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Friday, July 29, 2011

Scrunch time

How to take control of your stress levels at work: 8, 9


Young woman gets to meet her sperm donor dad: 4, 5


Operation Transformation leaders on life after TV show: 6


Eight brands of ground coffee put to the taste test: 12



2 News front Kate O’Reilly WHAT’S ON ■ DIABETES PROGRAMMES: HSE Community dietitians across Cork and Kerry have just announced that they will be running a series of free group education programmes for people with type 2 diabetes over the coming months. The X-PERT programme is a free six-week (2½ hours a week) diabetes group education programme. Programmes will take place in Killarney, Dingle, Farranfore, Cork city, Bandon, Skibbereen, Dunmanway, Mallow, Charleville and Midleton. For more details, contact the Health Promotion Department in Cork at 021-4921641 or Kerry at 064-6670763. ■ GUIDED WALK. Join Kevin Corcoran, author of West Cork Walks, tomorrow for a 12km hike at Castledonovan Dunmanway. A donation of €20 will go to help famine victims in Somalia. Contact Marjorie Cullen on 087-2887596. ■ FREE ZUMBA: The Clonakilty Waterfront Festival, which opened last night, offers music and fun events over the bank holiday weekend. For those who would like to try something different, there is a free Zumba class at the Waterfront site tomorrow afternoon between 2 and 4pm. Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance fitness program, designed to be a fun workout. There will also be a West Cork Strongman competition. There will also be a farmers’ market on Sunday, from 12 to 4pm at the festival grounds. For full details visit ■ RELAXATION CLASS: Alpha Hypnotherapy Centre in conjunction with the SMA parish community centre in Wilton, Cork, will run a free four-week relaxation class beginning on August 2 at 2.30pm. All are welcome but places are limited (over 18s only). Call Stephen on 021-4318796 or see ■ TAI CHI: During the Kilbrittain Festival next weekend, there will be free Infinite Tai Chi / Chi Kung classes above the whale in Kilbrittain Village Park on August 5 at 8pm, August 6, at 2pm and August 7 at 2pm. Visit or call 085-1691304 for more details. ■ CHOLESTEROL CHECK: The Flora pro.activ Cholesterol Challenge is travelling around the country this summer offering free cholesterol checks and expert advice on diet and lifestyle. The Flora pro.activ nurses will be will be in Ennis on August 3 from 12 to 2pm, to carry out the cholesterol checks, which take just five minutes. Visit to find out when the Flora nurses are coming a town near you. ■ KILLARNEY SUMMERFEST: Killarney SummerFest will be celebrating the UN International Year of the Forest and 2011 Year of Craft at Killarney Outlet Centre over the August bank holiday weekend. This free event will include art workshops, puppet shows and a traditional crafts village. To view all the activities in the festival programme visit Items for inclusion in this column can be sent to




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Amy Winehouse’s death was far from cool and rock ’n’ roll. Arlene Harris gets an addiction counsellor’s reaction

Addict agony E

VERYBODY knows that Amy Winehouse should have gone to rehab. Despite singing to the contrary, the tragic Londoner, who died of ‘unexplained causes’ last Saturday, may have had a longer life if she had sought help for her addiction to drugs and alcohol. Her father, Mitch, claimed at her funeral his daughter had beaten her addiction but since her rise to fame in her early 20s the talented singer went from a curvaceous, vibrant, jazz sensation to a skeletal shadow in her final days. Her reliance on drugs and alcohol (vodka in particular) was widely known and is most likely to be the cause of her demise. But despite her sad and lonely death at just 27 years of age, many fans seem reluctant to acknowledge how catastrophic an addiction can be. Amongst the flowers and cards left outside her home in north London, bottles of vodka and packets of cigarettes were also seen as fitting tributes. Austin Prior of the Rutland Centre for addiction in Dublin says this is the most shocking reaction of all. “The death of Amy Winehouse is so awful but it is also so commonplace — I can’t count the amount of funerals (of addicts) I have gone to this year,” he says. “But I am still trying to make sense of the people who left alcohol and cigarettes outside her house — what are they trying to say, that her death was cool and somehow rock ’n’ roll? “Nothing about addiction is cool —

N0, NO, NO: Amy Winehouse whose death this week lead to tributes of cigarette packs and vodka bottles being left outside her home. Picture: Jason Bell whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex — it causes so much grief and heartache. Some people are predisposed to it while others become physically addicted very quickly if they dabble in hard drugs or become dependent on alcohol. “And quite often there is an emotional issue which causes someone to look for a coping mechanism. They start using tentatively and can broaden out to stronger substances — if this isn’t stopped in time, the

results can be devastating.” Prior says families should seek help for loved ones if they are worried about addiction. “The physical signs of addiction are often very obvious,” he says. “Mood swings, dishonesty and unreliability are also apparent. No-one can force someone to go to rehab, but they can make life more difficult for the addict so they are not enabling his/her habit. “Let them know that you love them but you won’t be covering their tracks or sorting out their problems — urge them to seek help and tell them you will be there for them. “That also goes for alcohol abuse — we have a huge tolerance for it in Ireland but most people don’t realise that it’s an extremely dangerous drug. Apart from the physical ravages of drinking too much, domestic violence, sexual crime and road deaths go hand-in-hand with too much alcohol.” Every seven hours, a person in Ireland dies from an alcohol-related illness, says Action Alcohol Ireland. And there are four times as many deaths in Ireland due to alcohol as due to all other drugs combined. “If you or your loved-one is an addict, contact us for help,” says Prior. “No-one will judge or criticise you and most importantly, you will see that you are not alone.”

■ For more information visit or call 01-4946358.

HEALTH NOTES ZINC supplements in high enough doses may shorten the duration of common colds by more than 40%, a study has found. Scientists analysed the combined results of 13 trials testing the ability of zinc lozenges to fight off colds. Three studies showed that daily doses of zinc acetate higher than 75 milligrams shortened colds by an average 42%. Five others using other types of zinc salt at doses greater than 75mg produced a 20% reduction in cold duration. But five studies of zinc doses lower than 75mg showed no benefit at all. Zinc is important to the immune system and deficiency is known to increase the risk of infection. The new findings were published this week in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal.

Broken sleep may partly explain the memory loss associated with ageing, Alzheimer’s and alcoholism. Scientists used a technique that controls brain cells with light to demonstrate the link between sleep and memory in mice. They showed that sleep continuity, rather than the quality or total amount of sleep, was important for memory. Working at the cellular level, fragmenting sleep made it harder for mice to remember familiar objects. The findings may have implications for the understanding of memory

TAKING CARE: Munster and Ireland rugby star Jerry Flannery and Minister Lucinda Creighton join MS Ireland in the launch of a friendship campaign to raise vital funds for the MS Care Centre. Picture: Maxwells

impairment related to ageing and a range of medical conditions, say the researchers in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A clinical trail has found that a genetic “patch” may halt the progress of the Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMM), one of the biggest genetic killers among children. Though the therapy may not cure the hereditary muscle disease, which mostly affects boys, it has the potential to lessen its severity and offer an improved diagnosis. According to The Lancet, if early findings are confirmed in an extended trail due to take place next year, the exon-skipping ther-

FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

apy could be used in the treatment of up to 70% of DMD patients.

MS Ireland, the society for people with multiple sclerosis, has just launched Friends of the MS Care Centre campaign. It aims to raise €250,00 for the specialist nursing programme, therapeutic services and much-needed repairs at Ireland’s only dedicated respite and therapy centre for people with MS. The centre crucially, also enables family members to take a break from caring. To support Friends of the MS Care Centre appeal, make a donation, set up a direct debit or organise a fundraising event in your home, workplace or community visit

Editorial: 021 4802 292

Advertising: 021 4802 215



In Profile

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Bonnie Tyler

Careering ahead I NTERNATIONAL singing sensation Bonnie Tyler plays three concert dates in Ireland next month. The star — whose smash hits include It’s A Heartache, Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Holding Out For A Hero, and Faster Than The Speed Of Night — lives much of the year in Portugal though she still has a home in her native Wales. She has been married to Robert Sullivan since 1973. “I picked the right man. We just get on so well. He’s my best friend,” says Bonnie, who was 60 this year and who doesn’t have children. “Sometimes I wish that we’d started trying earlier. We started very late. I had a miscarriage when I was 40. It was always career, career, but I’m a big believer in what’s meant to be and I have lots of nieces and nephews.” Bonnie had surgery in the 1970s to remove nodules on her vocal cords. “I’d just made my first hit record. My singing voice was more husky afterwards,” she says. Bonnie Tyler performs live in concert on August 5 at the INEC, Killarney; August 6 at Castlebar’s Royal Theatre; and August 7 at The National Concert Hall, Dublin. What shape are you in? I could do with losing three or four kilos but it’s very difficult after the menopause. I find weight around the middle is the hardest to shift. It doesn’t stop my energy but I’ve got so many clothes I wish I could wear. Once, I lost 16lbs in one month while on the Atkin’s diet, but you can’t keep that up.


real roses — the old-fashioned ones. I also like the smell of roast chicken and stuffing. What trait do you least like in others? I hate people who are stuck-up. It’s totally unnecessary to be snobby.

