SWB on the Christmas Countdown

SWB is back and sourer than ever and it’s FRIGGING CHRISTMAS SHOPPING, that has me thus irked. Why so riled, you may wonder, after having been so earnest and eco-conscious.  ‘I shall just buy a voucher for a hotel, and spend our money on experiences, as opposed to things.’ Yes that was me, I can’t deny it. But I can’t have the weans waking up to feck all on the big day can I? ‘Happy Christmas! Santa’s been, and he left a scooter and his voucher for a night in a hotel in January and nothing else!’  Of course Santa didn’t get his ass in gear and organise the night away on time, so anything left was hideously overpriced. Can you imagine it the disappointment on the wee faces. ‘Yes yes, all your friends are waking up to a mountain of gifts but no, you aren’t because your mother has taken agin ‘stuff’ and can’t be having any more clutter or what she deems to be ‘plastic shite.’

Speaking of the latter, I called into Smyths the other day with the intention of  buying them a doll each. No sooner was I in than a large woman with a trolley almost bulldozed me over. She could hardly see over the top of the teetering tower of crap that she was pushing towards the till. Threatening to tumble out was a rake of LOL doll paraphernalia, the biggest of which was a ‘house’: ‘L.O.L. Surprise! Over 85 surprises!‘ said the box.  I think the surprise will be on you lady, when you tear open your credit card bill in January and it dawns on you that you spent £179.99 on a big tacky piece of insubstantial nonsense. I looked in detail at the item when I went home, to see what exactly one got for their £180 quid. Bugger all, would be my opinion. It has one ‘working elevator’ (we’ll give that a week) and comes with ‘DOLL,  LIL’ SISTER and PET!’  One birthday a child bought my daughter a doll, and as all the wrapping paper fell away to reveal tiny bits of inconsequential nothingness, even she seemed to concede it was a total take on. 

Back to the dolls then. I did some mental calculations and worked out the girls have AT LEAST fifteen dolls between them, and that’s not even including Barbies. My front room has been overtaken by a veritable SEA of cuddly toys, because they seem to gather these at a rate of about one a week. Each.  Their father booked a visit to Dippy at the Museum a few weeks ago, at which they were bored rigid. ‘Oh,’ they said. ‘Is that it?’  It reminded me of a time when an elderly relative took his cousin from afar to see the Giant’s Causeway thinking he’d love it. ‘Pile of rocks,’ said the cousin. ‘Pile of bones,’ said the children, except we later discovered that the replica was only plaster-cast. We’d all been duped, and LSB took it particularly to heart. ‘Everything I know is a lie,’ he said, almost descending into existential angst. He’s prone to that. To appease the children, he dropped thirty quid on two stuffed dinosaurs, each wearing a t-shirt. ‘They weren’t expensive,’ he assured me, but I found the receipt when I was emptying his pockets to wash his jeans. No flies on me, hell no. He gets away with nothing.  

Back to Smyths, and the awfulness of it. I looked in the games section for some Christmas Day amusement. Well that was an education I can tell you. Have you seen the shit they’re churning out now as entertainment? And I’m using the word ‘shit’ literally here as there’s one called ‘Flushin’ Frenzy’. It involves a plunger, so perfect for the wannabe plumber in your life. Or how about ‘Doggy Do’? Doggy loves his treat but when he poops you scoop.’ At least that one carries a valuable environmental message, but personally I could live without it after a turkey dinner. And then, wait for it: ‘Pimple Pete.’ I mean for fuck’s sake.   Toys based entirely around dogs voiding their bowels and squeezing spots? Is this really where we’re at?  There’s no end to the scatological theme. Have you seen the “Poopsie Surprise Unicorns?’ Vile, potbellied, alien looking creatures, which poop slime. £50 you have to pay for that bit of tat. I feel a bit sick at the thought.

If you happened to be in Smyths on Tuesday morning, and saw a woman with a pained expression, like she trying to pass a kidney stone, it was probably me. 

PS. Later this afternoon, before posting this, I went into town. It was actually bearable (I know, I was surprised too.) I found some colouring on stuff for the kids and a few small toys, none of which had anything to do with poo. I picked up a few delightful items in St George’s Market, and then packed the whole lot onto a Belfast Bike and peddled up the road. It was mild and pleasant upon the bike, and I persuaded the husband to take me and the kids for dinner in Shed. It turned into a lovely evening, and helped banish all thoughts of defecating toys from my mind. Happy Christmas y’all. 

