SWB on Charity Shop Chic

‘Oh Dear God,’ I hear you moan. ‘First it’s the coffee cups, then it’s the plastics, and now it’s the clothes on our backs. Give us a f@*king break., we’ve enough to feel guilty about.’

In fairness, I was the same when all this green living lark started. One minute you’re doing ‘meat-free Monday’ and the next you’re a militant vegan making your own soap and shopping only at farmers’ markets. It felt like there was always some nutter trying to make you feel shite about your life choices, and if you listened to them long enough you’d become a zealot yourself.

But as the list of ‘Things that Kill the Planet’ grows, from exhaust fumes to excessive plastic, it’s tempting to say ‘Ah feck it,’ and order an extra large McDonalds for lunch after a shopping spree in Primark.

But let’s not. Instead of feeling over-whelmed, I have tried to make small, subtle changes to my lifestyle, which make me feel slightly better about my life choices. It also helps me self-flagellate less about the size of my carbon foot-print as I fly to Spain not once, but twice this summer.

And as I mention it, looking out the window it seems indeed that summer beckons. Finally! The sun has emerged and how my heart doth soar. But. One of my first instincts when the seasons change is to liven up my look. I’ve conditioned myself to wear a lot of dark colours and I don’t want be wandering round the Ormeau looking like the angel of death on a bright day.

However, since I’ve embraced this eco-friendly business, I can’t in all consciousness go buying whatever I like without checking the label.  I’m now thinking more about how my buying habits affect the people (mainly women) slaving away in piss-poor conditions so we can buy tee-shorts for £3. So I’ve been directing my energies (or what’s left of them; is anyone else knackered at the moment?) into sourcing some ethical brands and having a good nosey round the charity shops. Let’s be honest, there’s plenty of those in the locality.

I’ve been a keen ‘charity shop shopper’ ever since I met my mate Maureen Faloona during the PGCE at Queen’s. Many’s an hour we spent merrily browsing on Botantic Avenue when we should have been brain-storming lesson plans for the leaders of tomorrow. But no, we tried on heels in Action Cancer instead.

Kindly my friend from The Newsletter sent along a photographer so I could show some of the wares in the local Hospice shop on the Ormeau Road. I’ve tried not to look too sour in the photos, although when the Mothership saw the ‘beach look’ she shook her head and said ‘Never smile like that again. What were you thinking? You look very odd.’ Cheers Mum.

https://www.newsletter.co.uk/lifestyle/charity-shop-chic-1-8479158

SWB isn’t sorry.

As I write, the early evening sunshine pours into my living room. It warms my feet and cheers my heart. It has been a long winter. It also illuminates the handprints on each window and makes the dust smotes dance. On the floor, alongside toys, books, ousted cushions from the sofa and an abundance of stationary, is a small pile of sand that a child has emptied, with cheerful insouciance, from a bucket. There is a liberal smattering of cat hair on most surfaces. This week, people, I have lived in even greater squalor than normal.

 

Should anyone call at the door, my first instinct would be to feel aghast as they witnessed the mess within. ‘Sorree!’ I would say, frantically lifting items in a futile attempt to cover up the chaos.

 

As if they cared. My friends know of my disdain for housework, and they still call to see me, and are (I think) judgement free. (I’d like to add that I up my game in the kitchen and pride myself on good hygiene there. I don’t think any guests who’ve dined here have fallen victim to food-poisoning. Yet.)

 

But I think we’re all far too hard on ourselves. Self-deprecation is inbuilt into our psyche here in Northern Ireland. I spend my life worrying if I’ve possibly offended someone, and apologise about everything.

 

When I was a trainee teacher I sometimes got a lift to school with other teachers, many of whom were the age I am now, with small children. ‘Sorree!’ they’d yelp as I climbed into their car, stepping over juice cartons and sitting on bits of squashed apple. They would apologise for their choice of radio station; the fact they were two minutes late, and the litany would continue almost by way of a greeting for the first part of the journey. And I never cared about any of it; I was just super grateful I didn’t have to take two buses to get to work.

