SWB on early mornings and tooth fairies

3.54am in the early hours of Sunday morning and I am wide eyed and restless. That’s the problem with climbing into bed at 9-45 of an evening, your circadian rhythms jolt you awake and make you desire a soothing cup of tea at an ungodly hour. I was already fully conscious, contemplating life’s more pressing questions such as ‘did I cook enough bolognese for lunch or could I eke it out with the addition of chopped courgettes,’ when the Small Child wandered in, bleary eyed.

‘In you get,’ I said, drawing back the covers. LSB made a groaning sound and prepared to exit. ‘Night night,’ I muttered, feebly. Then I remembered the tooth. The Small Child was ever so excited about her tooth coming out, and the anticipation of a couple of quid under her pillow. I still, at this point, harboured some hope of returning sleep quickly, so as LSB was ousted to the bed downstairs, I told him to do the Tooth Fairy duty, in pigeon Spanish, lest the Small Child’s overhear.

<Necessito deneiro para ella – tu sabes, sus dientes’.*>

LSB had some wine last night and looked on, bewildered.

<Sus DIENTES > I repeated, pointing at the child’s head, in the direction of her teeth. <Ah, si, si> he mumbled, plundering through his bed stand drawer for change. There was much noise, and things clattering onto the wooden floor. I was rendered quite awake by now.

<Dos>, I said, because she has been a good child of late, most endearing. Au contraire, the Older One has taken to answering back, so when her tooth fell out on Tuesday she only got a pound. Tooth Fairies round this neck of the woods tend to listen in, a bit like Santa’s Seagull, who was a regular when I was growing up in Bangor. He was forever looking through the window with a beady eye and reporting any misdemeanours back to base in the North Pole. I held a grudge against seagulls for years, but I’m quite over it now, and even feel sorry for them with all the plastic in their tummies.

I toss and turn and sleep is not forthcoming. Apparently, in the olden times, pre-electricity, this was the norm. (Not pre-dawn raids hunting for change for in return for teeth,) but being awake at two or three in the morning. This was because everyone went to bed when it got dark (in the winter months anyway,) then woke a few hours later and had a snack and a chat and maybe some sex, before going back to sleep. How very pleasant, and how obviously never going to happen here, because between children and the cat our house is like an episode of ‘Whose bed is it anyway?’ Poor LSB knows the answer to that one, as he makes his forlorn way to the downstairs bedroom. ‘ Never my fecking bed,’ he says, trudging off.

While I’m in a ranty mood, here’s something else that I have issues with: over zealous parenting. Those ones who ‘go the extra mile’ seemingly with the only intention of making the rest of us frazzled mortals feel shit. I’m talking ‘rate per tooth’ here. IMHO, no tooth should ever warrant more than £2, except of course, if the tooth fairy was exhausted/tipsy or both and forgot to come for say, 3 lost teeth in a row. Then, fair enough, give the child a fiver, so they don’t that cast up to you as they heave you into a home when you’re eighty.

Also, for the love of God, don’t be writing letters in fancy calligraphy to your offspring  on behalf of a mythical creature. If you’re contemplating such hijinks, have a word with yourself. Anyone with that amount of spare time on their hands can come round here and deal with a few loads of my laundry. Those sort off shenanigans set expectations, that we all have to start penning missives, waxing lyrical about the wonder that is children growing up. The only letter our fairy is going to write is: ‘If you don’t stop strewing your dirty socks and pants round the house I won’t be back. Ever.’

When I was looking up images for a tooth fairy to adorn this piece, I came across pre-written messages which you can purchase online. These spout lots of shite about the kid being wonderful and enquiring after their general health. Some frigger somewhere is making a fortune out of that racket and I want in on it. I might suggest threatening versions for when children have been horrid: I’d be good at writing those.

*Those fluent in Spanish may feel the need to offer some corrections. Please refrain. I don’t actually speak much Spanish and I’m thrilled to bits with myself with the odd bit I know. Don’t burst my bubble. Trust me, it’s already well punctured at this stage.

LSB gets a Glasgow kiss

Image result for headbutt zidane

It is 4.22am and I have a dream that I am in the staffroom at work and a Home Economics teacher is telling me to incorporate ‘short walks into my daily routine’ to lower my cholesterol. She demonstrates by taking the long way round to the water cooler via the fridge, and mentions a staff member whose husband had a stoke in his forties.* ‘I have just turned forty,’ I whisper, in a voice, tinged with fear. ‘I know,’ she replies. ‘Eat more runner beans and walk more.’ In a sleep addled panic I sit up suddenly and fall back into the pillows .

‘OUCH!’ says LSB. I have fallen onto him and my head has connected with his nose. ‘OUCH’ he says again. He is both sore and disconbobulated. ‘I had a dream,’ I said.

‘Where was it set : Glasgow?’ he replies.

He can be quite sharp, LSB, even when awoken by a headbutt at an hour most ungodly.

Hence, it is 4-45 and he is browsing on his phone with a disconsolate expression and I am blogging because if I don’t write now I probably won’t until next Sunday. It brings me some relief to blog because at least if I’m doing this I’m not just mulling through the list of calamitous thoughts going through my head.

I am so, so tired about feeling bad about everything. I feel bad about the essays I marked because I stuck rigidly to the mark scheme and upon reflection I think I was too harsh.  I feel bad that the Small Child needs to practise her reading more and  yesterday morning as we sat under a blanket on the sofa she said it would be nice if her mummy could just work ‘a wee bit less.’ Ouch. So many ouches in my world right now. If ouches came in physical form I would be black and blue.

