SWB keeps it Local

As you know everyone, I’m not a mad fan of all the buying frenzy which comes with Christmas. All the plastic. All the panic. All the bastard packaging. It makes me go a bit funny. But here’s the rub. My girls are 7 and 9. They still believe in Santa Claus. We are enjoying, what some folk refer to as ‘The Golden Years’, that magical time when, aged between six and twelve, your children have ceased being raucous and mental and are generally rather sweet.  No doubt, in the time to takes Boris to do a U-turn on his Lockdown strategy, they will be teenagers, mortified by everything I do and being all stroppy and nonchalant.

Like seriously, can you imagine what mine are going to like when they realise how nuts I really am? They will be bringing their pals around and I’ll be all: ‘Give me that crisp packet! I can recycle these!’ or: ‘Is that a PLASTIC BOTTLE peeking out of your rucksack? Biggest scam of the century that is, future generations will think we’d lost OUR MINDS buying water when there was bugger all wrong with what was piped into our homes.’

So, what I’m trying to say is that yes, since they are still wee and lovely, they will be getting a few items from the Smyth’s Catalogue because in a couple of years they won’t be wanting `Snax the Sloth,’ or ‘Astrid the purple unicorn ‘Squishmallow’;  they’ll be after studs for their tongues and a £600 phone.  (Incidentally, I’ll be saying an emphatic ‘No’ to both of those.)

This time next week it will be Black Friday, (f**king awful name isn’t it? Sounds far too dismal and funereal to have connotations with Christmas.) Before I got distracted by my rant, what I wanted to do was offer an alternative  wish list, and direct you to some flipping brilliant local creatives. These gift ideas, IMHO, could perk up even those of you who thought your smile may have been permanently erased after this year of absolute pish.

  1. If you like your jewellery classy but understated, then Diane Sutherland is your woman. I admit it, I’m a magpie and flipping LOVE my bling, but there is something undeniably alluring about her spare silver pieces: I’m a big fan of her nugget earrings (which are particularly lovely if you have a couple of piercings) and her bangles. She takes commissions and will discuss a piece with you if it’s something really special that you’re after. She is also a dote, and I want to befriend her just so I listen as she rolls her soft Scottish vowels. Her soothing lilt would comfort me no end on days when I feel like I’ve lost the effing will.

2. Tropic products.  I know I go on a bit about Tropic but it’s so damn good. If there is one thing that this year has taught me, it is to find pleasure in the tiny things, wherever you may find them. It may be the lingering notes of bergamot and lime oil on the inside of your wrist from your hand cream, or smoothing on leg shimmer on a mizzly night in November, but we have to find our kicks somewhere. Two lovely local suppliers are Pauline Cooke and Patricia Tennyson. I think it’s the essential oils which bring the products to a new level, but it really does feel like a pampering session when you crack them open.

3. Now you’ve probably guessed if you have looked on my Instagram, but I fecking love my art work. LSB has come to dread his rare days off,  because  he knows full well I’ll be asking him to get his drill out and affix a freshly framed print to a wall. Dylan at The Hallows Gallery is a star at breathing life into pieces which look old or tired. Last month he re-framed two little originals that we’d bought in Prague in 2009. I had dithered over whether to keep them or not because they looked pretty rubbish in their cheap IKEA frames, but he transformed them, and now they hang proudly in our bedroom, bringing me joy, as I recall lazy days sipping hot wine as we strolled the cobbled streets in the Old Town Square.

Recently I have drooled over work by local artists such as Catherine Heaney, Aly Harte, and Emma Fitzpatrick. as I think you can just sense the joy and love that they pour into every piece, and who doesn’t need some positive energy in their home right now? Let’s face it, we’re spending enough time cooped up indoors…

I’ll be back on next week with some more gift ideas which offer a shopping experience which won’t make you want to gouge out your eyes out with a Stanley knife. (Sorry, for the graphic imagery, but I just nipped down to Forestside there to pick up dinner and it was CHAOS. It’s only a Friday, in November. I don’t want to contemplate those queues on Christmas Eve, that’s all I’m saying.)

