SWB on feeling blue

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So, a few home truths about SWB. You will have deduced already that I’m a bit of a ‘handle with care’ case, slightly on the fragile side. I love a whinge and a whine, and I’m equally happy to see the joyous side of life when it manifests itself, but truth be told, I find life very, very trying. I have the utmost admiration for folk who cope with the daily grind of jobs, children, housework and global terrorism, and somehow manage to make it to eight in the evening without having imbibed half a bottle of wine and fallen into a depression the size of Mongolia. I tend to get very down indeed, especially when it comes to keeping a stiff upper lip when atrocities assail us from every which way, and you think to yourself, for fuck’s sake, whatever next?

I used to think life was hard enough before I met and married LSB and then fired out the two minis in quick succession. I’m telling you, having the family I’d always wanted has ratcheted the anxiety up something shocking. I can turn the prospect of a happy event into Armageddon in a few seconds flat. Take the notion of a girly weekend to go away and recharge. Here’s the inner monologue. “Oh fab! Where? When? Book it before I change my mind! Madrid? Excellent, let’s go and get tore into the vino tinto and paella”. Then, five minutes later… “What if something happens to me and kids are left motherless, all because I fancied some frivolity?” I’ll lie awake at night ruminating over my options: should I just cancel the trip? If so will my friends still speak to me for buggering them about? The torment grows, along with a seething resentment for people who can just get on a plane without having an existential crisis first. The bottom line is, I still go and generally have a lovely time. But the inner turmoil prior to the event does detract somewhat from the experience.

A plane doesn’t have to be involved to set me off. Oh no, closer to home there’s still a chance of disaster. What if LSB and I set off to the Manor House in Fermanagh and get taken out by a wayward lorry on the M1? Fucking hell. Children left orphaned because we fancied some romance? Or, Dear God Almighty, if the wee ones got sick or mown down or blown up: just how exactly does a buddy claw their way back from that? Jesus, I think I need a drink just writing that.

So to cope with this all-consuming fearfulness, I have to put a few strategies in place: otherwise life gets pretty grim for all concerned.

1) If you suffer from acute anxiety, as my doctor helpfully pointed out that I did, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed if they prescribe you some antidepressants. I used to have a colleague who smoked half a joint before heading to work in a local restaurant of a Saturday evening, ‘just to take the edge off’. She was a brilliant waitress, (maybe I ought to have followed suit, it may have made for a more agreeable experience). I think of the tablets like that, they just get you over a hump in the road, and who doesn’t need a leg up every so often?

2) Talk to people. The more open and honest we can be about our mental health the better, and you discover pretty quickly that you’re not alone: there’s lots of us nut jobs out there. (And, in my humble opinion, some of the worst ones are those who think they don’t have any issues. They’re often the ones to watch).

3) Keep active: whether it be yoga, running, (my own two favourites) or whatever helps divert activity away from the hamster wheel in your head droning on about miserable stuff. Plus you’ll look and feel better too, so every ones a winner.

4) Drink less. Now there’s a tough one, as I think we’ve ascertained that I love a glass of wine, or a G&T, or a craft beer for that matter. I’m loving some of the citrusy ones they’ve had on in Brewbot of late. But, and sorry to be a didactic old git but there’s the teacher in me, any more than three of an evening out and I feel dire. It’s not worth it, as all the negative, self-flagellation and paranoia return with gusto, and all good-feeling from the night before bites the dust. So pace yourselves and all will be well.

5) Limit your exposure to the news. I had a bad accident many years ago now and the hospital chaplain, who quickly deduced that I was a fretful sort of a person long before I came a cropper, gave me this advice: “Listen to the news once a day, on the radio. You don’t need the graphic visuals on the TV to accompany the horror.” Now this is hard to achieve as it’s now on our phones and FB feeds, but I got LSB to disable the news app on my phone and I try just to tune in once in the morning so I know what’s going on, and leave it at that. This may even be too much for some, and I get that. It was LSB’s idea that I write a bit about anxiety and depression after last week’s atrocity in Manchester. He heard about it first while I was still asleep and came in and gently told me before it came on 6 Music while I was dishing out the breakfast. Being married to someone who understands your neurosis is definitely a big help to me.

I could write on here ad infinitum about things that I find useful. Here are the essentials: the value of ‘me-time’, spending more time outdoors and of course, reading. My very favourite author at the moment is Annie Lamott. I find her work to be earthy, insightful honest and funny. If you didn’t laugh guys, well it would be just shite altogether, wouldn’t it?

(For the past twenty minutes as I’ve been chuntering on, two wee brown, unexceptional looking butterflies have been freewheeling round in circles, like a pair of dervishes. They’re having a quare auld time. Maybe we all need to be more butterfly-ish).

