Month: June 2015 (page 1 of 4)

Fashion: Up, Up and Away! Balloon Print Midi Skirt and Miu Miu Flats for Kooky Meets Park Avenue Princess

How cute is this whimsical hot air balloon print skirt? It’s really cute. Unbelievably cute. I would even be so bold as to say it’s up there with the likes of puppies wearing sunglasses and tiny baby trainers. And the second I saw these sparkly Miu Miu dolly flats I instantly knew I had found the skirt an equally adorable soulmate.

This look is cute but it’s grown up cute. It reminds me of a glossy-haired Park Avenue Princess attending a child’s birthday party in upstate New York on a sunny Sunday.  She’s skipping up the steps of a pretty white  colonial-style house carrying an enormous box wrapped in shiny paper and a huge bow (it’s a Skyra’s Mysterious Sky Castle Lego set).


Balloon midi skirt (also available in blue): Sheinside $21

White broderie shirt: Miss Selfridge £15

Miu Miu sequin flats: Net a Porter €595

Pink pearl earrings: ASOS €8.22

The Book: The Novel, a Tragic Comedy About the Search for Meaning by a Girl Who Thinks She’s an Eejit

The book (working title “Not a Notion”) was inspired by the (scary) question: ‘If we’re defined our job, what happens when we can’t figure out what we should be doing?’ And anyway, is that even fair? Is it right? Should we be defined by the work we do? What about all the other stuff like being nice to our Nan or pulling off floral headbands with élan?

The novel is a tragic comedy about Amy, a 28 year old who is looking for some meaning in life, for her place in the world. She has spent the five years since she graduated floating, going through the motions, unsure of who she is or where the hell her life is going.  Well, that is until two events force her to take control of her life and find out what she’s made of.  DUN DUN DUN…

She needs all the support she can get but with her Mam living in Turkey with her boyfriend Hassan, her activist best friend Clare too busy designing ‘merch’ for her many causes and her ‘people’s champion’ Nan setting up a Citizen’s Advice Bureau in her sitting room, (there’s even a play area for the kids by the telly—no Lego though, not since little Terry O’ Shea nearly choked to death on a bit) she might just have to, as the great Heather Smalls of M People would say, ‘search for the hero inside herself’.

But will she be able to drag herself away from lying on the sofa and watching Jeremy Kyle and Philip Schofield (he’s very soothing) and repeats of Little House of the Prairie? Will she learn to look at herself in the mirror without thinking ‘you big fecking eejit’?  Will she find… peace? And for all that is good and holy will she ever have a wash and take off that manky dressing gown, the one that doesn’t close over her boobs?

The story is set in post-recession Dublin where Amy lives in a house she can’t afford (although on the bright side she has her own bathroom so the odds of other people’s pubes between her toes in the shower are vastly reduced) with snobby princess Carol, no nonsense Garda Nancy, vicious-tongued Rasheed and silky-haired smug git Oisin (why won’t he tell her what conditioner he uses?)

Fashion: Club Tropicana Drinks Are Free (Well In This Outfit They Will Be)

Balmy nights are one of my favourite things about being on holiday. Maybe it’s because in Ireland, no matter how warm it is during the day, come evening we’re moving the BBQ indoors or reluctantly lobbing on our jackets. “Well now my outfit’s ruined,” we say, a touch bitterly, “at this rate I might as well have only worn a coat and feckin’ shoes.”

Holidays of course, are a different kettle of fish altogther. There we are at 11pm—glowing and dewy, drinking margaritas and listening to the sound of palm tree fronds lightly blowing in the sea breeze, not a cardigan in sight.

1960s Retro Tropicana

This look was inspired by those balmy summer nights. The pink Sophia Webster platform sandals scream ‘holiday!’ while the cool simplicity of the shift dress keeps the kitschy accessories from looking cartoonish.

It conjures up images of a kohl-eyed Priscilla Presley at a Vegas pool party in the 1960s. She’s annoyed because Elvis hasn’t done the washing up (again!) so she has a face on her like she’s going to slap someone. Of course this only adds to her suntanned, backcombed fabulousness.


Belted shift dress: Topshop £55

Sequin pineapple bag: Accessorize £35

Shell earrings: BubuRuby; Etsy €7.22

Jewelled platforms: Sophia Webster £420

The Book: The Sexy Bits

I’m struggling with the Sexy Bits—and while writing them is hard enough, it’s the reading back that’s some special class of torture. When I re-read a steamy scene I’ve written my first instinct is to stick my fingers in my eyeballs and sing the theme song from Barney at the top of my lungs until the nice people come for me and put me in the van.

