a YouTube clip of the start of the novel online. September 4th 2007
Deirdre Gannon The Music of Chance, by Paul Auster
stumbled across this novel in the Library, along with all the other wonderful titles by Paul Auster. He is one of those rare novelists who writes books you can read in a day and be haunted by them for far longer. The Music of Chance is no different. Jim Nashe, a Boston ex-firefighter, comes to inherit money and decides to leave his job and keep on driving. Thirteen months later, on his way to New York, he meets Jack Pozzi, a professional card player. Anxious to replenish his now almost depleted funds, he strikes a bargain with Pozzi, which proves to be disastrous, culminating in the loss of his money and his freedom. The Music of Chance, like all of Auster's novels, deals with the terror of isolation, of a man being completely thrown back upon himself, and having to face himself within the confines of loneliness and self-reflection. It is a dark, deeply sinister novel, and highly enjoyable. September 28th 2006 Two months later, we quoted these words from Paul Auster from an essay published in the Guardian on the nature of fiction:
o do something for the pure pleasure and beauty of doing it. Think of the effort involved, the long hours of practice and discipline required to become an accomplished pianist or dancer. All the suffering and hard work, all the sacrifices in order to achieve something that is utterly and magnificently ... useless. Fiction, however, exists in a somewhat different realm from the other arts. Its medium is language, and language is something we share with others, that is common to us all. From the moment we learn to talk, we begin to develop a hunger for stories. Those of us who can remember our childhoods will recall how ardently we relished the moment of the bedtime story, when our mother or father would sit down beside us in the semi-dark and read from a book of fairy tales. Numbers don't count where books are concerned, for there is only one reader, each and every time only one reader. That explains the particular power of the novel and why, in my opinion, it will never die as a form. Every novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader and it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy. 54
Noel Coldrick MP3 Shakespeare
here has been a long tradition of Shakespeare in College. Since the early 1960s the Library has been purchasing recordings of plays and has amassed over the years a large collection on tape and CD. To preserve these recordings, particularly the older more fragile tapes, a joint project was set up between the Library and the Shakespeare Society to transfer the material to MP3 CDs. By moving to MP3 format we also make the recordings more accessible to pupils who can now listen to plays they are studying on their iPods. The new MP3 collection has over 60 MP3 CDs covering over 200 hours of recordings, and in addition to the plays contains the Sonnets and the Narrative poems, Pearson’s Life of Shakespeare, various compilations of famous scenes and soliloquies and old archive recordings. We colour-coded the MP3 CDs to separate the material into the standard categories of Tragedies (Green), Comedies (Light Blue), Histories & Compilations (Red), Romances & Poetry (Yellow) and Archive recordings (Purple).
The Archive category contains some very special recordings including Richard Burton’s Hamlet recorded live on Broadway in 1962, The Taming of the Shrew with Trevor Howard and Margaret Leighton from 1962, the young John Gielgud’s Hamlet from 1948 and wonderful productions by the Marlowe Dramatic Society and the Old Vic Company from the 60s and 70s of King Lear, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Much Ado about Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Comedy of Errors. The collection contains multiple productions of the more popular plays with for example six of Hamlet, four of King Lear, three of Romeo and Juliet, and so on. This will allow pupils to compare different interpretations by directors and actors of the plays and key roles. 55
While recordings of the more popular plays on the Junior and Leaving Certificate syllabus will complement and support classroom studies we hope that pupils will explore plays they are less familiar with. The Library has a number of books summarising the plays (including the excellent Essential Shakespeare Handbook and The Rough Guide to Shakespeare) which can be used to familiarise oneself with a play before listening to a recording. Listening to Shakespeare is a wonderful way to enjoy and explore this timeless and extraordinary literature. Through the talents of great actors the plays come alive and you get a real sense of the essence of Shakespeare, which is to put a mirror up to ourselves, to explore the full range of human nature with all its joys and sorrows, its complexities and contradictions, its hopes and ambitions, its good and evil. In 400 years we have not changed our nature that much. We are the people Shakespeare writes about, and his great genius is that he does this with profound insight into human nature and in language which is both beautiful and compelling.
November 6th 2007
Rebecca Feeney-Barry Review of Macbeth; Siren Productions at The Empty Space
n the March 10th, V form went to the Empty Space Theatre to see Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I thoroughly enjoyed this production. Selina Cartmell’s interpretation of this great tragedy allowed us to see the journey undertaken by the main character as his actions lead him into hell and madness. The venue chosen is perfectly suited to the context of the play. The director says that she thought of doing Macbeth when she saw the venue and one can understand why. The earth floors and stone walls in a subterranean space all indicate the trapped atmosphere of the play. This feeling is enhanced by the fact that there is no interval. Also, we are directly involved in the action; the seating is not much higher than the stage and, in order to get to the seats, you must walk across the acting space. This lends an immediacy and an intimacy to the action and to the tragedy of the play. The title role is played by Rory Keenan, who enacts this difficult role flawlessly. His descent into madness is utterly believable as are all his decisions. He even succeeds in injecting humour where it would seem impossible. His switches between dancing and fraught distress in the banquet scene had the whole audience torn between fear and laughter. The other characters were also acted convincingly. The multiple roles of Olwen Fouere merit a particular mention. She is terrifying as a constant presence in the form of the witches, a murderer and a servant in Macbeth’s castle. She indicates the role of the supernatural in the play as she is always around Macbeth. The forces of good, Malcolm and Macduff, are ably played and fit their characters completely. Lady Macbeth also holds her role of seemingly evil, cruel wife perfectly. In her descent into guilt-fuelled madness, Barbara Brennan’s non-exaggerated acting works excellently. We feel true pity for her. The set and costumes were very well done, as the play was set in a modern war. The special effects used made more than one member of the audience jump or cover their eyes. One particularly memorable moment was the interpretation of ‘savagely murdered’ to mean killed with a chainsaw. This is an example of the inventiveness of the production. These effects as well as the venue and the fine acting made this an extremely memorable production of a great tragedy. V form. March 13th 2008
Julian Girdham Will and Me, by Dominic Dromgoole
ill and Me is subtitled 'How Shakespeare took over my life' and is packed with enthusiasm, humour and wisdom. Dromgoole is now the Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre in London. He writes an engaging account of how completely Shakespeare has been in his blood since early childhood, and stitches Shakespeare's writing into his own personal, intellectual and professional biography. Dromgoole's attitude is that Shakespeare, in Walt Whitman's words, 'contains multitudes', that the Bard's works are full of the mess of life, good and bad. He's refreshingly unprecious about the plays, not pretending that every moment of every work is genius, and insisting that easy patterns cannot be enforced on the drive of the stories. The shape and mood of Will and Me enact this: it's freewheeling, rambling, often sentimental. But there's also plenty that is considered and thought-provoking. On the comedies: 'How quick and light is the twist of the coin that can turn despair to joy.' On character: 'Certain actors, Judi Dench as a prime example, have a voice that makes you care for them. With her, it's a little catch in the throat, a curl of sleepy sensuality, a gentle dancing humour. It doesn't matter whether villain or saint, you get pulled towards the humanity. Shakespeare's gift was that, however preposterous the situation, he makes you care for every one of his characters. They all have that catch of humanity in their voice.' On learning how to play Shakespeare : 'Keeping it light, and fast, and not signposting intentions, just speaking. About the nature of subtext, the sewage system that runs underneath all great writing and gives it its own electric tension. About the clumsiness of great dialogue, its scrappy messiness, and how a smooth speech articulating its own meaning is often a terrible one. He wrote speech, not speeches. He heard and reproduced the crackle and spark, the myriad small tensions that make it alive.' On the less famous, less 'important' characters : 'His speciality is the nonheroes, the confused, the human - the scrappy and the messy. They are there to show how we are 95% of the time. When we're awkward and self-conscious; when we stumble and fall; when we're gossipy and small. They are the people who love to hover close to the action but are frightened to join in. They are among Shakespeare's sharpest creations, and they are us.' March 19th 2007 58
Miriam Poulton The Merchant’s Guide to Venice, as featured in The Shakespearean.
our Ultimate Guide to the Highways and By-ways of Renaissance Italy (also including highlights of your trip to Belmont!)
WINNER OF THE GLOBE TRAVEL PRIZE Notes on planning your trip:
While most people will wish to see the main attractions, remember that you never know what’s around the corner. You should always allow time to be distracted by one of the city’s celebrities, or perhaps a masque. If you cannot decide where to go, Salerio and Solanio will be happy to point you in the right direction. However, a word of caution: these two can be distracting by themselves, and it isn’t hard to waste hours listening to their gossip! But should you need to know where or how someone is, these two will be happy to help.
The House of Hell: If you want to meet the terrifying Shylock, this is the place to go. The moneylender’s house is in the Ghetto. At the out-facing balcony, you can watch Jessica and Lorenzo make plans to run away, and you can even buy your own turquoise ring, the perfect memento of your trip.
The busiest of the bridges on the Grand Canal, the Rialto, is where it all began. If you wander down there (11am on weekdays), you can catch Antonio in the act of spitting on Shylock (warning: keep your distance from him afterwards!).
Palazzo Ducale: Booking in advance will get you into the legendary court case, where a brilliant Portia saves the day. The show is truly spectacular, a must-see for any newcomers.
Have a chat with Bassanio as well as getting some good tips on how to find missing arrows. He takes individuals and groups: advanced booking is advised. 59
Apart from your usual souvenirs, The Merchant’s Guide to Venice believes there is only one must-have item from the Floating City. For a mere three thousand ducats you can take home a pound of Antonio’s flesh. This lovely and unique item will be a treasured heirloom for centuries. (Please note: the state will claim all your worldly possessions, but we believe that such a beautiful object will be worth it. Customers must supply their own knife).
The Casket Game: One of the main attractions of your trip. To win your very own Portia, choose your casket. Will you be like Morocco and choose gold? Or perhaps like Arragon with silver? Or maybe Bassanio with lead? Each winner will receive one very rich and pretty wife and her life savings. People flock to choose! Take your pick! (A warning: make sure to read the small print on the contract, or you may regret it. Booking is advised. Open 24 hours, seven days a week. Entrance fee: five ducats).
The Garden: One of the main attractions at Belmont. Admission is free to this wonderful place of serenity which is the perfect place to catch your favourite stars. It’s the haunt of Lorenzo and Jessica. And Nerissa, the ever-ready giver of advice, can be found wandering with Portia (or perhaps the two will be found with Gratiano and Bassanio?). There’s always someone friendly to chat to while you’re doing your star-gazing… a sure-fire way of killing time.
Original leaflet online III form. February 20th 2008
Ronan Swift Personal Reading, Personal Writing : a talk in Chapel
unday mornings as a young boy are inextricably tied up in my memory with the RTÉ Radio programme ‘Sunday Miscellany’. Its distinctive theme tune, its varied musical pieces and spoken musings mingle with milky bowls of cornflakes and the dash out to morning prayer in Zion Church, Rathgar. It was the spoken pieces on the programme that I liked the most and that made the greatest impression on me. Usually they were reminiscences of times past; verbal portraits of interesting, perhaps neglected, characters; gentle revelations about distant family members or short essays on history from some modest locality. These were and still are read on the programme by the person who has written them; mostly these individuals are non-professional writers. Well, you can imagine how pleased I was to learn a few years ago that one of my colleagues had contributed to this show some years back. This teacher (PMcC - ed.) mentioned how straightforward it was to go about featuring one’s writing on ‘Sunday Miscellany’ and there and then threw down the challenge to me to come up with some suitable pieces for RTÉ’s consideration. This is a challenge that lately I have been trying to rise to, and the pieces I’ve started have all been snapshots of memory from my past. Writing about our past, our memories, our home places and our ancestors, is I think within everyone’s grasp. You don’t need to be a tremendously creative person to do it; we all have some story to tell. Which is why I enjoy books of this kind above nearly any genre. Memoirs and autobiographies, the stories of other people’s lives, told by themselves, fascinate me; and I think that maybe ‘Sunday Miscellany’ is to blame. _________________________________ Often at this stage of the term forlorn Transition Year pupils ask me in passing for suggestions of books on which to base their Extended Essay; so I thought this morning that I’d briefly give a plug to my favourite memoirs in our college library. I don’t mean to aim these recommendations solely at the IV Form; after all every pupil in this Chapel takes English as a subject, in which the prime importance of ‘personal writing’ is often stressed, so I reckon you could all benefit from dipping in. Memories of childhood and youth are an obvious place to start and are often the most wondrous accounts. Playwright Hugh Leonard’s Home Before Night recounts childhood in Dalkey, Co. Dublin in the ‘30s and ‘40s and is often hilarious. Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie is a classic, poetic memory of childhood in rural England. However As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, his account of 61
wandering through Spain with his violin made a huge impression on me when I read it aged 18. Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life recounts with vividness and humour how in the 1950s his mother’s second marriage to a strange and cruel man means a move to the middle of nowhere in Washington State, northwest USA. For those of you doing Leaving Cert History though, Wolff’s account of fighting in the Vietnam War, In Pharoah’s Army is a must. He succeeds in making a dreadful situation, at times, hilarious; usually by highlighting the fact that no-one had a clue what was going on. It’s the eventual fate of the platoon’s pet dog that causes one of the book’s largest laughs. Stephen Fry’s Moab is My Washpot is a fantastic account of the first 20 years of this highly talented, and sometimes troubled, man’s life. I am currently reading Memoir by John McGahern, a giant of Irish writing who passed away a year ago. His prose writing is beautiful and so far it is very hard to stop reading. Linked to childhood but not about it are two memoirs by sons about their fathers: Portrait of an Invisible Man by the novelist Paul Auster and And When Did You Last See Your Father? by Blake Morrison. The Hacienda by Londoner Lisa St. Aubin de Teran tells how her marriage to a Venezuelan aristocrat & bank robber means a complete change of lifestyle at the tender age of 17. Moving to the foothills of the Andes she finds herself in a strangely old fashioned, almost medieval world. The jungle is portrayed as a very real, living presence. Her descriptions of the fear she feels when her absentee, psychotic husband appears randomly at their home, threatening her life and the life of their child, are very tense indeed. There are so many more that I haven’t time to dwell upon here: Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son, Jean Dominique Bauby’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, De Profundis by Oscar Wilde, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, The Summing Up by Somerset Maugham and Arthur Miller’s Timebends: a life, which would certainly complement your study of The Crucible if you’re doing it in English class. Lastly (and of course there are many, many more memoirs in the Library I haven’t even mentioned), I’d like to point you in the direction of Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man. In this masterpiece Levi recounts and analyses the experience of being a prisoner in Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi concentration camp. He writes about indescribable conditions and cruelty without flinching; the clarity of his memory and his thinking transferred onto the printed page are a joy: which is extraordinary, considering that he is describing one of the lowest moments in human history. ________________ 62
The tune I’m now about to play for you is a kind of ‘thank you’ song, but also an ‘apology’ song to books: a thank you for all the lessons learned and messages taken from books but an apology to those volumes which are queuing up to be read, competing for my attention against the guitar and, in the short term at least, not getting a look in. In this song I hope my belief in the importance of books and reading in making us better people is perfectly clear. I hope the sense in which books push us onwards towards meaningful learning is clear too. I’ve only just finished this tune and no one’s ever heard it before this morning. I’d like to dedicate it the college librarians through the years, especially the ones I’ve known: Mr. McConville, Mr. Brett, Miss Forrest and the Sub-Warden. It’s called ‘My Bookcase’.
