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Friday, November 27, 2009

Daddy’s home Ronan Fitzgibbon joins a growing number of fathers now looking after their children on a full-time basis 8, 9


Survival guide to the Christmas office bash: 4, 5


Rapping granny scores a hit on YouTube: 7


Spare your energy with festive on-line shopping: 12

Picture: Patrick Browne





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Women who over exercise seriously affect their fertility, according to a 10-year study, reports Arlene Harris Kate O’Reilly WHAT’S ON TEA & TREATS: Kenmare teashop An Cupán Tae is having a special treats day to raise funds for cancer treatment on Friday next December 4. Drop into the café between 10am and 6.30pm and enjoy complimentary tea and cakes and a nail file and polish from local beauticians. At 5pm life coach Noeleen Cashin will give a talk on health and wellness. Proprietor Mary O’Leary is a survivor of breast cancer and wants to raise funds for the Aid Cancer Treatment (ACT) charity at Cork University Hospital. In addition d’Arcy’s Restaurant is offering to make a donation to ACT from restaurant bookings made on December 4. For more details call Mary on 064-664-2001. STAMMERING MEETINGS: The Irish Stammering Association’s Self Help Groups provide opportunities for people who stutter to discuss issues around their stammering, as well as providing mutual support. Meetings will be held next week in: Cork Tuesday December 1, 8pm, Room 1.26, Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, UCC; Limerick, December 1, 8pm George Boutique Hotel, O’Connell Street; Waterford December 3, 7pm, St Brigid’s Family and Community Centre; Kerry December 3, 8pm, The Malton Hotel, Killarney. For more details call the association on 01-872 4405 or see BLOOD PRESSURE CLINICS: A recent Irish survey showed that 60% of men and women aged over 45 have high blood pressure. The Irish Heart Foundation recommend that people have their blood pressure checked at least every five years from the age of 30 to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke. Visit their heart health clinics during December in Cork for a free blood pressure and cholesterol check. Clinics will be held next week on Tuesday, December 1 at their Cork office at 42 Penrose Wharf from 10am to noon or on Wednesday, December 2 at the Family Resource Centre in Midleton from 2.30pm to 4.30pm. You can call the Cork office on 021-4505822 or see MOVEMBER PARTY: Movember is an annual, month-long celebration of the moustache, highlighting men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer. Mo Bros start Movember (November 1) clean shaven and then have the remainder of the month to grow their moustache and raise funds and awareness for Action Prostate Cancer, Irish Cancer Society. Next Monday Stefan Billing of Koru Chiropractic will host a Movember party at the Ardfallen Medical Centre on Douglas Rd, Cork, from 7.30 to 9:30pm. For more information call 021-4292445 or see ■ Items for inclusion in this column can be sent to

Too fit to conceive


VERYONE knows exercise is good for you — from young children, to pensioners and even pregnant mothers, at least half an hour of daily activity is recommended for a healthy mind and body. But a new report from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has warned that too much exercise can cause infertility in women. Ten years ago, 3,000 women took part in a survey that focused on how much they exercised. Now, a decade later, the women have been revisited to find out how their physical past has affected their ability to conceive. Researcher, Sigridur Lara Gudmundsdottir, says: “Among all these women, we found two groups who experienced an increased risk of infertility. There were those who trained almost every day, and there were those who trained until they were completely exhausted,” he says. “Those who did both had the highest risk of infertility.” Research consultant, Dr Eric Scott-Sills, of the Sims Fertility clinic, in Dublin, is not surprised with these findings. “Too much of anything is bad for you and the operative word in this study is extreme,” he says. “Exercising to exhaustion on a regular basis puts extra stress on the body, which limits reproductive potential.” But the fertility expert says age is the biggest obstacle when trying to conceive, and this, coupled with excessive exercise,

RIGHT BALANCE: Women who over-train are the most at risk of infertility. Picture:iStock

can add up to infertility. “Advancing age is the biggest enemy of women who are trying to become pregnant,” he says. “The biological clock is very real, and when physiological stress is too intense it will make conception very difficult.” “Moderation is key — exercising too much or too little is not going to be good for you.” Deirdre Mackesey, of the Cork Natural Fertility Clinic, agrees, adding that overexercising can reduce energy levels. “Exercising too much will deplete vital energies that are necessary for conception,” she says. “The optimum age for getting

pregnant is 21 and fertility declines drastically over the age of 35 — couple this with excessive exercise and problems will occur.” “For a pregnancy to take place, both parties need to be in the peak of their health, and diet, lifestyle, and exercise are very important,” she says. “The thing to remember is to increase your exercise if you are not doing enough, and decrease it if you are doing too much. If you obey the laws of nature, you will be on the right track,” she says. ■ For more information, visit, or call 021-4812222; or call 01-2993920.

HEALTH NOTES VITAMIN D may play a role in preventing relapses in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to new Australian research. While the vitamin has previously been shown to play a part in preventing MS, there has been little research until now on whether the sunshine vitamin can ease MS symptoms. “MS attacks happen seasonally. They’re more common in spring than in autumn and spring is when you have your lowest vitamin D levels,” says one of the researchers, Professor Bruce Taylor, who advises people with MS to take safe levels of the vitamin and to check with their doctor that their calcium levels and kidneys were normal before taking extra vitamin D.

BRANCHING OUT: Project Coordinator Nicola O’Sullivan and Michael Martin TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs at the launch of the Lime Tree Project. Picture:GMC Photography

A NEW family support service aimed specifically at children who are at high risk of coming into care was launched in Cork city on Monday by Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin. The Lime Tree Family Outreach Project, based in Blackrock, is a partnership venture between the Bessborough Centre and the HSE South’s Child Protection Service set up in response to the unique circumstances currently faced by vulnerable/high-risk families and children.

been placed at locations around campus, with each carrying a message about violence against women and its manifestations in Ireland. Information leaflets about services such as Irish Women’s Aid, Cope/Waterside House Refuge, Domestic Violence Response, Galway Rape Crisis Centre and Childline Galway Office are also being distributed around campus. For more info, email

BECAUSE She Was A Woman is the title of a 16-day action project running at NUI, Galway until December 10, which aims to raise awareness about the issue of femicide in Ireland. As part of the campaign, 16 life-size female figures, constructed of wood, have

AT risk college students may effectively reduce their blood pressure, anxiety, depression and anger levels if they embrace transcendental meditation. This is the message from a new study of almost 300 American university students, which found that stu-

dents practicing transcendental meditation experience significant improvements in blood pressure, psychological distress and coping.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders will hold an information evening on December 1. The session will include an informal presentation by returned volunteers who have worked with MSF in many countries, a short film and a Q&A session. Attendees will also discover how they can become part of MSF’s field work. The meeting kicks off at 7.15pm at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Stephens Green, Dublin 2. For more info, visit Helen O’Callaghan EDITORIAL: Irene Feighan 021-4802292 ADVERTISING: Niamh Kelly 021-4802215






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Pixie McKenna

Doctor’s orders BEST known for her role as co-presenter of Channel 4’s award-winning medical series, Embarrassing Bodies, Cork-born GP, Dr Pixie McKenna, also hosts the monthly Air Your Ailment slot on Today FM’s Ray D’Arcy Show. “We’ve got a new show coming out at the end of November — a one-off called Embarrassing Elderly Bodies, a lot of which was filmed in Benidorm,” says Pixie, who finds herself touched most by the cases that can’t be helped. “People look at the magic of TV and everything’s a quick fix, but the reality of life is that everything isn’t like that. I’ve seen a particularly awful case of a child who’s had all-over body hair since she started puberty. She just doesn’t go to school, doesn’t have any friends,” she says. The bulk of the 38-year-old’s clinical practice is in London now, where she lives with partner, Mitch, as well as one dog and one rabbit. “I used to commute to Cork every week for three days’ practice. I’d be up at 4am, on the plane by 6.20am, and in my surgery by 8am. I wouldn’t do it today,” says Pixie, who now practices in Cork a couple of times a month. What shape are you in? I’m in good shape. I do a bit of cycling. I did a 300-mile charity cycle from London to Paris during the summer. I’ve signed up to do two similar cycles over the next 12 months. Do you have any health concerns? I have my own embarrassing illness. I have a notorious problem with snoring. I think I inherited my father’s nose. I’ve probably got polyps in my nose and I’ve been putting off going to a specialist, because I know I’ll need an operation. What are your healthiest eating habits? I’ve always adhered to three meals a day and am very strict about not eating between meals. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, though — I eat everything. What’s your guiltiest pleasure? I’ve just had a baguette with brie and peanut butter. My big weakness is anything to do with potatoes — mashed, roast, chips. What would keep you awake at night? I’m really lucky. Even if I’ve got a lot going on in my life, once I get into bed I’m asleep. Unless, of course, there’s a mouse in the attic — I had a real problem with mice in the rafters of an old house I used to live in.