SWB on rainy days

How do you spot a tourist in Belfast? No, this isn’t some riddle you’d find in your cracker after your Christmas dinner. Shall I tell you? When it’s pissing down of a Wednesday afternoon at the Continental Market, the tourists are the only ones who have donned appropriate attire for the weather. The Lonely Planet guide, dutifully clasped in their hand, informs them that since it rains for at least 200 days a year in Ireland, it’s most likely they’re going to be on the receiving end of a downpour. ‘Bring your umbrellas!’ it instructs, and the clever foreigners also bring their rain macks because they’ve read that it can get kinda blustery and they don’t want to be standing like a tube under a battered brolly.

The Norn Iron populace though, exists in a perpetual state of denial about the rain. ‘Sure it’s just a wee shower,’ most of them say. ‘Why would you bother with a raincoat or anything of that nature? Just a quick dash from the bus into work anyway.’ Then lunch time rolls round and they decide they can’t resist a kangaroo burger from the market and eat it standing under a stall, water dripping from their noses onto their chargrilled marsupial.

And it’s the look of them, standing there, soaked, and utterly raging about it. ‘Always lashing in this fucking country,’ I heard a chap remark to his mate, as they stood outside a Centra having a coffee one wet morning last week. Coatless, he was too, or might as well have been, the futtery wee jacket he had on him.

I can’t decide whether people are optimistic or stupid. Hard to say.

We’ve no more wit when abroad, and I’ll use my husband to illustrate the point. I spent the summer of 2008 in Madrid and he joined me for a few days. Save buying some short sleeved shorts for the occasion, he arrived minus sun glasses, sandals or shorts and there was also a lack of sun-cream or protective hat. A quick trip to El Corte Ingles quickly ensued. I’m just after asking him if he owned a waterproof coat or umbrella before he met me. He shook his head. This is man who used to walk everywhere, because of an aversion to buses.

There was a lovely teacher in the last school where I taught, and he was forever traipsing out to bus duty in all weather, wearing a woollen coat, (not known for their waterproof qualities.) He was scant of hair and getting on in years and it used to concern me greatly. I couldn’t help myself one day. ‘You’ll not be well,’ I said, ‘Please, do get a hat, before you get a foundering.’ I don’t think he was overly impressed: I was only in the school 5 minutes and there I was, doling out wardrobe advice, and him a Vice Principal too. He continued to stand out, like King Lear, unbonneted and blasted upon the heath, until he retired.

Of course I can’t talk, having been equally ill-prepared at times. I remember temping once in a prestigious architect’s office on Bedford Street. I was running late, and had left the house in a rush. What had begun as a light mizzle gathered itself into a near monsoon, as I beetled towards the town. I’d only a flimsy suit on me from Next, and was unprepared for the tricks the capricious weather gods had up their sleeves. Head down, I was cantering along amid a sea of sodden folk, when suddenly they parted before me. A bill board had blown down and lay on the footpath.  Given my tardiness (and lack of sense) I thought I’d just walk over the top of it. What I didn’t appreciate was that when billboards are wet, they are exceedingly slippery. What a tumble I took. There was a moment when I was airborne entirely, before I came crashing down. It gave me quite a fright, and I wonder if  perhaps I didn’t sustain a mild concussion. Certainly my attempts later that day to type were somewhat impaired. I recall the senior partner almost recoiling in shock when I arrived in my bedraggled state at his practice. ‘What in the hell have Grafton sent me this time,’ his eyes said as shook my hand, before I took my little drenched self off to the loos to wring out my trousers.

So do yourselves a favour, Sour Wee Readers, and pop a rain coat and hats and gloves on your Christmas list. What with global warming, our seasons are only going to get more erratic, but with wellies and ponchos at the ready, we’ll be well fit for it.


It’s only the 7th December but already I may have hit PEAK OVERWHELM, at twenty-five past eight in the morning, to be precise. ‘We need to leave NOW,’ insists the small child, ‘We have to get into the hall! First thing! Can’t be late!’

It is turning into a high-octane sort of a breakfast; with much ‘Fa-la-la-la-ing,’ recitation of lines and jigging about. This can only mean that it’s NATIVITY TIME AGAIN.

