SWB has to restrain herself

1490312249197 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.

SWB and the struggle for zen

IMG_3584This 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.

  1. 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?

IMG_3582I would rather display my necklaces as opposed to medals. Check out this Ikea hack.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

SWB starts to feel at home again

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.

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Taking back control one basket (case) at a time

(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.

SWB is off her trolley

Folks we’re in, oh yes. Here I sit, perched at the breakfast bar, and pausing to exhale. It’s been one rocky ride.

 

LSB is back to work, yes that’s right, the week we actually move in, he’s back at the office. Fecking builder’s and their deadlines; those are a movable feast I can tell you. But in fairness he was around to help with the clear out job last week, and erect some bedroom furniture, courtesy of Action Cancer on the Ormeau road.

 

My attitude to moving is haphazard. Most people stockpile boxes in advance, then fill and then label according, so they can unpack in time. Far too sensible for us! Oh no, we repeatedly fill a few bags, take back to the house, dump and return for another go. We then stare in horror at the wreckage.

 

Some kind friends called to assist the shift from the apartment. Susan arrives and we set to clearing. I have grotesquely underestimated the amount of stuff. If you read my blog back in October you may remember phrases such as ‘pared down living’ and I think the phrase ‘capsule wardrobe’ was even bandied about. It was all shite. Our mounds of clothing, books and toys  have grown exponentially. Susan notes the lack of boxes and usual moving paraphernalia. I have about three Sainsbury’s Bags for Life and a couple of shopping baskets, ‘borrowed’ from the same store. Undeterred she sets to, “Why don’t we take the big awkward things first.” She heads to the lift with an easel and some bits of bed. Big bits in successfully, she surveys the wreckage and tentatively enquires: “I don’t want to upset your system but…” It is perfectly obvious that there is no system, so under her guidance we just get to it. Wrapping a mountain of clothes in a duvet as it turns out is an excellent means of transporting half a wardrobe. Who knew? She is adept, purposeful and positively Amazonian as she hoists and shifts. She wouldn’t see me in her wake.

 

Tuesday was the turn of the Racing Retiree to lend a hand. She’s another expert, no messing about there. I thought I was better organised this time, I’d emptied a few of the bags, and there was another eiderdown for clothing conveyance. She too, noting the disarray took matters in hand. “What would you like done with the artwork?” She asks tactfully, surveying the children’s doodles, strewn throughout the room. They go in a bag and are dumped. Thank God for that. I’ve borrowed a trolley from the local garage, which is another Top Tip if you happen to live in a third floor apartment. My friend asserts that this genius idea forgives all other lack of system.

 

I haven’t been an easy person to be around. Working with me at times like this must be akin to dealing with someone who’s suffered a head trauma. Luckily my friends are kind and understanding of my befuddlement. They see the scale of the operation, and forgive the lack of forward planning on my part.

 

So it’s now 5-30 in the morning, I’m having palpitations and instead of lying awake I’m up drinking tea and blogging. We have a foreign student coming to stay on Sunday and a bed and sofa to build in preparation. I seriously need my head read.

SWB on profanity (redux)

CDb-KtvXIAImXuODING A LING. Well who could that me, before 10am of a morning? It was herself. A call before noon can only mean one thing: either someone’s died or she’s raging. It was the latter. “Now, I haven’t had time to vet what you’re putting out there, because I don’t have hours to while away on social media, but I think it’s a disgrace.” “What’s appalled you now?” I enquire, knowing rightly. “But I just went on this morning, to see what you were up to, and I was shocked, quite frankly. And after you chatting to Frank, and him so nice, but I’m telling you, he’ll not be having you back on the air if he reads the like of that.” “I used the word ‘shite’ mum, I’ve heard you use worse when you can’t get parked ‘in front of your own house’.” “I’m quite sure you’re mistaken, but that’s beside the point. No, the point I am at pains to establish, is that there is just no need for such profanity. I couldn’t even let your father see it, he’d be most distressed.” Oh God, make it stop. “I mean look at Julian. Julian combines wit and humour and all at 7.30 before Coronation Street. I’ll never forget the Christmas Eve special about the reindeer. And he doesn’t run around using bad language.” I actually would love a glass of wine with Julian. It’s on my wish list. Julian, Carolyn Stewart and SWB, sharing a pitcher in the Perch. It would be a riot.