What trait do you least like in yourself? I like myself but I wish I had stronger willpower when it came to sticking with diets. Do you pray? Yes. My parents had good faith. My father used to always tell us to thank God for all our blessings. I remember seeing my dad — after my mum died — on his knees praying, with all my mother’s rings laid out in front of him. When I was a girl I went to church three times a day. I’m not a devout Christian now but I believe in God and in treating people as I’d like to be treated.

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Do you have any health concerns? Fortunately, no, but the one thing that frightens me is that my mother died of Alzheimer’s. It’s an awful disease. People think it’s just memory but it’s so much more than that — your whole body shuts down. I do Sudoku, especially when I’m on a flight. If that keeps my brain going — great. What are your healthiest eating habits? I love a good salad. I like a bean salad and I love rocket and olive oil, which is a good fat.

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What would keep you awake at night? Alcohol — I like to drink red wine. It puts me to sleep but then I wake up after a short while.

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How do you relax? Portugal is how I relax. Once I step of the plane in Portugal, I just switch off. I love it there. I also relax on my boat — it’s a 50ft Princess, a motorboat with a fly bridge — the Algarve has such a beautiful coastline. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, my mother and father — just to see them again. And my mum wouldn’t have Alzheimer’s.

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When did you last cry? When my nephew’s daughter, Amelia Rose, was born. It was so bloody marvellous, amazing. What’s your favourite smell? I love lily of the valley and the smell of


For more info on treatment and training visit SINGING SENSATION: Bonnie Tyler is a believer in what’s meant to be. She has been married to her husband, Robert Sullivan, since 1973. FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011




Family life

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JoEllen Marsh’s quest to find her biological father speaks volumes about the changing



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notions of family and relationships in the 21st century, writes Nick McGrath

Meeting my donor dad

OELLEN MARSH’S life began 22 years ago in a pornography-lined, “collection” cubicle at the Los Angeles headquarters of California Cryobank, a private semen cryopreservation organisation. From there, the sample produced by her biological father, donor 150, was sent to Pennsylvania, where nine months later JoEllen was born to her biological mother, Lucinda Marsh. Twenty years later, a remarkably accepting JoEllen is calmly recounting the story of how her innate desire to connect with her extended donor family has evolved into an absorbing documentary. Donor Unknown: Adventures in the Sperm Trade, is a film that raises questions about nature versus nurture, modern medicine’s ethics and the shifting composition of contemporary families. “Even when I was very young,” says JoEllen, “I realised that my family wasn’t like other families.” Informed by her lesbian mothers from an early age that “a kind man they didn’t know” had helped her to be born, the concept of a traditional fathersimply never arose. “My upbringing seemed completely normal to me, as it was all I knew,” says JoEllen, who grew up with a younger sister, Mollie, 16, born to the same mother but conceived from a different sperm donor. But JoEllen had a lot of questions that couldn’t be answered. “The way I moved was not like the rest of my family. And if you don’t know who your father is, you wonder about the strangest things — what are his ears like? What is his forehead like? Why do I have these interests when no one else in my family does?” When JoEllen was seven, she was shown her donor’s profile and for the first time had tangible evidence of the paternal genetics of her own physiology and psychology. The profile makes illuminating reading and it’s easy to see why donor 150 caught her prospective parents’ attention: “Caucasian, aged 28, 6ft, blue eyes, light brown hair, guitar player, dancer and philosophy major.” The clincher, though, was the mission statement, donor 150’s parting shot so to speak. “My deepest aspiration in life is spiritual,” his declaration concludes. “This earthly life is transitory and the joys of this world are ephemeral. So keep your moment and, if sincere, great fortune will come.” “Reading the profile was incredibly exciting,” remembers JoEllen. “To see what my donor had written about himself was really important and allowed me to begin creating a picture of what kind of person this man might be.” The compulsion to track him down came later though. “I did wrestle with my identity a little when I was younger,” admits JoEllen, “but my parents did a great job raising me and I don’t think I would have turned out too differently if I’d had a father figure. “My solid foundation comes from having such a big, extended family, having very supportive parents and because I’ve never been made to feel embarrassed about my upbringing.


Soon after, JoEllen, already buoyed by the discovery of a further three half-siblings — Rochelle Longest, Fletcher Norris and Ryann McQuilton — received a call from DSR co-founder Wendy Kramer informing her that donor 150 was coming forward. “I was amazed,” says JoEllen. “The fact that he just voluntarily turned up and said, ‘Hey, I’m open to contact,’ took a lot of courage, and I was just so excited to find out what he looked like and what sort of a man he was. “As a young child, I’d fantasised that he would be some sort of celebrity or a successful businessman or someone glamorous who travelled the world so I couldn’t wait to finally find out.” What JoEllen hadn’t visualised was a former Playgirl centrefold and erotic dancer with a history of depression and a penchant for wild conspiracy theories, who lived in an RV in a California car park with his dogs and a pigeon. Born in Delaware to upper middle-class parents who divorced when he was six, and clearly unsettled by his father’s military-style parenting (morning “inspections” were commonplace for Jeffrey and his sibling “troops”), he suffered from severe depression as a teenager, and from an early age sought solace in the companionship of animals.

She was informed by her lesbian mothers from an early age that “a kind man they didn’t know” had helped her to be born


HAPPY FAMILIES: JoEllen Marsh with her biological father, Jeffrey Harrison and two of his four dogs, in Venice Beach, California. Since her search for her father and biological family began, she has discovered she is one of 14 half-siblings. “If my mum had been embarrassed about it or had been shy in talking about it then I might have felt like it was something I should hide. But everyone has always been very comfortable talking about it and that made a big difference in me growing up and being comfortable and stable.” When she was 12, her mother showed her an article about a website, (DSR), that was created to help donor siblings and parents find each other. “I had no intention of doing anything concrete about finding my donor father until I turned 18,” says JoEllen, “but I signed up anyway, entered my donor number, and just waited. I dreamed that he’d make contact, but I never expected it to happen.” For two years, progress stalled. But then Danielle Pagano, 14, visited the DSR website after learning from her married heterosexual parents that she, too, was a donor child.

Seething with resentment that her parents had kept the facts of her conception from her, and armed with her donor profile number , which was 150, Danielle entered her details on to the site and instantly discovered that she had a half-sister, JoEllen Marsh. Following a flurry of awkward emails and phone calls, the girls first met in New York when JoEllen was 16 and Danielle 15. “That first meeting was surreal,” recalls JoEllen. “We spent the first 15 minutes just saying how weird the whole thing was but somehow we could feel a connection.”


round the same time, the girls were contacted by a New York Times journalist writing an article about donor siblings, and the story of their collective quest to find their donor father

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made front-page news. On the other side of America in California, in a Venice Beach cafe, 52-year-old retired sperm donor Jeffrey Harrison was enjoying a morning coffee when the New York Times story caught his eye. “What jumped off the page,” he says, “was Danielle’s anger and the fact that she was pissed off that her parents had lied to her. I had been lied to as a kid by my parents, and that tore me up.” Jeffrey recognised himself as the donor in the story because he remembered his donor number from when he signed up with the California Cryobank. Initially, he assumed it must be from another clinic, but then he read on and saw that it was from the California branch and … the rest is very peculiar family history. “At that very moment I knew I had to let them have closure. Whether they approved or disapproved of me; it was their right.”

ore comfortable on society’s margins, and flitting between jobs as a model, waiter and a masseur after he moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s, he’d downgraded from apartment to mobile home, and his closest relationships remain canine. “But,” says Jeffrey, who could surely have made a comfortable living had he pursued a career as an Iggy Pop look-alike, “I am a big family man. It’s just that most of my children have four legs.” Yet when he began to donate sperm at the California Cryobank in the early 1980s — he donated over an eight-year period and was paid up to $80 a contribution — he did so with his own, very particular intentions. “I donated about 500 times, and they’re all tiny little souls,” he says from the makeshift, debris-strewn lounge in his bohemian beachside mobile home. “When I did the donation I always felt there was a miracle attached to it – this divine miracle — and that somehow I was karmically being asked to be a soul caller. There’s not one I did where I did not go completely deep.” JoEllen Marsh’s first sight of her biological father took 15 minutes to download on the screen of her home computer. “Wendy from the DSR had emailed a photo of Jeffrey, but my dial-up modem was so slow the image appeared pixel by pixel. “It was a very emotional moment. After all those years imagining what he would look like; first his hair, then his forehead and then those blue, blue eyes gradually revealed themselves. I’d already talked with the other half-siblings about which of our physical


FAMILY WAY: JoEllen with her mother, Lucinda Marsh and sister Mollie, 16, who was conceived from a different sperm donor. Picture:Tim Knox/Guardian similarities might have come from our donor so to be able to confirm, “yes, that’s where our eyebrows come from,” and, “that’s our face shape,” was surreal.” A year of phone and email communication followed until, shortly after JoEllen’s 18th birthday, under the sensitively watchful eye of director Jerry Rothwell’s cameras, she finally came face to face with her biological father for the first time, and despite his

eccentricities the connection was immediate. “It was a big moment and there were a lot of emotions going through my mind that took a while to process, but I never considered a negative outcome. I knew what to expect by the time we met and I’m cool with how Jeffrey is. “I’m not expecting him to be some sort of father figure for me. I’m already grown up, and that’s not what he signed up for. Accept-

