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Feelgood Friday, December 24, 2010

Time for celebration Picture: Robbie Reynolds



Boy with autism bonds with his assistance dog: 4,5

Miriam O’Callaghan and other stars on staying fit but festive: 8,9


Strategies to keep your weight in check: 6


We get in the mood and test eight mulled wines: 12



2 News front Kate O’Reilly WHAT’S ON ■ CHARITY WALK: There will be a charity walk in Killarney on St Stephen’s Day from Derrycunnihy to Brandon’s Cottage. The walk, in aid of Friends of Leukaemia Patients Cork, starts at 1pm and all are welcome. The Former Soccer Greats annual tournament in Dunmanway Sports Hall will also be held in aid of the charity next Tuesday. Contact Imelda Reynolds on 021-4823625 or email ■ HOPE QUIZ: Lower Aghada Tennis Club are organising a Christmas Table Quiz in aid of The Hope Foundation on December 28 in Rosie’s Bar, Lower Aghada, Co Cork. The quiz kicks off at 9pm and tables of four cost F20. All proceeds go to foundation’s work with children in Calcutta. All are welcome. More information is available from Alison on 086-8153441; ■ SNOW WORKSHOPS: From Monday next until Sunday, January 9, Blackrock Castle Observatory will be running Christmas Snow Workshops for children. Discover the science of snowflakes and make your own snowflake crystals and snow globes.Workshops are geared towards children aged five to 11 years, but younger and older children are also welcome. Admission is F5 and no booking is required. See or phone 021-435 7917. ■ CHILDLINE: On Christmas Day last year, over 900 vulnerable children contacted the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC). Childline provides a 24-hour listening service for all children up to the age of 18 on 1800 666666. Young people can also post on the message board or have a one-to-one live chat at You can also text ‘Talk’ to 50101 to avail of the ISPCC’s confidential text messaging support service. ■ SVP APPEAL: Calls for assistance to the St Vincent de Paul were already up by 50% this year before the cold weather hit. Last year the SVP spent F8 million on food for families in Ireland. If you would like to support their work, contact your local SVP office or donate online at ■ AWARE SUPPORT: The Aware loCall Helpline (1890 303 302) offers a listening service for people who experience depression and will be manned throughout the festive season. You can also log on to or email ■ EVEREST CHALLENGE: Ireland to Everest, 32 Steps for Cystic Fibrosis will see a team of climbers scale the highest points in each of the 32 counties and other parts of the world, before tackling Everest. The aim of this fundraising drive is to establish a national double lung transplant support fund. The challenge begins at noon at Slieve Ni Calliagh in Meath on St Stephen’s Day. This climb is suitable for all levels of fitness. See Items for inclusion in this column can be sent to




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Arlene Harris meets the volunteers who bring joy and practical help to orphaned and abandoned Russian children

In the name of love A NNIE is the quintessential Christmas movie — with gorgeous smiling orphans, a benevolent benefactor, an evil housemistress and plenty of catchy songs. But the silver screen orphanage is very different to the reality of everyday life for thousands of children across the world who have either been abandoned or orphaned. To Russia with Love is an Irish charity set up 12 years ago with the intention of bringing love, affection and hope into the lives of the thousands of orphaned children in Russia. A group of volunteer ‘elves’ has just returned from a visit to the country to bring gifts, goodwill and cheer to the youngsters who have such little expectations and are so grateful to the outside world for thinking of them. Patricia McGrath has been with the charity since its conception — she says the time and energy devoted by Irish volunteers is a godsend to these children. “Nine of us travelled to three orphanages in the Bryansk region about 600km outside of Moscow,” she says. “We left on December 11 and returned six days later having visited around 220 children and brought each one a simple gift of a toy and a selection box. The reception we got would have drawn tears from a stone — the children were so patient and so appreciative of so little. We could learn a lot from them.”

SEASON’S GREETINGS: Irish volunteers on To Russia with Love’s fund-raising trip to Russia — Dermot Hearne from Kilkenny playing Santa, and Alice Williams from Co Offaly, giving out presents to the children helped by the Irish charity.

Among the volunteers was a musician and a balloon artist and when the troupe of ‘elves’ arrived at each institution, they made a loud, musical entrance to create as much impact as possible. “We were meeting children of all ages and with our costumes, bells, bows, music and presents we made a big, noisy arrival — the children were enthralled,” recalls Patricia. As well as bringing gifts at Christmas time, the charity aims to help the orphans learn skills for life outside the orphanage. “We have tried bringing over donations and financial aid, but more often than not, the children don’t receive the benefit,” Patricia explains. “So we do what we can to set the children up for life in the big world — many of them don’t know how to live outside an institution so we help them with education and practical skills such as driving. “Also, it is difficult to let these children fend for themselves once they have turned 18, so we hope to be able to offer some sort of aftercare to them. “On this visit, we had several of our grown-up orphans volunteer with us and I also re-visited the first orphan I ever met — she is now married with her own little baby It was wonderful to see her so happy.”

■ To Russia with Love relies totally on charitable donations — if you would like to find out more about the charity, visit or call 01-8532920.

HEALTH NOTES Women who have only one embryo transferred during IVF are five times more likely to deliver a baby at full term than those having two embryos put back, according to research. Babies are more likely to be born a healthy weight if they are the result of a single rather than multiple pregnancy, a review of existing studies found. Fertility clinics are under pressure to drive down the number of multiple pregnancies resulting from IVF. Twin and triplet pregnancies are linked to a higher chance of premature delivery, low-birth weight and miscarriage. These risks have not consistently been shown to be higher for IVF twins than those conceived naturally. The latest study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), involved 683 women having a single embryo transfer and 684 having a double transfer. The authors, led by a team at the University of Aberdeen, concluded: “Elective, single-embryo transfer results in a higher chance of delivering a term, singleton live birth compared with double-embryo transfer. “Although this strategy yields a lower pregnancy rate than a double-embryo transfer in a fresh IVF cycle, this difference is almost completely overcome by an additional, frozen, single-embryo transfer cycle.” Allan Templeton, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, said in a commercially competitive environment, “clinicians have been distracted by success rates and do not see the more important healthy outcomes”. Healthy eating can help people live longer.

‘meat, fried foods and alcohol,’ ‘breakfast cereal,’ ‘refined grains,’ and ‘sweets and desserts.’ A 37% higher risk of dying was associated with the ‘sweets and desserts’ cluster, and a 21% increased risk with the ‘meat, fried foods and alcohol’’ cluster. No difference in death risk was seen between ‘healthy foods’ and the ‘breakfast cereal’ or ‘refined grains’ clusters. The findings are in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

FERTILE GROUND: Women who have only one embryo transferred during IVF are five times more likely to deliver a baby at full term. Picture: iStock A study comparing the diets of 2,500 older Americans found that ‘high fat’ individuals were 40% more likely to die over 10 years than those who preferred ‘healthy foods.’ The researchers defined a ‘healthy foods’ diet as containing more low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish and vegetables. Scientists divided the food preferences of participants, aged between 70 and 79, into six dietary clusters. These were classified as ‘healthy foods,’ ‘high-fat dairy products,’


Christmas can be an emotional time, creating a greater demand for support services. Connect counselling and support service for adults who were abused in childhood will extend its opening hours over Christmas. It will be open every evening from Wednesday, December 22 to Sunday, January 2, from 6-10pm. Connect is a free, confidential telephone service. Call 1800 477 477. All callers will speak with a professional counsellor. More information at Almost three quarters of Irish men think that legal and paid paternity leave should be an option for fathers, according to new research by QUINN-healthcare. The survey of 1,000 men nationwide found that males aged between 25 and 44 (83%) were mostly likely to think paid paternity leave should be an option, while men over the age of 65 were least likely to (62%). More than half (56%) of Irish men would be happy to split their partner’s maternity leave.

