Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Finding Joy in a Busy World

Joy is perhaps the most elusive yet valuable human emotion.  Sometimes it is found in the most unexpected places.  For myself and my twin sister, it was found on the sun-kissed streets of Malaga. 


That first day we strolled down what we called the ‘Spanish Grafton Street’ and took in the atmosphere of the local people.  There were old men outside little cafes on the corners of each street, with a cold Spanish ‘Estrella’ beer in their hands, enjoying each other's company and playing cards. Their deep roaring laughs filled the streets, and I would catch myself giggling when one of them lost and threw an overly dramatic tantrum.  I fell in love with the local people and I admired their quality of life.  They were so full of love and passion, and they had this humour between them that made me want to join in. Seeing these old men still enjoying the little things brought me joy. 

As I wandered down the street further the smell of caramelized nuts took over any other smell in the street like a smoke bomb, but instead filled with a sweet aroma.  I have never smelt something so heavenly and sweet in my seventeen years of living.  It lured me over to the little crack in the wall where they had wine-stained wooden barrels filled with hundreds of shiny, glazed nuts just like diamonds in a pirate's treasure box.  They were hypnotic to look at and I just could not resist.  The first crunch, as the glaze film broke like shards of glass, made my mouth water, followed by a slight tang from the salt layer underneath.  I know it is crazy to think that food can make your day, but truly it brought me so much joy.  I bought seven more bags to bring home to my parents as they had to try this heavenly new obsession of mine. 

One of the nights we were there just happened to be the night of San Juan, a religious festival in Spain.  It was a festival that welcomed the summer and left the spring months behind.  The festival consisted of several rituals where at one o'clock in the morning you had to jump over a bonfire to get rid of all the bad spirits.  You also had to wash your hands in the sea to cleanse your soul for the upcoming summer months.  Hundreds of people gathered on this beach just below the centre of Malaga city beside the port.  I watched as parents showed their kids how to wash their little hands in the sea, splashing each other and I listened to the screams of laughter coming from teeny toddlers running about.  Teenagers gathered with their friends to make bonfires and listen to music whilst welcoming in the summer months with a ‘cheers’ of cold cans.  It was incredible. Not a patch of sand could be seen.  It was crazy to me that all these people young and old, where at this beach until 3 o'clock in the morning, sharing this moment with each other.  I felt consumed by the Spanish culture and the passion they had for life. It was truly so heartwarming, and I fell in love with the love they have for each other. Seeing how they treat each other and celebrate their life brought me joy. 

Ever since that holiday, the Spanish culture has stuck with me.  I find myself unwinding after a long day on the couch watching ‘La Casa De Papel’, or showering listening to music like ‘Vamos a la Playa’.  I watch these shows and listen to these songs as it satisfies my longing to immerse myself more into the culture and it truly brings me joy.  I feel free and I can let go, escape into a different culture, a different part of the world.  Spanish food, the scenery, the love, passion and music all bring me joy.  That's where I escape to when I'm sick of being in Ireland. That’s where I feel most at peace and happy.  Spain is what brings me joy! 
Rebecca Collins

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

A 6th Year's Advice to a Young Reader

It's another World Book Day and I am sure many of you have read several books such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or even Sherlock Holmes.  You know who you are as a reader and you know your tastes.  If you are anything like me, you will not read a book that you cannot relate to in some way. so I am going to explain the impact that books have had in my life.  

Perhaps you are at a stage in life where you want to be different from everyone else, where some of you will go as far as listening to “Most girls” by Haillee Steinfeld.  But even you will look at some form of media to find someone like you.  

When I first realized that books serve a purpose as a door into a magical and different world, I never thought of it as a mirror.  But the more I found myself relating to the characters, the more I saw it as one.  I remember the first time I read a book about an immigrant in a different country who was as confused about her identity as I was.  I was utterly shocked; it was whiplash from all the basic characters with similar backgrounds.  I read the entire book in one day, feeling happier than ever that I was not alone in my experience.  

After that, I scoured every library for books about people of color with different identities or anyone with similar experiences.  I would encourage you to do much the same.  The W B Yeats Library at The High School has a wide variety of books, ranging from sports stars to spy novels and LGBT+ titles.  The impact that reading had throughout my teenage years is one I would not be the same without.  

