Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Entertainer of the Year

A huge congratulations to my friend Laura Schwartz (above), who has just been nominated as one of the six finalists for Events Solutions Magazine's "Entertainer of the Year Award". Laura, who is the author of the very successful Eat, Drink and Succeed: Climb Your Way to the Top Using the Networking Power of Social Events, was formerly a Special Assistant to President Clinton and the White House Director of Events. Laura now works in Chicago with her company White House Strategiesan event, media, political and message consultancy firm. She's a phenomenal public speaker and a really wonderful person. 

Laura and I first met when she was speaking at the Oxford Union in a debate on American foreign policy and I was chatting to her wonderful mother and sister, Andrea, at cocktails after. Andrea was saying how beautiful Oxford was and there was so much to see, so I offered to tour guide and the next day the entire Schwartz family and I took a tour of the city I love. They are fabulous people and it was such a highlight of that term to meet them and hang out with them. 

Anyhoo, before I gush too much, I should thank Laura for how encouraging she has been about Popular and say how amazing this nomination is - and how deserved too! 

If you'd like to vote for the delightful Miss Schwartz, here is the link and she's in the Solo category.

And if you'd like to see Laura in action, back when she was commenting on the 2008 Presidential election, click here. She's talking about one of my favourite topics: the importance of the visual! ;) 

Good luck, Laura!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Delightful new fashion label

It's that time of year again when I stop thinking about my own wardrobe and start focusing more and more on that of my characters - particularly Meredith, Imogen and Kerry. It's so important that I stick to the right style that reflects each girl's personality and sense of fashion, but one of the hardest to have a look for (I think) is Imogen. Meredith's style is so classic and so traditional that it's easier to look around for things and know immediately whether she'd love them or hate them; Imogen, who has much more eclectic and edgy sense of chic, is constantly changing what she likes and so styling her in the pages of Popular and its sequel (which I'm writing at the moment) can be a bit more difficult. I realise in terms of jobs this isn't the hardest thing in the world, but still!

So the dress on the right was a great metaphorical find for Imogen to wear to a summer party that I'm writing about right now. It's sexy, it's fun, it's different but it's also practical (love the colour) and it comes from a fantastic new label created by Coco Fennell. Coco and I seem to have been orbiting each other for a few years, but like fortunate planets, haven't collided (do planets collide? I don't know. Science was not a strong point of mine, as the grimace of my ex-teacher showed when I shimmied back into Down High last week)...

Anyway, Coco is the younger sister of one of my closest friends from university, but I think I'm right in saying Coco and I have only met each other a handful of times. To cut a long story short-ish, Emerald recently told me that Coco (below, left - beautiful, much?) was thinking of starting up her own fashion label and since I was already reading Coco's fashion blog, I was quite excited. Naturally, I went snooping - and I love the label. Coco has basically set-up a label for girls which is all about "some lovely bits and bobs that are easy to wear, flattering and can be dressed up or dressed down." Exactly what Imogen would love to wear. Huzzah.

So far, Coco Fennell is a very small label and I'm so glad I discovered it at this early stage before it really takes off. It can definitely add to my cool credentials (v. important to keep topping them up regularly!) I'm definitely seriously tempted to buy my sister's next birthday present from CF, because this is exactly the kind of stuff she loves and which she's always saying there isn't enough of! Although, like any good VCB girl, she knows that clothes in general are something you can never have too much of.

Along with Alex Perry and Rosa Cha for Meredith, I'm v. excited to have found Coco Fennell as a new favourite label for Imogen to start wearing in the next few Popular books. 

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Hidden Jewels and Gin

It has been delicately pointed out to me that I haven't been updating this blog as regularly as I had originally planned and so the age of snippets of life columns is upon us. This week, I was very very excited to read Liz Hoggard's interview in the Evening Standard with one of my favourite people in the world, Emerald Fennell (above), who recently completed playing Lady Lottie, the first wife of the main character in Channel 4's four part television drama Any Human Heart, based on the novel by William Boyd. Emmy and I did a lot of drama together at Oxford and I'm still at the stage where seeing her on television or in the newspapers makes me achieve kid-going-to-Disneyland levels of hyper-excitement. Ultimately my plan is to acquire a sort of Simon Cowell-Dean Martin levels of louche sophistication about the whole thing, but that is still some way off! I'll provide a link at the bottom to read the full interview and also earlier blog posts about Any Human Heart.

