If You Can’t Sleep, Learn Something

March 5, 2013 at 1:40 am | Posted in cooking, food, History, insomnia, internet, Ireland, Maps, Northern Ireland, Recipe | Leave a comment
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So. I can’t sleep. A fairly common problem for me, exacerbated by flu, a child with an unpredictable sleeping pattern and an overactive mind. So I decided that instead of aimlessly tweeting, I might take advantage of my insomnia and learn something. This is what I have learned:

1) The six counties of Northern Ireland;
2) The largest county of the Republic of Ireland;
3) The perceived difference between a Loyalist and a Unionist;
4) When the Act of Union was;
5) The 10 best Irish history books;
6) The 10 best Irish novels;
7) The recipe for an authentic spaghetti bolognese.

So, food & history: these are the things which keep me awake at night.

Keep On Running?

June 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Posted in depression | 4 Comments
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I was interested to read in The Guardian last week that exercise does not cure depression, although I very much enjoyed Simon Hattenstone’s enthusiastic dismissal of this theory.

I suffered from crippling depression in my final year at university. What triggered it, I cannot tell you: the shock at being back in England, perhaps, or the idea that it was time to work out what I was going to do with my life; certainly, discovering that the man I loved was in love with someone else did not help.

Initially, I retreated entirely behind that metaphorical black dog, smiling madly at everyone I met in the hope that I would start to believe that there was something worth smiling about. I thought of days in the way which Will does in About A Boy. Somehow, breaking them down into those precise ‘units of time’ satisfied the control freak in me. I thought that if I could control exactly what I did with those units of time, then I could also control exactly how I would feel at every moment of the day. Put simply, I believed that if I could reason with my sadness, then I could make it go away.

Eventually, I allowed my parents to take
me to an extremely unsympathetic GP in Leamington. He prescribed me fluoxetine, which somehow, when my scientist boyfriend told me it was Prozac, made me feel so ashamed. I had been taught by everyone I knew – my parents, my aunts, my teachers – that I led such a privileged life, and was so bright, that there was simply no reason for me to be depressed. ‘Snap out of it’ was a phrase heard frequently, and my deputy head brought up the ‘starving children’ and ‘broken limb’ comparisons on many an occasion. How some people are permitted into the teaching profession, I’ll never know.

But here’s the interesting thing: I don’t think either Prozac or exercise helped. I had become a total convert to the gym when living in Berlin the previous year, and would feel tremendous guilt if I didn’t go one day. But the problem was, whenever I left my flat, there was always the risk that I would burst spontaneously into tears. It would happen anywhere: the supermarket, a lecture, and yes, even at the gym. Perhaps exercise itself did help: it was trying to become stable enough to do any which was so challenging.

And Prozac: did that sort me out? Well, I suppose being permanently high was a solution of sorts: I wrote the best essays I had ever written, you couldn’t shut me up in my final year oral, and I think I left all of my written exams early, because I simply couldn’t sit still. Being completely manic at 5am was pretty interesting, and I was definitely instrumental in getting my friends in to the library: it was either revision or listening to my incessant chatter.

So I still have no idea what cures, or at least alleviates the symptoms of, depression. To date, both anti-depressants I have tried have only resulted in making me constantly manic. Worse still, Citalopram made me feel paranoid all day long, and as if tiny creatures were crawling all over me. When I told my GP this, she said that I should persevere. That day, I stopped taking them. That was eighteen months ago, and I’ve been more or less fine since then. And I think that on this occasion, my friends, ‘fine’ is a word with which I can live to describe my mood.

Women are entitled to whatever title they choose

February 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Posted in Names, women | 1 Comment
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I was thrilled to discover, on reading this article in the Guardian yesterday, that French official forms will no longer require a woman to state whether she is a Mademoiselle or a Madame.

I’ve written on this topic before, and my views haven’t changed. A customer came in once, and when I asked her if she was ‘Miss, Mrs or Ms’, she replied, ‘My name is _______’. Well, good for her, I say. It’s about time (say, fifty years too late?) that a European country took a stand on the sexist requirements of bureaucrats.

You can just call me Amy Pirt, but Madame will do just fine also.

Alls Well That Amends Well

February 23, 2012 at 10:00 am | Posted in Journalism | Leave a comment
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So, The Guardian have responded to my incessant requests to put a correction on my Good to Meet You column. This is good, as I like injustice to be resolved (yes, I realise there are far more unjust things happening in the world, but in my own world, I like to have the record straight: I don’t like people thinking I’ve said something when I haven’t).

I’m glad that corrections have been made, both online and and in today’s print edition, mostly because the stickler in me likes things to be right, but mostly because it has renewed my faith in my favourite newspaper. Had corrections not been made, I might have defected to this newspaper.

You can misquote me on that

February 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Journalism, Literature | Leave a comment
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Fellow Twitterers, family and friends will know that I appeared in Good to Meet You in the Guardian on Saturday. I was thrilled to appear in this column; it’s one of my favourite parts of the Saturday Guardian.

I wasn’t so thrilled, however, to discover, when my insomnia nudged me awake at 3am Saturday morning, that my photo had been posted sideways on the Guardian website. Yes, I admit to being vain, but reader, I resembled, and do still, as they’ve failed to align it correctly yet, one of those feature-distorting fairground mirrors. Luckily, I look reasonably sane in the print edition.

What’s more, not only did they make out that I’d said that my father had stopped buying the Times (I didn’t; I said only that he subscribes to the Guardian now), they also quoted me as saying that J. B Priestley came from Deal. I never said that: I mentioned only that he had lived here.

Now, I’m not a journalist, and apart from having an aptitude for writing, I know nothing about how to produce a newspaper. (I did start a journalism course, but I quit it because learning shorthand bored me.). However, I do know that media content, whether it is online or printed, should be as professional and accurate as possible. Is it too much to ask that the Guardian responds to my request to align my photo correctly? Apparently so, as I still look as though the photo was taken sideways about an inch away from my face.

I love the Guardian, but I’m not very happy with it at the moment. And you can quote me on that.

The lardy cake lover returns…

February 8, 2012 at 11:16 am | Posted in Childhood, film, Television | Leave a comment
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I am ridiculously excited about the new Worzel Gummidge film. It was one of my favourite programmes as a child; it made perfect sense to my developing logic that he should have different heads for different occasions. Aunt Sally remains a classic style icon, I think: although she might want to tone down the blusher.

If you’re reading this, Peter Jackson, I’d like to play Aunt Sally. Cheers, see you in the green room.

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