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ing Jeffrey for who he is and actually getting to meet him was the most important part. “And I think that he really did think about the children he was creating. Obviously he did it for money, but he did have the thought in his mind that he was making children when he was donating.” When filming ended, JoEllen’s donor family had grown to 14 half-siblings. “The whole process has really opened my mind about the concept of family,” she says, “and made me realise that you don’t have to grow up with someone to consider them in some way part of your family. “So much of my family is non-biological but it’s different with Jeffrey and the other siblings. I feel this very strong connection with them all and yet I haven’t known them my entire life. But I do consider Jeffrey and my siblings to be very much part of my crazy 21st-century family. “As for the future, who knows? I know we’ll always be friendly and I’ll try to keep in touch. I’ll try to visit Jeffrey when I can and if I have kids in the future I’ll tell them the whole story, and I hope that I can introduce them to Jeffrey and their aunts and uncles. “It’s really cool that they’ll have all that extended family in addition to the family that I grew up with, and although it’s been kind of scary to be among the first donor siblings to find each other through the DSR I hope that other donor children will read my story and feel inspired to go out and create their own stories. “But the most important thing for donors and donor children and the parents of donor children is that they just need to remember that they are the ones who define the relationship, and it can move at whatever pace they are comfortable with. If they only want to share a picture, that’s fine. If they want to meet, that’s fine too. There are some amazing experiences to be had, so just be a little open about it and see where life takes you.” Donor Unknown: Adventures in the Sperm Trade is available on DVD. For details see:



6 Lifestyle change

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Six months ago, four people took up the Operation Transformation challenge. But what happened when the cameras were turned off? Arlene Harris finds out

Change for the better S

IX months ago, a group of overweight and somewhat unhappy people opened their lives to the public when they took part in the RTÉ challenge Operation Transformation (OT) with Kathryn Thomas. Of the participants, four leaders rose to the challenge and over the course of the eight-week programme shed the pounds and looked set to change their lives forever. But what happened to them once the cameras were switched off and the experts left them to their own devices? Next Wednesday, Kathryn revisits the transformers to find out if they have managed to stay on the straight and narrow — so we decided to do the same. Sinead Heffernan has five bakeries and four sons. She joined OT because she was spending so much time looking after everyone else that her 16 stone frame wasn’t getting any smaller. “My life was so busy between work and family that despite making sure everyone else ate properly, I was neglecting myself,” says the 38-year-old. “When I first started OT, I found it difficult to lose weight and started to panic but Karl (Henry) told me to persevere with my fitness routine and diet — because I ate very little during the day and made up for it in the evening, he believed my metabolism had totally shut down. “And he was right because suddenly I lost half a stone and from then on, I was on a roll.” Sinead went from 16 stone to 13.12 and although her dress size has changed from 18 to 14, she is determined to fit into a size 12 in time for Christmas. “I now eat porridge for breakfast, a sandwich with lots of salad for lunch and a good dinner in the evening — and on top of that I run 26k each week. I am losing weight, getting healthy and finding time for myself — it’s all been a great experience and I intend to keep it up.” Rachel Walker is 37 years old. When she applied to OT, she had just undergone a hysterectomy following treatment for cervical cancer. With three young sons, she felt overwhelmed by life and saw nothing positive in her future. “I was 13.8 stone and recovering from a radical hysterectomy when I heard about the show,” she says. “Neither my partner (Karl) nor I were working, we were eating really badly and I just felt like I had nothing to look forward to. “But as soon as I got picked for OT, things started to change. I had a purpose in life, the phone was ringing all the time and I was beginning to get a bit of my old confidence back.” Changing her eating habits didn’t faze Rachel as she was so motivated by the new found purpose in her life. “I was a junk food freak and because I was home with the kids all day and had nothing else going on, eating something nice was a treat. But when I started the challenge, I


NEW LOOK: (L-R) Rachel Walker, Emily Pigott, presenter Kathryn Thomas, Sinead Heffernan and Ronan Scully all shed weight and adopted a healthier lifestyle. learnt Eva’s (Orsmonde) recipes and started changing the way I ate. “I also started getting out for walks and finding things to do in the evening to stop myself from eating. Then on top of that, Sinead (Heffernan) offered me a job in one of her bakeries, so I now have a reason to get up and out every day.” Over the course of the programme Rachel’s weight went from 13.8 stone to 12.6 stone and while she is happy with the loss, she still wants to shed a few more pounds. “Since the series ended, I lost my way a bit and am still trying to find an ideal work/life balance,” she admits. “I lost a good deal of weight, but I need to continue until I get down to 12 stone.”

“Being part of the show gave me the incentive to keep going — I had become settled in my way of life and needed to shake things up. Initially, I was very enthusiastic and tried to do too much too quickly — but I’m 44, so wasn’t able for the pace. Once I found my own level, I got into the swing of things quite quickly.” Ronan (who works as a charity fundraiser) has replaced his daily chocolate bars and fizzy drinks with fruit and water. He also runs regularly and is currently in training for a marathon. “The whole experience was fantastic for me, I have changed my lifestyle, am fitter and healthier than ever and am really enjoying life with my wife and two daughters.”

Ronan Scully is the only man in the OT team. His weight dropped from 16.4 stone to 12.12 stone and he’s more than happy with the results. “Before joining the programme, I ate very badly and had no motivation to do anything. But my wife Jacqui and I adopted two little girls from Ethiopia and I realised that I wanted to be around to see them grow up, so I decided it was time for a change.

Emily Piggott is the youngest OT leader with the most weight to lose and at 18.6 stone, it wasn’t going to be easy. “I knew I had to do something about my weight as it had got out of control,” says the 22-year-old from Kerry. “I had never liked exercise so taking part in OT was a huge step for me and it was really difficult from the start. “One of our first exercise challenges proved

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that I could only run 250 metres. That was really pathetic for someone my age, so although it was an awful wake-up-call, it gave me the incentive to keep going.” Emily, who attends UCC, began following Eva’s recipes and taking the fitness tips advised by Karl. “Switching my diet wasn’t too hard, but getting used to exercising was a turning point,” she says. “Since my lowest moment — carrying a leaking canister of water up and down a steep hill during an army drill — I have changed my attitude to exercise and realised that it is really the only thing which works. “I have actually started to enjoy exercising and it has become a hobby rather than a chore. Now I run between 2k and 5k daily and my weight has dropped from 18.6 stone to just over 15 stone. My goal is to be 12 stone by Christmas, so I still have a way to go — but I’ve seen what gets results and I am determined to fulfil my challenge.” ■ Operation Transformation — Six Months and Counting is a three-part series which starts on Wednesday, August 3, on RTÉ 1 at 8pm.




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Are you really true to yourself when with others, or do you hide behind defensive communication?

The real truth


Tony Humphreys


NE of the biggest challenges that faces us as adults is to own the fact that no matter what we say, we are always talking about ourselves. For unconscious reasons this is a bitter pill to swallow as we’ll see. We tend to illusorily believe two things: what I say is about the other and what the other says is about me. For example, I say “you’re always late”, I think what I’m saying is about the other person’s tardiness. But ask yourself the question: how come I’m making that statement and why am I not saying what I’m really feeling — “I’m really feeling angry and frustrated at having to wait around every time you’re late”. And, furthermore, what is it that underlies your waiting? Is it not the case that you are late in the caring of yourself and the setting of a boundary around the agreed meeting time? As long as you believe that your statement “you’re always late” is about the other, then you are waiting for him or her to change and to take responsibility for the neglect that you perpetrate on yourself by waiting beyond the agreed time. There is some hidden insecurity that leads you to do that and, unless this becomes conscious, you will cleverly hold to the illusion that when you talk you are talking about the other person. Perhaps “being the nice person” is your means of getting recognition and you don’t want to jeopardise that protection by taking action for yourself by going about your business when the other person fails to arrive at the agreed time. Another possibility is that at a core level you dread conflict and any confrontation means risking it and you thereby avoid it. Until you resolve your dependency on “being the nice person” to gain recognition and/or stand firm in the face of conflict you won’t allow consciousness of what you say is about yourself to emerge. The other wonderful illusion is that what another says is about you. This is when you personalise what another person says, rather than seeing that what the other says is about, and belongs to, him or her. When you personalise, for example, what you perceive as a judgement — “you’re so selfish” — there is a protective purpose, unconsciously created, to internalising the message that belongs to the other. Possible protective intentions may be not wanting others to see how badly you see yourself, or fear of conflict, or not wanting to reveal inner doubts about your worth and intelligence. The defensive response — to the verbal expression of another — of internally blaming self, or silent emotional and physical withdrawal, or taking on responsibility for what the other person says by attempting to appease him or her, is to keep hidden the truths that dare not be expressed. Examples of defensive communication are being: ■ Judgemental ■ Dominant ■ Controlling ■ Passive


WHAT LIES BENEATH: Difficult behaviour may be a subconscious act by a person to hide aspects of their personality that they are not comfortable with, or do not want exposed. Picture: iStock ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Arrogant Manipulative Verbally threatening Blaming of self Blaming of others Rigid Non-listening Hypercritical Emotionless Each of these ways of communicating hides an aspect, or aspects, of oneself that we dare not reveal due to threats we experienced when children.