1. Looking at the stack of books That rest in peace upon my bookcase Whispering their messages back to me. Bible stories, magic legends, fables of auld Aesop, Fairy tales with intrigue and mystery for me. 2. The mighty lord Jehovah Put auld Abraham to the test He made him sacrifice his one & only son. Broken-hearted Abraham put wee Jacob on the plinth & through his tears moaned ‘God’s will must be done.’ The dagger glistened, God had mercy & stayed his servant’s hand. I hope I’ve got the faith it takes to face the tricky tests Life throws upon my way & beat them day-to-day. 63
3. Then in school the greats The heavyweights of English letters Found their way to life upon my shelf. The greatest expectations of a lad named Philip Pirrip Changed the way I looked upon myself. Soon we learn that manners & not money make the man. I hope I’ve got the grace it takes to place these lessons In my life & if I can, to be some sort of gentleman. Scott Fitzgerald, Percy Shelley never saw old age. I hope that I live long enough to read the stuff You scribbled down there word by word, line by line, page by page. 4. When Laurie Lee walked out One midsummer morning With a fiddle & a bow upon his back; He walked to London, sailed to Spain, Fell in love with being young & free & with life upon the dusty track. Sickly civil war came stealing Ending Laurie’s trek. I hope I’ve got the guts to drop the books & venture off Towards some foreign land with just my ukulele in my hand. 5. When Primo Levi wandered home He set about the task of Writing down everything he’d seen. With scientific beauty his words describe Life within the walls Of the Nazi party death machine. He wonders why some folk drowned 64
When some, like him, are saved. I hope Iâ€™ve got the trust from dusk to dust to keep Henry Jamesâ€™s words in mind: be kind, be kind and be kind. Dylan Thomas, Brendan Behan never saw old age. I hope that I live long enough to read the stuff You scribbled down there word by word, line by line, page by page. Looking at the stack of books That rest in peace upon my bookcase Whispering their messages back to me. Bible stories, magic legends, fables of auld Aesop, Fairy tales with intrigue and mystery for me. October 7th 2007
Poems of the Week Since we started this scheme in May 2007, these poems have been posted around the school and read in English classes. On the blog, there are plenty of links and extra material about the poems. After the list, poems by two of the most distinctive poets ever to have written in English, followed by the first Poem of the Week by a pupil. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26
Simon Armitage The Catch Elizabeth Bishop One Art Richard Murphy Moonshine William Butler Yeats He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven Robert Pinsky ABC Benjamin Russell Windwheels (page 69) William Carlos Williams This is Just to Say Yehuda Amichai Fields of Sunflowers Philip Larkin The Mower Emily Dickinson The Grass so little has to do - (page 67) Seamus Heaney Scaffolding John Keats To Autumn Simon Armitage The Manhunt (Laura's poem) Margaret Atwood Siren Song Billy Collins Walking Across the Atlantic Amelia Shirley Going Places (page 11) Shane Lavin The person I admire most (page 36) Kate Clanchy Poem for a Man with no Sense of Smell Lewis Carroll Jabberwocky Seamus Heaney A Sofa in the Forties Gerard Manley Hopkins Spring (page 68) Louise C. Callaghan Secret Rachel Acton Filion The Path, 5.47 pm (page 118) Fiona Boyd Time Brian Turner The Baghdad Zoo Joanna Tottenham Hearts (page 101)
Emily Dickinson (4544) Poem of the Week, October 10th 2007
he Grass so little has to do — A Sphere of simple Green — With only Butterflies to brood And Bees to entertain — And stir all day to pretty Tunes The Breezes fetch along — And hold the Sunshine in its lap And bow to everything — And thread the Dews, all night, like Pearls — And make itself so fine A Duchess were too common For such a noticing — And even when it dies — to pass In Odors so divine — Like Lowly spices, lain to sleep — Or Spikenards, perishing — And then, in Sovereign Barns to dwell — And dream the Days away, The Grass so little has to do I wish I were a Hay —
Gerard Manley Hopkins Spring Poem of the Week, February 20th 2008
othing is so beautiful as Spring â€” When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush; Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling. What is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning In Eden garden. â€” Have, get, before it cloy, Before it cloud, Christ, lord and sour with sinning, Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy, Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
Benjamin Russell Windwheels Winding our way through terraced wine groves and cork-trees, a fleeting glimpse of this other form of life, from behind protective glass of course. Gazing down on the rows of yellow flecked scrub baking and to our right, white-capped hills: each windmill like a toy set down by giant children as they knelt to pick the wild flowers, the meadowsâ€™ sparkling teeth. VI form. Poem of the Week, June 13th 2007
Evan Jameson The Poem and the Journey (and Sixty Poems to Read Along the Way), by Ruth Padel
nd suddenly, poetry is hugely popular! More and more people attend readings; anthologies of favourite poems top best-seller lists. Collections with titles like Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times and One Hundred Poems to Keep You Sane testify to a growing belief that poems provide some kind of respite from the frequently bewildering pace and complexity of the twenty-first century world. Ruth Padel’s The Poem and the Journey is the latest attempt to promote poetry as a worthwhile place to spend a few minutes of one’s day. But it goes a step further than its predecessors by investigating the complex constructions of well-crafted verse. Its first section is a historical overview of the art-form in which Padel shows how the complaints we associate with poetry (It doesn’t make sense! It doesn’t rhyme!) have in fact been around for millennia. Aristophanes, a playwright from Athens, fifth century BC, apparently enjoyed mocking the more obscure poetry of his day. Padel then argues that instead of approaching the trickier poem with a sense of unease, the reader should treat it as a journey (hence the title). Quite simply, we should begin the poem in one place and expect to be somewhere else by the end of it. Extra enjoyment will come if we are armed with the correct analytical tools. In the second section, Padel attempts to put this theory into practice by presenting sixty poems by sixty poets which she then analyses in a precise, technical style that is likely to appeal to the scientifically-minded reader. Under her close and clear observation, the poems are revealed as carefully woven tapestries, delicately composed symphonies in which every syllable, vowel, consonant and punctuation mark plays a vital part. After reading Padel’s interpretations, the reader will find a second encounter with the poems at worst intriguing, and at best, richly rewarding. At its very best, the book completely overturns the contention that when we deconstruct a poem, something is lost and our enjoyment of it is compromised. Take her reading of Adrienne Rich’s ‘Midnight Salvage: Number 6’. Here, she shows how the unpunctuated run-on lines and the repetition of the word ‘curve’ recreate the dizzy intensity of a car careering round dangerous bends ‘as if the driver is skidding from one end of the line to the other’. After that, the second reading of the poem is enough to induce vertigo. In her reading of Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Brazil, January 1, 1502’, she shows how the pre-colonial scene of lush ‘foliage’, ‘puffed and padded’ birds and ‘giant water-lillies’ is interrupted by the hard ‘K’ sound of ‘Christians’ and 70
the similarly hard words that follow it: ‘armor’, ‘glinting’ and ‘creaking’. The main thrust of the poem is now unforgettable. Whether this anthology will have the same impact as the abovementioned anthologies is questionable – it may test the patience of the reader who is unwilling to take on board the many poetic terms employed. But Padel has undoubtedly done some service to the sixty poets represented here by her painstaking scrutiny of the painstaking art of their writing. She is a good companion and this is a journey worth taking. May 7th 2008
Rosanna Young Lives that were not theirs
idden angels; masks covering the beautiful souls, Beautiful masks yet troubled and somehow faded. Walking steps known to walk, Smiling smiles not their own. Their lives are shadows and dusk. Beautiful angels; clipped wings. Stuck. Trapped Lives that were not theirs to take were taken Unintentionally……thoughtlessly. No tears stain their golden cheeks. Like ghosts they walk through their lives, Only stopping to sing their heart-wrenching songs. Broken sobs, quivering, shaking at the heart. Hidden angels; masks covering once beautiful souls.
III form. May 2nd 2007
Kate Haslett Shadows
or the longest time I remember nothing but my shadow. My friend. My shadow. We sat, we talked, we played, But we were alone together, Because wherever I went, So did my shadow. But now I've met you, Oh, the world begins again, And I will be your shadow.
is eyes, pools of mystery when the tide rushes in. Murky depths unwilling to reveal what's within Throwing caution to the wind. Surface scarred and weathered by time and winds of change. Soul adrift. Tested by the currents of destiny. Swallowed in the sea. III form. May 2nd 2007
Fiona Boyd Junior Poetry Prize, 2007
Dunloughan I raced to the rocks Abandoned everything And ran Leaving footprints in the sand So the others could follow And as the sun said its daily farewell I splashed And dived I tried to run through thigh-high waves But it was like running in slow-motion I lay flat on my board Waiting Facing the late dayâ€™s sky And I hummed softly Letting time pass me by Not ignoring their laughter But wanting me to myself for a while Finally I felt one A ripple in the bay A murmur of warning from the seaweed And the dying seagullsâ€™ squawks told me to get ready I was full of energy and anticipation And then it came A high wall of water With cappuccino foam sliding down its water bricks I cried out Long and loud As the rush of summer brought me inshore Where I lay in the shallows Wanting this feeling to myself for a while.
Summer Maybe we are all butterflies, And I’m catching fireflies, And this lazy summer day will never end. It’ll live with me, And the sunset is the first splodge of honey-gold, And the last burst of burnt crimson. In my mind Night hasn’t come yet.
Ballyconneely The harbour and pier no bigger than half a hockey pitch, Where we wallowed many a day, Where I tried to learn how to fish, Where I learned to dive from a professional beginner. And we would pass it on our evening walks And the orange sky would light up the boats and send sparks along the water As the burnt crimson sang lullabies to the sleepy harbour. The seagulls would gather for a gossip And the headless fish would wave goodbye to their sinking heads As the five fishermen who actually worked there would load them up Nodding to you But not know you at all. I have never known a place of such beauty with such a vulgar smell, That is a holiday memory. Smell, sounds and sight encased in those pure moments That was my summer. All in those moments. III form. May 26th 2007
Steffan Davies Summer in the Countryside
ake a large white canvas. Paint a great blue sea, and dot the waves with white beads. With a flowing motion paint the ripples in the harbour as they lap against the hard grey pier. Scribble in a lighthouse at the end of the quay and children playing around it. Fill the air with the sound of happy voices and the smell of dead fish. Draw the squiggly coastline, snaking its way up north. Dot yellow on the serpent's back, to make the rape seed crops sitting on the side of the hills. Let the smell of freshly cut grass float away on a breeze. Further out at sea the wind is picking up. Paint white horses cascading from every wave and shade the sky a dark grey. Let heavy raindrops drench the small red sails. Let the sharp wind whip the tender blue hull. Vigorously move your brush to send a spray of salt water into the skipperâ€™s eyes. Put huge walls of water blocking the small boat from getting home. Now, why not draw a little disaster? With a furious gust, scrape a gaping hole in the little red sail. Like a bird with a broken wing, it flaps hopelessly, then shouts with pain and then falls. The little red sail hangs limps over the side of the boat, its proud batons now either broken or missing. The small skipper hangs tightly to the mast, praying. His words are little but a whisper, almost inaudible over the mighty ocean. And slowly, at the mercy of the wind, the small boat with red sails drifts off the edge of your canvas.
III form, Mock Junior Certificate exam. April 18th 2008
Philip Kidd The Garden
am sitting in the dead centre of a vast lawn, and it is spring. I am admiring the lush gardens to my left and right, the forest, respawning once again for another year of sun, rain and snow. I am taking an interest in the animals around me like the birds, the creatures of the undergrowth, and the insects. This tripod chair is comfortable, but it keeps me on the edge. I cannot lean back, so it keeps me alert. Otherwise I’d fall asleep while writing this: it’s part of a draft. A draft I hope will become my book on Irish springtime wildlife. Just kidding. But I am growing fond of the idea.
What makes a garden pretty, I feel, is short grass. If this dominant plant is left to grow, it can really spoil the look of a well-kept garden. I think that if one gardener let his shrubs and pretty flower-beds grow out of control, but kept the grass very short, his garden would look better than ones where the grass is long and the shrubs disciplined. But only cut it once every two weeks or so … this way one can catch the sun glinting off the webs of the unseen spiders in the mornings. Just like what I’m looking at now: multiple bridges of light skipping across the blades of sumptuous greenness. Each straight edge stands proud of the warm, soft earth it protrudes from. The vast plain of the lawn stretching fifty metres out from the steps at the front of the house, like an unfurnished graveyard from the back of a small village church. There is dew on the freshlymowed grass, a fine silk bedsheet of moisture, only disturbed by the thin paths of little creatures scurrying across the mass of green. I try to imagine all of God’s darling creatures that have scampered and played on this fine lawn. I can see the tiny, innocent paw-marks of a nightdwelling hedgehog. He must have got to bed very late. And there are long, winding trails through the glossy dew – maybe a field-mouse or two. Suddenly a song-bird whizzes just in front of me and I look up. I spot dozens of tiny, tweeting birds of spring in among the bushy, pricky branches of the trees at the end of the garden, almost like a sheer wall of rich green life laid out before me. A canvass on the wall with many-coloured birds darting to and fro, as if God were a painter with a dozen hands and paint brushes, dabbing his magical pigments everywhere. I manage to distract myself from this imagery and peer out over the amazing array of bushes and shrubs in their patches. The violets, purples, blues, red and whites in this display could freeze a deer in its tracks if the glorious light of the sun bounced off their radiant petals. The rich vermilion of the proud roses reminds me of the blood spilt to claim this land. 76
My Ugandan servant disrupts my silk African carpet of dew with his wide, batterered pink soles. He has my tea, prepared on the Sheffield steel tray I brought to this beautiful, spectacular and God-forsaken continent. ‘Sir?’ ‘Yes, Solomon?’ ‘May I stay in the house today, sir? The locals are murdering one another again.’
IV form, TY Work Portfolio. May 6th 2008
Sophie Millar Night-time Where did all these questions come from? Can’t you leave them with someone else? And not face them until you’ve forgotten? You do not trust yourself to think The answers you don’t want to face. The volume of music isn’t sinking them Nor the drum beats scaring them. Running isn’t tiring them, Nor crying melting them; Only thinking is pulling them deeper. It’s worse to watch you. Now I give you my hand. But you’re too far away. I do not see you now. I await your return. Hurry back now, Because I do not trust myself to think. III form. May 27th, 2007
Oyindamola Onabanjo A Raging Sea
s I stand alone on the sand the Sea licks my feet, But with a sudden turn it Foams at the mouth. Baring its teeth at me. As the waves crash against The jagged rocks, it barks. The sky darkens, snarling at me, But I do not move for I see inside it wants to Flow with happiness. Then it calms swiftly and with Authority. As I stand alone The sea breeze howls But I feel the same way, Not feeling better but not worse. I form. May 6th 2007
Angus Johnson Beach Scene
s I walk onto the beach My feet get burned By the heat of the sand. I sit down and the noise Of distant children Whispers through my ears. The whisper too of sandcastles As the whooshing sea Begins to flatten them. I form. May 6th 2007
Haiku Lingfan Gao
oft are the footsteps Walking towards the cradle Not to wake him up.
he spectators come As sweat pours down from your head. But the show must start.
n the sodden earth The heather is fluttering Like a butterfly.
n a rugged wall, The ivy is quivering In the endless gust.
rogs jumping around, Frogs hopping away from snakes, Frogs doing cool tricks. II form. December 7th 2007 80
Lewis Mathews Christmas 2004
y family hates Christmas at home. We’re not quite a family of Grinches, but we just find it all so stereotypical: the turkey, the presents, the visiting relatives. Don’t get me wrong, I mean I’m certainly not objecting to receiving presents, but I just feel that Christmas is so horribly over-hyped.
