OCD Awareness Week

Here at St Louis we’re always keen to raise awareness of mental health – just a few days ago the Year 10 boys attended a workshop for World Mental Health Day, and if you scroll back through the blog you’ll find more great articles by our blogging team on mental health. Today we’re looking at raising awareness about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

More and more people are starting to realise the impact our mental health can have on our lives, but it’s not all depression and anxiety. This week is OCD Awareness Week, a global campaign to raise awareness and understanding of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It was launched in 2009 by the International OCD Foundation and aims to educate people in the hopes of removing the stigma that can be caused by misunderstanding.

It’s estimated that between 1-2% of people have OCD, yet many people still hold the belief that OCD is just a ‘quirky’ personality trait: the co-worker who likes to keep their workspace tidy and hates the thought of mess, or the pupil who’s ‘a bit OCD’ because they keep their notes in a neatly organised folder. As Christmas approaches we all see the Facebook posts of hundreds of people all professing to have OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder, and we’re all familiar with the countless meme pages that claim will drive your OCD mad, all because they post pictures of uneven tiling or crooked paintings. Of course, none of these truly depict OCD, but year after year this false image prevails.

So what is it really?

OCD is an anxiety disorder that consists of obsessions – repetitive unwanted and unpleasant thoughts, images or urges that cause feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease – and compulsions – a repetitive behaviour or mental act carried out to try and relieve these feelings. Fears of uncleanliness and contamination are often seen as the hallmark of OCD, but while these are common obsessions, they are far from the only symptoms. Some other common compulsions include checking things, such as light switches or locks; avoiding certain things such as cracks on the pavement to abate anxieties similar to superstitions; and hoarding things just in case they might be useful later.

Living with OCD can be a constant battle, but we can all do our part to help. If you know someone with OCD, one of the best ways to help is just to be understanding – often one of the biggest issues is negative attitudes towards a condition they can’t control. It’s time to do our bit to combat the stigma; be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

For more information on OCD, you can check out the NHS website, the charity OCD Action or the charity Mind.


Banning Books! Still?

Good news for book lovers; bad news for censorship.

Last Sunday (24th September) marked the beginning of Banned Books Week, an annual campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International to celebrate intellectual freedom and raise awareness of individuals who are “persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read.”

Hundreds of books are “challenged” – an attempt to remove them from libraries or the curriculum –every year over content. Four of the most commonly challenged books in the United States are on the new GCSE English Literature syllabus, while eight are on this year’s A Level syllabus. Everyone who’s done their GCSEs has read “Of Mice and Men”, and yet none of it has done us any damage. Our eyes didn’t fall out of our head, our minds have not been corrupted by the senseless horrors of rural 1930s America and we’ve moved on with our lives.

So why are so many books challenged every year?
The most frequently cited reasons are that the material is “sexually explicit”, contains “offensive language” or is “unsuited to any age group”. Perhaps this is understandable. After all, there are some things that are undeniably unsuited for certain audiences – no one wants to hear that The Exorcist has just been added to the Year 8 syllabus. Many critics of Banned Books Week even argue that despite its name, most of the books highlighted are merely challenged, not banned.

However, there is a more nefarious side to these challenges. Half of the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016 were challenged for reasons that included “LGBT content”, which provokes a controversial discussion over human rights and what constitutes ‘inappropriate’, an issue that Amnesty International is eager to highlight. Each year on its website, it documents “focus cases”, which show that while these challenges may not seem a big deal to us, such attitudes have real implications around the world where individuals are reportedly killed, incarcerated, or otherwise harassed by national authorities for the material they produce.
We also have to consider the issue of censorship – who gets to decide what is acceptable to read and why? Where do we draw the line? Do these challenges violate our freedom of speech, and where will it end? I’ll leave that for you to decide, but if there’s one thing we should take away from Banned Books Week, it’s to appreciate the freedoms we have and fight for those without.


Ticket Touts on Top

Have you ever wanted to by tickets to a gig, theatre or comedy show only to find the tickets have sold out almost instantly and you’ve been left without?

To add insult to injury those tickets appear on a secondary ticketing website such as Viagogo, Stubhub, GET ME IN! or Seatwave within minutes but at double the price.

