Friday, November 29, 2013

True Sportsmanship

Taking part in school's sporting competitions is a two-edged sword.
There is the physical exercise aspect of it that is so important in a country where now 5% of our five year olds are classified as obese.
Also it is great character building to be part of a team. The discipline that is required to train in all weathers will surely serve the children well in other areas of their lives.
But the down side is the pressure that is put on the children to win, both by teachers and parents. I have been a witness to the "well-meaning" abuse that has been shouted out to children from the sidelines.
Then there is the disappointment of not winning.
Though being a teacher, I feel that this too is an essential lesson that every child needs to learn.
You win some, you lose some!

Our girls' football team took part in the Schools County Final for the second year running. And for the second year running, they lost. This is despite the fact that they played their hearts out and left their guts on the pitch!
One girl in particular played a blinder of a game. She was in centerfield, scored goals and points from the forwards and blocked many a save in the backs.

Yesterday our school received a letter from our winning opponents. In it they complemented our team on the sporting and spirited way we had contested the Final. Their teacher commented on the girl who had played so gallantly and never gave up. In the letter he enclosed one of his teams winning GOLD medals and said that she deserved it for all her efforts.
I thought that was the most fabulous thing ever.
It's easy to be gracious in defeat, it's not always easy to be so gracious in victory.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Grid lock.....Irish style

People don't appreciate how quaint it is to live in an idyllic Irish village.
 Reduced pollution and property tax.
Community spirit and squinting windows.
Fresh air and silage.

Those who live in a city have to contend with traffic jams and grid lock.
This is what caused a train to stop in our parish....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Photographic Memory Stick

The priest was in today looking for photos of the Living History Day to put on the parish website.
"No problem," I said. "I'll put them from my phone onto a USB key and give them to you."
I connected up my camera and downloaded the photos. I put them in a folder on the memory stick and was about to give it to him when I decided to check it.
 Not only had I downloaded the photos of that day....but I had downloaded all my holiday photos from Abu Dhabi!!
Imagine if they had been posted on the Parish website!!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Living History

Baconstown school was established in 1842 and in order to do our bit for The Gathering we are having a reunion. We are thankfully in a newer building across the road from "the old school". As it is a pre-famine building the façade of it has been preserved while the inside has been renovated and used as a community centre.
In class we decided to have a Living History Day, where we would spend a day as if it was the 1900's and we were attending the old school. The kids did their research by interviewing grannies and grandads, looking at the school records and any old photos we could find. We got permission to spend our schoolday in the old building, where parents brought any old desks, posters or whatever would add to the atmosphere of the day.
Of course, not wanting to be left out I got into character too.
Never one to miss an opportunity to get into a costume!
To make it more authentic I got the loan of a "High Nellie" bike. Needless to say I DIDN'T cycle all the way from Raharney. I parked Roxy around the corner from the school in a neighbour's driveway and went from there.
One of our younger pupils, whose granny lives in the house, saw me arrive and practice a few circuits of the yard before I ventured out on the road.
She rushed into the school playground to proudly announce to everyone
"Granny is out in her dressing gown teaching Miss Noeleen how to ride a bike!"

Under strict instructions
"Don't pull the front brakes."
"Get off the bike going around that dangerous corner."
I set off for school.
I made it there in one piece. You can imagine the excitement of the kids, seeing their teacher making an absolute fool of herself!
I must admit the day has been the highlight of my teaching far.
I have a few years left!
The effort that the parents and kids put into their costumes, hairstyles, lunches made it seem as if we had really stepped back a hundred years.

The old classroom was set up with the original desks and the children had to write on slates. We tried our hand at Old Irish Writing.

They did very well!

Of course it wasn't easy writing while being squashed three to a desk.

The rate things are going in the Dept of Ed. we'll be back to that soon!

Their lunches consisted of brown bread, butter, an apple and a bottle of milk.
No low-carb diet for teacher today.

