SWB on religious nut jobs

dont-be-a-dick-550x550-2It’s that time of year again, long balmy evenings, exams are over, papers (almost) marked, and we can slowly begin to exhale. It’s perfect weather to do a bit of light gardening, or open a bottle of Viognier and start on that pile of Guardian reviews lying piled, dust heavy in the cover. Or, you could don a suit, meet your cronies, and head out and start bellowing fire and brimstone Bible verses from a loud speaker. Are you familiar with this lot? If you live in Northern Ireland then I’m guessing so. Feckers are everywhere, scaring the shit clean out of you when you’re just relaxing after your dinner.

 

I used to live off the Cregagh Road and I loved it there, and had tremendous affection for my wee house. One night, I was getting ready to go and meet my friends when there was a powerful crack of static and then a roar: “Have you repented? I will ask again, have you repented for the hour of the Lord is near!!!!!” Oh it was awful. They were at the corner of my street, so not even on the main road, at the cross roads on an avenue. On and on the thunderous ranting went. I was practically a-quiver, not with rage, but with fear. You see, I’d had a very bad accident and was feeling very fragile and jittery. I didn’t like living on my own much and was new to the area. So to see these men dressed in funereal garb and yelling was not soothing to my soul at all. Not one bit.

 

Now, that I’m feeling a bit stronger in myself and less easily cowed I’d have made my feelings clear, with the aid of a power hose. But back then, not so much.

 

My friend has just bought a house in Lisburn, and she and her husband aren’t from that part of town. You can imagine how thrilled they were the other evening when a similar mission to save souls was staged practically outside their kitchen window. It was after seven and they were putting the infants to bed, or trying to, when this racket began. To exacerbate the situation the temperature had been in the twenties all day so the windows were open. “Who are those men and why are they shouting at us?” asked their frightened four year old. So fair play to my friend, out she went and had a quiet word and they shuffled off, with their portable sound system.

 

I’m telling you, if I had been one of their wives I’d have had something to say. Here’d be me: “Neville! Where do you think you’re headed with that loud speaker? Skiving off again? There’s laundry to put out and a child to bath so you may put that speaker down and get back in here. NOW.”

 

Or here’s an idea. How about, instead of scaring the bejesus clean out of children, these fellas make a few brownies and take them to their local mums and tots for the poor knackered parents who’ve been up all night with sweltered youngsters? Or they could visit a local nursing home and read some uplifting passages of Scripture to elderly folk who can’t make it out to church. They could bring a sponge cake with cream and jam, organise a flask of coffee and put in a grand afternoon there. This might make a lasting impression on the overworked care-home staff. You see, so many good ideas, which don’t involve being a public nuisance.

 

They’ll probably argue that they have to go to their work. Well if you’re so holy take a day’s unpaid leave and help the needy, instead of harassing the general public at an hour that suits you.

 

Now listen, you may not believe this, given my love of the wine and tendency to swear like a sailor, but I’m actually a believer. Yes, my faith could do with a bit more nurturing and I’m definitely a work in progress, but I have my beliefs, and they’re between me and the big man (or woman) upstairs. No group of men cawing like malevolent crows would make me wish to darken the door of any church. But I’ve met a few people who do, and they don’t need a loud speaker to show me how loving and compassionate they are.

Happy Father’s Day, LSB

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There he is, taking the Dyson to a car seat. On Father’s Day.

“The period has arrived,” I tell LSB, in a sorrowful tone. I was feeling weak and pathetic, a pale and wan shadow of my usual cheerful, ebullient self (as if). “I knew it was en-route,” he sighed in a similar, sorrowful tone. “I saw the washing had started in earnest.” Started? STARTED? Oh, that got me riled. Ask any parent of small children or wife of a sports enthusiast, and you will be aware that the washing never stops. But according to LSB as the old period draws near so too does my fervour for cleaning things. I’ve even been known to hoover, and that’s no regular occurrence in our house. But if I didn’t load the washer, we would live in a terrible, stained state of chaos.

 

One summer I went on a school trip. LSB kindly picked me up. “Don’t worry,” said he, “I’ve done the washing.” I went on to have a wee complain about the heat of the bus, the rubbish food, the child who was sick on the bus, the child who lost 100 euro on a beach even though they were told to bring 20 quid AT MOST. On and on I went. “But,” he interrupted, “at least you don’t have to do the washing. I did that.” He pointed to himself to illustrate the point. I came home. There were still pants lying on the bedroom floor. Strewn round the living room was a various assortment of pyjamas, shorts and t-shirts. But indeed there was one large basket of washing which was clean and dry. And all boasted a delicate pinkish hue. He’d just f**ked the whole lot in together and sent it chuntering away merrily at 40 degrees. I just put it away. I didn’t even comment. Sometimes what’s the point?