Editorial: 021 4802 292

Advertising: 021 4802 215



In profile

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Jessica Cervi

The fame game


ESSICA CERVI has hardly had time to draw breath in the last few months — as soon as the national tour of Fame The Musical ended, the 19-year-old was straight into rehearsals for the Christmas panto. The girl from Dublin’s East Wall, who won RTÉ’s search for the lead role of Serena in the musical during the summer, says playing the part of Cinderella in the Olympia Theatre’s panto is like coming home. “I’ve been doing panto in the Olympia for the last four years. It’s like a second home to me at this stage. Christmas wouldn’t feel the same without it.” Touring for three months with Fame was “very hard”, she says, but she adored it too. “I’ve learned so much. It’s a West End production and I worked with the most amazing choreographer. I’m so grateful to have got that chance. “It was my first time living away from home so that was tough, living out of suitcases and not having my parents nearby for their advice. I’m really close to them and they’ve been so supportive of me,” says Jessica, who admires singer Beyoncé. “She’s such an all-rounder and works so hard. And her voice is so strong — I don’t know how she sustains it.” ■ Cinderella is at The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, until January 9, 2011. Tickets are on sale from Ticketmaster and usual outlets nationwide. What shape are you in? Quite good, but it’s hard when you’re on tour and living away from home. Your eating habits are all over the place. I try to get to the gym as much as I can. I love walking. When I was on tour and in a city where I’d never been before, I loved waking up early in the morning and going for a walk. When I’m home, I walk with my mum down by the O2 and the Liffey and sometimes we go out to Clontarf and to the coast. Do you have any health concerns? I’m allergic to dust, which is everywhere. I used to get what I thought were colds all the time, but it was just that my sinuses were acting up. I’m on a nose spray now, which I use twice a day. What are your healthiest eating habits? Every morning I have porridge with natural yoghurt. I like to eat a banana before a show. What’s your guiltiest pleasure? I drink about 10 cups of tea a day. I’m absolutely addicted to it. I get it from my mam. What would keep you awake at night? I’m so lucky — I rarely lose sleep over stress. I’m usually so tired that I just conk out.

I’m allergic to dust. I used to get what I thought were colds, but it was just my sinuses were acting up.


appearance? I’d probably have smaller boobs. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? Michael Buble — I’m obsessed with him. I just love everything about him. He’s so charming. I would love to go on a date with him. I was on tour and missed his concert here. I was devastated. What trait do you least like in others? Arrogance and cockiness. I just hate it. I hate people who look down on others and judge them.

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What trait do you least like in yourself? I wish I didn’t care what other people think of me but I do. I’m quite a worrier at times. Do you pray? I do, all the time. I always bless myself before going on stage. What would cheer up your day? You can take home for granted until you live away from it. Getting a phone call from my family or hearing my mam’s voice on the phone would definitely cheer me up. Helen O’Callaghan

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NEW WOMAN: Fame star Jessica Cervi plays Cinderella in the Olympia panto.

Picture: Brian McEvoy

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How do you relax? I get into my PJs, put on some Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra or Michel Buble and just chill out. I’d maybe read a book too.

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What’s your favourite smell? I love the smell of a bakery. When did you last cry? I cried when I won Fame. I was in a dream — I couldn’t believe it, it was so surreal.

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What would you change about your



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Life-changing event

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A groundbreaking guide dog programme has given a vital lifeline to youngsters with

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autism but funding is needed to keep it up, writes Deirdre Reynolds


Life opens up with new best friend R

IGHT now, they’re just bouncy bundles of golden fluff — craving attention and chewing all around

them. But in less than two years, these adorable labrador puppies could change the life of an autistic child forever. Just six weeks old, the five cuddly pooches are the latest addition to the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind (IGDB) training facility in Cork. But with a life-altering future ahead of them, they’re already in training to become super mutts. “There’s always great excitement when a new litter arHELPING HAND: rives,” says IGBD Chief executive of chief executive Padraig Mallon. “But Irish Guide Dogs for staff know not to get the Blind, Padraig too attached. Mallon, with guide “We get great satis- dog Maisie. Each faction watching them dog costs F38,000 transform from little to train. Picture:Michael balls of fluff into disci- Mac Sweeney/Provision plined working dogs though — and ultimately being matched with a client. Each one of them has their own personality and although it can be sad for the trainers to part with them, everybody is conscious of the contribution the dog is going to make to someone else’s life.” Traditionally, the as-yet nameless litter would graduate to become guide dogs for visually impaired or blind people — offering an independence and security a cane can’t. Now though, some are destined to become assistance dogs for families of children with autism — throwing a vital lifeline to youngsters trapped in their own world by the condition. Five years ago, the IGDB test-drove a theory that a docile guide dog could help calm a child with autism, improve their socialisation and increase their safety and independence — making life easier for the rest of the family too. The ground-breaking pilot programme proved such a success among Irish families living with autism that there is now a three-year waiting list for an assistance dog. “Around 125 families around the country now have an assistance dog,” says Padraig Mallon. “And there are many more waiting for one. The word-of-mouth among parents about the benefits of our dogs has been phenomenal.” Wearing a blue jacket to show they’re working, the dog is attached to the child’s waist by a lead while out and about — but is ultimately controlled by the parent via voice commands and a second longer lead. “It’s incredible to see the companionship develop between the child and their new four-legged friend,” says Ken Brydon, guide dog training manager. “As well as giving them the freedom to walk with confidence, the dog senses when the child is upset and


BEST BUDDIES: Seán O'Sullivan at home near Newcestown, Co Cork, with his assistance dog Jen. Picture:Denis Minihane.

PART OF THE FAMILY: John and Mary O'Sullivan and their son Sean out walking near Newcestown with assistance dog Jen. Above, it was an instant two-way bond between Seán and his dog. Picture: Denis Minihane.


Now we can do things as a family, whether it’s going out for a meal or to the cinema — with Jen in tow. Sometimes when we’re out, Seán will give a little tug of the lead to make sure she’s still there nuzzles into them or offers a friendly paw. The response of a smile from the child is magical.” For the stressed-out parents of children with autism, such a moment is priceless. For the IGDB however, putting the pedigree chums through boot camp carries a very real price tag. “The success of the Assistance Dogs Programme puts huge pressure on us to raise funds,” says Padraig Mallon. “Each dog costs F38,000 to train and we train about 80 a year, whether as a guide dog or an assistance dog.

“It takes a huge amount of work and we have an army of volunteers around the country, including breeders, trainers and puppy walkers. “But our fundraising income has fallen by almost 40% in the last two years due to the recession and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain our levels of service.” As well as celebrity ambassador Roy Keane, the newest members of the IGDB family are doing their bit — the public will get to name the hard-working hounds as part of a fund-raising competition being run by Specsavers nationwide.


And urging dog lovers to dig deep, Mallon reckons the pups-with-potential give new meaning to the expression: A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. “These dogs are literally with their owner 24/7 throughout their working life,” he says. “They get up every morning when their owner does and helps them through their day. They’re much more that just a dog, they’re a best friend and a lifeline.” ■ See or visit Specsavers nationwide to support the ‘Name a Pup’ campaign

LITTLE over a year ago, six year-old Seán O’Sullivan was so afraid of the unfamiliar, even a trip to the local shop was an ordeal. Now with his trusty assistance dog Jen by his side, the once reclusive Cork lad has become a local celebrity. His mum Mary O’Sullivan explains how a four-legged fur-ball made the fragmented clan a family again. “Sean was diagnosed with autism when he was three. We first noticed the signs when he would just stay in his cot silently — rather than cry to be lifted like other babies might. Or as he got older, he would be walking down the street and bump into a post — then just rub his head and continue on. “Sudden noise affects him, so he gets anx-

ious when we’re out and about. Something as simple as the weekly grocery shop was impossible, as by the time we’d get to the door of the supermarket Sean would be on the ground because he didn’t want to go in. “My husband and I first heard about assistance dogs for children with autism on a TV documentary. We researched it online and went to visit the IGDB — we’re lucky it’s close to us. Part of the process of getting a dog is that the IGDB come to your home with one of their assistance dogs to assess your suitability for the programme. “On the very first visit, Sean went straight out and picked up the dog’s lead and walked along with her. I was amazed — he always hated us holding his hand. But with the dog,

he feels like he’s in control. He bonded with Jen straight away — but, looking back on it, it was a two-way bond. “Jen has given him the independence to walk down the street freely without us having to worry about him walking out in front of a car. They even play games together in the garden — Jen picks up his favourite teddy and Sean chases around after her. In turn, Sean loves the responsibility of feeding her and bringing her outside to go to the toilet. “The dog has been a godsend for our other children Timothy (13) and Aoife (10) too. Although they’re both very sporty, before we got Jen it was easier to sit at home on Saturdays than attempt to go anywhere together — so they suffered as a result. Now we can

do things as a family, whether it’s going out for a meal or to the cinema — with Jen in tow. Sometimes when we’re out, Sean will give a little tug of the lead to make sure she’s still there. “Assistance dogs work until they’re around ten — I don’t even want to think about what we’re going to do when Jen retires. Sean and his dog have become local celebrities — people always ask me where they are when I’m out. I think people have seen the difference it’s made to our family. “My advice to any family in our situation is to get on the waiting list — my only regret is we didn’t do it sooner. They say the dog is man’s best friend — but more than that, Jen has saved our family.”