A strong reading culture depends on a strong writing culture.  As I stated before, inclusivity is as essential as escape.  Many of you will want to write to escape your reality, some of you may never write at all as you would not want an escape, but the rare few of you might see a hole in the art that already exists.  You are not alone if you wish to bridge that gap.  

Many talented artists have had humble beginnings. For example, the Oscar nominated director of Eternals and Nomadland stated how she began and continues to write fan fiction.  Whole sections of the internet exist for the purpose of bridging gaps between popular media and their audience.  Though I should warn you to stay away from certain sections.  

I implore you to explore all that books have to offer; leave no stone unturned on your journey to find your own creative identity.  If on your journey through life, you see gaps, do not think twice about filling them.  I implore you to be the artist that you would look up to.  I implore you to embrace your creativity despite some people and aspire to inspire others.  

Lastly, I will keep this short as I can see some eyes glazing over, I encourage you to reflect on the influence of books on the wider world.  While looking into a mirror is enjoyable nad fulfilling, it is important to keep other cultures and parts of the world in mind.  Over 95% of the world's population live in countries where English is not the first language.  Yet books from these places only make up about 5% of sales.  

Do not worry, I am not encouraging you to learn a new language to read these books, rather encouraging you to explore.  Books about other cultures allow us to experience different lifestyles, give us insights into people that are different from us, letting us reflect on our own way of living.  

Discovering the world of literature can profoundly change someone’s life, just as it did mine.  I am going to leave you with a simple message: by discovering what is out there through literature and getting lost in a new world, it may just help you find yourself.  
Aadya Vig

Thursday, 9 February 2023

TY Culture Module - Foods From Around the World

 One of the main elements of study in Form 4 is that subjects rotate every six weeks. This means a new teacher teaching a new aspect of the subject.  For my Form’s third Geography rotation, we were with Ms Gray studying different cultures, specifically India.  Last Monday was a highlight for me because we were to bring in various foods from around India, working either in groups or solo.  Some of the foods people brought in were coconut burfi, a sweet consisting of coconut, milk powder, and spices; chocolate barfi, a dessert of dark chocolate and a spiced white chocolate filling, and tarka dahl, a type of chickpea-based curry.  I brought in onion bhajis which are a type of spiced onion fritter served with a sweet tamarind chutney from east India.  Tamarind is a treacle-like substance found in seed pods on trees that has a very sour, zingy flavour not unlike a lemon. In the pre-colonial era, Indians would not have had access to lemons and limes so they used tamarind instead.  I will list the recipes for both the bhajis and the tamarind chutney below.  Overall the day was great fun and it was so interesting to explore the various flavours of India. 

Ingredients  

2 onions, finely sliced 

100g gram flour 

½ tsp gluten-free baking powder (we don’t use baking powder in ours) 

½ tsp chilli powder 

½ tsp turmeric 

1 green chilli, deseeded, and very finely chopped 

vegetable oil for frying 

Method 

Soak the onion in cold water while you make the base mix.  Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the chilli powder, turmeric, chopped chilli and a good sprinkling of salt.  Mix in about 100ml of cold water to make a thick batter – add a splash more if it feels too stiff. 

Lower heaped tablespoons of the bhaji mixture into the pan, a few at a time, and cook for a few mins, turning once, until they are evenly browned and crisp, so about 3-4 mins. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little salt, and keep warm while you cook the rest.  

(NB: In the original recipe they make a raita to go with. We use the tamarind chutney instead) 

Sweet Tamarind Chutney- From Simple Indian by Atul Kochhar 

Ingredients (makes 400g) 

150g dried tamarind pulp 

150g grated jaggery (a type of cane sugar) or palm sugar 

1 tsp chilli powder 

1 tsp toasted coriander seeds 

1 tsp toasted aniseed (or star anise) 

1 tsp toasted cumin seed (for the toasting we pan toasted all 3 then ground them up together) 

1 ½ tsp salt 

2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (this is a garnish so optional) 


Method
 

Soak the tamarind pulp in 250ml hot water for 20 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard the residue. Add the grated jaggery, chilli powder, toasted spices, and salt to the tamarind extract. If the chutney is too thick stir in a little water. Cool before serving garnished with coriander leaves. Eat the chutney on the day it is made (within 24 hours).  This isn’t in the recipe but taste after making and add more sugar or salt to balance.
Michael Binchy 




Wednesday, 11 January 2023

J is for Joy - Thoughts on my final year at NYO

Let me ask you a question. 
Who in their right mind would celebrate New Year's day in a cramped hall in Kilkenny College with a hundred other young people, most of whom you've met only three days prior? Guilty. When I was twelve years old, my mother packed me a suitcase, shoved me in the car, drove me down to Kilkenny and left. I, three months into Form 1, royally done with social interaction and utterly ready for a well-deserved Christmas break, was disgusted. 

