A hungover SWB endures a soft play area

Take some advice from one who knows. When it is bucketing down and you are in the grips of PMT, just stay in bed. Or, if that is not an option, since you have to deliver small children to their Spanish lessons, just park yourself in Kaffe-O until it’s time to retrieve them. Drink your one-shot latte and sit back until the rain subsides, and pray that your rage tapers off with it.

In my efforts to visit the library and do other non-essential tasks, I left my gloves in ‘Threads’, my car keys in the pharmacy and my mind somewhere between Corries and the Mace. Up and down the road I traipsed, in a state of befuddlement, but not until I’d bought a two kilo bag of spuds which I had to lug after me.

And all this was before, BEFORE the small child’s joint party with a little boy to celebrate their fifth birthdays. I need not tell you, that soft-play areas are my nemesis. The noise. The garishness. The bloody parents, especially those who feign ignorance when little Joshua elbows Hermione off the slide. ‘What? Who? Where?’ Surely not!’ You may recall that on Saturday the rain was torrential, so it felt as if every child between the ages of 0 to 9 a ten-mile radius, was in Funtastic. It was MAYHEM.

The small child was terrified when pluckier children took her off into the deeper entrails of the centre to the ‘big slide’. Balls were lobbed and tears were shed. She ended up making her own fun with a few others in their little ‘party room’ where they launched themselves off the sofa onto the pile of coats they had shunted onto the floor. I didn’t give a shit as long as I didn’t have to do anymore consoling, I was trying to put a brave face on it myself.

I have discovered, that since doing Dry January, I can’t drink anymore, or not without feeling truly vile anyway. We had headed for pizza on Friday night as I was in no mood to cook (I had a rabbit cake to bake, I wasn’t cooking dinner as well; HELL no.) I drank two small glasses of red and I might as well have polished off the bottle for the throb in my temples the next morning.

You will, however, be pleased to know that the chocolate bunny cake, despite having a lop-sided head, was a success. ‘Wow,’ said the small child, looking on in wonder. ‘Told you could do it!’ chirruped the older one, and my sour little heart soared.


But I was saved by the loveliness of the mums and dads who came along to the party. Every time I muttered ‘For fuck’s sake’ as some haribo-fuelled hooligan tore past, they smiled in sympathy and made reassuring comments. My friend and I practically had to exert force to make them accept a cup of tea or coffee. One mum refused outright. ‘No way, I’ll get my own,’ said she, and I had to almost rugby tackle her away from the café queue. ‘I have brought you here, to this ninth circle of hell, for my child’s party,’ I said. ‘for fuck’s sake accept a cup of coffee.’ She sat back down and drunk up smarts when it was proffered.


I rang the Mothership after to report how it had all gone. ‘Dreadful,’ she said. ‘I’ll never forget the time we had your party in the Groomsport boathouse and those boys, the RAMSTAMMING of them up and down that hall. And those wee girls, ashen they were, for fear of being trampled, or having their head taken off by a football. I had a migraine for a week after it.’ Yes, I don’t recall that party being much craic myself.


‘I hope you at least got the mums and dads a nice cup of tea,’ said Mum.

‘Surely,’ I said, and told her about the woman I verbally abused as I exhorted her to take a cup. Sometimes mum can cope with swearing. Not last week.

‘You said WHAT to the woman?’

‘Relax,’ said I. ‘everyone swears a bit now.’

‘Desperate altogether, to think how such profanities have infiltrated everyday parlance.’

(I think she’s reading the Classics again.)


SWB on World Book Day

(Folks I started this last week, before our wonderful granny passed away. I just finished it this morning as I think Anne would have like it, especially the bit about her being well organised.)

People I am melted. Pure melted. Hot on the heels of ‘Dress your little darlings up as a Fairy Tale Character’ comes ‘World Book Day’, so head directly to Sainsbury’s and buy another fucking costume so you can create more clutter in your house and empty your wallet in one fell swoop. Now, I am a ‘stay-at-home mum’ so perhaps you are thinking, what has got her goat this time? MAKE something you lazy article.’ But alas, I may be able to fling a few words at a page, but artistic I am not, and sewing is not one of my skills. I think before we built the extension I had a needle and thread but in sooth I know not where one is to be found these days. Long gone. Anything in need of fixing is sent directly to my mother or mother-in-law. In fairness, if it goes to my mum it is set upon ‘The Chair’ and is then retrieved and sent to the mother-in-law where it comes back fixed within the week. I come from a line of procrastinators. (‘Doing me down again,’ I can hear my mother say.)


