Fiona Cassidy

Fiona Cassidy
Author, Mother, Thirty Something...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Let me tell ye a wee story....

I had a fantastic day yesterday when I was asked to take my Creative Writing class from The Peace Factory to The Argory (lovely stately home just outside the Moy) where they could showcase their work, get a free cuppa and a tour of the old house and have a bit of craic with Declan Forde who is one of Ireland's legendary storytellers (and bloody good he is at it too....put me to complete shame if truth be told!) I took my daughter Una with me and I think the humongous hot chocolate she got in the tearooms complete with enough marshmallows to choke a donkey and a flake was reason enough to be happy that she accompanied me!

I had never met Declan before but have to say that it was a real treat! He is an absolute natural at what he does and entertained us all with a variety of hilariously quirky monologues, poems, songs and verses all accompanied by guitar (multitalented he is)! He told me before we began that I could be the comedian as that is precisely how I write but I think that that crown definitely belongs to him and his stories of Wise Men from Carmen, Maureen O'Hara, sessions, folklore, ghosts and tales of yesteryear which were accompanied by much foot stomping (by him) and laughter (by the rest of us!)

I did a reading from my book and we listened to short stories and poetry and all in all it was a most enjoyable afternoon...the perfect way to spend the day before Halloween...surrounded by corn dolls, slices of apple tart and cream, stories and craic!

I am anticipating that the Storytelling classes Declan facilitates wil be busting at the sides as I think most of us present wished we had half his talent, confidence and joviality and hope that others will be encouraged to sign up for creative writing classes in the future! I have been like a wee proud mammy over the last few weeks as I have watched my proteges bloom and look forward to meeting with them again in January!

Friday, 22 October 2010

And I'm Feeling Good...

Well folks,

I had a very interesting day today! I got a little glimpse of what it must be like to be Cheryl Cole or perhaps I should be comparing myself more to Dannii Minogue with her being post bump and me being pre bump! I got a phone call on Wednesday asking me if I'd be willing to go to the UTV studios in Belfast to be part of a selection panel for the 'Feel Good Factor' and with me being a strong advocate for 'feeling good' and positive thinking and the like I readily agreed in gleeful anticipation of how nice it would be to get back into the studios and become all starstruck (which I was when I recognised Jamie Delargey and Paul Clarke in the newsroom woohoo!) Not to mention the great craic I had drinking tea and eating chocolate muffins with Malachi Cush (presenter) and Sinead Doyle (producer) of the Seven Thirty Show doncha know! Of course as I was going to be in Belfast and in close proximity to 'the shops' and as I'm also all for 'retail therapy' (entirely for the purposes of achieving 'the feel good factor') that was another bonus!

On a more serious note (whilst remembering the image of one of the male judges pulling his trousers up around his ears in an effort to look like Simon Cowell) my role involved shortlisting finalists for UTV's 'Feel Good Factor' which invites nominations from the public for people who have made a difference to the lives of others! The winner of the Northern Ireland heat will go on to the glitzy star studded Pride of Britain awards in London where they wil be showcased along with others with similar attributes from around the UK! I assume that my invitation to this will be in the post (might be a good idea not to hold the breath as it would be bad for the baby but hey I can dream!)

I take my hat of to the people of the north and their willingness to help others from all ages, creeds, abilities and walks of life! What I saw today made me humble and proud to be Northern Irish! We may be a small province only boasting six counties but we sure know how to pull at the heartstrings with our selflessness and thought for others!

You can watch the four finalists and their stories on UTV Live all next week from Monday to Thursday and see the winner being announced on Friday!

"It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me and I'm feeeeeeeeeeeeling goooooooood."

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Weather Watchers...

I always complain that I hate wintertime but have to say that it does have some advantages! We had a lovely evening yesterday where we lit the fire for the first time this year, I dug out my warmest, fluffiest slipper sox and fleecy pyjamas and got a cup of Ovaltine brought to me in bed (this doesn't usually happen I hasten to add I think he was just feeling sorry for me because I haven't been sleeping well lately and also because he fancied getting a night's sleep himself 'without you feckin tossing and turning all's like bein' in bed with a hyperactive spinnin' top...grumble grumble yap yap.')