 

 

 

 

 

 

SWB witters on about her new wall arrangement

IMG_0168This is my new wall of art, of which I’m ever so proud. The magnificent Stephanie Prince is responsible for the bottom two: the larger one features LSB in a photo taken with him showing off his medal the day after the Dublin marathon. It’s lucky that Stephanie doesn’t do faces as he was dreadfully smug. (He still talks about the bastard marathon sometimes, with his face all aglow and a sort of wistful look, steeped in nostalgia for the moment at the end when a total randommer swept him up in a giant hug. I think he wishes he could do one every week. The nutter.) Anyway, if you look closely you will see a little pair of eyes and a mouth, scribbled on by an untrained hand. This addition was from the older child, who felt that the portrait was a tad unfinished. Seriously, isn’t it lucky that we like her?

Framed in pink is a print by Alan Kirk of the Mournes, one of my favourite local artists. It’s a view from Dundrum and is quite frankly as close as I ever get to the hills these days since I can’t get myself organised, and any weekend I think I might, it generally shits it down. Are you a parent? Do you long to don your hiking boots and bag a couple of peaks on a Saturday? WELL HOW DO YOU MANAGE IT? Answers gratefully received.

And then, the latest addition to this lot, The Esplanade in Ballyholme by Aly Harte and framed by the gorgeous Dylan in The Hallows Gallery on the Ormeau. He is the most obliging chap altogether: it was a delight going in and having a nosey. Even though I was up-front about the fact we’re broke and won’t be buying any art for a while (try the year 2032) he still showed me round and took ages helping me choose the best frame to show off my print. And then, when I returned to collect it he offered my children lemonade and gave them a wee tour as well! He even let them touch some sculptures. He’s a trusting sort of a fellow. He’s also getting married this Saturday, and still manages to look cheery and carefree. I mean weddings, what a massive pain in the arse. Mine was a headache from start to finish, the only boon being that LSB turned up looking lovely and said “I do” at the appropriate moment. That helped me ignore all the surrounding chaos. (There’s a whole other blog post on that I can tell you.)

There I go, meandering off topic again. I blame the wine, and it’s only 6-45 but my kids were hideous today. It necessitated opening a bottle at 6.05. Is that really dreadful? Don’t even answer that one….

SWB hits the shops

The Cathedral Quarter, there’s a fine place to spend a Friday morning, especially when there’s yoga and a spot of spontaneous shopping involved. Not forgetting the company of the lovely LSB, who ditched his bike in favour of a lift since he was racing in the Les Jones 10k  that evening. First off, we stopped for a coffee in Established on Hill Street, but feck me you wouldn’t need to be in any hurry. You could scald the mouth off yourself, and I almost did, on my oat milk cappuccino. “WTF? Am I on the correct blog?” I hear you splutter. You are indeed, it’s just that I went to an Ayruvedic practionner of reflexology and my digestive system is in tatters apparently. I’ve one unhappy colon, amongst a plethora of other minor ailments. That was a fun experience I can tell you. But I must admit to hitting the tea and coffee a lot of late, and chowing down a load of cake. An over-sugared and caffeine fuelled SWB isn’t that much fun to be around. God but I can digress can’t I? LSB ordered a filter coffee, for which I believe they went out the back, flew to Columbia and waited for some beans to pass through a goat before delivering it to us. At least it was nice, or so he claimed. Fecking need to be, the price of it.

So, back to yoga. Denis in Flow Studios was in fine fettle, fairly launching us into some brisk sun salutations. He’s a poetic soul is Denis, urging us to inflate our chests and adopt a regal posture, through Dancer Pose and Stargazer. He ought to be on the stage really, Denis. But I’m glad he’s not, as he’s a dote and I love our Friday morning classes. Helena’s a hoot too. She does the restorative yoga classes, which are truly wonderful. I was telling her about my new diet. “I wasn’t drinking huge amounts,” I say earnestly, “but I was drinking often. Something had to change” “Indeed” agreed Helena. “Drink more!” How I laughed. Nothing worse than an abstemious yoga teacher. Boring bastards.

They have a sale on in Flow Co and I’m ashamed to say, despite not really needing new yoga gear, I couldn’t hold back. Half price for a matching ensemble, and in my favourite colour too, what luck!

IMG_4062(There I go, in a poor attempt at Stargazer)

From there I sauntered over to Dunnes, or Dunnés Boutique as I like to call it. I needed some cushions for my dining chairs as I was having guests round for dinner on Saturday evening. The former chair pads were a disgrace. I could picture the scene: “Oh, don’t sit there! It’s covered in cake and biscuit crumbs. Take this one. Oh shit, there’s congealed egg on that, and HOLD UP! there’s some half masticated pasta on the other. In fairness, I’d take my chances on the biscuity one. Plonk yourself down and I’ll dust you off later.”