In first form at Glenlola Collegiate, the Home Economics exam entailed a sewing exercise whereby we had to sew around a circle, square and triangle on an A4 sheet. My sewing machine was at the back of the room on a funny little desk and I recall my foot getting stuck on the pedal. When I handed up the massacred sheet of paper the teacher looked on agog, before  enquiring if I was making some sort of feminist statement about girls being forced to do needlework.  (I went on to win the prize for Home Economics at A-level, for which I was awarded a silver teapot so clearly feminism had never been on my agenda).


But you know by now that I’m mad about the reading. It’s why my house is bogging, and why I never get round to gardening because if I’m not writing or cooking dinners I’m engrossed in a book. The children are never out of the library and the poor critters are read to morning noon and night. But does this mean that I want to so spend my evening sewing a fecking costume? It does not.


So back to World Book Day. The small child wants to go in dressed as a koala bear after the book ‘A day at the Animal Airport’ (which is pure genius and has been penned by someone as demented as me by family life and the trauma that is flying with small children.) ‘Righteo,’ said LSB as he started looking up koala costumes on Amazon. I nearly had a fit. ‘Houl on a minute there, we have no more need of another costume! sez I. Upstairs we have two child sized and one adult reindeer outfit, three rabbit ensembles, one polar bear suit and a giant banana. There are numerous girly princess dresses and a clatter of other random fancy dress paraphernalia. ‘I WILL NOT BOW TO CORPORATE GREED,’ I yell to himself, who nervously closes the laptop and mutters, ‘and me only trying to help.’


The older one wants to be ‘Plop, The Owl who is afraid of the dark’. I remember that LSB’s reindeer suit was next to wrecked after the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker and start contemplating cutting it up into bits and sticking brown fuzzy scraps on to cardboard wings.

In the end, after the week took a horrible turn, on Wednesday evening LSB says ‘What about World Book Day and I say ‘Oh fuck it,’ and we march the little people into M&S and one gets to be Rapunzel and the other is Alice in Wonderland. And then it snows, so they don’t even get to wear them into school on Thursday. We are forty quid down, and there is YET MORE CLUTTER. But as I watch the kids don their outfits and dance away some of their sadness for a moment,I don’t really care. ‘Come here til we have a story,’ I say and we cuddle on the sofa and give ‘Animal Airport’ another whirl.





SWB feels the chill

At significant times in my life with LSB it has snowed. Heavily. When we announced our plans to marry at Christmas in 2010, the Mothership was immediately resistant to the idea. ‘What if it snows and guests can’t make it to the day?’ she muttered. ‘Putting people in mortal danger. Not on, in my book,’ she went on.       ‘It’s never that bad here,’ I replied, dismissing her concerns. My mother is prone to hyperbole. Well, wasn’t I in for a rude awakening. That was the Christmas where the weather was so inclement that the pipes froze and emergency water had to shipped over from Scotland. Guests arrived in their finery to our wedding having had an all-over wash with baby wipes that morning.


We were to see plenty of baby wipes in the two years that followed. When our second daughter arrived in February 2013, I was looking forward to taking her our for a stroll in her Uppa-Baby, when the heaviest snow in my lifetime hit Belfast. In our Four Winds micro-climate, we were completely cut off. Forays to Sainsbury’s were an expedition which necessitated snow boots, and skis would have been the more expedient option.  Optimistic guests came with baby gifts only to find themselves in an Arctic Tundra, unable to get up the hill.


And this week, we face a horribly new phase in our lives. The loss of a parent. LSB’s mother, who had taken ill in January, passed away on Monday. And the snow came, this time with its full Arctic blast, as if to reinforce our feelings of shock and disorientation. We weren’t ready for this. Anne had been ill before, but a defiant and resilient spirit meant that we were  convinced that she was going to stick around for a while.


In the same week that saw the small child’s fifth birthday, sympathy cards now jostle with birthday cards on the mantle. Decorations were erected on Tuesday for a small party for her birthday, and taken down last night so we could take soup to warm us after the funeral service and the cremation. I was tempted to leave the mint green and peach bunting up as I think the mischievous streak in my mother-in-law would have approved. Garlands for Anne Garland would have been appropriate, but in the end decorum won out. We will grieve when it is the time to grieve and later we shall celebrate her love for this family and her indomitable spirit.


So all feels odd and strange and more tenuous than before. But what remains despite the sadness is the warmth of the people who surround us. The phones which have buzzed, not just with good wishes but with practical offers of support, of which we have not been too proud to avail. Our beautiful girls have been minded; we have been fed and cheered and comforted and this has quelled the emptiness in our hearts.


Anne would have been thrilled f she could have seen how it went today, and what a stellar show was played out in her honour. And somehow, with the tingling glow we felt despite the sadness, I think she may well have had a inkling.


(LSB found this beautiful photo of Carrauntoohil on Twitter. It was from today, but we have no notion who took it. Fair play to them, it’s perfect.)