I feel some context is urgently needed. Hello, I'm the girl with the violin. If you've seen me around the school building, you probably see my instrument case before you spot me.  At seventeen years of age, I'm lucky to know what I want to study, I'm lucky to know what I want to do in the future and I'm lucky I know what I'm going to do for the rest of my life. But as you probably know by now, with every hobby you've tried out, with everything you've ever committed to, it's never that easy. When I was twelve years old, I'd already had experience that I would never have gotten without music.  Competitions, concerts, recitals, travelling abroad, playing chamber music - to me, it was all the same.  Practise, practise, practise. Play, play, play. Make the famous "I can't go out, I need to practise," excuse and then sit at home and do nothing. The one thing I had never experienced before was playing in a symphony orchestra, and I was decidedly not looking forward to it.  

Well, you know what they say about mothers always being right.  I auditioned for the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, was among 105 or so teenagers from across Ireland who got admitted, and embarked on my first residential, seven-day course.

Two hours. Two hours in, and I was no longer worrying about if I'd practised enough, if I'd miss my parents, if I'd make friends. For someone who detests change, is a raging perfectionist, and lives inside a comfort zone so small that I'm essentially caging myself into a corner, I cannot tell you what happened in those two hours. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that never in my nine years of violin playing had I ever experienced anything like I experienced that week.  After those two hours, when I'd settled in, hurried off to my first rehearsal and tentatively made friends with two girls, that was it. Life is a series of moments. We don't go through it mentally documenting down every detail because we know it will be important later. No, we just go about our daily routines, and suddenly there are moments. Let me tell you about just one.

My first rehearsal with the full orchestra was New Year's Eve, 2017.  Now, I don't know what you've heard about symphony orchestras, but let me tell you.  They are loud.  We had spent two days rehearsing in smaller sections, but this was the day where we would meet our conductor for the first time, and play through as a complete orchestra. I will never forget this moment for as long as I live. Maestro Gearóid Grant strode into the room, told the people from Cork to stand up, got the entire orchestra to hiss at them while saying some words I am not able to repeat on paper, and sent us crashing into Dvorak's New World Symphony. Again, I don't know how much you know about classical music. I certainly knew next to nothing about repertoire and symphonies back then, but Dvorak's 9th is a world-changing way to start. 
 
Playing in a symphony orchestra for the first time is a spiritual experience. The sound that envelops you is overwhelming, you can barely hear yourself, you're narrowly missing stabbing your desk partner in the eye, struggling desperately with the notes. It's messy, crazy, and probably the worst we ever play, but it's glorious. So there I was, playing along, sort of terrified, sort of in awe, and then the fourth movement began. For the first time ever, I heard the famous trumpet melody shine through. The sound was triumphant, everyone around me was grinning, Gearóid was dancing up on the podium, and everything felt - it felt as if everything I'd questioned about music, every time I refused to practise, every time I considered giving up - it all made sense right there and then. 

This was the first moment in my life that I thought to myself, "This is why I do music."

There's something really special about feeling at home. There's something really special about returning to a place and people year-in and year-out, and knowing there's nowhere else you'd rather be.  You see, it wasn't as if that moment turned a switch on inside my head and made me decide right there and then that music was it for me. Of course not. We don't actually live inside YA novels, you know. However, after that first moment, I knew that I would do whatever it took to feel like that again.  I knew that I could not let this feeling go, and this is the most important thing the National Youth Orchestra has taught me. 

Music is really, really tough. As is everything you do. You go through your off-seasons, you have thousands of days where you wonder why you are still doing this, you wonder why you can't just let it all go and have fun on Friday nights instead of trudging along to your lessons. You burn out, you lose friends, you're forced to push yourself because no one else will do it for you. But you love it. Because for every time where you want the ground to swallow you up because you've made a fool of yourself, there's a moment like I had, with the National Youth Orchestra. And when you've experienced that, you will chase it again, and again, because it is so worth it.