People wanted to know if they brought a sod of turf for the fire. Of course they did!
Then it was outside to play, traditional games of course.

Our main reason for the day was to reproduce a photo that was taken outside the school circa 1914.

Okay lads, line up at the wall.

Right, watch the birdie!

And the photo was taken....

Which all goes to prove....
Oh and I also discovered the beauty of being able to use the cane, when your principal gets in your way!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

School-1950s v's 2013

Our school is 170 years old and so we are getting ready for the Reunion/ Gathering.  In my research, I came across this piece!

I believe the right way is somewhere between the two!

Johnny and Mark get into a fight after school.

1950s- Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best friends.

2013- Police called and they arrest Johnny and Mark. Charge them both with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it. Both children go to anger management programmes for 3 months. School Board of Management hold meetings to implement bullying prevention programmes.

Billy breaks a window in his neighbour's car and his Dad gives him a slap.

1950's- Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman.
2013- Billy's Dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is moved to foster care, joins a gang and ends up in jail.

Mark gets a headache and takes some asprin to school.

1950s- Mark gets glass of water from Principal's office to take asprin. Headache goes. He passes exams and becomes a solicitor.
2013- Police called, car searched for drugs and weapons. Mark expelled from school for drug taking. Ends up a drop out.

Johnny takes apart leftover fireworks from Hallowe'en night, puts then in a paint tin and blows up a wasps' nest.

1950s- Wasps die.
2013- Police and Anti-Terrorism Squad called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, investigate parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated. Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly in a plane again.

Johnny falls over while running during morning break and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. She hugs him to comfort him.

1950s-In a short time Johnny feels better and goes on playing games. No damage done.

2013- Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What did you say? What did you mean?

We were studying a poem in class called "First Day at School" by Roger Mc Gough. It is written from the viewpoint of a Junior Infant. In it there is a part where the child has obviously misunderstood certain words.

" What does a lessin look like?
Sounds small and slimy.
They keep them in the glassrooms.
Whole rooms made out of glass. Imagine."


"Tea-cher. The one who makes the tea."

We were having fun telling about words we had misunderstood when we were younger. One of the boys told this great story.
His neighbour's dog kept coming into their garden and every time his mother saw him, she would say
"There's that little fecker in the garden again."
He thought that this was the dog's name.
All was fine until one day the neighbour was having a cup of tea and polite conversation in their kitchen. He looked out and saw the dog entering the garden. Wanting to inform the neighbour of the whereabouts of her dog, he proudly announced
"Oh look. There's your little fecker in our garden again!"
He said he didn't understand why his mother gave out to him later. After all it was just the dog's name, wasn't it???

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kerb crawling....with a twist!

Names have been changed to preserve the reputation of the people involved!
Having arrived back on home ground I met up with the "girls" for dinner in Mullingar.
The term "girls" is used loosely here, as will become more evident later on in the story!

Dinner was, of course, accompanied by a few glasses of wine. Much later in the night, we all piled into the designated driver's car.
The streets of Mullingar were very empty, lit by some solitary street lights.
Just setting the ambiance here!
As we were being driven up the street we saw a group of young fellas, aged about 19 to 20 years,  walking on the pavement. Áine, the driver, let out a hormonal, teenager-esque scream.
"Oh look! It's NIALL HORAN!"
Ah yes, the bold Niall was home for the weekend as it was his nephew's christening. What a lucky baby, having a member of a soon-to-be-the-first-billionaire-boyband as your godfather!
Áine is a big One Direction fan. Her teenage daughter has no time for them as it would be soooooo uncool to like the same band as your mother.
We were a bit taken aback when Áine sped up the street, whirled around the roundabout and came back down the street, after the boys.
"What are you doing?" we screamed.
"I want to get a closer look."