Okay, I’m just going  to start by cutting to the chase and admitting I love the Sexy Bits. No need for me to be ashamed, no need to be coy. And ironically yes, I’m fully aware ‘cutting to the chase’ and ‘coy’ sound like they’ve been taken from an awful nineties erotic novel about a real estate tycoon who’s trying to seduce his Sharon Stone-esque top agent: “My dear we’ve just closed on the semi in Calabasas. You change into that oyster silk sheath I like so much and I’ll get the champagne.”

But look, I think it’s fair to say we all fall on the Sexy Bits with delight—and why wouldn’t we? Are we made of stone?  Are we not but flesh? Who wouldn’t enjoy the glorious,  jelly-kneed escapism of interludes d’erotique that don’t involve the likes of kicking a Tesco plastic bag during fellatio or giving out shite because the new duvet has been put through the ringer?

So what makes a Sexy Bit a really good Sexy Bit? All Sexy Bits are not created equal—think, for example, of those questionable Mills and Boon scenes that are less arousing than a bowl of Weetabix.  I would know, I read loads of them when I was about ten, hiding out in the back of the library like a little freak. Doctors and nurses and equestrian professionals at it like the clappers. Parenting Mam?

A good indicator a Sexy Bit is a really good Sexy Bit is if you’re interrupted you feel rudely catapulted back into reality. It’s a painful separation. The equivalent of a cold shower. There you are, absorbed in a good juicy bit, swooning like a good thing with the romance and passion of it all when your Mam comes in with the hoover and says: “Feet up there! That book looks good love, what is it?”
“Nothing Mam, nothing,” you say, panicked, the stirrings of a strange residual Catholic shame making you feel like a right pervert. “Nothing sexy about it at all. Really, em, not sexy. It’s about… erm… crops.”
“Oh right, I didn’t know you were interested in agriculture love. Here, move that will you I’m trying to get the the back of the sofa.”

Of course what makes the Sexy Bits even better is the tension, the build-up. We’ve been put through the mill as a series of misunderstandings, coincidences and ex-wives not really being dead conspire to keep our will-they-won’t-they heroes apart. Finally, finally when they get together the last thing we want is a chaste kiss and a cuddle. No way, after our patience we want, nay deserve a bit of decent action. I’ve been shortchanged more than once (hello Hunger Games I’m talking to you) and I felt more than dissatisfied, I felt resentful.

So you see, I understand as a writer I need to give the people what they deserve. I need to give them the Sexy Bits. It is my duty.

But if only it wasn’t so damn hard. Every time I try to write something remotely sexy, I cringe in mortification. I feel sick with it.

He leaned forward and caressed her—”NO! NO! EUCH! BLEURGH! I CAN’T! I CAN’T!” I moan pathetically, as feverish with discomfort I cover my face with my hands. I imagine I would feel similar if I tried to talk dirty (the closest I have ever come to talking dirty is saying: “The hob is congealed with muck—pass me the Cif”).

And then I can’t help but think about people I know reading them and I feel a fresh wash of horror.

“My God this has nothing to do with crops!” says my poor Mam. “I remember when you were a babe in arms, an innocent and now look at you and this… this filth!” Except I’m obviously overreacting because my mother is French. She’d probably be proud of me and truthfully it’s hard to know if that’s even worse. But other people—my brother, work colleagues, my old maths teacher (hi Mr. Dobbin). It makes me shudder.

My only way to deal with it (at the risk of sounding like an arty farty twodge) is to let the characters take me where they need go. It’s not about me, it’s about the story. I tell myself that if I don’t put a decent Sexy Bit where it needs to go I am doing a disservice to the reader, the book, the characters.

“Cop on to yourself Cynthia!” I say sternly, “and write in some heavy petting there. You are a writer. You are supposed to take yourself to the places you fear most. Now, will you ever make him pull off her top and stop that silly wincing!”

“Okay mean me,” I reply, knocking back some whiskey to bolster my courage, “I’m doing it, I’m doing it!”

So are there going to be some Sexy Bits in the book? Yes, I can confirm I have the bones (ahem) of a few scenes already written. Do they make me feel queasy? Yes, but only because I wrote them. Am I ever going to use the word ‘panties’? I solemnly swear I shall not.

The Book: Horror! Pain! Joy! The Book Journey so Far…

Writing a book has always been my lifelong goal. The way I saw it, if you consider yourself a ‘real writer’ then surely writing a book is the ultimate ambition? I mean, a book is long. What kind of writer are you if you can’t write a good long book?

