Reasons your study isn’t increasing your exam marks

I’m going to go and guess that if you’re reading this you already do some level of study for your classes. If you can’t study, or just downright refuse to do so, then this might not be much help. I might write a blog soon for people who struggle with study. This blog is assuming you want to improve though, and in fact have put in some effort to do so in the past. I realise college has just started, and nobody is studying, but the advice works on any scale. Whether it’s a two page assignment, or a 6,000 word project, study skills are equal in nature. If you find yourself struggling to study for smaller tests, it would serve you a lot better to get into good habits for them, so that the larger, more important exams end up being much easier. I’ll write a few of these study guides when I feel like it throughout the year. A lot of the time the disappointing marks you receive don’t boil down to lack of study. In a surprising number of cases, poor percentages stem from inefficient study.

  • You don’t go to class. Class is where you first hear the material. It is free study. It is the information put across to you by an expert in the field. Unless your lecturer is horrible, attend and maximise the hour or so you have there. Take notes and underline to keep up concentration. Listen and watch the display to deduce the important points. Class might also help for detecting exam questions.
  • You don’t think when you study. If you’re just reading the material, you’re gonna be lost. Think about each point and ask yourself do you really get it. Understand first, memorise second. To be honest the more of a subject you understand, the less you actually end up needing to just push into your head the week before the test. Strive to be able to break the material into a form where you could explain it to anybody. This mistake kills about 99.9% of all students. Most never even engage the material when they read over it. For the few who do, a lot still only ask ‘what will come up in the exam?’ Forget the exam (WARNING: do not actually forget exam). Focus on whether or not you actually know what’s in front of you. Look away from the notes and try tell yourself the story of the information there.
  • You aren’t taking breaks. A good time to take breaks is every forty minutes or every hour. Take a fifteen minute break. DO NOT USE IT TO GO ON FACEBOOK. I’m guilty of doing this too, but please try refrain. Get up and walk around. Go get something to eat. Fruits and juices are great sources of sugars that don’t give you the same crash you’ll get from chocolate or sweets.
  • You are picking the wrong time. Study at mid-morning or in the evening. Take a break after classes to allow yourself rest. Tackle study when you are fresh and awake. Late at night is about as useful as when you are sleeping. Yes, that means it is no use at all. A lot of people will vouch for all nighters. I can tel you both as a science enthusiast and someone with ample common sense that you are not functioning anywhere near capacity that late. A good sleep and early study is far far better. Save a late nighter for an emergency if you are unprepared for an exam. Even then, shut everything off and get to bed by midnight.
  • You never heard of extra reading or reading around your topic. Lecture notes are fine. But they’re born and live as concise samples of the material. Only the best get a full understanding out of shortened notes. Most need a slower delivery. That’s where books come in. A book gives it bit by bit. If you do understand the notes, read them anyway. Getting a second view is paramount for top marks and usually gives you a broader source of information to draw from.
  • You are giving in to easy. Will power is paramount with study. I’m not talking about the will to study; I’m referring to the will to give up on your memory. Try to relay lists back to yourself of things you need to know. If you get stuck, don’t look at the screen immediately for the answer. WRONG. Give yourself time, try to remember other things about the precise subject area and you’ll quickly re-jog your memory. If you give in without trying to remember, you’ll put yourself into that mentality for the exam. Remembering rote-learned material is not fun at all. If you’re gonna do it at least challenge yourself.
  • You spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME ORGANISING. This one even kills the smart people. It will slow you down really fast if you let organisation get to you. Should your notes be accessible and in an easy to learn format? YES. Should all the notes have accompanying flash cards, colour co-ordinates, book references and re-written notes? NO!!!!! I can’t emphasise this enough. Do you need flashcards to remember the three roles of x? Maybe. Do you need them to recall the three functions of y? Perhaps. People tend to jump on the bandwagon of flashcards, spider diagrams, pictures and anagrams to avoid what really matters. If you’re just gonna write out the notes again and not even bother thinking about them…GET OUT. I know some very organised people who get high marks because I know that behind it all they do the study. I also know far more people who are very organised who achieve marks that discredit them. Why? Because instead of engaging the material and actively learning, they spend time drawing diagrams for things they don’t understand. Waste of time if you never learn them. SERIOUSLY.
  • You organise too late. There’s no such thing as studying too early. By studying, I mean making all the diagrams and flash cards you want. This is fine. What will ruin your exam is spending the night before an exam re writing your notes. TOO LATE. Unless you have a very high rote-learning potential, you’ve just wasted precious study hours. Your preparation for an exam needs to happen months before you even hear it is scheduled. Whenever you have a chance, take a look at your notes, your book or your handouts and try put them in a form you can understand. Maybe that involves highlighting. Maybe it involves different coloured pens. Whatever it is, do it sooner rather than later and make sure that when you do it; you try your hand at understanding the notes at the same time.
  • You’re cutting things out. A technique that kills any grade is leaving things out of study. If you have a day, cut ,cut,cut!! But we’re talking good study. That involves addressing everything. If I told you to learn about football, you wouldn’t go and leave the goalkeeper out. True I may never ask about the goalkeeeper. But what about the relationship with the defenders? What about the interaction with opposing strikers? The second you start cutting things out; your overall understanding wanes and your grade starts to slide. Try to understand the hard parts. It makes learning the easy parts surprisingly simplistic.
  • You only study when you study. If there’s one thing that makes you get VERY high grades, it’s knowing that the study never really ends. I’m talking a twin method of action. Any time you have something laborious and boring to do; start studying. Have to clean your room? Ask yourself a couple question while you do. Standing around at work bored? Try to remember what you have to do for your organisation. This method is endless. It can extend from thinking about your study when you pass a book in a shop to putting things on your wall and having a quick look before you head out with your friends. It sounds crazy, and in truth it probably is, but I can guarantee the results. It’s basic logic. The longer you commit to a subject; the more you understand it, and the easier it is to study. The easier it is to study; the more you get in before exams and the better your grade is.