Anyway, the last couple of weeks have been ones of triumph and humiliation. (I refer you to my earlier article, "Embarrassing much, ice?" for my humiliation.) The triumph came in the form of finally being able to figure out what Skype is, after several years of pretending I understood it (i.e. nodding wisely when it was mentioned, much like when I decided to use the phrase "credit crunch" and "recession" at random points in conversation) and generally assuming that Skype was some weird sort of thing you did on MSN chat. Either that or a type of phone I couldn't seem to find in shops. The push over the edge came when my friend Joel said "We should Skype," to which I initially gave the usual BS about what a great idea that was and let's do it some time next week. 

And that's when I realised that Joel has a horrifying tendency to figure out when I'm lying and then wait until we're surrounded by mutual friends to announce it and point out in excruciating detail how I managed to embarrass myself. (National Anthem-gate being high on the list of examples.) This raised the stakes and I knew I had to figure out what Skype actually was. Luckily, after a mere 57 minutes in which she was forced to resort to sending me articles from Google, Wikipedia and finally to telling a parable, Alexa managed to explain the entire thing to me and it turns out that Skype is not only a delightful invention, but also one astonishingly easy to use. So, to all those friends over the years who I promised to Skype with but didn't because I was lying, I sort of apologise. Sorry Lucas, Will, Coco, Kitty, Sophie, Noah, Alexa, Amy, Tom, Matthew, Andrew ... etc.

Another high was attained when I shimmied round to my friend Natalie's for a quiet evening gin. Natalie (left) is one of my favourite drinking partners, if for no other reason than she and her mother have taken to serving me gin in some sort of novelty pint glass and Natalie thinks regular measuring cups are "for dwarves." We managed to discuss all the important things - how she had decided to insure her Chloé handbag for far more than she ever would her boyfriend, how for some reason The X Factor isn't that exciting this year and why is it that so many people are so ugly? Also, Queen's University students who flounce around the city centre wearing a glorified version of your pyjamas - you disgust us! Wash you hair, clean your clothes and remember that, right now, there are some well-heeled dogs in Malone who are better groomed than you are. Sort it out.

I also want to talk about last night when I went back to my old high school, Down High, to see their annual school play - this year a production of the musical The Sound of Music. I was back in Down High about two months ago to do an after-school talk about Popular and I got to meet some of the drama students there, all of whom seemed really nice and it was great chatting to them afterwards. My old drama teacher, Pamela Mills, (we plan to make her part of my celebrity posse) sent me two tickets to come and see The Sound of Music on its closing night. Thank you, Pamille. 

I invited my friend Aisleagh to come along as my plus one. Aisleagh is only back in Northern Ireland at the weekends for the next six months, because she flies over to London during the week to be a high-powered lawyer. Very useful to keep Aisleagh on side, considering I will almost certainly need one of those before I turn thirty. Which will be happening in about fifteen years, give or take. Aisleagh was a big participant in Drama in our days at Down High, both curricular and social, and she also loved music, so I thought she was a sure bet for TSOM. Plus, I haven't seen her properly in ages and we used to share a flat together in Oxford, so it would be good to catch up and revisit La Mills.

However, half-way to Downpatrick, Aisleagh turned to me in the car and said in her most dread voice, "Just so you know - and I'm just putting it out there - there is no musical in the world I hate more than The Sound of Music." 

I glanced at her, in shock and fear, "Seriously? How do you hate it? Which songs do you hate the least? Climb Every Mountain?" 

"If I told you I didn't like any of them, would that make it clearer?!"

Part of me was mortified, but the other half quietly pleased, because there is literally no-one in the world more fun to sit next to than Aisleagh when you're watching a movie, play, show or production that she hates. She is hilariously vicious.

We arrive at the school and things don't get off to a great start when the people collecting tickets at the door are my old Biology and Maths teachers, neither of whom exactly saw me at my academic best. I still live in fear that the Maths department will one day figure out that Sarah-Jane and I are not cousins and we did not therefore share a permanently ailing grandmother, who conveniently relapsed every time our coursework was due. 

Aisleagh and I swanned in and chatted with Miss Mills, before curtain-up and I have to say that both Aisleagh and I were pleasantly surprised. I was a bit worried that having met and liked so many of the drama students back in October that they wouldn't actually be amazing on stage, which is always really upsetting, I think, when someone is nice to talk to but doesn't measure up in the talent stakes. Aisleagh, naturally, had settled into a mood of merry bile, prepared to hate everything except the sight of her own name on the board of old Deputy Head Girls and her cunning plan for us to storm the stage half-way through and launch into our monologues from our final school production of The Canterbury Tales. I don't exactly remember mine, but that's OK - I didn't remember it when I did it the first time round, either. Luckily, as the sick grandmother shows, improv was not something I ever had a problem with. 

The show was sensational and half-way through, Aisleagh clutched my hand, tears in her eyes and sighed, "How could I ever have hated this? It's the cutest thing I've ever seen!!"