Possible hidden issues are being: ■ Real ■ Authentic ■ Spontaneous ■ Different ■ Assertive ■ One’s own individual self ■ Vocal about physical, emotional, sexual or intellectual violations ■ Fearful ■ Emotional Resolution of defensive communication involves getting behind the defensive walls and bringing out what lies hidden. When individuals, particularly, those in leadership and management roles — parents, teachers, managers, bankers, chief executive officers, managing directors, doctors, psychologists, social workers, priests, bishops, cardinals and the Pope — communicate defensively, then issues that need resolution go underground and fester like an untreated wound — a reality that is now rocking the country, economically, socially, religiously, politically and educationally. Sadly, I don’t see the leading players, whose actions are responsible for the major downturn, seeking psychological help for the hidden unconscious issues that urgently need resolution. If they don’t take responsibility, the outlook is not good. Tony Humphreys is a clinical psychologist, author and director of a one-year certificate course in interpersonal communication in UCC — For further information contact Margret at 021–4642394 or 086–1730012.

FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

Target more females in Munster and Cork than any other daily newspaper. To reach them, advertise in ‘Feelgood’.

Call Lori Fraser Tel: 021 4802265





Cover story

Staying calm

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The recession has helped to pile pressure on staff in many companies, but there are ways of reducing workplace stress, writes Áilín Quinlan

Make it work for you A

S THE RECESSION bites ever says Williams, who is based in Oxford Univerdeeper and staff aren’t replaced, sity, England. fewer employees are having to do “Their thinking becomes rigid and people it all and the pressure at work has never been can suffer from tunnel vision in their place of greater. work and family life, which compounds the But companies faced with a stark choice of problem. Employees will give less of their best sink-or-swim may forget that an over-worked, — they won’t think creatively and they will stressed-out workforce is less productive than not come up with thinking outside the box one where employees enjoy a stable work-life and they will not be engaged. balance. “Production will fall simply because people The pressure on companies is intense, says cannot think of creative solutions to their Rowan Manahan, author and managing direc- problems. We know that when people are untor of Fortify Services, a Dublin-based consul- der stress their level of engagement falls and tancy service providing support and training to their performance falls.” organisations and individuals: Ireland’s slimmed-down labour force “This is a case of, ‘Will we survive is certainly under intense stress. to the end of the week?’. When “There are greater demands on you have that kind of knife at your people now and they’ve throat, pressure happens and evfewer resources to meet eryone in the organisation feels it. the demand. Companies You have a heightened sense of are afraid to replace peoanxiety. People are feeling very ple because they’re not insecure in the workplace, very confident about incoming fearful. business. They place additional “I’m seeing a lot of people demands on staff by a continwho are burnt-out and uing lack of resources. stressed out, people who “This in turn affects feel they cannot take time staff performance, reduces off. They’re afraid to take productivity and impacts sick leave from their job.” on the company’s perFigures on workplace formance,” warns Claire absenteeism between Burrows, managing di2004 and 2009 bear him rector of Natural Onout. In 2004, worksite Wellbeing, an place absences were employee-wellbeing about 3.3% or 7.6 days MIND THE GAP: Claire Burrows, MD of service. Natural Onsite Wellbing, says stress is average per employee Stress has been dedefined as the gap between demand and for the year — this fined as the gap beresources. Picture: Nick Bradshaw. dropped to 2.58% or tween demand and re5.9 days average in sources, she points out. 2009, according to statistics from the Irish Meanwhile, says Manahan, some employers Business and Employer’s Confederation are consciously getting tougher. “In these (IBEC). harsh times there’s a growing belief among A spokesperson for IBEC said that although some employers that they can tighten the it was difficult to attribute this reduction solely screw on people, particularly on employees to the economic climate it was possible who may have been a little slack in their that employees’ perception of reduced practices in the past, because now those job security and the financial impact employees have nowhere else to go. Emof being absent may have contributed ployers can go into the ‘cornered rat’ to the drop in the overall absence mode as a result of the pressure from rate. Furthermore, she added, IBEC’s outside.” most recent business sentiment surBurrows knows one production-line vey showed 31% of companies exworker who only gets a toilet break evpected “improved absence manageery four hours. This woman suffers from ment” in the coming quarter. recurring urinary tract infections But while they may be at their but is discouraged from desks, stressed-out, drinking the water she over-worked employees needs for her condition don’t necessarily perform because she can’t go to well, warns Professor the toilet regularly. Mark Williams, co-auShe’s afraid to talk to thor of Mindfulness, the company A Practical Guide to because she doesn’t Finding Peace in a believe they will Frantic World. listen. “We know that “That’s a type of MANAGE YOUR TIME: Business psychologist Joe when people are problem we see under stress they quite a lot of — MacAree suggests that time management and cannot think very organisational skills are important in relieving people don’t feel easily or quickly,” they can say no,” pressure. Picture: Nick Bradshaw


Burrows comments. However, she says, in the end everyone needs to take some responsibility for their own wellbeing. “You cannot just blame your boss or the traffic or your finances,” she says. It’s about developing coping strategies to deal with the workplace pressures brought on by recession. “We work with people around understanding the nature of stress and how they should build quality recovery time into every day,” says Burrows, whose service includes onsite massage and reflexology, yoga, tai chi, time management and motivation. If you are feeling the pressure taking its toll, then don’t wait for the annual fortnightly holiday, counsels Burrows. Take some responsibility yourself for building some relaxation into your day. “Try deep breathing at the desk. Take regular breaks and avoid eating lunch at your desk — your digestive system doesn’t work properly if you eat in a stressful environment.” Nourish a different way of approaching day-to-day life, advises Professor Williams. Practise mindfulness. He recommends taking a few minutes out — or even just one minute — a couple of

times a day to do simple meditation that can be of benefit to stressed-out employees. “Mindfulness is mental training which enables us to change the pattern of thinking and feeling. Mindfulness means awareness. It cultivates the ability to see your negative thoughts and feelings without getting entangled in them. “Most of the time when we are under stress and are exhausted we start to feel worthless and failures and not so good. “Mindfulness enables you to focus on the task in hand and ground yourself in the present. It also improves your attention span.” There’s a lot of evidence to show that stress and pressure can negatively affect employee performance — but people can actively reduce their personal stress, says business psychologist Joe MacAree of Pearn Kandola, a team of Irish-based business psychologists. “Recognise that you are under stress and talk to someone about it. Time management and organisational skills are important in relieving pressure. If you can control your work time, you can use that time most effectively.” It’s key to manage pressure successfully, advises MacAree. It’ll help you to cope with recession in the workplace. “Organisations can still help employees with well-being, but the individual has personal responsibility as well.”

Take a breath and chill PSYCHOLOGIST Joe MacAree suggests these ways to reduce your stress levels:

Hobbies don’t eliminate stress, but they do provide time out.

■ Tackle work issues head on and take positive actions to address problems.

■ If you’re feeling under pressure talk to someone — try counselling for underlying causes of stress. ■ If you’re experiencing physical stress symptoms such as eczema, consult your GP or pharmacist and get treatment.

■ Make rolling lists which are re-prioritised daily — this is a practical, tangible way of breaking down pressure — you don’t use energy trying to remember things. Picture: iStock

You can’t just blame your boss or the traffic or your finances. It’s about developing coping strategies to deal with the workplace pressures brought on by recession FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

■ Train yourself to relax and breathe, taking in longer, slower breaths. ■ Avoid comfort eating — maintain a balanced diet and smaller portions. ■ Exercise to get those good endorphins. ■ Sleep — if you’re experiencing difficulty, try a CD on relaxation techniques. ■ Pursue hobbies — often under stress we forget to do the things we most enjoy.

■ And three books to help you with stress and quieting your mind are:

■ Mindfulness; a Practical Guide to finding Peace in a Frantic World, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, published by Piatkus, €15. ■ Get Some Head Space — 10 Minutes can Make all the Difference, by Andy Puddicombe, Hodder & Stoughton, €15. ■ Teach Us to Sit Still; A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing by Tim Parks, Vintage, €9.