The Older one has requested a smoothie, and I have acquiesced, chopping pineapple and squeezing oranges. Since they’ve both succumbed to a virulent strain of the cold again, I’m whizzing up the citrus fruits without complaint, to up their intake of Vitamin C.

‘Where’s my flamingo dress?’ she demands, spraying me with fruity, yogurty goodness. ‘Your WHAT?’ I reply, as I use my donkey cutter to make their sandwiches into  appealing shapes, so they might actually eat them.  ‘My flamingo dress,’ she repeats wearily, as though I’m some class of a half-wit.  ‘I brought it home last week.’

‘Oh crap,’ I say, (see how I’ve learnt to moderate my language my language a tiny bit?) ’Your flamenco dress.’

Two weeks ago, upon learning that in their ‘Strictly themed Nativity’ my child would be dancing the tango, I located said dress, popped it in a bag complete with matching hair accoutrements, LABELLED IT and sent it into school. I was most proud of my organisation skills.  ‘Excellent, that’s JUST the thing,’ said her teacher before making the fatal mistake of sending it home again, blissfully unaware of the chaos in which we reside. The dress has since been removed from its bag and vanished.  I fear I may have put it ‘somewhere safe’ which means it may turn up in time for Easter.

Incidentally, since when have Nativities become THEMED? In our day there was a BIBLICAL theme, with wee fellas in dressing gowns with tea-towels on their heads, and a few angels, with tinsel in their hair; none of this “I’m a lonely star’ or ‘I’m a hoity-toity fairy’ sort of nonsense.

It’s like weddings. ‘So what’s your theme going to be?’ asked some eejit who didn’t know me very well on the run up to mine. ‘A what?’ I said, dumbfounded. ‘A theme? So we can’t just celebrate the miracle that two people are willing to commit and tolerate each others’ idiosyncrasies until death?’ I was tempted to tell her that because I’d worked in a Mexican restaurant back in 1999 that I was going to insist all the bridal party don sombreros and have a Mariachi Band to play me down the aisle.  Jeepers, I think she was sorry she asked. But in all fairness,  can love not suffice? Or endurance? That could be a good theme for a wedding: before the meal, guests have to complete tasks in which they  test their skills of resilience and tenacity, then reflect upon how they can bring these skills to their marriage. Anyway, I digress.

Back to this morning. Ten  minutes later I am still popping chopped grapes into small containers and buttering toast when the Small One reappears. She has donned her coat and hat, popped her ear muffs over the top, and is heading for the door. ‘We need to leave NOW,’ she bellows.  I have managed no more than a slurp of coffee and already feel quite defeated.  Maybe a Kaffe-O breakfast will cheer me up, I think. Well, one can hope anyway. Just as long as they haven’t adopted any type of a theme…


SWB returns!

Hello sour wee readers!

It’s been a while, because, as it turns out, I’m struggling to multi-task. This month, I’ve set up  www.do1thing.co.uk, so I’m scurrying around like a maniac, doing different things and writing about them. A sensible sort of person would have done this BEFORE the month of November descended upon them, but we can all agree, I don’t fit neatly into that bracket. I had done a lot of preparation work IN MY HEAD, but that doesn’t always translate into ‘actual progress.’ Plus, I actually wanted what I wrote and did every day to be fresh and up to date. That’s the excuse I’m using, anyway.

Turns out writing two blogs is alot of work, plus I’ve been volunteering down at the local radio station Belfast 89. They’re a friendly bunch down there, and I get a bit of airtime, chattering away about sustainable loo roll and the like. I do quite enjoy it, even when David who runs the show on  Monday on which I contribute, takes the piss out of me for my green ideas.

Speaking of which, I’m now joint-chair of the PTA at St Bernards’ Primary School, with my friend Brenda. ‘Mummy, do you WORK here now?’ asked the older child in a querulous tone, because it turns out, if you’re heavily involved in the PTA, you end up hovering about the school premises quite often.  I am, however,  thrilled because the Principal and Staff have been so receptive to the green agenda which our committee is pushing. We’ve asked that only reusable cups be used at the Nativity Plays and Open Nights, and at the  Christmas Fair we’ve invited the lovely duo @EarthMade to come along and show off their wares. Yes, it is time consuming, but we’re passionate about making eco-friendly changes and it takes persistence.