She pulled up beside them, beeped the horn and rolled down the window.
Now bear in mind that we were the ones who had had a few drinks, while she was stone cold sober. Yet it was us that slunk down in our seats,, trying to cover our faces in mortification!
 There was silence for a moment and then a voice rang out
"Oh look. It's a car full of auld wans!"

Áine was a bit miffed. But as we pointed out, they were perfectly right to say so, we were all old enough to be their mothers! And what if things were reversed? What if we were a car full of 40 something year old men who beeped at a group of young girls?
"But it was Niall Horan!" she wailed.
It doesn't matter. The poor child deserved a night out with his old school friends, without being harassed by "auld wans"!!!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A must-see.

One of my main wishes in returning to Abu Dhabi was to visit Sheik Zayad's Grand Mosque. When I went to live in Abu Dhabi in 1999 it was being built, and when I left in 2004 it was still being built. Now I know why it took so long.
It has rightly earned its place in the top 25 attractions in the world, alongside the Taj Mahal, the pyramids in Egypt and Petra in Jordan.
 It has been in the news in recent weeks as Rihanna was kicked out of it for engaging in an inappropriate photo-shoot there.
This is how its done properly, pet!
I even had a Princess Diana moment.
We went in the evening time which meant we saw it in sunshine, twilight and darkness. I couldn't understand how the sky was a fabulous purple colour until I later read that the lighting system was designed to reflect the stages of the moon. Lights of a soft bluish grey colour are projected onto the marble. The colour changes over the course of a month.
The interior was even more impressive, from the 12 ton chandeliers...... the largest hand-knotted carpet in the world, made by 1,200 artisans.

We paid our respects at Sheik Zayad's tomb. The Koran is recited over it 24hours a day, every day of the year. I presume its not the same poor fella singing it. He looked mighty weary while we were there. Obviously no photos could be taken.
It was dark as we were leaving. I loved the stories of the Arabian Nights when I was a child. And this is exactly what I imagined the palaces to look like.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How did they know?

We went to the Depeche Mode concert after Formula 1. For some reason I remember hearing this story back in the 80's.
 The lead singer said that when they started out they were giving an interview over the phone to a magazine. When the article came out it was obvious that it had been a bad line. The article read
New and upcoming band -  A Patch of Mud!

Alcohol was sold at the venue, but they were much stricter than here in Ireland. You had to get a wristband before going to the bar.

What I want to know is....why didn't they ask me for proof before they slapped it around my wrist???

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Heaven on Earth.

After my pit lane walk on Thursday I have become a Formula one fan. So you can imagine my excitement when Jen told me she was after getting free tickets for us for the weekend races.
"They're PADDOCK CLUB TICKETS", she screamed in excitement.
Now I didn't really get the screaming part. After all I've been around the paddock at Kilbeggan races and it really wasn't all that exciting.
"No, you don't realise", she continued, "These tickets cost $5000....each!"
We were to be guests of Toros Rose. At first we didn't know what team that was, but a quick translation revealed it to be a part of Red Bull. Even better!
Despite the fact that I am a master at packing, even I didn't foresee packing a suitable outfit for such a prestigious event. However I did my best.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We were brought up to the reception area which over looked the track.

 From then on we were constantly confronted by waiters who kept us topped us up with a never ending supply of food. I did try the octopus.

Too fishy for my taste.
There was also a constant free flow of alcohol, despite the fact that it was the Islamic New Year. Hardly surprising, Yas Island had gotten an exemption for the day. I made the most of that too.