Picture: Nick Bradshaw

Being centred keeps balance R

OWAN MANAHAN incorporates mindfulness into his daily working life. The managing director of Fortify Services, who is also a consultant on workplace issues and author, says he has studied Chinese martial arts for decades. “To me, mindfulness is about bringing an equilibrium to a situation, being centred, grounded and observant and being aware of what is going around me. “It is like a moving meditation. Your brain has a chance to recover. Mindfulness means I can impassively accept whatever a client is telling me. “It means I don’t bring my ego or circumstances or baggage into my work so a client is getting impartial, logical, commonsensical advice which is specific to his or her needs — such as fears about giving a presentation or dealing with the shock of redundancy. What that client needs is real clarity brought to their thinking. “I practise mindfulness, but not on a conscious level. I discovered that it applies to many work practices and I find it an enormous advantage in my work. “I learned mindfulness in martial arts in my early 20s. A lot of people confuse concentration with mindfulness, but it’s not the same thing. Concentration can become tunnel vision. Mindfulness is being calm enough to deal with the circumstances in a way that is efficient and effective and in a way that allows for changing circumstance. “It’s very much about being in the now but not to the exclusion of the awareness of wider circumstances. You’re not detached to the extent that you cannot be empathetic. It is so much part of my working life that I don’t think about it, I don’t even notice that I do it any more.”



Medical matters

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MY father died recently from a burst abdominal artery. He was in his early 60s and in good health. There was no warning that anything was wrong. I have been told that this can lead to an increased risk in other family members. Is there any way of telling if I have this condition?

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

Q. I take calcium supplements for bone strength, but am confused as to whether I should continue to do so. I read recently that this may be damage your heart. What should I do?

A. There have been recent reports on calcium supplements and heart attack risk which can be alarming and confusing to many women. Studies looking at calcium supplements indicate A. What you are describing is an this may be problematic from a cardioabdominal aortic aneurysm — a weak vascular standpoint. It is not certain at area in the lower part of the aorta, the this stage if there is a direct cause and major blood vessel that supplies blood effect relationship between calcium to the body. The aorta runs from your supplements and heart problems. heart to your abdomen. And is about The risk seems to be higher the oldas thick as a garden hose. Because the er a woman is, but that may be beaorta is the body’s main supplier of cause old age itself increases cardiovasblood, a burst or ruptured abdominal cular risk. It’s not known exactly why aortic aneurysm can cause fatal or calcium supplements may pose a heart life-threatening internal bleeding. risk — as they’re a concentrated form These aneurysms can grow slowly and of a mineral they may cause a sudden usually without symptoms, making spike in calcium levels in the blood them difficult to detect. that can contribute to hardening of the Many aneurysms stay small and will arteries. never rupture. Others expand slowly However, the verdict with regards to (less than ½in per year) or enlarge at a dietary calcium is good. No increased faster rate, which increases the risk of risk is linked to a higher intake of rupture. It is difficult to predict how dietary calcium. Most recommendaquickly an aortic aneurysm may entions for calcium refer to total dietary ANEURISM RISK: Some of the symptoms of an enlarging large. If there is a family history of aortic aortic aneurysm include back pain, tenderness or pain in intake, it does not mean the extra amount of calcium that should be taken the abdomen or chest, and a pulsating feeling near the aneurysm, talk to your doctor about from supplements, but often that’s what navel. Picture: iStock regular abdominal ultrasound tests to happens. screen for this condition. Some of the Calcium supplements can be used to symptoms of an enlarging aortic help women attain total recommended inaneurysm include back pain, tenderness or take, not to augment daily intake. Women pain in the abdomen or chest, and a pulsatshould try to get as much of their calcium ing feeling near the navel. If you develop ing for abdominal aortic aneurysm using from food as possible. any of these symptoms, see your doctor. abdominal ultrasound. Men aged 60 and oldFor bone health, adequate calcium intake A family history is only one risk factor for er with a family history of this condition along with vitamin D is encouraged. abdominal aortic aneurysm. The damaging should also consider screening ultrasounds. Dietary sources of calcium include dairy effects of smoking caused directly to the If an aortic aneurysm is found, managearteries (atherosclerosis) is a main risk factor. ment depends on its size and if symptoms are products (low-fat), fortified juices and cereals as well as green, leafy vegetables, Also poorly controlled high blood pressure present. If it’s small in diameter and you have almonds, figs, sesame seeds, tinned sarcontributes to the build-up of fatty plaques no symptoms, your doctor may suggest a dines/salmon. 2-3 servings of dairy/vegetain your arteries, and can damage and weakwatch-and-wait approach — with regular six bles should get you there: recommended en them. Smoking also can cause an to 12 monthly ultrasounds. A large or levels of calcium for women is 1,000 aneurysm to grow faster by further damagfast-growing aneurysm will most likely need mg/day, for women 51 years or over it’s ing your aorta. This condition occurs usual- surgery to strengthen the weakened part and 1,200mg/day. ly in people age 60 or over. prevent rupture. ■ 8oz plain low-fat yoghurt = 415mg Men develop aortic aneurysms more often The best approach to prevent developing calcium than women. However, women have a an aortic aneurysm is to keep your blood ■ 8floz non-fat milk = 300mg higher risk of rupture than men if they devessels as healthy as possible — don’t smoke, ■ 6oz fortified orange juice = 200-260mg velop an aortic aneurysm. keep your blood pressure under control, get ■ 3oz canned salmon = 180mg Men aged between 65 and 75 who have regular exercise and reduce cholesterol and ■ ½ cup spinach = 120mg ever smoked should have a one-time screen- fat in your diet.

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 Feelgood

T’S a clever little money spinner, the colour divide that delineates our gender, beginning with the blankets in our cradle. It’s one the card companies shamelessly trade in and baby gifts are specially made from and it’s the kind of stuff you couldn’t make up unless you were an advertising guru on New York’s Madison Ave. It rules out hand-me-downs in a gender-mixed family of one son and one daughter and it leads to fisty-cuffs at dinner time if the wrong colour sippy cup is apportioned to a child who immediately decries it as either too masculine or too feminine and refuses the drink UNLESS the cup is pink, or refuses the drink BECAUSE the cup is pink. Yet what I thought was a marketing gimmick suddenly gains credence when the child by my side starts to gravitate unprompted towards the colour superficially linked to her gender. “Pink”, she replies, when asked to choose her favourite shade. This creates a challenge when the toys she enjoys are mostly those owned by her brother, none of which come in the colour she’s a preference for. Through a torrent of tears, I try to explain that Lightning McQueen is in fact male and that men, in general, are not into fuchsia hues — although pink tee-shirts are gaining currency and what with the man-bag breakthrough, it’s not completely

cockeyed to believe that somewhere down the line Lightning might find his feminine side...and in the meantime, there’s always Holley Shiftwell... Winnie the Pooh causes confusion. When she asks why Winnie’s not in pink, it’s hard to explain that despite the girl’s name, the bear is in fact male and that generally speaking, characters in children’s storybooks are not into cross-dressing. I wonder about this obsession with one particular colour and whether it’s a product of our culture. A study in Britain in 2007 claimed to pinpoint a robust sex difference in the red/pink-green/blue axis of human colour vision. Women were ahead of men in distinguishing red — which the study said may have evolved due to specific divisions of labour: while men hunted, women gathered, and they had to be able to spot ripe fruits and berries. Another half-baked theory suggests that women as caregivers have developed a sensitivity to reddish changes in skin colour (for instance if a child is flushed with fever) — and this is a skill that enhances their abilities as the “emphathiser.” Me, I blame the Walt Disney Princess Franchise and its 25,000 Disney Princess items. What chance has a little girl got against the world’s largest media conglomerate?

FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

What I thought was a marketing gimmick gains credence when the child by my side starts to gravitate unprompted towards the colour superficially linked to her gender



Meeting challenges 11

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Down syndrome doesn’t stop a 10-year-old Limerick boy — and others like him — from living life to the full, or learning to ride a bike, writes Sarah Murphy

Brian steers ahead W

HEN Tour de Munster 2011 — an annual four day charity cycle — gets underway next month, chances are it will be of more than passing interest to 10-year-old Brian Lowe from Mungret, Co Limerick. The event, which sees amateur cyclists cycle over 600km around the six counties of Munster, raised €250,000 for Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI) in 2010. DSI will be the beneficiary again this year. Since Tour de Munster 2010 was staged, Brian Lowe, who has Down syndrome, has learned to cycle. His parents, Ed Lowe and Michelle Leigh, who have one other child — Oisín, 14 — were determined that Brian would learn to ride a bike. “Most of our family have cycled,” says Ed, a project manager who works in industry. “Michelle, Oisín and I would do lots of activity, particularly when we go on holidays. We might cycle seven or eight miles down the road from the beach. I used to have a seat on my bike for Brian but — like with any child of eight, nine or 10 years of age — it was getting difficult. Brian would be a bit busy on the bike and I’d be all over the place.” Neither Ed nor Michelle allowed themselves to be put off by the challenges involved in teaching a child with a disability to cycle. “From our research, we realised that not many kids with Down syndrome cycle. We were a bit apprehensive because of issues of safety on the road but we tried Brian on a bike. He had a lot of difficulties around pedalling forward. It didn’t go so well and the bike was thrown aside for a while.” It was then that triathlon coach Mark Dempsey entered the picture. Over the past two years — on Saturday mornings in the grounds of University of Limerick — Mark has taught up to 30 children with Down syndrome to cycle. “We’d heard that Mark gets kids to cycle by taking the pedals and stabilisers off the bike, allowing them to first get their balance on the bike. We did that and Brian became very comfortable sitting on the bike and walking it around. Then we brought him to Mark and from then on he got into cycling. Any chance we got, we’d encourage Brian to cycle a few yards around the back of the house. Now he cycles, accompanied, on the main road. He has cycled over and back to his aunt, who lives five kilometres away. “Learning to cycle has been great for Brian’s self-esteem and independence. He’s doing regular exercise, which he enjoys. It’s good for his posture and his health and it’ll help keep weight down as well. It would have limited us as a family if he hadn’t learned to cycle. If we went away for a fortnight’s holiday, it would have been hard if we were restricted in terms of activity. Brian is part of the family so he has to fall in line with the rest of us.” Dempsey says he finds it very easy to teach children with a disability to cycle because they want to learn. “When they first come to me, 90% of them would be massively afraid of the bike. I take a maximum of three in any one session. There’s always one who won’t and one who’ll try everything. “What usually happens is that the more cautious child sees the fun the others are having and will want to try then. I never ask the