Firstly, a word of praise for the girl who played Maria: I've never met Poppy, but she was so, so good! She's only a Year 10 (i.e. about 14) and I hope that doesn't sound too patronising, because she was sensational, both as an actress and as a singer. Also I was literally staring open-mouthed at how good the Reverend Mother's singing was. Wow. The entire cast was really excellent and whilst I may have queried the dramatic decision that led to several of the junior school being dressed as machine gun-carrying Nazis, the whole thing was superb. I really, really enjoyed myself and I'm so glad we went. Aisleagh, needless to say, had some sort of spiritual conversion half-way through and was actually singing along to Edelweiss at the end, a euphoric expression on her face.

So, anyway, huge congratulations to Miss Mills and Mr O'Hara and to all those involved and especially those I met when I spoke at Down High and who were in The Sound of Music - Ruth, Michael, Lydia, Charlotte, Louis and Robbie - thanks so much for a great show and I hope the cast party was riotously inappropriate. 


For the full interview with Emerald Fennell, click here and for this blog's post about Any Human Heart, click here

For last week's less than delightful ice-capade, click here

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Embarrassing much, ice?

Snow and ice are now well and truly on my List. As some of you may know, Northern Ireland has been covered in a blanket of snow which has turned into sheet ice on most of the pavements/walkways. In practice, this means two things. Firstly, Britain's amazing ability to grind to a complete administrative and infrastructural standstill due to 5 cms+ of snow kicked in with a vengeance, throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.  In Scotland, it was apparently tools-down even on boats (is the snow lying particularly deep in the North Channel of the Irish Sea?!) Secondly, it has meant that everyone in Belfast has very quietly but firmly been praying, hoping or wishing that they a) do not fall on the ice and b) if they do fall, no passing car will toot the horn at them, roll down the wind and shout "Yeooooooo!!!!" 

Yesterday, scenario B occurred to me without scenario A. En route from the gym, I decided to walk down Balmoral Avenue, basically the main entrance way to Malone and one of the busiest roads in the entire south section of the city. Bear in mind, I have my gym bag swung over my shoulder and my i-Pod earphones in, merrily lost in a world of how utterly delightful my life would be if it did indeed have a soundtrack. Then, suddenly, just between the old Public Records Office and the entrance to Malone Park, my right leg decided to go on safari from the rest of my body and shot out in front of me, thanks to our good friend, Mr. Ice. In order to save myself, I was forced to execute something very much like a 1970s' disco dance move in order to save myself from falling flat on my back. My arms flung up and out like a confused Eva Perón, my gym bag swung round and smacked into my crotch and my earphones fell out of my ear. At that moment, three cars honked their horns and one driver somehow magically wound his window down in time to shout out, "Crackin' dance moves there, son!"

Needless to say, I immediately dashed into Malone Park, assuming that the area in which Meredith, Imogen and Cameron live in Popular could not possibly let me down after this horrific in-street humiliation. To my horror, I realised that the entire tree-lined avenue's pathways were coated with a thick layer of ice-rink like ice. I stared down at it, wondering how in the name of Sweet Baby Jesus I was going to make my way across it (it's the longest residential avenue in the United Kingdom) without falling flat on my face.  I looked down at my shoes, cursing the fact that I hadn't brought either an ice-pick or a team of huskies. Then, from one of the houses on the left, a girl emerged with sunglasses on her face, an enormous Louis Vuitton bag slung over her arm and shoes that were definitely not ice-friendly. Not once did she trip or look in anyway perturbed by the ice underfoot. It was in that moment that I knew, more than ever, that I had set Popular in the right place. Furthermore, I could be thankful that despite my Stayin' Alivesque shimmy, I had not in fact fallen either on Balmoral Avenue or in Malone Park.

Today, however, there was no such luck.

On the way to my totally super-cool early morning lecture on late medieval vernacular theology (Julian of Norwich is my home girl), I decided to cut down Rugby Avenue, incorrectly assuming that if I'd successfully navigated the treachery of Malone Park the day before, nothing could fell me now. I had a copy of The Cloud of Unknowing, Mirror of the Blessed Life and GQ in my arms as I strutted my way towards university through the student heartlands. There was some ice, but not much.

Then, as I slipped slightly (quick check for no cars this time!) I saw a mobile phone lying on the ground. I walked on, before remembering how infuriated I had been when no-one handed by BlackBerry in when I lost it a few months ago. And also, in general, I can't think of anything more annoying and irritating than losing your mobile. So, I turned back to go and collect it. I figured I could hand it into lost property at the School of Sociology and then get to class.