A prime example of this is: the advertisements for Christmas on the television as early as October, the Christmas decorations going up in early November and the Christmas songs playing endlessly on the radio during the months leading up to Christmas. The ‘Christmas campaign’ is starting earlier and earlier every year and it is actually ruining Christmas by turning the day itself into an anticlimax. So in November 2004, a family meeting was called in the Mathews house to put a stop to this ridiculous Christmas phenomenon. We talked about going on a skiing holiday; ‘paying money to go and get frostbite, eh no I think I’ll pass thank you very much’ was the general feeling. (I’ve since been on a snowboarding holiday, and thoroughly enjoyed it.) So the consensus was that we would pack our bags and go someplace hot, someplace with a rich culture. My parents spent several years practically living between Ireland and India; indeed my mother speaks fluent Hindi and both my parents’ culinary expertise is highly influenced by this, so naturally we decided to go to somewhere in Asia, and my parents ultimately decided that it would be a great idea to go to ‘Little India’, previously known as Ceylon and now Sri Lanka. So it was that we arrived, as expected, in the sweltering heat and humidity of Colombo Airport. From the airport we drove through traffic, not your everyday traffic mind you: madmen driving rickshaws counting their score as they knocked over pedestrians, goats being herded down the road, six people sitting on a single motorbike manoeuvring through the cars. We received quite a shock as we drove to the hotel; before leaving Dad had jokingly suggested that we bring a blow-up Santa Claus for Christmas day, but as we passed through the city we were horrified to see hundreds upon hundreds of vending stands on the side of the road selling, of all things, blow-up Santas and other various Christmas decorations. The journey went on as we dodged through the traffic, trying not to kill or be killed and trying hard not to let the Christmas decorations catch our eye, for about half an hour or so until we reached our required destination: The Colombo Continental. After a quick dip in the pool and a scalding vindaloo, we retreated to bed, slightly jetlagged and fairly bone-weary from all the travelling, with the prospect of a three-hour drive to Dambullah the following day. 81
The next day we were introduced to our vehicle for the trip: a Toyota Hiace minibus, and our driver, Ananda. After completing the introductions we started off on the first leg of our trip. We drove through the mountains of inland Sri Lanka, stopping occasionally to buy fresh pineapples, mangoes, coconuts and my favourite: sweet, succulent red bananas. Three full plastic bags of red bananas cost just under a Euro and my brothers and I were amazed at the quantities of fresh fruit at our disposal for so little cost, and yet we couldn’t believe that so many people starved to death from poverty in that same country. We arrived in Dambullah, and after dropping our luggage at the hotel, went to explore the Dambullah caves. At the caves we were greeted by the largest Buddha statue in the world, an awe-inspiring sight. It was an amazing experience, aided even further by the cultural leap from ‘Catholic Ireland’ to ‘Buddhist Sri Lanka’. After two nights, rich with culture, and a relaxing day in which we visited the Dambullah International Cricket Stadium, we departed for Kandy where we were to spend Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I loved our hotel in Kandy, largely because we had satellite television, which allowed me to watch India be beaten by cricketing minnows Bangladesh, in a one-day cricket international, as well as the English Boxing Day test match. The guest book was another one of the highlights as it contained the signatures of famous cricketers such as Merv Hughes, Ian Botham and Sir Garfield Sobers, among others. The hotel seemed to be a favourite amongst cricketers when out in Sri Lanka on international duty. On Christmas Day we held a humble present-giving ceremony and retreated to the poolside to feast on rather crude Sri Lankan plum pudding along with our hot curries. It was a very pleasant day; we visited the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth where the Buddha’s tooth is supposedly kept. All in all it was a very unorthodox Christmas Day, though largely uneventful. The next day, however, was anything but. We were visiting the beautiful botanical gardens in Kandy, when all of a sudden the ground started to shake; it lasted only for a few seconds but it was enough to scare my brothers and me. Dad reassured us, telling us that it was just a slight tremor, which, according to him, occurred frequently in Asia. Indeed no one else seemed too perturbed by the disturbance. We returned to the hotel mid-afternoon by rickshaws, an exhilarating experience, to find our driver, Ananda, frantically talking on his phone. When he finished the conversation he informed us in his basic English that his family had been relocated from their home to a Buddhist monastery in the hills. They had been relocated because … this was what we gathered from his broken English, the sea had flooded onto the land. 82
We headed back to the hotel to be flabbergasted by the news on BBC World. A tsunami had hit several countries in Asia after a freak earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. The report went on to say that the death toll was thought to be in the tens of thousands and the bodies were still piling up. We immediately rang the company that had organised our trip. They explained to us that our next destination, Arugam Bay, had been completely wiped out and they advised us to return to Colombo where we could review the situation of our holiday. And so we drove all the way to Colombo, a seven-hour drive, where we arrived, exhausted and demoralised. This was largely due to the fact that we had driven through towns that had been devastated by the tsunami. We had seen children, stumbling around confusedly, calling for their parents, and vice versa. We could never have imagined the extent of the devastation from the news report we had seen earlier; no news report would ever be able to capture and convey that reality that we experienced. That night my father, mother and I sat at the poolside bar and decided that it simply was not a viable option to stay, certainly not to complete our holiday, and it would have been near-impossible to stay and try to help the aid workers with two eight year-old boys to look after. Two days later, after doing everything within our ability to help, we departed from Colombo, hopefully to return one day when the infrastructure of this lovely country, its culture and people were restored. This event touched us all and changed all of our lives. My mother and I are now deeply involved in a charity called 2winaid. This charity lets schools in Ireland twin with a school in Sri Lanka. By contributing a small amount they can help Sri Lankan children by providing them with a safe, clean environment to learn in. The charity is an NGO and we felt that the name 2winaid was appropriate because both parties win; we are helping them to help themselves but it also leaves you feeling overwhelmingly proud to have been involved. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to help and recently the mini company of which I was CEO, Upbeat Records, contributed â‚Ź2000 to 2winaid, which will help to build a school. 2winaid concentrates on building a school with toilets, stable walls, and a stable roof as well as providing stationary, furniture, food, a clean water supply and a competent teacher. For these children who have nothing, that is an ideal school. VI form. January 16th 2008
Ciara O’Driscoll December 26th 2004 : Tsunami
t didn’t feel like an earthquake which would register 8.9 on the Richter Scale. Tucked up in my bed in my home in Singapore, it felt rather as if an extremely large lorry had rolled past my window. It was on Boxing Day, 2004, when this ‘lorry’ rolled by, a day which became one no-one living around the South of Asia could forget, no matter how much they wanted to. It was only the day after Christmas, a day usually spent visiting this friend or that relative. But not that year. Instead, the day was spent in front of the television, all eyes glued to the BBC News, as images of the disaster which had occurred that very morning flashed across the screen. A day usually spent in joy and high-spirits instead passed in an eerie silence, every person trying to comprehend what was so incomprehensible. Living in Asia, one has to be prepared for such natural disasters…earthquakes, volcanoes, monsoons, tsunamis all come with the lifestyle. But it seemed no one was prepared for nor expecting this. The lives of 250,000 people…how can you prepare for that? The earthquake began in the Indian Ocean, near Bandah Aceh, Indonesia. The earthquake spurred a subsequent tsunami, causing huge waves to smash into coastlines across Asia. The effects were devastating. Villages were completely wiped out in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India, while tourists enjoying the sun on the beaches of Thailand were dragged out to sea. Those who weren’t, instead had to swim for their lives further inshore against the continually rising water. My friend, Charlotte, who was staying in a hotel in Thailand facing the beach, later told me that the sight of that monster wave crashing ashore was one which she could never forget. Another friend, James, told me of the seemingly hundreds of people running screaming up the beach, followed by their futile attemps to stay afloat by holding desperately onto anything that could keep them on this land….and on this planet. I imagine this was also an image which would remain imprinted forever on his mind. That day, among a mix of other emotions, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly lucky. The sway and vibrations of the earthquake I felt had no physical effect on my home compared to the disastrous results it had caused elsewhere. I mean, what’s a broken vase in comparison to a destroyed home, a broken family or an absolute change to life as you know it? But even so, that sense of luck could not overcome the dread rooted in my stomach. Phuket was a very popular holiday destinations for the expats of Singapore. The entire day I couldn’t suppress the knowledge that I had friends on holiday in Phuket, Thailand – one of the worst hit areas by the tsunami. So again and again I watched the repeated footage on the BBC of the wave rolling, or rather, smashing, into Phuket. The sight of a face, any face, would make my heart dart, even though I saw no-one I knew. But even still I worried at the sight of a woman swimming to a helicopter ladder or a man on 84
top of a roof frantically waving for help. At that moment someone I knew could have desperately been doing the same. After a few days passed there came more news footage, showing the extent of the disaster. Our TV continually flashed images of homes completely washed away and entire villages left devastated. Then came the footage of the corpses lined up, covered in a dark green plastic sheet. However, there were one or two left uncovered…for around those bodies stood a cluster of family and friends inconsolably wailing in despair and devastation for their loss. Further along was a big shabby notice-board, every inch covered with smiling pictures pinned up by family or friends whose own facial expressions could not have been any more different to those in the photo. Their faces looked so desperate as they begged the authorities for any news of their missing loved ones. Then came on the screen a picture of a child, hardly four-years old. This child had lost both her parents in the tsunami; it was a mystery how she herself had survived. The newscaster went on to ask for any information on the identity of this child or her relatives. At that moment, the child had been left completely alone in the world. Fortunately, as the days passed there came the news that none of those corpses lined up along the sand bore the face of any of my friends. The dread which had clenched my stomach thankfully slowly eased off. However that still did not change the fact that a quarter of a million others had been lost, leaving millions more to suffer over these losses. Out of that quarter of a million, two had gone to my school. It was a large school with over 3000 students so I didn’t personally know them. But still, on the first day back after the holidays, everyone filed silently into the Hall, to pay their respects to memorials created in their honour. There was barely a dry eye left in the entire school. Talk of the earthquake and tsunami may have died down after a month or two, but the memories did not. This is true for anyone who had a connection, however little, to the disaster. It wasn’t the Twin Towers or the London bombings: it felt worse. There was no one to blame for this horrific disaster and nothing that could be done but sit and watch images of people struggling for life, with the knowledge that the next image could be someone you knew. I will never forget that day and the indescribable mix of emotions which came with it, something I hope never to feel again. But this is nothing compared to the impact, the devastating, life-shattering impact on those on the coast of Thailand, Indonesia, India or Sri Lanka at the time, who had to undergo the experience first-hand. I suppose all the earthquake really did to my family was to break my mother’s vase. I’m quite sure the millions of people out there who lost a home or a loved one would have given anything to be able to say the same. V form. April 23rd 2008
Henry Hatton Inexcusable, by Chris Lynch
his is a story about a boy called Kier, who has very bad luck. He lives an ordinary decent life, and is very mannerly and trusting. He has a crush - a crush which is one-way. This book is about the unfortunate events which follow; it opens your mind about how monstrous a normal person can be. It gives Kier's thoughts in his ordinary life, in school, on the pitch and at home. When you read one chapter, you find that the next is totally different, and I think that makes reading it more enjoyable. Kier is a great character, and when reading, it is like you have a telescope and are looking into his thoughts. It is a truly great story.
Poppy Vernon A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon
really enjoyed reading this book. It has a wonderful style - it is humorous but also matter of fact. It is based on a family who are slowly falling to pieces: mother, father, daughter, her fiancĂŠ and her child. The parents are unhappy about their rather unreliable daughter getting married, because they feel he is not good enough, but slowly realise that their own marriage is falling apart. Meanwhile, amongst all the mayhem of affairs and arguments, the husband is slowly going mad.
Sebastian Stephenson Shot in the Heart: one familyâ€™s history in murder, by Mikal Gilmore
his is a very powerful book about a murderer who wished to be punished by death. This history is seen through the eyes of the youngest son, Mikal. It is very sad and even surreal, to the point where I almost thought it was fiction. IV form. Reading for Extended Essay, October 2007
Ronan Swift : Popping Questions Producing A Marriage Proposal by Anton Chekhov
here were indeed questions from the off to be considered about style, tone and setting in staging this piece, but with a cast of just three it was easy to come up with possible answers, perhaps try them out and then make decisions. And a cast of three hugely willing and creative actors they were or rather still are. Nearly every time I tentatively suggested some nutty idea, which many young performers might have rejected as embarrassing, I received a positive uptake. In fact as far as directing was concerned the four of us collaborated…no, not false modesty; yes, I produced the play but four of us directed. The farcical set-up for the play seemed terrifically Irish! An odd-ball bachelor comes to propose to his neighbour’s daughter but before he can state his intentions gets embroiled with her in a terrible row over disputed meadows. While we considered giving it a West of Ireland setting there is something strangely romantic about portraying Russia, no matter how lightweight the storyline. So names like Stepan Stepanovitch were not usurped by Séamus O’Reilly, and ‘respected Natalia’ survived becoming ‘brace yourself Bridget’. The play is a brief one, even by one-act yardsticks, so we devised an opening tableau not suggested by Mr Chekhov. Using a Shostakovich chamber symphony (cleverly looped by Benjamin Russell using the software package Garage Band) we presented Lomov readying himself, as we imagined it, before walking out to nervously pop the question. Not only does he don waistcoat and tails, but checks his teeth for stains, his breath for undesirable odour! For the father/daughter relationship we tried to suggest a playful patriarch stymied by a fractious, argumentative and brattish lassie. He imagines a wildfowl shoot in his reception room, she scolds. She waltzes with a watering can suggesting perhaps her longing for a more animate object for her affections. Wait a minute; am I getting a bit heavy for you here? Yes, disgraceful indulgence, enough already and if you have read this far you deserve a more easygoing, conversational tone. It’s a blog after all, not a prospectus. Well done. Good. As for make-up I had the idea to style Natalia (Ellie Russell) on those Russian dolls that contain smaller versions of themselves each within the other. I seem to remember them having red circles for blushing cheeks. Powdered white face make-up and outrageous eyelashes gave her the quirky, almost unsettling presence we wanted. It was such a distinctive look we thought it must have been in the genes so her father was ‘got up’ similarly, only with smaller red cheek circles for the male of the species, of course. Lomov (Ben Armstrong) with a white face looked too like a mime artist for comfort so we left it at that. Moustaches came and went. But that, so I am told, is what they’re there for. 87
The play runs through faithful to Chekhov. However we couldn’t resist very near the end when the two ‘lovers’ are to seal the proposal with a kiss having them each inadvertently peck Benjamin Russell on either cheek. This piece of physical theatre required much choreography! The four of us are grateful for the chance to put the band back together for one last performance, sorry, gig on March 15th. For those yet to see the three engaging and energetic performances on offer I’m sure you’ll find them pleasing; and for those who have, we promise a few added extras to stave off any whiff of staleness. Producing this entry for the St. Andrew’s One Act Drama Festival was a trouble-free pleasure…if only the staging of marriage proposals in real life could be as deftly realised. February 26th 2007
Sophie Kyd-Rebenburg Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman
really like the story-line. It's about a boy and a girl who grow up together being best friends, but as their childhood comes to an end, realize that they have developed a much stronger relationship - love. The problem is, Calem is a Nought and Sephy is a Cross, and their families hate each other ... It's an interesting and enjoyable book because it shows that love is always there, no matter how big the difference between skin colour and wealth is. It grabs you with a lot of tension and sadness.
Tom Guinness The Old Boys, by William Trevor
t is about a group of past pupils, whose school remains unknown, who form a committee called the Old Boys. Many, especially Mr Nox and Mr Jaraby, are trying to get the title of President of the Committee. This drives them to sabotage and blackmail. It also makes them partly crazy! I like the twists and turns of this book, such as Mr Turtle's proposal and his sudden death. The author portrays the emotions of the other characters very well. It is also in a setting which everyone knows well, a school (see also the essay by Lewis Mathews on p. 142. Ed). IV form. Reading for Extended Essay, October 2007 88
Actors preparing for Dancing at Lughnasa Annabel Sharma as Agnes Mundy
n the beginning I wasn't sure about Agnes as she is quite a reticent character. I must admit that I have found this quite hard to portray as an actor, since more often than not, her silences are a consequence of deep thought. I find that one of the most challenging aspects is Agnes's standing: she doesn't have very much self-esteem, but yet does have enough to stand up to Kate.
Despite her emotional repression, she expresses clear love and protection towards Rose. This is also seen in her gestures towards Gerry, although not intimately. Another interesting aspect of playing Agnes is her growing presence throughout the play, and how thus to change her portrayal to the audience as the real Agnes begins to emerge. Overall, I have really enjoyed playing Agnes. VI form. November 15th 2007
Jessica Young as Christina Mundy
hris is the youngest of the five Mundy girls, but the sister with the most experience with men, since she has an illegitimate child, Michael. She has been a fun, and at the same time challenging, character, to play because she is clearly in love with Gerry and yet is guarded around him. She never lets him get too close, although she seems to want this. It is obvious that she loves her son, Michael, very much, and I've come to believe through rehearsing her character that a part of this feeling is a nostalgic kind of love, as it is linked, inevitably, with Gerry (Michael's father).