WELL ON THE ROAD: Ed, Brian and Michelle Lowe out for a cycle near their home in Ballybrown, Co Limerick. kids to get on the bike — they get on themselves.” Roger Kingston is chairperson of DSI’s Limerick branch. His 16-year-old daughter, Sinéad, who has Down syndrome, has also learned to cycle with Dempsey’s help. “Sinéad’s not going to be a rocket scientist but I believe an active body leads to an active mind,” explains Roger. “She has won gold medals in Special Olympics for gymnastics, athletics and swimming. She’s big into hip-hop dancing. Cycling now adds another string to her bow. It has broadened her ability in what she can physically do.” Proceeds from last year’s Tour de Munster helped equip a resource room in the DSI Limerick branch’s building. Funds also went towards sponsoring children with Down syndrome to take cycling classes.

Pictures: Sean Curtin/Press 22.

Down syndrome: The facts

■ The Tour de Munster, sponsored by the Irish Examiner, begins on Thursday, August 11, and continues until Sunday, August 14. For details on the Tour, visit or follow on Twitter at @tourdemunster.

FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

■ Down syndrome happens when there’s one extra copy of chromosome 21 in cells. In 1866, London-based Dr John Langdon Down was the first person to accurately describe the syndrome which bears his name. ■ A baby with Down syndrome is as much an individual as any other baby. It will have its own personality, as well as many family features and characteristics. The baby will be more like its own family than like any other person

with Down syndrome. ■ Nothing parents do causes Down syndrome — it just happens. It’s a lifelong condition and can’t be cured. ■ Almost one in two children with Down syndrome will have a heart condition. Children with the disability have a higher incidence of treatable health problems. ■ Down Syndrome Ireland is an organisation of people with Down syndrome and their parents and guardians. It has more than 3,000 member families with 25 branches nationwide, and is funded by voluntary contributions and fundraising events. It’s the biggest single group concerned with the welfare of people with a learning disability in Ireland. See




Food survey

Roz Crowley


HETHER or not coffee is good for us is debatable. On the plus side it can help with pain relief, asthma and migraine. The caffeine in it gives a boost, keeping us going a bit longer. Research from both sides of the debate comes out in favour of a little being good for us. However, a lot is not, a few cups a day being the limit before the body starts retaining fluid and it becomes a habit that is hard to kick. Excess of more than five cups a day can promote fluid retention which is not good for those suffering from PMT and breast tenderness connected with the menstrual cycle. In excess it can also increase the risk of osteoporosis and even affect chances of conception and miscarriage.

Swiss decaf, Cork Coffee Roasters, 225g €6 A blend of Colombian and Central African beans, this coffee is decaffeinated not by using chemicals but by water. It’s then roasted in Cork and comes from a particularly good range of caffeine-rich blends. Tasted blind, tasters could barely tell it had no caffeine and were very impressed. Smooth and easy drinking, perhaps not for those who seek the bitter edge to kick-start the day, but we judged this by what we can expect from a decaf coffee.

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The daily grind It’s difficult to judge coffee as there as many types with opinions and preferences to match. For this week’s survey we looked at coffee that suits a plunger/cafetiere to see what we can expect from each brand. Our panel of tasters was made up of dedicated coffee drinkers who found that most samples of their type were good and fair value. We drank it straight black and with milk. To get the best out of a plunger, heat the cafetiere with hot water from the tap while the kettle is boiling and pour it off before adding a heaped dessertspoon of ground coffee per person. Pour in water just off the boil. Stir well, leave for 3 minutes, plunge, serve and enjoy immediately. Coffee beans keep their freshness longer, so if you are an occasional drinker, I suggest investing about €15 in a grinder. Allow about 10 seconds to grind for a cafetiere. Beans and ground coffee of the same type usually cost the same. Make sure coffee makers are cleaned properly after use. Often the bitterness we taste in cafés is from machines which have residues and do the coffee a disservice. Don’t throw leftover coffee away. Instead pour over ice-cream or on cakes. Coffee can also be reheated in the microwave.

Maher’s Continental, 200g €5 With a lovely, rich aroma, this is what we expect in good cafes. A blend from Colombia and Java where beans are often heavy-bodied, rich and smooth, the flavour is also slightly nutty. All tasters liked this one. Score: 8

Picture:iStock Images

Marks & Spencer Colombian rich roast, €4.69 227g With an appetising, caramel aroma followed through a little in the taste, this has a gentle richness with well-balanced acidity, typical of Colombian coffee beans. Smooth and liked by all tasters. This brand also has other good blends. Fairtrade too which makes a difference to the lives of growers. Score: 7.75

Lavazza Rossa, 250g €4.44 Italian coffee is legendary, though in my experience, here and in Italy, it is inconsistent. The label gives no indication of where the beans come from, but I expect they are a clever blend from around the world which they can adjust as they taste different bean harvests. The vacuum pack keeps it well sealed. Once open make sure it’s kept in an air-tight container. Smooth and flavoursome, this is a good all rounder and suits cappuccino as well as straight black. Score: 7.5

Score: 8

Robert Roberts Fairtrade Guatemala medium strength, 227g €4.87 With overtones of chocolate, this is a pleasant coffee. Guatemalan coffee beans can have a lingering smokey flavour, and there is just the slightest hint here. Easy drinking, and medium strength, as it says on the pack. Score: 7.25

McCabes hand roasted coffee, Romano blend, 227g €6.50, from Coffee Central English Market, Cork Colombia is the world’s second largest producer of coffee after Brazil, the largest. Colombia produces consistently better beans than Brazil, but both work well when blended. This coffee is blend of both put together in Wicklow. In a good, resealable gold bag, this a typically easy drinking mild coffee with a lovely aroma. This one is no 3 medium strength from a range of other good, fuller flavoured coffees. All tasters liked its smoothness.

Bellarom Gold 500g, €3.59, Lidl The label states Arabica beans are used here, as many are, but this is no indication of quality. This one is quite smooth and full flavoured at first, but there is an edge on the back taste, suggesting it is a blend of countries. Not for beginners. Good price. Score: 5

Score: 7


FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

Alcafe Italian Blend, 250g €2.19, Aldi Southern Italian blends tend to be roasted darker than in the north. Brazil and Honduras beans lightly roasted usually deliver a green, grassy vegetable type of flavour. We find this here, but it also has the bitterness found in a medium roast. Overall it was very light on flavour and none of the tasters liked it. Inexpensive, but still not worth the price. Score: 3



Male health

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Online link a helping hand O

UT of grief can come good things, and the Scollard brothers, Oisín and Diarmuid, turned the death by suicide of their brother, Cormac, into an online mental health support community. Cormac died in January 2003 at the age of 33. “We felt anger, guilt and mixed emotions,” says Oisín. “My brother, Diarmuid, and I decided to combine our experience — he’s in graphic design and I’m in the legal profession — and it took a year to get up and running. “Cormac was gregarious and a great character. He was working on an album with a friend of his and when he got the album finished it was like that was it. He left good notes, saying it wasn’t anybody’s fault; he just had too many demons. We were all devastated but we decided to be quite public and vocal about suicide.” aims to help and guide people with personal problems, depression, anxiety,

Deirdre O'Flynn MOSTLY MEN

bullying, job loss and suicide. It’s also available to family and friends who may need support. “There has been a phenomenal response, we have 4,000 members online and people are signing up by the day,” says Oisín. The free service presents an opportunity to join a community of people who can log on anonymously and share, discuss and offload their problems. The content is written and supplied by a panel of clinical experts, headed by psychologist Philip Malone. The site is overseen by a panel of 30 moderators.