That’s enough to get somebody started. I’m gonna post more of these; to be honest all those ones just jumped to mind first. there are far more reasons your study doesn’t work and I’ll try write on it soon.

10 ways you can improve a short story for your english class

What is a short story? Much like judging the pieces themselves, the definition can at times be subjective. In general, we’re talking about something in the range of 1,000-9,000 words, though in cases that word count could shoot up to 20,000. We’re looking at small works of fiction; big enough to be able to stand alone, but short enough so that we really only ever see one or possibly two events. In the teaching of the English language in the modern day, short stories have solidified their position as one of the most viable forms of student essays. Realistically they can provide the greatest creative freedom. Whereas speeches and talks require the laborious task of assuming a formal tone, short stories allow the natural writing style to take control. A young mind is an imaginative mind, and what better way to show that than to bring whole new worlds and characters into being. That being said, even with their growing popularity, the short story is commonly viewed as an easy way out; a short cut to a good grade and an easy option to fall back on in any exam situation. Much of this arises from the vague wording of essay questions. Although a speech questions sets out the immediate issue, a short story may only need to draw on a certain theme or sentence for the chance to evolve. Even in an area of endless possibilities, we as story tellers need to play by the rules of our choice. Playing by some of the rules gets you a good standard. Playing by all of the rules gets you much, much further. As a result I’m gonna try my hand at outlining some key issues, which incidentally are all just falling into my head now.

1. See that dream sequence? It has to go…now.

We’ve all done them. Hopefully the older you get the less it arises. Now, before lovers of a good “I awoke in a sweat” smash their hands onto the keyboard, let me go further on this one. Dream sequences are tools used by some of the best writers around, but it’s where you use them that matters. If you can survey your story, and realise the whole thing works without the dream; cut it out now. Most of these openings only frustrate a reader, who thinks they have been landed in something fantastical and cool, only to find out the author was being very clever and painting a false reality. Also, ‘waking up from a scary dream that may come through later’ screams cliché. Writing a good start to hook the reader is important, but don’t fall back on something just for the sake of that. Basically, a lot of the unnecessary dream sequences run like this;

“I stumbled through the darkness(always dark in these nightmare ones), calling out for help and heaving in big breaths. I started to panic. A menacing laugh (I mean seriously) rang in my ears, and then I saw him (the ‘ole don’t give away the villain’ trick). Suddenly I was falling (they always are). I awoke with a jolt (couldn’t just flick your eyes open?). I was covered in sweat (bit OTT but OK). A light was coming in the window; it was morning (Reader is infuriated at both the trickery of the dream start and how the author must point out the obvious reality that it is morning). I heard my mother call downstairs; I groaned thinking of school (twenty euro says the mother is a single mom and that the male protagonist is unpopular in school). I threw on an old t-shirt and some jeans I found on the floor (why do they always insist on putting on terrible clothes from the floor? Oh yes, as usual, his room is messy).

I’m not going to continue, but the rest of this story always follows like this; ‘grabs toast just after popping because the yellow school bus is outside and he is late and he goes on the bus and averts his gaze from the footballers and sits alone and then his one friend comes on who has something quirky about them or is a nerd’. If your short story is in that format, go kick it across the room right now (DISCLAIMER: piece may be good but at this stage we’ve all seen that a hundred times). At this stage, ye get my point. A dream sequence if not needed wrecks any chance of a good opening, and fixes the idea in the readers mind; “The person who wrote this is a massive Richard” (no nicknames allowed).