I feel bad about drinking too much at dinner on Friday night and being hungover on Saturday morning. I feel anxious because when I drink I become garrulous and dominate conversations. I can’t remember if I did that but I know I talked A LOT. I asked my friend whether ‘over-talked’ or not and she tells me to stop being paranoid. I feel bad about being paranoid: it’s a sign of stress and I feel bad that I can’t manage my stress better.

I used to manage my stress by running but I haven’t been able to shoehorn it into my routine, plus my Achilles is fucked and I need to see a physio. I feel bad about this because it’s been weeks and I still haven’t made an appointment. I did a parkrun yesterday and as I waited to have my token scanned I didn’t know whether I was going to cry, vomit or have an impromptu bowel movement. I feared I may do all three.

‘Are you ok?’ asked a concerned LSB, who was the one scanning my token. ‘Don’t be nice to me,’ I say, ‘or I will cry.’

‘Errr, ok then,’ he replies. ‘Maybe just go and drink some tea?’

In the event I drink some tea and chatted to my friends and I felt better. I feel bad though that it is now 5.07am which is 19 hours after my run and I still haven’t stretched my legs and my calves are throbbing. I swore I would stretch. People with a banjaxed Achilles should stretch.

My heart rate has at least slowed down and I feel good that I have used my time constructively. ‘Here, have a quick read at this,’ I ask LSB. He scans it quickly, and nods before rolling over to go back to sleep. At least my writing is good for something.

*Not an actual person, a dream person whose dream husband had a stroke. Although in real life I imagine it happens a lot, especially if they’re teachers.

SWB declutters her head

The Mothership has been up, collecting children from school, putting them over their sums, browning pans of mince on the stove and boiling potatoes. She and my Dad come once a week and try to restore order to our home, where teetering piles of paperwork, clothes and what Marie Kondo refers to as ‘kimono’ and I call ‘shite’, graces every worktop and flat surface. The tip, apparently, to a decluttered home, is keeping flat surfaces clear. I could do that, if I had a PA, but since I don’t, and am unlikely ever to be in such a position, I shall probably be found dead one day, under a pile of mismatched socks and unopened statements from Mastercard.

While sipping a cup of tea so scalding that it would take the throat off an average person, The Mothership becomes highly animated.

‘Disagreeable, Helen, not ‘unagreeable’, there’s no such word.’

I look bewildered. I’m just in the door and am still coat-clad and Sherpa-like, carrying my handbag, bookbag, and the basket I take for my lunch.

Seeing my confusion, she elaborates.

‘Your last blog post; that was just one of several mistakes I detected. We were taught those prefixes in school- you wouldn’t have caught us getting that wrong, would you Ronnie?’

My dad shakes his head. ‘Indeed you wouldn’t,’ he says.

‘What you need,’ she goes on, ‘is an editor.’

‘I’m not Marian Keyes,’ I say, divesting myself of garments while accepting hugs from small people as I edge closer to the teapot.

‘No, and you’re not likely to be either, if you keep making mistakes like that,’ she says, acerbically.

‘What I suggest,’ she goes on, ‘is that you give me your password for the blog and I’ll go in and vet everything, before its unleashed upon the general public.’

‘What’s that you say?’ She now has my full attention.

‘You obviously can’t proof-read it yourself, you’ve made that much obvious,’ she continues, ‘and your sentences are FAR TOO long. They would be greatly improved by the use of the semi-colon.’

‘I do use semi-colons!’ I say indignantly.

‘Sure just write it down there, your password, and I’ll set to it this evening,’ she says, handing me a child’s Newsletter from school. ‘Pop it down on the back of that.’

‘Flipping sure I won’t,’ I say.

Can you imagine it? God only knows what she’d be putting up, and she’d have all my ‘fucks’ and ‘shites’ replaced by ‘Heaven’s above!’ and ‘Goodness gracious.’ It wouldn’t read like my blog at all.

‘Start your own blog!’ I say. ‘YOU see how easy it is to update it and proof read it and try not to offend anyone who may recognise themselves and never speak to you again.’

There is a ruminative silence while she drinks her tea.

She is right though- there is no time, especially if you’ve spent the last two Saturdays at the Aspects Festival in Bangor, learning from the best what it takes to craft a novel.  We looked at ‘My name is Lucy Barton’ by Elizabeth Strout and ‘Travelling in a Strange Land’ by David Park under the judicious eye of Patsy Horton from Blackstaff Press. They were both short novels but covered epic themes of love and loss and quiet desolation. They struck me deeply and the sessions afforded me the opportunity to do what I love best- dissecting a text; delving into its themes and identifying what made it singular; what made it come alive. I was a member of a book group for many years and loved it dearly, however, without a curator asking the right questions, it quickly became a brief chat about the novel and a excellent opportunity to drink merlot. This workshop therefore appealed to my inner geek, and I left feeling enriched and thrilled to have met some delightful folk.

The downside though, to spending your Saturdays doing literary things, is that you’re short of time for the banal but necessary tasks of homemaking. You forget things, like checking pockets and then popping fleeces into the washing machine with a packet of open Oreos in them. (LSB was not pleased about the soggy end his biscuits met.) We’ve spent most of Sunday cleaning and shopping and getting our shit together and yet I still feel the overwhelm acutely and the tension needling at my temples like sharp pins.

But you can’t give it all up can you? The soul must be fed, and if that means you have to hoover bits of dried Oreos out of your tumble drier, then so be it. And if anyone knows an editor willing to work pro bono then let me know, but herself’s not getting her hands on that password; no sirree.