BIG SUPPORT: Oisín Scollard, pictured here, together with his brother Diarmuid responded to the death by suicide of their brother, Cormac, by setting up an online mental health support community. Picture: Nick Bradshaw “In the last year alone, we know of two people whose lives we saved. They were feeling suicidal and our moderators kept them online during the night and then they got help the next day. They came back online and told us what we had done,” says Oisín. The Turn2me charity now hopes to roll out self-help facilities in the near future. “We

Protecting health and safety of festival-goers

Discussing depression is tough, but essential

UNPROTECTED sex, dehydration, sunburn and diarrhoea are the top threats to the health and safety of festival-goers. “Music festivals and sports events are generally linked to higher than normal incidents of unprotected sex and we would often note a rise in requests for the morning-after pill following such events,” says pharmacist Rory O’Donnell from Donegal, vice-president of the Irish Pharmacy Union. “We’re warning people to plan ahead if they believe there is any chance of an unplanned sexual

OVER two-in-five people in Ireland would not want to know if a loved one was experiencing depression, according to findings in the 2011 Lundbeck Mental Health Barometer. Despite this, 93% of respondents agree that it is important that depression is discussed openly. However, when asked if they would find it difficult to discuss depression with their doctor, 70% agreed. “Mental health difficulties can be very distressing, not just for the person experiencing, but for their loved ones,” says Dr Harry Barry, pictured, a


encounter. Condoms are also essential to protect against sexually transmitted infections.” O’Donnell also offers advice on other essential items you might need for the weekend. “A few small items can help if you do become unwell such as medication for stomach upsets or diarrhoea; antiseptic cream for bites, stings or cuts. It is important to have sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher and antiseptic hand gel is always handy to have at outdoor events.”


SUGAR SCRUB: Whether it is dead skin build-up on your calves, or heels and elbows, Burt’s Bees new Cranberry & Pomegranate Sugar Scrub, €16.95, is a recipe for silky-smooth summertime skin. Simply apply to dry or wet skin and rub in a circular motion, making sure to rinse thoroughly. The natural sugar crystals scrub polish away dead skin cells, while a blend of cranberry seed and pomegranate oil, infused with vitamins and essential fatty acids, nourishes skin, while shea butter, olive oil and soybean oil provide a triple moisturiser effect. Burt’s Bees products are available in health stores and pharmacies.



Louth-based GP. “Approaching a healthcare professional for assistance is one of the most important steps.” Symptoms include feeling unhappy, guilty or tired most of the time, a loss of interest in life, feeling anxious, agitated or irritable, changes to sleeping patterns or, change in appetite. If a person is experiencing any of the above symptoms and/or are having any thoughts of suicide or death, it is advised that they talk to a professional or with groups such as Aware on 1890-303302.

have people from 20 up to their 70s seeking help online, married, single and a good mix of male and female,” says Oisín, adding that the recession has led to a noticeable increase in the demand for the service. ● For more information, see

DId you know...

Swimming is the most popular way to keep fit among Irish people (Source: Irish Sport Report, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute for the Irish Sports Council)

Managing hair, skin, nails


SEAWEED FORMULA: SKIN.NY has developed a supplement based on a seaweed extract which is designed to make skin appear more youthful, add lustre to hair and increase nail strength. The product, Hair.Skin.Nails, €24.99 for 60 capsules, contains red seaweed from the Atlantic which is rich in calcium and magnesium. The formula also contains grape seed extract, bamboo silica and zinc and is now available from health stores or online at


SLEEK SKIN: The new Lifes2good Wet and Dry Emjoi Dolphin Epilator, €39.95, is designed to remove even the shortest of hair on the legs, bikini line and underarms, giving results which can last up to six weeks. You can use the epilator in the bath or shower, which helps to open up pores, making epilating quick and more comfortable. There are 18 sets of tweezer-action discs which are designed to ensure rapid, non-irritating and, according to the manufacturers, virtually painless hair removal from the root. The Emjoi Dolphin Epilator is now available at selected pharmacies and health stores nationwide or visit

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SMOOTH & SCENTED: For smooth and scented summer skin, check out Coconut Bath & Body products from The Body Shop which are made with organic, cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil, sourced from Samoa through the Community Trade programme. As well as bath, scrub and body butter, this range now includes a new special edition Coconut Shimmer Body Lotion, €12.95, designed to give your skin a subtle shimmer while fragrancing it with the tropical scent of coconut. And, as part of The Body Shop’s 30th birthday celebrations in Ireland this month, there is 30% off everything in store until tomorrow.



14 Beauty

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If you are on a budget yet want to give your hair a lift then try a mask

The news on... MAC BEAUTY BALM WE’RE suckers for anything with “balm” in it, but MAC’s product proves that it’s more than just a seductive word with their new Beauty Balm. It gives high performance UVA and UVB protection, with an SPF 35; acts like a primer on the skin; and has a very slight beige tint to it that works on numerous complexion tones and enables you to wear it without make-up for a fresh summery look.

Emily O’Sullivan


Take three...

T’S been eight months since I’ve had my hair cut. That might not sound particularly long, but my hair tends to grow with unbridled enthusiasm. And not only does it grow down, but it grows out and surrounds my head like a weird halo of fuzz until I can take it no more. Problem is, right now I’m on a major budget so going for the chop isn’t really something I can contemplate doing — there are more important purchases to be made, which is all very well except the condition of my locks are starting to deteriorate at an alarming rate. It needs help and it needs help now. But recently I’ve rediscovered the hair mask. What a joy. Not since the days of Vo5 Hot Oil has my hair been so delighted with a product. And the great thing is that they work. They really work. Okay, so it’s not quite like a trip to the hairdressers where you get all the frizzy split ends actually cut off, but if you don’t have the time or the money to visit the salon quite as often as you used to, then a hair mask can certainly make your locks feel a little better until you actually get the chance to get them trimmed. Furthermore, summertime is the perfect time to give your hair a treat — the exposure to UV rays, as well as chlorine and sea water can quickly turn even the glossiest hair into a fright night of frizzy ends. Top of my current list is L’Oreal Professional Série Nature Douceur Masque, €18, which is part of a new range that aims to tackle rebellious hair. Right, it’s not like our hair is chain smoking and scrawling graffiti on public buildings, but it is definitely in the category of wild and does need to be tamed. And what a good job this one does. Used in conjunction with the Douceur Shampoo, €14.20, you really do see results thanks to a combination of olive oil and rice bran oil. Redken’s Extreme range has had a loyal following down through the years, and the cult hair range has now been relaunched with


Picture: iStock Images

Get a good head start brand new technology. Back in the 1960s it was the first brand to introduce protein into haircare products and the new relaunched range claims to reduce hair breakage by up to 73%. With a really divine scent and a rich thick, creamy texture, Redken Extreme Strength Builder, €28.50, is a definite ace — a fortifying mask for distressed hair that really gets to work straight away. It can be left on for five to 15 minutes, but try and do it for as long as you can, your hair will thank you for it. Shu Uemura Art of Hair is my absolute favourite haircare range, and while it’s definitely pricey, it’s absolutely worth it as a treat, if you can afford it. Their hair masks are really lovely. The Shusu Sleek range uses black

cumin oil to calm your hair right down and give it a bouncy, salon fresh feel. The Shusu Sleek Smoothing Treatment, €50, is about the same price as a haircut, so you might wonder why it costs so much, but it’s a great booster that you’ll quickly become addicted to. Finally, with any of these products the longer you leave them in, the better the effect. Once a week, try and give over a bit of time, slap in a mask and sit and watch the telly or read a book while it gets to work. James Brown’s Photo Fabulous Intensive Treatment, €11.49, is one of the best mid-range masks around. Leave it in for about 30 minutes and you’ll really see an effect.

then this is a good product for you. It targets areas of damage, too, so you don’t have to worry about parts of your hair that are fine being overloaded with conditioner. It’s also a good bet for curly hair.

cently launched new range.

THERE’S something beautifully fresh and summery about eau de cologne — from the Spanish baby-fresh notes of Nenuco to more sophisticated expensive offerings. No, it doesn’t last terribly long and yes, the scent is quite watered down, but don’t be afraid to splash or spray it on with willful abandon. It’s what summer’s all about. 4711 eau de cologne, from €15.84. It’s staggering to think that 4711 has been around since 1772. If that’s not “staying power” we don’t know what is. If you’re looking for a classic summer fragrance then this is it. It’s not for everybody, but we love it and we love the old-school bottle, too. Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soleil Eau Fraiche, €58. It’s tricky to establish the difference is between an eau fraiche and an eau de cologne — it may well be all down to marketing. But all you need to know is that this is a light, very summer fragrance that takes its inspiration from the warmth of the Med, with notes of Sicilian citron, Calabrese bergamot and sweet tangerine. Jo Malone Verbenas of Provence, €42. It couldn’t be more summery: fresh, very feminine and very light, this beautifully citrussy fragrance blends white florals with lemon verbena for a scent that encapsulates Mediterranean bliss.

STUFF WE LIKE Natural Collection Samphire and Sea Minerals Hydrating Hair Mask, €1.15. You can now get most hair masks in affordable small sachets and we particularly like Aussie’s excellent Three Minute Miracle. Boots is a good place to go hunting, and this sea-based mask is a good one to use after a day at the, er, sea. John Frieda Frizz Ease Miraculous Recovery Pot Strengthening Creme Masque, €5.99. If you’ve been overdoing the reliance on the heat-styling products,


James Brown’s Photo Fabulous Intensive Treatment, €11.49. Our only complaint is that there’s not enough of it in the tube, so it does run out pretty quickly (especially when you use it twice a week like we do). It’s an excellent hair mask, though –— definitely the standout product in James Brown’s re-

L’Oreal Professional Série Nature Douceur Masque, €18. Unlike may other hair masks, this one doesn’t specify how long you should leave it on, which in a way is good as you can either go for days or a short burst. It has a nice scent and really gives hair a boost, thanks to natural olive oil and rice bran oil. Redken Extreme Strength Builder, €28.50. It’s rare that a hair mask has a smell that makes us go ‘yum’, but this one ticks the box as having a fresh,

FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

appealing aroma. It’s perfect for hair that is really distressed, thanks to advanced protein technology. Leave it on for 15 minutes for best results. Shu Uemura Shusu Sleek Smoothing Treatment, €50. Yes, it’s an eye-watering amount to spend on a haircare product, but if money wasn’t a concern we’d use no other hair range than this one. This is a great hair mask — it’s rich, sumptuous and gives dry, dehydrated hair renewed bounce, shine and vitality.