I used to commute to Cork every week for three days’ practice. I’d be up at 4am, on the plane by 6.20am and in my surgery by 8am. I wouldn’t do it today Clares, in Cork. If anything goes wrong for me, I’ll write or call them and ask for prayers — I’ve done it for other people, too. What would cheer up your day? When you go in for a cup of tea and you have a bit of banter with the person who serves you. Good old-fashioned manners cheer me up — someone asking ‘can I open the door for you’ or ‘can I offer you a seat’. My dog always makes me smile. Helen O’Callaghan

THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER: Dr McKenna eats three meals a day, and does not eat in between. Picture:Denis Scannell

How do you relax? I cycle, walk the dog, go shopping. What would you change about your appearance? My nose, because of the snoring and because it’s big. I’ve got awful feet too. What’s your favourite smell? I love the smell of petrol.

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When did you last cry? After I’d had a really busy day and was on my way home from Birmingham to London, and realised I’d left my laptop behind. I’m writing a book and I’m such a nugget, I hadn’t backed up my work. I was gutted, devastated. Luckily, it turned out I’d left it in the hotel under the duvet. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? I love Oscar Wilde — he was a complete genius, so far ahead of his time. I think he’d have made a great dinner party guest — and safe, too, because he was gay.

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What trait do you least like in others? The worst trait is disloyalty, also meanness — stinginess. What trait do you least like in yourself? I’m completely chaotic, which can be endearing, but irritating too.

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Do you pray? I think there are very few Irish people who don’t have some shred of religion. I have very close links with the Poor






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From snogging etiquette to saving yourself from career-ending embarrassment,

FROM JOLLY It is festively acceptable to dance around the Christmas tree, but steer clear of ritualistic naked dancing or setting the tree on fire


HEADY mix of office politics and adult beverages, the corporate gig of the year is to the employee what Christmas Eve is to reindeers — an airing for prancers and dancers, a night full of promise for cupids and a romp for predatory vixens. This alarmingly unpredictable event gathers together a grouping of people who, in less festive circumstances, would rather flirt with Frankenstein’s monster than with each other. The office Christmas party (OCP) is a spot on the social calendar that holds an ambiguous place in the worker’s psyche — while the offer of free booze is tempting, the memory of last year’s walk of shame to the office the morning after the annual knees-up is still unnervingly crisp. So it is that in the lead-up to the annual blowout, most of us pledge to stay at home, but few of us actually do. This year, with penny-pinching a national pastime, a cut-price night out is not to be sneezed at. We all have our price and, these days, mine is no more than a double gin. Where, previously, an all-night free-bar may or may not have enticed me, I am now seduced by the thoughts of a happy-hour, and two or more chicken wings. But before committing to carousing with colleagues, weigh up the pros and cons. One cocktail too many can sink a career faster than a lead weight. If you can’t hold your liquor or resist temptation, the OCP is strictly off-bounds. Or, if karaoke brings out the Jedward in you, the best place for you is your home. So, what are the steps to take or avoid when shakin’ your booty with the boss? There is a definite OCP etiquette that sets out the lines not to cross. Têtê-a-têtê with the boss: Unnecessary for self-fulfilment and unlikely to enhance promotional prospects, if lucidity is in any way impaired. If you do engage, do it early and choose a topic that does not relate to work. He or she would probably prefer an in-depth analysis of the merits of macramé rather than a polite, but pointed, debate about payroll. Try to steer clear of insulting either him or her, or the spouse, and make a pledge to be polite at all times. Do not tell the following joke, priceless to you, but highly unfunny to him. Q: Why is Christmas just like a day at the office? A: You do all of the work and the fat guy in the suit gets all the credit.

Picture: iStock






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Catherine Shanahan has advice on how to survive the Christmas office party


SURVIVAL strategy THE OCP is a minefield, but, to help you navigate your way safely around potentially explosive situations, we offer the following advice: THE BOSS: Avoid an Alan O’Brien-style rant. Unlike RTÉ, the boss’s brain does not have the luxury of a time-delay mechanism. The OCP is not the perfect platform to unleash a year’s supply of festering grievances. THE DRUNK: Don’t be him. Or her. No-one enjoys the demented ramblings of the indulgent guzzler. Have an exit plan, if cornered. Offer to escort him/her to the loo, and, having conspired with the hotel porter, lead the blind drunk to a bedroom to sleep it off. THE CAREERIST: Your role is the super-paramedic, at hand for every emergency that threatens to engulf the boss. This includes acting as a human barrier when the company’s most disgruntled employee makes a beeline for the chief armed with the glass paperweight presented to him to mark 25 years’ service.

Picture: iStock

If you can’t hold your liquor or resist temptation, the office Christmas party is strictly off-bounds. Or, if karaoke brings out the Jedward in you, the best place for you is your home Chatting with junior staff: This is a must. Everyone wants to feel included, even by a senior colleague who is more than four sheets to the wind. Praise performance where deserved and, if not, contain contempt. Join them at the bar for a drink, which, when free, will be painless on the pocket, if slightly more onerous on the ear. Organising the OCP: Don’t. This is the coward’s way of avoiding criticism, but who wants to party with the sideswipes of colleagues ringing in their ears? To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but why kill yourself trying? Good behaviour: Do make the effort, on behalf of the misfortune who organised the gig. Put on the glad rags, but not the diva


rags. Act like you’re enjoying yourself. Note: mojitos and absinthe will help. Populate the dance floor. Dancing has the dual advantage of workout and icebreaker, but remember, no amount of absinthe can make you a human contortionist.

cumstances is it funny to scan your nether regions and jpeg them to a colleague. Keep body parts off the photocopier. Never be careless with hard copies of images that could scar you, and the recipients, for life.

Tune in: Don’t sing, unless you can. No-one but you wants to hear a Rogers and Hammerstein special. Oklahoma is only OK within your own four walls. If you can sing, avoid I Gotta Be Me, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction and You’re Not The Boss Of Me (Kick It).

Snogging: It’s fine under the mistletoe, but not the boss and not someone else’s boyfriend/girlfriend, and not if you know you’ve swine flu.

Get in the groove: Let your hair down, but not yourself. Have a drink or two, but avoid games like the 12 Bars of Christmas or Spin the Pint Bottle. Russian roulette is only permissible when you know the bullet’s a blank. Under no cir-

General festive folly: It is festively acceptable to dance around the Christmas tree, but steer clear of ritualistic naked dancing or setting the tree on fire. You’ll be an office gossip fixture for months, if not longer. Finally, remember the OCP code: Never be the first to arrive at a party or the last to go home, and never, ever be both.


THE MARRIED FLIRT: There’s nothing attractive about an over-excited puppy. If cornered, remember, flirtation is attention without intention. If you’re happy to be chatted up, but not bedded down, engage. Be warned: there are times when you cannot flirt — on the witness stand, in the confessional, when it’s the boss’s wife/husband. THE TEETOTALLER: The bravest employee at the OCP and with absolute power of recall. Avoid if you feel like baring your soul or making him or her the object of your affections. Don’t patronise his/her abstinence by trying to ply him/her with drink. Dessie (designated driver) will always come in handy when taxis are few and far between. THE SINGLETON: Keep dancing. Warn the DJ off slow sets. Or wear camouflage and blend with the walls. THE OFFICE BORE: There’s no need to be rude. Just nod and smile and excuse yourself, saying you urgently need to take a loo break. If lumbered, lead him/her to the same room as the office drunk. You can’t bore the pants off someone who doesn’t even know he’s wearing them.




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The infamous handball and the aftermath has exposed a lack of integrity at the heart of the football industry

A matter of honour

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Tony Humphreys


HE Irish-French World Cup play-off resulted in a torrent of outrage regarding the integrity of FIFA, French football and Thierry Henry himself. Integrity is about being authentic, real, honest and about taking responsibility for one’s actions — be this as an individual or as the head of a sporting organisation. Certainly, FIFA representatives talk frequently about the integrity of the game of football, but somehow their actions fall far short of their words and not just in regard to the Irish-French match. For example, and most pertinent to the present controversy, there is an amazing shortfall in the refereeing of international football matches. Why FIFA has not adopted the use of technology, which has been so effectively used by rugby organisations, remains a mystery to me. What is especially frustrating about the French goal is that Henry not only handled the ball once, but twice. This and the ‘blindness’ of the referee and assistant referee is giving rise to all sorts of conspiracy theories. Henry’s disingenuous statement that there should be a replay following the FIFA refusal doesn’t do anything to reinforce his integrity. The time for integrity was when the misdemeanour occurred. However, whatever about Henry, the integrity of the referee and his assistants needs to be seriously called into question. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt, you would hope when they saw the TV footage of the incident they would have said ‘mea culpa, mea culpa’ and demanded a replay. What is critical here is it is not the replay but integrity. Mistakes are opportunities for learning and progress, but not at the cost of somebody else or a nation’s misery. The arrangement of a replay is not a major logistics exercise. However, what does appear to be a major psycho-logistics exercise is genuineness, responsibility and a willingness to redress wrongs. Over the last year we have seen that integrity has not been forthcoming from the heads of banks, governments, multinationals and financial institutions. So why are we surprised that honesty and accountability is not emerging from those individuals who top national and international football organisations? What led to the recession — people before profits, commerce without conscience and power without integrity — are dark realities also present within professional sports, not just football. There is a wonderful opportunity for the national and international football organisations to admit the errors of their ways and to