2. Character description. Please don’t overload it.

Characters are the most important part of your story. They’re what’s main, what the whole thing revolves around and depends on. If the reader can’t see them, they won’t get very involved in your piece. As a result you need to describe them both physically and mentally (if the protagonist). However this has invariably led to a great deal of over description in many stories. Here’s a simple rule to live by: always think of describing your characters as trying to make a friend recollect someone they vaguely know. You never say to your friend, “Oh you know Peter, the guy with the eyes and the nose?”. Nobody can identify with that. It isn’t discriminating. Think of default on Fifa, and try work around it. What you do say to your friend is, “You know Peter, the guy with the scar by his left eye and the big chin?” granted Peter comes off as a bit of an ugly, violent man, but you see my point. as humans we pick up subtle differentiating characteristics. The only run of the mill things we always need to know are height/build and hair colour. For example, if I tell you I am tall, average build and have dark brown hair, you can surely already get someway towards picturing me. What you never want to do in your English essays is have your character stare into a mirror and go “I saw my hazel hair and my electric blue eyes. I was of average build, but hit the gym when I could. My nose was rather slender and long and my ears stuck out to the same degree as a normal human specimen’s would.” OK, I admit I overdone it near the end, but you see where I’m coming from. Anybody writing first person must NEVER say their hair is hazel or their eyes are electric blue. If someone told me that was their features I’d think, “Wow, what an arrogant Richard (seriously I’m going clean on this one).” Anybody writing 3rd person, keep it simple enough. In a short story we don’t need to picture them as well as you do. Leave some up to the reader. It is unfair to assume the reader can’t fill in some gaps themselves, and thus throw in every fragment of visual imagery you can think of. Hair colour and height are usually a must, unless you state an age and we can assume their build. Eye colour is of variable importance. Just highlight their striking features, and all is fine.

3. Keep the pace consistent

Unless your narrative demands it, don’t go cooling and heating up the pace on those words. We need a heightened pace near the conflict, and especially at the climax. We need a slow pace when we’re aiming towards that. Other than that a consistent pace is expected. Nothing is worse than reading of somebody going into massive detail for the act of pulling on a jumper, only to use three lines to get to school, have classes, and eat lunch. It just doesn’t sit right with the reader. It’s fine to skip the boring parts, but make sure it’s consistent. Don’t tell me “His feet shuffled along the floorboards, making small tapping sounds and coming to a rest in the doorway. The doorway was huge and made of mahogany and slightly worn” only to then say “about four days later”. it should write itself naturally in any case, but sometimes when we get nervous and want to jump to the good part, we take a huge leap and wreck the whole thing. Monitoring the level of detail and keeping an eye on how fast time is passing in-story should sort that out.

4. HAVE CONFLICT

Yes, this is an obvious one, but it would surprise people how many stories an English teacher might laugh at when they realise nothing has happened in the 3,000 words that are there. Conflict is huge in any work of fiction, but in a short story, it may as well be the corner stone. People like small stories because they get a small work load coupled with a nice piece of action. One way this might occur is if you go into too much detail at the start; a common mistake that stems from finding yourself in a new world and wanting to explore it (I admit, everyone does this). Make sure you know what the problem is at the start, and always work towards it. If you’re confident of your ability, you might even throw in subtle hints of what the reader should expect; dropping them into dialogue and making use of literary fancies like pathetic fallacy. OK, so pathetic fallacy might not be SO fancy, but it has pathetic in it, it sounds cool. If you plan ahead, the conflict will always arise, and a good grader will pick up on the fact that you had control of the plot all the way through. Never try squash in your action at the end. What you want there in terms of action may be a twist, but never your main predicament.

5. Little language things that go a long way……to ruining your entire story

Language matters. In some cases, up to half the marks might go to your use of it. I’m not gonna try preach about grammar. I myself struggle with that. But the control of your language is VERY important, especially in short stories where description is abundant. At my age, and so at the age of college students and high school finishers, it may be tempting to throw down all the new words you are learning. Please refrain from this. What will drown your entire piece is too much adjectives, too much adverbs and too much ways of trying to say something. Adjectives are great; they help us see the world we’re writing. Sometimes though, it might be best leaving them out. Read the following sentence: “I ran down to the red door which opened into a wide, cold barn which was dark except for the small, wax candle in the centre.” It’s not TOO bad. At times though, especially when the pace is picking up, that looks cluttered. When you’re getting to action, strip back all those big adjectives. The same goes for adverbs; “I ran swiftly down to the door which hung limply. Opening it, I saw a candle burning brightly and faintly lighting the room.” Putting in too many adverbs is telling the reader: “you’re not smart enough to get what I mean. Therefore, I will spell out every action for you. IS THAT..OK…WITH YOU?” Readers, teachers in particular, don’t need your help. Try use something else to show verbs in action. It boils down to the old saying “show, don’t tell”. If you tell me he “ran hurriedly into class”, I get the point but frown on how babyish you treat me. If you say “Glen ran into the room; his bag crashing off the door and his books flying everywhere”, I know Glen was in a hurry. Either that or Glen is a nutjob. As for trying to say something, simple is fine in most cases. It gets painful reading exclaimed, replied, answered, shouted, muttered, murmured, screamed and announced after a while. Unless the person is actually doing these, ‘said’ is perfectly fine. Similar to above, by using these words you tell rather than shwo. By adding different points, you can empower the reader. Instead of saying ‘Glen announced’, try say ‘said Glen, his voice carrying to the far parts of the room’. At times, the word announced is fine; it’s short and we get it. But if you want your work to look less lazy, strive to cut out those little twists on said and embrace the simple form of talking.

6. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.

Not my strongest point as far as my own secondary school essays show, but worth a point in this note. As a younger writer, dialogue rarely crops up. This is normal. We are used to taking action over talking, guns over words, and explosions over conversation. But the pen is mightier than the the sword, or the tongue is in this case (that’s why I cut all my meals with my tongue…..OK, sorry, that was being a Richard). By the age of 15-16 though, we begin to appreciate the place of words in our stories. So do correctors and teachers. Why, you may ask? It’s simple really. A short piece of dialogue can explain the details of a situation far more sneakily than your own exposition. For instance, I may tell you “The school was flooded. All the classrooms were out of use and so the students had to crowd into the gymnasium for lessons”. However I could also do the following;

“What’s the rush, school doesn’t start for an hour”, said Richard.

“We need to get there early, our class if flooded, remember?”, said Glen.

“if our class is flooded why are we even going?” (notice here I can leave out the verb, due to the fact that we can tell who is talking)

“Lessons are in the gymnasium, I won’t be late!”

Peter, the boys’ father, broke in, “Will ye two Richards come on? I won’t wait around all day for ye two idiots.”

Sorry about that last part, as well as being ugly and violent; Peter is a terrible alcoholic. As ye can see, I got the same information across in both cases. Either is perfectly fine.However using dialogue we do have the added bonus of character building. Here we see Richard is forgetful and lazy. Glen is studious and on top of things. Peter is….well Peter doesn’t have much going for him does he? Good dialogue helps make your characters real and identifiable to the teacher. They stand out more, and go a long way towards making your grade a better one. Shorter dialogue is all the fashion now. Unless the point is for the speaker to be drawn out and boring, keep it snappy and charged with emotion.

7. Stay in character.

Nothing screams “I was out of ideas” more than betraying your characters. That doesn’t mean killing them off. By all means, kill those imaginary people (a quote from controversial child psychologist Kyle Malone). But as a story progresses we get a sense of what someone is. Even over a page or two we know who we’re dealing with. Don’t have some shy loser suddenly slam dunk a basketball or get the hot girl (I mean seriously if I’m not dunking a basketball there’s no way the other losers get to). Keep your characters..well..your characters. The only time it is excusable for someone to break character is when a)their whole personality was a ruse or b) they experience a traumatic event. I’m sure there’s other ways it can happen, but those stand out. If you have your protagonist wrestle a bear just for some action (and because you also hate grizzlies and all they stand for) then an examiner will know you’re a cheat. It’s be to tailor your action for your characters. Action can be an argument or a small scuffle. Not everybody has to storm Normandy or shoot Hitler (NB Hitler may actually have to shoot Hitler). The more realistic a character’s choices are in the face of adversity, the more likely a teacher will believe them and bump up your marks.

8. Avoid clichés, they’re as old as the bible itself.

Yes, we all do these too. In a short story, keep your vigilance up to make sure none of these slip in. In four-five pages you can make a good impression. In a novel a small cliché goes unnoticed, forgotten behind all the really good stuff. In a short story it stands out; it’s a blemish on your work and your credentials. A cliché doesn;t have to be an overused phrase. If your story is a short story on a boy who attends a magical school with two geeky friends…COME ON. It really needs to be original enough for short story. You only need like one event, so really you have no excuse if you throw in a cliché in the hope a proven track can please your corrector. You need something that wows your reader, something they haven’t seen before or something old in a different light. Original short story ideas always stand well with correctors, and guarantee higher marks.

9. You don’t need a twist

Twists are fine. They end up in a lot of short stories, a final joust to the reader and a lasting memory. It’s a good thing. But don’t throw one in for a two second shock effect if it destroys everything before it. A good story gets a good grade. But if it ends in a twist that shouldn’t be there…no. A wrong twist would be something like having someone being hit by a bus for no reason other than to add sadness to your piece. Or perhaps you will kill off half of a romance just to try make it gripping. Please refrain if it isn’t your original intention. If you get to the end of your work and decide there should be a twist, WARNING LIGHTS SHOULD BE GOING OFF. A twist should be something you decide on initially, and even then should be carefully considered. To sum up, a good twist should add to the piece, not take away from it and leave the corrector feeling sour.

