SWB on the Christmas Countdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

SWB on rainy days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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