*I decided to do this course at the last moment and LSB immediately had his phone out to order me the books from Amazon. ‘Stop right there!’ I said, and rang Books Paper Scissors on the Stranmillis Road instead. They confirmed that they had the books and Himself trotted over on his lunch hour to get them. Expedient, local, and not run by money grabbing corporate bastards; I’d much rather give these guys my custom .

 

SWB feels overwhelmed

My children have developed a new, and most annoying habit. When they lose sight of us, for hmmm, all of 20 seconds, it begins. ‘Where’s Daddy?’ chirps one, ‘Where’s he gone?’ demands an other. ‘What’s he doing?’

I’ve started not replying, and taking deep fortifying breaths instead. ‘But Mummy, is Daddy lost?’ Daddy is usually not far away, since he is a man of routine. If, for example, it is eight-twenty of a morning, daddy is ensconced upon the toilet, where he is pontificating, as he does every morning, trying to shoehorn in an extra few minutes of peace before the onslaught of the day begins. They are constantly searching, my children, and I wonder if they are simply curious as to our whereabouts or whether this constant need for reassurance is indicative of a deep-seated terror that we will disappear.

I have you see, returned to work, and while not a long-term arrangement, it is a period of adjustment for us all. I wonder have the children taken it ill, and has this manifested itself in making them nervy and agitated, for they are certainly most irksome.

There is a certain, let’s say, level of intensity, when you work full time and then, of an evening, have to ferry about off-spring and keep a home which doesn’t resemble a squat. And people, I feel bad, ALL THE TIME. I feel bad because I should have been at the climate strike on Friday but my new and temporary place of work declared it was ‘business as usual’ and I didn’t want to ask out and cause a rumpus. ‘You’re alright,’ I comforted myself. ‘You sign petitions and you recycle and you buy second hand.’ But it’s not enough is it? I spend my whole life feeling bad for being so shite.

For example, we run two cars and I simply can’t countenance the notion of taking my bicycle and arriving at work a sweaty mess; or the alternative, of being wiped out and killed, which is a very real possibility, because I wouldn’t be the most adept, on two wheeled modes of transport.  I also still eat meat. Can you call yourself an environmentalist and still eat meat?  I have, in the past, attempted to replace it with more vegetables and pulses but my unforgiving innards revolt and my stomach swells and there is both pain, and flatulence. I assure you that it’s most unagreeable. Last night though, I bought tofu, for a vegetarian take on ‘beef and black bean sauce.’ We were out ‘enriching ourselves culturally’ at both Culture day AND night in the town. LSB had himself a big burrito for lunch on Saturday and we all sampled the delights of the food vans,  so I felt we had eaten well, and indulgently. But when he inquired, ‘What’s for dinner?’ in a tone which suggested that really, meal preparations should have been well underway, at 8-15 of a Saturday night, my reply that we were having tofu caused great consternation. Most indignant he was, almost tearful.

‘You’re kidding me?’ he said, astounded. ‘TOFU For dinner? On a Saturday?’ I swear to God, it was like the scene out of Shirley Valentine, except I didn’t end up with a plate of eggs and chips in my lap.

‘Think of the forests!’ I said. ‘The Amazon’s AFLAME because of all the meat we eat! We need to eat more tofu or we are all seriously, FUCKED!’ He nodded at this, albeit sadly. ‘It’s just,’ he said dolefully, ‘that I think of tofu as more of a mid-week meal.’

‘Weekend nights thus, from now on in, will have to be Michelin style affairs. I’ll work on that.’ I said, my tone somewhat caustic. (Incidentally, I thought the omission of meat did no harm at all to the dish, and I rather liked my nod to the East with the addition of water chestnuts.)

There is a litany of things about which I feel bad, and I shall keep you informed in the coming weeks. Presently though, I feel bad that I have laundry to which I must tend, and a further backlog of tasks, after a weekend of frivolity. Left undone, these will render Monday morning utterly unbearable, and a stressed and shouty affair. I don’t need to feel worse than normal on a Monday, so I shall skedaddle for now, and go about my business, bleak as it is.

 

 

 

SWB gets theatrical

Image result for lyric- shirley valentine

Have you been to the theatre recently? No, neither had I. I mean, who has the time to make these outings come about?  It’s a bloody miracle in the first place to get a date, which doesn’t involve 90 billion WhatsApp messages. THEN somebody has to book it, and THEN you have to extricate yourself from your household and ensure that spouses aren’t away out running the roads while you entertain the notion of a soirée. Our beloved babysitter has had the temerity to get herself three A’s in her A-levels and feck away off to university in Bristol. Yes, Bristol. What fecking use is that to me, at 8 O’clock of an evening in September, when I need to get FAR AWAY from the endless sea of socks and laundry baskets with their overflowing entrails and an island which looked glorious in MAKE Kitchens but is now just a repository for bills, school newsletter bulletins and half eaten fish fingers. It’s usually Wednesdays which floor me altogether and I think to myself: ‘If I don’t get out of this BLOODY house and get a dinner and a glass of chilled Sauvignon in Shed Bistro I’m just retreating under the duvet until March at the very least.’

You see? This is why people don’t pay me to do reviews. 212 words in and I still haven’t told you the name of the play I saw last night or indeed where I saw it. It was a serendipitous turn of events, that I actually had no plans whatsoever and my friend texted on Friday night. ‘I have a free ticket for Shirley Valentine at the Lyric,’ read her message. ‘Can you make it?’

