Crunch crunch, fistle fistle, chomp chomp. Sluuuurp. Crunch crunch……and repeat. Where was I? Was I at a children’s birthday party? Was I at a giant multiplex where film-goers don’t give a fig for other’s enjoyment of the show? You’ll never guess where this transgression of social norms took place, so I’ll fill you in: only at the Black Box at the wonderful 10×9 last Wednesday night! I kid you not. As usual it was rammed, there were even a few people standing at the back. My friend and I had managed to get a table with some other pals. It’s that sort of event, you arrive and inevitably meet people who say “Join us, we’ve a table!” And in you squeeze and chat and then you shut up and respect the brave folk who’ve got up to share their story with you. The stories, as the title of the event suggests, lasts less than 10 minutes, otherwise HONK! and they’re booted offstage. So surely this guy beside us could have set his giant packet of Dorritos to one side and shown a bit of respect? Sadly not.
I was particularly irked because I really wanted to hear this story. The theme last week was ‘Young’ and a gentleman stood up to tell his experience of being a member of a house church in the Castlereagh Hills in the early eighties. His language was rich and poetic and I could picture this group, watching as explosions lit the sky with the wail of sirens in the distance, discussing the Rapture as sectarian violence shook the city below. These were a group of non-conformist Christians, trying to find their way amid the chaos, some seeking solace from a more repressive religious up-bringing. Having had a brush with the evangelicals myself as a teen, I was rapt; or would have been, had it not been for Mr Doesn’t-Give-A-Shit beside me. I whispered “Is he doing your head in?” to my friend, who’s a reasonable sort. “I’m going to fucking choke him” she replied. I sighed with relief. I sometimes wonder if age is turning me into an uptight old crone. In fairness I was always highly strung. Anyway, the people behind him had a quiet word for he left a packet of Tayto unopened, thereby sparing me further anguish.
There’s a lesson here: unless one is at risk of falling into a hypoglycaemic diabetic coma, you don’t chow down crisps during a 10×9. This event is possibly the cosiest on the Belfast social scene and it shouldn’t be marred in such a fashion. The next one’s in May and I urge you to go. Just leave the snacks at home. No one likes a scene.
This is only about half of our collective stash. At least some of these double up as bottle openers. The rest are quite useless, and some aren’t even aesthetically pleasing.
I’ve been overcome with a powerful fatigue this Easter, and I’m putting it down to PTSD following THE MOVE. I found it most energy zapping. This was far worse than an ordinary move, because we had to clean our house from top to bottom before moving in, then clean the flat which the estate agent deemed I did not do “to the best of my ability”. You can only imagine the sourness of my response to that. Sanctimonious little twat. I felt such a surge of rage I feared a huge blood vessel would burst behind my eye on the Lisburn Road and I would die an ignominious death. But I shall not dwell on the negative because the house is wonderful and I am filled with glee to be in. What remains to be addressed though, is ‘stuff’. In sooth I know not where to turn, my torment is acute. I’m not alone in this predicament. A friend said her boxes began being labelled sensibly with ‘toys’ ‘clothes’ ‘books’ etc and ended up being A O C (any old crap.) We’ve those aplenty.
I think I may have developed some class of OCD, staring at random objects and thinking “this doesn’t have a home” and then firing them into the corner with a heavy sigh. Rule one of Feng Shui: don’t clutter up your corners. The energy stagnates and atrophies, so bad luck will come in truckloads and pestilence will reign upon your house. What do Chinese philosophies and the Old Testament have in common? Disrespect them at your peril.
So here’s a list of stuff I have in abundance.
- Medals from runs. These feckers are everywhere. Now I’m all for celebrating achievement. Take the Dundrum 8.2 miler. It’s no picnic, over dunes and sand and a fast road run to the finish; one may indeed think they deserve a medal, and indeed you get a lovely one. But me, personally I’m just happy with the Father Ted style spread afterwards. LSB and I often do runs together, so we come home with double the hardware. Maybe we should string them round the garden where they could chink in the breeze and keep the magpies off the courgettes. The kids’ love for Paw Patrol still hasn’t waned, so one is often met in the hall by a child being tugged along by a belt or medal ribbon. Round the throat no less. See what I mean? Poor clutter management and you can end up with a garrotted child. That bad enough Feng Shui for you?
I would rather display my necklaces as opposed to medals. Check out this Ikea hack.
- T-shirts from races. Occasionally you get a good t-shirt, the type which directs sweat away from your person, feels lighter than a kitten’s breath upon your back and has a sprinkling of sprinter’s fairy dust for that extra boost. However, most are generic, oversized and superfluous to your running wardrobe. These can be donated to Lorag (or Shaftesbury Recreational Centre) who collect pre-loved sporty gear and distribute them accordingly to those in need.
Or, here’s an idea. How about when you sign up for a run you tick a box which says NO MEDAL OR T-SHIRT WANTED. You pay £2 less for your entry fee and come away with a lighter carbon footprint. How much energy is wasted by mass producing this paraphernalia which many participants could happily do without? Now there’s a question to ponder on Easter Monday.
- Moving away from sports now and on to frocks. I’m coming down with dresses in all their guises: work, summer, cocktail (ooh, get me) wedding outfits, day dresses, you get the picture. Maybe I should post photos of me showcasing said items and followers could send a thumbs up or thumbs down. Since I’ve wangled another year off school I dropped a few ‘worky’ ones down to a friend who’s going to give them a turn, since I won’t be needing them for a good eighteen months. This pal and I used to live together and regularly swapped clothes and accessories. It was a happy time.