SWB on the week that was…

Folks, send me some good vibes because seriously, I have not come up for air. So you think Dominic Cumming had a bad week. Did he, I ask you, have a visiting cat who took a dump on his freshly laundered sheet and a dog who then pissed on the scrubbed mattress to mark her territory? No, all that frigger had to do was pack a box and do the humiliating walk of shame along Downing Street. (How I smiled.) Anyway, back to the poo incident.

Should your partner or off-spring be applying pressure that you source them a dog or cat for Christmas, demonstrate caution. Think carefully about the following: animals and their digestive needs are complex and specific. If only they could defecate on demand and in appropriate places. When it rains (ie, all the f**king time in November, was there EVER a more heinous month?) our animals exhibit reticence about leaving the house to do their business. Our dog will BOUND out the door if we produce her lead and rustle her coat, but if we hold open the back door and gesture that she might have go out and relieve herself,  she looks at us with huge doleful eyes. LSB bought himself a large golf umbrella to watch the children play football. Now, he dons his old trainers and takes the brolly out so the dog can pee and poop undercover. He is a good sort, auld LSB, but little thanks does he get, especially from children and pets.

On Thursday he was beavering away at his desk and entertaining notions of a having a wee jog to himself at lunchtime. Entering the bedroom he did a double take, as there, on our duvet colour, the cat had shat extensively. He had cart the duvet into the bath and shower it down before washing it. Only the night before I had laboriously changed all the bed linen, endeavouring to turn our clutter filled mess of a room into something warm and inviting  One night. One night we got to enjoy this and the cat sullied it.

It gets worse. Coming home, I went up the stairs to survey the wreckage.

‘I thought you said you’d washed AND dried it,’ I called, my voice tremulous with desperation.

‘I had,’ he replied,  following me in.

‘Oh God,’ he said.

The bed was soaked, in what could only have been a deluge of greyhound pee. Tilly has somewhat appropriated our bed during the day, and therefore took it as a slight that the cat had used it as a toilet. More cleaning ensued. A cleaning frenzy, one might say. My hands, once smooth and wrinkle free, now have the reddish hue of an eighteenth-century scullery maid. It’ll take more than Vaseline Intensive Care to sort them out.

All weekend, we have been washing. Clothes that I have worn to school and don’t want to wear again, lest Covid has woven its insidious way into the fabric. Towels from giving the dog a bath; school uniforms; my husband’s sweaty sport’s gear. I try to get my detergent from Refill Quarter but I can’t be arsed driving over so I’ve just put an order in with Smol to test drive those. I’m stressed, people. Owning pets is another f**king job. Don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise.

But as I type this, Tilly has come up the stairs and curled up beside me, emitting soft, greyhound sighs. Her coat is fragrant and shiny from her bath yesterday, and occasionally a little paw reaches out and brushes my leg, as if to say, ‘Sorry about the pissing, I’m just getting used to my new abode.’

If it is a job, ultimately I love it. I’m just very, very tired right now. However,  reading this wee article on Medium just made me think again how gorgeous she is.

SWB dares to dream

There’s a scene in Channel Four’s Catastrophe, where Sharon Horgan is wide eyed and terrified at 4am, her mind whirling with all the horrors that could possibly befall their unborn son. ‘The world’s a TOILET’ she declares to Rob Delaney, who is attempting to sleep beside her. There is a tragic resignation in her tone. LSB would be quick to relate to Delaney, because similarly he is is often awoken by my stirrings, as I lie, consumed with dread, because a quick look at the headlines at any time, in any country and on every f**king continent seems pretty bleak right now. Until yesterday. Because for a few hours at least, I let myself believe that if the world is still a toilet, and you had to take to cleaning it with a scrubbing brush, it would be slightly less daunting. I’m thinking today, it would less resemble the worst toilet in the world as depicted in Trainspotting, and  more like one in a student flat in Reading if all the lads in The Inbetweeners were room mates. In other words, pretty rotten, but you wouldn’t require hospitalisation after the job: rubber gloves, Domestos and a stiff G&T  afterwards would see you right.

With Trump in the White House, I felt a sickness to my very marrow. It seemed as though the Western world had moved so far from any sort of basic human decency that an all-pervasive gloom and hopelessness descended. It doesn’t take too much to push me towards existential dread, but between him and Brexit it all felt terribly wrong.