At first glance, Christina appears to have fewer dimensions than her sisters, but I have since learned that she is vulnerable because of her unsatisfied love for Gerry. Despite the social expectations of the time and, indeed, love, Chris refuses to marry Gerry - most likely because she realises that he does not, cannot, return this love (he has experienced too much of the world to stay put in Ballybeg). I think that this demonstrates an inner strength, though this may not be evident at first. VI form. November 14th 2007
Ellie Russell as Maggie Mundy
aggie Mundy is the second oldest of the five sisters. The fun one. At first I thought she was just the amusing one, able to joke about herself and trying to bring some fun into the family's life. Then I realised that she's the one who distracts from the awkwardness and the detached atmosphere that takes over the household. Of all the characters, Maggie is my favourite. She has such a big personality, and she doesn't take things too seriously (the opposite to Kate, her elder sister). Maggie is childish with the boy Michael, kind to Rose, fun with Chrissie, and sympathetic to Agnes. At times in the play, you see how much Maggie wants to be in love, and be out in the big world, and yet she has accepted that her chance is gone, and gets on with life. Maggie is the one who is able to take control when the cracks appear in the family. Acting the role is a challenging one, but also really enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to being able finally to perform the whole play. VI form. November 13th 2007
Rory Quinn as Michael Evans
ichael plays the parts of the narrator and of the boy. However, he only speaks the part of the boy, and does not act it, as the convention is established that no dialogue with the boy is ever addressed to the adult Michael, the narrator. Dancing at Lughnasa is about Michael's memory of 'that summer of 1936'. Every now and then he interjects into the story, with some history or folklore about the women, and sometimes becomes engrossed in these memories, such as Chris and Gerry's 'marriage' dance. He sometimes becomes emotional about the history, especially with the fate of Agnes and Rose (this was also the fate of Brian Friel's own aunts). I think that the adult Michael has got over the shock of finding his aunts 25 years after they appeared to have 'vanished without trace', and seeing Rose dying in a hospice must have affected him deeply. The memories of those two days in Ballybeg are clouded by a sense of unease, and as we learn from his final monologue, everyone in the memory seems to be dancing, floating on the sweet sound of 30s music. VI form. November 10th 2007
Oscar Nunan as Gerry Evans
play the character Gerry, the eccentric Welsh salesman. Gerry is important as he balances the other characters and injects liveliness and 'punch' into the play. Although maybe not completely honest, he is an undeniably likeable character, who keeps up the tempo of the play and adds humour and wit. He is an element of comic relief from the tense domestic atmosphere. Even though the sisters must take the moral high ground in disapproving of his presence, they are also glad of it, as he provides variation from the oppressive daily routine. Friel associates Gerry with music and dance; a former dance teacher, he is often doing little shows or dances with the sisters on the stage. He is also associated with the wireless set Marconi; both distract the sisters from themselves, giving them an escape. Friel also develops Gerry's individual character. We begin to see deeper than the frivolous joker. Although still in love with Chris, he is also attracted to Agnes. We learn later that he has a family in Wales, but he does care for Michael, his and Chris's son. There are a few moments in the play when he stops and examines himself and we see that maybe he is just insecure, and covers this up by acting the clown, constantly moving from place to place and from career to career. Maybe he too is trying to escape from himself? V form. November 8th 2007
Katie Murphy A Review of Dancing at Lughnasa, Senior Play
n Saturday 17th November, I attended the school performance of Dancing at Lughnasa, a fantastic but challenging play by Brian Friel. It is set in a small town in Donegal in 1936, in the Mundy household. The Mundys are five spinster sisters and they have a very odd but very funny older brother Jack. This play shows how the good old simple life of Ireland in the 1930s wasnâ€™t quite as simple as we think. The acting in this difficult performance was exceptional. It really was a treat to watch. I felt everyone really did give a lot of time and effort to the play. Ellie Russell, playing Maggie Mundy, 38, got the most laughs; she had a very odd character whose wit and saucy side caught everyoneâ€™s attention. Ellie played this part brilliantly. Shameless Maggie danced and sang around the stage and lifted the otherwise serious tone of the play. Her talk of running away with the first man she found and not so witty rhymes kept the whole audience 91
entertained from start to finish. She was the only one who didn’t take fierce Kate Mundy too seriously. She made a joke out of everything and couldn’t have suited the part better. Celeste Guinness as Kate Mundy played the part superbly. She was the stereotypical strict schoolteacher, with her crisp manner, prim clothes and harsh tongue. We knew exactly what her character would be before she even opened her mouth. She had the weight of the whole family on her shoulders and was straining to keep it afloat. Her composure was kept up nearly the whole way through the play with only one or two bursts of emotion. Her dancing whether intentional or not was one of the funniest moments in the play. She was the only one not to be swept away by the romantic idea of the Lughnasa festival. Dylan Stewart played the Mundy sisters' eccentric brother, Father Jack, who had just returned from Africa, where he was working as a missionary priest. His performance was exceptional. He portrayed the difficulty of returning to normal life after such an eventful, and life-changing experience perfectly. His confusion with the simplest of words and tales of Africa were highly amusing for all. My favourite moment that Father Jack played was that of the ceremonial exchange of hats. The fact that Dylan managed to pull that off without cracking a smile really showed his talent as an actor! I also found it very impressive how the make-up and costume teams managed to age him so well. He really did look every bit the 55-year-old priest he was playing. Rachael Roden played the part of Rose Mundy, a lively woman of 32 who acted not a day over six. She was the light of all of their lives. She entertained us all with her spontaneous bursts of song and dance and even at one stage showing a little leg! Rose had us all in fits of laughter when she came running on to the stage holding her dead rooster; yet again this scene showed all of their restraint in keeping a straight face. Rachael showed no shame in her portrayal of Rose: she shouted and sang at the top of her voice and even ran away with a local boy. She was truly wonderful, and deeply saddened all our hearts when she and Aggie ran away. Oscar Nunan played the part of Gerry Evans, the father of Christina Mundy’s (Jessica Young) child, whose catch phrases ‘wow wow wow’ and ‘we’ve never made love in a sycamore tree before’ can be heard all over the school ever since. He was a showy character who played with our emotions, without us noticing. We went from disliking him, at his abandonment of his child, to liking him, for entertaining Christina and the audience with his quick wit and funny stories, and back to dislike, at the discovery of his other family. Oscar played this part beautifully: he was an all-singing all-dancing ball of laughs who charmed the ladies on and off the stage! Jessica Young took the part of Christina Mundy, the youngest of the sisters and mother of Michael (Rory Quinn) mother. She played the part of the lovesick puppy perfectly and had us all cringing and looking away during their first awkward conversation together. She is a beautiful dancer and the part 92
suited her down to the ground. She was full of hope that Gerry would give up his other mysterious life and come and live with her and Michael, and filled us all with hope too. She showed the bursts of sunshine that his visits were to her and her quiet frustration at his flirtatious behaviour with her sisters, especially Agnes, brilliantly. She had a very romantic part and did it proud. Annabel Sharma played Agnes Mundy: she was a perfect example of a middle child. She showed her frustration with her life that would eventually drive her to run away with her closest sister, Rose. Annabel showed Agnes’s sweet and patient nature towards Rose very well. Her jealousy of Christina and Gerry’s love was quite apparent, in undercurrents. But she managed to keep her tortured soul all locked up with no particular burst of emotion. Rory Quinn played the part of Michael Evans, the love child of Gerry and Christina. It was incredibly well done how they showed him, on the stage; he was never part of the action but always at the centre of the plot. It never occurred to you that he wasn’t really there, that he just wasn’t out of sight too low for us to see or outside the window playing. It was very interesting how he was the central character of the play but never actually on the main stage. The costumes were very convincing, from Kate’s tweed suit to jack’s tribal hat. Ms. Stokes really outdid herself. Even the everyday dresses of the sisters were perfect 30’s countrywomen style: rough and ready. The set design team did a fantastic job, showing the break-up of the garden and house by a door in the centre, and this was added to by the lighting, which showed the bright sunny light for the garden and the softer duller light of the house. I was told that the lighting was let down by a power cut just before the performance, but not being an expert myself I thought this made no difference. All in all this was an exceptional performance, which couldn’t have been done better by professionals. Well done to all involved, especially Dr Stone and Mr Girdham, the directors. V form. December 5th 2007
Joseph Millar An Actiontrack Showbuild Diary Day 1:
fter several warm-up games, including the ever-popular "Zip-Zap-Boing", the group enjoyed a number of drama exercises. The dramatic skills of the pupils were viewed and improved, and come the end of the day most members were all a lot more confident than before. The team were also split into groups, and each group created a small play. Particular highlights included Ramon Barbier being the prime ingredient of an omelette, and some starfish attacking Issy Hunter. If it's Actiontrack, anything can happen. Our final task of the day was to write our own individual songs. Watch out Justin Timberlake; a series of inspirational songs were written today, including, amongst others, ‘Sleeping Cows’, ‘I Like Tea 'Cause I'm British’, and a song by Jorge which should not be repeated on this site. Watch this space. Day 2: Today, we had the challenging job of mixing the many, many stories we had created yesterday, into one giant, play-friendly tale. We spent a large period of time brainstorming. Stories and ideas were thought up, mixed around, and often completely inverted. The future plan could go either way, because we still aren't sure in which direction our play is headed. At the stage, we are in as much confusion as you are! Another aspect of today's work was the creation of seven wonder-hit songs. We completed and improved the songs we had started yesterday, and, come evening, we had lyrics, and indeed dance moves to many of our songs. See you soon. Day 3: The look of our play made considerable progress, as we decided upon the set design, and costumes today. Today was also the day that we finally completed the storyline and decided on who would play which part. While I won't go into specifics (it would ruin the surprise!), I will reluctantly leak this - you will never see the common cup of tea in the same way... After three days' constant acting, you will have to forgive me if I sign off here. I have to get my much-needed beauty sleep, and now that I think of it, a cup of tea wouldn't be bad either...
Day 4: With just one day to go before the actual performance, the BSR was a beehive of activity today. People were hurriedly learning their lines, putting the finishing touches to the series of props, or helping with the staging. The evening featured the first real performances of many of the singers, and was a nervy time for all. Despite the nerves, each singer lived up to his or her expectations. As we went through our old dances, and began our new ones, it became clear that this would not be just a play, but also a showpiece of song and dance. While the nerves are building, so is our anticipation. See you tomorrow. Day 5: The big day arrived, and after a somewhat stumbled-through dress rehearsal, the audience began slowly entering the BSR. Nerves were high, as lines were hurriedly looked over, and dance moves remembered. However the minute the first notes of the awe-inspiring â€˜I Like Tea 'Cause I'm Britishâ€™ were sung, the nerves promptly sunk away, leaving raw excitement. The performance itself was a bit of a blur for the performers. It was a mixture of remembering one's lines, dancing the right dance, and noticing the 200+ teenagers watching your every move. While some lines were forgotten, and dance moves mixed up (guilty as charged here...), I think the majority of the team were just pleased to get it over and done with, and as the applause died away, ecstatic at the realisation that we were on our Summer Holidays. IV form. June 12th to 18th 2007
Sarah O’Mahony Chinese Cinderella, by Adeline Yen Mah
f you are only going to read one book this year, make it Chinese Cinderella. It is an extremely moving and powerful autobiography. It is about the author's childhood growing up in China during the Civil War. Neglected, verbally and physically abused by her stepmother and siblings, ignored and shunned by her father, Adeline struggles through her painful upbringing. If you are looking for a truly inspiring book, read this. The author tells you her story in such a vivid way; you quickly become gripped in her world of daily heartbreak. Adeline as the heroine strives to make herself heard through her intelligence, and her life's ambition is to be noticed. It is beautifully written with Chinese proverbs blended throughout the book. It is an absolutely amazing read. III form. March 11th 2007
Julian Girdham Family Romance, by John Lanchester
his is a powerful and moving narrative about the author’s own family. In particular, he tells the story of his mother Julia/Julie, the arc of whose life led her from Mayo to Madras to Hong Kong to Norwich, and from postulant to nurse to nun to teacher to wife and mother. The defining moment of her life was her deceit over her age when marrying her husband Bill, and Lanchester shows how this lie seeped into and coloured all her relationships (most crucially, ‘if my mother had not lied, I would not have been born’). He also writes with great empathy and affection for his father. The book has many other virtues, including its portrayal of an extended Irish family, its description of colonial lives in a post-colonial world, and its meditations on childhood and parenthood. The final subject of the book is the author himself (who was a friend of mine at university) and especially the skeins of his own emotional DNA. Late in the book he writes that at 18 ‘I was about as cut off as possible from my own feelings as you can be and still be sane.’ This book is the constantly absorbing story of a writer who has since travelled a long way from that point and uses his skills as the writer of the novels The Debt to Pleasure, Mr Phillips and Fragrant Harbour to drive along the narrative. May 13th 2007 96
Fiona Boyd Louise C. Callaghan: poetry reading
n the morning of Thursday 6th March, World Book Day, Louise Callaghan visited the school to give a poetry reading. Some pupils might recognise her poem ‘Secret' as our current Poem of the Week from her most recent collection, Remember the Birds, which was published in 2005. She has read before at the annual Voices of Poetry evening at the school, and also held a poetry workshop in the school for several weeks a few years ago, which I took part in along with many others from my form. She spoke to III, IV and V form, who were joined by several teachers. Louise started off by giving a brief introduction to herself and then began to read us several of her poems from Remember the Birds and one from her other collection The Puzzle Heart. She asked if we had any questions and answered them all freely. She then handed out an 'eco-poem', 'Alder' by Kathleen Jamie, and asked us what we thought of it. We discussed it until the end of the session. The poetry reading was really interesting. It gave us insight into the reality of being a poet, and how they will tour the country and even further afield to read their poems. It was fascinating to attend something like this because it’s an opportunity you don't often have. What was also really great about the reading was that she introduced each poem before she read it, which gave you a little background/story to it. This made it much easier to follow and as such, connect with. I sometimes wish poets would do this in their books, just a little introduction of no more than a few sentences, about this particular poem, just to let you into it a bit more. But perhaps this would ruin the poem, as often no explanation is needed. Poetry is whatever the poem means to you. Louise’s poems were extremely varied, sticking to no particular theme and showing a wide range of her various influences, styles and way of expressing her feelings. For example 'There Was A Soldier'; this is a really interesting poem about her uncle, who died during World War II, and her visit to his grave in France around four years ago. It’s a very detailed poem, setting an extremely vivid scene for the reader. Her writing is constantly referring back to the war with a mention of it in each stanza, keeping her theme very focused and deliberate. It is a really beautiful poem and I would urge anyone with an interest in war poetry or any poetry at all to read it, even just for the last powerful stanza:
When death came piping over Picardy 97
he was never to be a father, nor an uncle. However her poem 'Matins' is a lot freer in terms of theme. It is a descriptive poem essentially about a flower which she can’t remember the name of, and which she describes. It is much shorter than 'There Was A Soldier' and is also a lot more simple. In fact it’s the unadulterated purity of her words that makes the poem so refreshingly light and dainty, almost like a flower itself. I especially enjoyed these two poems out of the six or seven she read to our year, and I especially like the way there are so many contrasts between them, even though they’re written by the same poet. I looked up a few of her poems in her books and my favourite was 'Swing' because it reminded me of when I was younger and used to play in our garden on my swing. I felt this poem captured the feeling of being on a swing, of pushing yourself up and up and then enjoying the long, stretching sensation of pushing your legs out into the air. Overall the poetry reading was a great success, and I’d just like to thank Louise Callaghan for coming and speaking to us and the English Department for organising it, especially to Mr Fanagan. Louise’s two poetry collections are available in the school library. IV form. March 11th 2008
Amelia Shirley Captivation We knew there must be More to living. We'd heard of places where People laughed with genuine joy. We knew that lying here in Metal beds watching The starless sky Couldn't be forever. We would be released From our solitude, Shown how to embrace The moon's glinting hollowness And tell them... We survived.
III form. April 30th 2008
Amelia Shirley Serenity The pure look of understanding In his eyes burnt a hole In my heart. The simplicity of his smile And contentment of his soul Screamed out to me through barriers of wickedness. He had seen life, Seen death. Then, He had seen me.
III form. April 30th 2008
Joanna Tottenham Junior Poetry Prize, 2008 Hearts Like a time-bomb they tick, Always running, Loving, scarlet, Sweet like syrup. Tender as an eggshell, Broken so often yet Rebuilt By the antidote of others. Working alone, No coffee break. As precious as gold Yet Carelessly cast away In the depths of darkness, Ticking on Precisely. II form. April 28th 2008
Kezia Wright Home There, the tree tops meet the sky And the leaves flutter in the autumn wind as They bid their tree goodbye. There, purple evenings are home to the giant moon. There, snow blankets the land And icicles drip onto the morning frost. The land is still when the bitterly cold wind marches in. There, grasses of green arise from the fields While sounds of the lamb throng the air. There, the sun will spread its wings and shine brightly once again. There, a soft breeze blows through the boiling heat And gentle waves lap against your feet. There, the sun will never die and light is everlasting.