NO GOAL: Henry’s statement that there should be a replay following the FIFA refusal doesn’t do anything to reinforce his integrity. The time for integrity was when the misdemeanour occurred. Picture: Gary Fox

integrate integrity into a sport that has become crudely associated with money, cheating, fixing games and outrageous monetary value being put on players. I believe it’s only a matter of time before the industry of sports will go into recession, unless it is prepared to examine its conscience and start walking the talk on integrity. There is a flip side to this integrity issue: when you request integrity you must practice it. The old saying ‘practice what you preach’ and ‘live the change you want to see’ (Gandhi) are especially relevant here. We can be quick to point the finger at others but miss that three fingers are pointing back at ourselves. Those who are demanding integrity, including the FAI, and believe that FIFA along with the French Football Federation have not displayed integrity, also need to show integrity and put their actions where their mouths are. I, for one, will not watch any World Cup football and I would encourage a solidarity between not only by those Irish supporters within Ireland but all those first, second and third generation Irish living abroad. We might believe when it comes to the money stakes that FIFA can do without Ireland — but the Irish diaspora (some 70 million people) is a much bigger challenge to the profit-target fixation of football organisations. Change can be brought about from the top down — much quicker, but less likely — or from the grassroots up — much slower, but more likely. Let us see where integrity truly lies over the coming months. ■ Dr Tony Humphreys is a clinical psychologist and is author of The Mature Manger

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An Irish granny with two new hips has hit the headlines and starred on YouTube with her movin’ and groovin’ — urging other older people to do likewise. Ailin Quinlan reports.


IX years ago, Marion Kelly had severe osteoarthritis and a 20-plus-a-day smoking habit, she rarely exercised and suffered all the side-effects of being a heavy smoker with two bad hips. These days, she’s known to the nation as DJ Hip Op, the rapping granny who has not only mesmerised the nation with her cool hip-hop moves in a popular YouTube video, but swims, dances and walks regularly. Captured on YouTube, the silver rapper, from Dublin’s East Wall, has a lesson for young and old — growing old is mandatory, but you can still have fun if you get out there and get active. “WHAZUP,” demands the beanied 55-year-old in the video, before going on to brandish the requisite bling in the shape of a glittering knuckle-duster, as she gets down to teaching some seriously cool dance moves. “Mother Flippa” she roars at the class, following up with ‘Fo Shizzle Ma Nizzle’ and ‘Yo Be-atch.” What does it mean? “I haven’t got a clue. They were just words that I said to get into the atmosphere for the video,” she says, cheerfully. One thing she does know, however: If she hadn’t been received those two artificial hips, six years ago and four years ago, respectively, given up smoking, and taken her doctor’s advice to start moving — she now dances, swims, and walks several times a week — there’s no way she’d be able to do what she’s doing today. A member of the Macushla Dance Group, in Foley Street., Marion was asked to participate in the video — to promote Age Action’s message that just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. “We do all kinds of dancing in the group — from waltzing to Michael Jackson,” she says. And, although rap wasn’t in her repertoire, Marion’s silky dance-floor moves impressed those behind the video — the idea came from Jack Murray, of; the creative concept came from playwright Micheal Lovett — and, next thing she knew, she was doin’ the hip-hop thing. “I had to learn some rap for the video. I found it very good — it was just a bit of fun.

SHE’S HIP: Two hip replacements have reinvigorated Marion Kelly, who now dances, swims, walks, and raps. Picture:Nick Bradshaw There were lots of leg-and-arm movements, and I learned a little bit about it,” she says. Her two sons, in their 20s and 30s, find the whole thing ‘hilarious’, she says — the grandchildren, aged two years and one month — are still too young to know. “I believe it got a good few hits on YouTube — so I hope it promotes the message,” she says. Older people, especially women, need to

make the effort to get out of the house and become more active, she says — an opinion underlined by research published earlier this week, which warned that nearly 60% of older people in Ireland are classified as ‘low active’. This means their total weekly physical activity equates to less than one period of physical activity of sufficient intensity and duration. A recent study, Physical Activity and Sport

— Participation and Attitudes of Older People in Ireland, carried out on behalf of the support group, Age & Opportunity, also found that a majority of those who do not engage in regular, sporting recreational physical activity still believe they do an adequate amount of exercise. “I think a lot of older people could certainly be more active — it’s very good for you and it can stop people getting depressed,” says Marion.

Just use it, don’t lose it XERCISE is vital for older people. AgeE related decline of muscles and strength can be reversed by up to 50% through being

physically active, says Pat Dawson, senior education and training officer with the organisation Go For Life, an Age & Opportunity initiative, which is funded by the Irish Sports Council. Exercise promotes greater participation by older people in sport and physical activity. If you don’t use it, you lose it, says Dawson. “ Muscles that are not used lose their mass and strength and this, combined with a natural small loss of muscle strength can seriously affect your level of independence in later life,” POWER AHEAD: Loss of muscle and strength she adds. can affect your level of independence, says To build balance and strength try the folPat Dawson. lowing exercises.


BALANCE Older people tend to be more comfortable walking in a straight line, says Pat Dawson, adding it’s important to practice random walking: ■ Walk backwards, taking care not to trip over anything or bump yourself ■ Get on your toes and walk forwards and backwards ■ Go back on your heels backwards and forwards ■ Walk on your tiptoes ■ Walk sideways STRENGTH Chair stand: Sit on a chair with your arms crossed over your chest, keeping your back straight and your feet firmly on the ground.


Slowly rise out of the chair with your arms still crossed, using your legs to propel you upwards. Pause and then slowly return to the chair with controlled movements — don’t flop down into it. Genuflection: Stand upright, putting your right hand on the back of a chair for support. Make sure you’re well balanced. Take a large step forward with your left foot and dip slightly as in genuflecting. To avoid pressure on the knee joint, don’t allow the knee to travel beyond your toe. Pause and breathe and push back into the start position with your right leg. Do this eight times with each leg. ■ For more information log onto:





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■ The recession has forced many fathers to become their children’s primary carer, challenging the traditional belief that mother knows best, reports Joe McNamee ■


URING the boom years, long work hours, sandwiched by endless, soul-destroying commutes, meant many men only saw their children for an hour or two a day, and on weekends. Quitting work to raise families at home was an impossible dream for many men. Then came economic meltdown. As unemployment continues to rise, many Irish men have had the role of stay-at-home father thrust upon them — in households where both partners had worked, newly jobless dads are now the primary carer. The pursuit of statistical evidence of fathers as the primary carers in the home proved fruitless — hardly surprising, when you consider that until 2005 the CSO listed children as minded by ‘mother/guardian’, replacing it with the more non-committal ‘parent/guardian’ in 2007. Bizarrely, the State body charged with gathering information suggested I try the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which passed me on to the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment, which passed me on to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. All three departments — after asking if I had tried the CSO — replied in the negative to my request. Back at the CSO, a very helpful woman offered to check EU statistics. Again, nothing, although something was ‘in the pipeline’. Even at a European level, the idea that the male parent might have an extended role in the home, beyond that of sperm donor and occasional babysitter, has yet to take root. Yet, while home dads are invisible on the stat sheet, anecdotal evidence is rampant and a mid-week morning stroll in most towns in Ireland confirms it — many of those buggies are being pushed by men. Things are changing in the traditional Irish home. “We wished for it,” says Cork-based Niall, 45, married to Cait and father of 18-month-old Lucy. “We were both working. It’s our first child. We had her a bit late and it used to kill us sending her out every morning. Even though we had a really good childminder, it just wasn’t one of us. Then, the company I worked for folded and we decided, straight away, this is perfect, I’ll stay at home and Cait will keep working, and that’s what we did.” Ronan Fitzgibbon, 31, married to Sorcha and father of six-month-old Oisin, also had his hand forced. “The decision was kind of thrust on us, because I was in a car crash and was pretty much forced to give up work earlier in the year. We might have come to the decision anyway, but it was definitely thrust upon us,” he says. Establishing a routine was an early decision for the two, new home dads. “We have been pretty lucky, Oisin’s a good sleeper,” says Ronan. “We get up around seven, my wife will play with him while I get things ready, and then she’ll put him down for a nap and head off to work. Once he wakes up, we head out and about for the morning.” With Lucy that bit older, Niall can recite the drill in his sleep: “Lucy is normally up by 8-8.30am. Monday we take it easy, a walk to the ducks, potter around the house, organise after the weekend, cook dinner. Tuesday, blitz the house from top to bottom, hoovering, mopping, polishing. Wednesday, supermarket day —


I was in a car crash and was pretty much forced to give up work earlier in the year. We might have come to the decision anyway but it was definitely thrust upon us

FATHER’S DAY: Ronan Fitzgibbon at home with his six-month-old son, Oisin, in Fenor, Co Waterford. Picture:

Patrick Browne

she loves the trolley,” he says. “Then it’s Mahon Market, every Thursday morning, play with other kids and have our lunch. We meet a lot of other home dads, too. “Friday, we head into town, the library or the park, go to the English Market, get a bit of meat or fish, collect Cait from work,” Niall says. One of the curious conundrums of feminism is that despite the long struggle for societal equality and the refusal to accept a woman’s place is in the home, the majority — male

and female — still believe the woman is automatically better equipped for the primary care of a child. “It makes no difference, really, a child will take what care or nurturing they can from whatever parent gives it,” says Dr Keith Holmes, chair of Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Irish College of Psychiatry. “What works best isn’t a case of which parent does the caring — it is when an arrangement is in place that best suits and best pleases both parents. What works for the couple, works best for the child.”