‘YES!!!” I replied, ‘I’m in!’ Oh the GLEE readers, at a night of emancipation where I had to do ABSOLUTELY nothing, other than clean my teeth and throw on a frock and be waiting at the door at 7pm.

Perhaps you think you don’t need theatre in your lives, what with us all currently inhabiting a Theatre of The Absurd, more barking than Ionesco or any of those French Existensialists could ever have imagined. But I tell you, that this production starring the gorgeous Tara Lynn O’Neill  (the Ma from Derry Girls) is essential for your well-being. Art, in its many forms, should give one the chance to transcend the banal, offering respite from the humdrum, so it’s ironic, given the subject matter of Shirley Valentine, that you find yourself enthralled, watching someone else fry eggs and chips while they talk to the ‘Wall’. in the kitchen. And therein, lies the joy- theatre effortlessly aping life as we know it. Maybe our husbands aren’t useless gobshites; maybe we have travelled extensively, or enjoyed a university education; we still, somehow identify with her, and that wonderful phrase ‘unused life’ hits us right in the solar plexus.

In her review in the Irish News, Jane Hardy said that O’Neill was luminous as the eponymous heroine. I couldn’t say it better myself, so I’m not even going to try. If you remember the film, (and I do, because I just adored it,) you’ll recall the conspiratorial relationship between Pauline Collins and the viewer, and O’Neill does the same with aplomb, creating a real sense of rapport with the audience. So much so, that when she fluffed a line and at one point put a shoe on the wrong foot, we loved her all the more for it. ‘Thank fuck for that,’ I thought. What mere mortal manages to keep us utterly rapt,  performing a monologue for 105 minutes? Jeepers, but it could make a buddy feel inadequate alright.

Standing ovations sometimes make me cringe a bit. You know where you think, ‘Oh should I get up? I actually wasn’t that dying about it but the person beside me has clambered to their feet and I’ll look like a right malcontent if I don’t shift my arse.’ Well, there was no second guessing myself here because I was up and clapping and shouting WHOO HOO! and wanting to give the star a hug afterwards.

In short, just book a bloody babysitter and have a night out. Go the whole hog: order a glass of Porto 6 as a pre-theatre beverage and pre-book one for the interval. Go on your own, bring your mate, bring your mum or give me a shout and I’ll go again if you fancy it. It’s a delight, and you know me by now: I’m a sour wee bastard. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.

(For a superb review, do check out Alan’s here. He actually talks about the play, and not just himself. He’s professional like that, is Alan.)

SWB and The Mothership fall short of an agreement

‘MUMMEEEE,’ calls the Older Child. ‘Nanna’s on the phone.’ Yes, Nanna, aka The Mothership, is indeed on the line, with a list of woes as long as her arm. Firstly, it’s the cat which has caused annoyance. Cleo, whom we offloaded to Bangor in 2010, has contracted some class of an ailment, and is putting up immense resistance to getting into a box to be carted to the vet. No amount of manhandling has succeeded, and injuries have been sustained, (to my parents, not the cat). The last time a vet was involved they hired a man who came around with large gloves and an apparent gift for dealing with cantankerous creatures.  He got on the best with my mum and also managed to get the cat to the vet with relative ease. The cat, however, is only the first on her list of complaints today.

THE MOTHERSHIP: I’m only after reading that last blog you put up, and I think it’s the worst yet, actually. It was Michael who told me it was up, and very embarrassed I was, when I thought of the language he had to read. (A family friend, Michael, subscribed to my blog in the early days, to give me some confidence that people actually read it. He’s a mannerly sort, and I fear it may, at times, offend.)

ME: It was a stressful time, the summer.

THE MOTHERSHIP: Hmmmm, so it would appear. I was just thinking to myself, for an English Literature graduate, as you like to keep telling me you are, could you not find an alternative for the word ‘shite’?

(She utters the word shite in a stage whisper, despite being alone, upstairs in the study and dad being in the kitchen where he is, apparently ‘wrecking’.)

ME: (IRKED): I only remind you of the nature of my degree because I never get any credit for anything.

I shall elaborate on this. My children possess, (and forgive me for having a ‘proud mummy moment’ here), quite a varied vocabulary. When for example, I expel some wind in public, they will look AGHAST and say: ‘Mummy, that is not appropriate behaviour for the street.’ (In my defence I would like to add that I check that the street is deserted first.) The Small Child proclaimed that her pasta was ‘exceptional’ the other evening, which buoyed my wilting spirit.  However, when I tell the Mothership of their utterances, she shakes her head and says, in an incredulous tone, ‘But where do they HEAR it?’

‘FROM ME!’ I want to shout. ‘I speak to my children!’ And I do speak to them- we chat often, and many’s the big word they’ve heard me employ.

‘I think they hear it off the TV,’ said The Mothership. ‘That Peppa Pig,’ she uses some nice words.’

(I swear to God I am not exaggerating this for comic effect.)

‘Yes, definitely. I would say that CBeebies is entirely responsible for their vocabulary.’ I sigh.

And then sometimes, they do something truly lovely and I pass these nuggets on, my heart swelling with maternal pride.’ Look,’ I want to say. ‘I may have fucked up a thing or two but I have raised two lovely children.’

I shall offer an example. The Smaller One was in the car coming home after parkrun one wet morning. For whatever reason, my friend was in the back with her and her hands were icy and she couldn’t seem to warm them. The Small Child reached up, took off her woolly hat and wrapped it round her hands, then took them in hers and rubbed them. She did this while telling a story, instinctively, and seemingly without much thought.