 

I mean, I know there’s limits, but I think a messy house and a slightly unkempt look suggest that we’re getting some things right. The muddy boots show that my kids can frolic at the park the way kids are supposed to of an afternoon, rather than sit hypnotised before a screen. The floor littered with toys shows that they can play creatively. Cluttered surfaces may not be aesthetically pleasing, but they prove that I’ve been writing or running, not cleaning and tidying.

And I know cats love to wreck the place: leaving hair over everything and sharpening their claws on the suite and Izzy’s personal favourite, ripping up the carpet; but they do add a homeliness which I think a feline-free house lacks.

 

Homes which are exceptionally tidy trigger a deep unease in me, especially if said home belongs to a family with children. Years ago I heard a story which I hope to God was exaggerated. Midwives at a local clinic were concerned about a baby which hadn’t shown much animation or development at any of its routine checks. When a nurse called unexpectedly one afternoon, she soon discovered why. The house was spotless and the mother was busy hoovering when the nurse called. When she enquired as to where the baby was, she saw the carrycot….. under a coffee table. The baby lay  inside, awake but mute. This was where it spent its day, while the mother kept the house pristine around it.

That tale still gives me the shivers.

While I wish I could get my pair to confine their artistic endeavours to paper and not furniture, and to stop taking my things so I feel I’m being gas-lighted, some of their mischievous antics make me smile. Slightly. So to steal the line from the current breast-feeding campaign: ‘Sorry, not sorry.’ Maybe we need to stop apologising and get on with living.

 

SWB feels uplifted by dance

If you’re a teacher in any of the schools in the Ormeau vicinity and you see a few yawning youngsters in your class today, give them a by-ball. In fact, send for a basin and fill it with iced water so they can revive their feet. Chances are they were doing some foot-stamping and toe-pointing at the Waterfront Hall last night, and folks, it was A BLAST.

 

Ballynafeigh School of Irish Dancing gave us a mighty showcase of local talent in their production ‘Then, Now & Forever’, taking daily life on the Ormeau as their inspiration, tracing the years from the Second World War until now. With Marie-Louise Connolly, the BBC NI Health Correspondent acting as compère, the vignettes fused together seamlessly to show the vibrancy of our local area. The performance illustrated how life may have changed in the last eighty years but what remains the same are the bonds of family life, encased within a strong and supportive community.

 

The packed theatre at the Waterfront bore testimony to this community, as did the fact that members of the six-piece band ‘The Gather Up’ who played throughout, and two of the singers who make-up ‘Saffyre’ had daughters in the production.

 

What was most evident was that the chorographers knew how to put together a show and kept the audience entranced with their inventiveness and creativity.

 

Despite my acidity, I’m surprisingly sentimental, and welled up a few times, most notably when the band took down the tempo to play a slow melodic rendition of ‘Pack up your Troubles’. During this sequence, when the tiniest of the Junior Dancers took to the stage as child evacuees, complete with brown labels, the ‘awwww’-factor went off the scale.

 

Then, when the khaki-clad soldiers returned from war to the glorious Technicolor of the street, with the women and children waving coloured flags of every hue, the joyful and carnival-esque scene had the audience whooping and clapping with delight.

 

There was a glorious nod to Dancing at Lughnasa in the sequence inspired by laundry, when dancers in aprons and headscarves whirled like dervishes; spinning white sheets as though buffeted by the breeze. Here was the mundane infused with magic; and since laundry forms the back-drop to most of my life as a mother of two with a sporty husband, I was glad to see it imbued with the significance it merits.

 

Act Two took us to the present and showed scenes with which every parent on the Ormeau could identify; from the frenzied school run to the Bredagh matches and the well-deserved evenings’ out when mums sparkle in their sequins and dance away their cares. ‘The Gather Up’ proved here that they don’t simply excel at Irish Traditional music, playing ‘Nine-to-Five’ and other contemporary tunes with a flair that had the audience dancing in their seats.

 

The West End may watch out too, for if soloist Anna Smith doesn’t end up taking to the stage there I’ll be amazed. Was there a dry eye as she sang ‘Bring Him Home?’ I for one was glad I remembered my tissues.

 

The quotidian is not celebrated enough, but this show draws our attention to tireless work that takes place every day to foster talent and nurture relationships. Watching the younger dancers master their reels and their slip jigs, stepping and swinging with the more experienced dancers was a joy to witness.