The highlight of my day, what am I talking about, the highlight of my YEAR, was when Jen and I were brought on a tour of their garage.
And might I add that our Austrian guide was absolutely gorgeous in a cougar/paedophile sort of way!
If yesterday was exciting when I got to see the cars from behind a barrier, I was beside myself with euphoria when we were right in the garage as they were getting the car ready for the practice lap. The tension was electric as all the crew were poised in place. We had to wear headphones to drown out the noise. The instructions were coming into our headphones too.
"One minute to go. Places."
"Fifty seconds....."
I got so into it, I was about to leap in among them and shout
"If you need someone to change a tyre, I can do 13 seconds!"
When he shouted GO, they whipped the covers off the tyres and off Ricciardo sped.
Claus then showed us where the tyres were stored and told us the difference between each type.
If I ever get on Mastermind, my specialist subject will be
"The importance of temperature and air pressure of tyres in Formula 1 racing!"
He also pointed out all the wet tyres lined up, ready for action. They weren't going to be caught out again like they were three years ago when it started to rain during the race....and NO TEAM had unpacked the wet tyres as they thought there was no way it could rain in Abu Dhabi. Wrong!
Unfortunately I have no photos to show as photography is forbidden. I might have been working as a spy for Ferrari!
Back we went to the reception area for more free food and drink. Then there was a talk by the team trainer.

"A driver will lose between 3-6kgs during every race."
I paused with a spoonful of chocolate soufflé half way to my mouth.
That's it. I'm taking up this sport. Feck this Slimming World business. But I think they'll have to slice off my hips before I'll even manage to get in the car!

Monday, November 4, 2013

That's the pits!

I am not one for speed. Myself and Roxy have travelled the length and breath of the country and have only clocked up a total of 2 speeding points. We should have received another two but I managed to cajole, weep, "bat my eyelids" way out of them.
I have never been a major fan of Formula 1 racing. All that whizzing around and around a track does nothing for me.
Is Michael Schumacher still racing???
But when I got an opportunity to go on a Pit Lane walk around Yas Marine Circuit before the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race this weekend I jumped at the chance. In truth I felt very guilty as I know there are people ie my brother John who are fanatics and would have given anything to have been given the opportunity. Not knowing what was impressive I took photos of everything that looked vaguely important.
What's that vroom-vroom sound I hear in the distance?
Even myself and Roxy would let rip down that straight!

I then headed into the pit lane where all the garages are. As I've said I had no idea who was who so I took photos of them all. I won't bore you with them now
There's nothing worse than having to sit through someone else's holiday snaps. Yawn!
But here was one that even I recognised.
Me doing my best merkat impression.

I know nothing about cars but I didn't think this looked too good!
Hey lads get the finger out. The race is tomorrow.

I now know that this one is important. I learned something this weekend!

I went wandering around to see what else I could espy. I was passing a stand that had a car on it. A man beckoned me over.
Ever since my days as a facilitator for Drama in-service for teachers I have become a serial volunteer. I know what it's like to be standing in front of a group of people, with a great activity to do, but it falling flat on its face if no one partakes. So every time someone asks for a participant, I feel their pain and I put up my hand!
I presumed that I was there to get my photo taken. Then I was handed a pair of goggles, gloves and a huge pneumatic drill.
Well, I suppose it makes for a better photo opportunity.
But when a guy came over and started to show me how to use the darn thing I began to panic.
You mean I have to change the wheel????? Every time Roxy's tyre looks a bit soft I play the helpless female and get my brother to change it! And what about that fateful morning when we actually got a flat wheel on the way to school, I had to get the principal of  a nearby school to change it for me.
But he was having none of it. I was soon pumping away....and the wheel was changed. Just lets say Lewis would NOT have hired me for his team!
I was standing up, very proud with my accomplished task, when the man said,
"NO! Stay there. We start timing you now!"
I looked around and saw that there was a man at each of the other wheels. It was a competition. The spectators started cheering and clapping. Now I am very there was no going back!
Ready, steady, go!
The winner did it in 12.6 sec. I came a respectable second with 13.4 sec. I don't think Finian will ever change my tyre again!

Later on I was still searching for items of interest. I saw a group of people gathered around so I raced over to see what all the fuss was about. At last! Someone I knew!
Hey Lewis. I don't mean to alarm you or anything. But if I were you I'd get back to the garage. Your car is in sh***