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Brendan Kennelly for Leaving Cert English: Begin

"Begin" by Brendan KennellyYou may also like: 2019 Guide to Leaving Cert English. Full notes on Brendan Kennelly will be made available to everyone who has the 2019 guide, free of charge, as soon as they are ready.

Summary: a philosophical reflection on starting something new again and again communicated through the description of a morning walk across the Grand Canal in Dublin.

Style features:
anaphora (1) (highlighted in bold) adds a sense of determination as does the repetition of the word “begin” throughout the poemenjambment highlights the never ending need to begin again imperative tone, “begin again” is an encouraging command to never give up alliteration e.g. “dying in dark / determination” enhances the imageryreference to familiar places, “Pembroke Road” near the Aviva Stadium in Dublin 4, make the poem more accessibleimagery appeals to multiple senses: “summoning birds”, “sight of the light”, “roar of morning traffic”, “crying birds in the sudden rain”, “branches…

Short Story: “The most dangerous stations are the emptiest” for Leaving Cert English

“The most dangerous stations are the emptiest.”

Write a short story suggested by the above quotation.


This is an example of a short story that would be better as a descriptive essay. There is a very basic plot. "Guy looked scary. Guy attacked me." There is no intrigue or twist that's desirable for a short story. The descriptive language salvages this essay to an extent, but a stronger plot is required.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of 20th centuries best writers. Here was his advice about short stories:
  • Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  • Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  • Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  • Every sentence must do one of two things--reveal character or advance the action.
  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them - in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  • Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  • Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
You may also like: Full Guide to Leaving Cert English (€)

White fluffy specs of snow fell softly from the cobalt sky, accumulating like an ivory blanket across the grey brick platform. (Excellent first sentence. The language is descriptive and sets the scene of a narrative.) That customary "do not cross" yellow line disappeared slowly as the snow fell heavier. The green painted steel columns that held up a small roof offered minute shelter from the precipitating ice crystals falling from the cumulus clouds above. 

(A lot of people struggle with their introduction, "I don't even know how to start". 

That's because the introduction isn't really the start. It's the icing on the cake. And the opening sentence - the all important cherry on top. 

Would you start baking your cake with the cherry on top? 

No, you would start from the three main ingredients. Only, instead of having flour, eggs and butter, you have to cook up your own three main ingredients. These are your three main points. Or three main aspects of the story, as the case may be.

Before you start writing your essay, you need to know what the three main points are. In the case of a short story, it's the main character, the setting and the event.

Almost as easy as pie...)

Clara gazed bored at her disappearing footprints as she waited frozen under the station’s iron roof. She exhaled softly, creating a plume of condensation like a puff of smoke in front of her icy face. She shivered, the feeling of tiny spiders running up her back. Clara rummaged in her wool coat for her gloves. Finding them she slipped the soft emerald fur over her blue fingers and then stuffed her hands in her pockets for extra warmth. It didn’t do much. The cold still hugged her body like a blanket made of ice. She sighed. (Notice how the author varies her sentence length. This adds a certain musical quality to her narrative. Well done.)

Clara looked around at the empty platform. It was old. To the right of her was a small stone building that served as the entrance to the platform. The building’s length was the same as width between the two train tracks either side of it. It had two small windows, a dirty glass door and dark ivy (in winter?!) that gracefully winded around the structure’s exterior. There was an old bridge above the building, slightly behind the roof. Every few minutes a car would trundle along it. 

Short Story: “The most dangerous stations are the emptiest” for Leaving Cert English

Unfortunately, there were no modern digital boards telling Clara when her train was coming, only a tiny ticket booth that was… empty. Crap. How did she not notice it was empty? Was her train even coming? There was no one else on the platform. Clara fumbled for her phone in her handbag. Maybe she should just call a taxi.

Suddenly, Clara could hear the train station door opening. She looked up to see a lanky man walking through, there was a sharp bang as the door slammed shut.

The man was about six-foot with a red bag slung over his shoulder. He moved briskly towards the other side of the platform, out of Clara’s peripheral view. Clara returned to her own thoughts. She looked at her watch. Six-thirty. It was getting late and her organic chemistry assignment was due tomorrow. She’d be working past midnight if she didn’t get home soon. Clara could feel the stress of the multitudinous multitude of things she needed to do creeping through her mind.