And now, there’s still a raging pandemic, still talk of a hard border (or sea border? Or just a border, who knows?) but there’s a sense of shift and a lightness in my spirit today, or there would have been had I not got carried away last night and drunk half a bottle of bubbly. Chipper I was NOT, this morning.

Speaking of night terrors, I think we need a new word to describe that feeling for when you’ve had such turbulent dreams that you wake up feeling so  unrefreshed that you need to slither back under the duvet to recover from the awful sleep you just had. A ‘recovery-sleep’ perhaps? Or a ‘cleansing doze?’ I bet the Scandinavians have a word for it- they are great ones for creating cute random expressions.

Another new word we need for Covid times is a specific way to describe when the urge to hug someone becomes too great and you almost have to glue your arms to the sides lest you break all the regulations. I miss hugs. I miss my friend Fiona who is six feet tall, and when we meet in Spain each year, she heaves me up, and I feel as light as a little pixie. I miss hugs with my friend Karen’s mum, who always smells of Issy Miyake even though she tells me it’s a knock off from M&S.  I miss the hugs with my girlfriends after a run, when we say ‘oh no we’re much too sweaty’ and then say feck it and hug anyway. A year and a half ago I met my friend Rhaiza on the promenade in Calella in Spain. I hadn’t seen her for six years, and when we hugged it was like that scene from Friends with Joey and Rachel in the restaurant and the waiter surmises that one of them must be dying.  In short, I’m a hugger, and quashing every natural impulse to embrace my friends is causing me great distress.

I miss normality. I miss spontaneous cups of tea and chocolate biscuits in my friends’ kitchen. But like the Trump era, this period of gloom shall pass. Maybe tonight I shall sleep well and wake up revived and with a sense of optimism which has eluded me for so long. Swedes, of course, have a word for it: ‘gökotta’ which roughly translated, means a willingness to rise with the larks and savour their early morning birdsong.  To be fair, I think that’s a stretch, but just a few dreams where I’m not driving down a motorway with no functioning brakes would be very, very welcome.

 

 

SWB on Hump Day Covid Blues

All over Belfast today, I know that many women like me, are feeling absolutely melted. It is the second week of ‘holidays’, without any of the usual activities available. Even Trick or Treating has been cancelled. Lockdown, back in March, felt different. It wasn’t cold and blustery for starters, and there was a sort of novelty to it all, (for the first fortnight anyway.) This feels different. The Covid stats are still rising, although supposedly we are back to school (me included) on Monday. I am not reassured by that, so there is a sort of nervous freneticism on the go. I can’t sit down and get stuck into writing or lesson prep, because the children are at home, obviously, looking entertained. Everyone has now had a taste of normal and found a semblance of routine at school again. Mine thrive on structure- they are easier to work with that way, as, I suppose are we all.

But now, LSB is upstairs, tapping away, surrounded by his five fecking screens (two of which are on what used to be my desk.) He is busy working, doing ‘very important things’. He is constantly on Zoom calls, ‘circling back’, ‘squaring the circle,’ ‘reaching out’ and spouting all of that work talk shite.

Meanwhile, I feel as if I am doing nothing of any import whatsoever. I am buzzing from room to room, moving piles of stuff round.  Nothing looks much tidier afterwards. I am frantically washing out cat food pouches and shaking the crumbs out of crisp packets. I am gathering markers and pens that no longer work for Terra-Cycle. It does not feel like meaningful use of my time. I am rinsing out yogurt pots and wondering if I should be making my own and dishing them up with a plum and rhubarb compote from foraged fruit, but then I jolt myself back into reality that these will, in no way resemble a Fruit Corner and LSB will go and buy those anyway, thus rendering my efforts pointless.

I am reading, (or attempting to, when I have gloriously free minute) ‘A Ghost in the Throat’ by Doireann Ní Ghríofra, (available at No Alibis Bookshop) and she too, is attempting to read and write and research, while tending to small children. A stellar job she seems to doing at it, too, since she is publishing poetry and winning prizes and being an all- round literary Goddess. Bitter? Me? Never.

