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2003-05-06 At University Ball in a nappy

I limped into the ballroom, with distorted posture, dressed in a large nappy held together with two large safety pins. I had come as `Richard the Third as a baby' to the UCD Dramsoc's Ball, and they had gone for a Shakesperean theme that year.

 

It was the `Willy Wobble-Arrow Ball' (Shakespeare  `Wobble-Arrow', get it?).One guy had arrived in armour with a Number 12 on his back  Twelfth Knight! Another guy came in a pigs' costume  `Piglet'- Hamlets' little brother, and a very pretty friend of mine had come very scantily clad  `As you like it'!

I was a particularly young `freshman' at University College Dublin having left school at 16. I had been given very bad career-guidance counselling at school and had been convinced not to fill out a C.A.O. form. I got a very respectable Leaving Certificate, but now all avenues to third level education were firmly closed. The plan was to take over the family business in Castle Street, but at 16 I had nagging (or caring?) voices, both real and imaginary, coming at me from all angles telling me I was too young to settle down, and that I ought to study further and `get something behind me'.

In hindsight I now know that everyone ought to fill out that C.A.O. form carefully, and I also know the value of getting a qualification of some kind `behind you'. With that qualification, the world is indeed your oyster and any amount of goals can be set and even achieved if you have the determination.

Thankfully, in my case, last minute university places were advertised in the press during the summer so I began phoning around. I had enough points to study law and considered that briefly, but then decided that if I was not even decisive enough to choose a particular flavour of yoghurt in the supermarket, I was hardly the person to decide upon people's fates.

I talked to a lot of people and found out the best university departments for what I wanted to study, and after a great deal of indecision, and with an ever-increasing passion for music, I chose Music and French at UCD. Four years later I had B.A. and B.Mus (Hons) degrees after my name, the youngest ever music graduate from UCD.

I thrived on the university experience, allowing me to break free from years of restrictions imposed on me at boarding school, the freedom to join a whole range of societies, the unique and often eccentric characters (both staff and students) and the establishment of life-long friendships.

I was one of the most active members of UCD Dramsoc (the Dramatic Society), even a committee member for a time, and it was there I really began to `tread the boards' in a big way, performing in more than 30 plays during my time there. I played everything from Shakespeare's `Bottom', Wilde's `Earnest' to Samwise Gamgee in "Lord of the Rings", a blind nymphomaniac to an Italian grandmother, an abusive father dying of throat cancer to a private investigator, and many of these were reviewed favourably in the national press.

 And of course after each show, there was the inevitable all-night party where `experimentation' was the name of the day, if you get my drift? I had come to realise in a very short time that univeristy was a place where people `tried out things'.

It was at these parties I `tried out' smoking, and not just cigarettes, and it was at these parties I firmly decided it was not for me. I then began to discover `alternative highs' which would not go on to inflict long-term damage to my body and brain.

The social aspect was of huge importance in university, and it was in the Belfield bars that I was to develop my intolerance of smoky environs. I began to socialise more in the restaurants/ coffee shops but was not a fan of the famous Belfield `green chips'!

During the summers, I worked in No42 Castle Street, and on a few occasions performed summer theatre in Dublin for meagre fees but lots of fun, and on one occasion did the `Inter-rail' bit in France with a classmate. The word `university' comes from French and Latin meaning `society',`the whole' and `combined into one', so there is more to university than `book-learning', it is also about self-discovery and `life-learning'!