My friend told me and I welled up. So did she. ‘The Small Child,’ I said, in a reverent tone. ‘She’s a dote,’ said my friend. ‘She is,’ I agreed.

It was a small gesture, but for a six year old, I thought it was significant.

I rang The Mothership. ‘Wait til I tell you what the wee one did,’ I said.

There is a pause, while she digests the story. ‘Isn’t that just lovely?’ she says finally. ‘very kind. I like it when children are kind; it bodes well. But I mean, WHERE does she get it from? I don’t think I’m all that kind myself.’ (I’d like to add that occasionally she has her moments.)

I’m still here you know,’ I said, ‘On the phone. She may have got it from me! I can be nice!’

‘Hmmm. I suppose you can dear. Sometimes.’

I could tell she wasn’t convinced.

Back to the initial phone call which precipitated this rant.

THE MOTHERSHIP: I do give you credit, for some things. I just wish you wouldn’t insist on getting animals, which bring us no end of bother. You are also, I might add, a professional, so I would urge you to eradicate obscenities from your writing.

ME: I shall endeavour to.

THE MOTHERSHIP: Glad to hear it.

I hang up before telling her that we’ve told the Small Child she can visit the pet shop if she’s good and does her reading every day. She’s after a bearded dragon now.

Addendum

I am absolutely melted with Brexit, and ‘not-quite-Brexit’ and ‘No Deal’ and ‘Maybe a Deal’ and ‘who fucking knows what’s happening tomorow’. It does me good that at least the Mothership and my children are consistent. Little else is, these days.

 

SWB on Summer Schemes (now that the Summer is over..)

Summer has mercifully drawing to a close. Life is odd, isn’t it? I spend June longing for the holidays; by mid-July I start wondering why I was ever remotely excited, then in August I find myself stricken as the end looms ominously and I when I consider the prospect of work and school a wee bit of vomit sometimes comes up into my throat. I am often, (and I’ve heard many teachers are the same) consumed by feelings of great angst during the long break. This has happened to me for years, and shows no signs of abating. I don’t know whether it’s the lack of routine or just further evidence that I’m slightly unhinged, but it is most unsettling.

Anyway, thank God for summer schemes or I’d be mad as a box of frogs for two solid months and not just for a week mid July. Below are a list of where I’ve sent the kids this year and a brief appraisal.

Last week they were at Shaw’s Bridge with ‘Mobile Team Adventure’.

Good Points

  • Surprisingly, this camp is not extortionately priced, given that they have to keep a close eye on your progeny to ensure that they don’t drown; shatter bones or eat slugs on their ‘outdoor treasure hunts’.
  • They lay on plenty of energy-zapping activities in the outdoors, so the little bastards come home knackered and don’t ask for further entertainment in the evenings.
  • Somehow, despite being notoriously annoying and hard to please- despite the wasps and the wetness and the shivering until their teeth chattered on canoes in the pishing rain; they flipping loved this camp. ‘CAN WE GO AGAIN?’ they squealed.

Shite Points

  • It’s a day’s work getting them ready with all their wet stuff and dry stuff and lunches, then their wet shoes and dry shoes and fucking sun cream. I forgot to apply the latter and had to run back to the car and keep the group waiting while I plastered their faces while they shouted ‘GO AWAY MUMMY’ and ‘IT’S IN MY EYE’ while I said ‘shite’ in front of all the children and disgraced myself.
  • My children found it impossible to retrieve all their clothing which was more than a little irksome. On Day One I had to wrap the Small Child in a jumper (my own, which I had to remove, and it was, of course, raining) and a towel and carry her barefoot to the car while her big sister cried as she’d been stung by a wasp. ‘FUCK,’ I said loudly. By now, the other kids hovered around me, giggling and listening in to my tirades.
  • Loss of belongings is obviously a regular occurrence and they lay all of the lost and found stuff out in the grass so harried parents can take them home and add them to the ever-increasing pile of laundry. On the second morning I collected a mound of items which were damp and muddy. At this point I congratulated myself warmly that I sent them in in clad in hand-me-downs.

Art Clubs

I sent them to two different ones this summer- one was a lovely camp run at the local parish centre and the other in their primary school. Both did the aforementioned art activities but also games and outdoor play. They got such a warm welcome and the girls sent me photos of them smiling and looking happy. Why the f**k can’t you manage to smile at home, I wondered, and tidy up your truckery WITHOUT BRING ASKED which is apparently what they did there.

Good Points

  • Since these clubs ‘Foster creativity’ I get away without having to produce the paints myself and indulge my children at home, creating mess and doing stuff with which I can’t be arsed.

Shite Points

  • The Small Child chose to don the one full-price jumper I’ve ever bought her and it came home clarried in paint which despite the liberal application of Vanish, remained steadfast.
  • Every day, my off-spring returned laden with artwork, much of which was quite sizeable. It was also, tragically quite good, so I felt bad just fucking it into the bin.  There are still piles everywhere, threatening to take over my house.

Irish Dancing

A culturally enriching activity which is provides exercise and develops co-ordination, which is all wonderful except they come home singing ‘I’ll tell my Ma’ on a loop.

Spanish

I’ve sent them to Si Si Spanish for years, in a church hall opposite a brilliant park so they charter away in Spanish then swing and slide themselves into oblivion. They come home singing Spanish songs and make me feel all trendy and cosmopolitan and for a moment I forget about Brexit and all its awfulness. Also useful because you can send the children to ask for ‘la cuenta por favor’ in Mallorca, and on one shameful occasion ‘una cerveza para mi madre’ as I had my feet in the pool.