It is interesting though to observe how other people work, and what strategies they use to salvage some sense of achievement when they don’t do a nine-to-five job and their life is, to a great extent, dependent on the needs and whims of others. She too, holds on to the small wins: ticking the dishes, the laundry and the school run off her list. With each scored out item she feels that bit closer to being a better version of herself. Like me and my attempts to save the planet one Tayto bag at a time, she has her own personal mission, which is pumping milk for premature babies. Taking time  out every day to pump and freeze and note, she is trying to impose some sort of order on her life, and feel a connection to something bigger, to be part of the solution to someone, somewhere.  And, the magical thing is that this time, while she is forced to sit still, and let the pump to do its work, she snatches back some time to read and nourish herself.

And that’s how we have to do it ladies. We have to thoughtfully, consciously make that time, to do OUR thing, be it reading, dancing, sewing, meditating praying… whatever it is, we HAVE to make that time, because there’s no one else going to hand it to us at the moment.  Make the time people. Prioritise yourselves because if you’re not feeling a modicum of contentment right now, you’re not serving anyone, least of all your lovely selves.

 

 

SWB on the return of Date Night

It is Saturday night and I am perched at the island in the kitchen, sipping a Margarita that LSB picked up for me at The Errigle, and doing the Guardian crossword. I’m dressed appropriately for date night, which means I’ve donned my leather skater skirt and I’ve applied blusher as well as a light dusting of powder.  The joy of date night in the HOUSE means that I can wear lipstick, without smearing it all over my mask. I can also pop in my earrings, without the worry that I will trail one out of my earlobe when taking off my mask on the way in to a restaurant. Masks are a f**king menace aren’t they, aside from the fact that one might just save one’s life: which  should, I suppose negate any aggravations about aesthetics. I’m also wearing my slippers, and don’t have to wear tights. I hate tights; scratchy annoying things that they are. What’s the point in slathering on my Tropic leg shimmer, only to hide them behind a pair of Sainbury’s opaques?

The other good thing about date night in your house is that you can sit, while your husband makes you an aubergine curry, and read the Guardian Weekend Magazine. Over the last lockdown, I felt myself grow more and more Guardian as the weeks went on. I identified with just about everything Hannah Jane Parkinson wrote. The week, she documented how, in a fever of  spring cleaning, she took a tooth pick to the scum between the tiles in her shower. The day before, I had been caught wielding a cocktail stick, prising crumbs and grime that had lodged around my recycling bin. She felt a huge sense of achievement, and I concurred heartily, having felt a similar surge of pride myself, at the sight of my pristine bin. In the column the following Saturday, she mentioned the unexpected joy of a finding  a slab of sponge cake on her doorstep from a kindly neighbour.  I was only after whipping one up and sandwiching it with cream and jam, and was thinking I might deliver a piece to my mate Maggie who always gives our dog treats. Hannah Jane likes people who demonstrate their love through the medium of baked goods, and who couldn’t concur ? Friends who show their love by handing you a Tupperware bowl of roasted vegetable risotto should be forever cherished. We could be great mates, Hannah Jane and me. We share a love of unusual words (we agree that petrichor is one of the best ever); we are delighted with ourselves when we manage to run a measly 5K without having heart failure, and we are both stricken with similar bouts of apocalyptic dread. All these endear her to me immensely.

Another journalist of whom I am fond, is Hadley Freeman, and she grabbed my attention in her article this week which was about her fear of eggs, which borders on the pathological. LSB has a similar phobia, and like Freeman, has been known to leave the room, when the children start bashing the top of their boiled eggs with a spoon. It’s most irksome. There’s me, stumbling across something that the children will actually eat, and the second they crack open the shell, off he f**ks up the stairs, with a face on him like a truculent toddler.

So far so good, until I read about  Tim Dowling, who admitted that he’d been off the booze for 3 weeks. Three fecking weeks! Well, I was raging: I selfishly want everyone to be in the downward slide into semi-alcoholism as me: solidarity is what I’m after from my print companions, not declarations that they’ve all gone sensible. Still, he admitted that he still feels rubbish and irate, hence is none the better for his abstinence.

