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The Big Zeroes

watch us go from zeroes to heroes

Category Archives: Clodagh

Okay, I’m not saying I’ve now got a Hollywood smile – not by a long shot and a few thousand euro.  (That’s not my mouth in the picture.)  But I did recently have laser teeth whitening, so I’m at least a little bit closer.

Actually, I already had a Hollywood smile of sorts.  Thanks to my love of red wine, I could have sprung into action as a blood-sucking vampire at a moment’s notice, should the need have arisen.  Sadly, though, I was never called on to join the cast of The Vampire Diaries.  So I figured I might as well give up and get my fangs whitened.

I was a bit anxious about the process, but it wasn’t traumatic at all. It took about forty-five minutes, and the worst part of it was having a guard in my mouth throughout.  But it was uncomfortable rather than scary or painful, and there was no sensation of gagging which is what I feared.  I’d have no problem getting it done again when I’ve once more ruined my teeth, as I no doubt will, with black tea and coffee, Indian food and the aforementioned red wine.  The hardest part was staying off those things for three days afterwards.  My teeth were also very sensitive afterwards, but that had passed by the next day.

So, not quite a Hollywood smile – but maybe off-off-Hollywood.


This is one of the best reasons for living in the twenty-first century, in my opinion. I love it!

It’s very quick, relatively painless*, and there are so many discount offers around at the moment, it doesn’t have to be that expensive. I’ve had several sessions, and have more planned.  I’ve had it done on my underarms among other places (no, not there, in case you’re wondering), and I love the freedom of not having to bother with waxing anymore.

*Don’t sue me if you disagree!  I don’t find it painful, but I’ve never been a screamer when it comes to waxing either, and some people find that torture.

Heady stuff, I hear you cry!

But considering I got this spice rack for Christmas – and I’m not talking about last Christmas or the one before that – I am ridiculously excited to finally have it on my wall.  Ditto the Ikea noticeboard I bought on my first visit to the store after it opened in Dublin, and the kitchen rail I’ve had lying around since the kitchen was done up years ago – years!

Even better, I’ve now found a handyman who is coming back for more.  There will be shelves!  And maybe even a kitchen drawer. Heady stuff indeed.  I need to go for a lie down just thinking about it.

I did.  I drank ginger beer.  And it was … meh.

I’m not a fan of sugary soft drinks, but somehow I thought ginger beer would be different.  I can probably blame Enid Blyton for that – plus the fact that it sounds a bit exotic and sophisticated.

However, it didn’t live up to its promise, and was nowhere near as exciting as it sounded when I was reading about the Famous Five guzzling lashings of it – even though mine had a bit of alcohol in it, which I’m sure theirs didn’t.

When I wrote this on my list I was thinking of ‘time out’ as three months, and the ‘somewhere’ being Marbella or maybe even Goa.  Sadly, when it came down to it, I didn’t have the time or money for anything like that.  However, thanks to some scrounging (a very important skill for a writer) I managed to bag the offer of some free accommodation – I had the choice of an apartment in Tenerife or a house in Leitrim.  No-brainer, I thought – I’d take the apartment in Tenerife, thank you very much.  So I looked up flights to Tenerife – and then I packed my bags and headed for Leitrim.

Where is Leitrim, you may ask.  I did.  In fact, I had to Google it.  Turns out it’s a tiny village in, unsurprisingly, County Leitrim.  The train doesn’t go there.  Neither does Bus Eireann, the national bus network that stops at random pubs in the middle of nowhere, and drops people off at their houses.  There weren’t even any taxis outside the train station when I got to Carrick-on-Shannon, the nearest town.  It would have been easier to get to Tenerife.

However, I eventually managed to hunt down a taxi and made it to my house in Leitrim Quay for a week of splendid isolation.

Leitrim is small.  And quiet.  It’s a pretty little village with lots of boats – the River Shannon runs through it.  There are two or three pubs, a supermarket, a couple of takeaways … and not much else.  There are no distractions – none – and the peace and quiet freaked me out at first.

I got used to it, though, and it turned into the perfect writing break – revelatory, in fact.  I had often suspected that given all the time in the world to write, I’d get nothing done anyway.  I was quite nervous about finding out for sure.  But it wasn’t like that.  Being able to focus completely on the writing every day with no distractions made such a difference.  I felt like a real writer!  Aided and abetted by a dodgy internet connection and minimal TV channels, I was really productive, wrote loads of new words, rewrote loads of old ones and had lots of new ideas.