I form. April 29th 2008
Lluisa Hebrero Casasayas Learning the hard way
hardly remember the day I came here, to St. Columba’s College. It feels like it was three years ago, but at the same time I can’t believe I’ve been here for around eight months! I remember in the summer I was really excited, but kind of scared too, about coming here. I used to ask my brother Pau what was this school like, what the people were like, was it hard talking all day in English? I used to annoy him loads, but I wanted to know everything about this school. And he always used to answer in the same way: ‘At the beginning you won’t understand anything. Just talk to people and attend in class; you will like it.’ It made me feel better and more secure, but I was still afraid. ‘What if they don’t like me or if I become a little unsocial girl without any friends?’ Pau said to me: ‘Don’t be ridiculous, be yourself and be nice to people, so they’ll be nice to you’. So I decided not to be scared and everything would be fine… I remember I showed some friends of mine a few photos from the school, I told them everything I knew about the school. Then one night a good friend of mine gave a surprise dinner for me. I had to say goodbye to everyone. I tried not to show my friends how scared I was. I tried not to cry, because I knew it was going to be fun. Every time I went to buy stuff and clothes for this year, or every time we talked about the school, I went mad, I hated talking about that school. I was scared. On August 30th I took a plane with my family to Ireland. I wouldn’t see Mallorca for around two months, a long time…After travelling by car all around Connemara, Galway and the Achill Islands for six days, finally we came back the day before my new school life started. We met my guardian, we went to buy my new school uniform, books… Finally, my first day of an Irish year came. The last place I went was Superquinn. I remember we were in the car that we had rented and my brother held my hand and said to me with a really nice and understanding voice: ‘You know you are going to have fun, you are a nice girl. And even if it’s quite hard to believe this now, you won’t want to leave that school next year… Be yourself and be kind, they will like you.’ On the way to my new school, millions of thoughts came to my head. My heart was beating so hardly and my hands were shaking. I felt like crying. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my family and be completely alone in an unknown school, in a new country. I had seen the school two years ago when I came to see Pau’s Actiontrack show. It looked different. I mean, it wasn’t my brother’s old school anymore, it was now my own new school. There were green gardens everywhere, rugby pitches, loads of tall trees and a massive yellow building. I took my suitcase and I started walking with 103
shaking legs in front of Glen. My mum, Pau and my dad were next to me. Pau went to talk and hug some friends and a guy guided me to my new dorm in Hollypark (the massive yellow building). There I met two girls: an Italian girl (Sophie) and Laura; they were new pupils too, and they were really nice. That first day of school now feels far away, but I remember I got lost every minute and I went to wrong classes and thought ‘what is going on?’ People in my dorm were nice, but I didn’t have a clue about English. ‘Do-you—want--to--go--to--dinner??’ They had to speak really slowly and clearly to me. They said it was funny. I met Regina, the other Spanish girl in my year. But I tried not to get too close or hang around with her constantly. I was here to learn English and have Irish friends. I was lost in all classes. I couldn’t understand a word. To be honest, my first days here I felt like crying, I was quite homesick. I don’t know how, but one day I said to myself: ‘If I don’t talk more to people and make things easier, no-one is going to do it for me, and I still have to be here for nine months, so wake up!’ I can’t explain how much did I change, and what a positive mentality I got. I took my cousin’s old translator and I carried it everywhere I went. I was interested in learning English. I was trying to be as nice as I could, smiling when I had to tell people: ‘I’m really sorry. I don’t understand you, could you please repeat it again?’ And here I am. Being myself. Basically, I’m writing an English essay. I couldn’t have done this a few months ago! People say to me that my English has improved so much, and I’m so happy for that. It’s already April; I’ve been here for seven and a half months, and I actually can understand everything. I have loads of friends, I’m so happy here. I would love to be here more years… This year has been one of the best years in my life, and I would not change anything or anyone, even if I could. This is how I have been learning the hardest way ever in my whole life, and I am so proud of myself. I’m going to miss this school.
IV form, TY Work Portfolio. April 30th 2008
Olivia Plunket Fearing feelings Rivers of tears, Forests of thoughts, The ocean is our mind Forever crashing and changing; Mountains of fears, Lakes of sorrow; These places are our feelings, They contain our memories And long lost moments. We go to these places To remind ourselves How we used to love.
Places Letâ€™s start the journey, Take ourselves everywhere, anywhere, Run as far as we can see, Swim until we can no longer feel, And learn to fly, to reach the stars. We'll go places, and we'll find places, New or old, Far or near, So letâ€™s begin the journey we never started, Together. III form. May 1st 2008 105
Opeline Kellett Those Sepia Photos Those sepia photos in the morning light reflect memories of many times past. The dĂŠbutante ball in 1950, the young gentleman at my hand. Those sepia photos show happiness, a world so simple, so young, a world without fluster or time, and laughter at a gleeful song sung. Those sepia photos show memories I don't want to leave behind. What use now is colour in a world left so grey? Those sepia photos, those times were the day.
II form. April 29th 2008
Ji-won Lee Going Places
ed, orange, yellow, green, Blue, indigo, violet. The rainbow spans the mountain. I wanted to put those seven colours in my pocket and my heart, something like a desire to possess. I put up my hand and wriggled my five fingers. But I couldnâ€™t catch those colours. Because it was too far away. I ran and ran to get beside it. I ran and looked up to the sky. It was much more far away and It started to disappear slowly. Now I have lost my place to go. III form. December 3rd 2007
Crispin Maenpaa Extended Essay : Shriver, Coetzee, Murakami
he theme that I have chosen for my Extended Essay is Parenthood. I chose this theme because I thought it would be an interesting angle to take on the essay and also that it would have many different subheadings which I could use as chapters. I also thought it would be an original idea. The three novels I chose for my extended essay are the disturbing and eye-opening We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver, the award-winning Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, and the intriguing and surreal Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami. We Need to Talk about Kevin is about the dangerous distance that can exist between a mother and a child and it discusses the ultimate taboo: ‘Can a mother hate her son?’ The novel itself is excellent and very descriptive and has been highly acclaimed by numerous magazines and newspapers. Disgrace is about a troublesome period in the life of romantic scholar David Lurie who after being fired goes to live with his daughter in South Africa and tries to recollect his thoughts and reorganize his life. It is an outstanding novel and was a worthy winner of the Man Booker Prize. It is highly acclaimed, especially by the Times which says, ‘A great novel by one of the finest authors writing in the English language today’. Kafka on the Shore is probably the least known of my three novels, yet it is one of my favourites. The novel is very original and is written in the typical Murakami style. It is about the struggles of a teen called Kafka and an old man called Nakata and their striving to find their place in the world, a place where they belong. These three novels were all chosen for a specific reason. Not only do all three novels deal with parenthood but each deals with the topic at a certain age. We Need to Talk about Kevin deals with a mother and her relationship with her son during his childhood from birth to early teen. Kafka on the Shore deals with the influence of a boy by his parents in his teenage days. Disgrace deals with a father’s parenting of his daughter in her later life. I therefore picked these novels so I could broaden my theme and discuss the relevance of each novel to one another over a broad spectrum.
IV form. Full essay online, December 15th 2006
Celeste Guinness Extended Essay : Paton, Lee, Frank
chose the subject ‘Difference’ because it can be interpreted in many ways through literature and it is a recurrent theme throughout the three books I have read for this project. I decided to choose three books which each deal with Difference in various ways. The books I chose to read were: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
To me, Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, was a great choice for this project because it is a story set in South Africa when it was on the cusp of instating the ‘apartheid’ regime, which was the forceful segregation of black people from white people. A story like this was definitely worth including, because even before the apartheid regime started, there was a gaping difference between black people and white people, which I shall explore later. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, out of the three books I have chosen, is probably the most appropriate book to discuss the subject, Difference. Not only is there a harsh distinction between black people and white people, but there is the glaringly obvious distinction of one’s class and place in society in this story of the quiet town of Maycombe, in America’s Deep South. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was my first choice for this essay, as it has a personal relevance to me and my family. This book is set in Holland during World War Two, and almost mirrors the story of my mother’s side of my family. My granddad was a German Jew who lived in Berlin before the Second World War broke out. He and his family went into hiding, but managed to send him to a friend to escape, who then managed to ferry him over to England, and thus to safety. The rest of the family, though, were not as safe. They were found by the Gestapo in an annexe, not dissimilar to the one that the Franks were found in, and were sent by train to the labour camp of Auschwitz, the same camp Anne Frank was sent to. Two of them were then sent on to Treblinka, which wasn’t a labour camp but was purely an extermination site, and of all the eleven of my granddad’s relatives sent away, only one came back.
IV form. Full essay online, December 13th 2006 109
Emily Plunket The Oldest Person I Know
sually when people write about the oldest person they know, they write about someone who is still alive; but the oldest person I know, or knew as most would say, is now is no longer alive. It doesn't mean though that I don't know this person. The only thing that's changed is that I don't see him anymore. Therefore I hope that it will be okay to write about the person I truly admire, my Grandpa. My Grandpa met my Grandma during the war, and incidentally they got married during the war as well. They had two daughters - Vanessa, my aunt and Fiona, my mummy. Ever since I can remember mummy has always told me stories about Grandpa and what he did. It wasn't as though my Grandma was boring, it was just that he had such an amazing life. He was Welsh and so my mummy grew up in Wales until my Grandpa decided to pursue his love of acting and go to drama school even though he was in his thirties. He got a place at RADA in England and soon enough took to the stage. Mummy loved watching him perform. He had an amazing voice and even when I knew him and he no longer performed he always held a note perfectly, clearly and loudly, because of course in stage productions in those days they didn't use microphones. He also did some television and radio as well as appearing in two James Bond films, but only briefly. He was and is my mother's idol and is and has always been mine as well. I have some very vivid memories we shared when I was younger, such as him pushing me on the swing, going for walks in the autumn when the leaves were blowing, playing charades with him in the garden, him reading me books and poems (especially one about a stubborn donkey that wouldn't go). He used to make me laugh and smile and he used to tell some amazing stories that would have ‘my eyes out on stalks’, as he would say. He always smelt of tea or if it was a special occasion he used to put on his musty aftershave. He never forgot my birthday or Christmas and was always so keen to come over and stay even when he had sore hips and could hardly walk anymore. One thing that makes me sad is that I didn't see him for three years before he died when he was very ill. I wanted to go and stay and talk to him like he used to talk to me, make him happy and make him smile. On the phone it just wasn't good enough. I wanted to tell him my stories and see what he thought and I just wanted a hug from him and for him to kiss me on the forehead and say ‘my darling’ as he always did. I have no memories of him when he was unwell, so all my memories are happy. That is what he wanted. He told mummy not to bring us, my sister and me, over to see him because he didn't want us to see him ill and old, and when he died we didn't go to his funeral. He had always had pride in himself and his family. He had the courage 110
to leave everything he knew was safe and secure and risk it all to follow his dream. This, if not everything, is what I look up to him most for - for being individual, for following his dream and making it happen, and for at the same time being so caring to his family and keeping his feet on the ground. I hope to follow in his footsteps and make him proud. I really miss you, Grandpa. IV form, TY Work Portfolio. June 9th 2007
Cordelia Mulholland Revelations
ou are the composer of my silent prayers, The cross on which I am fixed. I clasp your indifference to me Like a child clutching its most precious possession. Rosary beads slide through my fingers As you snake through my mind. You are my religion, my revelation, The only faith I could ever cling to. VI form. April 12th 2008
Hal Downer A Winter’s Night
ate at night, the house is asleep. Not much can be heard, Except for rattling noises, and the crackling fire. Except for that, it’s quiet. Except for that, it’s quiet. Now is my time, nobody else’s. There are only two things in use, The centre light and my wine glass. The centre light and my wine glass, Sitting on the oak chest, The centre of the room bright, the rest dark. The Aga rumbles slightly. The Aga rumbles slightly, A breeze passes through. I shiver. I walk upstairs, I walk into my room, into the warm darkness. I walk into my room, into the warm darkness. I lie down on my bed. She breathes lightly. I can feel her warmth. She is sleeping softly. She is sleeping softly. I can see the approaching light. Darkness is fading. Night fights, day fights back. Night fights, day fights back. Dreaming in the darkness, The windows rattle, the wind howls. Late at night, the house is asleep. Not much can be heard, Not much can be heard. 112
Hal Downer My Deepest Fears
lie awake, Tossing, turning in my bed. Itâ€™s dark and quiet. The night is so silent Nothing can be heard. I walk over to the window And glance across the city. Each light means something Someone lying awake like me Just pondering, Waiting for the final call From the hospital Where their loved one is, Upset because they had Yet another argument And he left in a storm, And those like me. Sweet dreams to all of those Like me. You are amazing: Hold on.
V form. April 10th 2008
Fiona Boyd Extended Essay : Morrison, Plath, Banks
he books I have decided to write on are And When Did You Last See Your Father? by Blake Morrison, a memoir of his father’s life; The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, a semi-autobiographical tale of a young girl’s breakdown; Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks, a realistic and intriguing book about one boy’s journey into adulthood. I chose these books, based on the recommendations of my English teacher, with the intention of basing my essay around the theme of ‘Relationships’. However, after reading the books I couldn’t draw together enough material to write solely about relationships so I began to look for other options. First I weighed up the books’ similarities, then their differences, then their strengths and finally their weaknesses and I formed a conclusive decision in my head. All three books were different in terms of social order (class), era and gender. This meant that the themes common in the three books, such as issues with their fathers, were written from three very different angles and so quite difficult to base a whole 3,000-word essay on. However all three did have one thing in common - changes. And so this became my theme. In each book, towards the beginning there is a dramatic shift in events; without this there is no story. The change is the trigger that fires the story. In And When Did You Last See Your Father? by Blake Morrison the major change is that Blake’s father is diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer – this is a major and startling shift in the family’s life, and the beginnings of the story. Blake tells the story of his father’s worsening condition alternating between chapters about his childhood. Rule of the Bone tells the story of Bone who’s thrown out of his home for stealing to feed his drug habit. This is the unexpected change at the start of this novel. Bone’s original name is Chappie but he changes it to Bone to fit his new metamorphosis. Bone goes on a journey of discovery. He goes from living in a squat above a video shop in Plattsburg, New York to a mountainside villa in Jamaica. The major change in The Bell Jar is the way Esther begins to feel after returning home from an internship in New York City. She becomes withdrawn and isolated, sparking off a downward spiral into depression. The novel is about her journey from therapist offices to mental asylums. One thing I noticed about reading things written in the narrative firstperson case is the amazing the effect the word ‘I’ can have on you as a reader. It’s like walking around on the tips of the main character’s toes and then skulking behind whenever they meet someone, to eavesdrop. You see things you shouldn’t see. You read things nobody should ever know about another person. You feel much more empathetic towards the characters and more 114
connected with them. It’s all in the little word ‘I’. It makes the book immediately more realistic and believable and so whenever the character is in a bad situation you can relate much more to them.
IV form. Full essay online, December 10th 2007
Tyrone Langham Fireworks
laming torches light the night, Launching into space, Reaching the moon, Every colour spread under the stars. Waiting to launch, racing to the sky, Obvious from anywhere, Lighting up the night, Fading into nothing.
ire lights the world, Fire turns shade to light And day to night. It lights the dark. Fire burns and flares, Smokes and fries, Eats everything in its path. All turns to ash. I form. May 6th 2007
Angus Johnson Sideshow
here was fire in the crowd's eyes, As the dragon blew Flames from his lungs. The crowd shrieked and began to dance Around their new god.
ire, as bright as blue in the sky, Higher than the planes go, Right up with the stars, Exploding the air. I form. May 6th 2007
Winta Bairu Stone Cold, by Robert E. Swindells
his book is about a sixteen year-old boy named Link in London who leaves home because his mother is dating an abusive drunk addict. He isn't able to find work and he cannot pay off his rent so he is left on the streets with all sorts of daily challenges. Then he meets a guy named Ginger who teaches him how to survive by begging and conning, but he leaves Link so then he can survive on his own. Link falls in love with a girl named Gail who isn't what she seems to be. He walks into a man's house, not knowing anything about him and finds himself in a sticky situation. This is a great book that really conveys the concept of the homeless lives in London with vivid actions and imagery. Once you start this book you don't want to put it down because it just gets better as you go on. The beginning flows into the story line instead of adding unnecessary information which can get tedious. This story is told by Link in the first person, which gives you a deeper perception of a personal view of a homeless child and instead of having chapters Swindells puts it as daily routine orders. Time is very important in the book because it is time that Link's life is all about, surviving 24/7. Link and Gail are characters that you sympathize with because they affect the way you see the modern world. After reading this book you will feel more compassion for the homeless and how they should not be ignored because they aren't all drunks, drug addicts or beastly. The characterizations are so lifelike that you can picture coming across somebody like Link on the streets and you think they will hurt you and they know that but they just want help. The fact that the story takes place in London emphasises the conditions that the characters go through, like the harsh winters, hot summers and rainy days. This book demonstrates the struggles, pain and desperation of the homeless and it influences you to stop listening to the issues and do something about it. I admire the way the story line continues rising, without losing interest, until there is a huge climactic ending where you wonder what happened to Link. The overall message of this book was, don't judge someone by their looks or how rich they are. The ending happens so quickly but it is so vivid that you get so caught up in it and you don't want the book to end.