The mobile, still lying in a little pile of snow, appears in my sight line again. A girl in uggs is walking towards me. Another, slightly dishevelled creature, approaches from the opposite side of the road. And that, dear friends, is when both of my legs swung out from under me like a demented go-go dancer and I ended-up flat on my back. In the split second it took my back and arms to make contact with the concrete underfoot of Rugby Avenue, I had just about enough time to choose to save my head or my BlackBerry. 

There is no scratch on my phone. And my head hurts. A lot.

At more or less exactly the same time, the girl in ugg boots also did a half-somersault and ended up lying next to me, gazing up with a sort of traumatised expression at the grey sky. Dishevelled girl has, by this stage, arrived and picks up the mobile phone. "I fell here earlier," she explained, retrieving her mobile. "Are you two alright?"

Ugg girl is still staring up, mortified, at the heavens. Apparently too humiliated to move. "The one thing I asked Jesus for this week was not to fall," she explained piteously. I scrambled to my feet and helped ugg girl up and that's when it hit me. I had fallen on my back in broad daylight in the middle of Belfast.

I fell. On my back. Broad daylight. Middle of Belfast.


No, good. Sweet.

And it's funny, but you know, it's one of those things that you fear and then when it happens ... it's every bit as awful as you imagined.

The one thing I will say is that I now regret cackling myself into a coma about that man on RTE news last year - we have so much more in common than I thought.

I need to start throwing salt out wherever I go. 

Friday, 26 November 2010

Happy Birthday, Eric!

Continuing in my delightful birthday series, I wanted to say Happy Birthday to one of my favourite people - Yalie and Maryland native, Eric. After a capering friendship which has taken in the heady environments of New Haven, New Canaan and Paris, I thought I would post sixteen of our shared "best bits." Some of these may seem cruel.

1. "Gareth, I don't understand what you're saying, but you're wrong."

2. Eric to our fabulous waitress, Karen: Can you tell me about the risotto?
Karen (cheerfully): For sure. OK, so the risotto is one of our best-selling items on the menu. It's really filling, it's really rich; it's got some great herbs used in it. Cooked to perfection and so flavourful. It's really delicious.
Eric (bantering): Oh, wow. I guess you really want me to get the risotto then, right?
Karen (instantly stony): I don't care. I mean, I'm not the one that's going to be eating it.

3. "I feel like my life has suddenly turned into me being like a 1950s housewife, permanently acting as a buffer between you and the rest of the world. Like, you know the kind of wife who wipes the beer glass down when a waitress brings it over and some beers sloshes down the side? And the wife wipes it up before the husband sees it? That's me."

4. "Gareth, if you don't shut up, I'm going to take you to where the Bastille stood, laugh, and then bring you over to the Place de la Concorde, trip you up, and run away."

5. "Of course it's not good enough for you, Gareth! Because you think you should be with Scarlett, murmuring 'Lover' in each other's ears, while you lie on a cloud spun by Chanel and are served Fiji water by angels!" 

6. You introduced me to the world of froyo. And for that, I am eternally grateful. 

7. "If I wear what he's wearing, he can't make fun of it!"

8. http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2528/3874070207_7f8a1dd9d1.jpg

9. One night in Mory's, when I had to drink from an ENORMOUS tankard while you all sang Yale songs, Alexa and I had a serious breakdown in communication and I didn't quite entirely understand the rules of the game. It turns out that I didn't have to keep chugging until the song finished, but I had to have finished chugging the entire thing by the time the song had finished. My mistake was made clear to me when I realised that the second part of the game was having the cup placed atop my head to make sure I'd drunk it all. A full third of this enormous pitcher still remained and I was therefore soaked. And I thought you were going to have an aneurysm you were laughing so hard. I then informed you that some day, one day and somehow God would take revenge on you on my behalf for laughing so hard at my liquor-created misfortune. Then, a glass of wine was spilled in your lap. And you proceeded to yell at me for praying for it to happen.

10. You patting my shoulder and murmuring, "Take your time," when I drained of all colour and got a far-off, misty look in my eye when we entered the site of Marie-Antoinette's final prison cell in the Conciergerie.

11. "Are you drunk?" 
"Of course I am."

12. The night you came to the Pi Phi house to discover that Coco and I had somehow concocted a plan to have a baby together.... "So, dinner went well then?"

13. The world's slowest sliding automatic doors and your face of pure, frustrated rage.

14. "This is a picture of a manatee. Manatees are protected against the cold by a layer of blubber; I can only assume that this is how fat professor copes, since he refuses to turn up the heat in this room."