We are not just wagging our tails all day long, you know LASSIE isn’t the only hard-working hound out there — it’s a dog’s life for these working woofs. Sniffer dogs: From drugs to bombs, no contraband is safe from the honed hooters of these detective dogs. More usually used by police or airport customs, now teens dabbling in drugs had best beware — a US company has just started hiring out sniffer


dogs so parents can search their childrens’ bedrooms for narcotics. Companion dogs: We know they’re man’s best friend, but could a canine actually improve your health too? That’s the theory behind companion pooches for OAPs. Providing security, companionship and an excuse for exercise, seniors with

four-legged friends are healthier and happier than those without according to a study in the British Journal of Health Psychology. “For older people, an animal can fulfil the ‘need to be needed’, perhaps after children have left home,” says psychologist Dr June McNicholas. Search and rescue dogs: In the


wake of 9/11, a team of heroic hounds helped find victims trapped under rubble. In the largest ever deployment of search dogs in the US, over 100 intrepid terriers joined the war on terror. Historically, the St Bernard was used to locate adventurers trapped in avalanches. Today, breeds including German shepherds and golden terriers are used to rescue everyone from swimmers in danger to wounded soldiers.



6 Healthy enjoyment

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Don’t eat to excess and you’ll be glad come the new year, writes Rosie Shelley

Christmas trimmings


HRISTMAS is, and should be, a time to put your feet up and indulge and enjoy, and not worry too much about the budget or the waistline. But we have to strike a balance: going into the New Year uncomfortable or overweight isn’t going to make any of us feel better. So here are our top tips for getting the most out of the season. First, it’s about the way we think. Psychologist Owen Connolly says: “My concern is that the nation will use Christmas to over-indulge as a way of comforting themselves — the motivation to stay well starts with the mindset that your health is your wealth. Maintain the Irish determination not to let the circumstances of the past be the excuse to undo all of your hard work.” Key to this scenario is exercise — we can all afford to eat some treats if we only remember that the season isn’t an excuse to sit on the sofa for a week. Your body and mind won’t thank you for it either. The holiday period is the perfect time to do things as a family: snowballing, cycling, taking the dog out, cleaning the car, a game of football or that all-important long walk after dinner. Personal trainer Nicky Waterman advises walking “as much as you can — up your pace and you’ll burn up to 200 calories in just half an hour”. Dancing, another festive activity — “it’s a fab fat buster that can burn up to 600 calories an hour”. But for any Christmas junkie, like myself, the food is the thing. There really is nothing wrong with turkey and all the trimmings, as long as you stick to a few provisions. Roast potatoes and parsnips should be limited to one or two; take the skin off the turkey and skim the fat from the gravy; don’t drown the peas or carrots in butter and salt. Use chestnuts as a stuffing in place of sausage meat. Use cream instead of brandy butter on a small portion of pudding. Michelle Thomas of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute offers this timely advice: “It’s worth remembering that on average we can gain around 5lbs over the Christmas period. With the day itself seeing people consuming up to a whopping 6,000 calories.” Thomas says we need to bear in mind that: ■ An average selection box will have in excess of 1,200 calories. ■ The average mince pie comes in at 250 calories. ■ Your glass of wine will cost you 150 calories, not to mention the munchies when you leave the pub ■ Watch portion sizes — big plates don’t need to be filled ■ Pick one or two parties where you can indulge, but keep it to that. Nicky Waterman has clear views on how to tackle the endless temptations. “The best way to maintain your weight over Christmas is to swap calorific cocktails and beer for spritzers. Take the top off your mince pie and you’ll lose a third of its calories. Keep to the one handful rule for nuts and crisps.” And there’s something to be said for some good, dark chocolate: the latest in a raft of good reviews shows that a square or two actually stops you eating so much at the next meal.


Work it out to work it off SO what do you have to do to shed the extra calories piled on from festive feeding? Here is the bad news: ■ Turkey portion (with skin) — 194 calories, 50 minutes hoovering ■ Christmas pudding (small serving) — 330 calories, 66 minutes walking ■ Roast potatoes — 149 calories, 53 minutes cooking and food preparation ■ Mince pie — 250 calories, 35 minutes shovelling snow ■ Selection box — 1,200 calories, 9 hours ironing clothes ■ Glass of wine — 150 calories, 33 minutes playing with children vigorously

How to handle your booze ■ Eat before you drink ■ Avoid darker coloured drinks (the paler the better) ■ Take a glass of water between each alcoholic drink ■ Mix white wine with soda water (spritzer), spirits with low-cal mixers, champagne with orange juice (buck’s fizz)

It’s worth remembering that on average we can gain around 5lbs over the Christmas period. With the day itself seeing people consuming up to a whopping 6,000 calories This is a time when we need to kick back and enjoy ourselves, but it can also be a stressful experience, and it would pay to be mindful that eating and drinking too much

doesn’t do our bodies or our minds any favours. Some time out, a soak in the bath, a good book, film, game or hug — at least one of them’s there for the taking.


■ Don’t mix drinks ■ Avoid energy drinks ■ Drink a pint of water, plus soluble vitamin C or glutamine, before you hit the hay



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Psychology Many people who have been undermined or hurt try to cope by hiding their real selves


Beyond the mask Tony Humphreys

SECOND SELF: It’s only when we remove our masks are we free to discover what makes us truly unique. Picture: Getty Images


HE greatest gift you can give to another is an unconditional acceptance of his or her unique presence. Another wonderful gift that brings hope is to hear what a person is not saying. We all wear masks — masks that hide the truth of our individuality and of the deep hurts that we have experienced. The number of masks we create depends on the frequency, duration, and intensity of the hurts experienced. Masks are defensive creations against having to re-experience the traumas of emotional abandonment, sexual violation, of ‘not being good enough’, of ‘having to prove myself all of the time’, of living under a tyranny of ‘shoulds’, ‘have-tos’, of ‘having to do everything perfectly.’ Seeing with kindness what lies behind a particular mask can be an epiphany for the person who presents the mask. The person himself is not in a secure emotional state to do that and is reliant on another to provide the opportunity for what lies behind the mask to emerge. With the encouragement, gentleness, support and patience coming from the other, the individual who is masked can begin to see some or all of what he has had to hide away from those significant others who were not in a place to unconditionally love, understand, rejoice in his presence, celebrate his individuality, belief in his limitless potential and allow him to just be himself. Of course, these significant others wear a thousand masks and they, too, need a liberator who brings kindness, affirmation, belief and who see what may lie hidden behind the multitude of masks. Recently, a colleague gave me a copy of the poem Please Hear What I’m Not Saying by Charles C Finn which so accurately encapsulates our need to listen beyond words and look beyond actions. The author captures the lives of quiet desperation many people live. Yet the fact that this poem has traversed the world many times over (even in pre-internet days) since it was written in 1966 is a truly hopeful sign of our hunger for coming into consciousness of our amazing and unique being. Here is a shortened version of the poem. Please Hear What I’m Not Saying Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face that I wear. For I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks that I am afraid to take off, and none of them is the real me. So don’t be fooled by me, I’m good at pretending. I give the impression that I’m cool and confident, but inside, it’s different. I’m not in command. I’m often confused, lonely and desperately need someone to understand me. But I hide and I don’t want anyone to know. That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind, I’m afraid to show the real me. I’m afraid that you will not accept me. I’m afraid that you will think less of me and laugh at me. You see, deep down, I’m afraid that I’m nothing, that I’m no good,


And if you knew me, you would reject me. So I play my game, my pretending game, and thus begins my parade of masks. My life becomes a front to protect the real me. I chatter idly to you about everything but tell you nothing of what’s going on inside me — my fears, my worries, my doubts. So when I’m talking, please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying, what I’d like to say but I can’t. I’d like to be genuine, honest and sincere, but I cannot without your help. My trust grows very slowly, so you will have to be patient with me. Each time you are kind, gentle and encouraging, each time you try to understand, I am given new hope and I start believing in myself in a new way. You let me see it’s OK to be me. So I can take off the mask and be happy in your company, I can let you see the real me. Who am I you may wonder? I am someone you know very well. For I am every man and woman you meet Penned from deep pain, these are words of absolute terror, of feeling deep down ‘I’m afraid I’m nothing, that I’m no good’ and ‘if you knew me, you would reject me.’ This deep defence of hiding one’s true and real self behind a mask of ‘I am unlovable, nothing’ is very powerful because every child reaches out spontaneously to be loved: But when a harsh response — or impatience, or violence or not being picked up for hours on end — follows, the child cleverly and unconsciously buries his amazing self. That self will remain buried until a time when he or she encounters unconditional love without and within. The final lines of the poem are a wake-up call for us all — that we all wear a thousand masks and that it is only the person without the masks who creates the opportunity for others to become real, authentic and unconditionally loving. As a society, we appear to face quite an uphill struggle to create the relationship situations that foster being real rather than being masked. Dr Tony Humphreys is a clinical psychologist, author and international speaker. His recent book with co-author Helen Ruddle, Relationship, Relationship, Relationship: The Heart of a Mature Society is relevant to today’s topic.


