Amy's Paradise

This blog may be the ramblings of an Irish Dancer in Australia who writes stories too…

What a great idea! Put more cafes in the suburbs…

More indépendant cafés are opening up in the suburbia, which I think is great. We only see the chain coffee places (like Starbucks and Zarraffas) in the cities or along main roads or in deep industrial areas for the workers, but I’ve recently discovered two cafes just around the corner from me – one if I go East from my place and one west, which is great. I’ve driven past them, but they never warranted a looksie.

Until this week when I was getting seriously bored with my run track along the Kedron Brook, which I live right next to, so I’m never to far away from nature, but still in just the outer CBD of Brisbane. The council call it bush in the suburbs, which I love as we have galahs, rosellas, lorikeets and sometimes corollas and cockatoos. But running the same track everyday can really get boring over time so I thought of trying suburb streets for my new route. Put some hills in my routine and I found my run so much more enjoyable. And I made my route so that one of the coffee shops – Brothers Espresso (On Days Road, Grange) was at the end, so it was like a reward at the end of my run. I’ve been there twice and it’s always filled with locals who walk there for breakfast or lunch. They make pretty cool stuff and most of it is organic and it’s connected to a podiatry/shoe store. All I’ve had is a small skinny mocha, but the stuff on their breakfast and lunch menu looks pretty yummy – tomato and smoke paprika soup, organic tuna, salads and toasted subs and the staff are really friendly. But as I’ve just been exercising I only carry small change and while looking rather sweaty, I think it would be rather awkward, but maybe once I get use to it I’ll change my mind. Plus I’m also on a strict diet at the moment.

The other place which I intend to try is on the other side of the brook, just a small bridge away. It’s an Indian food place called Mistress of Spice (Thistle Street, Gordon Park). Driving past I noticed no one ever in there, but when they started selling coffee it’s always packed with people. I always see mothers with their children after they’ve been running or out to feed the ducks down at the brook having coffee, so I plan on going there next when I need a change of scenery.

But we need more independent cafes about in the suburbs. It’s a place where the locals can get to know the locals while having a nice coffee and lunch and promoting an independent entrepreneur rather than the big chains (which I’m not dissing as when I’m in town on Saturdays I frequently get a Starbucks frappaccino). What would be really good if a second hand bookstore with attached cafe opened up really close by. Then I’d be in heaven as we only have two secondhand bookstores left in the whole of Brisbane that I know of. So if your suburb doesn’t have a cafe near by start one up, I think they’re a great idea! You’ll be the hit of the suburb!


Travelling Beyond My World – Part 1 – 23/04/2012

Cannot believe it is my birthday! I’ve just returned from three weeks in Europe and it just went so quickly. It was a birthday present to myself – far more pricey than last years present that I bought myself – an iPad (which I love!). I still cannot believe it happened… and I have barely done any TCRG study and my exam is a month away! Eeeeekkkkkkkk! I’m so screwed! (possibly…)

I went to Dublin, Belfast, London and Paris. My main thing was to see some of the World Irish Dancing Championships in Belfast and I desperately needed a holiday. Haven’t had a real holiday in several years. I had plenty of money in the bank and so going overseas for the first time and by myself was what I really needed… or I’d go crazy!

April 1st – Set for domestic terminal in Brisbane flying domestic to Sydney. I was terrified… never holidayed without parents or friends before and I was seriously nervous being in 4 foreign countries for three weeks. There were some many things that could go wrong (and did!). Also I had never been outside Australia (unless you count Tasmania over the Bass Strait). I was terrified but excited about my new endeavour.

Once in Sydney, it was a nightmare. Getting from domestic to International terminals by bus and then going through check-in with 2.5 hours, I just made it to the gate to board. Of course there were people trying to swindle out of paying for extra weight and extra carry-on luggage, language barriers – it all took time. I was freaking out. I cleared through nice and easy though and ran down the long terminal to find the gate, of course, it was right at the very end that took about 20 minutes to briskly walk to.

I flew with Etihad, and once on the plane it was all new to me. It was bigger with more seats than domestic aeroplanes. It also had free entertainment, which I thanked God for. I guess flying for 14 hours to Abu Dhabi, you’d expect free movies and such or there’d be some testy clients. We took off and the plane was awfully chilly, thank goodness for blankets, a pillow, they even give you a little pack with a toothbrush and paste, socks, sleeping mask and ear plugs (I guess to help you sleep if there’s crying babies).