I've just returned from my last Winter course ever. I have one more in the Summer, and then I will have reached the upper age limit of the orchestra. My first course post-COVID, there are no words to express the week that I had. It's unconventional, and frankly very strange, but everyone feels it. "The J", as we dub it, is ours, in all its incredulous beauty. From the minimum four cartons of Kulana apple juice we down a day, and the way we all sit around doing the Circle K Spin 'n Win hoping to get something from the petrol station across the road, to the ridiculous house cup challenges of drawing staff family portraits, the infamous New Year's Eve section dance off, and the Summer's rounders tournament. From being the youngest member of the orchestra at the age of twelve, with no expectations and a truckload of fear, till now. The friends we make for life, the passion we share, the mutual understanding and support we give each other. It might not be much to you, but I hope you find something like this. I hope there is something in your life that gives you as much joy as the J gives me.
 
When we stood on the stage last Wednesday night after performing Mahler's 1st Symphony, and the entire audience got on their feet. When I took in the sheer happiness and pride that was reflected back to me on every single musician's face. When our conductor Mihhail Gerts presented me with his flowers.  I have never been in love, but I think it would feel just like this.
 
Daimee Ng

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Thoughts on The Recent All Ireland Hockey Final

On Friday 28 October  a group of tired but excited senior pupils boarded a bus to Cork at 7:30 am to watch our Senior 1 hockey boys in the semi-final stages of the All Ireland Schools (Boys) Hockey Championship for the second consecutive year. 

Our  first stop was Ashton School to face fellow Dublin opposition Kings Hospital in the semi final.  The bus on the way down was filled with a surprising amount of energy and chatter for such an early hour, face paint was handed around and by the time we exited the bus at 10:30 am in Cork we were all covered in red and black. 

The first game was a very close affair, the only score separating the teams was a brilliant penalty stroke converted by captain Ben Pasley in the 2nd quarter.  The first quarter was mainly dominated by the oposition but High School pulled back taking over the second.  At half time the score was 1-0 thanks to a goal scored by Ben Pasley.  The High School dominated the 3rd quarter, unlucky not to score several more goals and creating numerous opportunities for themselves.  In the final quarter the oposition started strongly, throwing everything at their last chance to make the All Ireland semifinal.  However, despite their efforts, thanks to brilliant defending and goal keeping, The High School managed to keep them at bay until the final whistle.  Relief was felt all around and the anticipation began to grow for the All Ireland final.  After waving goodbye to our Senior 1 players, full of excitement, the group of supporters headed to the Marina market in Cork's harbour for some well-earned food and rest after all of our cheering.  Voices were beginning to get  hoarse but we didn’t let that stop us as we boarded the bus again at 2:30 pm, refuelled and ready to go to UCC for one last big game.  

The atmosphere on the bus was one we will never forget, every single person was both proud and excited to get to see yet another game of incredible hockey, we exited the bus with banners and music in tow.  We firmly positioned ourselves against the fence of the pitch and began to cheer on the boys as they warmed-up. Our opposition was the Senior 1 boys team from Banbridge Academy, a very strong team from Northern Ireland.  Banbridge started well and went 1-0 up after just 5 minutes. At the end of the 1st quarter the score was 1-0 to Banbridge.  In the second quarter Banbridge scored again but just a few minutes later The High School pulled one back through Ben Pasley making it 2-1 at half time.  Despite Banbridge dominating the first half, The High School team were not deflated, cheered on ecstatically from the sidelines, they came out fighting in the second half, every single player gave their all, although they were exhausted from their 2 intense games.  They put their bodies on the line and earned themselves a well deserved goal through a short corner from Charlie Beatty.  

The score on 2-2 tensions were high, but The High School were well on top and the supporters continued to cheer and the boys continued to throw everything at the game. Despite several efforts and brilliant defending especially by Sam Maxwell as first runner in the short corners, we were unable to score a 3rd.  A short corner for Banbridge in the last two minutes created a moment of fear for The High School supporters but goalkeeper Luke Stevens pulled off an incredible save to keep us in the game.  The full time whistle went with the score at 2-2.  The game went to 1v1s, despite some brilliance from Adam Hearne as goalkeeper and great goals from Alex Lynch and Tom Whelan, Banbridge emerged winners.  