III form, Junior Certificate book report. Full essay online, November 19th 2007
Rachel Acton Filion Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry, 2008 The Path, 5:47 pm
he sky glows in melting sweeps of orange and violet, Barricaded by the black, brittle outlines of a bare forest.
My presence visibly affects the atmosphere, As whispering folds of mist expand from my mouth. Layers of neon graffiti stand stark against Cracked, frozen blocks of cement. The air is glacial and infinite, And it breezes by Like tiny frozen metallic particles piercing And scattering over my skin. The only corporeal movement that exists Is the twitching of a minuscule form of crimson feathers. Altered into an array of chipped glass and porcelain, The world is menacing in its calm perfection. VI form. Poem of the Week, April 9th 2008
Rachel Acton Filion Transience
y skin tingles magnetically against the wind, The floating element potent, piercing My stripped fingers, stripped ribs and raw throat. The perfect ticking of measured time Carries with it a delirious, self-induced deterioration. Minuscule seconds click into tiny forms, Weighted and falling away, As aspects of my corpse slip invisibly, Gone but still somehow latching on, In greedy insistence.
VI form. April 14th 2008
Rachel Acton Filion Apparition
fell asleep, Blue darkness bleeding over my eyes.
From the deep shadow You stepped out, Light melting silently Upon your sallow skin. You looked a little scared. It seemed more than a grasping Fabrication of my mind, Because your voice was So lucid, so distinctively yours, Bare and shaken. A locket dangles in desolate pain, And will remain forever. The stony sharp chain Pleasingly slices the fingers Which wrap tightly around Never surrendering to release. It's so heavy, Encapsulating What you Told me. VI form. April 14th 2008
Celeste Guinness â€˜Suddenly there was no noiseâ€™
uddenly there was no noise. The usual singing of the crickets was now inaudible. It was as if the shrieking howler monkeys had become mute. The general humming and buzzing of the jungle was nowhere to be heard. Sensing this aura of unease, I silently stalked backwards along the moss-ridden branch, on which I was resting, to flatten myself against the sturdy tree trunk for camouflage. A few minutes passed before the jungle came back to life. The danger had obviously passed. So I resumed doing what I do all day; sunbathing. I found a soft patch of green moss and slowly lay across it. I then decided that, for protection, I ought to blend in with my surroundings. Effortlessly, my scaly skin faded from trunk-of-tree brown, to be replaced by a mossy-green shade. This was the perfect disguise to fool any hungry predators that might be looking for a snack. Once I was happy with my new look, and was sure I was safe where I lay, I fell soundly asleep. An hour or two passed before I was awoken by an annoying (yet enticing) buzzing. A smile wandered across my bony face as I realised that a potential meal was hovering at the end of my branch. Without a sound I lifted up my horn-encrusted head and tried to spot the delicious morsel that was waiting for me to gobble up. At last it came into my sight as it landed on the tree, in all its jewelblue-hued glory. It began sucking droplets of moisture off a large green leaf, drinking them up greedily. I continued to watch this entrancingly appetising insect. Every movement of each of its six limbs was followed militaristically by my protruding eyes. The insect paused for a moment, at which point it caught sight of me. However, I was lucky because the insect only paused in order to stretch its shimmering, translucent wings. At this point my mouth began to water. I could wait no longer. I noiselessly began to pursue my awaiting meal. It took me about ten minutes to cover a distance of about five inches. But, had I hurried, it might have noticed I was there. I focused all my energy onto the buzzing bluebottle, and summoned up the energy required for catching this beast. 121
One quick flash of crimson; the lightning strike of my soaring tongue, was all I needed for this endeavour. Unfortunately, as my tongue flew out to catch the fly, it carefully dodged my sticky tongue of doom, and flew away as fast as its delicious wings could take it. Not that I blame it. Feeling deflated, I shook off the mossy colour my skin had adapted to, so that I could find another spot from which to hunt. Life as a chameleon sure isnâ€™t easy. IV form, TY Work Portfolio. June 7th 2007
Joseph Millar Transition Year Hike Review
t was raining, of course. In a country which enjoys a little under seventy-five minutes of sunshine a year, only a fool would have assumed otherwise (Oli Smith filled this natural role by predicting 'Sunny skies! High to mid eighties!'). So it was with a heavy heart, and much, much heavier walking boots that we began the ‘Greatest Event of Our Young Lives’.
After a few minutes walking the hikers began to split up into smaller groups. At the front were the Crazies. They surged on ahead, often running up the Wicklow Mountains. Behind the drug-, or at least adrenaline-fuelled Crazies were the Sunday Walkers. They trundled along, admiring the scenery (‘Oh my God guys, a squirrel!!’), and were generally in the best form, and least pain, come the end of the hike. Behind this group was the most intimate, and exclusive hiking club in the world; namely, Tow Paul-Lawal and Rachael Roden. On two occasions we found ourselves two hikers short, in the middle of the Wicklow Mountains. Just as the rescue squad were being called in, the pair skipped around the corner, the wind in their hair and a flower in each hand. When we reached the hostel, each of the hikers adopted different celebratory techniques. Some collapsed onto nearby benches, apparently lifeless (James Crampton seemed especially keen to perform CPR on some of the girls), some rushed to the bathrooms, while others wondered why we were two hikers short (Rachael and Tow skipped around the corner several hours later, to answer our queries, looking almost crestfallen that the hike was over). After a long hike, what we all needed was a good meal. This, I suspect, was why I was called up to the cooking team. After nearly destroying the mince, I was relocated to the seemingly simple job of cooking the sausages. However, the batch of sausages must have been faulty (this is the only explanation). They stuck to the pan, and refused to move without squirting boiling fat over anyone within a thirty metre radius. Whenever I tried to roll them over they made a sound similar to a snake screaming; I let them be, and hoped for the best. What followed was the entire hiking squad being fed semi-burnt/semi-raw sausages. This, I suspect, was the main reason half of the year was up at matron's the next morning. As I finished serving the food, I couldn't help but notice Mr Coldrick sobbing in the corner. This I suspect was due to Vicky Cooper's chopping of the onions rather than my cooking, although in Wicklow anything can happen. The trek home passed without incident (unless Ana Gottlieb falling into a muddy ditch is considered an incident). A creepy, if suitable mist accompanied us for most of the journey home, as did a persistent drizzle. 123
However, this did nothing to dampen the spirits of a food-poisoned hiking team. my feet.
Mr. Coldrick said that the hike built character. Building character hurt
IV form, TY Work Portfolio. June 1st 2007
Shannon Keogan A Raging Sea
s I stood looking out to sea, The raging waves crashed Against the worn pier, Making a howling noise that echoed Into the dull and cloudy sky.
Haiku : Autumn
amp cold bitter air, Crisp leaves falling to the ground. Tall palm trees stand still. I form. May 6th 2007
Rebecca Feeney-Barry The Watcher
am emerging from a long slumber. I look out. The world looks so green. I remember seeing this world before but somehow it was different then. I did not have the same feeling of joy that I have now. I can sense the air against my slender body, warm and kind. As I unfold it slowly caresses my new wings to dry them. The moisture that has protected them all this time slowly evaporates. They feel light but powerful. I stand still, swaying gently. I look down and see the ground many times my own height below me. I know I could reach it in a second. I have a moment of fear, of apprehension, but now, the adrenalin rushes back into my veins. This is what I was meant to do. I plunge, darting, gliding, lifting, fluttering. I am enjoying life. There cannot be any danger now. I have passed all that and am now completely free. I run no risk. I feel no fear. I jump and dodge like a gazelle on the run. But, unlike the gazelle, I do this of my own free will. I can see how this land has changed. The temperature, the light and the atmosphere have metamorphosed into a sunny, summer's day. If I did not know that this was my country, would I recognize it? Would I see that that lush, heavily-scented bush was the twig of a few months ago? Would I realize that the staring heat of the sun came from that same dull creature of autumn? How could I know? I do know that this is my world and I do know that this is where I was meant to end up. This is my destiny. This is my calling. Those hours of seeing my brothers and sisters plucked off the leaf one by one. Those days, weeks of eating until I burst. They were all worth it for this feeling of freedom, this immortality. The creatures watch me as I fly past, envious. I am light on the breeze and beautiful. They see my wings and stand mesmerized as they rise and fall, again and again, hypnotizing like waves on the seashore. They come closer but I disappear in an instant, not to be seen again by their eyes. I must now delight others. The breeze brings me a little way down a hill, up over a brook. The water tinkles and glistens in the sunlight, reflecting the blur of my wings. A haze of colours - blues, reds, greens. Noise breaks my peaceful contemplation and I flee, darting through a bush. I emerge to a host of creatures coloured after my back. I descend, curious and bury my head into their midst. A sweet substance meets my lips. I rise and I know now that this elixir was made for me. This world is now made for me. An idyll of tranquillity and beauty with me at its centre. I wonder if I have not died already. IV form, TY Work Portfolio. June 1st 2007 125
Celeste Weatherhead The Taunted End to the Dictator
he war, the trial, and now the hanging. December 30th 2006 saw the loathsome Saddam Hussein brought to justice, a moment many people had longed for, some of whom expressed their gratitude for his death a little too explicitly. A few hours after the execution of Hussein, the Iraqi guards put out the videotape of his hanging. This tape respectfully had no sound and ended when the rope was put around the extraordinarily calm tyrant's neck. I suppose everyone thought that was the end of that. A witness to the hanging managed to sneak a mobile phone into the execution chamber, and managed to film from when Saddam Hussein was brought into the chamber, had his feet shackled, to when his body was hanging lifelessly at the end of the rope. Not only did this short film depict to the public the full execution and hanging, it also revealed, as sound was available, the taunting of the dictator in the last few seconds of his life. Many were chanting the names of his enemies and told him that â€˜He was going to hellâ€™. Surely this disgraceful act is more reminiscent of a public hanging in the 18th century than a considered act of 21st century justice? Doesn't the execution now come across as an ugly degrading affair? If so, does this indeed not suggest that some of the general public do not seem mature enough to handle the witnessing of execution, and should anyone be allowed to witness capital punishment, or should it happen at all? I thought that it would have been quite obvious that decent people around the world would have been totally repelled by such an execution. But it is curious that so many people watched this horrific video that was widely available for viewing by anyone who wished to watch possibly one of the most hated men taunted while he dropped to his death. I'm also sure that the many people who did not witness it, would have been quite interested to have viewed it. It shows how curious the human mind is about death, and also possibly how we find the suffering of another intriguing. The repulsive end to a repulsive man relieved many, but it also, horrific as it might sound, sheds a little light on our somewhat disturbing curiosity about death and killing. IV form, TY Work Portfolio. June 1st 2007 126
Jessica Sheil Going Places
here are we going?” “A place.” The doors slammed shut. Unfortunately I knew where I was going, but I wasn’t Quite sure what would happen. I wondered if I was going to my death. I’m not afraid of death, I believe, But I am afraid of pain. They could take him away. If they took him I could kill myself, But it would seem almost unreasonable To take my life so willingly when everyone Else is trying their best to stay alive. The doors opened and revealed light And fresh air. I was pushed out and handed my striped uniform With a yellow star neatly sewn on. There was a slight smirk on the man’s face As they took him away. They took him away…
III form. December 3rd 2007
Rebecca Feeney-Barry Extended Essay : Johnston, Dickens, Banks
elcome to my extended essay on the theme of suffering. It took me a while to choose this theme. I chose it because it interested me and I felt it was broad enough to be able to write on a variety of genres of book. The three books I chose were at a glance very different; one is a First World War novel, one is a Christmas story aimed at making people aware of the plight of the poor and the third is a science fiction novel. Or more accurately, this is what you would think by reading the blurb. They do, in fact, have many similarities and some striking differences. These are what I will explore over the next few pages. My books are How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. Two of these are set in wars and in both of them suffering is a large factor in the charactersâ€™ lives. These wars, however, take place in completely different circumstances and settings; one is far into the future, in an era that can barely be imagined at this time, and the other is in the past, at a time that is looked back on with regret and shame. My other book is set in a time also looked back on with remorse. This was a time when there were thousands of uncared for poverty-stricken people. The main character is one of the most famous in English literature, the miser Scrooge. I hope that you enjoy reading this study of the types of suffering and the ways of dealing with suffering present in the three books.
IV form. Full essay online, December 14th 2007
Rebecca Roe My First Love
o begin with, what is love? Who can really define love? Is it a thing, a place, a person, a memory or a smile? Well, to me it could be any thing. Love is what you yourself want it to be, so in that case it can be anything. My first love is obvious to me: it is not a person, or a place but a thing, a toy. But it was more than a toy to me. I had been what I thought was a very good girl all year and in my view it was time for Santa to pay up. It was Christmas and I was five years old and the only thing I wanted was a BABY born®. I had seen it on TV weeks before and from that moment on I wanted nothing else. It was a beautiful plastic baby who could really pee in its nappy. I wanted it so badly I dreamt of holding the baby in my arms, of feeding it a bottle of water and changing its nappy when the time came. I wouldn’t let my parents rest until I was sure dad had rung the elf to confirm that Santa would make a BABY born®. As the countdown to Christmas began my luck began to change for the worse. My mum had told me that Santa had been on the radio while I was in school and had said that there was a shortage of BABY born®s. Even the thought of not getting the doll was too much to bear. Suddenly I started to doubt if I would get it. I began to wonder if I had been good enough. A horrible image came into my head of me on Christmas morning opening a lump of coal. It's not that I had been particularly bad but in all fairness I hadn’t been particularly good either. Something had to been done : there were still a few days left before the big day and I was now off school so now I could give my full attention to helping in any way I could. I decided to start off by reassuring my mum that she could play with the doll too as long as she asked me. This seemed to work as my mum said there was still time to impress Santa so I did exactly that. That Christmas Eve we went up to my grandmother's for dinner - mmmmmmm…. I was so tired from all the cleaning and things I had done to get my name in the good books. I was so excited that all I wanted was to go home and see if he had delivered my present. We got home at around 8. I ran to my room to get changed into my pj’s. After that I got the carrot for the reindeer and a glass of port and a minced pie for Santa. My work was done - I could do nothing more now, other than wait in anticipation for the noise of bells and footsteps. Before I was sent to bed I took one last look at the Christmas tree all lit up. It’s the one thing I will never forget, the smell of the pine and the twinkling lights. It looked magical. I went to bed hoping that tomorrow I’d wake up to find what I had wanted for so long. The day came. I woke up at around 3 in the morning. I crept out of my bed and into the drawing room to finds lots of presents under the tree. I very quietly began to look for mine but there was no present there. I ran crying into 129
mum and dad, which was not what they expected to happen on Christmas morning. I told them what had happened. Mum smiled and took me back into my room and there it was, a big present at the end of my bed! I must have run past it on my way to the tree. ‘How silly, Santa wouldn’t have done that to you’, said my mum. I ran to it and stood there for a moment to take in the moment. I took a deep breath and began to unwrap it, and then I ripped it open: there it was, just like I had dreamt about, except to see it for real was amazing. I had never in my life been so impressed with a bit of plastic. To hold it in my arms was like heaven on earth but I had to test it to see if it did really pee. I gave it a whole bottle of water and as the box had promised it peed all over me but I couldn’t have cared less. It was mine. There really is no word to describe how I felt and there still isn’t. That memory will stay with me forever as my first love, BABY born®. IV form, TY Work Portfolio. June 10th 2007
John Fanagan The Novels of Elizabeth Taylor
uring last term I was recommended to read her novel Angel (the only Taylor novel we had in the Library then – there are more there now). I enjoyed it greatly: it was unlike any other book I'd read for a while. Over the holidays, I read three more: At Mrs Lippincote's, Blaming and Mrs Palfrey at the Clairmont (made into a film starring Joan Plowright in 2005). The more I read, the more I liked her style which is very unadorned, yet elegant and perceptive. She has, it seems, been for many years (she died in 1975) a writer's writer who has never really taken off as a bestseller. Her subjects are simple: in the words of Sarah Waters, she writes about people 'negotiating the ordinary small crises of marriage, family and friendship...small communities, captured for a brief but crucial period of time'. Just like Jane Austen, in fact, with whom she has been compared.