A DIFFERENT VIEW ON LIFESTYLE Your guide to fitness, health, happiness and lifestyle. Great writers and mentors. Where you come first. Phone: NIAMH O’CONNELL Tel. 021-4802215 Fax 021-4273846

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Celebrity xxxxxxxx festivity

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It’s been a tough year — the doom and gloom, the ups and downs and the uncertainty that lies ahead. So, it’s more important than ever we celebrate the season of goodwill with family and friends and focus on what really matters. Arlene Harris asks some of Ireland’s best-known personalities about their plans for a merry Christmas

Stars shine for Christmas Donncha O'Callaghan: Rugby player


OMORROW will be my perfect day — first, there will be lunch cooked by my mother, then dinner round at Jenny’s parents, in the evening. Two Christmas dinners in one day — it’s a rugby player’s dream come true. Myself and the lads have been doing a lot of training, so I feel like I’ve earned the extra food and we’ve a game against Connaught on St Stephen’s Day, so I will be paying for it then — I’m looking forward to working my way through a bowl of trifle. I’ve done a few runs with Ronan O’Gara on previous Christmas Days, but it’s an official day off from training, so, this year, I’m planning to enjoy myself — mind you, Jenny and I are thinking about going for a swim in the sea — so that will be bracing. I always loved this time of year — and tonight will be extra special, as its Sophie’s first Christmas. Mind you, she’s only five months old, so Jenny and I are more excited about it than she is. I’ve got three brothers, one sister and 11 nieces and nephews, so there will be great excitement for the next few days. I’m looking forward to a few Wii challenges — HELPING HAND: Donncha O’Callaghan the kids will beat us hands down, during one of his visits to the UNICEF “baby-friendly tents” in Haiti. Picture: Mark but my brothers and I are still Stedman/Photocall Ireland competitive, so we will be trying to outdo each other. My best present was a He-Man and Skeletor, when I was a kid — the joy opening that was unimaginable. We are all going through a hard time right now, but when I went to Haiti with UNICEF, I saw people who were really suffering — we should try to spare them a thought over Christmas. Anyone who is stressed out about work or finances should talk about it. Irish people (in particular young men like me) tend to bottle up their problems and it does no good for anyone — if something is on your mind, talk to your family or your mate about it. So for the few days that are in it, put everything aside and enjoy your family. ■ For more information about UNICEF’s work in Haiti, visit

Mary Kennedy: TV presenter

Miriam O'Callaghan: Broadcaster



OMORROW morning I will be at home with all the family — the perfect place see what Santa has delivered. Then after breakfast we will go to my sister’s house where we will meet the extended relations and open a million and one presents. I will be cooking dinner for all my gang — the traditional turkey and stuffing and I will have Nigella (the cookbook) on hand to help me through it. But to be honest, I really love the whole deal. There is nothing nicer than finishing work and spending time at home surrounded by the family. It’s always quite crazy and frantic but everyone is so happy. For me, Christmas is about relaxing and I don’t get too stressed out because I’m not that sort of person, but my advice to anyone who is getting hot under the collar, is to pour a glass of wine and relax. It doesn’t matter if the turkey is overcooked — as long as you have your health, that’s all that counts. On that subject, I will go for a few brisk walks over the holidays. But it’s more to give the kids a run around than to work off a few pounds. It’s the only time of the year when you can justifiably relax, so I plan to do absolutely nothing and steer clear of anything remotely like a gym or an exercise machine. It’s meant to be a happy time, so I’m going to enjoy every minute.

WILL be spending the day at home with my children, my brother and his family. We take turns cooking each year, so tomorrow I will on duty. We will be having turkey, ham, spiced beef, bread sauce and all of the trimmings — I absolutely love it. We will be stuffed to the gills. My favourite festive food is the humble mince pie — but I love all of the food and the delicious homely smells at this time of year. I feel that Christmas is a time to be with family and friends. My mother’s anniversary is on December 23 so we got together for a mass in the house and Kriskindle — it’s lovely to be able to remember and include Mum in the festivities. I love the sense of nostalgia, comfort and togetherness and the simple family traditions. We combined all of our Kriskindle into a cheque this year and gave it to the St Vincent De Paul — my dad was a leading light in the SVDP in Clondalkin so it’s good to do something for them. I’ve never had a present that I didn’t appreciate but the most memorable gift was my first pair of hornpipe dancing shoes. I was only 10 but can still remember the smell of the leather and the sheer excitement of unwrapping the gift. Money was tight in those days so fancy dancing shoes were left to Santa. As soon as I put them on there was no stopping me, unfortunately I was too early for Riverdance or who knows where I would have got to. There is so much excess food and drink over the Christmas period so getting out for a good long walk is imperative. We always go round the block for a bracing walk after dinner and I love looking into other peoples houses to see their lights and festivities — I think we all have a duty to leave our curtains open on Christmas Day. Luckily, I don’t tend to get too stressed out, but when things get overheated in the kitchen a spot of fresh air always seems to do the trick. And as for working off the extra pounds, I will go walking with my sister and a big gang in Kerry for New Year — we will probably do about 15 miles so it will be a nice, bracing way to start 2011.

Brendan Grace: Comedian


hristmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. We will be in Florida this year, but are heading home on St Stephen’s Day (for a month-long tour), so will be able to get the best of the Irish festivities,

Sharon Corr: Musician and singer


PURE MAGIC: Sharon Corr looks forward to the magic of her two children opening their gifts. Picture: Barry McCall


will be spending the day with my family, in Dublin, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s definitely a time to be with family and friends. I love having a lazy time, with everyone around the house, and as my kids are just three and four, it’s a very exciting time for them. I’m really looking forward to watching their little faces as they unwrap their presents — it’s so magical. On the run up to the big day, I love getting together with old friends to catch up on the year gone by, and doing the whole ‘eating, drinking and being merry’ thing. I’ve always loved the turkey and ham and I’m cooking tomorrow, so I hope I get it right. I also

THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS: Mary Kennedy will enjoy cooking for her children, her brother and his family, because it is her turn this year.

really like Christmas cake, especially the marzipan icing. And, on the subject of food, I adore selection boxes — yummy. I have already started on the kids’ ones — what a bad mummy. But we live close to the beach, so I am looking forward to wrapping up warm and walking on the beach at Christmas, there is nowhere nicer on cold, clear, winter days. The holiday season can be stressful, so I think it’s important to not take too much on. We are all so prone to packing too much in before the big day — leaving ourselves exhausted for the actual event, so I try to keep that in mind. A glass of mulled wine always chills me out and a good old TRADITIONAL TIME: Miriam O’Callaghan will be cooking traditional dinner for all of her gang with Nigella’s cookbook on hand to help her through it. Picture: Robbie Reynolds/CPR laugh with friends is a great stress buster.


too. We always have the traditional turkey and ham, and all the trimmings. I am the stuffing expert, and, when my kids were young, we would have a stuffing competition, where Eileen and I would make a batch each and they would have to judge the winner — it was good fun. I’ve been in show business for 40 years, so the time spent with family over the season is always so magical. And people are always telling me that they associate me with Christmas — I think it’s because there would usually be one of my shows on TV and the whole family could watch it together. Nowadays, people are very caught up with the commercial side of Christmas and I think it would be great if more emphasis was given to practical presents. I started giving things like smoke alarms and fire extinguishers as gifts, or I might stick a high-visibility arm band into a card for someone — they all think I’m being smart, but I’m actually thinking that it might save a life one day.