In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of so-called bedroom touts, many of whom use software known as “bots” that automatically sweep up huge numbers of tickets the moment they go on sale. They then resell them via secondary market websites.

This is exactly what happened when U2 Tickets went on sale for their Joshua Tree anniversary tour. Tickets sold out in minutes leaving many fans devastated after missing their chance to get some. But to make things worse, there were up to 60 tickets available on secondary sites minutes after the concert had sold out, and not only that but the tickets were being sold at ridiculously high prices.

Prices for the UK dates started at £40 and rise to £187. The starting prices for the tickets being sold on Seatwave to see U2 at Croke Park were a massive £329! (excluding delivery price as well.)

A lot of people have spoken up about this injustice and asked the question, is this legal?
And unfortunately it is. The act of reselling tickets, even at a significantly higher price than the face value, is not illegal in the UK.
Ticket touts and unofficial ticket agencies are not authorised to sell tickets by the performers. Those purchasing tickets from ticket touts, either online or outside an event, run the risk of purchasing tickets that are counterfeit or stolen. There is no way of knowing whether tickets purchased on the secondary market are genuine, and when purchased from an unofficial source online, there is no way of knowing whether the tickets even exist.

Secondary ticketing might be legal but that doesn’t make it morally right.

One of the only countries in the world to have any laws restricting these ticket touts is Australia; they have banned people from selling on tickets for more than 10% above the original price.

This certainly seems fair but with so many ways to buy tickets online, how can it possibly be policed? I know how I feel about this issue but it seems that there are too many new routes being created to flout the issue and we live in a society that seems to reward “entrepreneurism” rather than find ways to stop blatant racketeerism.

I guess it’s back to camping out beside the local Ticketmaster agent rather than hope that in the interests of fair play and true fandom justice will prevail.



Resolutions are Rubbish? More like Resolutions are Revelations!

Happy New year everyone! (it’s a bit late but with all the new work the new year brings, here at the blogging team we’ve been back into the grind and only now have finally found the time for some much needed writing).

Today I’m responding to an article from one of my fellow bloggers on how New Year’s resolutions are rubbish.
I can’t be the only person who couldn’t disagree more, right?!
To me, New Year is celebrated purely to remind people that time is moving forward. One chapter of the book is closing and new one is ready and waiting to be filled in and read and wondered and explored. Unless you have a really rubbish book, the new chapter is exciting and different! Of course we have bad pages every so often, but the fact is, it’s your choice how you fill it up!

So fill it!

Make good memories, plan things, make goals, learn new skills, dream bigger and accomplish the things you never got to in the horrid old year of 2016!
If it’s a pain for you to drag open the new pages of your book, if you are bored reading the same thing day in, day out- then change it up! No one is going to judge you for deciding you want to take Italian lessons or starting swimming or going to see the newest movie every week, and if they do you can send them my way because why shouldn’t you? It’s not their life.
Accomplishing such changes can be difficult, I get it, but there’s no point in wasting time waiting for it to change either. Therefore, I think that new year’s resolutions are amazing ideas, why even celebrate the coming of a brand new year if you’re just going to keep it the exact same as the last?

With that being said, here are my top 6 new year’s resolutions for 2017-

1) Learn a new skill every month
Personally, I have reached a “pilot mode” in my life where I know how to do what I do, and I just keep doing the same thing to get it done. This is NOT ok. There are so many things I’m not doing right now that I know absolutely nothing about. Not only could they be fun, but they could be smart, savvy and genuinely useful.

What could I learn in the space of a month you ask? Well there’s plenty, even if they’re just tiny.

Learn how to bake a cake, learn how to wash your own clothes, learn how to finally do those algebra questions that keep bugging you in math, even learn how to play the ophicleide?? ANYTHING!

2) Keep a memory jar
I cannot recommend this one enough. Back in 2015 I kept a memory jar and opening it up on New Year’s was such a wonderfully nostalgic experience. When 2016 rolled around, I figured that since I had lots of stuff planned for the year I didn’t need a jar to remind me because I’d have such an incredible year.

Ha! For 1) I don’t think 2016 was a very good year for humanity as whole and 2) there are five hundred twenty-five thousand and six hundred minutes in a year and every single one of them is filled with something completely new- it is guaranteed your going to forget a lot of it.