On the downside, however, is my mother's obsession with the weather!!!! She phones me to tell me what temperature it is and how cold it is set to be for the next five days (I honestly have no requirement for a five day weather report...I have it on's like living with Frank Mitchell who probably doesn't talk as much about it!!) and she worries about snow and how she and my daddy will ever get out of the house (apparently they live at the very top of the Swiss Alps where the roads are totally impassable and they would need air lifted out...or maybe they just live on top of a hill on a road which in fairness is fairly treacherous in the ice?!) I think I'm going to have to break her radio, distract her every time the news ends and hide all newspapers from her during the following months or else put her to good use and get her a job in the MET office where the news will be undoubtedly bleak and the weather permanently crap until next May when she can start worrying about the children wearing hats and being appropriately slathered in sun cream!

You just can't must be a mammy thing...although be assured I have already instructed my children to lose my radio, stick their foot through the TV on the dot of 6 o'clock and hide all reading materials if I show any signs of developing 'weather-watching-panicitis' as it seems to be incurable and has the side effect of putting everyone around you in a bad mood (or maybe that's just me!)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes...

I've been teaching Creative Writing to children as an after school activity since the end of September and they have provided me with much mirth and entertainment with their innocent comments and enquiries!

Firstly, I have to rant as I couldn't believe how many of them had never heard of Enid Blyton (I'm talking blank expressions and much shrugging of shoulders here...shocking!!!) Then I produced a Beatrix Potter book and wasn't that surprised to hear only a murmur of recognition (well let's face it if you've never heard of The Famous Five or been taken for a spin on the 'Magic Wishing Chair' then my hopes weren't that high!)

On a brighter note, however, Roald Dahl remains a firm childhood favourite (yay!) and we had great chats about The BFG, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox which I enjoyed immensely!

What cracked me up entirely and literally left me having to duck behind the desk before I threatened to wet myself was a comment made by a little boy who I couldn't look at for the rest of the day (as I don't generally bring changes of underwear to class with me.)

I was holding up Beatrix Potter's Collection of stories when he enquired with great gusto...."Was Beatrix Potter Harry Potter's Granny?" in an expectant voice and left me utterly speechless before very quickly looking in my bag to hide the fact that I was in kinks!

I'll still be telling this story in years to come...only then somebody will probably be asking me if the latest new age children's writer is Harry Potter's grandson and I'll still have no answers...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Stepping into the Shoes of Others...

We all have days where we believe we have it tough and life is incredibly unfair! We rage over the actions of others who seem to be hell bent on causing stress and destruction wherever they go and whinge constantly that we've been dealt a cruel blow! I've been feeling like that quite a lot lately as I've had various large traumas to deal with (whilst being pregnant and prone to sniffing, which doesn't help, believe me) but got a wake-up call today when I read the story of a remarkable woman who you would think had the life of Reilly and not a care in the world...until you read what she has been through and, it has to be said, nearly die of shock whilst trying to stem the tears in equal measure!

I have been lucky enough to be interviewed by the lovely Lynsey Dolan on Dublin's Countrymix radio station twice now and meeting her in person is a real treat (especially when she tells you that she read three quarters of your latest book in one go and loved it!!) She is a vivacious character with a husky voice and a penchant for hilarious facebook posts but today for the first time I learnt how she has been struck by tragedy throughout her life and feel truly humbled. This brave lady, after experiencing quite a turbulent childhood, has lost two sons, Greg to a cot death some years ago and two years ago, her son Chris was killed in a car accident in Australia. I cannot begin to contemplate the pain and anguish that any parent must experience when they lose a child in tragic circumstances and take my hat off to this wonderful woman with her lust for life and cheerful disposition in the face of what must be a terrible cross to bear.

You are an inspiration to us all Lynsey and as I am a strong believer in angels I have no doubt that your sons are at your side spurring you on and feeling incredibly proud of their amazing mother!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Not Just Anyone....

There was an article published in todays Irish Independent Mothers and Babies magazine supplement featuring moi talking about adoption, my family and being pregnant again! Bernice Mulligan (brilliant journalist and very lovely compassionate and empathetic lady) interviewed me several weeks ago and we had a great chat (when she eventually got hold of me as I have a head like a sieve these days which is a condition commonly known as pregnancy brain or perhaps thats just my other half's analysis of my compulsion for disorganisation at the moment!)