So readers, I put it to you. Does my language truly offend? Should I go off swearing for Lent? I actually don’t think I’m that bad, I hear plenty worse. Right, back to the house I go, to get stuck in. Now if that won’t make me swear, what will?

SWB comes a cropper

Picture2My week deteriorated further. Poor advance planning on stool purchases aside, my pièce de résisitance was yet to come. LSB is referring to the most recent debacle as ‘revenge of the skip’. You may have noted that skips seem to have exerted a magnetic pull over me of late. Firstly, a succession have been filled outside our home with the remnants of my former kitchen, amongst other rubble. There’s the skips I’ve been rummaging about in, salvaging small tables and units destined for landfill. And then there’s the ones I just drive straight into for a bit of pre-weekend entertainment. Yes, you read that right What a dick. How could you just drive straight into something? Well quite easily apparently, if you’re me. I was up to my old tricks, recovering some old cupboards for my utility room from a friend’s house. (I did ask first.) In my haste to deliver LSB to work before half past nine and get my builders to install said cupboards, I misjudged how skips jut out a bit at the bottom and “Boom”, straight into it I went and took off my headlight and a lot more besides.

I seek comfort in the fact that others while under duress do the same things. I have a lovely friend, whom I consider to have excellent judgement. Anytime we meet up I feel the better for it. Have you ever seen on Mumsnet how it says AIBU and people ask the opinions of some randomers before they tell their boss to go f**k themselves or fire their nanny for feeding their children shite? Well I would just ring this friend, and she would say in the nicest possible way to wind my neck in and take myself out for coffee and a bun. She’s fabulous. But when under stress herself, she shouldn’t be let near a motor. She is forever reversing into posts or bollards,though thankfully no pedestrians to the best of my knowledge. If her mother knows she is frazzled she leaves voicemail messages saying “TAKE A BUS.’

I wish to God I had just taken a bus, but it was quite a heavy cupboard. Anyway, there were silver linings. One, I was rattled and there’s a lesson there. If you’re rattled, take a pew, and breathe deeply. Go to yoga, have a latte, or sit on your arse but don’t go racing round in a frenzy. The chore can wait. Two, in a crisis, have LSB nearby. God almighty, I hate to be a smug sort of creature but he was rather terrific. He informed his work he’d be late and accompanied me to a garage. Then he took me for a coffee to settle my nerves and took over the house business for the morning, since my project management skills were somewhat impaired. He was also remarkably sanguine about the whole episode, which was a comfort indeed.

Plus, after I’d embarrassed myself yowling in front of the builders they went into overdrive and galvanised themselves into action. Stuff was actually done for a change.

Incidentally, if you do go driving into things, go to Breda Tyres. There’s a mechanic there called Keith who is a saintly sort of fellow and he’ll sort you out in a jiffy. He is so soothing on the nerves that he really ought to work in A&E. I arrived in tears and left feeling as though I’d just won the Premium Bonds. He’s a dote.

But onwards and upwards and moving back home next week. Expect posts on the topic of botched DIY and financial penury. And the swearing will go off the scale. (What’s new, sez you).