 

This weekend, what with the backdrop of war in Syria and the ever-worrying world climate, I felt anxious and sad. But as the band sang the words ‘what’s the use in the worrying’ I felt a peacefulness descend. Life is uncertain, and frankly, quite terrifying. This is why we must cherish each moment and learn to let ourselves go every so often, immersing ourselves in the beauty of dance and music. We must also be grateful to those who champion it.  Dancers of Ballynafeigh and your teachers, I salute you. You warmed my sour little heart tonight. Thank you, you were all luminous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You don’t want to know what’s in the wood shed.

It is the first dry day in what feels like a decade and I tell LSB ‘There’s nothing else for it. We must tackle THE SHED.’ The state of the shed has hovered in our consciousness like a toxic cloud, as one of those dire things to tick off your to-do list, like filling in your tax forms or having a cervical smear test.

Last week, I was all set to cycle to a literary event on my new bicycle. (Once again can I plug’ The Green Bicycle Company. I’m telling you, that Karl is a great fellow.) I donned my helmet and packed a rucksack and laid my hands upon the lock. (The children had been playing with it so the fact I found it at all was a minor miracle.) Then I opened the shed, and alas my bike was buried within.  I took the car. As our friend Davey says, most people’s sheds are in a state of disorder, but most in a vertical sense of the word. Ours has a sink at the bottom, several chairs and some parkrun paraphernalia, and the bikes are chucked on top. Throw in a few plant pots, hula-hoops and a couple of children’s scooters and you’re getting the picture, of horizontal chaos.

So this morning I started on it, somewhat deviously, because it meant I had scattered bits and pieces over the patio area and there was no going back when LSB returned from his 14 mile run. ‘I’m exhausted,’ he’d said earlier, ‘it’ll not be a long one.’ ‘Define long,’ I said when in he came, later than expected, dripping sweat over my nice clean floor.

He took a look outside and his flushed face fell. ‘Oh shit, does that mean we are actually doing this?’ I nodded grimly. I was in poor humour, having already fallen victim to a badly scraped shin from a tumbling bike and nursing a sore eye after a piece of grit or feck knows what fell into it. It took it three hours to work its way out. ‘Do you think I need to go to the Royal?’ I bleated, but LSB’s advice was just to let the eye water. ‘If I stare at all this shite long enough and consider the task at hand that shouldn’t be too hard,’ I replied.

After lunch I took to my bed for brief nap, because tasks like this reduce me to a feeble wreck and I need rest to cope. My doze was punctuated by small children arriving shrieking ‘Look what we’ve found!’ clutching rubbishy old toys that I had neither the sense nor the courage to just bin outright.

Then himself trotted up, looking non-plussed. ‘How have we so much cardboard?’ he asked ‘and saucepans?’ Oh and I’m giving the lawn-mower to one of the lads.’ That woke me out of my stupor. ‘We could have Gumtree-ed that!’ I said. But LSB has taken against Gumtree after people made snide comments about some garments and a roll of feature wallpaper I’d tried to sell. ‘I’m not wasting my time putting up ads so people can rip the piss out of us,’ he sniffed. I argued that people were more likely to buy garden equipment than a damaged wedding dress but he was in no mood to be trifled with. ‘Oh, and I found a whole suitcase of stuff for a car boot,’ he said. ‘Why do you have this?’ He held up a box of wipes for bald men. I have no idea how these found there way into my shed, or into my life. “Refreshing on the head,” it says they are,’ he said, and started Whatsapping his friends, who later photo-shopped some of the boys into the picture.

When I came downstairs, discombobulated and aggrieved because it was my turn to ‘sort’ and take some stuff to the dump, the children were playing with a new toy from their cousin which appeared to be hamsters on wheels which raced around the floor making shrill electronic noises. ‘This day has taken an odd turn,’ I thought to myself, reflecting that this time yesterday I was wandering around Glendalough in a state of beatific wonder.

But it is now 8-10, I am about to put a bike on Gumtree, regardless of what himself says (though after the fortune that was Druids Glen he may well just be pleased to see his bank balance in credit.) Our shed is organised and our load feels lighter. And tomorrow, the little buggers go back to school. There is a God after all.