Literally five days previous to this interview I had been rejected by my birth family or rather my partner was invited to a meeting where the message was to be passed on that they were not willing to meet with me and 'I would never be recognised'. As you can imagine I was distraught and have been experiencing some pretty intense emotions since! However with the help of my poor long suffering Philip, my wonderful adoptive parents and extended family, my children and my close friends who have all rallied around me I'm beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. I still have dark days where I can barely lift my head where the slightest thing can trigger a whirlwind of emotions but even in my lonliest hour I realise I have a lot to be thankful for that perhaps others in simialr positions aren't lucky enough to have!

The last few days have been particularly rocky as the stress of the situation has began to affect my physical health however I'm determined not to be beaten by the actions of others who to my mind are still thinking of me as a baby wrapped in a blanket who caused a myriad of problems in rural Northern Ireland in the mid 70's where having a baby out of wedlock was akin to committing murder! Nobody has committed murder thankfully, although the thought did cross my mind when I heard myself described as being 'nothing more than a genetic link' (I jest...although the genes must be strong as I resemble quite a lot of the 'birth' cousins I've traced on's wonderful being able to find your family on a social networking site just not so great when you can look but never ever contact! Well I could, but I won't as I have to respect the decisions of others and not allow myself to become bitter and resentful (I've seem first hand what these emotions can do to people and how they can corrode their very soul and am not willing to let that happen to me!) Instead I intend to use my experience for the greater good in the hope that, in time, I'll be able help others and promote adoption as one of the most worthwhile things that can be done! I couldn't have picked better parents if I had tried and Lord knows there are a lot of children in the world who need love!

Anyway...there is a point to my musings this evening! I picked up a copy of the Irish Independent today and didn't get further than the title when tears sprang to my eyes! 'Not Just Anyone'...that suggests that maybe I am special to someone or that perhaps I have done something worthwhile which in my current state of semi worthlessness I appreciated greatly!

Thank you so much Bernice for making my day...and thanks to my family and friends who have made it their mission over the past few weeks to put me back together again when I've fallen apart...Is there 'Anyone for Me?'...Why, I do believe there is and they've been here all along!!

Monday, 4 October 2010

The X Y and Z Factors

It's that time of year again folks! X Factor mania has hit our screens and I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am that the annoying audition stages are now over and the live shows are about to start although I have to say that I'm a tad dubious about some of the decisions made!

Firstly, is Dannii Minogue mad? Paije is a wee Luther Vandross in the making if you ask me and should have been put through (obviously I am very experienced in this field due to my constant ipod listening and being kept up to date on who sings what by my children when we've the radio on in the car therefore my views should be taken very seriously!!) I cannot for the life of me understand why she put in the Oitalian diva as he quite obviously has trouble written all over him (he'll be demanding his own dressing room and wanting scented candles and his own stash of M&M's before too long you mark my words!) I am, however, in favour of her other two choices...Matt Cardle is simply delightful and his vocals remind me of Daniel Bedingfield (see, told you I knew what I was talking about!) and Aiden Grimshaw is just lovely (wonder if he's a far out relation of Eileen and Jason's or has any relations in Weatherfield?!)

Poor oul' Louis definitely had the toughest choices to make due to the sheer lack of talent in his category! Firstly, let's talk about the 'house husband'....never before has a title left me in such a state of confusion and it wasn't because I doubted his domestic capabilities more the reference to a 'husband' which suggested that there was a 'wife'??!! Then there was Mr Vanderwhat's his face who looked like his hair had been the victim of electric shock treatment and he spent all his free time fighting for space in the tanning salon with Jordan. I was so glad he didn't get through as the mere look of him would have irritated by happiness! How Wagner ever got through in the first place was beyond me as he looked like something that had just stepped out of a Mexican western and didn't sound much better either! On the other hand you should have heard me when 'our Mary' got her place! For me, this lady represents thousands of us out there who haven't had the courage to grab what we want in life until something finally gives us a push! She is an absolute inspiration and I hope she does well and that Tesco will have to start recruiting again! Storm (and his newly dyed red hair?) will go down like a bag of badgers with Simon which is precisely why I think it was a good idea...sparks will fly! I also liked John but was gutted that Elisha Moses didn't get a chance (if only for the fact that she was semi-normal which seemed to be a bonus in that group!)

