SWB has a whinge

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Sometimes, I catch myself getting a wee bit excited about Christmas. And then I remember, that it’s quite simply a pain in the rear. For years I quite loathed the day itself because in an act of Christian charity my mum would insist in inviting an elderly uncle and aunt around, who weren’t known for their love of children and we had to be polite and behave. We called the aunt ABC (Aunt Bloody Caroline, she really was the most insufferable old crone) and the pair of them used to put a right old dampener on proceedings. Then they died, and there followed a few years when it was just a small family gathering and you know, it was fine, but in truth I wish we’d all just gone to the Canaries and had a proper rest instead of the whole festive rigmarole. Jump to 2010, the year we got married and it snowed and we spent the whole fecking time worried no one would make the wedding. Then the cake AAI* insisted in baking broke to bits and we spent Boxing Night searching the Co-op in Ballyholme for baking powder to make a new one. God, was she irked that night. (The cake, incidentally, was delicious but the ruthless staff at LaMon Hotel threw in the bin after only a small proportion had been consumed. Terrible choice of venue, but that’s another story.)

And now we have the offspring, yey! So it’s meant to be all the magic of Santa and joy, and so it is. For about 45 minutes. But the thing is, even though I actually quite like my children, (I even hug and kiss them on occasion), they are exceedingly intense little people. The guerning to which we’ve been subjected has been nothing ordinary. The incessant whining, despite trips to parks and play dates and loving family lavishing gifts upon them, has our nerves in tatters. We’re just over the Winter Solstice, everyone is supposed to be slowing down a little, breathing more deeply, sleeping more soundly. But my pair? They didn’t get the memo. The small one has been particularly obstreperous with about 5 meltdowns before noon. My skills of diplomacy have been so sorely tested that I feel fully eligible for a job with the UN peacekeepers.

And just to add to the lack of festive cheer, I always, always, get fucking sick. A ghastly cold made itself known on Christmas Eve and being drenched 3 times amid squally showers further exacerbated my misery. A normal person, in response to illness might have taken the opportunity to sit on their arse, but oh no, Stoical Wee Bastard me! Parkrun was duly completed on the morning of the 25th, followed by the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker on the 27th. What better for one’s wheeziness than racing 8.4 miles over hill and dale, through marsh and field and shoe-sucking swamps. All great fun, bedecked in matching elf costumes, we ran alongside snowmen and cowboys and even a few turkeys. We then legged it, in all our mud splattered elfed-up splendour to the Slieve Donard, for a night of romance. Well, we just about stayed awake long enough to partake of dinner, before passing out by 10pm. I woke the next morning feeling like my lungs had been sand-papered, hawking and spluttering with bronchitic vigour and ruing my bravado the day before.

What a way to spend one’s wedding anniversary: waking in a bed the size of a small Polynesian island, with muscles in spasm and a rattly chest, trying to conceal one’s vileness from the husband alongside. Let’s just say we didn’t do the 5* suite justice.

So in short, despite the efforts of family to spoil me with gifts and meals and loveliness, there seems to be some sort of Christmas conspiracy, intent upon making sure I don’t enjoy it as I might. And only 11 days until the kids go back to school! Christmas, the holiday that just keeps on giving.

*AAI- Almost Always Irked- acronym for my mother

SWB doles out hangover advice

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You wake up bloated and groggy and your tongue feels like you’ve licked next door’s dog. Piecing together the night before, you realize that you lost the run of yourself altogether. You recall countless glasses of Prosecco, lovingly topped up by gracious hosts, and later by your merry self. You went to town on the sausage rolls, the tortilla chips and vol-a-vents. There wasn’t a saturated fat that went un-nibbled. Judging by the cloying reek of garlic in the air you let rip on the dips too. And there was cake, oh Good Lord above was their cake. Mince pies, Büche de Noel, a slab of something rich and gateau-ish too that would have made Mary Berry proud. There was probably Baileys. Hang on, as you raise your head from the bed and get a scalding pain behind your eye sockets, there was definitely Baileys.