15. BBM-related sleep sync-up

16. The fact that for the first two weeks of our friendship you repeatedly referred to my book as Fabulous 

Hope you had an amazing birthday and remember, Harry Potter Day.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

An Interview with Emerald Fennell

One of Britain's leading newspapers, The Observer, has run an interview with five of the young stars of Channel 4's forthcoming drama Any Human Heart - Freddie Fox, Lydia Wilson, Emerald Fennell, Charity Wakefield and Hugh Skinner.

There's more info about the production and Emerald on a previous post, here.

And the full article is here.

The delicious Emerald's Q&A's were: -

Born in London, the 23-year-old plays Lottie Edgefield, Logan's first wife.

Tell us about Lottie.
She's spoilt, glamorous and very, very posh – an earl's daughter. Logan is dazzled by her whole shtick, but their relationship is a bad idea from the get-go. It was fun to do; we scream at each other a lot and it gave us the opportunity to run the whole gamut of a relationship in a short time. I like flouncing about and pouting and being spoiled, so Lottie suited me to a T.

Where have we seen you before?
As Rachel, one of Howard Marks's girlfriends in Mr Nice. I lounged around in 60s clothes and smoked a lot. It was my first job and mostly improvised. The director gave us fake joints, sat us in a fake dorm, and said: "Away you go."

What 20th-century age would you like to live through?
The roaring 20s, because everyone was so mortal then and really lived. And of course, being a girl, I would have loved the clothes.

Which 20th-century figure would you like to meet?
WB Yeats. He was probably a lunatic, with all that automatic writing stuff, but I'd like to sit at his feet and listen to him recite. Marilyn Monroe would be great too. I could ask her for makeup tips.

What do you do when you're not working?
I'm writing a novel – to keep my mind working and make sure I don't lounge in bed eating chocolates until three in the afternoon. My dad [jeweller Theo Fennell] is very supportive.

What would you like to do next?
More theatre. Something new and exciting and filthy at the Royal Court, maybe.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

"Any Human Heart" trailer

I'm so excited to be able to post a link to Channel 4's new television series, Any Human Heart, an adaptation of the bestselling novel by William Boyd. The novel is published by Penguin (naturally!) and you can order it here. And the new television version of it has one of my favourite people, Emerald Fennell, amongst its glitteringly delightful cast. Very exciting. 

Emerald and I first met at Oxford just before Christmas of 2006, when I was directing my second student play  there (glamorous, I know) and she auditioned on the second day of auditions, as one of 83 girls competing for the three main roles in my favourite play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams.
We got to speak properly for the first time at the call-backs, when I accidentally scheduled the next auditionee an hour after Emerald's audition was due to end. So, she kept me company and  we chatted for a while, during which time a beautiful friendship was born. I was very relieved that, at last, someone agreed with me that my fear of flying was more than justified. It's not how often it happens, but how bad it will be when it happens. (Even worse if the plane nose dives, then rights itself, and you're the person who wet yourself mid-plummet and have to live with that shame for the rest of the flight.)  Or unbuckled some aged granny next to you and tried to use her as a human shield, then have to explain to her why you did that when the plane doesn't actually crash... Food for thought.
Perhaps some of my favourite memories of our time in Oxford include us, bedraggled and exhausted sitting, without shame, with various 18th century costumes and props slung over our arms as we waited for a post-rehearsal supper table to open up at the Chiang Mai restaurant. Good times. Less endearingly, on my part, there was an incident during a rehearsal for Dangerous Liaisons in a music room at Worcester College, when I - very tired and stressed with the dress-rehearsal approaching - was interrupted by someone banging away on a defunct drum kit behind me. For some reason, I assumed it was my friend Johnny Rhodes, so I spun round in high fury and snapped, "Johnny, for f***'s sake! What are you doing?" Only to discover that it was Emerald on said drums; at which point, my demeanour changed entirely and I beamed, "Oh, it's you, Emmy. Well done!"  I may even have applauded her slightly. Johnny meanwhile, from the far corner of the room, glowered with seething fury from behind his butler's outfit, as Emerald gave me an encore performance.
Anyway, Any Human Heart is a fantastic book with a wonderful cast for the adaptation, which was written by William Boyd. A great idea, I think. It will be broadcast later this year by Channel 4 over four weeks.  So do look out for it! Amongst the cast are Oscar winner Jim Broadbent, Pirates of the Caribbean 4's Sam Claflin, Pride and Prejudice's Matthew McFayden, Hayley Atwell, Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall, Tom Hollander as Edward VIII, Gillian Anderson as Wallis Simpson and The West Wing's Richard Schiff. 