The basic concept of a memory jar is that every time something makes you laugh till you cry, or someone does something incredibly lovely for you, or something substantial happens in your life, you write it down on a little piece of paper with the date and put it in a jar along with cinema tickets or bus tickets to important places or sweet wrappers that remind you of an adorable day or memory. Then, on New Year’s Eve, you open it up and reminisce before auld acquaintances are forgot and never brought to mind.

3) Keep a journal
I bought myself a journal on the 13th of January because I couldn’t find one that suited me until I came across my little blue leather treasure. This idea is rather like the memory jar, however journaling daily allows you to express yourself on a much larger scale to literally a blank sheet. You can complain about all the things that bug you (because as they say, if you don’t like people talking back to you, buy a journal), you can document ideas and concepts, you can describe daily events and leave yourself goals and lessons for the next day- I even write what music I’m listening to on that day. Personally, I can’t wait to be one of those people who comes back home and finding a big old dusty box of journals so I can see how much I’ve changed throughout the years.

4) Learn a new language
Languages are so important to me- and to everyone else on the planet. Without language learning, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. I study A Level French and adore my lessons. I think it’s so incredibly interesting to learn about where our English words come from when studying European languages such as Spanish, Portuguese and Italian that all get their origins from Latin, as well as the fact that learning new languages makes you more employable and is generally an amazing skill to have as you can connect with people from all around the world. Mainly for that reason, on top of my French, I am also taking lessons in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

It’s true that I’m not exactly fluent in any, but my reading of them is relatively proficient. If you’re considering language learning as a goal, I cannot promote the app Duolingo enough. It’s a free language learning app that offers lessons in so many different languages and you can even compete against your friends. It’s fantastic.
Also, why limit yourself to verbal language? Ever since I watched A Miracle on 34th Street as a child and saw the scene where Santa Claus signs to the little deaf girl, and her face totally illuminates with joy, I have always wanted to learn sign language. It must be so isolated for a deaf person to only have a limited circle of people to communicate with, so I am determined to learn how to talk to someone who doesn’t have the immense privilege of hearing.

5) Create something once a week
In 2016, I greatly struggled with the feeling of unproductiveness. NOT ANYMORE JILL, NOT ANYMORE! In 2017, I am striving to create something new every week, be it a poem, a song, a friendship, a new way of thinking, a new place to store pens.



The list goes on and on and on- just like time, time that is not gonna’ wait for me! This year, I’m going to have something to show for those previously discussed five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, be it my final grades or the paintings on my wall.

6) Make a new goal every month
Change, as already said, is difficult. A lot of people don’t like it at all. However, I am not like that, or more accurately, I don’t want- under any costs- to be like that. As I said, there is no point in wasting time when it’s going to keep moving forward without you either way, so you have two options- 1) enter into denial over the fact that you do nothing (AKA 2016 Jill), or 2) get up off your butt and try the things you’ve been wanting to try all this time (AKA 2017 pending Jill).

So much can happen in a year that I know every month I’ll discover new things that I want to accomplish, and I most definitely am going to. Instead of limiting to yourself to New Years resolutions, why not have New Months resolutions? I mean, new month, new me??… Right??? Well maybe it’s not as catchy as the original, but it still holds true.

I hope these points are good starters in making your own resolutions.

Remember, no matter how late in the game it is, there’s no time too late for a good ol’ change.

Have a good day 🙂

Resolutions are Rubbish

It’s 2017 and I’m sure there are plenty of us thinking about how to improve our lives in a variety of different means for the New Year.

Some might want to be healthier, some may want to be more active and others could be experiencing an overwhelming desire to get those less than spectacular grades up. However there is one very simple flaw with all of this:

New Year’s resolutions do not work.

Now there’s nothing wrong with setting goals for ourselves to make changes in our lives, which lead to healthier, wealthier and downright happier lives. But here’s the thing; these ‘goals’ that we set for ourselves are far too general. For instance, how much weight do I plan to lose? How do I plan to do it? Diet? Exercise? Where? When? Why?

A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year’s resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as a “2 pounds a week” instead of saying “lose weight”, while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

So whilst they may have good intentions behind them, New Year’s Resolutions are, in essence, just statements about what you plan to do in the year ahead, and unless broken down with even just a little careful planning, are most likely not going to be fulfilled.