“We see a lot of youngsters whose primary carer is the father and it works, but you would never know on first meeting them which parent was the carer. But you can tell pretty swiftly if they come from an unhappy home,” Dr Holmes says. But Holmes finds the majority opinion — mother makes the better carer — is still the ’dominant narrative’. Niall says: “At a toddler group near here, all the mothers sit together and there’s two guys left on their own in the corner. Out walking,

the other guys pushing buggies would give you the knowing nod — you might pass five or six mothers and not one of them would acknowledge you. Although that does seem to be changing — maybe, because there are so many of us now.” Neither is it just the women who are uncomfortable with home dads. “I meet old acquaintances,” says Niall, “and when you tell them you are at home minding a child, running a house, you often get the look, and the attitude that it is not a man’s job.


Which is ridiculous. Raising a child is one of the most responsible jobs you could ever do.” However, while either parent may care equally well for a child, no one will deny the unique power of the maternal instinct, around which both men tread carefully. “Because Sorcha would love to be at home, it is always a weird balance for me,” says Ronan. “If I give out about my day with Oisin, then it’s like giving out about something I have and she would love to have. If we have a great day, it’s kind of rubbing her face in it. To a certain extent, you have to temper that, keeping in mind how much she would like to be in my place,” he says. Niall has a similar view: “Cait loves the idea that one of us is at home, but wishes it was her, and that’s tough on her and obviously you have to be aware. She’s coming home after a really stressful day at work and I’m telling her what we got up to, and she’s smiling on the one hand, but also thinking: ‘I wish that was me’,” he says. But a lot of new home dads are realising what mothers have known since time began — there can be a downside. “Sometimes, you miss adult company,” says Niall. “When I was working, I was constantly around people, but you compensate in other ways, meeting friends — I try and get out of the house at least once a day, go for a coffee. I could never be one of these people completely starved of adult company, who can’t see a life beyond their child and their child alone.” Living in the countryside, outside Tramore, makes it an even bigger issue for Ronan. “We’re blow-ins to the area, and I don’t really know anyone else with kids, so you can get a bit isolated. Sorcha’s family are in Waterford and I rely on them tremendously. I miss the work environment, I am a set designer for theatre and would go on tour a lot, so would be used to being in close contact with people. There’s a fair bit of camaraderie, so it’s a big change,” Ronan says. While home dads often revel in the initial freedom from the wage slavery of the nine-to-five, that can soon change. “Many men are wondering if they will ever get a job again,” says Dave McCarron of “They have friends and relatives implying that they’re jammy to be staying at home all day, but a lot of guys, particularly ex-high flyers, are now like fish out of water,” he says. Absence from the workplace is a concern for Ronan: “Most of my work is about getting my name around. I was at a point in my career where I was beginning to get known, so it was a bad time to take off. I’m still trying to do bits from home, but it’s pretty tricky. I would worry about getting left behind, but what can you do,” he says with a resigned chuckle. Niall adopts a more philosophical view: “I have absolutely no idea of what I’ll do when I have to go back to work. Sometimes, you get moments of panic, but I do feel, when the time is right, I will know what I want to do.” So, just as it is for women, some men can’t quite take their eye off the workplace, while others immerse themselves completely for as long as there’s a child to be reared. Ronan says: “Sorcha and I mightn’t view it as the ideal situation, it caught us both off-guard how much Sorcha wanted to be at home, and so it isn’t an ideal situation. In an ideal world, she would stay at home and I would go out to work, but, with that caveat, it’s going very, very well.” Niall says: “If someone had said to me five years ago that I’d be a stay-at-home dad, I would have laughed at them. Everything else I have done since leaving school pales into comparison. It is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done.”



HEN my editor gave me the nod the yacht and the summer house on Cape for this article, it was with the Cod are no longer within the family budforeknowledge that, if presented get. But Niall’s and Ronan’s shared experiwith a mewling infant, I might do more ence of the maternal instinct rang very than simply hide him behind a cushion loud and very clear. Even though my wife and nip off to the pub. admits she would go bananas being a Several years ago, I ceased working a full-time stay-at-home mother and truly nine-to-five job. Then my wife and I had loves her work, she also feels the deep tug a child, Hector. As the father of a of being apart from her Bundle-of-Joy. 20-year-old, Max, and the eldest of seven, And as Bundle-of-Joy gets used to the new I changed my first nappy — a cloth one, setup pretty quickly, it becomes even hardwith safety pins — when I was seven and er. A few weeks ago, it was neither a big deal he said: “Mummy, go nor an enormous rite of to work today.” passage. “No,” she squeals Dr Keith Holme’s with great delight at words hold a strong resbeing able to soothe onance for me — I the broken heart of have never found childher poor abandoned minding to be solely infant with the heal‘women’s work’. ing balm of her presIn fact, I often find ence. “Mummy has the company of chilno work today!” dren as congenial as that Poor woman, it of adults so when my wasn’t a question. wife returned to work, “No,” he says firmpart-time, it seemed ly, “Mummy go to perfectly natural I work today!” ALL IN THE FAMILY: Joe McNamee should step in as a I nipped swiftly holds his young son Hector upside part-time home-dad. It down as his other son Max looks on. outside to recalibrate offers the best of both the coalbunker or worlds: so much of the some other such vital pleasures that Niall and task. With another on the way, things Ronan speak of with little of the downcould get really interesting. side — providing, of course, you accept Joe McNamee



If you are not used to being at home all day being responsible for day-to-day activities and chores, first you need to set up a routine. You can do this by checking in with the children to see what has to be covered each day — homework, hobbies, play dates and so on. When you have a chart devised with each day marked out clearly, you can then plan other work to fit in around the family diary. When putting a routine in place it is important that the whole family buy into it. So have family meetings where everyone talks about their needs for example — playtime, help with homework and preferred foods. When needs have been discussed then, as a family, try to plan how they can be met. This may mean more things get added to the chart such as ‘homework at 4pm’ ‘quality time with John at 5pm’ and so on. By introducing quality time a parent can actually have a planned time in the day when your child is top of the to-do list. By spending 20 minutes focussed time with your child you are helping to boost their self-esteem which will lead to higher levels of co-operation. Then later you need to add to the chart ‘quality time for dad’. If you don’t

find a space in the day to meet your own needs then you will no be able to keep meeting the needs of others. When there are behaviours which you find challenging you need to plan how to deal with them rather than just jumping in. For example, ask yourself why the child might be behaving this way. What need might they have got which is going unmet? If you identify the cause of the behaviour, you are in a much better position to deal with it. When you do discover the cause, then you need to sit with your child, tell them what you see and explain simply how you feel and what you would like to see happen. Ask them to help you plan how to deal with the behaviours and agree consequences. Your child needs to know you are fair and rational and that you are acknowledging their feelings. Maybe all the recent change is difficult for them and the adults never stopped to consider or ask what the child needs. Always introduce positive strategies such as attention, noticing good behaviours as well as bad and spending quality time with the child — before you introduce negative consequences such as time out. ■ From Geraldine Brereton childcare and parenting coordinator At One Family (



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Dr Niamh Houston



Dr Niamh Houston is a GP with a special interest in integrative medicine. If you have a question about your child’s health email it to or send a letter to Feelgood Irish Examiner City Quarter Lapps Quay Cork

