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Thursday, December 31, 2015

When lightning strikes...

Just before Christmas, Niall Breslin, more commonly known as Bressie, the heartthrob and generally nice guy from The Blizzards and more recently a judge on The Voice of Ireland, broadcast his new series aimed at getting people to focus on their mental health by overcoming physical fitness challenges.

‘Bressie’s Ironmind’ is precisely the kind of programme that is needed on mainstream State TV to remove the stigma, across the age groups, around the topic of mental health, depression and those who are at risk of suicide.

Ireland is a terrible country for fostering the mentality of ‘If I don’t mention it, then it’s not happening and the problem will simply go away’.

This couldn’t be further from the truth – just like a harsh word can mutilate into a cutting monologue if left to fester, ill feelings can manifest into depression, mental ill health or even suicidal ideation, if they are left to bubble away under the surface.

This is one of the things that Bressie aimed to address with his new series and his frank and open way of talking about his own difficulties is honestly quite refreshing, not only on television and in the media, but in a new series, aimed at people of all ages from all walks of life.

The first episode introduced us to Jade, Colm, Mark and Orla.

“This challenge was one that I took on myself [...] it’s not a physical challenge but a mental challenge,” Bressie explained and the idea is to arm people with coping tools for life’s more difficult moments.

Using the expertise of health and fitness experts, as well as those who specialise in mental health, mindfulness and wellness, Bressie pushed people to their maximum without going too far or risking injury, while also using exercise and physical fitness to combat the onset of mental problems and issues.

The stories of the four people who took part in the show are very real and quite raw and they will no doubt have helped people to relate to the show and will perhaps help them to shine a light on a problem they are having themselves that they hadn’t given due consideration to before now.

The hope is that this will get people talking openly about their feelings, emotional well-being and to talk to people if they are struggling. Suicide is something that can be prevented, but that cannot be done if we are not open, transparent and talking to each other about what is going on inside our heads.

Problems will not go away if they are brushed under the carpet – instead they will manifest themselves in physical  symptoms such as bowel problems or IBS, headaches, vomiting, self-mutilation in the form of pulling out hair or mildly hurting oneself, as well as things like putting yourself down, having low self-esteem or even exhibiting signs of self-loathing.

If you broke your leg, you would not hesitate in telling somebody what had happened, how much pain you are in and what the recovery time will be.

On the polar opposite end of the scale, if you were feeling down or were having an off day, a lot of Irish people in particular, tend to hide those feelings and feel ashamed.

As people get older and particularly people of my generation (late twenties and almost thirty, well I'm 28, I’ll begrudgingly admit), they begin to realise that everyone else is the same as them.

Everyone worries, everyone stresses out over ridiculous things and everyone has those irrational fears and woes.

It is how we deal with those problems that set us apart and makes some people the strong people and others those who crumble and fold under the pressure and strain.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review of The GAA & Revolution in Ireland 1913-1923 Edited by Gearoid O Tuathaigh

**** A very good read, which is hard to put down
                       
The ten-year period between 1913 and 1923 was a tumultuous one and a period in Irish history, which was fraught with tension and rife with change. This book, edited by Gearoid O Tuathaigh gives a snapshot of those times and what they entailed for the people of Ireland at the time.

This book would appeal to both history buffs and GAA heads alike, as it brings together a riveting collection of essays by leading writers in the fields of modern history and the history of sports.

Gearoid is Emeritus Professor in History at NUIG, is the former President of NUIG and is currently a member of the Council of State.

The book is unique and interesting, in that it examines the link between the world of conflict and war and the realm of sports.

It looks at how the GAA, after 1916, began to align the organisation more closely with the new emerging nation and the early reporting of GAA matches and events also give an insight into the early days of sports media and coverage of sporting events in our national news.

Women’s sports and camogie also gets a look in, as the global history of women’s sports is examined and dissected.

As well as pictures, some of which have never been published or seen before, there are also wonderful reproductions of artefacts and mementos, such as receipts, invoices, team sheets, All-Ireland teams and letters.

To bring the political world together with the sporting one, there is one picture which causes the two worlds to collide and shows how much they both influenced each other – a picture of Eamon de Valera throwing in the ball to start the 6 April 1919 Gaelic football match between Wexford and Tipperary in Croke Park, in aid of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Dependant's Fund. 

Contributors include the editor Gearoid O Tuathaigh, Paul Rouse, Paraic Duffy, Cormac Moore, James McConnell, Ross O’Carroll, Donal McAnallen, Richard McElligott, Mike Cronin, Mark Reynolds, Eoghan Corry, Paul Darby, Sean Moran and Diarmaid Ferriter.

This book is €29.99 and is available online and from all good book stores.