To sum up, if you do have any ‘resolutions’, break them down in to small daily, weekly, or monthly goals and plan ahead:

Who can help me fulfil this?

What am I going to change or do in order to make this successful?

When? – Think of a start and end point for your goal

Where do I plan to implement this plan? Home?  School? The workplace?

And of course before you start to plan all this out,

Why am I doing it?


So if you ask me: frankly, goals are great; but resolutions?




Welcome Back!!

We’re back at it again. New Year, new resolutions? Maybe, maybe not? We’ll be looking at the value of making resolutions or not over the coming weeks.

What is happening at Stormont? Check out the blog as we will be attempting to make sense of the current political situation in Northern Ireland and trying to sort through the facts rather than the rumours.

And what have you been watching lately at the cinema? We will be reviewing some of the Christmas cinema releases to keep you up-to-date with what’s hot and what’s not at your local cinema.

Thanks for all your support in 2016 and we look forward to hearing from you in 2017, remember if you have any ideas about topics you would like to know more about then contact Ms King.

Belfast Christmas Market 2016

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  And in Belfast, right beside City Hall, it looks a whole lot like it.  The Christmas Market returned to the grounds of the Belfast City Hall for its 12th year!

Opening from Saturday 19th November to Thursday 22nd December 2016, the gates will be open every day for visitors to explore a number of countries from across the world including Germany, Spain, France, Italy and a number of local traders.

belfast-2The Christmas Continental Market arriving at Belfast City Hall always signifies the start of the festive season and the approach of Christmas. Filled with an exciting selection of hand-painted pottery, continental food, decorations, and a wide range of festive arts and crafts from across Europe and beyond, a stroll around this market is a must to get you into the Christmas spirit.

There are now 20 additional stalls located at the front of Belfast City Hall outside the main entrance gates, featuring numerous local food and craft producers to celebrate Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink 2016.

The fabulous City Hall gardens are transformed into a bustling Continental village providing a great European shopping opportunity in the heart of our very own famous City Centre.

While some of the stalls sell things at outrageous prices in comparison to what they would cost you elsewhere and the rampant swarms of people can be slightly irritating, some of the unique home made gifts are simply beautiful and the market provides a joyful Christmas experience like no other!

beard-oil-re-sizedOne of the quirkiest stalls new for this year is the Belfast beard company. Each year the market reserves one chalet for a local business to display their products for free. This year’s pitch winner was Laura Henshaw, with her fabulous array of luxury beard products for the suave Belfast gent.

A few of my own personal favourite stalls would have to be; Mallow Mia/ chocolate by Sera Beth, La Tartiflette and the Churros Stall.

imag2936-771x1024The Mallow Mia/chocolate stall featured Gourmet marshmallows from Donegal’s wild Atlantic alongside luxurious Chocolate by Seth Beth.

You can get three varieties of marshmallow with a Belgian chocolate dip for £3.50 and if you’re looking after your figure the gingerbread is fat free.

La Tartiflette offered amazing French cuisine including Roquefort imag2872-1024x721Mussels, Creamy Chicken and Garlic Potatoes, but the clear star of the show is Tartiflette- a mesmerising mix of cheeses, potatoes, onions, bacon and cream.

The Churros stall sells numerous mouth-watering delicacies including imag2895-1024x771waffles and crepes, but the churros lathered in chocolate really are a delicious essential!



All in all a worthwhile way to spend the afternoon even though I did not get anyone a Christmas present, I was very good to myself and came away feeling great.


Top 10 Revision Tips

As we all know the school Christmas tests are coming up soon therefore I thought that I would share with you my top ten revision tips.

1. Make up a revision timetable, to give yourself enough time to revise for all your subjects.
2. Make plenty of notes and mind maps to summarise your notes and make it easier to learn the key points.
3. Try and do as many past papers as possible to get used to the way the questions are worded.
4. Find a quiet place to study so that noise and other people don’t distract you.
5. If you find that you can’t study effectively when your alone, try and create a study group with others so you can work together.
6. Take study breaks every 30 to 45 minutes so that you don’t take in too much information at once.
7. Remove any distractions such as phones as this will take your attention away from your revision.
8. Always ask your teachers or friends to help you if you don’t understand something so that you are not at a disadvantage.
9. Be organised and keep all your class notes and revision notes tidy so that none of them are lost.
10. At the end of the day all you can do is your best so work as hard as you possibly can to get the best results possible!

