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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…

Write a short story about a reunion for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

Write a short story about a reunion (2013). 

#625Lab. This is an interesting mix between a personal essay and a short story. It definitely has a strong setting and good characterisation. The plot is also there, but the tone is insightful and revelatory, as if it were a personal essay. It's quite well written, with some degree of anticipation throughout the story. You may also like: Complete Guide to Leaving Cert English (€). 

It was a warm, bright summer’s day in the middle of July. A heatwave had broken out in Ireland making it one of the hottest days of the year. I had my black sunshades on my damp wavy unkempt hair. My toes hit the scalding hot golden sand. I quickly curled them back onto the rug I was laying on. (I am all for sensuous imagery, but it seems that, in 2018, everyone wants to write about their toes.) The ping from my phone disrupted me from my tanning session. It was a notification of a friend request on Facebook from a remotely familiar name Oscar Donoghue. My heart fluttered in my chest when I realised who it was. He was my long lost childhood friend. We had lost contact years ago. I vividly remember we tried to keep in contact through pen palling and Skyping one another. 

I clicked onto his profile and noticed he had grown up a lot since our last Skype call together with our parents. Bearing in mind we were eleven years old at the time. I scrolled through his photos and was awestruck at how handsome he had become. He seemed to have an active lifestyle from photos of him sky diving and surfing at the beach. I eventually accepted his friend request and noticed his relationship status was single. I lay back down on the towel I was using to prop myself up. I stared up at the clear blue sky and began reminiscing about our youthful days. (This feels more like a book you would read on the beach rather than a Leaving Cert essay, but I suppose that's not necessarily a criticism ;)

He was my best friend in primary school and we had practically grown up together. He would always be over at mine or vice versa while our mothers had tea and a laugh together. I grinned to myself thinking of the mischief we would get up to. One of my favourite memories together was when we went into the farmer’s field filled with square bales of hay. We took the initiative upon ourselves to use our wild imaginations and to make a massive fort out of the bales of hay. To say the least our parents were astounded at what we had accomplished. We managed to drag around thirty square bales of hay from one corner of the field to the other resulting in a gigantic fort. We were very pleased with ourselves but of course received a light scolding for trespassing onto the farmers land and leaving the household grounds with permission. This was just one of the many adventures we got up to. (The author may also want to add that they are lucky to be alive.)

Like all good things they eventually come to an end. I remember at nine years old my mother told me the heart-breaking news that Oscar and his family were moving away to Birmingham in England. My heart was shattered to pieces. I was losing my best friend. Oscar and I were in tears when he came over to mine for our last play session together. It was never the same after that. It was one of the most difficult moments in my life growing up.

The story is always told about the kid who moves away, but never about the one who is left behind. We kept in contact for the first year or two but it slowly lessened over time. It was hard for me to adapt to school without him, but eventually we both moved on. I’m still unsure who stopped writing to who, but I’m sure as soon as the teenage years hit it inevitably would have stopped anyway. Despite our loss of contact he was still very much in my thoughts. I would often think of our childhood days together and wonder about the person he had become.

I was startled once again from my basking in the sun by another loud ping from my phone. It was a message from Oscar that read, “Hi, How are you keeping? It’s been years since we’ve talked to one another. I know this is pretty straightforward (forward?), but I’m flying back to Ireland tomorrow and was wondering if you would like to catch up over a coffee or something?” I was completely overwhelmed and excited. I immediately replied “Yes”, and we exchanged further details of our agenda. (Show, don't tell. Let us know that you are meeting in X place that serves Y things that you both loved when you were Z years old.)

I looked around at my surroundings and noticed the beach was bare. Clouds had accumulated in the evening sky while the sun was setting in the magenta horizon. My skin shivered and goose bumps began to form from the chilly breeze. I briskly packed up my things and placed them in the boot of the car. As I drove away from the beach, I began day dreaming about the exciting turn of events for tomorrow. 

I woke early the next morning and decided to make an effort with my appearance today. It was quite rushed as we had arranged that I would generously collect him from the airport seeing as I had only been given a last minutes notice. I frantically brushed my hair and patted on a light layer of concealer and mascara. I waited patiently in arrivals looking at the arrivals boards to see if the plane from Birmingham had arrived. I received a text from him saying the flight had been delayed and he would be an hour late. 