The worst thing on a long flight, such as 14 hours, is not getting the aisle seat. Being stuck at the window or centre seats, you are stuck, trapped there like a bear in a cage, unless you can somehow vault yourself over the sleeping person without waking them past the tilting back chairs. It’s just impossible. Guess that’s the luxury of economy and first class, lying down on beds, easy access to the bathrooms and the ability to stretch your legs.

Now preparing for this flight, the Etihad website is not at all clear with some of their rules, such as the bags. I noticed lots of forums where people asked the question about 23 kg limit, but it doesn’t matter how many bags you have. Somehow I had the limit stretched for free to 30 kgs. I don’t know what my agent did, but thank God. I came back with 28.7 kgs worth of stuff.

Now you can have any amount of bags at check-in as long as it isn’t over 23 kgs in total of all the bags together. They are very strict about this and it’s a heavy fee to pay if it’s over. It’s about $45 (or so) per kilo over (depends where you’re flying to and from). That’s costly for your holiday. Some people were opening their suitcases and putting on clothes and stuffing things into their pockets. Others tried to talk there way out of paying their $237 or so extra for their luggage. If it’s a kilo over or so they won’t charge, unless they are in a bad mood, but 5-10 kgs or more… They have to charge, of course they have to. I mean they are running a business or everyone would bring everything and several kitchen sinks. A plane can only carry so much. Apparently there was a car on one of my planes. Wouldn’t want to think how much that costs!

They are just as strict with this with carry on. I was just on the limit leaving my country, but they didn’t check, it just looked like a hand bag, so that was cool.

Now food. It was actually really nice. On the flight to Abu Dhabi I got lunch and dinner and snacks in between. The best was the chicken pie with gravy, peas and potato mash. We also got savoury snacks, Weis Ice cream bars, sandwiches and things. Delicious. The only thing was from Abu Dhabi to Ireland, my connecting flight, we were served breakfast and it was a bit dodge. Do not order the french toast with caramelised bananas if possible. Maybe I just got the bad batch. I only ate a little bit, but mainly ate the yoghurt and crackers that they served on the tray.

The crew were really nice and I love their uniform with the hat and scarf, the entertainment was pretty good, it was annoying you couldn’t turn off the arabic subtitles, but they had the latest movies and TV. Also they had news, music, radio, games. All free. The only thing you had to pay to use was the phone or internet (if you hooked up your laptop).

Adu Dhabi airport was interesting. I had never seen such a large airport with the shopping malls and such. I had about a 3-4 hour gap before heading off to Dublin. So I connected to Facebook and messaged my parents and went looking for souvenirs. I bought a little camel statue. I really wanted to have a look outside, but it was midnight there so I didn’t actually see Abu Dhabi till flying back. Ate some more food and then got on another plane for 8 hours.

So with a total flight time of 24.5 hours (29 hours approx. in total with waiting in transfer lounges) from Brisbane to Ireland with 2 stops, I was ready to finally meet the ground and say hello to Ireland. A land that I had only read about or seen in films. My God I was excited as we touched down. I was freaking out slightly as I had never been through customs and border control. And I always freak out that I’ll lose my luggage and, of course, it doesn’t help that it is always one of the few last bags to come off the plane.

April 2nd – But it was 7:30 in the morning in Dublin, Ireland and it was raining, but I didn’t care, because I wasn’t in Australia. I was starting an adventure that would enrich me in so many ways, learning to become independent and wise with knowledge of culture and history of European culture. By golly I was excited!

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The Adventures of Studying for the TCRG Exams – 15/03/12

Well that just blows…

didn’t do very well on the practice exams I’ve done so far, but they were the first I did without looking at the book! So 50% correct in that respect is all right. At least it isn’t 20% or something! GOD, that would just send me down a spiral of foreseeable doom!

You hear about all the horror stories about TCRG exam about hows there’s a 75% fail rate and such… but the examiners aren’t out to get you, apparently, they help you if they sense that you do know your stuff. I’ve got to remember that they’ve been where I’ve been… unless they dinosaur age and created the whole terrifying experience. Who knows?