At the end of the week I was sad to leave my bolthole and my little writing bubble – though also champing at the bit to get back to Dublin.  But it’s definitely something I want to do again.

Skellig Michael is the largest of the Skellig islands, which lie off the coast of Kerry and is the site of a 6th century monastic settlement, which is now a World Heritage Site. 

I’ve had a yen to go there for some time now, but it’s not an easy place to get to.  Trips to the island are dependent on weather and tidal conditions, and are also restricted in an effort to lessen the human impact on the site.  Only thirteen boats are licensed to take visitors to the island, and each boat is only permitted to make one landing per day.  As the landing place is small, only little fishing boats can get close enough, which further restricts numbers of visitors.  There had been very few trips out to the island this year because it has been such a bad summer, and as I was only staying in this part of Kerry for one day, my chances of getting there didn’t look great.

However, I got lucky.  Boats were going out for the first time in days, though there was only a fifty/fifty chance of making a landing on the island.

Now I’m not a boat person. In fact, saying I’m not a boat person is a bit like Superman saying he’s not much of a one for kryptonite.  So I was cursing my luck as I found myself tossing around on the Atlantic in this tiny boat, with water crashing in over the sides, the horizon regularly disappearing behind huge swells, and passengers passing a bucket around to puke into.  It was terrifying!  I felt like I was going to be thrown out of the boat, or like it would overturn at any moment.  The boatmen, however, appeared incredibly calm – maybe even a little bored – which was somewhat reassuring.  And they obviously didn’t think we needed the lifejackets I saw stowed neatly in the cabin (‘cabin’ might not be the right word –I’m not a boat person).  Still, I had visions of myself clinging to a piece of wood in the middle of the ocean in the manner of Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic.  No, hang on, not Leo – Kate.  She was the one who survived, right?  I would cling to my piece of flotsam in the manner of Kate Winslet while awaiting rescue.  I had it all planned out.

However, after a white-knuckle, hair-raising, bum-clenching, and lose-your-breakfast-defying hour on the waves (well, for me – some passengers did lose their breakfast), we made it to the island.  To everyone’s huge relief we were able to land and I stepped, shaking and queasy, onto Skellig Michael.

On the island there’s a walk up some 600-odd steps cut into the cliff to the monastic site at the top.  The climb isn’t too strenuous if you’re reasonably fit – especially when you’re buoyed up by the sheer joy of being alive having survived the boat trip.  It is vertiginous, though, and very precarious – in some places it’s a mere slip away from a sheer drop over the cliff.  The monks’ stone beehive huts are remarkably well preserved, and I considered the possibility of taking up residence in one rather than getting back on the boat.

It was worth the agony of getting there, though.  It’s an extraordinary place and stunningly beautiful.  On the way back we went by Small Skellig, which has the second largest gannet colony in the world.  Every ledge of the rock was covered in the birds, and it’s an amazing sight. 

I took masses of photos as I doubt I’ll ever be back.  It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but one I’m very glad to have had.


My Kindle in its lovely purple cover

I did.  I got a Kindle.  It was a surprise birthday present.  Okay, I’d given out plenty of hints, but it was still a surprise.  I don’t want to pick favourites among my presents, but … I do love my Kindle.

Here are some of the reasons I love it:
1. Samples.  Free samples mean you can road-test a couple of chapters before you decide to buy – or not – and are much less likely to get stuck with a duff book.
2. Travelling light.  No more dithering about whether you should throw that extra paperback in your case.  You could take fifty books on holiday without incurring excess baggage fees or developing arms like Rambo.
3.  No springy pages.  The Kindle stays open, flat on the table, so you can read while eating without trying to balance a book between your knee and the table, or weigh down springy pages with a set of keys/peppermill/ whatever else comes to hand.
4. Reading unpublished manuscripts.  I can read friends’ unpublished books on my Kindle just like any other book, whereas before I had to read them on-screen (inconvenient) or print them out (inconvenient and impractical, since printer ink is one of the most expensive substances on the planet).
5. Instant gratification.  I think of a book I want, I go onto Amazon, and moments later it’s there on my Kindle. 
6. Secrecy.  With a Kindle, no one knows what you’re reading.  This isn’t a great concern of mine generally. I’m unapologetic about what I choose to read, and I think that women in particular are too often encouraged to feel ashamed of their choices.  Plus I’m nosy – I like to see what other people are reading.  However, there are situations where the privacy a Kindle affords could be useful.  And as a writer of women’s fiction, if it allows men to read ‘girly’ books without fear of getting sand kicked in their faces, that can only be a good thing.