Anyway, at least the Mothership is pleased because over a week has gone by without me writing about my innards. We were dining out in Greens on the Ormeau to celebrate the older child turning 7, when who should stroll by but the venerable Brian Harper, of Harper’s Yard fame. In he came.

‘I agree with your mother!’ he boomed, without preamble. ‘Too much information! There are things I just DON’T NEED TO KNOW!’

‘Exactly!’ beamed the Mothership, ‘I tell her this all the time. And does she listen? Not a bit of it!’ They had a quick chat about my waywardness.

Then off Brian trotted, to buy his supper. All of this bypassed my father completely.

‘Who was that nice gentle man?’ he enquired.

‘He takes to do with the baking, Ronnie,’ said Mum. ‘But he reads Helen’s blog.’

Dad rolled his eyes. He can’t understand why anyone would read my blog, full of vulgarity as it is.

‘Hmmm,’ he said. ‘I think I’ll have the lasagne.’

‘Oh s**t, November’s here’ says SWB

You know how something seems very, very far away? Like exams, or your due date when you’re 3 months pregnant and puking on the hour? Or a holiday that you wish to God you were on but it’s 6 months in the future and you’ve almost lost a toe to frostbite?  Well, I have been planning my ‘Do One Thing’ campaign in my head for weeks, and then didn’t the children get sick and I got a virus that would have floored a Fresian and LSB was off running marathons and suddenly ‘F**K ME IT’S NOVEMBER!’ I said.  However, amidst the madness this morning, after retrieving the cat from  the cattery and managing hyper-active children, (‘What are we doing today?! What’s next? It’s the holidays!’), I managed to put up my first ‘thing.’

Last night I made a curry and some overnight oats and if you fancy heading  over to the new site you’ll see I’m talking about ‘World Vegan Day’. It’s chick-pea-tastic over there. Tomorrow I’m having a few of my mum buddies over for ‘The Big Broth’ which is an incentive by the charity Centre-Point to bring people together to eat soup and make a donation to homeless people. I’m off now to purchase soup making ingredients so the poor feckers don’t arrive to a bowl of watery gruel. I’d love to make bread but I’ve never tried and this is maybe not the time. No Great British Bake Off for me anytime soon then. On that subject, Go Rahul! You wee weirdo. I could have cried. He just needs a lot of hugs doesn’t he? Wee grumpy face on him. I think we’d get on.

SWB launches www.Do1Thing.co.uk

Hello y’all. You’ll notice that it’s got colder, and darker and generally busier. When I was still teaching, this term used to always be the hardest, and come Halloween I wanted to board a plane destined for the Maldives and stay there until April. And since I’ve left the profession, I’ve still noticed the pace of life in our house gathering momentum. Suddenly it will be Christmas and I’ll be thinking, how the hell did we just get here?

Lately I’ve been beset with the notion, and not in a terribly gloomy sense, though I know the news may suggest otherwise, that time is short. My children seem suddenly to have become so big, and  I feel I missed out on some of their earlier years in a blur of work and busyness.  I want to slow life right down and appreciate what’s important. I’m not always good at this.

In November, we always used to get sick, but I’m hoping (manically looks round for a piece of wood to knock) that we’ve had our fill of illnesses for now. I want to enjoy the rest of autumn, and not just put my head down and plough on as I usually do. In an effort to do this, I have set up www.Do1Thing.co.uk, as a sort of sister blog, to create a community of pro-activity. Each day I’ll put up some notion I’ve either had myself, or pinched from a clever person elsewhere, as a suggestion to make the month of November more fun-filled and less of an arse-ache.

Expect one or two, oh f**k it, you know me, at LEAST six ideas with a nod to environmentalism; some events with friends through which we’ll raise some money for charities and help declutter each others’ homes, (wine may be involved); and a couple of events involving our wider community through our local parkrun and running club.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen that I often use the hash tag ‘joy-spotting’. This was after I watched a glorious Ted Talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee on the topic. I will thus also be including ways in which we can boost our own well-being and capture some moments of joy for ourselves.