Used to be, back in those halcyon pre-children days, that you could have slept off the dreadfulness and gone for a fry in Maggie Mays, or Café Conor if you were feeling flush. But this morning, one small child has an elbow on your bladder and the other is bellowing “Mummeeeee, I’m lonely” as she watches Octonauts. How you hate Octonauts, but could be worse, could be Justin. Is that eejit ever off the air?

Prior to last night’s munch-a-thon, you’d been doing quite well. There had been yoga and running and you’d even ingested some fruit. So what’s to do? No use wasting precious energy self-flagellating and fretting: you’ll need every ounce to drag your battered body from the bed. So it’s futile to languish in a pit of despair: neck a glass of water then hit the shower. First liberally apply a citrusy body wash (my current favourite is Happy Buddha by Rituals) to revive you and then put a body brush to good use. Brush away from the heart and get yourself a-tingling. This stimulates the lymphatic system and kick starts the detoxing process. You should now be feeling a little less vile, so reach for the tinted moisturiser, or maybe you’re more in need of Estée Lauder’s Double Wear. The main aim is to not want to chunder when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror.

So you’ve taken the bad look off yourself. Kids are plonked in front of the TV eating toast. (LSB comes into his own sometimes). Take your laptop somewhere quiet and do a few stretches. I appreciate that this sounds like the twattiest thing I’ve ever suggested, but this will help. Yoga with Adrienne has brightened up many a day for me, and she does a session for every eventuality. Morning Yoga, Yoga Rinse, (my own favourite) or Yoga for the horrifically hungover. Normally I wouldn’t be dying about an American ‘go gal!’ type but I got in to her through my good friend Emma, who takes no shit. A few gentle postures with ambient tunes may be just the ticket soothe your soul and propel you onto action. A scented candle or failing that, a drop or two of Eucalyptus oil on a tissue will help cut through the fug.

And then, nothing else for it, out you go. The kids will be skipping about in a mild frenzy by now, launching themselves off the sofa. Holidays do that to children, which is why we long for them and dread them in equal measure. Fresh air will relieve the cabin fever and if you’re lucky Hatch coffee van will be in Cherryvale where John or Claire will sympathise with you while you bemoan the choices of the night before. All is good guys, all is good.

(The following advice is only useful or relevant if you just had a few too many glasses of wine. If you went to town on the shots and all the rest, then God help you. I have no answers.)

SWB gets effusive

This is the inimitable Susan Clarke, sipping a well deserved glass of bubbly to celebrate her stage debut last Wednesday. The art of story telling is something for which the Irish are renowned, but sadly it’s an art that’s on the wane. I reckon it’s down to greedy publicans who deliberately have the music blaring so forcefully that you merely exchange banalities and thus drink faster in their watering holes. Shower of bastards. However, last week I finally made it down to the Black Box for one of their 10×9 evenings, and it was wonderful. 9 brave and talented people told a tale; some funny, some poignant, some both, and all terrific. The organisation of the event, combined with the sheer craftsmanship of the storytellers made this an unforgettable night, and I was frankly, a bit awestruck. Next one is on the 11th Jan. I’d love to be courageous enough to do one myself but the standard was so high I fear I’d look like a total prick. But regardless whether I share a tale or not I’ll be there. My New Year’s Resolution is to do more quality things-if 2016 has taught me anything it’s that life is fleeting and fragile, so do what makes the heart soar.

SWB on letting rip

Christmas: always makes me feel like an orange in a Nutri-bullet. Yes, there is wonder and delight and magic, but being one who’s prone to gloom and sadness, this dichotomy can render me a trifle raw this time of year. So anyway, in a long queue in Forestside the other day I was heavy of heart and short on patience. I tend to go a bit ‘Tourettesy’ in such situations and thus was swearing away to myself quite audibly and I caught a few ugly looks. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, but then a little cross. I was clearly agitated, I didn’t need other people to make me feel even worse.