 

But back to this weekend. Yes, I was in an ecstasy of washing but wasn’t it tremendous drying weather? And with my love for bunging stuff on the line and saving electricity I was in my element. So Sunday night (Father’s Day) we roasted a chicken and after telling the kids to “Get into bed AND FLIPPING stay there” we got a few chores done. LSB built an Ikea bench for shoes and assembled a trolley. (All the rage now, trollies). I folded some laundry that had blown dry in the balmy air. We washed and cleaned a car seat we’re passing on to a friend. We listened to Arcade Fire and opened a bottle of Bordeaux. The small child came down of course and demanded some food and attention but we bundled her back to bed after a piece of chicken. “Wasn’t that a lovely evening,” I said. “Better than a night out!” LSB just gave me a funny look. Some people get a fancy dinner, maybe even a wee cake. LSB gets his tool kit out. And God love him, that’s not even a euphemism.

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Here’s the trolley, a trifle askew to the right, but that’s to provide wall support to my droopy aloe vera plant. (That’s not  a euphemism either.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would you ever think that this bench from Ikea was destined to be a television stand? For the princely sum of £10, it doubles here as handy shoe rack, the top of which will be the ‘forever home’ of our keys, in a little bowl. I’ll not be shouting “Where are my f**king keys?” anytime soon. No sirree.

 

SWB gets analytical

Careful what you believe in, and to to paraphrase U2, “She moves in mysterious ways“. This morning this might have seemed like the ideal scenario for the DUP, the parochial party from Northern Ireland now thrust into the big time as the Queen maker. But as the dust is settling, the rest of the UK media sees who Theresa May has allied herself with, a party that (in no particular order) opposes same sex marriage; refuses women the right to have their say over their own bodies; believes that creationism should be taught in schools (despite having press calls at the Giant’s Causeway); thinks that Muslims should only go to the shops for them, and literally have an economic policy where ash means cash. ( so much for the ‘stewardship of the earth’, we’re supposed to demonstrate; they happily skip over that Biblical passage as they line their cronies’ pockets.)

The rest of the UK, will look at this sudden power broker and literally will think “what the flying f**k?” this isn’t anything we voted for. These are not values we believe in, nor the government we wanted.

Northern Ireland has its own set of problems, the United Kingdom as a whole has an entirely new set of problems that didn’t exist yesterday, this is an attempt by an extremely weak Prime Minister, clinging on to that last hope of power for herself, not for the good of the country.

Yesterday the people voted for hope, this pact/deal flies in the face of that.

However, all is not lost. Already the backlash to this has begun, with a Prime Minister who has made the u-turn an art form, this decision is unlikely to last (as is she). To echo back to U2 – Don’t let the bastards grind you down. The whole situation is so absurd that it has to be short-lived, and I for one hope that we have the right leader to pick up the pieces when things fall apart.

Insomnia strikes SWB

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I couldn’t get to sleep last night. Maybe it was my persistent cough; (damn those fags*) or the ill-advised two cups of coffee that day, or maybe it was just the horror sinking in of the most recent terrorist attacks. I have two close friends who live within spitting distance of London Bridge. Before we all had kids I was never off their doorsteps, flying over for half-term and Easter for my London fix. We’d spend our mornings in Spitalfields where I’d snap up a whole rake of cheery tunic dresses for work, then hit Brick Lane for a curry. We’d feast on sushi in South Kensington’s Kulu Kulu before basking in the gardens of the V&A. And we’d spend a lot of time just lounging in my friend’s house on Butler’s Wharf, watching the swell of the Thames and the hustle and bustle below as we drank Rioja on her rooftop.

I mourn those days. I used to book a flight without a thought; dip my toe into that sunny cosmopolitan world, before nipping back home to teach on the Falls. I miss that carefree time without kids, but I always longed to take the girls there when they were big enough to enjoy it with me. I hate that I now feel scared of some madman with a knife on the rampage, or behind the wheel of a van destined to kill.

These ruminations weren’t conducive to sleep, so I tossed and turned beside a snoring LSB before taking myself to the spare room where I could be as fitful as I liked. So amid all these bleak thoughts, I came over all Theresa May and said: “Enough is enough”. (That’s as close as May and I will ever come to agreeing on anything). I did took some deep yogic breaths: in for eight out for eight, in for eight out for eight, and I felt my heart rate start to slow. Then I thought of some nice things. What buns would I make for my friends’ next pop up café, Harper’s Yard? Rocky Roads, I concluded. Could I lay hands on some of the sustainable cups I’d bought ages ago and tidied away somewhere? While down this road I thought about some savoury canapés that are served on edible pastry spoons. (These are very big in France and are served as ‘Amuse bouches’ for hors d’oeuvres. Feck, something needs to be amused these days, and it may as well be your mouth.)

Now, I can see some of you rolling your eyes and thinking: “God Almighty, the threat of another terror attack is imminent and she’s actually on about canapés and baked goods?” But let me justify my musings. The edible spoons mean you need neither napkin nor plate, so your bellies feel full but the landfill doesn’t. And who doesn’t like a Rocky Road of a Saturday morning?

As these frothy and frivolous thoughts began to swirl, the anxiety began to leech away. It didn’t go, but it retreated for a while. And finally, I slept.

*I don’t actually smoke, haven’t in years. But if I thought the world was ending tomorrow I’d be back on those bad boys in a jiffy. I loved a menthol with an expresso. Or with a G&T. Or just sitting on my own, in the park with a book. Loved them full stop. Addictive little feckers.