But when I tried to start I found couldn’t. I was afraid. Terrified. What if it’s a load of shite? What if I’m just waffling on about nothing of any real importance? What if I just can’t finish it? Then what? Then I won’t be Cynthia the Writer I’ll just be Cynthia the… Nothing.

But I knew I had to cop on. I knew giving up was a far more terrifying prospect than getting to work, so I did. And I was right to be terrified. I had false start after false start. I would re read a chapter and cringe in mortification. I gave up, started again, gave up, started again.

Then suddenly it happened. Whomp! One day I got down to work and I stayed working. I believed in my character and her story by God I wasn’t going to give up. And hallelujah!—it was only a bit shite.  Heartened, I kept going. I composed dialogue in my head as I cycled into work. I wrote characters and plot ideas on notebooks in cafes like I was living in Brooklyn. I sketched what they looked like, where they lived. I edited obsessively.

And it got better, much better and instead of cringing after reading a finished chapter I felt elated—this is it, thought I, there’s something special here. And then (because it’s not the natural order for things to be that easy) I came full circle when I flung 100 pages at the wall and sobbed: “It’s a load of bollocks!”.

Of course it’s not a load of bollocks, but now I understand why people call things they adore ‘my child’ (like cars and really good top of the range laptops) because although I love it dearly there are times I feel like screaming at it and cutting off its pocket money.

Now I’m still scared, except it’s a whole new kind of scared—now I’m not afraid to start it, I’m afraid to finish it—because that’s when the hard work really begins. This is called, as my dear Mam would say,  being a contrary yoke.

An Irish Beach is a Funny Thing

This piece was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about the amount of times we had worn a bikini on an Irish beach in recent years. It was barely a handful—madness.  And such a tragedy considering we are surrounded by such beautiful beaches. But no, if we want a bit of a dip it seems our destiny is to be held to ransom by the likes of Ryanair. Thank God O’ Leary has chilled out and lets us bring on the extra cabin bag.

On the bright side there isn’t much call for tidying your pubes, unless you count aqua aerobics of a Monday.

An Irish beach is a funny thing. On a sunny day the sand is strewn with bodies, suncream, garish towels and packets of Chickatees.

Kaftans from Penneys, Tupperware and coolboxes filled with ham sandwiches.

Children run around with sand on their arses shouting proudly: “Mammy, look at my thandcathle!” They ask for ice-cream, pick their togs out of their bums and earnestly dig holes, tongues stuck out in concentration (a serious business, digging holes).

Of course there’s always a group who aren’t messing around: deckchairs, roast chickens and blaring music. The works.

Everyone thinks: Ah for feck sake will they turn that shite off. The cheek of them blasting their music like that. Except they don’t say anything because the mum looks like she would kick the head off you as soon as look at you.

But if you look at the sea you will find that only a few hardy souls have braved the water. It’s like the end of your bowl of Cheerios.

“Oh Jesus it’s too cold! I won’t be going in there girl, but sure listen it’s nice to sit out in the sun so it is.”
And then the knowing nods: “Oh yeah sure it’s too early in the summer for the sea to have warmed up. You’ll be looking at mid-August I’d say before you can head in for a dip without getting the pneumonia.”
“Oh lads, I got myself a wetsuit there in Aldi, thirty euro – that’s what you want to get yourselves. Keep an eye out now, there’s new stock coming in the whole time.”

And then Tomas, who fancies himself a bit of a philosopher, says sagely: “Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” And his pained wife looks at him and thinks for the umpteenth time: Jesus, if I had my time again…

Then some fella gets up, brushes custard cream crumbs from his chest and says: “Ah would you go away! You’re a pack of wusses! Nothing like a good refreshing dunk in the sea.”

Off he goes at a hundred miles an hour to the shore, feeling like Mitch Buchanan. Then suddenly he stops, gingerly dips his toe in and walks back slowly to his towel.

“Em, yeah, I… em sure I  might go in later. I eh, I thought I saw a jellyfish. Here Nelly pass me a bockle of orange will ya. What are ye laughin’ at?”

And then they go home and book a holiday to Benalmádena.