January 11th 2008 130
Rowland Cooper Vesuvius (On reading Pompeii, by Robert Harris)
The windless air hangs on the shoulders Like the packs of the legions As they trudge in rank through the German forests. Yet still the shores are pummelled And dashed by waves vigorous With expressionless violence. Mother Earth heaves and lurches Pushing huge taproots into the air With an effortless ease, Shaming the great hurricanes of Jupiter, Proving that she is truly mistress Of all things below the heavens. Then the pregnant silence... A stillness so profound and intense And seemingly endless, seemingly stretching into eternity, And with no warning the great mother gives birth To a thunderclap so loud that the crystal sea Swells and ripples and roils. And the wind of fiery dust streaming down The mountain, incinerating all in its path, Leaving nothing, not even the greatest Roman architecture, unscorched and blackened. Mother Earth's child has struck out at life. This is her fiery spawn of chaos. This is Vesuvius. October 1st 2007
Rachael Roden Poppy Shakespeare, by Clare Allen
his is a novel seen through the eyes of a psychiatric patient at a mental hospital in London. The writing style is original, probably because it is seen through the eyes of a patient who doesn't have perfect English and gives amusing names to the different aspects of the hospital. It is written by an author who spent ten years herself in a psychiatric home. I would strongly recommend this novel, as it is both amusing, and provides an insight into psychiatric practices.
Fred Mann Suite Franรงaise, by Irene Nemirovsky
he Germans are invading France, and the population of Paris is evacuating. In all the confusion every nerve will be tested. This book follows the lives of different families as they leave Paris, and also where they end up. It is a wellwritten book by an author who was there, and saw it all happening. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in World War II history.
Josh Buckingham The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
his book is about a man and his son walking towards the sea in a postapocalyptic world. It shows their determination to survive and how they go about surviving. It is a very enthralling yarn and I would really recommend giving it a try.
IV form. Reading for Extended Essay, October 2006 and 2007
Joseph Millar TY Extended Essay : Remarque, Barker, Lawrence
chose the topic of war primarily because it brought about many new emotions in people, and because of how it affected soldiers, and civilians worldwide. War had such powerful effect on people, that it would have been impossible not to be able to find books which suited my theme: ‘How war effects us all’. The books I did find were perfect in expressing the point I wished to make. All Quiet on the Western Front by E.M. Remarque is known worldwide for its powerful detail, descriptions, force and honesty. I had read it once before, and realised that this book would detail perfectly war’s effects. As well as this it offered a true insight into trench warfare; its imagery and descriptions are so powerful, and true, that on many occasions they break your heart. This book certainly destroys any propaganda-led claim that war was the glorious option. As well as showing the effect war had on its soldiers, what I really wanted to portray was the range of effects it had, across the world, in various and contrasting places. All Quiet dealt with the changes the soldiers underwent; what I wanted to do next was to show how it affected people with different involvements in the war. Doctors were almost as important as the soldiers during the four years of the Great War. They helped heal and regenerate soldiers’ lives; therefore it seemed necessary that Regeneration by Pat Barker should feature in my report, which shows the changes doctors went through during the war, yet also its unusual redemptive power. Iain Lawrence wrote my final choice, Lord of the Nutcracker Men. The main character in this novel is not as directly involved with the war as the others; in fact, he is as much uninvolved as one can be. He is ten-year-old Tommy, an evacuated son of a soldier sent to live with his Aunt Ivy. Despite having little involvement with the war itself, the war’s effects reach and alter his opinions on the war, peace, and life itself. My prime aim in doing this project was to show you the contrasting effects war had on contrasting people, the depth that war seems to penetrate into each person’s life.
IV form. Full essay online, December 13th 2006
Kate Haslett TY Extended Essay : Camus, du Maurier, Tartt
he themes I have chosen to study for my extended literary essay are, crime, guilt and conscience, and I have entitled it ‘Crime and Punishment’. I chose this title as I wanted to explore the morality and virtue of the different characters in my three chosen novels. The three novels I have chosen to write on are The Outsider by Albert Camus, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Although seemingly different, they all share one underlying common ground: the main characters are each guilty of a secret crime, whether it be a crime of passion, or a cold-blooded murder and they will all have to deal with the consequences and gravity of their situation. The Outsider by Albert Camus is the story of Meursault, who leads an apparently unremarkable bachelor life in Algiers, until he commits an act of unprovoked violence. The novel observes his response to the incident which challenges the fundamental values of society, and reveals the court to be hypocritical and corrupt; it reveals a set of rules so binding that any person breaking them is condemned as an outsider, as a monster. For Meursault, it is an insult to his reason and betrayal of his hopes; however for Camus, it is the absurdity of life, and this is what Camus bases his novel around, and what I will be looking at. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a classic of modern gothic literature; it’s characterised by picturesque settings and an atmosphere of mystery and terror. The heroine and narrator of the novel is working as a lady’s companion to the vulgar and wealthy American Mrs Van Hopper, and there she learns her place in society and her class status. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome yet inscrutable widower, who takes her by surprise with a proposal of marriage. She accepts and is whisked from her Monte Carlo life as a lady’s companion to the ominous, remote Manderley. She now finds Maxim a changed man. He is cold and remote towards her and the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive in the very being of Manderley, and the heroine struggles with Rebecca’s vivid, indestructible memory, initiated by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers. Donna Tartt's The Secret History is a haunting, compelling, and brilliant piece of fiction. Set in the heart of darkness, it’s as stony and chilling as any Greek tragedian, which is what Tartt hoped for it. Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor a group of uncommonly clever eccentric misfits, whilst at an élite New England College discover a new way of thinking and living that is a world away from their contemporaries’ humdrum existence. They are cerebral, obsessive and ultimately murderous. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality, their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and their moral framework is tested. 134
Whilst reading these novels I observed many similarities between them. The Secret History by Donna Tartt has marked likenesses to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier; both of these novels have murderers and accomplices. In The Secret History it is difficult to interpret who is primarily to blame. You could say that Henry is the principal protagonist, and that he is the mastermind behind the entire plan and the others could be seen as his accomplices. In Rebecca, Mrs de Winter becomes an accomplice of Maxim when she makes a moral decision to stand by her guilty husband and furthermore live in exile with him. I chose these three novels as I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and their darkness appealed to me. Of the three, I most enjoyed studying The Outsider by Albert Camus, as for such a short book there is so much to write about and read into. I thought the character of Meursault was beautifully portrayed, as although if you think about it he is classified as a â€˜monsterâ€™ â€“ as depicted in the novel - with no values, in spite of that, you can also see how Camus has portrayed him in a sympathetic manner. Having said that, my favourite to read was definitely Rebecca, as I thought it was beautifully written, with long descriptive passages which were enthralling to read, and I could feel myself getting lost in the world of Manderley, and it would now seem that time is not only a thief but a conjurer as well, as when I began this essay, I could never imagine finishing it. Still, it was a challenging and invigorating task, and I am glad that I now have something to show for it.
IV form. Full essay online, December 15th 2007
Poppy Vernon A letter to a famous person
ear God (not really sure if you have a first name),
I was asked to write a letter to a famous person and as I don’t really have a significant idol who I look up to, I thought I would take this opportunity to write to you. I admit I am going to have some trouble posting this and am proposing just throwing it high into the air and hoping that it will disappear dramatically. But if not, you’ll just have to take into account that 'it’s the thought that matters.' You see, I don’t think you get half the thanks that you deserve. I mean, sure people ‘pray’ to you, but have they ever heard of writing? It’s like if I receive a really nice Christmas present; I don’t just put my hands together and think 'thank you'. I generally write a polite, pleasant letter; it’s called courtesy! The truth is, though, I’m not really sure if you even exist. Sorry if that came out the wrong way. I’m not trying to sound rude. I just think that it’s rather ironic that I chose to write this letter to ‘you’ (who are you?). I guess if the truth be told, nobody knows if you exist. They say they do but there’s no actual proof. But there you are, probably the most famous person in the world… you’re like one of those men (or women) of mystery you hear about on the television. Funny how millions and millions of people put their lives into the hands of somebody whose name spells “DOG” backwards and who they’ve never even met in person. But if you are real, then all I have to say is fair play to you, I mean for a guy who supposedly created the world in seven days you’re not half modest. Of course you have a book and everything but to be honest that’s more about Jesus (who by the way has totally taken all the credit for all your hard work. Seriously not cool.) So all in all I’d just like to say you’re a pretty cool guy and a bit of a ledgewell, considering how old you are and all. Maybe we could meet up one day and you can show me this light people go on about…? Yours respectfully,
IV form, TY Work Portfolio. April 24th 2008
Sophie Haslett An interview with Jennifer Johnston
n Monday June 4th 2007, I had the privilege to interview one of Ireland’s most esteemed authors, Jennifer Johnston. Here’s how we got on…
SH : Could you please begin by telling me about your early life and influences? JJ : Well, I was born in Dublin. My father was a writer called Denis Johnston who was very famous in the 20s and 30s, writing one particularly groundbreaking play The Old Lady Says No. My mother was an actress and a director in the Abbey Theatre and they were married for about eight or nine years before getting divorced. My father then became a BBC war correspondent and wrote a novel based on his experiences called How Many Miles To Babylon? (I asked did this influence her title and she said 'perhaps'). His novel wasn’t just a diary of the war though as it was faintly philosophical. After the war, my father moved to London and didn’t come back to Ireland until the end of his life. He became a professor in America and eventually came back to Ireland in about 1970. My mother went on to start her own company which put on plays. Quite a literary background then. Were you always interested in writing? Well, I was at school. I used to write plays that we would act in school. I didn’t write much after school because I was at Trinity, where I failed a terrible exam that has now been abolished I am pleased to say and then I went on and got married and had children. After living in Paris for a year with my husband who was working in a film studio there, we moved to London and eventually settled in Derry. I started writing at the age of thirty-five as I just woke up one morning and thought ‘I must do something with my life’, and after a few weeks of thinking, I decided on writing. I was very lucky because my first book The Captains and the Kings won a prize. Do you find personal experience is important to your writing? Not necessarily. I find just strange little things that flash in and out of your mind that you remember one day and then forget can be important. And finally, after years, something might come into your head and you’ll think ‘Ah, that’s exactly what I need’.
And what about your characters, are they based on people you know? Yes and no. They may be based on the circumstances of people I know. Writers are thieves - they steal other people’s lives and steal bits of their conversations and things. They’re always stealing - I just hope we give it back in the books that we write. How do you approach your writing on a daily basis? Do you write everyday for example? Oh yes, you have to do that. You have to make some sort of pattern. I never set myself limits though. I can write three words in a day, or I can write two pages it all depends. I’m warning you though that very frequently it does become a chore. Is there a theme or a strand running through all of your novels? Ireland is the main theme, and Irish women and their plight if you like to call it. The mess that all make of our lives too, because I don’t know anybody who hasn’t made a mess of their lives one way or another. Human relationships is another and the relationships between the very old and the very young has always fascinated me. Then there are all the normal themes like love, violence and death. Another common one is the impossibility of so many things that we’re told as children that we can do. But Ireland is the main one. I’m very attached to it, it’s my home. How much planning do you do before you start writing? I don’t really plan. I will have a person who comes into my head and who may be there for six months or even a couple of years. They sort of come in and out and I don’t really notice them except that it’s like someone knocking on the door and then going away. They’re the basis for a major character. It’s difficult, you see I don’t plan apart from knowing the complexities of the human mind. I do plan somewhere deep down inside because I always know the ending. You must know the end or else you could go on writing forever. Your early novels are often set in the vanished world of the Protestant Ascendancy, in big, lonely Anglo-Irish homes. What attracted you to this small section of Irish society? When I started writing, it was what I knew. I wrote about the sorts of people I knew and had been brought up around and who I’ve always had a great love for. But now, I’ve changed, I write more about women and urban life.
Yes, in your first novels, you often write from a male perspective. Do you find this easier? When I first started writing, I was teaching myself to write and so thought that male perspective would help me. I wrote three like that, How Many Miles to Babylon? being the last one, apart from Shadows on our Skins, and then moved onto female perspective which I’ve pretty much stuck with. How do you feel about How Many Miles To Babylon? being on the Leaving Certificate course? Do you like the idea that students are studying it? Well, it’s okay insofar as it means I’m recognised as an author and put with other great ones. I don’t like the idea of quotes and things being learned but it does mean that possibly when everyone leaves school and becomes a human being, that my name will be in their heads and that they might read another or my books. I have heard that you never meant to make the character Alicia in How Many Miles to Babylon? an evil person. Does she have any redeeming features in your opinion? No, absolutely none. She didn’t have any redeeming features - she was sort of like the wicked witch of the north wasn’t she? The only things that she had was that she was very beautiful and she was able to play the piano very well. Had she lived thirty or forty years later, she might have been a concert pianist. And all of that built up in her as a character… This is where I went wrong with her because I knew in my own head what she was like. She was just a woman who’d never had a chance and so she turned into this bitter twisted creature. She had nobody as a role model. I was lucky because my mother worked when I was in school, she was the only mother in my class who worked. And so it didn’t feel strange to me, that I would have to work. She was very much a 20th century woman, my mother. How Many Miles To Babylon? is based on a diary, is that true? Why did this extract strike such a note with you? Mainly because I don’t do things like research. I’m very lazy. I was writing a novel about the very same regiment as it and it was written by a major. It told me all about the trenches and things and troubles between the men in there. When I set out to write it, I wanted to avoid writing things that weren’t true and so it seemed perfect. The moment a lack of truth comes into your writing, nobody believes anything you write.