I would love it if some of you would check out my new blog and join me on this journey. You can  share photos on my Instagram, Twitter page or Facebook, using the hashtag #Do1Thingnovember. Already I’m feeling excited about November (and trust me, that has NEVER happened) and I’m looking forward to seeing if any of the ideas I share can radiate outwards. I think maybe I’m tired of being a Sourweebastard now.

SWB gets a roasting

Jeepers, I hardly had that post up when the phone rang. It was, of course, Herself.


MOTHERSHIP: Do you HAVE to go ON and ON writing about your periods? I mean WHO CARES? (notice the lack of niceties, before the ‘launching in.’)


ME: People haven’t cared for centuries. I’m redressing the balance.


MOTHERSHIP: I just don’t understand it. Who wants to be reading the like of that? Some of my FRIENDS read your blog. Imagine Michael, sitting down to his breakfast and THAT arriving into his in-box. It’s enough to put anyone off their toast.


ME: Has he said it offends him? Has anyone?


MOTHERSHIP: Of course not. Sure he’d be too embarrassed to discuss it. We all are. And the language! Your father was disgusted at the last thing he read. He says he’s reading no more of it, in fact.


ME: Probably for the best.


MOTHERSHIP: And you’re after nearly braining yourself? What were you doing in the forest anyway? What if you’d been on your own? You could have been lying there yet. Dead, even.


ME: Did you actually read the post? There were four other people to witness my fall, which made it all the more mortifying.


MOTHERSHIP: Hmmmph. You could have broken your neck. Again. You’d think you’d have more sense, at your age. People like you, prone to accidents, shouldn’t be running AT ALL. Put an end to it. Go for a nice walk instead. Preserve your joints or you’ll be going round on one of those zimmers, looking two new knees and a hip replacement before you’re fifty. And THEN where will you be?


(I actually think my Mother has taken to the drugs. Do you remember the bit in ‘Trainspotting’ when Spud goes for the job interview? Well this phone call was like that, only worse. I was ready to ask her where she had found her dealer in Bangor.)


ME:I have to go now mum, I’ve a class at the gym.


MOTHERSHIP: Well don’t be standing behind yon fellow with the kettle-weight. He sounds like a liability.


ME: Kettle BELL, Mum


MOTHERSHIP: Kettle what?


ME: I think I’ll put the kettle on and have a cup of tea before I go.


MOTHERSHIP: I’ll do the same. A nice cup of tea will be just the thing. They had an offer on in Tesco for Nambarrie and I bought you a packet. I hope you haven’t been paying full price? NEVER pay full price for tea.


ME: I’m away now, Mum.


MOTHERSHIP: See you tomorrow dear.


ME: That you will.

SWB takes a tumble

‘I think my period’s due,’ I tell LSB, as he helps me pick up shards of the cat’s dish that I’ve just shattered on the tiles. ‘No shit,’ he says, taking the pieces out to the bin. PMT most definitely exacerbates my innate clumsiness.

After breakfast, I head out for my first run in over a week, after the virus that descended on our house like a Biblical curse. As my friends and I canter through Belvoir Forest, the autumnal glow makes my heart swell. The up-turned leaves of russet and red seem to catch every drop of light, despite the wateriness of the sun on this overcast Wednesday morning. Feeling sprightly, I make to jump over a large branch on the path, but my legs haven’t caught up with my brain; they’re all heavy and stodgy as though filled with thick porridge. I trip and fall, and lie sprockled on the forest floor, as two men with three dogs turn and look, to check that ambulances don’t need to be summoned. (I think one was worried I’d fallen over his Shitzu).

Up I bounce with an over jolly, ‘I’m fine! I’m fine! Nothing to look at here!’ I AM fine, just a bit shocked and sore of pride. My friends buy me coffee and we chat. I check I’m not bleeding and see I’ve just a scrape and the beginnings of a bruise or two. The Racing Retiree has been winning prizes left and right for her running of late, and the other one has been training up at the track . She’s like a whippet, the way she motors up those hills. The pair of them are strong. Conversely, I have been lying around, trying to write, failing to produce anything of consequence, and eating buns. And then I’ve fallen over. I tell them about the cat bowl and how I took the elbow of myself on a door earlier. ‘So that’s the three things,’ I say, ‘So hopefully that’s my end of it.’

Now I just have the period itself to look forward to. Life just keeps getting better and better.

