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A Detailed and Personal Breakdown of Every Famous Person I Have Ever Met

We all have one. A list of famous people we’ve spotted on the street or noticed feeling up the avocados in our local Tesco Metro. But shouldn’t they… I don’t know… have a designated feeler for that sort of thing?

It’s a question I often curiously ask people: Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?

I might as well tell you, my own list isn’t going to win any prizes. It’s a bit on the lean side and none too heavy on the old ‘international superstars’. If you’re looking to find the likes of Hugh Jackman or Dustin Hoffman on this list I’m sorry but you’re going to come away very disappointed.

Pierce Brosnan
Pierce is probably my most impressive spot. I know he’s Irish, which should elicit an: “Ah now, who hasn’t seen him knocking about the place? I’d be more impressed if you said you never saw him,” but Pierce was James Bond so my hands are tied.

I saw Pierce in Dun Laoghaire and he was really getting the star treatment as befits his status as Hollywood icon and national treasure. A man in an apron (a grocer?) was seeing Pierce and a mature lady (an esteemed relative?) across the street. Pierce looked slick, well dressed and a man at ease with himself. He had a very definite aura that said: I’m like you, only a bit more ‘glowy’ and famous.

Glen Hansard
Glen was my most recent spot. I was with friends outside a cafe, eating a goats cheese salad and feeling a frisson in the air that anything could happen. I wasn’t wrong. Glen walked past and my friend said matter-of-factly: “Oh look, there’s Glen. Isn’t he a bit of a ride?”
“Yes,” I said, “he’s got something about him alright. And he’s meant to be very nice in ‘real life’. He’s a man who looks happy with himself and his achievements. Not smug though. I like that.”

“No,” said another, more discerning friend, “no, he wouldn’t do it for me I’m afraid.”

So I concocted a story, hoping to change her mind: She’s heartbroken, so she goes to the Aran Islands to her grandfather’s cottage to heal. In a windswept landscape she writes poetry, wears woolly jumpers and looks fragile and beautiful. She sits on quite a lot of rocks, feeling like she will never love again. But wait, one stormy day she’s sitting on one of her rocks (her favourite one, it’s flat and there’s space for a coffee and her Sudoku book) and she sees a man fixing a boat on the beach, strong and ginger. It’s Glen. His beautiful hands are adroit and roughened, yet carefully trimmed nails reveal a fastidious, prideful man. He looks into her eyes acrosseth sand and shale with a passion that startles her. Instantly she knows she has found her soulmate. They make passionate love on the cold beach, rain whipping down as they cry out in a frenzy.

“No,” she says,” no, he still doesn’t do it for me.”

Johnny Vegas
I walked passed him on Baggot Street Lower. He was wearing a white t-shirt and was deep in conversation with a duo of consorts. I left him to it.

Jimmy Doyle from Fair City
This one is brilliant in its randomness. It’s a small auld world and no mistake. I saw Jimmy (real name David Mitchell) in Maryland’s Baltimore airport.

Is that? It’s not. Is it? Is it Jimmy? Could it be? Ah no, sure what are the odds. I’ll get a bit closer. Well jimmy me timbers, it IS Jimmy Doyle, skilled mechanic and member of the Doyle dynasty, son of patriarch Bela.

Of course I had to say something. I had to prove this happened, for myself more than anyone.
“Hi, I’m a big fan of the show. Can I get a photo?”

It’s the only time I EVER asked a celebrity for a photo.

Sure enough Jimmy (real name David Mitchell) obliged. I still have the picture. I eh, won’t post it though because it was at the end of my J1 and after discovering Philly Cheesesteaks and corndogs I had put on about two stone.

Keith Urban
If it came down to it in a court of law, by virtue of nationality and column inches, (dirty minds on ye!) Keith would probably be judged my best spot, which is a bit depressing because I have zero interest in country music and don’t find him sexually appealing in the least. He was very tanned and wore a black short sleeved shirt. Points were awarded for the sheen off his hair though. He was a sheeny little fecker.