 

Choice language is something for which amongst my friends, I’m renowned. Allegedly there was a sweep-stake as to which child would say utter the F-word first. It was of course Father Jack but at least she waited until she was two and half. Clever little buddy though. When I went pale and did the usual, “Mummy only says that when she’s very, very stressed, you NEVER say that word,” she nodded, sweetly. So she sang it instead. We called it the ‘Fucking Hell’ song. She would sing it away happily in her car seat, imitating the profanity I use when trying to make a right turn coming out of the crèche. Little shit. The older one would look on agog, half shocked, half thrilled at her audacity. With teaching though, it’s quite the occupational hazard. You never know which little sod is going to run home and tell their mum that you let rip with some expletive in class and cause heartache all round.

 

For someone with an English degree though, my knowledge of etymology can be somewhat shaky, and has led to some inappropriate use of insults. For a time I became quite fond of the word ‘scrote’ and bandied it about the classroom with abandon. Indeed, in their end of year thank you card three girls signed off, not with their names but as ‘your three favourite scrotes’. It was only when one likeable chap asked “Miss, have you thought what scrote actually means?” and I sounded it out, that the penny dropped. A friend taking me home after school almost crashed his car when I told him of my learning experience. “WHAT? So you’ve been going round all this time calling your pupils ball-bags?” Put like that, it did indeed sound crude. Honestly, I’d had no idea. Neither had my mum; she’d been calling my brother and me scrotes for years.

 

The thing about me is, I’m dreadfully judgemental about the swearing. It’s ok if I say it, but if it’s a crowd of youngsters on a bus then I’m the first to feel disgruntled. I don’t want to be one of those eejits who uses the eff word as punctuation, but I must admit, I think I’m sworn more profusely since becoming a mum than ever before. Children will do that to you. Christmas will do that to you. Life is very, very stressful. There’s a satisfaction in uttering the harsh fricative ‘f’ sounds of ‘fuck’, and it relieves a bit of tension when fiddle-dee-dee just won’t cut the mustard. In fact my swearing has helped my kids develop a bit of empathy. When I’m stricken by another dreadful news report or have been cut up by some wanker on the road, I can’t contain myself. The older one, who has a bit of sense, just sighs and says: “What’s wrong now mummy?” They get it. I get it. So the pious can clear away off and leave me alone. You never know what people are going through and why they may be letting off steam. Plus, I guarantee there’s still a few kids in Belfast having a chuckle about their nutty teacher.

 

SWB goes hopping mad

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It’s Christmas time, which means less about the miracle of a Virgin Birth and more about conceding to the every whim of your spoilt children. Mine are currently banging on about a rabbit. Just what I need, I’ll finally get my lovely new kitchen and they’ll be some bastard rabbit hopping round, chewing cables and excreting on my new (expensive) tiles.

The small child has always loved bunnies. Asked what her favourite animal is and she responds: I like bunnies, And MORE bunnies, and then REAL bunnies. It seems churlish to refuse her one, but we all know who’ll be de-lousing it and and raking up pee-soused sawdust.

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Last year I wobbled briefly on my stance and popped into Pets at Home on Boucher. It was a child’s birthday and I thought I’d make enquiries about a lop-eared bun as a gift. I swear one could probably foster a child refugee with less rigmarole. I left the premises convinced I lacked the necessary wherewithal to care for a rabbit. Apparently, they are so dim that if they live in a hutch you MUST seal off the access to the run when it gets cold, otherwise they just sit outside and freeze to death. Who knew? There were numerous other considerations, and really one wondered, was it worth the effort?

I met a nice rabbit on my travels once, while living on the French island of Réunion. I used to teach English to a family who owned a giant bun, who rejoiced in the name of Jean-Baptiste. He lolloped about the garden and in the heat of midday would seek sanctuary under the sofa indoors. It seemed to enjoy the television, when it wasn’t asleep. A sanguine and docile creature, he almost made rabbit ownership look doable. He was their second rabbit, their first was lovely too apparently. He was called Jean-Jacques. What happened to him? I asked politely. The child replied with a typical Gallic shrug. “Il est mort et on l’a mangé” (he died and we ate him). I could just imagine them, raising a toast to auld Thumper, before tucking in to him à la moutarde. The French, you gotta love ‘em.

 

I digress. I think the only bunny Santa will be bringing is the kitch lamp featured above. And that’s only if I sell I kidney to fork out the £55.