No real bad points to report here, I must admit.

And now- they’re back to school. We’ve so far lost ‘important badges’ mislaid brand new water bottles and exhausted our supply of school socks. I am though, relieved and thrilled to announce that I am getting the hell out of the PTA and thus will free up about a million hours of my life to pursue my writing and life in general. LSB is sighing with a relief unparalleled by all else.

SWB on the Zara dress

‘Here,’ I said to The Mothership, showing her a photo. ‘What do you make of this outfit?’ I’m interested to see her reaction to the statement dress of the summer: the Zara spotty one that has become an Instagram sensation. Her response was typically verbose.

‘That’s a Dress?’ she asks.  ‘Looks more like a night dress to me, for an older person! Worse, actually- more like a hospital gown.  Mind you, my friend was going into Menarys the other day and there was, what she thought, was a rail of nightdresses by the doorway.  Turned out they were all dresses! Maybe it’s a new trend so you can go to the supermarket in your night wear and no one will be any the wiser!!’

For once we are completely in agreement. I had started reading an article on The Guardian on-line, and thought, ‘I may get myself one of these yokes, it sounds the business,’ until I saw it and was distinctly underwhelmed when I saw the picture.

‘It’s kind of shapeless, isn’t it?’ I said.

‘It is,’ says The Mothership. ‘and drab.’

‘Insipid,’ I reply.

‘Nondescript,’ she goes on.

‘Wish washy’ chirps up LSB, who’s sitting in the corner and even though he hasn’t seen the dress is keen to join in the fun.

‘The thing about style,’ opines The Mothership,‘is that a lot of people just don’t have any. I was down the street the other day, and I said to your dad, ‘Would you look at the cut of those jeans that woman has on?’ ‘Sure they’re more hole than jean,’ he replied. ‘And he was right too.’

‘But in the dress’s defence,’ I say, ‘at least it’s not fitted. No one needs a fitted frock after a week in an all-inclusive hotel.’

‘I suppose,’ she conceded. ‘It would actually be very good for concealing a plump tum.’

‘Hmmmm.’ I said, feeling that this was a tad pointed at me and my portliness. My excesses have clearly not gone unnoticed.

However, we were talking ourselves round to the dress rightly.

‘It’s airy too,’ I went on.  I could have done with airiness in Palma I can tell you. Readers, I kid you not- the heat in Mallorca was a killer; I can usually cope valiantly, especially if I have poolside access to mojitos, but this was relentless. Even at breakfast I was perspiring into my coffee, most unbecoming it was. ‘Maybe it’s the menopause,’ I said to LSB, mopping my glistening face with a napkin.‘It’s 34º’ he said. ‘Would you give over.’

On the last evening of our holiday we took the foolish decision to go for a Mexican. (I mean, who the hell thinks that jalapeños are a wise idea when it would roast you alive?  Us, apparently.) Just for good measure the red tiles on the floor had absorbed all the heat during the day and they radiated an intense glow upwards, sending sweat running down the backs of my legs in rivulets. Like a fool I ordered a margarita and it came with salt AND chilli around the rim, which was just plain cruel. I still drank it obviously, but it didn’t make me any better  company, as LSB would readily attest. He truly did earn his acronym on this trip.

Back to the dress.

Thus in such temperatures, a floaty garment, should you choose a maxi over a midi dress, is a wise choice to waft a bit of air around. In addition, to this, I appreciate that this frock could be styled up or down as the occasion demands; and at £40 if you’re talking cost per wear, you’re on to a winner. I’m currently trying to apply the ’30 wears rule’ when I buy anything new (or second hand) and it’s saving me a fortune.

So here was my take on the polka-dot hit of the summer. I dug out a black dress I bought yonks ago in TK Maxx and wore it with my new favourite pendant- my astronaut necklace from Liberty Blue. If I’d listened to Marie Kondo, I’d have chucked this frock long ago because I bought it when I was postnatally depressed and it brought me no joy whatsoever, but then again, neither did anything else, so I can’t hold that against it. However I refused to ditch it and it’s now enjoying a revival. Occasionally there are benefits to being a hoarder.

So may I ask, in the interests of pure nosiness, if any of my Sour Wee Readers own the polka-dot Zara dress which I’ve just slated? If so, I offer profuse apologies and I’m sure you carry it off very well. There’s actually something most endearing about it, and I’m always thrilled to see a fashion item which is kind to you when you’ve been on on the wine and crisps.

(Photo credit must go to the lovely Amberlea from @starlingstart)

 

SWB needs a Getaway

It was wonderful to return to the Black Box last night and meet up with the Tenx9 crew and some new friends. I’ve recently joined Women Aloud and they are a great bunch, welcoming and very, very funny. One of the wonderful things about Tenx9 stories, is that they’ve allowed me to revisit episodes in my life which were shite at the time but looking back, actually quite humorous. Cases in point are: my school formal; my wedding day; the time I decided to foster a dog and had a nervous breakdown, and then, there was this holiday to Portugal. Sometimes the fact that LSB and I are still going strong just amazes me.