At least my ‘spot’ area had a bit of glitz and glam to it though. I was outside The Standard Hotel in New York City, drinking a coffee and feeling brilliant. Keith was making his way to a black car, no doubt taking him to a pressing ‘Keith’ engagement.

One of the chaps from The Magic Numbers, Cathy Davey and Neil Hannon (all at once)
I once won a competition to be a reporter for Jack Daniel’s for a special gig they were putting on. The gig was a one-off performance of Vampire Weekend’s titular album so part of the prize was to come and watch one of the chaps from the Magic Numbers, Cathy Davey, Neil Hannon and Richie from Jape rehearse. They were all marvellously nice people, but after a couple of hours watching the rehearsal me and the friend I had brought with me were horribly, horribly bored (my fiance Alex has been playing in bands for years so such a thing holds no glamour for me, if anything it reminds me of wanting us to go away for the weekend but we can’t because he’s playing a gig to fifteen people in a pub in Tullamore).

We stayed as long as we could so we wouldn’t offend, (I’m sure they wouldn’t have cared a jot but even so) then finally when it all got too much tentatively butted in and said: “Thanks a million, we’re heading off now. Bye.”

I think that’s it. There might be more but I can’t think of any right now, which isn’t a great indictment on those that may have slipped my mind.

I wouldn’t say I’ve had a great run of it thus far but as they say, the night is still young.

Fashion: Festival Style Series #1: Sailor Sequins and Gazelles

In a past article, The Tragedy of Festival Fashion I detailed my crushing, yes crushing disappointment at the emergence of a ‘festival uniform’. You know the one I’m on about: floral headbands, ill-advised hats (the little black bowler ones are a particular smear on our history) and those playsuits with the sort of… Aztec-y prints?

Well I may as well walk the talk. In this Festival Style Series I will attempt to turn festival dressing on its head, offering alternative ideas and creative inspiration.

SAILOR SEQUINS AND GAZELLES

Red Chanel lippy at a festival? A dress that looks pixellated? Runners with sequins? Why the hell not says you?! Am I not the creator of my own destiny?

This look is a fresh spin on the traditional retro pin-up—the addition of trainers and a satchel backpack tones down any ‘glitziness’ and makes it cool. It’s Marylin Monroe except she’s seeing the drummer from Foals and trying to get her singer-songwriter career off the ground. Festival 1Ashish Dress: €1,806.56 Net-a-Porter (Think of like this—it’s 10 cent per sequin. No? Not having any of it? OK. Fair enough).

Small Portrait Backpack’: The Cambridge Satchel Company £135

Adidas Originals Campus 80s Japan Trainers: ASOS €91

Chanel Rouge Allure in ‘Passion’: Boots €32.50

Fashion: Tangle Twister Makeup and Moschino Togs for a Zinging Beach Look

Fashion is a bit of craic right? And there’s nowhere you can get away with wearing outfits more fun, more daring than you normally would than on holiday. The likes of Miguel from Granada or that family from Newcastle sunbathing beside you—the lot that wouldn’t shut up when you were trying to read Peter Schmeichel’s autobiography—they don’t know you, you’ll probably never see them again,  (“Oh my God! Where am I? Who did I wake up next to? Is that… is that Miguel? From the beach? Ah feck!”) so it’s the perfect opportunity to bust out something a bit wilder than usual.

An orange lippy like Mac’s Morange might seem scary, but it actually goes gorgeously with sun-kissed skin—honest, there isn’t an eye colour made yet that it doesn’t bring out nicely. Add bit of My Gecko Does Tricks from OPI’s appropriately named Hawaii collection on the old nails and whomp! there you are, a human Tangle Twister.

But wait, we ain’t done here. A bright pink Moschino togs with pretend ‘chainz’, pink neon John Lennon-style sunnies and a big mad hat finish your acid-house-beach-rave look. No wonder Miguel was all over you like a heat rash.

tropical final

Moschino swimming togs: FarFetch €285

Sunglasses: Matthew Williamson £210

OPI My Gecko Does Tricks nail polish: Beauty Bay €15.50

Hat: Catarzi @ASOS €31

Lippy: Mac Morange €16.50

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).

cute

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 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

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