Tag Archives: Irish

Take Care of Yourself

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Hello and happy Friday to you, you gorgeous human being!

Yesterday my house mate Ash and I pootled off to Elstree for our second recording of Pointless, and while I’m not allowed to say very much about it specifically, I can tell you that we had a lovely time and that everyone we met was very nice, if a tad confused by us.  Let me explain.

When we were on our way to the bus stop at stupid o’clock yesterday morning, Ash suggested pausing at our local Tesco to get a couple of diet cokes.  The buy one get one free offer being what it was, we ended up filling her suitcase with twelve cans of the stuff.  While this seemed perfectly reasonable to us, it did make us look like we were carrying a mini bar around.  Whenever one of us said “could you pass me a diet coke please, love?” and the other one opened our case of caffeinated treasure, the looks on people’s faces were priceless.  One might argue that Ash and I have a slight problem…

I am about to make an incredibly hypocritical statement, but bear with me, because it comes with the best intentions: we all need to take better care of ourselves.  Ash and I both drink water, eat vegetables and exercise, but we are also (clearly) addicted to a very unhealthy beverage.  A lot of my friends who work hard are making leaps and bounds professionally, but health-wise they are running themselves into the ground.  This worries me.  The Irish grandmother bit of my brain bursts into tears when people  I love tell me that they don’t have time to eat proper meals.

I know that it’s difficult when you’re frantically busy, but I really, really want you (yes, YOU specifically) to look after yourself.  I have a few very good reasons for this:

  • You will get ill.  It’s just a fact.  Whether it’s a cold or full-blown influenza, you cannot eat badly (or not enough) for long without your body throwing a hissy fit about it.  Pay attention to your body, because you need it to get you places and house your brain and stuff.
  • You will feel like hell.  It’s bizarre how quickly our minds and bodies shut down when we’re not getting enough nutrients, but think about it: we all get grumpy when we’re hungry.  Mood swings are your brain’s way of telling you to eat a sandwich.
  • You are needed.  The majority of people who read this blog know me personally, so to you lovely people: I NEED YOU.  If you are not healthy and happy then the Irish grandmother in my head will be very upset, and you don’t want that.  (She’s very loud when she’s upset, and she’s been known to force-feed people.)  To those of you whom I don’t have the pleasure of being acquainted with: the people in your life need you.  They want you to be happy and they need you to take care of yourself, because there are no spare copies of you lying around.  You are unique and important, and if you scupper yourself health-wise then the people you love will be hurt.

Bearing that in mind, I hope that you eat a balanced, nutritious and delicious lunch.  Treat yourself to some cake or something, as well.  It is Friday, after all.

St. Patrick’s Day Perspectives

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Good morning and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I was born and raised in Watford (which has its own special set of ramifications that we can come back to another time), but I also have a lot of Irish heritage.  I didn’t get some of the Irish genes that I would have liked -the gorgeous red hair and pale skin went to my little sister in this generation – but a lot of aspects of my personality are more Irish than Watfordian, such as my deep-rooted conviction that feeding people will solve everything.

I also have several Irish friends, and it is their perspective of this saint’s day that I would like to tell you about this morning.  These friends have been brought up in Northern Ireland (or “Norn Iron”, if you like), but moved over to England for university.  One of them stayed over here for a while and has only recently moved back to Belfast for a fantastic job, and another has just moved to Italy for a few months.  They are passionate, talented and interesting people who are definitely going places, but who are also (quite rightly) proud of where they’ve come from.

Interestingly, the general consensus of their favourite St. Patrick’s Days has been their first one away from Ireland.  I reckon the main reason for this is probably that they were at university with a whole new group of friends, and there is a novelty about today that we English like to maximise.  (For instance, walk into any Asda in the country and look at the St. Patrick’s Day costumes they’ve got in store.  Hey wow, as my friend Carly would say.)  One of my friends said that she was overwhelmed by how many people turned up to her first Paddy’s Day party in England: “They also didn’t just turn up, everyone dressed up – the face paint was everywhere!  It was brilliant craic!”  I was at that party and it’s true, the face paint really took over the evening, and we had a great time.

Another friend of mine decided to use what he describes as the “It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I’m Irish, so bend to my will” card by persuading the staff at one of our uni bars to change the television channel: “I got…them to put the schools’ rugby final (a Northern Irish tradition, it’s quite a big deal) on the big screens. I then got my first few drinks in of the day while I watched my old school get thoroughly trounced. I washed down the disappointment and disgust with a few more beers. Then travelled to the late Rutherford bar [another drinking hole on campus] for a brunch of “traditional Irish stew”.  (It was nothing of the sort. I mean, it was quite nice but nothing like mammy used to make…)”

When I asked my friends about the differences between celebrating St. Patrick’s Day over here and in Ireland, I got a very interesting set of responses: the biggest differences actually seem to be between Northern Ireland and the Republic, because of the Catholic/Protestant divide in Northern Ireland: “It isn’t an official bank holiday here like it is down South.  Nevertheless, quite a few schools and businesses take the day off work.”  I was also told that “in Ireland pretty much everything shuts down; transport, banks, schools etc. (Not the pubs. Obviously.) …I hear the Belfast and Dublin parties are pretty great (albeit the ones in Belfast can get a little hairy – St. Patrick’s Day is most definitely a Catholic holiday”.  In terms of how the English celebrate this day, one of my friends made a very canny observation: “I think for England it’s a great day to drink like the Irish and get the craic going, leaving that old stiff upper lip behind for a day!”  And who can argue with that?