First published June 2014

Wet Bum: Cycling, a Test of Endurance

In the last few years I’ve become the thing drivers despise. The spectre on wheels that is The Cyclist. “Oh they’re lethal so they are  I’ll kill one of them these days”—that’s what they all say and I should know, I was a driver once. I even had a Hello Kitty shammy for cleaning the windows and an old can of WD40 in the boot. I was legit. However, now that I live near Dublin city it’s miles handier to cycle, which worked out for the best because I sold my car for the money to move here in the first place. I’ve slipped into the role of cyclist quite well and I do quite like it, but I will say, on those  cold, wet days you would miss the comfort of the car, the dulcet tones of Matt Cooper on the radio and the packet of crisps you’d have on your lap to keep you going until dinner.

These past few months have been dark times for the cyclist, dark times indeed.

Mornings have become a spiritual and emotional battlefield. Evenings are a test of endurance.

There’s a lot of feeling sorry for yourself and saying things like: “What is the meaning of all this?” and “Why?” and “Well now, I must say, this is an unsustainable way of life isn’t it?”

It was only a half an hour ago you said goodbye forever to another fragment of your spirit as your alarm went off, and now here you are woolly-headed and frozen, mopping up rain on your saddle with a Keep Calm it’s Crimbo tea towel.

“It’s not even feckin’ Crimbo anymore,” you sob bitterly. “And how can I keep calm? I’m sending myself eyes wide open into a kidney infection.”

Up you splodge onto the bike, world weary, preparing yourself for the seeping feeling of wet and cold as your arse becomes a Rorshach test that would most certainly be deciphered as ‘release me from this pain’.

Then there are the junctions you’re too wimpy to cycle through in the legit ‘rules of the road’ way, so you mince gingerly to the nearest pedestrian crossing, hold the wet frame between your legs, and give yourself the kind of damp thigh chafe you haven’t experienced since piddling your ninnies as a child.

And of course you can’t forget the delicious feeling of the wind and rain and cold hopping off your face. You feel like you’re Liam Neeson in The Grey and the only way to stay sane is to think about what you’re going to have for dinner and detach yourself by singing comforting songs over and over again like ‘Baby don’t hurrrt me, don’t hurt me, no more, WHAT IS LOVE? dih dih dih dididih, dih dih dih dididih’.

Then you arrive at your destination, freezing, soaked and despondent, but with back sweat Rosemary Conley would be proud of.

And who can you blame? That’s the rub. WHO CAN YOU BLAME?

First published February 2014

How My Hollywood Blockbuster Dreams are Giving Me an Identity Crisis

Do you ever wake up wrecked, your Minnie Mouse pyjamas dripping in sweat because you spent the last hour attempting to detonate a bomb on a speedboat? I do. I’ll have a glass of warm milk and a bravery medal please.

I’ve been having some wild dreams lately. Properly wild. As wild as putting the jam on before the peanut butter. I wake up many mornings and say: “Right, I had another box-office hit of a dream there last night. When are these babies going to make me a bit of money?”

These dreams have a beginning, middle and end. They’re proper thrillers, (with a bit of sci-fi thrown in to keep things fruity) and they’re packed with threat, characters to root for and resolution. I’m in the middle of a covert government operation. I’m saving a hijacked plane. I’m in a car chase scene on the Brooklyn Bridge.

I go to bed all tuckered out after staying up late reading romances set in the 1900s, and the next minute I’m waking up for a wee at 6am having seen more action that Bruce Willis.

I’m Will Smith in Enemy of the State. I’m Nicolas Cage in Face/Off. I’m Angelina Jolie in Salt.

Now I’m all confused. I’m cycling into work normally, perhaps even stopping off for a coffee to get me going, maybe an oatie biccy, but only hours before I might have disabled a missile, I might have seduced a CIA operative for information, I might have said: “It was an honour serving with you all, especially you, Tito Gonzalez,” as I plunge to my death in a military chopper.

I feel like I’m leading a double life.

Books like 100,000 Dreams Deciphered and You and Your Subconscious delve deeply into teeth falling out dreams, death dreams, naked dreams, flying dreams but where is the section that explains what it means when as soon as you fall asleep you become Denzel Washington?

First published August 2014

How House of Cards has Eroded my Trust in Humanity

Wouldn’t House of Cards scare the tatty bejaysus out of you? Is it really like that? All maneuvering and lying and running rings around us with rhetoric? Do the lads at the top care a jot about us Joe Soaps? Yes, yes, yes and no are probably the answers if House of Cards is anything to go by. Gulp.

Having just finished watching series two of House of Cards on Netflix, I have come to an awful conclusion. No, that conclusion isn’t that a terrifyingly large portion of my life is spent in front of the television. I reached that one a good while ago, and while not exactly proud of myself I think I’ve reached a place of acceptance. Sedentary arse clenches count as exercise right?