This morning alas, as I woke at 5am, feeling as though someone was trying to open up my skull from the inside using a crowbar, I concluded that Dowling perhaps has a point. Date night is all well and good, but in the pub you would limit yourself to one tequila based cocktail and not feel that you had to finish the can which contained four servings. Damn it Tim, but I may have to jump on that wagon with you.

 

 

 

SWB Shares 3 ways to survive a Circuit Breaker

Anyone else feeling like a big bag of shite at the moment? I do hope so, just  so I’m not alone. I must confess to having wilted  this week, as the clouds rolled in on Monday and down it pissed, all frigging day. It would take a saint to stay up-beat these days, and as you know, I’m not inclined towards saintliness, even in normal circumstances.

But I felt so despondent yesterday that I had to stop and reflect.  It went something like this: ‘Cop on, you miserable auld bastard. You have everything you have ever wanted: a family, a nice (if revoltingly messy) house, and now you even have a dog. Have a word with yourself: it’s not like I’m stuck in a refugee camp in South Sudan.’

But still. Usually this time of year we are looking forward to having a nice  break to ourselves with friends. Last Halloween we headed up to the North Coast where I acquainted myself wit the boutiques in Limavady, and the year before we drank Guinness in Galway. This year, I’d be flouting the rules if I nipped down to Bangor to wave in the window at the parents. I’m fed up. I’m sick of playing ‘hunt the f**king mask’ every time I need to go to the shop. I’m tired worrying about catching Covid, because they were bleating on today on the news that even if you are under fifty and on good health it could still leave you with a rake of issues. ‘Excellent,’ I thought. As if I’m not already tired enough with every f**king thing being so f**king complicated, now there’s a chance I might die as well.

But to stop myself going completely mad, here’s a few things I’ve been doing this week that have lifted me a little.

  • Baking: I keep it simple folks. We bake fairy cakes, crumbling chunks of chocolate into one batch and grating lemon into another. It was my nana’s recipe and it makes golden fluffy buns of joy. They don’t even require icing, which is great because I can never be arsed making it (plus the amount of sugar required for icing frightens me.) The Older Child found a tube of pink fondant in the cupboard, that I bought once in a moment of frivolity, then promptly forgot about. She squeezes a blob onto her bun and it seems to keep her happy. The added bonus of bun making is that everyone likes them.  Thus you can dome them out round the neighbourhood, making you look magnanimous and lovely. (Little do they know that really, you only baked them to stop you disappearing down a plughole of despair when it’s shitting it down out of the heavens and there’s another week and a half to go before school starts again.)

  • Listening to Podcasts. Now you know me- I fecking can’t be arsed with housework. You know it, I know it, but complaining doesn’t get the dishes done. But, as I mentioned before, I’m properly hooked on the ‘Poetry Un-bound’ podcast; and this week there was an absolute gem on a poem by the Nigerian writer Chris Abani. It was MARVELLOUS, so marvellous in fact that I ‘Googled’ him (how I f**king hate that that is now a verb) and watched his Ted-talk. It certainly distracted me from picking up pieces of toys that the dog had mutilated in the children’s bedroom. It also makes one re-evaluate their circumstances. Separating the whites from the colours seems easier to thole when you hear what someone who has been incarcerated in a Nigerian prison has had to endure. However, all of that can get a bit heavy so my third tip of the evening is to:

 

  • Sit down on your arse and WATCH TV. Yes. I’m not ashamed to admit it, but sitting in front of the box last night, watching ‘The Bake off’ with the kids and the dog and a cat, made me feel the most content I’d been in a long time. I know you should be doing all sorts of edifying activities with your children, like making Halloween decorations from scratch booking or playing Ludo, but frequenty, I can’t be arsed. Instead we lit the fire, snuggled under the blankets and got very emotionally involved with proceedings. My girls were most indignant on Linda’s behalf when she f**ked up all her pastries and complained bitterly she was booted off. ‘She just didn’t have enough time,’ sighed the Small Child. ‘She had the same amount as everyone else,’ I told her, firmly. So there’s a lesson for you on time management. We were very taken indeed with Laura’s Key Lime Tart last night and agreed that she deserved to be Star Baker.