Eileen’s mother used to give me a pair of pyjamas, a pair of socks, a handkerchief and a jumper every year — so I would always be thrilled to get something out of the ordinary. The best present I ever got was a Spiderman doll, when I was about three. My mother used to say there was no way I could remember that, but I can still see it vividly. I loved watching my own children on Christmas Day, and now we get to do it all over again with our three grandsons. It’s wonderful and they really keep us on our toes. But while I have started on an exercise regime lately, I intend to do nothing over the holidays. Our routine is to open presents, have fun, have dinner and fall back onto the sofa — there’s nothing better. The memories that are made at this time of year are so special — life is so short and everyone seems stressed out — my advice would be to slow down, relax and reach out to people around us. ■ For details of his nationwide tour, visit

MEMORIES MADE OF THIS: Brendan Grace, grandson James and wife, Eileen, with Santa.


10 Medical matters

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I have a two-year-old child attending creche part-time. He has been sick a few times with tummy bugs. I’ve been recommended to give him probiotics. Should I do this regularly or only when he is unwell?”

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

ten-misunderstood condition also can be a complication of this condition. Fortunately, you have the support of your GP. There is no cure for this condition, but the emphasis for you is on minimising symptoms and improving general health. In general, treatments for fibromyalgia include medication and self-care. Amitriptyline helps promote A. Probiotics are food products that sleep. Fluoxetine (Prozac), in combinacontain micro-organisms — usually tion with amitriptyline, is effective in bacteria, such as lactibacillus acisome people. Other antidepressants used dophilus or bifidobacterium, that can for fibromyalgia include duloxetine help balance out populations of bacte(Cymbalta), which can help ease the ria in the intestine, and keep bacteria pain and fatigue. Milnacipran (Savella) that can cause disease from taking has recently been approved in the USA over. (Manufacturers of probiotics have for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Anbeen arguing for years that their yoti-epileptic medications, such as ghurts, pills, juices and milks help the gabapentin (Neurontin) or pregabalin digestive and immune systems.) (Lyrica), are also used for this condition. At birth, an infant has a sterile gut, There is strong evidence for balbut bacterial colonisation occurs rapidneotherapy (warm water therapy) and ly, more so for bottle-fed than interest recently in sodium oxybate, usubreast-fed babies. The gut is home to ally used to treat cataplexy and narcolepapproximately 500 types of bacteria. sy. This is a manufactured sodium salt of We are gradually acquiring a better a naturally-occurring brain transmitter understanding of the role of probiotics called GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), in human health. A recent review has and has been found to help reduce inshown that if taken early, during diarsomnia, pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia rhoea from a viral infection of the gut patients. (such as rotavirus), probiotics can As in most chronic illnesses, it takes shorten the illness by a day. They can lifestyle changes and small steps towards also help prevent antibiotic-associated achieving wellness. Self-care is critical in diarrhoea in children. There is evithe management of fibromyalgia, and dence also that probiotics can benefit you need to develop a plan to avoid or very low birth-weight infants in prelimit over-exertion and emotional stress. venting necrotising enterocolitis — a Cognitive behavioural therapy seeks to serious bacterial infection of the gut. strengthen your belief in your abilities The evidence to support the use of and teaches you methods for dealing probiotics for atopic dermatitis, or with stressful situations. Allow yourself SICK TUMMY: Probiotics can relieve symptoms of eczema, in children is mixed. In time each day to relax. That may mean Picture: iStock learning to say no without guilt. Try breast-fed-only babies, probiotics have tummy upset in toddlers. been found to be helpful for babies stress-management techniques, such as with colic. Human milk is rich in predeep-breathing exercises or meditation. biotics — non-digestible food ingredients Exercise regularly. At first, this may seem that encourage the growth of “healthy” bac- Q. I have fibromyalgia and have good to increase your pain, but doing it regularly and bad days with it. My GP has been teria in the gut. will decrease your symptoms and help revery supportive and pro-active and has Prebiotics may be of some benefit for duce fatigue. Walking, swimming, water given me amitryptiline to take at night, children with atopic eczema and common aerobics or cycling for even 10-15 minutes a infections, but more research is underway to but I find the exhaustion the most diffiday will make a difference over time. cult symptom to deal with. Is there anyconfirm this. If you have fibromyalgia, difficult days are thing else that can help? Probiotics are natural, safe and well-tolerinevitable. You need to develop coping ated, but not all probiotics are the same and strategies that work best for you — these not all do everything. It is also important to A. The exhaustion you describe is comcan range from watching a funny film to mon in people who have fibromyalgia, who taking regular rest breaks, or talking with a remember that not all probiotics have been studied. Overall, probiotics can benefit those not only have to contend with pain all over, close friend on the phone. Having a plan but also with a debilitating fatigue. who are already ill with various conditions, prepared in advance will also give you a The signs and symptoms of this condition sense of control, so that the fatigue or pain but whether they are effective at preventing can vary, depending on physical activity, sickness is unclear. doesn’t take control of you. stress levels, the weather or even the time of Probiotics are available as tablets, powder, Some of the more common complemenday. Fibromyalgia can lead to pain, deprescapsules and can be mixed into yoghurt, tary and alternative treatments used by peosion and lack of sleep. You may awaken milk or juice. Certain yoghurt drinks prodple with fibromyalgia include acupuncture, tired, even though you seem to get plenty ucts, such as Danone or Actimel, have promassage, TCM, cupping, and spinal manipuof sleep. These problems can then interfere lation. It’s also helpful to know that you’re biotics added. Live yoghurt is also a good with your ability to function at home or on not alone. Contact source of probiotics. For treating acute gastroenteritis, take a probiotic with lactobacil- the job, or maintain close family or personal and These groups relationships. lus GG, containing 5-40 billion CFUs, can often provide a level of help and advice The frustration of dealing with an oftwice a day. you might not find anywhere else.

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

Stories reach out to special children


OST children look forward to some time out with mum or dad as they snuggle up for a bedtime story. But what if that child had special needs? How would they relate to the regular activities that most children take for granted? And would their siblings and classmates be more inclusive if their ‘need’ was shown to be a part of everyday life? A young Irish author has addressed that issue by creating a series of books aimed at children with special needs. In each of her Special Stories, the main character has a recognisable condition and is shown to overcome challenges and be portrayed in a positive situation. “The books are designed to introduce all


children to the positive aspects of inclusive education,” says author Kate Gaynor. “Each book tells the story of a child with a certain special education need through the eyes of the main character. The stories help children to learn the importance of accepting friends and classmates who seem different to them. “They are also used by the children and families who are directly affected by any of the issues in the series.” Addressing autism, Down syndrome, dyslexia and deafness, the collection was inspired by the author’s experience with children struggling to fit into everyday life. In Tom’s Special Talent, a boy suffers from dyslexia. He enjoys school but struggles to keep up with the rest of the class. But

through careful coaxing, he finds his niche and proves that everyone has a special talent. In another story, a young boy struggles to make friends with a new classmate who because of his autism seems ‘different’ to the rest of the kids. But despite his differences he soon proves that he is just as important and just as much fun as the rest of the children. The Special Stories Series 1 and 2 are published in conjunction with four charities — Irish Deaf Kids, Down Syndrome Ireland, Dyslexia Association of Ireland and Irish Autism Action. a percentage of all sales goes to help children with special needs. ■ The books cost F8.99 each or F29.99 for four. — Arlene Harris


MY STORY: Special Stories put children with Down syndrome, autism, dyslexia and deafness centre stage. Getty Images



A Christmas tale

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Santa reins in his elves Catherine Shanahan MUM’S WORLD


REAMING of a tight Christmas and conscious of the high price of a herd of magical reindeer, I decided it was time to tell the kids that Santa was feeling the pinch. They looked slightly at sea when I tried to explain that in a competitive market, reindeer possess key skill sets that must be retained, but they did nod wisely when I explained the knock-on effect this had on the polar piggy bank. “There is no precedent for outsourcing flying animals,” I said. “So Santa is stuck with Rudolf et al.” In addition, poor Santa had lost heavily on the Alaskan stock exchange, markets made jittery by the twitterings of a mad Republican with designs on the American presidency. (“That’s one Christmas wish I won’t be granting,” Santa thought to himself). Then there was the crippling cost of technology to offset the effects of climate change. In a world where appearance is important, this was a substantial drain, but snow was essential to his grotto and Santa had to up his game to stave off the effects of melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels and acid rain. Outsourcing his workshops to somewhere like Bangalore made good financial sense but he knew the elves would demand substantial re-location expenses and he did not have access to the kind of cash flow that would allow him shift operations. Neither did he want to have to re-brand so close to the festive season. A red woolly suit was hardly appropriate for a Bangalore-based Father Christmas. Besides, if Christmas dinner came served on giant banana leaves, Mrs Claus would never forgive him. But with the elves seeking premium payments what was a man to do? The December Budget had been well exceeded and opportunities for cutbacks were few. Short of adding everyone to the naughty list, Christmas was looking blue. A chat with his bank manager was a waste of time, even though the same man had sat on his lap and asked for a bailout the previous Christmas and Santa had been happy to oblige. “I need a drink,” Santa muttered, heading across the Atlantic. “Where to?” he roared at


