Monday 9 December 2019

Kirsty at large: Rude awakenings from the etiquette experts

Derek Daniels with Kirsty Blake Knox as the Etiquette School of Ireland hosted an Etiquette Masterclass at the Shelbourne Hotel
Derek Daniels with Kirsty Blake Knox as the Etiquette School of Ireland hosted an Etiquette Masterclass at the Shelbourne Hotel
Feeling the pain: Blue Monday was invented but don’t let that stop you feeling down
Chloe Ferry moves in close to John Grimes
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

'Has anyone ever told you that you walk like an ape?" model boss Derek Daniels asked me. "An ape or a coalman."

Derek is one of the teachers at the brand new Etiquette School of Ireland - and specialises in poise and grace.

"You have a hump," he said pointing at my back. "Just there."

"Is someone teaching an etiquette class supposed to be this rude?" I thought.

Confidence decimated, Derek instructed me how to stand. Shoulders back, hands fanned out on my waist, chin tilted downwards but looking up. Basically how Celia Holman Lee stands in every photo.

"See - you don't look like a farmer anymore." I tottered along to the masterclass with a whole load of other journalists to hear all about how you should and shouldn't behave in public.

Some of the stuff was obvious; don't blow your nose on a table cloth or clamber out of a car with no knickers on. Other stuff was more oblique - never go to a job interview with "dramatic cleavage". Undramatic cleavage is okay. And don't try to be sarcastic. Especially online. "It doesn't translate," 'Netiquette' expert Michael Keogh said. "That's why God invented emoticons."

My favourite part of the day was elocution lessons.

This is mainly because the teacher, Esther Doorly, has a voice like treacle. She could read the telephone directory and make it sound interesting. Esther told me all about the strengths and weaknesses of the Irish accent; we have lazy tongues and roll our words. She also told me who the King of Etiquette is (the queen is obviously Kate Middleton).

"Marty Whelan," Esther said. "I could listen to his voice all day. He has fantastic elocution and etiquette."

I never doubted it.

The mystery of Blue Monday and national Squirrel Appreciation Day

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Feeling the pain: Blue Monday was invented but don’t let that stop you feeling down

So the most depressing day of the year has been and gone.

I'm not talking about Trump's razzmatazz inauguration.

I'm talking about Blue Monday - the third Monday in January when we all suddenly and simultaneously realise how rubbish our lives are.

On this day, all the negative things associated with January come together like a bleak Venn diagram of debt, bad weather and low-sugar diets.

Blue Monday was invented in 2005 by health psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall on behalf of holiday company Sky Travel to boost sales.

"A holiday could be just the solution to cheer everyone up," Dr Cliff said at the time.

Presumably while winking knowingly and nudging someone in the ribs.

But Dr Cliff, of Cardiff University, doesn't solely deal with depressing days of the year.

He also put together an equation for the happiest day of the year (O + (N x S) + Cpm divided by T + He) which occurs on June 24.

This study was not commissioned by a travel company. Instead, it was commissioned by Walls ice cream.

"Happiness is associated with many things in life and can be triggered by a variety of events," Dr Cliff said while presenting his new findings.

"Whether it's a sunny day… or something as effortless as eating a delicious ice cream."

See what he did there?


Some people get very hot headed about Dr Cliff.

They give out about Blue Monday not being a real thing and say it should be debunked and forgotten about entirely.

Stern and serious PhD lecturers and psychologists say it undermines the complexity of human emotion and academic research.

But I have a curious admiration for Dr Cliff and his ability to make a living off hot air and good old-fashioned guff.

Imagine claiming to have pinpointed the day when the earth's population reaches its most euphoric high.

Or telling everyone that the third Monday in January is when we crash with depression? It's baffling but it's also a bit ballsy.

I like it - regardless of the ham-fisted PR spin.

And to be honest, if you think it's a ridiculous joke of a day - it's worth taking a look at some of the other national days celebrated this week. There was National Popcorn Day, National Disc Jockey Day, National Cheese Lovers' Day, National Peking Duck Day, National Winnie The Pooh Day, National Bootleggers Day, National Hot Buttered Rum Day, and National Nothing Day - when people are encouraged to sit at home and celebrate nothing.

Next to them Blue Monday doesn't look quite so daft does it?

Oh, and if you missed those revered holidays - don't fret.

Next week it's National Granola Bar Day, National Handwriting Day and finally National Squirrel Appreciation Day.

Mark them down in the diary.


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