I'm obviously hugely excited about this, especially since it seems absolutely no time at all since I was directing Emerald in a student production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Dangerous Liaisons. And giving her the first ever three chapters of Popular which I had written, to see if she thought they were any good. I'm obviously pretty grateful for the feedback I received right after she had finished reading them. She was also the first ever person to read aloud the role of Imogen, when I wanted to hear how everything sounded. Massively enjoyable day.
Drummer Johnny, on the other hand, failed to read them at all and got away with saying, "Yeah, yeah, I loved the party in Chapter ...." And inserted any number he could think of. A clever strategy which worked until he accidentally hit upon the one chapter in the book sans party.

It's incredibly exciting that Any Human Heart is finished and I can't wait to see it.

The trailer for Any Human Heart can be watched here.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Lead Character Profile: PETER SULLIVAN

Peter Sullivan is one of the most widely-liked boys at Mount Olivet Grammar School. The High Priest of Lad Banter, Peter is known for his rowdy chat and wildly entertaining bad behaviour.


FULL NAME: Peter Edward David Sullivan

BIRTHDAY: August 4th

HOME TOWN: Fisherwick, Belfast, BT9


MEASUREMENTS: 6' 1", well-built

RELIGION: Agnostic


MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT: Peter has no concept of shame; only banter and those too weak to appreciate it.


FATHER: Eóin Sullivan, businessman (51)

MOTHER: Judith Sullivan, doctor (48)

SIBLINGS: Alexander (13), David (10) and Noah (7)


PRIMARY SCHOOL: Rathkeltair House Prep, Malone (Aged 4 - 11)

SECONDARY SCHOOL: Mount Olivet Grammar School (Aged 11 - now)

SCHOOL HOUSE: Chichester

FORM TEACHER: Rev. Ferrworthy (Religious Studies Department)

G.C.S.E subjects: Chemistry, Drama, English Language, English Literature, Geography, German, History, Additional Mathematics, Physics, Mathematics and Religion

Extra-curricular activities: Rugby


BEST FRIENDS: Peter is generally well-liked by most of the lads in the school, apart from the boys who are terrified by his aggressive banter. (See Callum "Mutant" Quigley.) Apparently, Peter's love of slapping people with towels in the changing rooms, wedgying them for literally no reason other than his own amusement,  shaking their unopened cans of fizzy drinks when they're not looking and concocting obscene songs about their mothers, girlfriends, faces, genitals or physical idiosyncrasies, have somehow offended some of the less-confident members of his year-group. Weird. His closest friend is probably fellow 1st XV Rugby player, Stewart Lawrence.

PAST GIRLFRIENDS:  Danielle Morrison (6 weeks) - they were the first people to start dating in their year group, back in first year. Highly scandalous, especially for the girls. 11 year-old Danielle bravely resisted Kerry Davison's insistence that she should probably start thinking about where they should register for their wedding gifts. 

Siofra Donahue (2 months) - a non-Mount Olivet Student. She was in 2nd year at Saint Gregory's Grammar when her and Peter started dating. The timing was all very confusing, leading to a rumour that Peter had asked Siofra to be his girlfriend before he had technically broken-up with Danielle. 11 year-old Danielle bravely resisted Kerry Davison's insistence that after such a devastating heartbreak, she should probably consider seeing a therapist.

Cristyn Evans (12 days) - very pretty girl in Peter's year. They broke-up when Peter refused to accompany Cristyn to her weekly after-school meetings of the Christian Union. 

Lisa Flaherty (3 months) - very attractive, but already on the slippery slopes to tramphood. She was technically still in the popular clique when she and Peter started dating in 2nd year, but the girls were already scheming to get rid of her.

Christine Garner (1 month) - choir geek. No-one knew why they were dating in the first place and when Peter broke-up with her, he was publicly cheered by the rest of the rugby squad. Bad day for Christine.

Tangela Henton-Worley (4 months) 

Fiona Merton (5 weeks) - pretty and likable girl. They dated for a while last year, but it didn't work out.

CURRENT CRUSH: Numerous - although he does secretly carry a torch for one of the popular girls.



FAVOURITE TV SHOW/S: American Dad, Family Guy, The Inbetweeners

FAVOURITE BOOK/S: Remains of the Day, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

FAVOURITE MOVIE/S: Empire of the Sun, History Boys, Lord of the Rings, The Hangover


Saturday, 23 October 2010

Eva Green starring in new French movie about Marie-Antoinette

Kingdom of Heaven star and former "Bond girl" actress, the very beautiful Eva Green, is due to star in a new French-language movie based on the novel by Les Adieux à la reine by Chantal Thomas. The novel follows the last three days of life at the Palace of Versailles before the French Revolution, told through the eyes of a young palace servant, Agathe, whose job it is to read aloud to the Queen while she takes her early morning coffee.