10. Fill your plot holes

These are real deal breakers. If your plot doesn’t make sense, and the whole thing is like four pages, you’re doomed. A short story needs to anchor on a well-thought out plot. Why is Glen running back into that burning building? Why is Richard taking a scary route home from school for the first time? You can’t just throw in a fun plot for the sake of it; the thing has to fit together like a jigsaw. In a small snippet of time, it actually is difficult to make plot holes. That is why they’re so criminal. If peter decides to drive after alcohol, why is that? Is he mad? Is he in a rush? What makes Peter break the law? If the plot is consistent and self explanatory, the whole story writes itself a lot easier. It should flow when you read it. Your teacher or lecturer should never have to ask why this is happening. They should want to ask questions, but about the story itself, never about the design of it.

I might do more of these sometime, but for now, I hope these make your English answers a little easier in the coming academic year.

Springsteen and Us

I’m gonna take a different approach today with my blog. I say different, because in truth, it’s more than just me getting the words out. For the first time ever, I’m having a guest blogger (yes, I feel obliged to say Ladies and Gentleman can you welcome to the show..). I decided to let someone else get involved on this one as a) never done that before ,b) I wanted to, c) they wanted to and most importantly d) I needed their help. So, my first guest blogger is none other than esteemed pharmacy student Eimear Murphy. Yes, she is my girlfriend, before anybody decides it is worth pointing out. Subject matter really is her expertise here. We have decided to create a short question and answer (oh did I say short, HA) on our mid-summer trips to see two Springsteen shows. Yes, she is the major fan; I am the learner. Both takes are worth looking at. First, a little look at what our views in general were towards our act in waiting.

Kyle

I can’t say I’ve always been a Springsteen fan. Well, that needs qualification. I’ve known a lot of his main songs for years. Even a soppy one direction fan licking the posters on their wall could make some vague facial expression when names like “born to run” or “born in the USA” are mentioned, or prick up their ears when the soul moving harmonica intro to The River sweeps out of an old cassette their dad is playing with. Yes, their dad. Most Bruce fans are probably all grown up now. That being said, when I got to know his music, I realised how timeless it all really was. But despite my base level knowledge, I really was in strange territory when my short statured girlfriend announced to me that the musician was, in fact, her favourite. Suddenly, I was hearing about E street bands and Wrecking Balls. Come Christmas time, I had the chance to buy her tickets for one of the dates the band had booked in Ireland. A Thursday morning on my laptop, a Thursday afternoon in the Boole, and a Thursday evening trying to get my girlfriend to notice the awkwardly placed receipt was all it took to get the ball rolling. Not the wrecking ball, not yet anyway. Two concerts later and I’m well and truly converted

Eimear

Think back to the summer of your Leaving Cert. I can guarantee you that you remember the song that played on the radio every day more vividly than which experiment appeared on the Chemistry paper. Music is the soundtrack not just to movies, but our lives – no wonder it is played at all major events. For me, my musical landscape would be desolate without the blue-jeaned troubadour from New Jersey, and his heart-stopping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking E Street Band. I’ll try to avoid voicing my sentiments that Bruce Springsteen should be a poet on the Leaving Cert course (oops, just did) but it’s hard to deny his mastery of both songwriting and storytelling. It’s hilarious how many people will look at the title of this blog, then look at the name of the guest contributor, and then run away. Quite literally, run out of their houses. If Kyle was writing this alone, people might be interested, and think “ok, a fresh take on some old guy I barely have heard of” but well… I think anyone who knows me, knows how obsessed I am with a certain Irish-Italian-American 63-year-old with a Dutch name. To anyone who follows me on Twitter, I am sorry for the endless retweets of people and lyrics and sentiments that you care nothing for. But this is who I am. A Springsteen-obsessed pharmacy student, reads my Twitter bio. And Twitter bios don’t lie.

This is the man I looked forward to seeing after every major exam year in my life. (2009 after the Junior Cert, and ’12 after the Leaving). This is a man I wrote about in 3/7 of my actual Leaving Cert subjects (Both of my oral examiners told me, in different languages… “you’re a bit… odd aren’t you?”) The only reason I didn’t write about him in the other 4 subjects is cos it’s hard to bring him into something like Maths – although with the shambles that is Project Maths, I would probably get extra marks just for writing down something/anything on the page. I don’t think I could have successfully referenced him in any of my three sciences anyway. Sample Biology Question: Explain the benefits of a double circulatory system. Eimear’s Answer: “Two hearts are better than one! Two hearts can get the job done!”

Sample Chemistry Question: Explain what combustion is, with the use of a balanced equation. Eimear’s Answer: “Cos when we kisssss, giiiiirl…. FIRE!”

I’m not even gonna attempt making a Physics one cos this is a man who defies gravity daily by jumping off pianos, crowd-surfing, and sliding across the stage on his knees. So I’m obsessed. What of it. While fellow teenagers of my generation fawn over Twilight and drool over One Direction, I think that being a part of the E Street Nation is something a little bit more. Something I won’t cringe at in ten years. It’s not something you’re a FAN of, it’s something you’re a PART of. As Bruce says, of bandmembers sadly gone to the “Land of Hope & Dreams” – as long as you’re here, and we’re here… They’re here. So, without further adieu (one, two, three, FAW!)