It actually does, because I’ve just discovered the blog The Midult.com and it’s bloody brilliant. Here’s a link: http://themidult.com/a-smoothie-cure-to-your-pmt-or-will-you-just-want-to-kill-it/

But don’t stop reading mine just because you’ve found this. I might come after you, and if I’ve PMT, God knows what I’ll do…. 🙂

SWB wonders if Mercury’s in retrograde

It’s been a funny week. We’ve bounced our sickness back and forth, feeling awful one moment and not quite so shit the next. There have been events throughout which I haven’t wanted to miss, but everything I’ve been to or seen has been shot through with a weird vein of imperfection. Perhaps, as my yoga teacher says, ‘Mercury’s in retrograde’ which seems to interfere with everything, particularly technical stuff, but there’s been an edginess to the week, as though at any moment things could disintegrate into madness.


On Wednesday I went to the Limelight to see the band Superorganism. I took a friend because poor LSB was out of sorts. I felt sprightly enough to go, but I have to admit, after hearing a few tunes by the support band, I wilted.  I’d been looking forward to the gig but my enthusiasm started to wane. Then on came Superorganism, with a stage backlit by wild, psychedelic flowers and I perked up. I was jigging away merrily when suddenly the sound died and their visuals disappeared. It’s an 8 piece band, but it was their lead singer, a teensy weensy Japanese girl, who took control. But one cartwheel across the stage wasn’t going to cut it. I was tired, and I wanted to go home. My friend works in Newry and I thought she’d prefer to head too, but ‘Cool your jets,’ she said, ‘It’s only been a few minutes.’ Then a chap up at the front volunteered his services as a human beat box, and the lead singer rapped along. They were fabulous, and when the sound returned and they did the rest of their set to rapturous applause. My friend met some former students who greeted her with huge hugs and I met the lovely Emer Maguire, (who I’m sure now thinks I’m stalking her.) It was all most convivial and I left with a sense of gratitude that the audience had been so big-hearted and generous.


Things went a bit pear-shaped again on Friday night, when the performance poet Tony Walsh did a show over at the Strand Cinema in Belmont. It was a BYO event, and I imagined small groups of us gathered around tables with flickering candles, as though we were in Montmartre awaiting Aristide Bruant. But instead we filed into the aisles in screen 4, and up Tony bounded onto the stage like a n excitable golden retriever. His quick-fire delivery can leave you trying to keep up, especially if you’ve a cold and your head feels like it’s full of mushy mashed potato, but despite my lurgy, I loved it. Words flew like sparks. His poem ‘Coming Home,’ gave me such goose bumps that I felt the stubble on my legs pierce through my tights. He read about broken relationships, about death, about those left adrift and uncared for by cruel government cuts. They resonated with us. Well, most of us. There were a few in the audience who seemed unaware of the etiquette at a poetry event. They chatted, loudly; they sloshed wine into cups and through their noisiness they disrupted the energy and the flow of the recital.


But Tony read on. Beautifully. In his poetry there is pluck and fearlessness and defiance. He peppers his poems with profanities; he doesn’t shy away from life’s ugliness and absurdities. On that stage he personified all the vulnerability and pain of the human condition.


Had he wanted, he could have shot down the raucous listeners with a few sharp lines of invective. He didn’t, and in many ways their presence made the experience more powerful. Life isn’t perfect. It is pretty shite at times and we just blatter on, finding what jewels we can within the mire and holding on damn tight to them.


Maybe these guys just didn’t know the craic. But they were still there, at a poetry recital, and perhaps the rhythm and the wonder and the rhyme will stay with them, and I hope it does. For me, it was irksome, and I wish he could have read in peace. I felt uncomfortable. But in the highly charged atmosphere it made the need for poetry more pronounced. I expected the crowd to leave in the interval, but they come back. Clearly they needed poetry too.

SWB tries to find peace within

So, we’ve been playing a fun game since the start of September: it’s called ‘Pass-the-Pestilence’, and it goes like this. Someone, usually a child, brings an evil bug into the house, and it infects the rest of us, so we all take it in turns to feel like a bag of shite. At this present moment, we’re a cough and a splutter away from painting a red cross on the door. ‘My throat’s a bit scratchy,’ I say, and LSB retorts ‘Scratchy? You’re lucky, I feel like I’m swallowing shards of glass.’ Then he heads out to run 18 miles in the rain.