CAN children or teens get depressed? My 14-year-old seems to be more irritable and distant than usual. I don’t know if this is normal behaviour for his age. How do you know if something more serious is going on? A. Depression is usually considered an adult problem but it can affect one in 200 children under the age of 12 and 2-3% of teenagers. What you are describing can be “normal” for teenagers. If your child does not want to do things, seems miserable and fed up and also happens to be going through puberty, it is easy to assume that their mood is part of growing up. But you should consider depression if you notice the following in your child: ■ Seems miserable and unhappy a lot of the time ■ Becomes withdrawn, avoids friends and family ■ Is self-critical about everything, feels persistently hopeless ■ Has episodes of self-harm or wanting to die ■ Tiredness and lack of energy, does not look after their appearance or appears to have difficulty concentrating. Sadness or suffering for longer than about three weeks should be an indication to seek professional help. However, it can be difficult to spot the signs. Children who are depressed often internalise their feelings and can appear fine to the outside world. Spend time talking together, though at first you may be pushed away. You may need to find a way to say its okay for your child to talk to you, that you can listen and may be able to offer practical help. Find some time to do something regularly together and try to discover what is making your child miserable and explore ways of coping. Teaching your child resilience, and how to deal with adversity is a key skill that can help prevent depression in later life. Keep talking about it and try to understand how they are feeling. For most teenagers, identifying the cause of the problem and working together on coping strategies will help. But sometimes it doesn’t. If the depression doesn’t get any better or is causing serious difficulties see your GP. Your doctor may suggest a referral to the local child and adolescent mental health service. This may sound alarming but shouldn’t be. All that may be needed is to help your child sort out stresses or allow him time to adjust to a new situation. More active individual treatment could start with a psychological approach, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. Medication can be effective but this is not a first-line treatment, especially before adolescence. Q. Is it true that most young children are deficient in vitamin D? Should I give my children vitamin D supplements?

FEELING DOWN: An estimated 2 - 3% of teenagers suffer from depression. Picture: Istock

A. Yes, lots of children need vitamin D added to their diet. The most recent up-to-date analysis of vitamin D levels in American children showed that levels of it have fallen below what’s considered healthy. Vitamin D is a steroid vitamin, a group of fat-soluble prohormones. We need vitamin D for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, which is crucial for the maintenance of healthy bones. Vitamin D can also reduce the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms. It is an immune system regulator and may also be involved in arming the immune system against the common cold. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women. Vitamin D may also reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Various other studies have shown that those with adequate levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of developing cancer, compared to people with lower levels. Sun exposure, food and supplements are the main sources of vitamin D. People who are exposed to normal amount of sunlight

do not usually need vitamin D supplements, as sunlight helps the skin produce vitamin D. For decades we have been told to stay out of the sun, and rightly so due to the risk of skin cancer, but a balance is needed as exposure to small amounts of sunlight (15 minutes twice a week, at a minimum) is essential to good health. Dietary sources of vitamin D include salmon, tuna, and mackerel, as well as fish liver oils. Most children’s diets would not include enough of these foods to provide adequate levels of vitamin D. Most of dietary sourced vitamin D comes from fortified foods such as milk, breakfast cereals, breads, and margarine. Children, especially those living far from the equator, where the sun is scarce in the winter should take vitamin D supplements (800 IU daily). Supplementation for babies who are exclusively breast-feeding is also recommended, as this group are at particular risk of low vitamin D levels (400 IU daily) also.

NOTE: The information contained in Dr Houston’s column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor first

Catherine Shanahan MUM’S WORLD


TO vaccinate or not to vaccinate — that is the burning question. A colleague who had his son vaccinated against swine flu reported nothing untoward with the exception of an extraordinarily vivid and terrifying nightmare which the trembling child recalled with clarity the following day. His dream was of a mangy old hag pitched beneath the kitchen table, infra red eyes burning in a sunken skull, smoke streaming from flared nostrils, and clumps of blue hair sprouting from a scabrous crooked head. The upshot of the nightmare was the child grew fearful of going anywhere by himself for fear of encountering the witch. His marginally older brother became his escort. In search of a toy the elder child knew was upstairs, he encouraged the younger to retrieve it. “I can’t,” said the little boy. “I think the old woman’s upstairs.” “It’s alright,” his brother replied reassuringly. “ The only hag upstairs is Mammy.”

If we could only be sure the side-effects of vaccination were confined to the land of nod, no parent would hesitate. Instead we are left uneasy at the notion of having our child injected with a product manufactured against the clock. The weight of medical opinion is in favour of immunisation. This is reassuring. So too are the numerous clinical trials which so far indicate the H1N1 vaccine has a safety profile similar to vaccines for seasonal flu. The fact that the trials are ongoing is simultaneously reassuring and unsettling — reassuring because vigorous testing is good, unsettling because of the ongoing need to prove its efficacy and safety. There are scare stories. One of the two vaccines administered in Ireland contains an ingredient called thiomersal, a mercury-based preservative. However, the powers that be are at pains to point out that the association is with ethyl mer-


cury (not the far more toxic methyl mercury) which has been used in medical products for more than 60 years. Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a nerve condition that can result in temporary paralysis, has been mentioned in dispatches. Use of a similar swine flu vaccine in the USA in 1976 led to more deaths from the vaccination than from swine flu and 500 cases of GBS were detected. However, we are assured that since then, studies have shown GBS may occur very rarely with flu vaccinations — about one case for every million people vaccinated. In fact it appears the risk of getting GBS as a result of having the flu itself is actually much greater. Which brings us back to the original question — to vaccinate or not to vaccinate? Given the element of chance involved in any attempt to catch, bin and kill the nefarious bug, my money is on the needle.




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From alpha to omega Beware of all the hype. Lucy Pearce explains what your diet really needs


ISH oils and omega fatty acids have been all the rage in recent times, and chances are you are already taking an omega supplement. Food and pharmaceutical manufacturers are trading on the hype around omegas, but how much do you really know about them? Back to basics Omega 3 and 6 are essential fatty acids (EFAs), so-called because they are crucial for our health. We cannot make them ourselves so we must consume them as part of our diet. EFAs play a major structural role in the brain and eye, making up 20% of the dry weight of the brain and more than 30% of the retina. Adequate intake of EFAs is crucial for us all, but particularly important for pregnant women and children to ensure optimal brain development. A large number of independent studies have implicated EFAs in the alleviation of dyslexia, autism, ADHD and other behavioural and mood problems. They have also been shown to help prevent heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity and depression. In 2006 the American Psychiatric Association recommended that those with depression and other psychiatric disorders take a daily supplement of 1000mg/day of omega 3 (EPA and DHA) in conjunction with any other prescribed treatment. Not all EFAs are equal There are a number of different omega fatty acids and most supplements on the market contain 3, 6 and 9. However, we have no identified nutritional needs for omega 9 and since western diets, rich in fried foods, meat and dairy, already contain far too much omega 6, we need less of this, not more. Omega 6 fatty acids are inflammatory, leading to blocked arteries, clotting and swelling, whereas omega 3s are anti-inflammatory. Generally, our intake of fatty acids is over 10:1 omega 6 to omega 3.The ideal for human health is an equal balance of both. Long and short of it But knowing to cut back on omega 6 and boost your omega 3s is only half the story. It is crucial that you are getting the right omega 3s. Fatty acids are classified by the length of their chemical chains. Short-chain omega 3 and 6 (found in green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts) must be converted into long chains to be usable by the body. But there’s a problem: the majority of people cannot convert them. So if you are taking supplements containing seed-based omega 3s (ALAs), the chances are you may not be getting any ben-


efit from them. Long-chain omega 3s (known as DHA and EPA) are found in fish and seafood, although there may be traces in wild game and some organic, free-range meat. Modern foods which have been fortified with omega 3 include eggs and dairy products, but quantities of EPA and DHA can vary hugely. Dr Alex Richardson, of University of Ox-

help provide at least some EPA.” Of the seed oils, flax has the best ratio of Omega 3 to 6, but still only about 5% of the EPA is absorbed by the body. The required daily amount is 500mg, the same as for those taking fish oils. Dr Richardson advocates getting omega 3 from eating fish and seafood if possible, as they pack a weighty nutritional punch including vital vitamin D, iodine and selenium,

OIL RIGHT: Some seafood is a good source of the long-chain omega 3s your body can use. Picture:iStock

ford and founder director of Food and Behaviour Research, has spent most of her career studying the role of omega 3 in health and brain development. According to Dr Richardson: “Consumers deserve to know the difference between EPA/DHA (the main omega-3 found in fish oils) and ALA (cheaper, plant-derived omega-3) that do not have the same health benefits. It would be great if consumers could forget about omegas and just look out for EPA and DHA in products.” Getting it down Says Dr Richardson: “The main dietary source of EPA and DHA is fish and seafood.” For vegetarians, she recommends going to the fishes’ own source: special DHA-rich algae, which can be bought as capsules, and supplementing it with flax seed oil which can

which most of us are severely deficient in. Smaller fish such as mackerel, from lower down the food chain are less likely to have a build-up of toxic pollution and heavy metals in their flesh than larger fish such as tuna. For children who refuse to eat fish there are now liquid supplements and smoothie-style drinks. If you do choose supplements, her advice is to get into the habit of checking the labels to ensure they contain EPA and DHA, and beware of the huge variety in quality. Just as with fresh fish, if they taste or smell fishy,they’re probably not great quality. ■ Further reading: They are what you feed them, Dr Alex Richardson: Harper Thorsons, £12.99 (F14.38). ■ Food and Behaviour Research:


UTRITION researchers recomN mend a daily intake for adults of 500-1100mg of EPA+DHA, while the

EU’s guideline is only 250mg. For children with behaviour issues, at least 500mg is the recommended daily dose, but 1,000mg may be needed in some cases. Omega oils need to be taken frequently, as the body cannot produce omega 3. Choose a supplement with just omega 3 from a fish source. You are unlikely to need any more omega 6 (GLA, from evening primrose oil, may be an exception for anyone with atopic eczema or very dry skin). It can take up to three months to see the full effects of omega 3s, so keep taking them. For maximum benefit, eat fresh, raw or lightly cooked fish at least twice a week. As with all fats, omegas break down on exposure to light and heat. Look out for EPA and DHA on labels: these refer to the long-chain fatty acids that you need. The best source is oily fish: salmon, tuna, trout, herring, mackerel and sardines. Cod liver oil is not the best way to get your 500mg a day on a long-term basis, as it contains high levels of vitamin A, which can MOODY BLUES: be toxic in excess. For fish-hating kids, Deficiency in omega 3 can try adding the conlead to mood tents of an omega-3 disturbances. capsule to smoothies Picture:Stock or yoghurt. Symptoms of omega 3 deficiency include: ■ Visual symptoms, such as poor night vision, sensitivity to bright light, and visual disturbances when reading. ■ Attention problems, including distractibility, poor concentration (‘brain fog’) and working memory problems. ■ Emotional sensitivity, especially excessive mood swings, aggression, low ‘frustration tolerance’ and anxiety. ■ Sleep problems. ■ Allergic tendencies, especially eczema. ■ Informing your GP, or consulting a nutritionist, is strongly recommended before embarking on any kind of dietary supplementation, and essential if someone is already taking any medications or being treated for any other condition.




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Shop while you flop Going online now for Christmas goodies can ensure you get quality

SCREEN SAVER: Although we need to support our Irish shops during Christmas, we can also source their products online, saving us from crowded streets and ensuring we get what we want on time.

Roz Crowley

Picture: iStock


ET ahead this year and get organised, now, for the festive season. A little forward planning, at this stage, goes a long way, and, with a full month to go, using the internet makes sense. Now is the perfect time to get online and order — there’s a stack of practical ideas to save you from lugging around heavy bags. With the torrentially bad weather we are experiencing, surfing the web is far better than surfing the streets. However, don’t forget local businesses, which need us more than ever. There are plenty of good Irish websites — I’ve used a few and have found them efficient, with prompt delivery. 1. At Country Choice, in Nenagh, Peter Ward imports just about the best quality foods possible. He takes great pride in making his own, but also imports the best of food from organic parmiggiano reggiano, pictured here — delicious served as a cheese course with some local honey — to plump raisins for cakes. His candied fruit makes particularly good decoration for Christmas cakes, ideal for those who don’t like white icing. Spread a little sieved marmalade over the cake and place a fan of green citrus peel, a pear or apple shape and some cherries, for a magnificent, stylish finish. The fruit is also delicious on a cheeseboard, to decorate but also to taste. Order lots of treats from 2. Now is a the time to order a locally produced Christmas ham. Mine, this year, will be Rosscarbery’s lightly smoked, which has a little maple in the curing mixture. F14.30 per kg uncooked and F26.21 per kg cooked, it’s good value as the flesh is dense and low in fat, and the taste is hard to beat. They also do excellent sausages, an award-winning pork paté, and white pudding, which will be useful for last-minute celebrations. To order and enquire about the range: email The website is currently being updated. 3. With a long shelf life, smoked foods are delicious as starters and to give as gifts. At Ummera Smokehouse, a few sizes of smoked salmon is useful, but there is also a delicious gravadlax, F11.35 for 250g. This makes an


easy, light starter on Christmas day. For those alone, or in pairs, in search of a light Christmas dinner, the smoked chicken works well, and with no wastage is reasonably priced at F9.95 for a crown (without limbs). There is also smoked eel, fleur de sel and organic raw sugar cane, which make good gifts for food lovers. From Connemara Smokehouse come good, smoked tuna, both farmed and organic smoked salmon, and three fillets of plain and peppered smoked mackerel, F6.50, which is easy to make into paté, with cream cheese and lemon juice for starters and nibbles. 4. For those who find shopping a pain, and dread foraging for everything from brussels sprouts to Christmas puddings, a terrific service from Christmas Made Easy is the solution. Full menus of different sizes from two people, to just about any size, come prepared and ready to roll. The menus are not so much ready-cooked as cooking-ready, with vegetables peeled and vacuum-packed ready for boiling, with goose fat included for roasting the potatoes. Turkey and ham are ready for roasting and baking, with matching sauces and gravies. There is a roast parsnip soup to be heated, smoked salmon for starter, top quality Irish cheeses and biscuits, and, of course, Christ-

mas pudding with brandy butter. The menu for four to six people works out at F45 per person and there will be plenty of leftovers. You may not even want to eat the chocolate dessert on the day, after the Christmas pudding. Delivery nationwide. Deadline for orders is December 6, 5. Ireland’s Blue Book 2010 lists the current members of this Irish Country Houses and Historic Hotel and Restaurant group — many of which are open for Christmas Day. A night in one of these beautiful locations would make a great gift. So far, I can vouch for the Park Hotel, Kenmare; Rathsallagh House, in Co Wicklow; Mustard Seed, in Co Limerick; Longueville Mallow and Ballymaloe House for luxury, warm service and great food. There are 40 listed. 6. Family treats are a good idea this Christmas, it means the fiver we might have spent on small, silly gifts could be amassed into one decent one for everyone to enjoy, particularly if they are foodies. The Palais de Thé has come to Ireland with its first shop, on Wicklow Street, Dublin, where there are daily tastings. They can also be ordered online. There are 250 teas in the range, but an excellent

Only the best

nine of them come together in an elegant box of 54 individually-wrapped bags. Coffrets de Mousselines are muslin bags of tea leaves, such as Japanese Green tea, Earl Grey and breakfast teas. The stunners for those who like more exotic flavours are Hammam, a green tea blended with rose, green date, and red fruits — delicious. There is a Tibetan one, and a Rooibos with lime blossom and mint. I know F29.95 sounds a lot, but for a family gift of this quality in an elegant box, worth it. They also have 87 varieties of teapots. Another fascinating tea company is Winchester-based Jing, which sells a range of unusual teas, such as a slightly sweet, flowering green tea. Dry, it looks like a bulb, and, once dampened with hot water, springs open to a beautiful osmanthus flower. Each flowering tea bulb weighs about 6g, so in a 50g packet you will get around eight bulbs for F7.86. A single-cup teapot to show it off costs F13.37,

Some seasonaly Nash nosh

MAKE sure you get to your local famers’ and country market this weekend to order free-range turkeys. Producers, such as Aherns, in Midleton, supply a few Cork-based markets. I always order my turkey from Anthony and Noreen Buckley, in Aherla, Co Cork. They do a great job, managing to rear turkeys to deliver old-fashioned, rich flavour and good, dark, leg meat. 021-733-1119. Picture: PA


HAMPERS make a perfect Christmas gift for families. This is the ideal time to order to ensure they don’t get caught in the festive rush. Particularly impressive, for the quality of all the products, is Nash 19, where the best of Irish produce is assembled in combinations, which start at F12. Top-class produce has been created this year, including a delicious fig confit, which is excellent with rich cheeses. A piece of cheese and this would make a special gift for a foodie. to see what’s available.




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I’m glad I lost my job


OU have to work on being positive every day. So says Tom Murphy, who was made redundant as general manager of a pharmaceutical company in 1994, and now runs his own company. “Redundancy was the best thing that happened to me, because I didn’t waste it,” says Tom. It’s an important viewpoint considering that 67,000 people have been made redundant in 2009, according to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. “I kept positive, and I kept mixing with people who were positive. I don’t get involved with people who are negative, because they only drag you down. In fact, I stopped listening to the morning news about five years ago, because it used to make me feel negative before the day had even started.” Aged 40 and with four children to feed, the Castlebar, Co Mayo man made sure to do something positive every day to get himself back into paid employment. “I sent out CVs and I made appointments to talk to business people, to ask them for their advice,” he says. “And every one of them put time aside for me and I now do the same for others.” Today, he runs his own company, Pamex Ltd, producing niche pharmaceutical products. When his barber intro-

RAZOR SHARP: Tom Murphy, distributor of the Total Shaving Solution, Castlebar, Co Mayo, is an astute businessman. Picture::

Deirdre O'Flynn MOSTLY MEN

Keith Heneghan / Phocus.

duced him to Total Shaving Solution and the 100% natural oil worked well for him, he arranged to sell it through local pharmacies on a sale or return basis. Now, he has worldwide distribution rights of the shaving oil, which minimises nicks, cuts, raw skin and razor burn. Completely free of dyes, alcohol, perfume, soap or artificial chemicals, its unique formulation is a blend of sesame, grape seed and soya bean oils, with lavender, clove and organic menthol. The blend contains skin-repairing vitamins and has natural antiseptic, and anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Hope and hard work have triumphed over adversity for Tom and he’s keen that others appreciate that self-motivation is the key to overcoming many of life’s challenges. “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can,” he says. “I’ve

lived by that idea and it’s served me well. It’s the same for the country. Sometimes, I think we can be too insular and too pessimistic. We’ve been through one recession, I have no doubt we’ll come through this one and it will be our fantastic entrepreneurs who will bring us through. It can be done.” ■ Log onto for shaving facts and tips, as well as details of a forthcoming free trial offer.