1.Which concert was your favourite; Cork or Limerick?

Kyle

It’s not easy answering which concert was better. For those in the dark, the concerts were in Thomond Park on July 16th and pairc Ui Caoimh on the 18th. Realistically it would like be like asking me: “which do I like better; cake or ice-cream?” Of course, I like them both….together…..in Coke. That’s not to say I’m planting my Bruce concerts in a fizzy drink anytime soon, but you get the point. I would say they were different. Limerick was my first ever concert. Limerick was the first leg of Bruce’s 2013 Irish tour. The whole package showed up, the whole package delivered. From the first minute when Bruce kicked off with “This little light of mine” to the last of the encore when the band performed a pumped up version of “Shout”, it was brilliant. It had the entire Born to run album; each song back to back. But Cork was when the tour was underway, and as a result it felt less like the band were aiming to impress, and more like it was about entertainment. The whole show was crowd orientated and full of party numbers that carried on for minutes on end. Both had extensive coverage of Bruce’s back catalogue including an obvious and great selection from his most recent album; the eponymous wrecking ball, from which the tour takes its name.  Overall both shows deserve full merit. Perhaps in time I will remember Limerick as the real eye opener, and look back on Cork as more of a verification of the fact that the quality was in the music.

Eimear

Best Overall Concert. Feels like I’m presenting awards at the VMAs or some such rubbish. People keep asking me, and after an initial reaction of “GUYYYSS!” this is my usual answer: Limerick was full of emotional, stunning, and powerful performances. As the sun was setting, Bruce began to narrate a story of his youth in New Jersey. Of those endless summers, the ones full of possibilities. A guy near me turned to his friend and says simply: “He’s gonna do Born To Run”. And I knew that by this, he did not mean, play that one anthem that’s probably the only rock song in history to feature a glockenspiel. No. He meant THE ALBUM. THE FULL ALBUM. AS IN MY FAVOURITE ALBUM OF ALL TIME – the best album ever written – IN ITS ENTIRETY. I was scared to believe it. I was actually shaking and on the verge of tears. I’m even getting chills writing this, because unless you truly, truly love a band and their music the way I do, you simply won’t get it. And then Bruce finished his spiel with “And I’m gonna play you the album that I wrote” I nearly lost it. I couldn’t believe that one of my dreams was coming true. I knew what was to come. I knew Backstreets was coming, I knew Jungleland was coming, but most of all, I knew the opening number was coming, and as I heard those first notes to Thunder Road on the harmonica I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Bearing in mind we were dead centre, and four rows from the very front, I reckon Limerick was a highlight of my life, not just of my concert experiences.

But to say Cork paled in comparison would be laughable. Cork was a PARTY. We ended up standing with ONE PERSON between me and my hero. OH YEAH DID I MENTION THAT I TOUCHED HIM? Twice.

2. Which five songs did you like most overall as performances?

Kyle

Asking for a top five is tougher than it seems. Although I still have some room to manoeuvre, the honest answer is I’m cringing as I have to cut out a large section of good performances. However, being stuck for five would be a far worse sign, and so I happily continue. My fifth favourite song of the tour was the very Celtic sounding “Death to my hometown”. It might just be because I’m Irish, and the concert was just revving into gear, but the band’s rendition of the song in Limerick was memorable to say the least. The number is always a crowd pleaser, coming from the latest album and demanding the crowd to get involved. This was a new Springsteen in full swing; a harsh taunt to the modern state of affairs with a gritty, drumming soundtrack to accompany the impressive streak of images The Boss opens with. By the end, everyone had got their singing voice out and the stage was set for an enjoyable night.

At four, I’d have to go back to Limerick and applaud the Born to run album in full. The whole thing was immense, but nestled in with the chart hits was Backstreets; a well written song that appeals to a nostalgic mind set. I seemed to be in just that place when the chorus rippled into the ranks of the Bruce faithful, because the message hit home that it was one to idolize from the show. The sun was just beginning its drift back behind the horizon, and the lights of Thomond were washing over us, and the whole scene really captured everyone. Bruce may not testify to such a good performance of it himself, but from where I was standing (or jumping); it sounded pretty good.

My third favourite of the tour brings me back to my hometown (to the Bruce enthusiasts, excuse the pun). In Limerick my girlfriend Eimear had brought a sign, black and red, which simply stated “Prove it ’78”. In cork, she got her wish. Pairc Ui Caoimh was under the band’s spell at this stage, each song getting greater applause and bringing more of the semi-interested into the fray. How could they continue it? Half way through, Bruce must have sensed that sentiment, and decided to bring the house down. Taking up a trusty electric guitar, he casually waited for the Prove it all night intro to fade in, before launching into a five minute guitar solo. The whole stage was drowning in coloured neon and shaking from the reverberating notes. The message reverberated better; “I raised the game.” By the time the real song started, most people were too excited to even sing along, all just frozen in a state of utter admiration for the 60 odd year olds visible will to push the limits of human appreciation.