Apparently, there are about 32 people doing the exam both TCRG and ADCRG here in Australia. It’s quite a few more than expected as it’s been over 18 months since the last exam took place down in Sydney. Now it’s in Brisbane, very convenient for me and my friends doing the exam at a nice Bar/hotel. We’ll be getting smashed once the exams are over apparently! Doesn’t help that I don’t drink, but it’ll still be relief once the whole thing is over, but I don’t get to find out my results till October. I think I’ll forget the whole horrifying experience by that time because I’ll be focusing so much on Nationals!

I am freaking out slightly with doing the practice exams, studying the book and set dances. That CD from the pack I got a few weeks ago is so different to the ones I’ve been listening to from the 100% pure set dance CD, I’ve gotten worse in that aspect. I guess it’ll take time. Thing is… I don’t have time. It’s just two months away and I’m going overseas to Worlds, London and Paris for THREE weeks! I want to be excited about going on holiday but I’m so screwed! REALLY screwed! I guess I know what I’ll be doing on the long flight over there and back! Practice exams!!!

*breathe into a paper bag*

I’ve figured out my problem ceili’s that I just blank out when I’m doing an exam and they just keep popping up! There’s mainly four, which I just have to keep going over in my head.

Waves of Tory, Duke Reel, Antrim Reel, the order of the Bonfire dance (I know ‘The Rose’ pretty well) and the third figure of the sixteen hand reel (explaining it in detail that is) I know it’s ‘Arch Arms’, but how to dance it I have no idea. But they like to trick you in the exams. You always expect that when the Gates of Derry question pops up you think they’ll ask about ‘Telescope’, but no the question I had was describe in detail the first two movements. So ha! They can catch you out with any question they please! You have to LEARN everything! There are no two ways about it!


I guess I just keep doing exams! The Ar Rinci Foirne is my new bible and I have to learn chapter and verse (ceili’s and order of movements) off by heart!

If any one has any tips for the exam please help! Me and my friend could really use the advice! I know people like to give advice… readily!

This is our dance school dancing in the parade last year in Brisbane! I'm the girl in the red, black and white dress!


So this is it two days before St. Patrick’s Day! More displays for the public while they drink down their beers and spirits!

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Much Ado About TCRG Exams… 7th March 2012

How did it get to be the 7th of March, eh?

I don’t know…

And just don’t ask about study? Really… I tell you now… it’s hopeless!

I’ve done some practice exam papers and… I haven’t gotten them back from my teacher who is marking them, but I felt like they were just BAD! But… who knows right?

How am I going to survive this? A 2 hour written exam! It’s just ridiculous!

And it’s just over two months away! ARGH!!!! Freaking out!

Though we have had nights getting together (some of the others going for their exams and my teacher) to visualise the ceili dances and boy does it help. Visually seeing what the dances are than what is written on the page makes a whole lot of difference.  It’s hard because no one does them in competition so it’s difficult to see them. Now I can actually remember Glencar Reel, Harvest Time Jig, Haste to the Wedding and Bridge of Athlone, now that we’ve gone through and danced them.

I got pretty excited when I got my examination preparation pack four weeks ago and it was massive. MASSIVE. Practice papers X 10, CD with the set dances on it, Child protection booklet, Code of conduct booklet, syllabuses for ADCRG, TCRG, TMRF, and grade exams (I think the CLRG were having a massive clean out), brief history about things, more application forms (for what exactly? I don’t know) and they photocopied the entire ceili book (Luckily I bought one about a year ago). As I said massive. Barely fit into my mail box.

I also got some other exciting news, because I really didn’t want to retire from dancing just yet, but I couldn’t really wait till the next set of exams to come around, so I got permission from the Head Office to hold my results until after the Australian National Championships! I’m so excited! It’s in Adelaide where I haven’t been before! I’m determined to get a place this year. I get to do Nationals ONE LAST TIME!

Teaching little kids have gotten a bit easier. We got two new little ones, so it’s best to be with them from the start and it’s so exciting to see them get better and better each class. It’s rewarding seeing them do a proper over-two-three for the first time. Plus, they are absolutely adorable!