Here’s the story, and the theme was ‘Getaways’

‘This looks nice, doesn’t it?’ I said, showing my boyfriend an article in The Guardian Travel supplement. It described a delightful and unexpected find in the Portuguese countryside, and the photo showed a rustic house, bathed in the early evening sun. It had a natural ‘eco-pool’ and meals were served in a shady courtyard and you could stroll in a cork forest by day before relaxing on the terrace of the spacious rooms. There would be no children, (as a teacher this was very important to me) and no hordes of gay Adonises to make my partner feel shite.

I’ll explain. The year before I’d been in Madrid all summer and suggested that my boyfriend meet me for a beach holiday up in Barcelona. We’d come to Sitges, a resort where all the gays in Europe chose to congregate. My boyfriend was so white he was almost blue. He had been working on Wall Street, during the financial crash of 2008, so long days were followed by even longer nights drinking in a pub called The Killarney Rose. ‘Here comes the salad dodger!’ the waiter used to say when he came in of an evening and ordered his burger, stipulating: ‘Meat in a bap, nothing else.’

He was therefore self-conscious on the beach, surrounded by bronzed, svelte men with six packs and very small Speedos. I, on the other hand, coped quite well.

We therefore had to compromise.  I needed sunshine, a warm pool and access to pina coladas. But he didn’t know what to do on a beach holiday. His only concession to the 40º temperatures In Spain was to pack three short sleeved shirts. He arrived in jeans, and trainers, with socks on. He didn’t bring sunglasses, because he didn’t own any. He seemed content, to fry the corneas off himself. He had neither shorts nor flipflops. Sun-cream baffled him. He did take off his shoes, but forgot to apply sunscreen to his feet, and the one bit of exposed skin turned beetroot that evening. It was sore when his trainer rubbed against it, he conceded later. I didn’t offer much sympathy.

So we agreed on sunshine, but no beach part. We booked two nights in Lisbon first, to temper our retreat with some bustling city life. It sounded like a perfect, well planned getaway. Then we got there. As we stepped off the bus in the main square, we were accosteded by two men ‘Coke? Grass? Acid?’ they said. ‘Very good price!’ Looking back, our first mistake was not to take ALL the drugs. They would have made our first night infinitely more bearable. A crotchety receptionist directed us to our room, in the deepest entrails of a shabby hotel. The lift was broken and we huffed and puffed, bumping our case up the stairs. I still think about the bed, which took up almost the whole room. If there was a Tenx9 for beds, this bed could tell several tales. The springs threatened to break free and lacerate us as we slept. We rammed our case underneath, firstly, as there was nowhere else to put it, and secondly, to lend the mattress extra support.

‘You needn’t be thinking they’ll be any…’ I started to say, but Himself interrupted, ‘In that?’ he said. ‘I wasn’t going to suggest it. I don’t have a death wish.’ The bathroom was built into the sloping roof, like a cupboard with a toilet. Even at five feet one, I had to duck my head to get in. I turned on the fan and as it wheezed into motion a cloud of dead mosquitoes fell onto the bed. ‘FUCK ME!’ I shouted. I thought we said that was off the menu,’ said my boyfriend. This is not even funny, I fumed.

‘No,’ said the receptionist when I went to complain. ‘There are no other rooms.’ Even a meal of steak and fine red wine couldn’t dispel our gloom that night.

In the morning, such was my sourness, that they gave us a new room with a balcony that smelt of lemon scented verbena. But despite sauntering the cobbled streets, and hopping on and off the tram to stop for tapas, I was still in puerile form. Beside our hotel was a bridal shop displaying garish dresses of a lurid yellow hue, like something you would cough up after a chest infection. ‘I could see you in that one,’ said Himself, winking. I think I told him to piss off.

The next day we boarded a train for Evora, from where we would reach our eco resort. The lady at the bus station looked bemused when we explained where we wished to go.

‘Where?’ she said. ‘There are no buses there. You’ll have to take a taxi.’

So we stayed the night in Evora which was beautiful and atmospheric, but I managed to ruin the moment by trying the local delicacy, which was a bowlful of snails, swimming in a sickly garlic broth.

‘Should we just stay here?’ asked Himself. ‘I like this town.’ He liked how they served beer in tankards at the Bowie themed bar we found. ‘No,’ I said. ‘I WANT TO GO TO MY RETREAT!’ The next day a kamikaze taxi driver sped us through a desolate landscape with acres of barren scrubby fields. ‘You’re going here?’ he said. Even in broken English, his tone still conveyed incredulity.  When we rocked up in a cloud of dust, the staff looked at us in surprise. They didn’t expect two young people. They looked embarrassed on our behalf that we’d gone. There was an honesty bar, boasting one type of shit local beer and thankfully, gin. We couldn’t get lunch, because the staff were hosting a conference for very earnest looking Portuguese people. ‘Never mind,’ I said, ‘let’s go to the pool.’ The eco-friendly credentials meant that they eschewed adding chlorine, and instead let the ‘natural pond life feed and cleanse the water’.  At worst, it looked like a sewer, and at best, an overgrown duck pond. I entered its brown murky depths and felt the reeds tug at my ankles.

My disappointment was acute. ‘Shall we have a walk in the forest?’ suggested my boyfriend, with a note of desperation creeping in. Off we trudged. The scorched earth was red and dusty. Cork trees are not famed for leafy foliage. It mirrored my mood which was now apocalyptic. Then we got lost. We hadn’t brought pebbles like Hansel and Gretel and even my boyfriend’s usually good sense of direction failed him. ‘Is that a fence?’ I said. It was. A barbed wire fence, to be precise, but we’d been in this bastard forest for two hours and I’d had enough. I was astride the fence, when I heard barking and two angry mongrels bounded towards us, snarling. I jumped back into the forest smartish and didn’t notice the gash on my hand until later.