Simon definitely made the right decisions as far as I was concerned although I have to say that I was quite partial to Husstle and did wish they had got through! Although Twem were likeable characters I think it would have been a mistake to let them through...think French Jedward.....shudder! Bellame were absolutely fabulous and deserve the most credit due to the fact that they weren't a group before simply four individual singers...fair play to you girls! Both boy bands were also to my liking (its very important to keep me happy y'know) so Simon Cowell has my approval (God love him he'll probably sleep better now in that knowledge!)

Now we come to Cheryl!! I need to take several deep breaths and have a good scratch at the old head before I even contemplate what drugs she was on before she made her decisions! Katie?????????? Only Blogger might take issue with the use of obscene language there is a lot more I would like to say but for now ten question marks and me wondering who thought it was a good idea to nick a peacock's feathers to stick around her eyes and hand her a parasol when she was auditioning will have to suffice!! Rebecca has an amazing voice (Sade better watch out...there is no end to my musical knowledge) but I would prefer if she would stop snotterin' at every turn round as it is rather off putting! Cher is a lovely girl and very talented who offers something different however I'm a bit annoyed that she was put through over and above others who were fit to my wee Gamu for example who has had me 'walking on sunshine' since I first heard her and who to her credit also had Louis delicately dabbing his eyes with a hankie at bootcamp! I also loved Treyc and her rendition of Ave Maria and thought Keri also deserved a shot! Poor Anastasia got rejected again but to be honest although I liked her there was nothing that stood out for me! Can I also just ask as an extra question...why did Will. i. am think it would be a good idea to wear his scuba diving goggles to the it possible that they hold some special powers of decision making? No, that can't be it because if they did Katie wouldn't have gone through...miaaaaoooowww.

As the credits rolled last night we heard that there will be a twist and it no longer seems to be a secret that this will take the form of four wildcard contestants being allowed to be picked on the first live show with one being voted through by the public!

Right...I hope yis are all paying attention now...Dannii...please give Paije a shot! Simon...give Husstle a chance or perhaps let Diva Fever through, Louis...please put Elisha Moses through and Cheryl...(wags finger and speaks sternly) preferably dump that blonde bimbo or failing that pick my wee Gamu to entertain us or Treyc or Keri!

Never mind Nicole Sherzinger (who I liked by the way) they should get me in to sort it all out! Sure, Louis and I have already proved we look the part together ;)

Friday, 1 October 2010

And it Was Perfect....

Well folks,

Where were you all last night when you should have been in the great city of Derry celebrating with the one and only Claire Allan who had her first ever book launch on the publication of her fourth book! Our Claire has never been one for putting herself in the limelight so I, for one, was delighted to see her shining in all her glory last night in front of an amazing crowd in her staggeringly high but very gorgeous turquoise heels!

There were books aplenty, there was wine and Shloer (for me and my babby), there were very delicious tomato sandwiches (have developed a fetish for tomatoes in my pregnant state so was very grateful for their inclusion on the menu) and there was homemade chocolate cake (made by the very talented Jack Hagan) and homemade carrot cake made by Claire's Auntie Lorraine and before you two start threatening spatula's at dawn again (like, seriously you should see Claire's facebook page...there's fighting talk and discussions about having a bake-off now) they were both absolutely beautiful and I had two small pieces of each (one for me and one for the babby of course...eating for two and all that!)

Claire made a speech, Claire's son Joseph made a speech (it's the stage for that boy I think) and Claire's Mammy made a speech or rather read aloud the very first thing that was published by Claire (aged 8 I might add) which we all found very funny whilst Claire sat looking mildly shocked and just a wee bit red faced!

After the launch myself and my good friend Carrie Ann (who is originally a Derry wan who was very proud to be in attendance) made our way to the very gorgeous Karma on Derry's Strand Road where we indulged in cocktails (one measly Cosmopolitan for me followed by five glasses of water), tapas food and a lot of craic mostly provided by Claire's aunties who are an entertaining lot!

We left at around 12:15am after Carrie Ann had a pink fit because the bar closed and she wanted another cocktail (she's well named that one...feckin Carrie Bradshaw wouldn't have a look in...ahem) and then went home guided by the stupid sat nav that took me the most convoluted lonliest route home where there were literally no houses, no lights and I would have peeed myself had we been unfortunate enough to have had a flat wheel! Thankfully we didn't and we all got home safely...still basking in the glory of two girls who've had a brilliant night!!

It's Got to Be Perfect is out now and you must buy it...that is an not mess with a pregnant woman giving you an instruction!! I mean it (just ask my other half!!)