To add to our grievances, at the weekend the Small Child  developed the chicken pox. It began as a snottery cold which floored her on Saturday, but come Sunday she seemed in much better form, and the phrase ‘caged lion’ could have been coined for her.  To neutralise some of the energy within, I suggested a stroll up Cregagh Glen and all seemed well, as she took off up the hill in valiant strides. However, upon our return, bath time revealed  tell-tale spots. ‘Bugger,’ we said. ‘It’s the pox.’ The poor child had some huge nasty looking blisters up by the next morning, and over the course of the week, we’ve all been feeling poorly, in a variety of ways. I suppose you can’t escape it; every time we go down to the school there’s at least two children with what looks like toxic waste coming from there nose. (No judgement by the way, ours are the same). Thank God they haven’t introduced water charges here, because my hands are raw from washing them after cleaning noses, including my own.


As an aside, have any of you, my esteemed readers, ventured up the Cregagh Glen? It is EXQUISITE, a sanctuary of beauty and calm, like a tropical oasis just off the carriageway. It amazes me every time. There’s even an ‘old-school’ rope swing, with a pair of elderly tights attaching the stick to the rope, which is a highlight for the kids, with it’s devil-me-care attitude to Health and Safety Regulations. Here is my child mid-flight:


LSB manged to stave off any symptoms until yesterday, when he looked peaky, and this morning he announced, ‘This cold is a real dick,’ as he sneezed into his granola. He has now upgraded it to a ‘viral infection’, and a sort of sickness ‘one-up-man-ship’ has emerged in the house. I felt better and was out and about, while he worked from the sofa. He even seemed slightly resentful of my good humour, since he himself felt so rancid. ‘What do you mean you feel better now and I still feel rotten? What lack-lustre strain did you get?’


Needless to say, the mood has at times been subdued. It’s hard looking after children when you feel like there’s a platoon of tiny mice with pickaxes trying to hack their way out of your skull. I couldn’t even get the folks up to help since Dad fell victim to shingles a few years back and we didn’t want to risk reigniting them. Bastard of a thing, shingles. Such was his dose that I ended up ringing a woman in Fermanagh who had a ‘charm’ for them, which she kindly posted to us. I can’t remember what form it took exactly, and nor can he, given his state of delirium, but it involved applying some unguent while reciting Biblical verses. Happily, it appeared to despatch the shingles sharpish, which may seem far-fetched, but we were quite convinced it worked.


My Dad is a great believer in divine intervention. As a student at Queen’s, the doctor told him he’d never play rugby again, which caused him terrible distress. But, resourceful young man that he was, he took himself to a faith healer who prayed over his ankle and Hallelujah, it worked, and back to the pitch he went. That was until some big fella tackled him, smashing his ribs to bits and putting him in the Royal. Mum said ‘No more rugby for you’ after that, because every time he inhaled he turned a lurid shade of green, and she couldn’t be doing with it.


I’m half way through Anne Lamott’s wonderful memoir ‘Travelling Mercies’, which renders me much more likely to believe in miracles. I see many similarities between Anne and myself, although even at my worst I didn’t binge drink beer that tasted of goat urine for an evening’s entertainment; give me a Hendricks and Fever Tree tonic anytime over that nonsense. Like me, she is also a poor patient, and tells a great story about having a raging head-ache, and asking her neighbour to drop her son off to school. That would have been fine, except the neighbour had stage four brain cancer. She justifies it by saying he was feeling chipper that day, so it wasn’t too great an imposition. I could just see me doing that to a kind-hearted friend. ‘Here, you, I know you’re mid-chemo, but would you mind leaving my pair down to their Spanish class? I’ve a fecker of a period this month.’


That’s a long-winded way of explaining why the blog has been quiet the past few days. It’s hard to concentrate when not only are you feeling poorly but a child is watching ‘The Little Princess’ loudly, for the umpteenth time. Of all the children’s programmes, I like ‘The Little Princess’ more than most, as Julian Clary does the voice of the narrator, which quite tickles me. However, after continual bombardment, I have taken to speaking in a Yorkshire accent, which even I find grates upon the nerves. But I must say, despite their respective ailments, the wee ones have been little troopers and I’m very proud of them. (Flip me, but Anne Lamott must be doing me some good.)