Good Luck!

And remember- they are only exams!


Belated Hallowe’en Background

With Mistletoe and tinsel starting to appear everywhere, we would like to point out that we are still closer to Hallowe’en than Christmas and in true curmudgeonly style we’d like to inform everyone of some information regarding All Hallow’s Eve.

As I’m sure many -or perhaps not so many- of you know, Halloween, or Hallowe’en, is the day beginning the season of Allhallowtide, the triduum composed of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day.

It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from Celtic harvest festivals which may have pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, when the gateway between the mortal world and the spirit world would thin, and spirits would freely wander the earth. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, wearing Halloween costumes, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial celebration.

This festival was then Christianized when All Saint’s Day followed suit, a holy day to honour all saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.

All Soul’s Day then ensues, the final day of Allhallowtide when the souls of all departed Christians are remembered and honoured, as well as to let the evil spirits that rose on All Hallow’s Eve lie to rest for another year once more. 7

So after that educational rollercoaster (at least it felt like that for me when I wrote this article), I hope yo all stayed  safe over the break; i.e. refrained from partaking in illegal activities such as playing with fireworks and such like.

And finally, on behalf of all of us here on the school blog, I’d like to wish you all a

“Happy Hallow’s Eve.”

Bring on the tinsel now.


Blood Brothers Review

Did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins?

Anyone who’s just finished their GCSEs should have anyway, but for those who haven’t – first of all, you’re missing out – but secondly, the story is that of Willie Russell’s critically acclaimed musical, Blood Brothers.

The musical follows the harrowing tale of twin boys born in Liverpool to an impoverished mother with too many mouths to feed, a critical situation that leads her to make the hardest choice of all: to give one of her children away. Raised apart in two different social classes, the play follows the boys throughout their lives, up until their untimely deaths, as we bear witness to the disturbing impact social class has on the lives of ordinary people. Of course, that might seem a little spoiler-y, but fear not, it’s the same synopsis you’ll find in the opening lines of the play, sans fancy rhymes and Liverpudlian accent, of course.

Aine and I were lucky enough to see the musical in Derry this month, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Perhaps that was because we weren’t the ones driving over 200 miles in one day, or perhaps the show was just that good. I’ll leave that one for my mum to decide.

In my opinion, at least, it was every bit as incredible as I expected it to be, from the incredible acting of the cast, right down to the set design and even the musicians tucked away beneath the stage – which, by the way, did anyone else know this was a thing? Because I sure didn’t.

The cast featured the talented Lyn Paul as Mrs. Johnstone, the twins’ hard done by mother, who in 2008 was voted the “undisputed Mrs J. of all time” by a Blood Brothers fansite, corroborated by the guy in the row behind us who told us so right before informing us that he’d seen the show six times. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d have to argue on behalf of the soft spot in my heart for Kiki Dee’s Mrs J. What can’t be argued, however, is the fantastic job Paul did playing the tragic Johnstone matriarch or the power of her voice which won’t soon be forgotten. Another stand out star, in my opinion, was Sean Jones, who played Mickey, who completely stole the focus in the first act with his portrayal of his character as a typical seven-year-old.

No matter who takes on the roles, however, this is a show that transcends any individual cast’s performance; it’s every intricate piece that makes it the spectacle it is, with such a simple yet thought provoking premise that I feel it would be safe in the hands of any cast willing to take up the challenge. If anyone was considering going to see it, I’d certainly recommend it, and if you weren’t, I’d recommend it anyway. And just in case you’re wondering: no, Willy Russell is not paying me to write this unfortunately, I’m just one of those irritating people in your class who always gets way too into the source material. It’s a burden I’m willing to accept.

To conclude this glowing testimonial/free advertisement, though, I can tell you one thing for sure; I’ll be eagerly awaiting the return of Blood Brothers to Northern Ireland, and hopefully after some of you have read this post, I won’t be alone.


(The theatre had a no photography policy, but I couldn’t resist this shot before the curtains were drawn. I mean, school blog priorities, right?)


(Aine might just kill me for this one, but if I have to take unflattering photos for this, she’s going down with me.)