I know that this sounds like the most simplistic and frightfully obvious post you’ve ever read. Sorry about that. But it’s all my  mangled head can cope with right now. It’s just the small things with a bit of sweetness thrown in that keep us all going at the minute.

 

 

SWB on Two Shades of Grey (Hound and Squirrel and Tom Cruise)

Did you know that the Latin word for the grey squirrel is ‘Sciurus carolinensis‘? Seems to sum them up quite nicely, if you ask me, for they are a bit of a scourge, monopolising the bird feeders and terrorising the red variety. The wee red ones are scarcer to spot than a piece of good news at the moment.  Their numbers have diminished to such an extent that there’s only about six of them in NI at the moment and your might have to traipse Mount Stewart or Ballycastle for the privilege. Anyway, I digress. Basically I’m trying to make myself feel better because thanks to Miss Tilly though, we may be down at least one grey squirrel in the Ormeau area.

We had an incident two weeks ago in Cherryvale, to which we now refer as ‘Squirrel-gate’.  It was one of those balmy evenings, when the air is bathed in a hazy autumnal glow, with the sun slanting through the trees. The older one was playing football with her new wee club, so LSB and I were taking a walk with the dog, watching as the Small Child climbed trees like the nimble little monkey that she is. It was reminiscent of that scene at the end of Jerry Maguire, when the wee lad lobs a ball back at the bigger boys playing baseball and Tom and Renee smile beatifically at each other at the perfection of the moment. That was us, looking like a pair of gormless twats, to be fair.

Tilly was springing around the trees while the squirrels frolicked, and I’m sure I saw one of them give her the finger as it scampered around, leaping from branch to branch. ‘You can’t catch me,’ it said.

‘No,’ said Tilly, ‘but I might get your mate over there.’

One particular squirrel, who was either a dare devil in extremis or dopey as f**k, took a notion of racing straight across the grass, without a tree in leaping distance. Beside herself with joy, Tilly pounced. She caught it, of course she did: not a bother to her at all. A small crowd gathered. Mostly children. It’s not every evening that they watch a dog shake a squirrel like a ragtag chew toy. The squirrel wasn’t the better for the experience. Interestingly, we noted, when LSB had persuaded Tilly to drop it, there were no puncture marks, so she hadn’t sunk the teeth in,  just shook it vigorously, as one would a French Martini cocktail.  (The Tom Cruise theme continues). A chap came to its rescue and lifting it by its scruff, he set it on the bough of a tree. It managed to cling on but was too paralysed with fear to make much of an attempt to climb up.

Opinions on the fate of the squirrel differed amidst the crowd. ‘It is the cycle of life,’ opined a Spanish gentleman, shrugging in the expressive way that people from Continental Europe are wont to do.

A small boy seemed to be crying, but on closer inspection (or as close as I dared to go, given the times), he was actually laughing… hysterically. (Note to self, we might have to keep an eye on that one)

One mum said, ‘Great, far too many of those grey rodents about anyway.’ I liked her. A few others reserved judgement but I think they may have been on the side of the squirrel. Opinions differ on the subject, as this little article from The Guardian demonstrates.

However, had we been at a park reserved for dog walkers, I’m not sure the event would have attracted the same attention. I imagine, with the dog walkers I’ve met at Stormont anyway, there would have been a quiet acceptance that this is the sort of craic that goes down. Anyway, it’s just another reason to petition the council for a  dog park, lest any child or adult was traumatised by the events a fortnight ago.

(I feel I ought to have it noted, lest I am assailed by complaints, that Tilly is a whippet, crossed with a greyhound. We simply refer to her as the latter, since the other is a bit of a mouthful. She is not therefore by law, obligated to wear a muzzle, which would obviously stop her from catching prey. She also seems to be able to differentiate between squirrels and small spindly dogs like chihuahuas, which IMHO, don’t look unlike rodents.)

SWB on doggy parks, (or lack thereof)

I’ve a new favourite place which neither the pooch, nor I, can get enough of it. It’s the doggy play park in Stormont, or ‘The Bull Field’ as the sign says. If you ever need cheered up of a Sunday morning, this is the place to come. Borrow a friend’s dog if you are dog-less yourself, but feel you are missing out on the craic.  I wouldn’t want you to feel left out.