Similarly, I got a very good explanation for why this day seems to be more popular than other UK patron saints’ days: “St Patrick’s Day is a whole lot of fun. Everyone around the world is familiar with the stereotype of what it is to be Irish (I’ve not been to a country yet where someone hasn’t piped up with the old “oh, you’re Irish, do you want a Guinness/potato/leprechaun?”) and more importantly, people like what that stereotype entails: being jolly, cracking jokes and getting drunk with your friends.” 

I completely agree with my friends that today’s socially acceptable jollity is something that we English find appealing because it’s the perfect meeting point between our binge-drinking culture and our traditional self-control, and who can resist shunning their own stereotype for the day in order to adopt someone else’s (which is also a lot more fun)?

So today is a good time for celebration and fun, but what would my Irish friends like to change about this holiday?  One of my friends has an excellent and touching St. Patrick’s Day wish: “I wish that all Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist communities throughout Northern Ireland who don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day due to it being associated with the Republic of Ireland and the Nationalist communities would come out and celebrate.  It is a day that can unite us, whether you are Irish, Northern Irish, Catholic, Protestant or from a minority.”

Another friend of mine who has a slightly different set of priorities has made this impassioned plea: “If I could change one thing about the day it’d probably be this: hot girls with atrociously fake Irish accents get more free pints than genuine Irish guys desperate for another pint. There is something very wrong about this and I think someone really ought to do something.”

Have a brilliant St. Patrick’s Day everyone, and remember to drink your novelty green beer responsibly.

All You Need is Love (and Cheese)

As a single girl, there are three sure-fire ways to deal with Valentine’s Day:

  • Dismiss the entire day as a consumerist charade that turns love into a grotesque corporate pantomime.
  • Take the opportunity to celebrate love in all of its forms, even though EVERYONE else seems to be focusing on the romantic aspect.
  • Pull a full-on Bridget Jones: slump on the sofa, wear pyjamas, drink wine and sob uncontrollably, preferably whilst watching Bridget Jones.

I have tried all three in my time (let’s be honest – we all have), but these days I tend to go with the second method.  Love is love.  Ok yes, it would be nice to be able to share this day with a man who likes the fact that I’m incredibly sarcastic and unable to boil an egg, but if you don’t have a love life to celebrate, celebrate the love in your life.  I may be single, but I have a lot of love in my life that I’m very grateful for.  Here are a few examples:

1) Towards the end of 2013, my brother was very ill and in hospital.  My brother is one of my favourite people in the world, and him being ill is the stuff of my worst nightmares.  This was a very hard time for me and my entire family (who all dealt with the situation amazingly well, as did my brother’s girlfriend and closest friends.  Super proud of and grateful for them all).  I knew for certain that he was going to get better on a particular day about two weeks into the nightmare, when he’d been sort of awake for a couple of days, and had just about started talking again.  I had bought him this postcard: i love you more than cheese-500x500

and when I gave it to him, he looked at it, looked at me, looked back at the postcard and then said “I love you more than cheezex?  What the hell is cheezex?!”  My first instinct was to call him a git, but actually I felt so relieved that he was capable of being a cheeky little sod that I nearly cried.  I think he knew, even though he was so unwell, that I needed to hear him say something silly.

2) When I was in my third year of university, I had a very unfortunate and slightly scary situation with a guy who wouldn’t leave me alone.  One night, after a particularly unsettling conversation with this guy, I called my oldest friend Evelyn and literally sobbed down the phone at her.  I couldn’t even form the words to being to explain what had happened.  The conversation went something like this:
Ev: “Vicks, what’s wrong?”
Me: “He…I..aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”
Ev: “What happened??”
Me: “He…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”

And so on and so forth.  No sense was made.  What did Evelyn do?  She put down the phone, got into her car in Surrey, drove to where I was in Canterbury, put me in her car and drove me back to her flat, where she fed me and hugged me and let me cry out the problem.

3) Yesterday, knowing what a tough week I’d had, my friend Julia drove down from her university in Northampton to surprise me at my flat.  She is incredibly stressed and busy right now, what with being in her final year and having a gazillion things to do, but she found the time to visit me, go out for dinner with me and some of our friends AND have a boogie in the kitchen to Robin Thicke.

4) My lovely house mate Ais is the most wonderful friend anyone could ask for.  She is the best person to have around when you need looking after (Irish genes, obviously), and also the most fun person to go on adventures with.  She thinks of ways to show people that she loves them all the livelong day.  For example,when I woke up this morning I found this outside my room:

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5) When I lost my job on Tuesday, several people called me to tell me how sorry they were, how angry they were on my behalf, and how much they loved me and believed in me.  It is overwhelming to feel so cared for by so many people, and if this day is about love then it should really about them, because they all took the time to show love to someone who was truly in need of it.

Thanks for reading; I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day, regardless of your marital status.  You deserve to be loved no matter how single/married/divorced/prefer not to say you are.