Dark and occasionally quite terrifying Les Adieux à lareine is a fantastic novel, which really captures the panic and fear of a world as it falls apart. First published in France in 2002, where it won the Prix Femina award for literary excellence, it was later published in English in 2004 as Farewell, my Queen. Also signed on to star in the movie version of the story is French Oscar-nominee, Gérard Depardieu and Robin Hood star, Léa Seydoux.

Internet rumour has it that Eva might be playing Marie-Antoinette herself, but given Eva's physical appearance I'd say it's far more likely that she'll be playing the legendarily beautiful socialite, Gabrielle de Polignac - one of Meredith's personal historical heroines. One internet journal said Depardieu will be playing King Louis the Sixteenth, but since the king was 34 years-old and Depardieu is 61, I'd say that's unlikely. My bet is he'll play the delightfully mad Captain de Laroche, the Royal Family's zookeeper. (Basically, the key point of the novel is that de Laroche seems to be brilliant but smelly, hence why he's kept so far away from the palace. The King finds him delightful.)

Either way, Kerry and Imogen would be v. excited. I smell major costume delightfulness when the movie starts filming at Versailles next year.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Lead character profile: CATHERINE O'ROURKE

The first in-depth character profile about the nine leads of Popular begins with the popular girl's favourite punching-bag and technical besty, Catherine O'Rourke. Catherine is very pretty, she's quite rich and she definitely likes to shop - so they can't exclude her. Plus, if they kicked her out of the group, she'd probably die and she's been around forever and stuff. BUT she's also a clutz, with zero common sense and totally annoying. She's a definite stalker when it comes to guys and a serial romantic. Pathetic, much, Catherine?

But, even though the popular girls amuse themselves by occasionally torching Catherine like she's an ant and they're the mean kids with a magnifying class, half the school would still give their right arms to be able to sit where she does at lunch-time. 


FULL NAME: Catherine Teresa Anne Dymphna O'Rourke

BIRTHDAY: April 8th

HOME TOWN: Cultra, BT18

HAIR COLOUR: Light brown

MEASUREMENTS: 5' 3'', Size 10

RELIGION: Christian - Roman Catholic

PLACE OF WORSHIP: Saint Colmcille's Roman Catholic Church, Holywood

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT: Wearing monogrammed velour hot pants to Gym class


FATHER: Sean O'Rourke, property developer (47)

MOTHER: Mary O'Rourke, housewife (44)

SIBLINGS: Orla (18) and Caoimhe (10)


PRIMARY SCHOOL: Hollywood Primary School (Aged 4 - 11)

SECONDARY SCHOOL: Mount Olivet Grammar School (Aged 11 - now)


FORM TEACHER: Mrs. Vaughn (Spanish Department)

G.C.S.E subjects: Art, Chemistry, English Language, English Literature, Geography, History, Home Economics, Mathematics, Religion  and Spanish


BEST FRIENDS: Once, she was definitely besties with Aisleagh McGorian, before Aisleagh transferred to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 3rd year. Catherine does actually have quite a lot of friends outside the popular group, a lot of whom seem to think that Catherine's life is quite glamorous.... Well, it's nice for Catherine to be clung to once in a while, rather than to do the clinging like she usually does, hence why she sits next to Cristyn Evans ("Clingy Cristyn") in Spanish class. But, all her close friends are in the popular clique. She'd probably say her best friend is the crown princess of curl, Kerry Davison. Whether Kerry would say the same thing back is questionable.

PAST BOYFRIENDS:  Chris O'Shea (5 days) - never throw a strop if someone won't go into a Facebook relationship with you after 4 days, because this is what happens.

Eoghann O'Hare (3 weeks) - bless her. This time, she made it to two and a half weeks before the Facebook strop hit.

Oran Cahill (12 days) 

Sean Flanagan (2 months) 

Padraig Hamill (6 weeks) - very bad break-up, Catherine likened it to "having my heart ripped out backwards and jumped on... It was like so bad and stuff."

CURRENT CRUSH: Mark Kingston (standard hotty in her year; he's always very polite to her. She interprets this as a sign that they're meant to get married.)



FAVOURITE TV SHOW/S: Will & Grace, Australia's Next Top Model and The Hills

FAVOURITE BOOK/S: Anything by Rachel Gibson or Stephenie Meyer, the Harry Potter books

FAVOURITE MOVIE/S: Madagascar, The Notebook, The Land Before Time



In the photograph: Lynsey Russell and Emily-Rose Conlon during rehearsals for Magdalene (2007.) Catherine would approve of the sunnies and the shopping bags.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The First XV Rugby Squad

Continuing on in our profile of Mount Olivet Grammar's other cliques is the 1st XVs, the school's sporting elite. Imogen has naturally plucked one of her boyfriends from its ranks - Stewart Lawrence. Yes, his family totally has a history of gingers, but he himself is quite the hotty... so, like, maybe that cancels out the Ginger Gene ... Maybe. Anyway, it's totally OK to have ginger blood in the family if you're on the rugby team and dating the hottest girl in school.