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SWB goes shopping

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God but last week was mad altogether. I was killing dead things, trying to get this house furnished. I had my new unit for storage saved from the skip, then I went on to Gumtree found a bargain of bar stools on the Ormeau Road. “Where are you,” I enquired. “We’re in ‘The Very Thing’” a chirpy fellow replied. “If you come before eleven I’ll keep you four for a hundred and twenty quid.” Yippee said I, and made for the door. I powered down in the Corsa and had a good old look round the shop. It was a bit of a treasure trove and the stools were brilliant. Somewhat Scandinavian I felt, with a beech effect and smooth round edging. Anything with a circular finish is meant to be good Feng Shui, and if anyone needs additional positivity in their home it’s me. “Sturdy too,” I remarked to the man, thinking how much better for the kids, since they’re less likely to push them over and be found sprockled underneath. “Aye, sturdy alright,” agreed Seamus. “They’re from Laganside Courts, they have to be heavy so some header can’t lift them and clobber someone round the skull.” “There’s been some bad bums on them alright.” chipped in Gerard, his brother. “There’s a story with everything in here love.” Hmmm, perhaps not such good Feng Shui after all, but never one to miss a bargain I bought them anyway and some helpful chaps took tremendous care to manoeuvre them gently into the back of the motor.

“I’ll be back for one of your sofas,” I called as I drove off, quite charmed with the experience. I had to practically bribe my builders into carting them into the house, such was the weight of them, but off I went all pleased and rang LSB. “Bet yours won’t be first Falls Road arse on them I jested. “F**k off” said he. (Sometimes he’s less in the mood for sectarian banter than others). Well, the joke was on me. Upon sitting on one later on in the week I discovered they were of fixed height and therefore too tall for our island/breakfast bar, therefore utterly useless. Did I even think to consider this in the shop? Oh no, far too busy having the craic. I’ll try and return them but of you see them back on Gumtree at a reduced rate you’ll know I had no success. If you want them for a hundred they’re yours and LSB will help you load them into the motor.

 

SWB gets a visit from the grandparents

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It is eight-sixteen. I need my children to sleep. I am sick to the back teeth of their antics. My nerves are in shreds. Work has been on-going outside the flat, all weekend: the banging, the drilling, the flashing lights; it’s been like Armageddon from six every morning. And it was still going this afternoon. So I thought that if my parents called in it might bring some relief. Stupidly I forgot to tell them that the car park next to our apartment block, which is where they usually abandon their motor, is temporarily closed. Thus they got caught in rush hour traffic on the Ormeau. “But when will they BE HERE?” guerned the youngsters who have been in particularly annoying form, very screechy and whiny.

 

AAI arrives in an uncharacteristically chirpy mood. The tea I pour is decent, the hot cross buns delicious and the children are ‘exquisite’ in their frocks. Is she on drugs, I wonder? The Wise Old Elf looks equally content and accepts a glass of wine with glee. He did his back in last week with an overly strenuous serve at tennis. He suffered such spasms that he kicked a chair over in his distress and went around the house emitting loud groans and yelps. He probably is on drugs, to ease the pain. Whatever it is they’re on, they manage to hype the kids up no end. I reach for the chilled white. So much for Lent. (Incidentally, there’s 25% off 6 or more bottles in M&S and this was a particularly nice Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc by the name of ‘Craft’. All zesty and citrusy and quaffable).

 

After reading Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie’s fabulous article on feminism the Guardian weekend, I am disgusted when the girls kit them themselves out in princess costumes to perform a show for the grandparents. They pirouette around and even the tomboyish one asks “Am I beautiful mummy?” “Yes, you’re lovely but what about being inventive?” I reply. “That’s a good quality.” (So would being quiet and sitting on your arse I think). “Oh, like Rapunzel,” says the older one, and I concede she has a point. The ‘show’ begins, which entails standing on a small table (the one I looted from the skip last week) and they do some prancing in their full length gowns while we look on terrified they’ll trip and brain themselves. They massacre a few tunes from their Nativity show and mum films the performance while The Wise Old Elf does a few back exercises on the floor. It’s a f**king circus.