Number two was a personal favourite. Back in April, The Rising was played to me as a sample of the various sounds the band could offer. I quickly got sucked in by how easy the band slid the lasting message under the backdrop of a world class anthem. In July, the boss gave me a nice birthday present in Limerick when he slowly approached the microphone and softly let the first few words carry out to the far reaches of the stadium. The echo of “can’t see nothing in front of me” quickly diminished, but in seconds everybody knew they weren’t going anywhere. It was dusk, and the crowd was eager to let something powerful access their emotion. Most of us did our best to follow the words; others just sat back and smiled. If not for a very interesting number 1, this would have dominated the ranks, having been played at both concerts.

Number 1 has to go to an unknown entrant. It is unknown in the sense that I hadn’t heard the song before it was played. Perhaps that made it all the better. The song; 41 shots, was requested and played as a tribute to the late Trayvon Martin, who was tragically killed in America. For 10 minutes Thomond Park swelled with sadness, as Springsteen belted out “You get killed just for living” for minutes at a time. As the Boss let the crowd take over, a low murmur of “41 shots” lifted into the air and expanded. Soon it was hard to hear the guitar kick up behind the adamant crowd, and tingles were flying up spines everywhere.

Eimear

5- Pay Me My Money Down/Shackled and Drawn (CORK) Literally if you had a barn dance in an Irish bar with the people in steerage from the Titanic Movie, this would be the result. I have never had so much fun dancing. Delightfully showcased his Irish influences to the crowd who didn’t even know that his last album was full of Gaelic vibes.

4- Real World (CORK) – twice! Played at both the pre-show (we few, we lucky few, we band of brothers) and the main set, I have fallen head over heels for the acoustic version of this gorgeous song. For the love of god, why is he so talented at everything?

3- Thunder Road (LIMERICK) What can I say. My favourite song. One that I would have forever regretted if I never saw it live. And it was beautiful. Thats all.

2- Drive All Night (LIMERICK) I think my reaction to this was measured by seeing a girl in the front row, shown on the big screen, visibly breaking down when she heard the first few notes to this. I defy you to find me a more romantic song than this. Go on. Try. Link it to me when you find it. This song, could not be more simple. There are no fancy highfalutin’ lyrics. Just a man who would drive all night for his girl. This is rarely played live, so to hear was a treat for everyone attending.

1- Prove it All Night ’78 (CORK) There I was. Standing in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Grand job. Oh there’s Bruce up there. Grand job. Oh there’s Roy Bittan there. What’s he doing? Oh lauching into an ol’ song there is he? Lovely stuff Roy. Start away. Wait…. Wait… WHAT?! When the first few notes to this were played and my neurons realised EIMEAR THIS IS IT, my head fell into my hands. Speechless, shocked, unable to deal with what was happening, that was me. People around me seeing my reaction said nothing but “Is this your song?” I could only nod with an open mouth and tears in my eyes. This, ladies and gentlemen, is such a rarity that I genuinely never thought I’d ever hear it live. EVER. Its a song I have to watch grainy black and white youtube videos of because its so rare. Bruce said in a 2010 interview: “If you’d like to hear it again, that’ll probably never occur, my friend. But it was good while it lasted.” It was resurrected in Barcelona last year after a 30 year absence so the hope began to grow in me. But that was Barcelona. Home of the die-hards. He’d hardly play it in Ireland? Nevertheless, I painted my sign dutifully.

And he played it.

He motherfu*king played it.

Imagine for you soccer fans out there hearing – Messi wants a kickaround there. Something you think will NEVER HAPPEN. Well, it HAPPENED.

3.What was your favourite moment in the pit queue?

Kyle

It could have well over 10 hours altogether queuing to get up close at both concerts. We met a lot of unique characters as we all sat fenced up by the stadium gates. One memory that sticks out well was lying irritated in the summer sun in Cork’s hottest field. Perched under one umbrella, Eimear and I squashed in to maximise out use of the shade. An onlooker remarked, “Body heat will get to ye in a while.” Frustrated, we ignored the advice. Ten minutes later, we were roasting alive and quickly sacrificing the minimal shadow we had to escape the furnace we had willingly set up. The man had all the right to laugh, and informed us of “Basic physics guys.”

Eimear

Malone already has the surreal experience of the people doing their workouts in Thomand Park Gym taking their equipment outside and doing it to blaring Bruce tunes among a crowd of a hundred people from all over the world. For me, a little highlight whic showcases the camaraderie between the people in Bruce pit queues was when this couple in their thirties kept trying to offer us wine because it was Kyle’s birthday (and also because they wanted to get rid of it, but mostly because we were class.)