I think if you asked anybody at that game they would tell you that The High School could not have given more of themselves to the tournament.  From the very first game every single player did everything they could for the team and brought so much joy to all of us who were lucky enough to watch the games.  Hockey has given all of us so many great memories in school and on behalf of Form 6 pupils I would like to thank all of the boys for all of the joy they gave us watching those games.  It was a special experience get to see the boys we have grown up with for the last 6 years, make us so proud on such a massive occasion. 

Moya Quigley (Head Girl)

Thursday, 20 October 2022

Form 6 French Production

On Friday 14 October Ms Roullet and Ms Concannon's Form 6 French classes went to see a production of the classic novella Le Petit Prince by famed author and former World War II pilot Antoine de Saint Exupéry at St Andrew’s College. In preparation for our trip we learned the significance of the story and the effect it has had on French culture and society. Le Petit Prince is actually the second most translated book in the world, just behind only the Bible and has been adapted into a film, television series, and opera as well as theatre productions. After a quick bus ride to the venue, we sat down to watch the play. Without giving away too much of the story Le Little Prince is a story about loneliness, friendship, death, and love. The prince is a small boy from a tiny planet who travels the universe, planet-to-planet, seeking to understand how things work. On his journey he discovers the unpredictable nature of Earth's inhabitants. It’s easy to see why the story is so popular with universal and relatable themes and a simple to follow story that anyone from a young child to an adult can get something out of. It was a nice and different way to spend a Friday morning and certainly has helped prepare us for our upcoming mock Leaving Certificate examination in the New Year.
Luke Murphy

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

The Irish National Rowing Championships 2022 - By James Arthur


It was a hot and sunny day on the 8 July. My crew and I had been training hard for Neptune Rowing Club and it was coming to the end of the season. I had my bags packed in the boot of our car and a sick feeling in my stomach. It was at around 1pm when me, my mam and one of my crew mates, Tommy left town for Cork. For the whole journey down there we talked about the race that we were going to be in the next day. We got to ‘The Oriel Hotel’ in Ballincollig in only 3 hours despite taking a quick break along the way. We arrived at the hotel earlier than the rest of our crew so we dumped our bags in our rooms and went to the swimming pool to relax our nerves. When everyone else arrived at the hotel we sat down for dinner but some of us didn’t have an appetite. That night we all went to bed at 11pm to get a nice long sleep before the big day but I struggled to settle and ended up falling asleep a lot later. The next morning we went to breakfast at 8am and our coach told us to eat lots so we ordered foods like porridge and fruit but I couldn’t eat. After that we all went down to ‘The National Rowing Centre’, which is located on the Taiscumar Reservoir at Farran Wood near Ovens. When we got down to the water, there were boats, trailers and people everywhere and everyone you looked at was busy doing something. We found our trailer and coach and got prepared for the race. Thirty minutes before the race started we launched our boat and rowed out onto the reservoir to warm up. At this point my head was filled with so many thoughts. We were in a quad, a boat with 4 rowers and a coxswain. I was in bow, which is at the back of the boat. Lochlann was seated in front of me in the two position, then came Hugh in the three position, and then Tommy in Stroke, with MacDara coxing.  It was a 1km race, a lot shorter than most of our races and there were 6 other boats racing against us. When we reached the start line the sun was beaming down on us and then everyone went quiet as we all got mentally prepared. When the umpire screamed “attention… go!” all of a sudden those nervous feelings disappeared. We started off behind the other boats which gave us a lot more work to do. After the first 250m we gained on the other boats and by 400m it turned into a race between us and one other crew, St Michael’s from Limerick. At the 600m mark one of two commentators lost hope and said “I think this will be a win for St Michael’s”, which only made us push harder and by the 900m mark we were neck and neck with the other boat. At this point I looked over at the boy rowing parallel to me and we locked eyes, then I shouted to my crew mates “One last big push!”. At this point our fore arms were aching from holding the oars too tight, our hands were bleeding from blisters and cuts and our legs were sore and cramped. Ten strokes later when both boats hit the finish line at the same time every rower felt relieved that it was over but neither crew knew who had won. As we gently rowed back into the slip we saw other club rowers and supporters run down towards us telling us we won and we were all in complete shock. After we took the boat and oars back to the trailer all the crew ran down to the reservoir and jumped in the water in our kit, and swam with the kids from other clubs. After that we went to the podium where we were presented with our medals and at around 7pm we left to go home for Dublin. We had gone into the season inexperienced and not expecting much but thanks to our coach Dermot, and the determination of the boys we had come out of it as a successful crew and really good friends.