LSB has gone to buy a television: nothing fits him better on a bank holiday than the purchasing of something new and techy. He’s taken the children with him, so frankly I don’t mind where he goes, or for how long. But this has afforded me the time to blog about stuff, but not to actually sort anything. I think the time has come for wine. How jolly.
I’ve discovered what’s been missing in my life thus far. It has come in the form of a Belgian student by the name of Léa. Since last summer we’ve been hosting foreign students who are studying English here in Belfast. I want to adopt this one. Though a mere sixteen, she is capable and astute, and has an aptitude for tidying and putting up curtains. When she arrived with a box of chocolates the size of Antwerp, I knew I was on to a winner. This was further clarified when I saw the calming influence she exuded over the children. The small one sprawls over her, cat-like, and gets her to rub her tummy. I hadn’t told my mum that we were due to host a week after moving back home, but Detective Clueso that she is, she went and read the blog. Nine-thirty, the day before said student was due to arrive, the mobile goes. “I am in a state of shock,” said she. “If I were you, I would ring the organisation and tell them that due to unforeseen circumstances they must find a new family for this girl. You simply cannot invite someone into that chaos.” Oh but mother, doubt us not! LSB built her a bed and we fired most of the crap into a downstairs bedroom and hey presto, though by no means tidy, our home was acceptable for guests. I’ve lived abroad and stayed with any number of folk, and I’d take a bit of mess anytime over a pristine house and a boring bastard of a host.
The thing is, if you have someone in, you have to up your game. You can’t be slumming it like a troglodyte, going round all bereft of make-up and looking gormless. (In the midst of upheaval, I do gormless with aplomb). You have to cook a decent meal, set a table, and clear up after yourself. In the midst of the home upheaval it would be easy to live out of a Chinese takeaway or take up residence chez McDonalds, but you can’t be doing that if you’re hosting. Thus we were forced to propel ourselves into action and create an inviting ambiance. And it kind of worked. A sense of order was established and I think we succeeded in given the impression of a nice, if slightly nutty crew. Wee Léa seemed to think so, because she left yesterday having invited us all to Brussels (off-spring included). I’m sure her mother would be thrilled at that prospect.
It’s just the small acts of kindness that bring a lump to your throat. One gorgeous couple announced they were bringing up a dinner and landed up with a huge bag from which they produced pasta, sauce (separately because children can be awkward. Really? Mine?) two types of grated cheese and a dessert. They wouldn’t even stay, just said “Bon apétit” and off they went. We gathered round to eat together with our student and LSB came over all civilised, “Are we just using the plastic containers as serving dishes?” Well yes, Little Lord Fauntleroy. When people bring you a meal you don’t set about decanting it into the Denby. Kind of defeats the purpose, don’t you think? I don’t think I’ve ever relished a Bolognese so much. The soft evening light streamed unto the table, the kids ate with gusto and I thought, “That’s it, I’m home”. So tonight I raise a glass to all the friends and family who helped us get to this point. Those who gave us good advice, helped us move, fed us and minded our kids while we got shit done. And sincere apologies for having had to listen to me moan. There’s been a lot of that…..sorry.
(If only the price of these had been £16.90)
Do you ever go to Ikea, see the drawer organisers and think, that’s it, if I buy these then my life will be SORTED. Well I had a similar epiphany in Homebase on Friday morning when I saw their basket selection. It was a fine and extensive one. Oh the joy, thought I. These are exactly what I require for the unit I pilfered from the skip. (In truth it never actually made the skip, I got it before it was turfed in). It has now become LSB’s stuff holder, for all his sporty accoutrements. He spied some storage boxes emblazoned with the Union Jack. “I think those are the ones for me” he commented wryly. “Oh yes”, I agree. “We could call it ‘a very Brexit cupboard.’ I bet Nigel Farage has one.” We pondered whether Tricolor boxes were also available, contemplating that a mixture of the two would reflect our cross community status as a couple. We bought a rake of baskets and I got to sorting out the minutiae of our lives, with Radio 6 in the background.
What with the trauma (and I use not this word lightly, moving was horrific, with builder’s dust and mouldy curtains and a worrying discovery of mouse droppings) I haven’t been able to care too deeply about world affairs. Back in June when the appalling Brexit die was cast I was grief stricken. A friend put it well when she compared it to being heartbroken. You’d motor on as before then remember what happened and feel devastated all over again. She’s also married to a French man so probably feels the implications more acutely. Her husband is an excellent runner, to whom I refer as ‘The Flying Frenchman’. I can just hear Sammy Wilson: “these French ones, coming over here, winning our races.”
Anyway. I still feel very sad, and angry, especially because I feel we look like a bunch of arseholes to the rest of Europe. But as in back in June, I reckon just keep doing the good things. The day after Brexit there was the Beat Festival in Ormeau Park. It was like the Rainbow Nation: I wanted to phone Farage and say “Get your smug ale-swigging arse over here.” After all the shite the people of Belfast have endured just look at this carnival. There was no evidence of a small minded, embittered people. And the sun shone and the beat went on as if to say you can’t keep the goodness down. We’ll keep going and we’ll do it better and fuck your Article 50.
Incidentally, we cleared enough clutter to welcome our Belgian student to our home last night. After a mammoth effort by friends and family our living space was cleared (and cleaned) sufficiently to enjoy our first meal at the table, complete with small children burping and wandering off mid-meal. “They are very tired and ‘très excités’ I explained to excuse them, but I bet they’ll do the same tonight. Little buggers.
I’ll post a few photos once more detritus has been binned. Watch this space.