Frowning and becoming frustrated at the late train, Clara flicked through her contacts trying to find the taxi number. Just as she was about to press ‘call’, she heard a quiet shuffling coming from behind her. Clara turned around stiffly, finding the tall man looming over her. She jumped back, startled at his proximity.

His face reminded her of the joker, pale and crooked. A mischievous smirk was plastered across his grimy face. He had stringy mousy brown hair that fell past his stubbly jawline giving him a very unkempt look. He wore clothes that looked far from warm. A cotton long-sleeved ochre shirt with a thin wool cardigan thrown over it. His jeans looked cheap, they had patches of different fabrics sewn poorly onto the knee area and his socks were pulled over the hem at the bottom. His brown galoshes had holes riddled through them. He looked dishevelled.

“Oh my god.” Clara gasped. “Why were you right behind me?”

The man didn’t respond, he just stepped forward closing the distance between them. Clara frowned, fear beginning to creep through her. 

“Excuse me, can you please move away?” Clara began to walk backwards towards the train station, all the while keeping eye contact with the unkempt man. Clara clutched her phone in her hand, she could feel her knuckles going white.

Suddenly, he lunged towards her, reaching out for her bag. Clara shrieked, pulled her bag towards her chest and tried to jump back, but her sudden movement caused her to slip on the ice and fall backwards. 

As soon as she hit the ground it was like the winter wonderland around her flipped over into an icy hell. She fell clumsily with a thump on her back, narrowly avoiding cracking her scalp against the hard concrete lacquered in ice. Her phone flew from her numb hand, skidded across the ice and disappeared over the side of the platform. Clara swore.

Clara became frozen with fear as the man lunged towards her again, attempting to snatch her bag. She fumbled to her feet and tried to get away, but he grabbed the back of her coat and slammed her against the station’s stone wall. She yelped as he held his forearm against her neck pushing her violently against the stone wall. She scraped at his arm, trying to loosen his hold, but he just pushed harder against her neck, cutting off her air flow. She couldn’t even scream.

Out of the corner of her eye, Clara saw a flash of silvery metal in the man’s hand. Shutting her eyes, she began to shake in fear. Short gasps escaped her mouth, she could feel the panic rising in her, her heart rate quickening and her heart thumping against her chest.

“Stop, stop, stop, please.” She gasped as tears leapt from her eyes. 

“Give me your bag!” the man growled threateningly. Clara could feel the pressure of the knife against her stomach.

Clara didn’t know what to do. She was so riddled with fear that she couldn’t think straight. His brown menacing eyes bore into her skull as he pinned her against the wall. She needed to escape. 

Without warning, Clara kicked his right shin as hard as she could. The man buckled from the shock and loosened his grip. She could feel the adrenaline surge through her, so she took advantage and pushed him back. She tried to slip out his grasp, but he recovered quickly.

Anger was painted across the man’s face. He grabbed her hand violently and shoved her against the wall again. This time he didn’t hesitate and stabbed her aggressively right in her lower abdomen. Pain blossomed darted through Clara, and she gasped in pain. Her legs buckled underneath her as he pulled the knife out. The shiny knife was coated in her scarlet blood. She fell to the ground in horrific pain, clutching her stomach. Lacking in strength, the man easily pulled the handbag off her forearm and ran away.

Clara could feel the colour draining from her face as she gazed powerless at the man running away. Her breath quickened as she leaned her back up against the cold wall. Clara grimaced in pain as she removed her gloved hand cautiously off her coat. Blood was seeping out through the tear; her emerald glove was stained crimson. Clara tentatively unwrapped the heavy coat from her body and pulled her shirt up, so she could see the damage.

There was a massive gash moving from below her belly button all the way up to her mid-section. The freezing cold grasped at the wound like needles. She could barely move, everything was numb except her stomach. A wave of nausea washed over her as she pathetically tried to stop the bleeding. Clara began to cry hysterically as the blood poured out of the wound, dripping onto the soft white snow.

She lifted her head up and rested it against the wall, defeated. Salty tears trilled down her cheeks as she gazed up towards the sky. Soft flakes of snow landed gently on her face, melting quickly into cold threads of water that mixed with her tears. She could see the soft hues of blackness creeping over her vision. She glanced down once more to see the harsh contrasting colours of crimson and ivory intertwining around her like an abstract work of art. The image stayed ingrained in her mind as it slowly became obscured in blackness. Darkness enveloped her as she slipped into unconsciousness.

Short story “The most dangerous stations are the emptiest”

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