Reader Roisin Rice wrote a letter to the editor about her completing her leaving cert English as a mature student. Here she tells us more about the experience.

“Students of Leaving Cert 2020 will have access to their results from 12 noon today”, was one of the Morning Ireland headlines. It was Tuesday 2 February and all of a sudden D-day had arrived for me. I was halfway through my daily energy boost of Flahavan’s when the seven o'clock news came on – I don’t remember tasting the remainder of my breakfast.

“Best of luck today,” my husband and daughter said as I set off to my part-time job in the garden centre. That day, my work involved preparing for the first sowing of the new season. I was sorting all the seeds and preparing the trays of compost in the heated bench to facilitate germination, helping new life begin.

Noon came and went, I was afraid to check. I returned home at four, noting a missed call and message from my teacher, I knew now I had to face checking my result.

When I did, I was speechless, shocked and so happy, afraid it would disappear from the screen.

“Is it really my result?” I thought. And I was equally as happy for my teacher considering the work she had to put in with me.

My English journey, with my teacher Eileen, began in September 2019 when I arrived on her doorstep asking about the possibility of sitting my leaving cert English again, after a 38-year gap!

She outlined what it would involve and I was instantly on the road. I knew I wanted to do this. In fact I had secretly wanted to do this for years and years but thought it would never happen. When I sat my leaving cert back in the day I didn’t do a very good job, to put it mildly, and the results were pretty awful. For some reason English was the one subject I felt I could have done better in.

Rocky road

My road with Eileen was rocky to say the least, as I encountered several hills, hollows and terrain that seemed impossible to negotiate. She read through texts books line by line with me as I was unable to read through them myself. I loved the essay writing and slowly got into the world of poetry and the various texts prescribed on the course. I took the mock papers in February 2020 and managed to pass them, finding this experience so beneficial for what was to come.

“This above all – to thine own self be true,” is one such quote that we should all apply to our lives and if we follow our instincts, then our dreams can sometimes come true

Spring on a dairy farm means all hands on deck and that coupled with spring in a garden centre meant I had to basically park my English study for weeks. Then, the announcement that the exams were cancelled stopped everything for me. I put it all aside. However, hope was there again with the new date of November being announced for the exams so I was off again! I put the head down and with Eileen’s guidance I trawled through everything, over and over until I could do no more.

On Saturday November 21, at 9.30am I began my exam. At 5.20pm that evening I emerged from the room with mixed feelings but a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I felt I had known so much more than I had expressed on paper, but my journey had ended and I had done my best. I was hoping most of all that I hadn’t let Eileen down.

Great characters

This experience has been one of the best things I have done in my life. I have become acquainted with characters like Christy Mahon and Pegeen from Playboy, Jay Gatsby, Daisy and Tom from The Great Gatsby and Eilis, Tony and Miss Kelly from Brooklyn. I have been introduced to poets including Durcan, Dickenson, Rich and Frost and last but not least, I have come to love and respect Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which I dreaded at first.

Hamlet unfolds and exposes various timeless themes of life and love and what really intrigued me are the many magnificent quotes from this play that are still so appropriate today.

“This above all – to thine own self be true,” is one such quote that we should all apply to our lives and if we follow our instincts, then our dreams can sometimes come true.

Country living

My life is based totally around country living, we live on a dairy farm where I am fully involved. My work in the garden centre is based on plants and nature and I love and cherish the outdoors and what our country living has to offer. However, I also loved my English journey and believe the whole concept of the world of literature blends very easily with country living. We are blessed to be surrounded by inspiration and contentment through the world of animals and plants.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote that “The nearest green field is the inspired page from which you may read all that it is needful for you to know”. I hope you will enjoy your green fields and what you draw from them, as much as I do.

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