Most psoriasis sufferers embarrassed by condition

Zizou scores design credit with boot

PSORIASIS has a dramatic and lasting impact on people’s lives, potentially affecting their ability to pursue careers, educational opportunities and relationships. That’s according to research from the Psoriasis Association of Ireland and Abbott which showed that 80% of people in Ireland who have psoriasis are embarrassed by their condition. “These results highlight the huge impact that psoriasis, perceived by many to be a simple skin complaint, can have on a person’s quality of life,” says Caroline Irwin, chairperson, Psoriasis Association of Ireland. “For the 100,000 people with psoriasis in Ireland, there is often a stigma

FOOTBALLER Zinedine Zidane, pictured here, who lit up the pitch with the French national team, has helped to design a new Adidas boot. The Predator X adds swerve and control to your movements, so you can bend it like Beckham. Top Adidas-sponsored footballers across the world will be wearing the boot from this month including Steven Gerrard, Karim Benzema, and Michael Ballack. Intense player testing and involvement has been intrinsic to the design of the boot. Zinedine Zidane brought his experience and knowledge to the table with the Adidas Innovation Team. The boot is available in two versions; the classic Predator colours of black, red and white, and a new striking design of white, yellow and black.



attached to the condition which impacts on many facets of daily life.” A further objective of the survey was to better understand how a person’s career may be affected by psoriasis. Almost one-third of respondents believed that their condition stopped them from pursuing their desired career path or field. ■ For further information on the Psoriasis Uncovered campaign, visit Free copies of the new psoriasis patient information booklet can be obtained by writing to Psoriasis Uncovered, 15 Fitzwilliam Quay, Dublin 4, via email at, or at 01-6188408.

STRAWBERRY MEDICINE: A recent study shows that 52% of children prefer to take a strawberry-flavoured medicine, according to the makers of Nurofen which recently launched a new strawberry flavour oral ibuprofen suspension for children. Now parents can treat their children with a choice of either the strawberry or the original orange-flavoured Nurofen, which costs F7.59 for the 150ml with syringe or F5.39 for the 100ml with spoon. Research has shown that ibuprofen reduces temperatures more effectively than paracetamol in the first four hours. Ibuprofen can also be used to treat aches and sprains, cold and flu symptoms, earaches, headaches and teething pain. Nurofen is available as suppositories for children aged three months plus and Meltlets for older children age six plus. See


DId you know...

The average man shaves 25,000 times during his lifetime

New DENTAL for parents CARE PARENTS’ CHOICE: Calpol was voted best product by parents nationwide in the health/ medicine category at the annual Maternity and Infant awards announced earlier this month. Paracetamol is the active ingredient in Calpol, which is gentle on tummies and suitable for children from two months to 12 years, to treat pain and fever. Strawberry-flavoured Provin is the ibuprofen pain relief from the makers of Calpol. Provin, is sugar and colour free and provides up to eight hours of relief.

BED TIME: Check out this Reindeer Jog Set, for 0-12 months, F12, and Father Christmas toy, F9, at the new Boots store in Cork.


TRENDY TOTS: Sure to be of interest to parents is the baby and children’s department on the upper floor of the new Boots store in Half Moon Street, Cork, which opened last week. It’s the second largest Boots store in the country and includes an extended range of their product lines, including Mini Mode — clothing and accessories for babies and toddlers. Check out this Reindeer Jog Set — (0-12 months)— F12 and Father Christmas toy — F9.

ESSENTIAL VITAMINS: Pharmaton, has launched a new vitamin supplement for women who are planning to conceive, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Pharmaton Matruelle contains essential vitamins and minerals, including folic acid for the healthy development of the baby’s central nervous system, vitamin D and calcium for healthy teeth and bones, omega 3 and iron. Pharmaton Matruelle is F16.99 from pharmacies. Pharmaton has also produced a pocket guide on healthy nutrition before, during and after pregnancy. Containing helpful tips on diet and lifestyle, ‘Balanced for Both’ is available from your pharmacist or GP.




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The news on ...


THE PALE Embrace the lighter hues of winter with porcelain and dusky pinks


NATURAL make-up is usually a feature of summertime skin — after all, it’s easy to be natural when the weather isn’t intent on making you look a blotchy, grey, blue-lipped creature with mad-lady hair. But as skin takes on a paler hue in winter, it’s a good idea to perfect a look that relies on delicate touches of porcelain and pale pink, rather than trying to escape from it behind a veil of fake tan. Up until this year, I’ve relied on fake tan to get me through the winter — having in-

herited that typically Irish resentment of pale, freckly complexions. But recently I’ve given the wretched stuff up, and the tone and clarity of my skin has improved immeasurably. Using a pale foundation, skin-perfecting powder and a light pink blush has brought out a natural aspect, and has given me a more sophisticated look that seems to fit perfectly with this season’s look — soft-focus romance. It’s one of beauty’s most wearable trends — soft, dusky pinks layered over delicate nudes. It’s the perfect way to bring the natural back into your make-up wardrobe. One of the best products you can invest in for winter is a concealer. Concealers are wonderful for covering up dark grey circles under eyes, little red veins on cheeks and bucolic noses — all of which get exaggerated in the colder months when we’re feeling run down and less than perky. If you’re in need of a little help, go for Prescriptives Camouflage Cream, F23, which has a weightless formula yet is skilled at hiding the bits you don’t want the world to see. It can also be used on the eyes as a primer for eyeshadow, which is rather handy.


Emily O’Sullivan The great thing about concealer is that when chosen correctly, it can completely lift the face — it’s a quick fix, an instant remedy. If you’re buying a product from a premium make-up brand, then make sure you get help choosing the right tone and consistency for your skin. Sometimes, if you have pronounced under-eye darkness, you might need a specific corrector rather than a concealer. Darkness-correcting products, such as Bobbi Brown’s completely fabulous Eye Brightener, F33, have a very light texture that makes them perfect for the eye area. Regardless of what product you go for, concealers should blend into the skin — you should never, ever be able to see them. If you can, you’re using the wrong product for you. Next comes foundation. Very dry skin might require more of a balm-type foundation or a specially formulated liquid foundation, whereas mineral powders can give a chalky look to drier skin types. If you’re oily, make sure you always go for an oil-free formulation. While powder is no longer necessary to “set” your look, a more matt aesthetic is pushing through this season, and a light, skin-perfecting powder can enhance the natural skin tone brilliantly. Try Prescriptives Magic Liquid Powder, tra-translucent. When you’re going for a natural look, blush is vital. Keep the tone light and dusky pink for a more romantic effect — a sharp raspberry blush will look far too ’80s. Cream blushers are good for this look because they blend well into the skin and give the cheeks a “pinched” effect. Nudes and light pinks look lovely on the eyes, and give you a brighter look. The great thing is that unlike some of the more trend-driven shades of olive green and violet, everyone from Bourjois to cheap-and-cheerful ELF to super-luxurious Giorgio Armani carry a nude or light, pale pink eyeshadow. Finally, if you’re going supernatural, avoid wearing a matte nude lipstick (they work better with darker or glitter eyeshadows) as it can leave the face washed out. Instead go for a glossy lip colour with a little flutter of pink, Smashbox’s Limitless Long Wear Lip Gloss in Forever, F41.50, gives lips a subtle lift that nails the delicate romantic look for winter.

VIOLET is one of autumn’s hottest colours, with big make-up brands, from Prescriptives to Lancome, making it a bedrock of their collections. Violet is an easier colour to wear than this season’s plum — it’s more flattering and really brings out the sparkle in green eyes. Brand new from Clinique is a gorgeous Black Tie Violets colour collection, which covers the colour shade in all its gorgeous hues, with everything from a high-shine gloss to a pretty blush. We’re quite taken by the brush-on cream liner, F18, in violet luxe, which is perfect for creating an eye-popping look for Christmas.