Why do you think that World War I holds so much attraction to both authors and readers? It came at a strange point in Irish history. Enormous numbers of men signed up for it and Ireland was put on hold. Many men died, or were horribly wounded. It’s very poignant and there are so many extraordinary stories. My uncle, Billy, was killed in Gallipoli and my grandmother less than six weeks later in Flanders. It’s one of those things, no one was left untouched by it. You don’t divide the novel into chapters but sections, why? Why should I? I don’t like chapters, they bore me. It’s just another way of punctuating my novels. Class is very important in your novels. You seem to capture the culture of the working class very well. How do you do so? And were there any aspects of the novel that you found difficult? About capturing the culture, my best advice is to watch and listen. You have to get into your head the rhythms of people’s speech. Reading is very important as well. When you write, you have to read it aloud to yourself every so often because if it doesn’t sound right in your head, it’s not likely to in anyone else's. There are always bits that are difficult in every novel, I don’t remember exactly what in How Many Miles to Babylon? But I imagine it was a bridging section. You know, how do I get from here all the way to over there? How do I tell people about it? You’ve diversified into drama in your writing. Do you find this more difficult? Oh definitely. It’s far too hard, that’s why I didn’t stick with it. I’m a novelist, there’s no question about that. In drama, you can’t say what’s in people’s heads. Sam Beckett’s the only one I think does so effectively. He’s the greatest playwright of the twentieth century. I read that you have been dubbed the ‘quiet woman of Irish literature’, why do you think this is so? Ah, they’re always pulling my leg because I don’t live in Dublin and I don’t have the internet and I don’t use email. I don’t mind talking about my work, just not too often. Writing is a lonely job, you see, but I don’t mind being alone. It doesn’t bother me. How long does it take you to write a novel generally? Too long… about two years I suppose. And I write short novels. It’s all I can do. Even at school, the teacher was always writing EXPAND in huge capital 140
letters down the sides of my essays. I have a new book coming out in October, you’ll have to look out for it. It’s about a very dysfunctional family… Who are your favourite contemporary authors? That’s a hard question. Well, in Irish authors I like John McGahern, God rest his soul. He was wonderful. There’s also a man called Colum McCann who is brilliant, lives in New York but is from Dublin. There are two very good young women, Claire Kilroy who writes magical books and then a younger one, who, to date has only written short stories which are phenomenally good. She’s called Claire Keegan. There are some particuarly good women writers in Australia and Canada at the moment. Would you ever consider having your films adapted for the cinema? How Many Miles to Babylon? was adapted for the television which was excellent. One of the novels is being optioned for cinema at the moment. I think it’s sort of a mixed blessing really. Sometimes they do them so badly but the TV production of Babylon is brilliant. Alicia Moore is played absolutely beautifully by Sian Phillips and Daniel Day-Lewis is also very good as Alexander. The only thing that really grated at me was that in the first twenty minutes, the boy Alexander was so wrong. So, so wrong. What are the rewards and frustrations of being a writer? There are lots of rewards. Firstly, you get to sort out the insides of your own head. The material rewards are brilliant. I have stayed all over the world and met lots of good writers. That means more than money. I don’t make a lot of money from my books, but I get by. The frustrations are all just the frustrations of one’s own personality. What ambitions do you still hold in life and what advice could you give to aspiring novelists? Well, I’ve always said that I want to write the great Irish novel and I don’t have very long left so I’d better hurry up. Advice to novelists… You must have selfconfidence. Writers have to, not all do but it’s rising. And read, of course. Oh, and one last thing. Finish the thing, do not keep scrapping attempts. Reread it afterwards, just finish it first. Jennifer Johnston’s new novel, Foolish Mortals, was published in October 2007. V form. June 14th 2007 141
Lewis Mathews William Trevor
ecently I had the pleasure of reading two books by William Trevor: Old School Ties, a fascinating collection of Trevor’s school writings containing a mixture of fact and fiction, and The Old Boys, a short novel in which a group of septuagenarians revive schoolboy conflicts in the election of the President of The Old Boys’ Association. Now, when our Head of the English Department and Senior Master entrusted me with the task of reading some of Old Columban Trevor’s works and subsequently writing a commentary on them I was, I have to admit, a bit daunted by the task. But having read The Old Boys and Old School Ties I have come to enjoy and admire Trevor’s unique style. I only hope that I can do justice to the works of a man awarded an honorary CBE in 1977 for his services to literature, amongst countless other honours. Of the two books I have to say I preferred the novel The Old Boys to the collection of passages in Old School Ties, although there is one passage in the latter that I was particularly interested in as it dealt with Trevor’s time at St Columba’s. Trevor looks fondly upon Columba’s saying ‘It was and still is, the only public school of its kind in the Republic of Ireland’ and speaks in particular of his memories of jaunts in which ‘a few of us would walk across the slope of the mountain and drink stout in a hillside public house that had featured in James Joyce’, surely unaware that he would share Joyce’s career path and arguably have just as illustrious a career. The Old Boys was one of Trevor's early novels and I find it interesting that Trevor at a young age was able so effectively and humorously to describe how a group of geriatrics, victims of abuse at a boarding school, remain dysfunctional many years later, and how one takes a convoluted revenge on a tormentor. The old boys never, as Trevor sees it, lose touch with the old school's barbarous rituals. They remember the floggings that are supposed to have done so much to improve their capacities for endurance. And, of course, a lot of what endures in them is the memory of ancient wrongs, triumphs and animosities. Trevor portrays the alumni of the school almost like a secret society, obsessed with their own little world and suspicious of outsiders. A very apt description of the school and its students and alumni is present in the book itself: ‘The school may do as it likes, it keeps its own time. It may be almost entirely self-supporting. It may train its own small army, print and publish its own propaganda. It may invent traditions, laws and myths.’ 142
As the curtain goes up on Trevor's witty morality play, a group of the old boys is holding what is to them a ferociously important meeting. The issue being discussed is the next presidency of the Old Boys' Association. An eccentric man, Jaraby is running for the post: an ex-head boy who still looks back on his time at the school through rose-tinted spectacles, he desperately wants the honour of the presidency, indeed there is little left in his life but memories of his schooldays and attending to the business of the Old Boys’ Association. Jaraby has disowned his son, a vagrant, and constantly argues with his wife on the matter. The other members of the governing board are SwabeyBoyns, a soup-stained patrician; Turtle, mild and yet wise enough to know he is ineffectual; Sole and Cridley, cranky but amusing chums still living together; Ponders, the current president of the Association who revels in the ownership of a low-grade aristocratic title, and General Sanctuary, a rather distinguished old soldier who seems to appear in the cast only because the traditions of the English novel demands his presence. We are told that the school is 500 years old but little else of its description; the gargoyles of Trevor’s cast, and in particular Jaraby, interest him more than the school's architectural adornments. This is obviously apparent, as a large amount of the novel is dialogue; indeed Trevor apparently went to the novels of Ivy Compton-Burnett for some schooling in stylized dialogue. A large part of the book is devoted to a systematic unearthing of Jaraby's cheap ignobilities and noisy rages, and we see a large amount of grotesque behaviour by several different parties in the novel. It is clear, to me anyway, after reading this novel that Trevor is a moralist exploring the nature of evil, guilt and madness. It seems that Trevor's particular interest in evil, is not so much its heinous acts as its ordinariness, the way in which it is perpetrated by ordinary people. In this case Trevor delves into the lives and actions of ordinary public school boys. I would have no problem in describing several of the scenes as disturbing, in particular the chapter towards the end where Mrs. Jaraby kills the family cat to spite her husband and get her own way. Indeed, the venom between Mr and Mrs Jaraby is quite alarming at times and one would wonder whether the dysfunctional nature of their relationship is modelled on real parents. I enormously enjoyed reading The Old Boys. Although one could use words such as mordant, gruesome or disturbing to describe the novel I found myself at times hysterical, driven to laughter by Trevor’s black humour. Whatever you say about this book, it is funny, albeit in the darkest of ways. As in the Ivy Compton-Burnett novels that Trevor is alleged to have perused when writing The Old Boys, a large amount of the humour comes from the characters talking to each other with exaggerated formality in hilarious dialogues. At the time that Trevor wrote The Old Boys he was a young man and managed very effectively to write a novel about old people, and deserves every 143
credit for what must not have been an easy feat. In his own old age, William Trevor may be more humane and compassionate in his writings, and although he commands great veneration as a modern master of the short story, with this novel, The Old Boys, Trevor proves that he is an extremely talented writer in more than one genre. VI form. May 12th 2008
Liam Canning Scribbling the Cat, by Alexandra Fuller
left Zambia in 1982 having lived in Africa for the greater proportion of my life. In 1980 Robert Mugabe had been elected as prime Minister of the new Republic of Zimbabwe. In the same year in June a car near my house in Ndola had three hundred rounds of ammunition pumped into it by a group of Joshua Nkomo’s returning guerrilla freedom fighters. Three young friends of mine had been ‘scribbled’. I recall the ghastly image vividly and have often thought of the waste and pointlessness of the fact that it was the car behind theirs that was then stolen. Once you have lived in Africa the place runs in your blood like an itch you cannot scratch. Alexandra Fuller describes it as ‘how to belong to a place that does not belong to you’. I returned to Zambia for the first time when I read her acclaimed memoir Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, a child’s eye view of the continent she grew up in. I am currently reading Scribbling the Cat: travels with an African soldier. It spans the time when Fuller returns to Zambia from the USA as an adult and embarks on a harrowing but ironically hilarious journey into the past. She takes this moral journey with ‘K’, a white African veteran of the civil war. They travel through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique reliving this devastating time in conversation with other war veterans. ‘Scribbling’ is the Afrikaans for killing and it is this casualness about violent death and the irrelevance of human life that strikes home. The novel is hard and unforgiving, dealing with race, politics, war and self-justification. Fuller’s prose is clear, unsentimentally honest and strikingly idiomatic and atmospheric. Both of these books must be read in tandem and although they hold a poignant and personal significance for me, you will certainly get a unique and realistic feel for the idiosyncrasies of Africa, even if you have never been there. April 25th 2008 144
Fiona Boyd Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry, 2008
promise that I can see tomorrows Yesterdays and Fridays and I promise to watch out for all the other days You said would keep coming around. I promise I won’t forget the months Even though there are so many Or how a week can drag on forever And disappear in the blink of an eye. I’m keeping track of all these hours And minutes and seconds And half moments of hope. And I’m saving them up And I’m writing them down Just so we know Just so we know. IV form. Poem of the Week, April 17th 2008
Fiona Boyd Untitled I
hink of all our memories together, and hold them in your hand, and play them like a movie in your mind; the time will come when the reel ends and you will fall short of fresh memories, and be at a loss. and when that time comes, you go back and watch your movies again and again until they are frozen frames in your head you may forget words and sounds and movements and those frozen frames may grow clouded and fuzzy and start to curl with doubt at the edges that is when you frame them in gold and they will be still. and time will hold them there for you like a mother holding her childâ€™s hand.
April 17th 2008
John Fanagan On Teaching English
have a vivid recollection of my first encounter with English Literature – Shakespeare, in fact. It was in 1957 when we moved to a new house in Bushy Park Road, Rathgar. In the room which was to be my bedroom, I found a cartoon comic-type book: Macbeth. I started reading it immediately and can still picture the severed head of Macbeth being held up at the end of the story. I was seven and I was hooked. Reading was always something I enjoyed, and I went through the Famous Five, Secret Seven, William and Billy Bunter books. My first experience of relatively grown-up books was when I was about thirteen. I was staying overnight at my grandmother’s house and wanted something to read in bed. I found Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library and devoured it. I went on to read about fifty of her books, ransacking secondhand bookshops and the Rathmines public library. I still have the glutton’s penchant to gorge on a newlydiscovered writer: recently it has been Elizabeth Taylor, six of whose books I have enjoyed. Although I could have studied my second choice, medicine, at UCD, I had no hesitation in opting for English. There were only four of us reading pure English: one was Kevin Barry, now Professor of English in Galway and one of my oldest friends. We had wonderful lecturers, among them Terry Dolan, Denis Donoghue, John Jordan, Seamus Deane, Nuala O’Faolain and Tom Kilroy. When I decided to do an MA, after a year in the National Westminster Bank in London, it was in Old and Middle English, which I loved. I remember drinking some cider to give me Dutch courage before my viva; I argued with the external examiner and got a First. Don’t try this at home. During my UCD days, I came to know and love the writers that remained firm favourites with me as a teacher: Shakespeare (of course), Henry James (taught by Seamus Deane), Gerard Manley Hopkins and the fourteenth century Gawain poet. Terry Dolan was a wonderful teacher of Chaucer, and I have enjoyed introducing Transition Year to the joys of The Canterbury Tales up to the present. Unfortunately, Chaucer does not feature in the current selection of poets studied for Leaving Certificate. It is great fun looking at some of the Tales, especially the Wife of Bath’s, with its key question: what is it that most women desire? Occasionally (not often) pupils guess the answer when I put it to them. I like to use The Canterbury Tales as an introduction to the history of the English language and delve back into Anglo-Saxon, using Séamus Heaney’s wonderful translation of Beowulf, to show how the language began and evolved. Arriving at St Columba’s in September 1973, to teach English and French, I was entering a new world on many levels. I had taught Anglo-Saxon 147
to UCD first year students during my MA year and enjoyed it. However, nothing prepared me for the buzz I got teaching secondary school pupils in this rather (for me) exotic environment. The classes, as now, were small: an average of fifteen, I suppose. It was the level and quality of the pupils’ response to literature that astonished me: I knew within a week that this was what I wanted to do in life. The other surprise was how tiring it was. I was used to (at most) a couple of university lectures or seminars a day. When I got my timetable, with five, six or seven lessons a day, I thought it was a joke. What about time for the coffee / socialising / hanging out that was so much part of UCD days? It was a sharp learning curve. My first sixth form set (they were only five years younger than me), included Sam Armstrong (uncle of Ben and Jack) and Stephen Kenny (uncle of the Coopers). There was also a small Upper Sixth group, post-Leaving Certificate, which included Brigid McConville, brother of our librarian Tom, who went on to be a successful writer. Other Upper Sixth pupils in my early years included Julian Girdham and Amanda Odlum (now Morris). We had classes in my room in the Cadogan, eating ginger cake and drinking coffee. I remember teaching Macbeth, Keats’s and Auden’s poems, Eliot’s The Waste Land, Conrad’s Nostromo and my favourite novel of them all, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. What a challenging and rewarding text that latter is. I have reread it a number of times and it never fails to enthral me. The story of an idealistic young woman, who makes a disastrous choice in marriage, is utterly gripping. Why does she go back to him at the end, having discovered real passion, belatedly, in her (final chapter) kiss with her American suitor, Caspar Goodwood? As James remarks, ‘she was wrong, but she was dismally consistent’. I go back to nineteenth century novels by James, George Eliot and Jane Austen again and again. They have never been equalled. For Leaving Certificate, we usually covered two Shakespeare plays. In addition to three of the four great tragedies (too much sex in Othello for it to be on, I suppose), we did, in different years, The Tempest, Coriolanus, Twelfth Night and The Winter’s Tale. I have always loved teaching Shakespeare above everything else. The test of a fine text is to teach it and enjoy it – again and again. Pupils respond to Shakespeare like to nothing else, and my one wish on leaving St Columba’s is that the love of our pupils (led by their teachers, of course) for Shakespeare will remain the cornerstore of our successful teaching. When I was at UCD, my favourite Shakespeare play was The Tempest. Now, as a teacher, Macbeth and Hamlet are. In some ways they’re the same play: Hamlet, the earlier, has a character (Claudius) who kills his brother to inherit his crown. We see signs of his remorse, but, of course, Hamlet himself is centre-stage. When Shakespeare wanted to write about an ambitious noble like Claudius who killed to inherit the kingship, he wrote Macbeth. It is the best of them all to teach and, I believe, well-nigh impossible to perform successfully.
Our Shakespeare Society was set up at the instigation of a pupil, Thomas Donnelly, and, since 1996 we have performed a play by Shakespeare every second year. One criterion has applied: any pupil in VI or V Forms who wants a part gets a part. Geraldine Malone-Brady has been a great support in composing music and conducting our singers in recent productions. We have gone for comedies rather than tragedies: the latter are brilliant, but too focused for school purposes around one (male) character. Comedies have larger casts, with chances for girls to ‘gender-bend’ parts; our repertoire has been Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It. Just as I have encouraged rugby players to write poetry, I have loved seeing the enthusiastic participation of the most unlikely thespians in our productions. In 2000, the teacher leading a visiting rugby team from Radley College, who watched The Comedy of Errors, told me they would never get prefects and sports leaders involved in Shakespeare as we do. At St Columba’s I get teased a lot for my ‘Hello, I’m John Fanagan, Head of English’ self-introduction. Being Head of English is a bit of a misnomer (though I’ve had the title for about twenty-five years now): it’s always close teamwork, planning, agreeing, consulting each other. I have worked with some fine colleagues in the past: Colin Polden, Morgan Dockrell, Tim Macey, Deirdre Gannon, Will Gatti, Liam Hennessy, Rebecca Webb, Nichola Forrest, Mary Milne and Frances Heffernan come to mind. My closest collaboration, however, is with two former pupils who have worked with me for a number of years now: Julian Girdham and Liam Canning. They are both, in different ways, strong-minded and committed. We all share a love of our subject and a deep belief in the importance of what we do. I know our teaching styles are very different; so much the better. I have tried to ensure that every pupil who enters the College before V form has had at least two different English teachers, so that they can see different enthusiasms and emphases in our approach to the subject. When I am asked (mainly by Old Columbans) about changes at the College in my 35 years here, I can say, hand on heart, that, four Wardens and huge infrastructural changes notwithstanding, the most important thing has stayed the same for me: the uniquely close and mutually respectful relationships between teachers and pupils, and among colleagues. What has changed is the hugely pressurised nature of the College day/week, in terms of the range of what we do and the need to maintain excellent standards, particularly academically. There just seems to be so much less time to read and talk about books. About 12 years ago, Julian and I had an ‘Evening English’ group of 20 eager V formers, who read and discussed The Portrait of a Lady in the Barton Room a couple of evenings a week in the summer term. It was exhilarating: it was not on any syllabus and was the more exciting for that. It was a high point of my teaching of English in the College. I just don’t see how we or the pupils could find or give that sort of time to such a ‘luxury’ now. 149
Of course, there have been advances. Our English Department website, Julian’s brainchild, has been an outstanding success. I feel that only in retirement will I have the time to give it the attention it deserves, running down literary by-ways via the links he presents us with. I also look forward to keeping up with the pupils’ reading and writing, of which this book gives us a wideranging selection. Our Library, too, is an outstanding resource which I will miss. It is, as it should be, at the heart of the College, and constantly invites us all to search through its shelves for new discoveries and old friends. I’m not sure what the future will hold for me, but I hope it will involve some form of teaching. I used to find Jesus’s parable of the talents pretty dodgy: he seemed to be commending capitalists who earn high interest rates on investment. In recent years I have come to understand that what is condemned is the withholding of your talent(s). If you have it, you must use it, for the benefit of others. Largely acccidentally, but serendipitously, I discovered mine lay in teaching. How can I avoid sounding smug as I conclude by saying how fortunate I have been in my job? It has been, very literally, a labour of love. I will feel its absence keenly, maybe dreadfully. But it is time to move on and to leave while the love and enthusiasm for my work are undiminished by time or flagging energy. My monument is the many generations of Columbans I have taught and, I hope, imbued with at least some of the joy English Literature has given me. April 2008
Many thanks to all the authors and illustrators who have contributed to this book. Keep writing, keep reading, keep drawing.
www.sccenglish.ie www.stcolumbas.ie 151
Selected writing from SCC English blog, 2006-08