Anyway, the dog park. There’s a crew of seasoned walkers who know their own dogs and dogs in general. It’s very reassuring. The first time we took Tilly I was all: ‘SORRY! SORRY! Is she harrassing your dog? I’m so SORRY!’

They soon put my mind at ease and were well impressed with Tilly’s speed and agility. ‘She’s a greyhound in her, isn’t she?’ said a man waking over to us. He was wearing a beanie and sucking on a vape. ‘They do that. They run after other dogs for the fun, she’s not doing any harm. Sheba will keep her right.’

Over bounded a big Alsation from the bushes, joining in the fun. Tilly deferred almost immediately to her. There must be some sort of dog hierarchy and they know that you don’t mess with a German Shepherd. and Sheba is clearly the Queen of the dog-park, with her regal ruff and knowing eyes.

The regulars at the doggy park seem to know how to behave themselves and not piss anyone off. The dogs are pretty good too. A laid-back atmosphere prevails, with no over-protective princesses with pampered Pomeranians. One morning in Cherryvale we let Tilly off the lead, and she was having a great old time running about with a terrier. However, when her big greyhound mouth is gaping open, she can, I suppose, look a bit intimidating. A lady with a Westie (who let’s face it, can be guerny and antagonistic themselves) took great umbrage and tucked him under her arm and walked the other way. ‘THAT DOG SHOULD BE ON A LEAD,’ she said, pointedly. My girls were affronted on Tilly’s behalf.

But annoyingly, she had a point. There are children (or adults) who may be wary of dogs. It is also upsetting when a dog makes off with your child’s toy. No one wants to watch their six year old wrestle their ball from the mouth of a pitt-bull cross. We must also consider the cyclists. I was in a rush one morning nipping into town through Ormeau Park, and my journey wasn’t rendered any easier by the number of Labradors and collies bouncing out in front of me. I’m a big enough liability on a bicycle.

Hence the point of this post- dog parks. We need more of them. If parks are for everyone, is there any reason why the parks in Cherryvale and Ormeau don’t have a small area sectioned off for the dogs. That way we can all enjoy themselves, and dog owners aren’t shitting a brick that their canine children will wreak havoc. Speaking of which, I’ll be posting up a story later in the week, entitled: ‘When Tilly met a squirrel.’ You can look forward to that one.

 

 

Make yourself less f**king miserable with SWB.

Since it’s World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d tell you about my week and how I tried to be upbeat and organised and productive. I wasn’t entirely successful. Take Tuesday evening for example. Upon extracting a pan of celery soup (which was, incidentally, under-seasoned and bland), from the fridge, I knocked over a large jar of beetroot on the top shelf. It didn’t smash, but  tipped over at a 45 degree angle which allowed all the juice to escape.  Everything got covered in vinegary, cerise rankness. Himself came down to extract a bottle of beer. ‘F**k me, it’s like Carrie in here’, he exclaimed.

A normal sort of person would have addressed the beetroot issue straight away, but I was otherwise occupied and left it until Wednesday. (It took me a day to work up to it.) But before I donned my gloves, I put on a podcast, and listening to the dulcet Cork tones of Pádraig O’Tuama as he read some poems, made my task infinitely more palatable. I highly recommend this approach to housework.

And when Pádraig was through with his poetry I stuck on The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Have you ever watched this? You probably have, and the question is, where the hell have I been these past forty years and why am I only watching him now?

‘Have YOU heard of Bob Ross?’ I said to LSB, in an accusative tone.

I couldn’t believe it when was all like, ‘Yeah, of course, he’s a legend,’ and I was like: ‘and you never thought of popping it on when I was doing my nut?’

It was almost grounds for a trial separation. Bob Ross would have been just the tonic when I was full of despair a few years ago and kept thinking that the world was about to end, or I was going to be blown up in a terrorist attack in my local Ikea. Fun times. Listening to Bob’s melifluous chat, while he dabbled at his canvass with Prussian Blue and van Dyke Brown, would have soothed my frazzled mind. It’s hard to believe that there’s any badness in the world, as you watch him paint a happy little tree in the foreground, and blend his Titanium white to add in a few fluffy clouds, having the craic up in the heavens.