A quick guide to Quinn’s Quandries star ratings;
***** A book so good, you don’t just read it, it takes over your life and you tell everyone you meet to read it immediately.
**** A very good book, which is hard to put down.
*** A decent read, but nothing to get too excited about.
** It would help you to pass away a few hours.
* Wouldn’t bother reading all of it.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Lights that sparkle, lights that glitter - lights that distract

I love Christmas and I relish the build up to it, but sometimes when I am driving home and the lights make me smile at every turn and each junction, I think, is this too much? Have some people's Christmas lights gotten out of hand?

Now, I know that this might sound a bit scroogey, but it's not, because as I said, I do love Christmas.

This year, I have the shortest drive home to my home place, as it's only an hour away, but in previous years in other jobs, I sometimes had to drive for more than three hours to get home.

In those three hours, I would pass through more than ten cities, towns and/or village, but would only encounter five places where Christmas lights and trees were erected and shining bright.

From this point of view, seeing the houses all alight and glowing with festive cheer was great, but in other ways, it was quite distracting and borderline dangerous.

The festive, 'I Love Christmas' part of my brain was beaming out a stupid silly grin, while the practical side of my brain was asking how much the lights must cost, whether or not the power shorts because of surges and realistically, how necessary it all is.

I like a tastefully decorated house just as much as anyone else, but it is the gaudy, showy, 'too much and too bright' lights that I am objecting to.

A house with a few strings of lights in white or yellow with a few lit up reindeer, santa's, trees or winter animals in the garden or driveway, is really quite lovely and because there isn't too much going on, you can drive by, fleetingly glance at it and smile to yourself, while you hum a Christmas song and go on your merry way.

On the opposite end of the scale, if you compare this to a house with lights everywhere (and I mean everywhere) with lights the colours of the rainbow and no discernable pattern or logic to the way they are strung and suddenly, you've got people slowing down or stopping to look at them (but, what if  house is on a corner or it's on a really busy road, then this gawking could lead to an accident) and because there is no pattern or shape to it, as I said, people are driving slower and looking at it for longer to try to make sense of it.

Now, I am prepared for the backlash from this post, as I know that a lot of people love Christmas and maybe some readers are themselves the culprits for these gaudy and tackily decorated homes, but I think I am just saying what a lot of people are thinking.

Another aspect of this is the cost, as many families will say that they are struggling and that Christmas, is, financially, the hardest time of the year. While they might not have money for that fancy new bike for their child or to buy the perfect coat that will set off every outfit, but somehow they can justify spending hundreds on electricity bills.

Then the question I am led towards is why? Is it to make children smile? Is it to bring a bit of festive cheer to the commuters passing the door or is it a display of oneupmanship? If it is the latter, I really can't defend these people, as that is taking petty to a whole new level.

So now, have your say. Am I right? Is there any merit to my argument or am I simply being Scrooge?

Thursday, December 03, 2015

My lips are red, but so is everything else

Those who know me will know that I take a certain pride in my appearance, and unless I’m just dossing around the house or dashing out to get some shopping, it’s unlikely that you’ll see me in tracksuit pants, looking kind of crappy.

In general, I make an effort with how I look and I am a recent convert to wearing bold coloured and vibrant lipsticks or lip crayons.

I don’t wear much make-up, as my skin is quite good (thanks to my Mam, as my Da’s skin would have been more akin to used crepe paper for wrapping gifts – sorry Da), so unless I’m going all out with contouring, foundation, blush and everything else, I will often just wear the bare minimum, but go for maximum effect.

For instance, if I was going out for dinner or even to work and just wanted to look a little pretty, I would typically wear a tinted moisturiser or none at all, blusher, eye liner, a smokey coloured (grey or black depending on if it’s day or night with a splash of colour for the wow effect if I’m feeling adventurous) eyeshadow, mascara and a colour on my lips.

To be honest, if I had nothing else, I’d happily get by (and have done) when I’m rushing (that happens more often than you’d think for such an organised person) with just the eyeliner and lippy.

Anyway, I’m a fan of reds, pinks and corals and because my skin is so pale and my cheeks are prone to reddening (a curse I tell you), I tend to avoid paler nudes or light pinks.

I love using a bright red or vibrant pink to pick out a colour in an outfit or really just make my features pop, however I have yet to find a product that I really, really love and wouldn’t leave the house without. It is something that regularly irks me.

Just last week, I genuinely spent four days dipping in and out of the www.boots.ie website, searching arduously for a lipstick that is not only the right shade, but will also have the right shine or matt effect, doesn’t cost more than a week’s grocery shopping and most importantly will last so that the colour stays on my lips instead of tainting my glass and everything else that slightly grazes against my war painted lips.

I have tried a number of tricks and hacks, such as putting on concealer underneath as a primer (a pretty brilliant tip from the ever glamourous Nellie Fitzgerald from Mitchelstown, an older lady who has worn make-up every day since she was in her teens), then applying lip liner, then lip crayon and then the lipstick.

This lends itself to a different shade obviously, but it does last a while (three or four hours if I’m eating and drinking the whole time – ha that makes me sound like an alcoholic glutton).