Clique Nickname: "The First Fifteens" or "The Leds"

Clique Leader: Technically the captain - Quentin Smith (18)

Other Members of the posse: Keith Bryce, Oran Cahill, Alistair Davidson, Stephen Dryton, Nicholas Fairfield, Luke Faulkner, Colin Ferris, Andrew Henton-Worley, Harry Irwin, Matthew Kilbride, Charlie Kirk, Stewart Lawrence, Robbie McIlwaine, Richard Murland, Peter Murray, Patrick Neville, Oliver O'Neill, Titus Pitt, Richard Smith, Quinten Smith and Peter Sullivan

Trademark/s: Strapping physique, excellent levels of physical fitness, very loud voices, ability to turn almost any comment into a sexual innuendo, highly rowdy communal banter and behavioural patterns, enormous appetites

Never Without... A penny - just in case anyone leaves their drink unattended, ever.

Group Heroes: Whoever invented TrueLad and Arthur Guinness (1725 - 1803)

Favourite Belfast Haunts: Ravenshill Grounds, DW Fitness or Sphinx kebabs

Most Frequently Spotted in school: The changing rooms or the sports fields

Least Frequently Spotted in school: The Choir rooms

Most Infamous Quote: "It's not gay if you yell banter!" - Undisclosed member of the squad, attempting to offer friendly encouragement to the Gay Rights' Parade in Belfast City Centre

Least Likely to hear them say: "I'm actually a teetotaller" or "That joke was a bit too sexually explicit; I find that offensive."

Key Phrase to avoid in conversation with them: "Do you fancy a game of Hurling?"

Other Profiled Groups: The Upper Sixth Popular Girls

Monday, 4 October 2010

Happy birthday, Lynsey!

Well, today my beautiful eldest sister, Lynsey (centre left), turns twenty-one. She's currently at university in Edinburgh, so Daddy has flown over from Belfast to surprise her for the day. I really wish I could be there and I'm planning to get over in the next couple of weeks, between classes.

Yesterday, Nana called up to our house to leave off presents for Daddy to take over to Scotland for Lynsey. Literally, all anyone had to do was to mention the words "twenty-one" and Nana's eyes would fill instantly with tears. "I just wish I was still taking her for a walk in her pram... the Silver Cross prams. The Edwardian ones. Not those horrible, ugly ones you see people with these days. Who would put a baby in a plastic pram? I mean, who in their right minds? ... My wee Lynsey. Twenty-one...."

Mummy also dug-out a bunch of baby photographs of Lynsey - one of which shows her in the County Kerry GAA shirt and the other in Grandpa Richard's arms as a baby, waving a Union Jack at the Tercentenary of the Battle of the Boyne in 1990. We were always a very political correct family.

Inexplicably, Lynsey and I have been left in charge of the house, while our parents and two youngest sisters go off on their holidays, for the last four years. It's been an interesting move on their part, because we have now developed a near-professional level of party-planning and party-recovery. (Sometimes the turn-over period between one ending and another beginning is less than five hours. Like the time I found Emily-Rose standing, smoking and shaking outside a restaurant we'd all gone to, to acquire a "morning after" breakfast fry-up. "Gareth, I have literally no idea how I got here... I mean, seriously, last thing I remember was standing talking to you in the kitchen and now I'm here... Jesus... Jesus, Mary and Holy Saint Joseph... I think I'm dying. Anyway, what time should I come over at tonight?")

Lynsey and I are also incredibly lucky to not only be brother and sister, but also friends. 

Lynz, I can't be there today but I love you and I know that any of the family - or any of your friends - who can't be there today, for whatever reason, send their love and are with you in spirit. Which is probably the way you like it, because at least that way they won't interrupt your naps.

So, here, are the 21 quotes that really stick out in my mind about mine and Lynsey's relationship.

1. "This baby Mum's carrying ... I'm still going to get all the attention, right?" - Lynsey (approximately 1992)

2. "Awk... wee Ashleigh's the quiet one in the family, isn't she?" - Lynsey (approximately 2001)

3. "Gareth, I'm serious, if we don't get this house tidied before they get back from holiday, Mum is going to go ASAP!" - Lynsey getting a little confused over the use of "AWOL"

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