IN THE RED: Catherine Shanahan with her children Lughaidh and Dearbhail visiting Santa’s Secret Village in Cork city. Picture: Des Barry

Where to?” Santa roared at the reindeer, and there came a chorus of “Ireland”. “Ah yes,” said Santa, “they’re stoney broke, but they always find time for enjoyment”

the reindeer, and there came a chorus of “Ireland”. “Ah yes,” said Santa, “they’re stoney broke, but they always find time for enjoyment.” With a roar to Rudolf to “FOLLOW THAT STAR” the herd set off at a gallop and were soon flying over the Phoenix Park where their brethren hid in the shadows. Pausing for breath the reindeer looked down on a long line of gleaming limos purring their way to Farmleigh House, a haven for hucksters. “Is Santa going to the zoo?” my children interrupted to ask. I replied that he was, but not the kind of zoo that houses snakes and giraffes. Five minutes later Santa reached his destination close to the city centre. But before setting down, he had a quick scout around to make sure Leinster House was empty. He fancied a drink in the festive Dáil bar but preferred his own good company. Peering through an upstairs window, he spotted three men in a huddle. One he recognised from a flight to New Dehli when he was contemplating relocating. “Ajai,” Santa suddenly recalled and the name filled him with hope. If any one man could save Christmas, Ajai Chopra surely


could. His no-nonsense slashing and burning could get Santa out of the woods. And no elf union would ever face down the might of the IMF. “Ho ho ho,” Santa chuckled and pulling out his new iPhone, he scrolled down through his list of contacts. Two hours later and all Ajai-ed out, he was armed with an IMF-style budget. A quick toast in the bar to his own success was all poor Santa had time for — before heading back North to his workers’ wrath and the last chance to salvage Christmas. The showdown with the elves was not pretty, they threatened to take to the streets. They accused Santa of breaching agreements. There was grinding and gnashing of teeth. But at the end of the day tears and tantrums were futile and the elves knew they were beat. They returned to their workshops and pulled out all the stops to be ready for Christmas Eve. “So did Ajai save Christmas?” my children asked, filled with terror and dread “You’ll find out tomorrow,” I promised, tucking them into their beds. “But he sorted out South Korea, so I think you have nothing to fear. The bells will ring out and Christmas will come, just as it does every year.”




Drink survey

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Beating the chill O

NE of the rewards of enduring the cold snap has been a welcoming glass of mulled wine when we get indoors. It’s not difficult to make, and having tasted eight samples below, you will certainly get better value and results by making your own. Try gently heating your favourite inexpensive wine allowing four 5cm cinnamon sticks per 75cl bottle of wine with one star anise and an orange studded with five whole cloves. To intensify it, add some blackcurrant liqueur or brandy (as long as no-one is driving after it) or dilute with apple juice or lemonade. If not using lemonade or juice, add a heaped tablespoon of Demerara sugar or a little honey, but wait until the wine has heated to judge how much is required. If you boil the wine and spices you will lose both the flavour and alcohol, so aim for no more than a little steam coming off the saucepan. Cider makes a good, warm punch too, and a perfectly acceptable alcohol-free treat can be made with apple juice, pomegranate or cranberry juice. Add chopped clementines, satsumas or orange segments. Traditional in Germany, slivers of almonds are added for texture, and raisins plump up beautifully

Rochester Organic Mulled Berry Punch, 725ml F6.69 The Quay Co-op Completely alcohol free, this is deliciously fruity, with soft orange overtones and made from lively elderberry, blackcurrant and apple juices. This is the only drink we wanted more of. With subtle spices, it was more satisfying and seasonal than any of the others with alcohol. If alcohol is a priority, add some decent red wine and heat together.

Roz Crowley

in the warm wine. Spices mixed with sugar by Green Saffron are ready to use and are available in food shops and markets — F5.95 for 240g with enough for two bottles of wine. Leftover mulled wine can be made into a delicious jelly by adding a few sheets of gelatine, or even some Chivers blackcurrant jelly. Keep recycling and have a happy Christmas.

Gluhwein, Dunnes, 1.01litre F5.49

Picture: Getty Images

Christkindl Gluhwein, Lidl, 1 litre F5.99

This proves the point that poor quality wine should not be mulled. Spices don’t help wine which tastes old and musty. 8.5% alcohol.

With 9.9% alcohol, this is heavy, oversweet, with a hint of dull spices. The finish is quite smooth, like stewed fruit.

Score: 1

Score: 2

Winterman, 750ml F9 Tesco The most expensive by far of the selection, the wine is well past its best and is musty. At best it has some richness as we expect, perhaps from the clove and nutmeg. With 10% alcohol, it’s very expensive for what it delivers. Not worth the price. Score: 2

Score: 8

Mulled Wine, Tesco, 75cl F4.99 The most attractive label in the selection lists an interesting mix of blueberries, orange, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, lemon, fennel, nutmeg and cardamom. However, these fruits and spices are overpowered by what tastes like wine that has been left opened for a few weeks, yet still manages to be quite tannic. The spices are not fresh or interesting. 10% alcohol

Atwoods Mulled Wine, Supervalu, 75cl F6

Red Mulled Wine, Marks & Spencer, 75cl F5.99

Weihnachts Gluhwein, Aldi, 75cl F4.99

With 10% alcohol, the dry red wine taste is quite mild, but at least it is subtle and doesn’t taste old and musty. A nice ginger kick is softened by a little vanilla.

Musty wine smell with nice spices. Not great quality wine, but it has some kick with a high 12.5% alcohol. Fairly close to what we expect of a mulled wine.

Smelling and tasting musty, poor, old wine was not improved with spices. 10% alcohol.

Score 5.5

Score: 5

Score: 3



Score: 1



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Don’t mix them up I SLEEPY TIME: Darragh O'Loughlin, President of the Irish Pharmacy Union says cough and cold medicines mixed with alcohol cause drowsiness. Picture: Ray Ryan

T’S Christmas Eve and the temptation is to have a few beers or a glass of wine to celebrate the festive season. All that is fine, as long as you are not on any medicines — over the counter or prescribed. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the risks of mixing medicines and alcohol and the fact that mixing alcohol with certain medications can be harmful and occasionally even dangerous. “Some coughs and colds medicines can cause slight drowsiness. Add in alcohol and the drowsiness gets worse,” says Darragh O’Loughlin, a pharmacist in Tuam, Co Galway and President of the Irish Pharmacy Union. “The effects of the alcohol can also get worse, and your reaction time can get slower.” Even moderate amounts of alcohol, when mixed with certain cough, cold and flu medicines, allergy treatments, commonly used pain relievers and even certain

Deirdre O'Flynn MOSTLY MEN

herbal remedies can lead to significant drowsiness and can impair judgement and the ability to drive. This is a particular concern when you add driving into the festive scenario. According to the Road Safety Authority, driving under the influence of drugs is just as dangerous as driving when under the influence of alcohol. Across all age

Companies praised for healthy eating initiatives

Ballroom dancing for arthritis sufferers

SEVENTY Irish companies employing 30,000 employees were applauded for their efforts to promote heart-healthy eating and reduce the risk of obesity for workers at the Irish Heart Foundation’s Happy Heart Healthy Eating Awards 2010. “An estimated 2,000 premature deaths are caused by obesity, annually, in Ireland at a cost of F4bn and this figure is growing,” says Michael O’Shea, chief executive, Irish Heart Foundation. “Serious health problems face us, as a nation, which can be attributed to obesity, including hypertension,

WHY not surprise your loved one with your twinkle toe skills in the New Year? Arthritis Ireland has launched Let’s Dance, a ballroom dancing programme for people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other forms of arthritis including ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. Let’s Dance, supported by healthcare com-


diabetes, angina, heart attack, stroke and osteoarthritis. If obesity levels continue to rise, we are in danger of seeing a levelling off, or reversal, in the falling rates of heart disease and stroke, previously achieved through prevention and advances in treatment. “Healthy eating must play a vital role if we are to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in our population,” says O’Shea. The awards promote healthy eating options in company staff restaurants. More than 300 companies have been certified to date.