I think my study has lapsed a bit because during the last few dance classes we’ve been focusing on the upcoming event of St. Patrick‘s Day. This year we have the first ever Brisbane Irish Festival which my club, Queensland Irish Association, has put together with sponsorship from the government. It’s from the 9th -17th and we have to dance a hundred different displays at a thousand different places! But the main events that I always look forward too are the Parade, we get to dance for all the officials like the Lord Mayor and Premier and such, then there’s the Irish Fair, which are usually held at the Botanical Gardens but now held in King George Square (if you’re familiar with Brisbane City scape). I guess this has been distracting because it’s exhausting spending the entire day dancing at different venues, but it’s all worth it. Great memories and helping a part of our culture stay strong!

So not very far for the 7th of March, but I don’t think I’ve gone backwards… that much!

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The Hound of the TCRG Exams – 08/02/12

Things are not going well…

My studying has slowed… I’m frightening to small children… and it’s only several weeks away…

I don’t even want to count them! Eek!

I’ve been having some issues both with dancing and personal… I won’t go into depths about my personal issues, but with studying the ceili dances… WHAT A NIGHTMARE! My teacher was like ‘write a book out each night! It’s the only way you’ll learn them’. Do you know how much that is? Several several pages and my writing hand aches after writing out just a few… so I sort of stopped studying. But then I’d feel guilty because this is a Eight hundred dollar exam! You can’t just fail it! So I thought writing it out is not working for me – everyone works differently so I’m trying a different approach… I just learn the order of the movements of the dances… one ceili dance a day! It’s working… I just stroll around at work and just go through the order of the movements in my head (the customers look at me funny thinking I’m talking gibberish). I’ve got about ten so far (out of thirty) that I can write down in order… I mightn’t know how to dance those dances, or how on Earth to teach them but hey! I know the order – it’s a start.

Then I can go back and write out one a day but hand… duplicate it onto the page… I was overwhelming myself I think and taking a step back I might be able to manage it… but then my teacher gets me all nervous again about studying she wants me to start practice exams which I’m SO not ready for… I attempted a few a week or so ago and the first one did did not go well. Every question I had to sneak my nose into the book and cheat… I’ll get there soon. On the weekend I might attempt another and hand it too her to mark. I won’t know everything yet, but I do know some… It’s all a working progress it is…

Now… small children… I really hope I don’t get a child who doesn’t talk… It’s difficult… very difficult, especially when you’re not good with children in the first place… First day back at class for the year and I offer to help with the new beginners class to help my teachers and myself getting to know children. And there was Lily, the most adorable four year old wearing all pink and pigtails. My teacher just tells her to come with me and do the third step of her reel and I just (in a sweet voice) command her about. She keeps getting the step wrong and I haven’t a clue how to fix it. I know what it is, but how to put it in a way a child understands… another story. I tell her what’s wrong, but… ARGH! She just nods her head and then gets it wrong again. I try and show her, but nah! I think I was very scary… my teacher then saved me and I watched her careful in how she interacted with her and then gave me pointers in how you have to be very visual with them. Talking to children in dance terms is another language… you have to be very visual with them (like teachers do with ‘A is for Apple’ with a picture of an apple). I realised that next time I have to shrink to their height so I’m not big, tall and scary, ask for their name and introduce myself…

The next week was much better with Orla. I remember having to help her last year in classes. So I got down on the floor, asked for her name and asked if she remembered me… She didn’t but that was all right, so I introduced myself again… We got to communicating… Thank God! She talked! It was MUCH easier! And she actually progressed really well and learnt a new step of the light jig! I broke it down easy enough for her to understand and everything! It’s was really rewarding… Not much had happened, but still!

I’ve made a few more rhymes to lilt for the set dances, they’re not as creative as some of my other rhymes, but they work, whenever they start on the iPod I start lilting and I instantly know what set it is (this was one of my teachers brilliant ideas).

But practical way of making up my set dance steps, I’ve started Rodney’s Glory and I almost have a whole Treble Jig, but unfortunately, I’ve forgotten my hornpipe! I’m sure I’ll remember it! I’m pretty good at those things, I can remember my Lodge Road from 4 years ago without visual help so… a few weeks should be fine!

So that’s all I have so far for the 8th of February… till next time!