So while House of Cards is an undeniably excellent show, and one I thoroughly enjoyed, I fear it has affected me detrimentally.

How? Well if you haven’t seen it, the show is about Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) and the intricate—I’m talking tangled Christmas lights here—web of lies and manipulation they create to get what they want. Every five minutes they destroy some poor sap’s life. And do they care? Not at all. Everything they do is with an air of entitlement and cruel detachment. And then there are the people trying to counter the Underwoods’ games. So really, nearly everyone in the show is a horrible self-serving plonker. And the goodies are losing every time.

So now my trust is gone. I no longer trust ANYONE. As far as I’m concerned everyone’s motivations are suspect.

My mother offers me a cup of tea?
What does she want in return? What’s the little schemer after? I’m no poor eejit I’ll have you know.

My sister gives me a birthday present?
Well now, that’s a nice framed photo of us laughing together in a beautiful candid moment. I’ll take it but it doesn’t mean I owe you anything. I’m watching you. I can’t be bought with financial or emotional warfare.

An outwardly sweet old lady smiles at me in the street?
Oh I’ll smile back, I’ll play you at your game. But you needn’t think I’m fooled. You must have been made of stern stuff to reach this grand old age. But the question is, why do you want me on side? What are your motives? You’ll have to get up early in the morning to catch me.
But I’m old, anyone past seventy-five worth their salt gets up at 5am for a carton of milk and the paper.”
Right, don’t be smart. Showing your true colours already. Earlier than that then. Way earlier.”

House of Cards is a tureen of evil sludge, a celebration of manipulation, self-gain, power and lies.
It begets the question: why is everyone so horrible and mean?

Francis and Claire Underwood have changed how I feel forever. I now look at the world as a boreal landscape of individualism and selfishness.

It is so cold it needs a North Face jacket and those hand warmer things you put in the microwave. Maybe even some fleece-lined Thinsulate products.

For all the good it will do I’m going to watch the Care Bears back to back.

First published February 2014

Tom Cruise Visits Ireland and the Country Needs a Lie Down

Ireland is hilarious. Sometimes I feel deep down, despite the fact we now have posh coffees with soya and agave and the like—and a Cos, that we still feel inferior to BIG countries such as AMERICA (f*&k yeah!). Never was this more apparent than when Tom Cruise rolled into our capital city.

Tom Cruise visited Dublin for the premiere of new film Oblivion and the next day it was on the front page of the national papers. I mean this in the nicest, fondest way possible—we’re so embarrassing.

At the thought of an American movie star we suddenly turn into Father Ted. Bless us but we’re just so impressed. No matter how cosmopolitan we’ve become we’re still very much seduced by the ‘glamour’ of celebrity, especially if they’re the ‘big names’ as my mother would say.

I saw evidence of this myself when Michael Bublé came to turn on Dublin’s Christmas lights in 2012. You couldn’t move to scratch your nose. It was every man for himself as pensioners belted you out of the way and groups of teenagers formed impenetrable walls. The most I got to see was the sign for Aldo over a profusion of jostling heads. Now I wouldn’t be surprised if half the people there didn’t even like Michael, wouldn’t know one of his songs from a hole in the groundbut that’s hardly the point, he’s famous.

Okay, of course we’re going to go a bit mad when there’s the chance to see a ‘big name’. We’re a small island and people don’t seem to pop over to us that much—they’re too busy going to the likes of London or Rio I think. If, for example, Nicolas Cage was strolling around Ballintubbert I would be fully behind anyone who came after him for a clump of his hair or an autograph, or even to hold him in a van for a little while, just to chat.

However trotting Tom up to the Guinness Storehouse and then meeting Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore for the presentation of an Irish heritage certificate is a little bit cringe, no?

It’s gas, an actor comes to the country actually gets to meet with the Tánaiste. Is it not a bit like if every time Colin Farrell went to Washington he would meet the vice president of the United States?

I understand that people will say: “It’s really good for tourism” and “We’re a small welcoming nation” and “Tom’s lovely, always has time for the fans” but still. Could we not act a little nonchalant? A bit cooler about the whole thing? Have an air of detachment?

“Oh look it’s Tom Cruise over there.”

“So it is Thomas, so it is, so will you have a latte or a cappucino?”

“Ahm, a latte please Diego, almond milk and stevia. You know, I wasn’t mad on Mission Impossible Four, were you?”

“Not the best of the franchise Thomas, not the best.”

First published April 2013

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