HANGOVER CURE: For a natural solution to Christmas overindulgence A Vogel recommend Milk Thistle Complex, a cleansing herbal remedy that restores your body to full function after too much Christmas cheer. Excessive alcohol, fatty festive foods and not getting enough sleep can really overwork your liver, resulting in headaches, nausea, bloating, irritability and poor skin. Milk thistle helps to cleanse and detoxify the liver. A Vogel Milk Thistle Complex, F10.50 for 50ml; F18.50 for 100ml; or F12.55 for 60 tablets from health stores and pharmacies.


pany Abbott, will be kick-started with a series of free ballroom dance classes in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Mullingar, Waterford and Wexford staring in January. There are 40,000 people living with the auto-immune condition rheumatoid arthritis in Ireland. ■ To apply for tickets, email or telephone 01-6188 455.

Male health


groups, the use of drugs while driving is higher than that of drink driving, with the exception of the 35-44 age group where they were the same (10%). Aside from the very obvious dangers of mixing alcohol, medicines and driving, your own health can also be compromised by drinking while on any medication. “Older people, for instance, metabolise medicines more slowly, so that if they drink alcohol, their co-ordination can be affected. This leaves them at risk of tumbles and falls, which is more serious for them in terms of fractures and osteoporosis,” says O’Loughlin. Equally, medicines can be rendered less effective when mixed with alcohol. It’s easy to be confused, particularly given that one-in-three Irish people do not always read the instructions on over-the-counter medicines when buying them for the first time. That’s according to research by the Irish Medicines Board which also found that two out of 10 consumers never, or only sometimes, read the information when taking a new prescription medicine. “You need to ask your pharmacist when you’re getting medicines whether you can drink alcohol with them or not,” says O’Loughlin. “For instance, with some medicines, you can drink alcohol on the same day as you take the medicine, just not at the same time.” But you need to check, as some medicines become less effective when mixed with alcohol, some can make you violently ill, some can affect stomach conditions, co-ordination and reaction time. This festive season, it’s may be wiser to be safe and sober than sorry.

DId you know...

75% of people love spending time with family at Christmas (Source:

Last-minute gifts


ECO GOODIES: Marks & Spencer recently launched the first compostable pack for chocolates. M&S Swiss chocolates, F13.99 now have a Plantic tray for the chocolates to sit in, with the outer-box made from FSC certified cardboard — both of which can be put on the garden compost heap. Shoppers upgrading phones have been asked to recycle their old handsets for charity. Boots is running a new recycling scheme giving Advantage Card points in exchange for old gadgets including mobile phones, digital cameras, mp3 players and inkjet cartridges. Boots will donate F1 for every listed working device recycled and 20c for every listed inkjet cartridge to Irish Hospice Foundation.


CALORIE COUNT: Turkey is a good source of lean protein, iron, zinc, selenium and B vitamins — good for the immune system. Removing the skin saves over 40 calories per serving. Higher Nature’s ZyloSweet, F7 for 300g, is a natural sweetener, which has 40% fewer calories than sugar. Use it to make your own cranberry sauce — rich in flavonoids to help immune health and keep urinary tract infections at bay — and to sweeten desserts. Instead of creamy liqueurs opt for red wine or mulled wine, which is rich in heart-protective antioxidants. Adding cinnamon to your mulled wine can help stabilise blood sugar levels. One glass contains 122 calories. Green tea burns off excess calories.



CHRISTMAS TEA: For a last-minute stocking filler how about Qi Organic White Christmas Tea F3.20. Rich in antioxidants and low in caffeine, this top grade organic fairtrade tea is made with organic mulled wine, spices of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and orange. Available from health stores.


14 Beauty

Emily O’Sullivan

Take time out from the seasonal merry-go-round and indulge in some joyful pampering


HRISTMAS Eve. It’s enough to make you start humming A Fairytale of New York. Oh how

we love it. Beauty-wise, of course, Christmas Eve has always been a bit of a non-event. After all, there are usually far more important things to be doing, such as sipping mulled wine down the local pub, tipsy sausage-roll making and working out how to wrap inconveniently sized presents. But as we get older, Christmas Eve seems to be less of a drunken last-minute rush and more of a well-organised, chilled-out evening of relaxation. Which makes it a great time to indulge in a little cosy, warm, indulgent downtime beauty. After all, what could be better than having a rich, sumptuous bath, followed by pyjamas and sheepskin slippers, hot chocolate with marshmallows, a roaring fire and It’s a Wonderful Life on DVD. Be high maintenance about it if you like (if you’ve got the spare time, you can always exfoliate, moisturise and fake tan), but we prefer the low-key, less hassle approach to beauty on Christmas Eve. This means lots of stuff that makes us feel good and none of the stuff that doesn’t (we have never, ever experienced a fake tan application that was pleasurable). First up is a candle. We’ve always railed at the clichéd awfulness of most scented candles — choose the wrong one and your home is filled with the most nasty synthetic aromas around, just a notch up the ladder from air fresheners. But choose the right one and they do have something of a transformative effect. This does, unfortunately, mean you have to spend a bit more money, but for indulgent

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Christmas soaps


The news on ... MAKE-UP REMOVER MULTI-TASKING products are right up our street at the moment, especially as we are currently short on bathroom space. Sadly, many of the products around just don’t cut the mustard, as it were. But we’ve been using RoC’s Multi-Action Make-up Remover Milk for a few weeks now and we have to say it’s mighty good. It takes off make-up and eye-make up and moisturises, too. If your skin is especially dry you can use a moisturiser as well, but it works just fine when it’s on. Plus, it comes in a large bottle so you can cut down on your waste. Nifty.

TAKE THREE FESTIVE NAIL POLISHES WHATEVER about donning Santa hats and accessorising with tinsel — one of the more unusual ways of injecting a bit of festive cheer is with a nail polish. We draw the line at red nails with white tips (although, actually now that we think of it, that sounds pretty fun), but if you want to take a more sophisticated route there are shades around that give you a seasonal edge without all the bells and whistles.

Christmas Eve pampering, you cannot go wrong with a waxy treat from Tom Ford (see Stuff We Like), Diptyque or NEOM Luxury Organics. Get fabulously festive with Diptyque’s Pine candle, F57.76 or bliss out in the bath with NEOM’s beautifully tranquil English Lavender, Sweet Basil and Jasmine candle, F41.66. Next up is a bit of bath-time indulgence. For a taste of the exotic, pour in a swirl of beautiful bath oil — perfect for making your skin luxuriously soft, as well as helping to completely relax you. Neal’s Yard’s Exotic Bath Oil, F16.28, is one of our all-time faves but a few drops of tranquility-inducing lavender essential oil will work a treat, too. When you’ve got some downtime in the bath, it’s a great time to apply a face mask, especially to make sure your skin is looking peachy and not hungover on Christmas Day. You can knock one together from the contents of your fridge (avocado is particularly

good for the skin and there are great recipes online) or let someone else do the hard work for you with a shop-bought offering. Some of our favourite masks are the ones that really brighten and tighten our skin (Ole Henriksen’s Firm Action Mask, F44, tops the list), while others are excellent for giving your skin a real moisture boost, especially after weeks of too much drinking, freezing weather and dehydrating central heating. Eve Lom Rescue, F33.27, is perfect for skin suffering from too much revelling. For moisturising, try Voya’s Maskerade, F35 — it’s an organic mask that contains hydrating seaweed based ingredients and soothing chamomile. Finally, just before you’re ready to put on a DVD, slather yourself in a really indulgent body butter. Our favourites are the classics from The Body Shop. You can also find great body butter offerings from Boots, Bliss, Soap & Glory and L’Occitane. Happy Christmas.

enough of it, especially in the winter. It cocoons you in a veil of beautifully fragrant oils, with coconut, almond and avocado oils, scented jasmine and sweet geranium. And best of all, it leaves your skin super silky soft.

Ole Henricksen Firm Action Mask, F44. Not many masks get our seal of approval, but this Firm Action Mask is easily at the very top of our list. It’s particularly good for using when your skin is feeling hungover. It really does tighten up the pores, giving you the appearance of visibly springier skin. Excellent.

Estée Lauder Nail Lacquer in Extravagant Pearl, F17. Joy to the world! We’ve found a gold nail varnish that’s not too tacky. This looks like a very pretty Christmas decoration. It has a very pale gold shade and an ever-so-slightly sparkly tone to it. Essie Going Incognito, F11.99. We’re not quite sure why this polish is called Going Incognito — there’s nothing incognito about it. Instead it’s a lovely, suitably festive pine green shade. Mavala nail polish in New Delhi, F4.18. Reds really come into their own over Christmas: they’re classic, timely and very sophisticated (although make sure your upkeep is up to scratch, they look truly dreadful when chipped). This is a lovely, rich loganberry shade that will definitely perk up your spirits on Christmas morning.