While it’s the best thing I’ve mastered so far, it is still not ideal and I’d love to just put on one product and not have every single glass or mug branded by my scarlet harlot lips.

My late father used to say that the red lipstick looked nice, but he told me he did have to adjust to it and the first night I wore it, he told me that it looked very ‘lady of the night’ ish, so all reds are now my lady of the night lipstick (I even sported my Kate Moss red at his funeral).

I will spend money on a good make-up product, as I firmly believe that if it’s good, it will last and spending €20 on a high quality product that will last you years is better than spending €4 on a myriad of smaller items that don’t do what they are meant to and need to be replaced almost immediately.

On that note and as you might have guessed, I am currently on the hunt for ‘THE RED’ – the one, the only – the colour that is made for my lips and my luscious lips alone, without bleeding into every other facet of my life.

I have a Bourjois lipstick (in a nice burgundy or dark pink tone) and it lasts well, but it’s no brazen red. That was about €10 and it came with a cool gift of miniature items from Boots.

Another one that I’m a fan of is my Lancome Rouge (pricey at about €28) and it is AMAZING. I could put it on at 9am, have breakfast, two cups of tea, a bottle of water and a snack and by lunchtime, it would still be on and only then in need of the briefest of touch ups. I have my fingers crossed that Santa (via my boyfriend) will be putting one of those in a nice red shade under the tree this Christmas.

In the meantime, in an effort to stem the problem of losing my lip colour, I did buy a product by Lipcote for around €5-€7 I think in Boots again (you’d swear they were paying me for this, haha I wish) that is meant to seal the lip colour in, but it was genuinely dreadful.

Now it did keep the colour on, but at a price I didn’t like – the lipstick flakes off rather than gradually fading, which isn’t a nice feel and it completely dried out my lips.

Today, as my search continues in earnest, I heard a podcast on www.todayfm.com from the Dermot and Dave show about how using eyebrow wax underneath a lipstick acts as a great primer to keep it on. I tried this and while it looks quite weird (I used my Soap&Glory eyebrow shaping and highlighting crayon) it did seem to do the trick, though I used a lip liner as well – to be sure, to be sure.

For now, if you see me with faded lipstick, please keep in mind that when I applied it first, it probably looked lovely, so be gentle with your (hopefully) silent criticisms.


If you have any tips or brands that you would recommend, I’d love to hear them. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Book Review of Daughter by Jane Shemilt



 
**** A very good book, which is hard to put down.

 

I am a recent convert to thrillers and still wouldn’t be a huge fan, so this book was a bit of a gamble.

I’ve always been a big reader and would have read believable fiction when I was younger and this graduated up to light chick lit when I was in college, because a lot of my college reading for New Media & English was fairly heavy going and now I’m really into thought provoking and involved fiction, but will also read non-fiction, fantasy (to an extent) and now crime thrillers, apparently.


I have a deep disdain for the term page turner in reviews, so I won’t be using that here, because I believe that to be the most fundamental of elements to any book – even if it’s complete crap, you can still literally turn the pages.


This book will haunt people and particularly parents, as it makes you question your very own moral compass and the core of your being, as you start to unwittingly question every move you’ve ever made with your child, every time they’ve said they are at a friend’s and every time you’ve left an argument hang in the air to fester and morph into something uglier with the passage of time.


The author develops an entire story around the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ and it is truly terrifying.


The story begins as every good story does, with the mundane and the ordinary and then it skips between the night of Naomi’s disappearance and one year later in the present – weaving an unsettling tale of intrigue, loss, desperation and the unyielding will of a parent to never give up on their child.


“They have a picture. It’ll help. But it doesn’t show the way her hair shines so brightly it looks like sheets of gold. She smells very faintly of lemons. She bites her nails. She never cries. She loves Autumn, I wanted to tell them. She collects leaves, like a child does. She is just a child.” If this sentence drew you in, this is just a flavour of what is contained within the story.


After a year, Naomi is still missing and the Malcolm family has been torn apart, but will the truth bring them closer together and reunite them all or will it drive a further wedge between them?

There are a lot of unanswered questions, but in a good way and the book brings up a lot of family and personal dilemma situations and it would make a great choice for a book club, as the potential for discussion and debate is almost endless.

 

This book is available from Jim Hyland’s General and Educational bookshop on 22 Lower Cork Street, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork for €8.99. For more information or to avail of a special discount in association with this blog, please call in store, ring 022 24528, email hylandsbooks@gmail.com and quote Quinn’s Quandries when purchasing. Happy frantic page turning and tea drinking (wine if it’s the evening or it’s a chilly Winter’s day).


A quick guide to Quinn’s Quandries star ratings;

***** A book so good, you don’t just read it, it takes over your life and you tell everyone you meet to read it immediately.

**** A very good book, which is hard to put down.

*** A decent read, but nothing to get too excited about.

** It would help you to pass away a few hours.

* Wouldn’t bother reading all of it.