With times being as they are presently, this is what you need for light relief, as there’s little else to find elsewhere. I thought I’d give ‘The Duchess’ on Netflix a go, since everyone’s gushing over it. But unlike Bob Ross, it got on my nerves something shocking. Now, Mary Whitehouse I am NOT, (case in point I rather adored Channel Four’s Catastrophe) but I just found it this show relentlessly COARSE. And far-fetched. And a bit stupid. What is it with comedians who take to the acting: they think they can just shout a lot, and spout reams of vitriol in a ‘look at me, aren’t I ever so clever,’ sort of a way. They seem to create their character solely as a vehicle to spew their invective. I chuckled a bit at first and though fair play to her, being super mum to the wee girl. Then I admired the outfits and felt an intense envy regarding the décor, but I had to give it up because the dialogue had me all agitated. At the moment, the world is unforgiving enough, without being antagonised by a television character whom you want to slap.

So what am I trying to say? Be kind to yourself: with what you watch, with what you listen to, with whom you allow in your life. If anyone stresses the hell clean out of you, perhaps now is not the moment to give them air-time. Real life and on the telly, it goes without say. It’s self-care all the way, and if you’ve any tips of your own I’d love to hear them. Just don’t go sending me pictures of your home grown vegetables. I’m still not over my teeny tiny courgettes.

 

SWB on breast pumps and other madness

There’s a breast pump which makes a similar sound to the opening bars of a track by Daft Punk called ‘Robot Rock’. Who knew? Lauren Laverne brought this to my attention this morning on her ‘House Music’ feature on Radio 6 Music. LSB laughed when he heard it, concurring that the intro did indeed echo the ‘whirring sound’ of a breast pump in full flow (pardon the pun).

I was pleased that he could now laugh about it, because as I packed up the pump and gave it away a few years ago he said ‘Thank f**k for that.’ LSB hated the breast pump. I hated the breast pump. When I think of the word ‘futile’ I think of the word breast pump and the effort that went in to extracting half an ounce of milk, and I was the proud owner of a ‘Medela’, which was apparently the Rolls Royce of breast pumps. Whatever it was, it was incompatible with my malfunctioning mammaries. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to use a breast pump I don’t suggest that you listen to this tune, lest it triggers your PTSD.

Once, after laboriously extracting some milk I managed to fasten the teat on the bottle incorrectly, and as I fed it to my parched baby, I saw it leak out and run down the front of her bib. I dropped the C-bomb in my distress, very loudy. To any mums out there who are finding breast feeding too hard, can I urge you to try give the bottle a go as backup. Breast may be best, but a starving baby is in nobody’s best interests at all.

These memories came flooding back to me this morning because my oldest child turns nine at the end of the month. I am thinking back to a time when I was unfamiliar with words like colic and gripe water and nipple shields. I may have heard of them, but I did not appreciate their import. I had no actual experience. It’s a bit like now when parents mention the transfer test. I see their faces cloud and their jaws clench, and I think, oh fuck, that’ll be me soon, running to the chemist for Imodium when all that palaver kicks off.

It’s funny though, because in some ways I feel like we’ve returned to a similar chaos these days, in these surreal times. When it comes to leaving house it’s not unlike what it was like with a newborn, except now we’re hunting for face masks and sanitiser and poo bags for the dog. There’s a similar pressure simmering under the surface. Things can fall apart fast.

And in the midst of this the mean little inner voice is saying ‘Hurry up!’ and ‘How can you be stupid!’ and ‘Seriously, did you forget the mask? Again?’

And we’re not stupid and we’re not crazy.  We’re all just very, very tired. I wish I could have chatted to my sleep-addled self when my baby was weeks old and not latching and not sleeping. I would have told me to cut myself some slack. And so I’m trying to do that now when all is strange and odd and stressful. I’m drinking a lot of tea. I’m spending time with the people who make me smile. I’m spraying on my Miss Dior perfume that I only wear for going out. I’m putting on some shimmery fake tan. What I do know for sure, is that me walking round with a face on me like a well-slapped arse isn’t making anyone’s day any better. I know that as the stoics say, “this too shall pass.’ But in the meantime, we have to do what we can to make it bearable.