 

While I set about clearing up, I task my mum with putting them to bed. The sounds which emanate from the bedroom suggest that sleep is far from near. Animated storytelling from the older is afoot. It is a most protracted tale of a monkey’s trip to a supermarket. “That’s a powerful long list he has there” I hear my mum say. “Is there any chance they could go to sleep now? I call through gritted teeth. “Shortly”, replies mum. “Wonderful children, you’d never find the like. That story was very well put together for a P1 child.” Sticking to an animal theme, she tops the monkey story with one about a badly behaved bunny who drops his purse down the loo and fishes it out with the tongs his mother keeps for turning bacon. I hear snippets of the tale while I beetle back and forth with laundry. “Quite disgusting” says Mummy Bun. “I shall put these tongs in the bin, or at the very least disinfect them.”

 

“But do you know (my mother never misses an opportunity for learning) “the money inside the purse was quite dry because the purse was plastic which is waterproof.” Ooooh, chorus the children. FFS I think. Guess what mug is going to fishing stuff out of the toilet for the next week.

 

The parents leave, and LSB returns. The offspring are still bright-eyed and perky. Your turn I say, and flop on the sofa.

 

 

SWB gives skip-diving a whirl

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Never a dull moment in our house. You just never know when you’re out and about, where you might spy a skip with stuff destined for landfill and think, I could do with a chair like that. I am now in possession of an office chair, stationery, a few shelves and a child’s seat, simply down to some luck and an eagle eye.

I rang mum to tell her of my loot. “Bin hoking, what next?” she mumbled through a mouthful of wheaten. (I’d rung at half three, apparently it was brunch. They eat at odd hours, those pair.) “Who’s hoking through bins?” I heard the Wise Old Elf enquire.

“It’s SWB, she’s after going through a skip. You’ve given your father apoplexy and him trying to take his soup”, she carried on mildly, not seeming remotely disturbed, despite the hyperbole. “Though is that not illegal?” She then reflected. “You don’t want to be lifted, and you a teacher. Wouldn’t look good at all.”

I explained the situation. I was passing a skip, watching a few blokes toss items in with wild abandon. It was about to be carted off and when I enquired as to where they said: “The dump. What is it you’re after love?” I fecking love bin men; salt of the earth. I can’t walk down the Ormeau these days without a toot and a wave from a sanitation officer. “You one of them hoarders? My wife’s like that. Nightmare to live with, house full of shite” said one, as he dusted down a shelf. “We’ve a small chair too, where is it Decky?” They rummaged a while, then found a little wooden chair, for the mini. She looked thrilled, after staring wide-eyed at the whole interaction. “Take that table too, lick of paint, it’ll be grand.”

I mean where would you get the like?

“So would this suggest that you’re open to accepting things again?” says AAI, ever the opportunist. “Because I have to get rid of some of this glassware, and I’ve a lovely set just the size for a prawn cocktail starter, and you entertain more than I do. Or you could chop up some crabsticks, and serve on a bed of cucumber and lettuce.” “Yes, I regularly serve up starters in stemmed glasses, mum. I’ve all the time in the world to scrub non-dishwasher proof crockery.”  The conversation went on to take a morbid turn. “ I mean you hold on to these things, and you think you’ll use them in the future, then you just have to be honest, at our age you don’t have much of a future left. You might as well just get rid.”

I mean FFS! There I was, all jaunty with my recycling and happy encounter with the bin men and now I have the thought of my parents’ mortality firmly planted in my head. AAI doesn’t dwell on the subject though. “Here’s the cat in, I must go and dry her paws. She went out for her constitutional after her cream.” (The cat is fed cream, served at room temperature on cold days, after her Gourmet Felix, as a dessert.) You’ll not see a glossier coat this side of the Atlantic.

“All right, I’ll go on then” I said. I did have a chair to paint and at least handiwork takes one’s mind off things. It’s still sitting there, unpainted. I had a snooze instead, with a child under each arm. It was that sort of day. And it’s Friday. There’s always gin.