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On The Road to my TCRG Exams – 21/01/2012

Celtic Choice (by Fays) Irish ghillies

Image via Wikipedia

I’m starting this blog of my journey to the TCRG exams (Irish dancing teachers’ exams) as there are many others that I’ve found that have been useful to me… such as making up silly rhymes for the music of the written music test…

Hopefully this helps others as well as myself in keeping track of my progress. It is a journey that has to be done… and done right!
Okay… so here it goes…
Studying for my TCRG exam started about a year ago… I have the Ceili book ‘Ar Rince Foirne’ and music CDs and my lovely teachers to help me.
I’m a student at the Queensland Irish Association Dancers in Brisbane, Australia. I started when I was seven after seeing Riverdance on television. My mum wanted me to start Ballet, but irish dancing just looked too awesome to pass up, so I started that instead. Thank God! I instantly fell in love it and would never dream of giving it up.
It is a part of my identity now.
I have no Championship titles under my belt, but I believe that hard work, patience and passion is key to what I need to pass this exam.
The exam has many parts to it…
  1. Practical test of dancing.
  2. Written Ceili dancing test
  3. Practical test in teaching Ceili dancing
  4. Practical test in teaching step dancing
  5. Written music test
  6. Oral irish language test (optional – if you live outside Ireland)
Practical test of dancing:
This should be pretty simple as I’m currently dancing… still doing competitions… I have my Reel, Double jig, Slip jig, Single Jig, Hornpipe and four Traditional Sets – St. Patrick’s Day, Blackbird, Job of Journeywork and Garden of Daisies pretty much down pat.
Also I have to have nine set dances of my choice:
Garden of Daisies, Drunken Gauger, Planxty Drury, Madame Bonaparte, The Lodge Road, Hurry the Jug,  Rodney’s Glory, Three Sea Captains (Short) and Ace and Deuce of Pipering are my chosen nine for the exam (but may change).
My creative juices have only given me Madame Bonaparte, Hurry the Jug and Three Sea Captains. Luckily, I still remember my Lodge Road, Drunken Gauger from previous years and learning Garden of Daisies for comps this year. But I still have to make up Planxty Drury, Rodney’s Glory and Ace and Deuce of Pipering… I’ve basically hit the dancing version of writer’s block with these three, but hopefully once dance classes start up again, the pipes will unblock and the juices will flow freely again.
Written Ceili Test:

The written ceili test is killing me… I’ve started the practice exams from the internet and I’m failing. I can’t go a question without looking into the ceili book! Yikes! The fact that I haven’t studied the ceili book as much I should have over these summer holidays… I’ve only studied book one and I’m getting there. Started book two today… but I must do more prac tests!!! My motivation has been lacking!
Practical Ceili Test:

Then I have to teach the ceili dances off by heart… me and small children… it’s hard! I don’t have the natural hand with children like others do. I wish I did, but I guess it’s a matter of confidence. They can’t hurt me I suppose, but this section is probably the main thing to whether I’ll get my teacher’s certificate or not. I have to be able to work with children to make the whole thing worth while!
Written Music Test:
The written music test… Ahh! Tricky as you have about 60 set dances to figure out in the exam. They play the song and you have to figure out which tune it is, whether it is a jig or hornpipe and the number of bars it is.
From other blogs ( I can’t remember the blogs to reference) but the bloggers and my teachers suggested making lyrics for the songs. And surprisingly enough it works! Now when a tune turns upon my iPod, I start singing the silly rhyme that I made for the song:
My silly rhymes:
The Four Masters: The four masters will go out today, they sing, they dance, the play all day. Their fiddlesticks and their drum kits allow them to be quick and rumbling…
Rambling rake: In the morning the old rambling rake always sounds like a cat (meow), a cat (meow), a cat (meow) it rambles in the morning sun…
Ace and Deuce: when the ace and deuce, the one and two, the uno the duo, the ichi and ni, the ace (pause), the deuce (pause) go pipering the whole day they fall in love…
They don’t have to make sense to work! But these are the only ones I’ve figure out so far. There are still many sets to make up songs to… I need help!!!
So January 19th… this is where I’m at! Not very far is it in the scheme of things… but there are still a few months left to study studiously!
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