That only increased my anxiety, and I became frustrated with the anticipation of seeing him. It was becoming too much to bear. I started to feel a sense of doubt creep in my mind. I hadn’t been in touch with him for years. He was practically a stranger now. I decided to distract myself with some food in one of the cafes. A text from my friends wishing me good luck reassured me. I had informed them about my reunion with Oscar. They found it to be the most adorable thing. I thought of all the fun things we could do together like surfing as it seemed to be an interest of his. 

After what felt like the longest hour of my life, the plane had finally arrived. The butterflies in my stomach were doing loops. I stood outside arrivals eagerly searching through all the faces that exited the doors at the passport checkpoint. I saw a tall young bearded man and smiley woman with light brown hair who were holding hands as they approached me. I was immediately taken aback when I realised Oscar had brought his girlfriend. A dumbfounded expression hit my face, “Oscar, is that you?” I managed the stutter while trying to hide my utter disbelief. He was barely recognisable and looked nothing like his Facebook photos that I began to realise were taken years ago. I awkwardly embraced him and gave my best fake smile to the woman he had brought with him without my knowledge. I felt irked and stupid that I had been so delusional. I felt like this was an episode from ‘Catfish’.

I also tried to hide my annoyance that he hadn’t informed me he was bringing someone with him. I wouldn’t have even minded, but I felt lied to. I decided to brush it off and told myself to get over it. Her name was Sofia and she had a thick Birmingham accent and turned out to be extremely charming. Oscar, I soon learnt, had lost most of his Irish accent. Sofia joked that it comes back in the company of Irish people. I never got an explanation as to why he left out the details of our reunion. Perhaps he thought it would be an ice-breaker bringing company. Once they had put their luggage in the car and sat in, we began talking about the good old days. Before long we were in stitches laughing and my ribs ached from the pain of it. I had a challenging time concentrating on the road.

I eventually pulled in to a fancy hotel called the Clayton were many friends of mine worked. Oscar and Sofia were starving from their journey. We went to the restaurant part of the hotel and we were immediately escorted to a table. Our spirits were still high and we continued chattering away and catching up on each other’s lives. I soon learned that Oscar had become very successful with a business that was flourishing. We peered at the menu, and I decided to treat them to a three-course meal. For the starter we each ordered a Caesar salad which was devoured by Oscar and Sofia. 

When it came to the main course, the waiter had made a mistake with Oscar's order. He indignantly demanded it to be fixed. The restaurant was crowded with customers and the waiter calmly replied he would be with him in a second. When another waiter was strolling past, arms filled with dishes, Oscar violently got up and flung the dishes out of his arms. He then aggressively began to shout about the lack of service in this place. I was truly appalled and horrified by his behaviour. I couldn’t believe this monster of a man was my childhood friend. The entire restaurant that was previously bustling with noise had become silent. Sofia then stood up and had the audacity to yell at the poor waiter who was clearly doing his best. I wanted the room to swallow me whole. I was utterly mortified by the whole experience. I began to stand up for the waiter these were local people that I knew well. I apologised profusely to the staff and after paying for the meals before showing myself out.

I stared at these utter insane strangers I had just welcomed into my life. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to abandon them. I regrettably decided to drive these two snobs off to the B&B they were staying in. They continued to complain about the service in the restaurant and couldn’t believe we had been kicked out. This only infuriated me further. I wanted to be out of their company as quickly as possible. I gripped onto the steering wheel and allowed my frantic road rage to set in. This rapidly silenced them. I didn’t want to stoop to their level, so I bit my tongue at the thought of howling at them. I eventually couldn’t bear it anymore and told Oscar how ashamed I am at the person he has become and how humiliated I am. When we arrived at the B&B, they snidely and rudely slammed the door cursing my name. I couldn’t believe that someone could grow up to be this arrogant and selfish.

I held this ideal and expectation of Oscar. I can’t understand how I lead myself to believe I knew somebody from their social media profile. I held him on a pedestal, admired him for his newfound success in life. My childhood memories now felt tainted knowing the person he had become and all the time I had wasted thinking about him. I learnt a hard lesson that day about the dangers of social media and the false image it puts out about someone. I discovered you can have all the successes in the world, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be a good person who treats people with respect. This sorry excuse for a reunion had me feeling defeated. This event will haunt me forever, and I will never forgive myself for being so naïve in today’s world of technology. It now seems harder than ever to trust people, even the people you think you know. (As a reader, I feel a little let down, at the end of this self-reflective story, that the speaker blames technology. It's not really Facebook's fault, is it? A more insightful ending, focused on what the speaker learnt from the experience, would have brought the story full circle.)

Write a short story about a reunion for Leaving Cert English

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

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