TAKE THREE BEAUTY SERUMS Omega 3 Overnight Lipid Renewal Serum, F55. This feels like more of an oil than a serum. It’s got a very liquid, oily texture, meaning it’s more suited to dry skins, which makes it a good choice for winter, and the inclusion of rosehip seed oil and wheat germ oil help to nourish and protect the skin. It was a little too oily for us, but, the morning after, our skin did feel well-hydrated. Score: 6 L’Oreal Wrinkle Decrease Serum, F15.13. With a gel-cream texture, this is more of a serum proper and is famed for its use of Boswelox, which is supposed to dramatically reduce the appearance of wrinkles — hence the name. We didn’t notice that we looked any younger, but the serum does give the skin a glow and felt like it slightly firmed its tone — a good product for the money. Score: 8 Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair, F50. This is one of Lauder’s bestselling products and is loved by women all over the world. There’s a good reason why: it makes the skin feel wonderfully velvety and look radiant. It has a slightly watery, gel texture that sinks into the skin, and it lasts quite well, also. Score: 10

STUFF WE LIKE Bourjois Blush, F9.60. Bourjois blushes are gorgeous for nailing a pretty and romantic look. They brush on well with a very light and delicate texture and they last for ages too. Go for a soft, light pink, such as Lilas D’Or for a flattering effect. Bobbi Brown Eye Brightener, F33. One of our all-time star products, this eye bright-

ener delivers on its promise. It’s great for using in the morning, when you’re feeling tired and run down. It will immediately get rid of pinkness, even out skin tone and give you a bright, pepped-up look.


Origins Pinch Your Cheeks, F17. Origins classic blusher is great for giving the cheeks a healthy flushed look. The light gel texture blends in well and is good for wearing over a more dewy foundation. Only use the tiniest amount or else you’ll end up looking like a Chinese doll. Prescriptives Camouflage Cream, F23. Contained within a handy, portable pot, this concealer is great for covering up ruddy bits throughout winter. Keep it in your handbag for through the day touch-ups. Prescriptives Magic Liquid Powder, F41.50. This powder has a slightly wet

feel to it, but it goes onto the skin absolutely dry. It’s a lovely powder for winter, especially on days when your skin needs a little more attention. It has a very slight shimmery effect that helps your skin to glisten and look luminous. Yves Saint Laurent Cream Blush, F42.50. This little cream blush has almost a whipped texture and has a dense colour saturation, which means a little goes a long way. It really perks up the complexion though, and if you’re looking for a good quality cream blush, it’s one of the best. ELF


Brightening Eye Colour in Pretty ’n’ Pink, F1.70. We still can’t get over just how well priced ELF products are. This is a great product for getting a touch of autumn’s romantic pink look without spending a fortune. The four-colour eyeshadow has a good range of pink tones from pale to dusky. Clinique Colour Surge Eyeshadow Quad in Teddy Bear, F33. This is a great quad for getting a touch of the ethereal romantic look that’s so hot this season. Combining nudes with pretty pale pink, it’s definitely one you’ll have in your make-up bag for a long time.




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Megan Sheppard Do you have a question for Megan Sheppard? Email it to or send a letter to Feelgood Irish Examiner City Quarter Lapps Quay Cork

I’VE been suffering from cracked feet for the last year. I have tried numerous products but nothing seems to cure them. I soak them every night in a basin of hot water and baby oil to try and soften them. Could you recommend anything to ease this problem? A. As a keen gardener and outdoors person, I too have found myself trying everything possible to fix my poor cracked heels. The nightly foot soaks help immensely, but what really made the difference for me was soaking a gauze pad in cider vinegar, applying it to the foot just before bed and keeping it in place with a sock. The hard skin nearly always peels off in the morning. Lots of natural remedies include cider vinegar — but here are some uses you might not be aware of: ■ For your face. Mix one part cider vinegar with seven parts water and pour into a spray bottle. This is ideal for cleansing your face if you have sensitive skin. Simply rinse with water afterwards and pat dry. You can make a milder mixture using more water if it feels too strong. ■ For your hair. Instead of using conditioner, use a tablespoon of cider vinegar to one litre of water for a final rinse. This leaves a nice shine and is kinder to your hair and scalp than conditioner. ■ To treat or prevent head lice in children. Use a tablespoon of cider vinegar to one litre of water and rinse with this mixture every day if needed. It strips the coating off the eggs and they don’t hatch. ■ For tummy upsets and/or vomiting. Take a teaspoon of cider vinegar straight, or in a little water. Repeat as often as necessary. The vinegar neutralises bad bacteria. Q. I’m on Zispin and Lexigran (one a day) for depression, but mostly anxiety. In a previous edition you recommended an alternative product which could be used independently of prescribed medication. I would appreciate it if you could tell me more about this product. A. You are wise to ask about the possible contraindications between this herbal blend and prescription antidepressants, since it is not advisable to take both together — the same goes for sleeping tablets. I usually suggest you give magnolia rhodiola complex at least two weeks to take effect. However, if you feel the herbal supplement is not working, and your anxiety is more than you can cope with, then it would be best not to take anything for two weeks to ensure the herbal supplement has completely left your system before you switch to antidepressant medication. Essential fatty acid supplementation enhance the benefits you receive from prescription antidepressants, so switching to these during the two weeks off all other supple-

MULTI-TASKER: Cider vinegar can be used to treat cracked skin, condition hair and prevent head lice. Taken with water it can soothe tummy upsets by neutralising bad bacteria. Picture: iStock

mentation and medication is a great idea. Studies show you will need to take around 2g daily, split into two doses of 1g (1000mg) to increase the effectiveness of the medication. Short-term solutions include Rescue Remedy (from the Bach Flower range) or Emergency Essence (from the Australian Bush Flower range). Flower essences are ideal for treating anxiety disorders. Best of all, they are non-addictive, physically harmless and completely safe to take alongside prescribed medication. Both combinations are available from most health stores. Take as required.

iest possible foods available, a deficiency in beneficial gut flora and poor absorption will undermine your best efforts. This is why I usually suggest a good probiotic supplement is the best place to start. Once you have optimised your gut health, your body should finally get all the nutrients it needs to support the healing and repair process. Bioforce, Solgar, and Seven Seas are all reputable brands. Aloe vera juice is another fabulous remedy for both the gut and the skin. You can take it internally for digestive wellbeing, and apply it topically to soothe and heal. It will also heal the internal mucous membranes within the body. While we are on the topic of food and digesQ. I am a 30-year-old male and occation, there are a number of foods are worth insionally get a breakout of whiteheads on cluding to optimise skin health. Seeds such as my face or sometimes on the chest area. I pumpkin, sunflower and sesame contain a thought acne was a thing of the past for number of essential nutrients for healing the me. Is a particular food causing them or skin, such as zinc, calcium and fatty acids. Eat a is it something else like sweating? couple of handfuls daily as a snack, or sprinkle A. You are quite right in your approach them over salads and meals. Leafy greens are to this issue, there is a definite connection another valuable addition to the diet due to between internal and external health. their high mineral content — although not evWhile there are no specific foods which eryone is keen on the strong flavour of kale, have been shown to ‘cause’ spots on the spinach and beet greens. skin, our internal wellbeing is certainly reWhen a spot appears, try dabbing on a paste flected in our skin. of wheatgrass powder and water and leaving it It is not so much what you eat that causes overnight. This simple treatment has been spots, rather it is how healthy your digestive known to work wonders in making spots dissystem is. Even if you are eating the health- appear.

Megan puts the spotlight on : I OFTEN recommend flower essences as a safe and simple remedy to help restore emotional balance, but did you know the use of flower remedies can be traced back through to the ancient Egyptians? They were even popular in Europe in the Middle Ages. In fact, there are many stress remedies still in use today which have been used with great success for centuries. Yoga is known as an effective stress reliever, but you don't necessarily have to twist yourself into unusual poses to feel the benefits. One of the practices which can help to ease tension is the humming bee breath.


Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing, then draw in a long breath through the nose, humming gently on the outward breath while keeping your jaw in a relaxed position. Do this for 12 full breaths, humming each exhalation to spread to a different area of your body and face. When you have completed your session, just sit for a while with your eyes closed and enjoy the sensation as the vibration continues to work its magic.

Stress relief ■ Brewing a cup of tea Putting on the cuppa has been shown to promote calmness. This is not about the therapeutic benefits of herbal blends, studies have found that the act of actually preparing a pot or cup of tea is enough to create a sense of relaxation.

Some other great stress-relievers are:


■ Let the tears flow Crying is our natural mechanism for relieving stress, and it is now believed that this goes beyond the obvious release of emotional and physical tension. The tears themselves are a

way of removing the excess stress hormones, prolactin and adrenocorticotropin, which build up during tense times. ■ Be mindful This is an ancient Buddhist technique that helps us to harness energy by simply stopping, closing your eyes, and observing what is happening for you in the present moment. Focus on the breath and observe physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings as they occur without attempting to change anything that is happening. This effectively reboots your brain.




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Feelgood 27-11-2009  

Feelgood is a health and wellbeing supplement published by the Irish Examiner every Friday.

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