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A Different View

The Leaving Cert – a nightmare that just keeps on giving

Dave O'Connell

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Even those who sleep the sleep of the innocent always have one recurring nightmare – it invariably involves a question you’d never anticipated coming up in the Leaving Cert.

And if there’s a week in the year when that doomsday scenario unfolds to upset your slumber, then it’s currently galloping over the horizon like a posse on the trail of a gang of cattle rustlers.

Because this is Leaving Cert season – the one time of the year that weather forecasters can take their holidays, secure in the knowledge that the sun will be splitting the rocks, as the condemned make their way into the study hall with all of the anticipation and bravado of a turkey two weeks before Christmas.

For the rest of us who walked that same walk sometime well back in the last century, the butterflies grow no less intense – all the moreso if one of your own is now going down the state exams route.

Are you sorted for the theorems? What formulas are tipped this year? Will the poet be Plath, Bishop, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Hopkins or Derek Mahon?

You’ll never have nightmares about College exams or job interviews, because you’ll never be as stressed about any of those things as you will be on the morning of English Paper 1 (Honours or Ordinary Level) next Wednesday morning at 9.30am.

And it’s no consolation that it’s full to the brim of stuff that you’ll never again need for the rest of your life.

I mean, can you imagine a group of oul’ fellas ruminating over their pints, discussing just how Shakespeare’s sonnets provide a fascinating insight into his views on love, death and morality?

And would your life be any less complete if you didn’t know that, if three parallel lines cut off equal segments on some transversal, then they will cut off equal segments on any other transversal?

But that’s the bread and butter of the Leaving Cert – ridiculous questions and absurd formulas about things that are utterly irrelevant to real life because they couldn’t think of anything practical to ask you about.

And in turn – to beat the system – the teachers have spent years coming up with stock answers for these great imponderables…answers to be learned off in advance of the exam, retained for all of three hours and then dumped into the darkest recesses of your maturing mind.

Take this nugget from one helpful student as to how you deal with the ‘poetry question’ – and in fairness this at least offers some nod towards learning.

“Learn an intro and conclusion for each poet and tweak it to the question. Then do about a paragraph or two on each poem and then add a paragraph relating to the question. That’s it really; that’s how I do all my poetry essays.”

Such gems are all over the internet; you can get your hands on full sets of notes – so many that you probably wouldn’t need to go to school at all if you had fibre-optic broadband – or you could trouser up the thousands for cram schools which specialise in showing the short-cut to examination success.

Part of this is down to the fact that students are now locked into this world of academia for longer than ever before. And it has evolved in a manner that suggests it was more by default than design.

In our parents’ time, the Group Cert was the height of most families’ ambition – indeed many didn’t make it past primary school.

But then it because the Inter Cert and gradually – in our time – it was the Leaving. But now a degree is the new Leaving Cert, a Masters is the new degree and a PhD isn’t as farfetched as it was in the good old days.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Selfies mean autographs are now just a relic of the past

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

When you look back through old photo albums, you realise what an occasion that family portrait used to be – best clothes, hair combed, standing to attention like soldiers off to war.

These days, we probably take more photographs in one week that our parents took in their entire lifetime, and so the sense of occasion or formality are no longer.

Now the trick is to capture those unguarded moments, where no one is posing for the picture but rather is caught unawares.

When we used to go to weddings in larger numbers, you’d find it was no longer enough to have an official photographer and videographer on hand to capture the unfolding now – now each table had a disposable camera to capture those accidental moments as well.

At least the wedding album is still a thing – even if, as ever before, its primary duty is as a door-stopper with the express purpose of gathering dust.

And the wedding video remains a great way of clearing the house of interminable guests; just stick it on and watch them reach for their coats as they suddenly ring for taxis.

Less so the days of everyone getting dressed up in best clothes again a few days after the Communion or Confirmation and going to a photography studio to pose beside the potted plant in front of the drop screen of big castle doors.

The upsurge in photography on foot of easy access has also seen another evolution – the celebrity autograph being usurped by the selfie.

There’s still a huge market for autographs of course, but it’s just no longer what young fans wait around stage doors or stadiums for – now it’s a pic on your phone with your favourite star.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Grandparents are the glue that became unstuck during Covid

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

IT goes without saying that lockdown has been hard for everyone – with the possible exception of hermits – but few have felt it more than grandparents, confined to barracks and deprived of those hugs from the grandchildren.

Looking at them through windows may only have made it worse, because little kids don’t understand why nana and granddad won’t come out; they don’t realise they want to, more than anything in the whole world.

This pandemic has given us plenty of time to reflect; a chance to remember what is truly important and what we should cherish instead of taking for granted.

And arguably, grandparents should be on top of that list.

You’ll have heard it said that being a grandparent is like you’ve been given a second chance; an opportunity to spend time in retirement with the next generation that work deprived you of when it came to your own.

There’s also a notion espoused by some of those grandparents that you love them more than your own kids, because this time, when you’re finished playing with them, you can give them back.

I never knew any of my four grandparents, because they were all dead before I was born. My own sons never knew my parents because they too had long departed before the next generation arrived.

But thankfully they did grow up with two grandparents as an integral part of their lives – and not just minding them, which they did with a commitment for which we will be ever grateful.

The measure of success in this department is that your children see your parents as just a part of the family; there’s an easy familiarity every time they meet, just like picking up the pieces without a second thought.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Home is still full of memories even when it’s an empty nest

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell
Dave O'Connell

We’ve all heard the phrase – and perhaps dread the concept; the empty nest, after the fledglings take flight and you’re left rattling around in a quiet house with just memories of those days of pandemonium and noise.

The social policy-makers would tell you that this is the time to downsize; save yourself the steps of the stairs and the cleaning, and cut down on the heating bills to enjoy your autumn days in accommodation more appropriate to your reduced needs.

And from a purely economic perspective, there’s merit in that. You have a house that’s now too big for you, and others can’t find a home of any size, let alone one sufficient for a full family – but that’s only one side of the argument.

The other is that your house is your home, and not because of its size – it’s because of its location, and your familiarity with its every nook and cranny. It’s also where those fly-away chicks still see as home, even if they’re now no more than occasional visitors.

As you grow older, familiarity is more important than ever; without the beautiful distraction of children, you grow even more dependent on neighbours and your community and the facilities you know on your old doorstep.

You know how long it takes to get to the shops or to the pub; you know you to give a spare key to in case you’re out when a delivery is due – or later on, if there’s a fear you might have a fall.

Your lifetime’s treasures – except for the children – are in your home; the sort of stuff others might see as clutter, but to you they are memories of holidays or graduations or births or marriages…those glory days that marked the chapters of your family life.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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