4. What were some of your favourite, or more memorable moments overall?

Kyle

My top five favourite moments of the concert is another tricky question. Rather than spend hours searching my mind for the exact best, I’ll allow myself a nice answer by listing good parts as I remember. Fifth was the tribute to the sax player Clarence Clemmons. A video played in the background, as his nephew (Jake Clemmons) took up his mantle and played his old uncle’s parts perfectly. It was fitting for all to respect the old and the new, and remember the man who had added his own touches to a series of legendary songs.

Another nice moment of the tour was the pre-shows that Bruce performed on both occasions. At both venues, the spectacle that was came out early to play two or three songs on an acoustic guitar. Of course at that stage, only about four hundred were there to look on. The boss didn’t seem to mind, and played a nice set of compositions that otherwise might have never surfaced at the concerts.

A nice moment for all was seeing the children next to us go up to dance with the musician in Cork. They got pushed on stage during “waiting on a sunny day”, where Springsteen normally invites such young fans up, and sang the chorus. Later, they were gifted with the man’s guitar pick. Although the family were in general pushy, annoying, relentless and overly engaged in the show, it was nice to see two young fans get rewarded by the showman.

Second favourite moment of the tours was our first arrival at the pit queue. Landing into Limerick, and rushing over in a hopeful bid to get a position up near the stage, we found ourselves looking on as a group of gym members worked out to some of the bands greatest hits. The whole thing took place a day before the main lights flickered on, and probably never even surfaced as a nice piece in a local newspaper. Still, for those few who saw, it was a fun twenty minutes and a great curtain opener on the whole experience.

Perhaps my favourite moment of the tour, and I stress all these just jumped to mind, was seeing what it meant to those attending. I can’t put a count on how many times a song brought a couple inches closer, or how many times friends clasped arms and sang along with one of the obscure set list choices. You can’t put a price on a good all round mood, which most of the fans were happy to supply. The small things made the concert, both on and off the stage.

Eimear

Seeing the band walk off in Limerick and realising – I don’t have to wait a year, or three years to see him live again, I’m seeing him the day after tomorrow!

Realising that even if I never do see him live again, the last song I ever heard from him was a haunting version of Thunder Road. Just him, his guitar, in the darkness, with thousands of people in the palm of his hand, singing along to every word.

5.What was your favourite crowd interaction?

Kyle

The Boss spent a good chunk of his stage time stomping his feet within reach of the flailing-armed masses. A real showman knows how to control his fans. Springsteen made friends with them, and so stood so much higher as an entertainer. Plenty of fans got the chance to go on stage, with a loyal Spanish trio even receiving guitars to air-play with the man himself. It’s not that difficult for a musician to make somebody’s night with that kind of generosity and kindness. But Bruce kept up the slapstick antics too. A well celebrated and impressive interaction was his chugging of a full lager as he veered off to the right of the stage. Taking the beer from the offering fan, he thanked the man and then proceeded to swallow it to the encouragement of his faithful. Afterwards he managed to make a couple light hearted jokes…oh and he played a full concert too.

Eimear

Bruce addressing Limerick’s win in the Munster Hurling Final by sayin “we have no idea what the fuck that is, but congratulations!

6. Who, outside of Bruce, is your favourite member of the E-street Band?

Kyle

My favourite member outside of Bruce was undoubtedly drummer Max Weinberg. The camera came focusing in on the grey haired, glasses wearing musician whenever the focus of the song careered his way. Every time, he was clearly at his happiest. For sheer enthusiasm, I’d have to name him my favourite. That doesn’t even begin to give credit to his undeniable talent, which at times kept the audience right where the band needed them to be, or on other occasions just served to pump up the crowd into action again. All in all, his work on the instrument seemed effortless; most likely stemming from his passion alone.

Eimear

Fave Non Bruce Member – The scarf-wearing, sax-playing, tweet-favouriting, one and only Jake Clemons. That rendition of Jungleland was once in a lifetime.

Any final thoughts on it Eimear?

I really don’t need anymore words or time to convince you of his greatness. He’s great whether you believe it not. He’s the greatest perfomer on the planet whether you believe it or not.

Ben Stiller once stopped midway through a speech where he was supposed to be honoring Robert De Niro, because he spotted Bruce in the crowd: “Bruce, when I was 16, I saw you play like nine hours straight at Nassau Colloseum, literally changed my life, you’re a god! Back to Bob, sorry!”

Fun facts. There is a video of Bruce Springsteen covering “Sexy and I Know It”. It’s one of the best things ever made. Stevie Van Zandt, the guitarist in the E Street Band, was in the Sopranos. Prize for whoever finds the hidden Springsteen reference in one of his scenes. (Ok its not hidden, they blatantly quote the lyrics to Born To Run). “Because the Night”, by Cascada? Thats a Bruce song. Sorry to ruin your childhoods.

And how better to close off this blog, than to quote the most powerful man in the world? “The only reason I’m running for President is because I can’t be Bruce Springsteen”. – Barrack Obama, 2008.

See you further on up the road.

P.S this is Kyle and I touched both Bruce’s leg and Bruce’s guitar. ImageImage