Dinner that night was a subdued affair. In the absence of a menu they plonked down two bowls of tomato soup with fried eggs floating on top. There is nothing that my boyfriend despised more than eggs, but he valiantly slurped up some of the soup around it and ate the bread. He was still trying to rescue the moment.

‘The courtyard’s nice, isn’t it?’ he said. I conceded that it was, indeed, romantic.

‘It would be nice to get married,’ he went on. ‘Not here, obviously, but somewhere like this, only you know, better.’

‘Hmmph,’ I said. He looked sadly down at his soup.

We returned to Lisbon two days early where it was hot and busy and I was still pissed off. Then the day after we came home our cat ran out in the road and had to have her tail amputated. ‘This summer’s been a blast,’ I lamented. However, we were still talking and even managing to have the odd laugh. At the end of August we went to look at a house that was for sale near where we lived. Then we went to St George’s Market for a sausage sandwich. ‘Here,’ I said. ‘Do you reckon if we’re looking at buying a house we might get married one day?

‘Yea totally,’ said Stevey.

‘Should we look at a few rings then?’ I said. (I wasn’t planning this by the way. I was wearing my running shorts and trainers.)

‘Sure,’ he said.

We trotted into a jewellers 15 minutes later I came out with a very shiny diamond ring. It went really well with my shorts.

‘Fancy Portugal for the honeymoon?’ he joked.

‘Why not,’ I said. As long as it’s with you.

 

 

 

SWB is hopping mad

I liked a post on Facebook which said ‘Kids don’t need more plastic toys, they need new experiences.’ How true, I thought and gave it the big thumbs up. I may even have shared it. ‘My children have plenty of new experiences,’ I even have thought to myself. ‘Here they are in Mallorca, in a nice (if extremely rustic resort where a lot of things are broken but still) but there are pools and there is sunshine and there are little horses to stroke.’

But you’ve guessed it. My kids, despite all my attempts at indoctrination, still wanted more plastic shite, but they know better than to ask me to buy it for them. Here’s a tale from the holiday to illustrate my point.

Two weeks ago, I took the bus into the city from our resort to lose myself in the cobbled streets by the cathedral and sit in a cafe and read my book in peace. As I attempted to calm my VERY sun-kissed cheeks with my new Tropic mineral foundation, I issued LSB with instructions.

‘Reapply sun-cream after the pool. Make sure they drink loads, even if it has to be Coke. Don’t buy them anymore Haribo. Keep an eye on them at the deep end.’

‘Not my first rodeo,’ says LSB tightly, narrowing his eyes.

‘AND DO NOT buy them those bastard rabbits.’ I add as I leave. There is a shop at the resort which sells necessary items like sun cream and armbands and wine, and then shite such as battery powered rabbits (not THAT kind, you dirt birds) but badly made toys on leads which small children can trail about after them. They make a horrible droning sound, so of course my children are transfixed. At €12 each, I imagine they cost the equivalent in cents to make in a factory in Guangdong Province in China.

I spend a hot afternoon in Palma and am unimpressed because the shops either cater for teeny bops in chain stores or for the rich set, who can afford to shell out £400 for a top in posh designer stores. I spy a dress which I fancy because it’s white and airy and in an effort to ‘pack light’ I’ve nothing clean left. Despite being in the sale it is €85. I read that Mallorca is more expensive than mainland Spain because everything is imported, and I confirm that disappointingly, this is true. The shopkeeper is a picture of bronzed elegance. The look she gives me suggests that I am not the clientele she wants in her shop. I give her a sour look as I leave.

My phone beeps as I receive a text from LSB which alludes to his great misery: ‘Pls go to a pharmacy and get me plasters. My poor feet. They bleed.’ Prior to our trip he had dug up an overgrown shrub in the garden, but some ants took a fancy to his ankle and left a trail of bites along his foot. These were irritated by his choice of footwear on holiday, when his socks stuck to them in the heat. He’s not a fan of the flip-flop, my husband. So the whole afternoon, in Palma, I buy nothing other than Elastoplast and a mango ice cream.

A small over-heated child screams for a solid hour on the bus back and I return to our room hot and sour and frazzled. I hear the a dull electronic noise before I even reach the terrace. The children’s mouths are a deep shade of electric blue, so there’s no hiding the fact they have eaten bubblegum lollies. ‘Look at our bunnies!’ says the Small Child. Georgina’s is called Lola, and what’s mine called again? ‘Lily,’ her sister reminds her.

They have flung all my things out of the dressing table and used the drawers  to create ‘hutches’, complete with water bottles and sweets for food and beds made from socks.

The bunnies accompany us for dinner, on their leads. Children beam and parents smile wryly at us, obviously thinking ‘You’re a pair of mugs, giving in to them.’

The next day Bunny Lily comes a cropper when she gets dropped or trampled on and a leg snaps off- a piece of plastic adrift in its cheap polyester casing. ‘That looks like I nasty break,’ says LSB, but the Small Child is devastated, and even a game of ‘Let’s take bunny to the vet’ does little to appease her. ‘I suppose that’s what happens when you buy cheap tat,’ I mutter darkly to him. ‘I got an hour to read my book in peace while they played with them and you went off on your own,’ he says. ‘Don’t knock it.’

The Mothership has been appointed ‘chief fixer of toys’ and the children have devised a plan whereby she must cut open the material, superglue the  leg back on and then sew it up again. I’m sure she can’t wait until we’re home.