Natural health

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I SUFFER from labyrinthitis in one ear since last year. This caused sudden and lasting deafness in the affected ear followed by severe vertigo. The vertigo has not returned but I suffer from a debilitating fullness in that side of my head which has led to a reduced quality of life. My consultant said there was no treatment and I would have to live with it.

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. Imbalance, fullness and inflammation in the ear can be deeply frustrating — you are quite right in that a condition such as labyrinthitis imposes many limits on ordinary daily activities and can reduce your quality of life significantly. This condition typically follows an infection of the inner ear, or the nerve connecting the brain with the inner ear — the vestibulo-cochlear nerve — causing the labyrinth (inner ear) to become inflamed. The symptoms you describe, along with dizziness and trouble with balance, vision and hearing, are typical of this condition, or in fact any inner ear issues. There are some vestibular rehabilitation exercises which you can do to assist the brain in retraining so that it can adjust following the vestibular imbalance — most physical rehabilitation therapists should be familiar with these and be able to demonstrate the correct techniques for you. While most cases are a result of a viral infection, which is usually left to run its course, there are rare cases which are bacterial in origin. As the specialist has stated there is nothing to be done, this suggests that the original infection is viral since an unchecked bacterial infection will cause permanent damage. It is widely believed that the virus responsible for labyrinthitis enters the blood following a systemic infection such as measles, mumps, rubella, herpes, hepatitis, polio or Epstein-Barr. I highly recommend the herbal formulation Ear & Nerve Formula by Dr Christopher in the US. It contains black cohosh, blue cohosh, blue vervain, skullcap and lobelia, and works wonders when it comes to disorders of the inner ear. Use 4-6 drops of garlic oil first (you can make your own garlic oil — simply crush a clove of garlic in 15ml of olive oil and leave to infuse for 24 hours, then strain off the garlic and store the infused oil in a dark glass bottle), and then place 4-6 drops of the Ear & Nerve formula in the ear. Plug the ear with cotton wool and leave it for as long as possible (preferably for an entire day or overnight). It is wise to take a two-pronged approach by also taking the formula internally — add 6-10 drops in a glass of water, repeating three times daily. I would use this treatment with your ‘good’ ear as well, as I believe it is good practice to treat both ears when it comes to this type of condition (the same goes with regular ear infections as well). You can also rub the garlic oil and the Ear & Nerve tincture along the

AN EARFUL: An ear disorder such as Labyrinthitis imposes many limits on ordinary daily activities and can reduce quality of life significantly. Picture: iStock jaw beneath the ear including the lymph glands, down the neck, and up behind the ear towards the base of the skull as well. Continue to apply this formulation daily until you experience relief. Q. I have an underactive thyroid and have history of cancer in my family. What do you recommend? A. Nascent iodine is becoming a fast favourite amongst health professionals in treating thyroid function, and various cancers, including as a cancer preventative measure. It is produced by subjection of a 1% tincture of iodine to a high electromagnetic field for a given time in order to produce the nascent iodine state. This atomic state and electromagnetic charge is held by the atom until it is diluted in water and consumed, where it is readily absorbed and utilised by the body. Over a period of two to three hours, the charged atom gradually loses its energy, and the body recognises this atom as the same nascent iodine it produces in the thyroid to make the T3 and T4 hormones. The atomic iodine is considered to be the safest and least irritating of all the iodine formulas available, and it supports the function of the thyroid rather than over-riding it. Nascent iodine is completely different from the iodine commonly used as an antiseptic, and is very different to glandular extract thyroid formulations and prescriptions

designed to take place of the hormones required for the thyroid to function normally. While both of these methods may be very effective, they do tend to render the thyroid function obsolete rather than correcting the imbalance so that the thyroid is able to function well independently of supplementation or medication. For underactive (hypothyroidism) thyroid conditions, a diet rich in iodine through sea vegetables, leafy greens, nuts and seeds is supportive, but not therapeutic enough to be corrective. You can now purchase nascent iodine in Ireland from Cork supplier, Pauline Hamilton — email — or you can source it online at Nascent iodine costs €29.25 for 1fl oz — this size lasts for a very long time since the dosage is relatively small (much lower than conventional iodine supplementation). Start with a small dose, such as 3-5 drops daily in half a glass of cold water – even this small amount can provide energy and improved general health. For ongoing (chronic) health concerns, take 5-10 drops 3-4 times a day. Be sure to take the nascent iodine on an empty stomach, and remember that frequent small doses are more effective than larger amounts taken less often. Nascent iodine has become very popular recently as it is also one of the most effective ways to protect the thyroid and glandular system from the effects of radiation.

■ NOTE: The information contained above is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor first.

Megan puts the spotlight on:


WAS recently asked to share my “secrets” to health and happiness by a friend. It’s simple — I follow the seven principles of health, as touted by dynamic health speaker, Don Tolman. Having incorporated these into my life for many years now, I can attest to the true importance of these seven simple ways to live more happily and healthily.

2. Water Many common ailments such as headaches, skin problems and digestive disorders can be helped by increasing our intake of pure water. It is also worth considering a filter not just for the water we drink and cook with, but also the water we use to wash our skin and hair.

1. Air Breathing is obviously important to life, yet most people only use 10-20% of our full breathing capacity. Breathing correctly is crucial to our energy levels, so set some time aside to practise conscious breathing on a daily basis. Get out among the trees and plants for cleaner air or take a trip to the seaside.

3. Sunshine It isn’t wise to burn to a crisp on a summer’s day, but getting a daily dose of sunlight (no more than 10 minutes) is good for our emotional, mental and physical health. Vitamin D is not only essential for maintaining healthy bones, it also plays an important role in the regulation of skin cell growth.


Keys to health and happiness 4. Walking This one is simple. Just getting out there and walking a minimum of 30 minutes a day is enough to add years of great health to your life. Not to mention the social benefits of walking with family members or an organised group.

unhealthy relationship can impact on our physical health as well as our emotional state. The first relationship to heal is the one that we have with ourselves — taking responsibility for our own physical, mental and emotional wellbeing will almost certainly have a positive influence on those around us.

5. Wholefoods Scientific studies seem to be published on almost a daily basis now stating that processed food and drink are causing health problems. Eating locally is also important — check out or ask around for details of your nearest farmers’ market.

7. Passion Life without passion would be dull indeed. Indulge in your favourite hobbies, make time for doing that which you love, and choose a career that really lights your fire. Life is far too short for regrets.

6. Non-toxic relationships It is easy to overlook how much an

● To find out more about Don Tolman and his work, visit

FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011




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Introducing the World’s First Invisible In-The-Ear-Canal Hearing Aid...

Now we can now offer our patients a completely custom, invisible hearing solution with world class performance


ust 12 Offer valid from today until Friday, Aug by the top people in their field

your hearing evaluated This is a wonderful opportunity to have S.I. contributors and their spouses Government grant of up to €1,520 for P.R.


Think hearing aids should be heard, not seen? Then the new Soundlens by Starkey is for you. Soundlens is the first custom fit invisiblein-the-canal hearing aid, featuring the latest, most advanced technology on the market today - meaning it’s completely invisible, and totally designed to fit your lifestyle. Friends will notice your hearing is better. They won’t notice why. HIGH PERFORMANCE FEATURES ARE INTENDED TO: • Reduce listening effort and mental fatigue in noisy environments • Virtually eliminate whistling or buzzing • Let you talk easily on the phone • Provide a comfortable fit, designed for your ear • Suit your lifestyle and budget with a variety of styles and technology levels We also specialise in... CUSTOMISED HEARING PROTECTION For industrial, music, swimming and motor sports usage OCCUPATIONAL HEARING CONSERVATION PROGRAMMES Workplace noise assessments. Assessment of hearing protection requirements. Occupational audiometry SOFT LASER THERAPY FOR THE TREATMENT OF TINNITUS TOP CONSULTING AUDIOLOGIST LEADING OUR TEAM Graham Quin is a graduate of University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin and holds a Masters Degree in Audiology from the world renowned Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) at the University of Southampton.

Crowley’s Opticians & Hearing Aid Clinic 26 GRAND PARADE, CORK 021 4271351

GRAHAM M. QUIN BE MSc (Audiology) Dip SHWW Dip Env Eng CEng MIEI MIOSH Consulting Audioligist


FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

Feelgood 29-07-2011  

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