STUFF WE LIKE Tom Ford Private Blend Tobacco Vanille Candle, F80. We know, 80 quid for a candle is a helluva lot, and it’s up to you to decide whether you think it’s worth it or not, but this is Tom Ford we’re talking about here. Yes, it’s very expensive, but it’s a treat. A real treat. It’s deliciously wintery without being too obviously Christmassy. Neals Yard Exotic Bath Oil, F16.20. This one has a dreamy scent to it, and we can’t get


Rituals Heavenly Hammam Bath Oil, F13.67. Argan oil is commonly regarded as one of the finest around — it’s rich in vitamin C and is great for conditioning the skin. This beautiful exotic oil, fragranced with eucalyptus, nods in the direction of Turkey’s cleansing Hammam steam bath rituals, which you can create in the privacy of your own bath without any pressure on time. Handy.


Bliss Lemon and Sage Body Butter, F35.66.

This best-seller from Bliss is a great choice for winter — it delivers a good old punch of hydration to the skin, while the zesty fragrance is a great olfactory refresher. If you’re not keen on citruss scents in winter, try the Vanilla and Bergamot flavour instead. Origins Peace of Mind, F12.95. If you’re stressed out to the max this Christmas Eve and you can’t find any Rescue Remedy, the Origins Peace of Mind could well fit the bill. Two dabs on the back of the neck, temples and earlobes will help you chill out, unwind and prepare yourself for the big day.



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Natural health


MY mother has Alzheimer’s disease. I’m worried I might develop the disease, is there anything I can do to prevent its onset?

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

A. There is lots you can do. A form of dementia, characterised by confusion, disorientation, speech disturbances, restlessness, memory failure, agnosia, hallucinosis, and an inability to perform purposeful movements, Alzheimer’s counts for over half of all dementia cases, and typically occurs over the age of 65 years. Research into Alzheimer’s patients shows deficiencies of vital nutrients such as B12, zinc, vitamins A, E, and beta carotene. These are needed for cognitive function and for preventing damage to the brain cells. Scientists are now claiming that supplementing daily with the B vitamins may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. B vitamins are best taken together, as they work synergistically, so find a good B-complex, such as the range offered by Solgar. Astaxanthin is a great antioxidant and Solgar’s Astaxanthin Complex contains an impressive 3.4mg per capsule plus lutein, beta carotene, canthaxanthin and other carotenoids (both Solgar supplements are available from local health stores or online at; 021-4278101). Aluminium has been linked with Alzheimer’s, and can be found in anything from anti-perspirant deEAT UP: Folate-rich green vegetables are believed to be odorants through to baking soda, effective in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s toothpaste, antacid preparations, disease and depression. Picture: iStock shampoos, and food additives. Long-term exposure to more subtle forms of and am trying not to scratch myself silly. radiation such as that emitted by television, Any advice on how to get relief would be microwaves, cellular phones and computers is greatly appreciated. also thought to impact on brain health. Diet wise there is plenty you can do: fresh A. Hives, also known as urticaria, are lolocal produce and wholefoods, apples, straw- calised swellings which are caused by an allerberries and essential fatty acids are particular- gic reaction to something. The main problem, ly good in the prevention of Alzheimer’s. besides the itching, is working out exactly Oxygenating herbs such as gotu kola, lifewhat it is that you are reacting to. flower (breviscapini), black walnut, blessed Often a good starting point is looking at dithistle, damiana, sage, and ginkgo biloba (not etary changes. Foods which commonly trigger available over the counter in Ireland) are all hives include milk, eggs, chicken, fruits, nuts helpful. Gotu kola in particular is well-suited and food additives, but if you have started eatfor Alzheimer’s since it contains a substance ing a new food or have recently switched known as bio-aluminium, which attaches to brands of a favourite food, then you may have manufactured aluminium and helps to refound the culprit. In some cases there is an unmove it from the body. Also drink pure wa- expected reaction to a previously tolerated ter and take exercise daily. food, so an elimination process may be necesFolic acid has also been reported in clinical sary. trials to be effective in the treatment and There is a strict elimination diet that needs prevention of Alzheimer’s and depression — to be followed for two whole weeks and can so make sure you get plenty of folate-rich clear the hives completely — the catch being dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and that you are only allowed to take water, rice, chard. lamb, pears and vegetables. Quercetin, vitamin C, and nettle (urtica Q. I have a bout of hives at the moment dioica) are all great in reducing the inflamma-

Megan puts the spotlight on:


T THIS time of year, despite the association of joy and happiness with the festive season, anxiety and depression are more common than most people realise. Whether it be due to family stresses, financial issues, loneliness, or even SAD (seasonal affective disorder), Christmas is often a time when our feelings may be intensified, minimised or ignored. Some of my favourite herbs for regulating mood and treating depression naturally are rhodiola, sutherlandia, ashwagandha, and St John’s Wort. This last herb (aka hypericum perforatum) has often been the subject of much controversy — but in most cases of mild depression where the patient is not on


other medication, it has proven to be very effective. Rhodiola (rhodiola rosea) and ashwagandha (withania somnifera) go well together since the two appear to work synergistically. Rhodiola (also known as rose root) is an adaptogenic herb which helps regulate mood and improve energy, while ashwagandha (often called Indian ginseng) works well to reduce stress and anxiety and refresh the mind and body. I have written about the benefits of sutherlandia frutescens before,


tion and itching associated with hives — BioCare has a product called Quercetin Plus which combines all three along with bromelain, which is another powerful natural anti-inflammatory, and fabulous digestive aid. Avoid bromelain if you are allergic to pineapples. Quercetin Plus costs F24.42 for 90 capsules and is available from Here’s Health (details earlier). Topically, chickweed, calendula, and oats are all wonderfully soothing — combine the dry herbs in a bath or make a strong tea and soak a cloth in the liquid and wrap the affected areas (or dab on if this is difficult). Q. I recently purchased some maca but I can’t tolerate the taste. I would appreciate any suggestions as to how I can make this more palatable as I feel that it would be very beneficial for me to take. A. Maca increases energy levels, improves mood, and is a powerful antioxidant (it has approximately 100 times the levels found in other cruciferous crops such as broccoli and cabbage). It is a complete protein and high in many vitamins and minerals, including calcium and zinc. Maca has a reputation for balancing hormones, and is an adaptogenic herb — which simply means that it regulates underlying imbalances rather than elevating or lowering hormone levels. Used as a superfood and sexual healer for thousands of years, maca was given to Inca warriors before battle to increase strength, and used to improve the fertility of people and livestock alike. It was considered to be such a valuable crop that the Spanish levied a tax in maca rather than gold. As you have already discovered, the taste of maca is not to everybody’s liking. I personally don’t mind it, but have met many a person who has had a strong reaction to the somewhat earthy and ‘malty’ flavour. It is always a good idea with such a supplement to start with a low dose and get used to the taste rather than using the full recommended amount straight away. Adding maca to smoothies is a great way to hide its strong flavour — start with ½-1 teaspoonful and increase a little by little each day until you warm to the flavour and can comfortably take 1-2 tablespoons at a time. Combining maca with banana, four to six dates, vanilla, honey, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of tahini, and a cup of water makes a lovely smoothie loaded with health benefits. Or you can make maca bliss balls using 1 tablespoon of maca with 1 cup of any soaked dried fruit, ½ cup of soaked nuts (cashews or macadamia work well here), ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and ¼-½ teaspoon of almond essence. Blend together in a food processor and roll in coconut, carob or cacao. Store in the fridge.

Lifting depression under the brand name Filisa. Sutherlandia has long been used to treat extreme emotional distress, particularly depression and grief, but since it is an adaptogenic herb it also enables the body to increase resistance against physical, chemical and biological stresses, while helping to boost recovery by normalising physiological functions. It is available from (00 44 1484-689 807) where 120 freeze-dried cap-


sules cost £26.50 (F31.22). The website is impressive with a wealth of information and support resources available. The site is hosted by Helen McNallen, author of the book, Depression Can Be Fun. Another excellent free online resource is the MoodGYM training programme,, developed by the Australian National University and based on cognitive behaviour therapy and interpersonal therapy. MoodGYM is designed to help individuals identify whether they are having problems with emotions like anxiety and depression, and to learn skills that can help in coping with these emotions.




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Feelgood 05-03-2010  

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