So I selected a few fresh cushions at quite a bargain price. “No no, I won’t need a bag. I’m on a recycling mission.” I chirped. The sales ladies were most understanding, in fact they tied the them together and off I went to inflict myself on the good people of Cat Kitson for a new tablecloth. I asked a sales girl to take a photo of me and my purchases and she merrily obliged. Turns out she writes a blog too called ‘Oh So Soph’. It’s  less vulgar than mine and makes you feel a bit shit about your life because she’s so beautiful and chic. But that’s not remotely her intention as she seems a lovely wee girl; not her fault she’s gorgeous.

I was queuing up to buy some fake tan in Superdrug when it all started to unravel. “Oh no! I had six cushions now I’ve only five!” I yelped. I was getting some odd looks but one helpful lady came to my rescue. “Ach are they yours? I saw one in the toothpaste aisle and propped it up against the mouthwash.”

It’s a miracle all the cushions made it home. I left one lying in the carpark  until a nice man having a fag outside the Dunbar Street Depot spotted it on the ground. “You’ve forgotten something love!” he yelled. Belfast people are generally lovely, aren’t they? To cut a long story short the dinner party was a roaring success and I enjoyed giving the new yoga ensemble a whirl today. Here’s hoping next Friday is as much fun.

IMG_0153(what an eejit)

SWB feels the love

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What a lovely bunch you all are, thank you for your kind words. LSB’s just landed in from a mad day at the office, wondering why he’s been inundated with messages. He never knows what I get posting when he’s out.  I’ve had my mum on- highly agitated herself. “You people shouldn’t be let out” she fumed. “You’ll have yourselves knifed next, and then where will you be?” (I’d hazard a guess at the Royal, or worse still Roselawn). I think you’d have been better just getting off that bus. You should just have said to the wee fella (the schoolboy) ‘Come on you, you’re coming with us.’ That’s what I’d have done.” In fairness I was thinking that myself before the rugby supporters came on and diffused the situation.

But FFS, what next? It’s a pretty poor state of affairs when you can’t take a stroll in the park or hop on a bus without risking injury. We have another lovely foreign student saying with us presently, and I’ve been telling her what a great and safe city Belfast is. I feel a bit of a mug now. Maybe the NI Tourist Board could do a spot of rebranding: “Like bloodsports? Take an adrenalin-fuelled trip into town and try your luck against a drugged up paramilitary!” “Fist fight more your thing? Head to the park on a sunny day and cast your eyes about for anyone on the Special Brew. You’re guaranteed a punch in the head.” “(Free trip to the Ulster included with all of these activities, but wait, this offer only lasts till Theresa May does away with the NHS, then you’ll have to pay for your stitches)”.

It’s not funny though is it. I hear about close shaves all the time and I’m sick of it. For someone prone to anxiety this sort of shit brings the paranoia on big style. But as my pal Ruth said there in one of the FB comments, I guess you just keep doing what you can, and hopefully if there’s more of that about, the eejits will stop their nonsense. Here’s hoping and praying anyway.

SWB takes a bus to town

bus“I’ll throw f**king bleach in your face, I will. I’ll f**king blind ye, swear to God.” It was seven twenty and LSB and I were catching the number 78 into town on Saturday night. We’d called a Foncab but since there were 18 thousand people piling out of the rugby the taxi was a no-show. So down we trotted to Forestside and were relieved to see a bus appear in minutes. On we hopped, excited to be heading to Yugo on Wellington Place, our new favourite restaurant.

 

Eek, here comes trouble we thought as a fellow came sloping on, his face twisted in a belligerent scowl. It didn’t take long for the ugliness to start. He’d positioned himself at the back of the bus beside a school kid. “What are you looking at? You’re f**king staring at me so you are.” The boy tried his best to ignore him, which agitated his tormentor further. As soon as the bleach was mentioned LSB was off his seat. “That’s not on, I’ll going up there,” he said and off he went. “Enjoying the sunshine? Where are you headed?” he asked the kid. They struck up a chat as the bus inched towards Cherryvale where it reached a standstill, as the queue of cars snaked along the Ravenhill. “Oh shit” I thought. “A traffic jam, just the time to be stuck in a confined space with a mentalist.” I placated myself with the thought that three bigger guys had got on near the Co-op to provide a bit of muscle if things turned nasty. “So where are you from?” spat Bleach boy, turning on LSB. “Just up by Forestside” he replied neutrally. “Where exactly? Four winds? F**king fenian, that’s what you are. You look it, so you do.” Down the bus, big guy number one looked up, then studied a pamphlet with renewed interest. Number two suddenly seemed engrossed in his phone. So I joined the party at the back of bus, sitting beside our sectarian pal, between him and LSB. We tried to have a chat about Spanish with the young lad, about to do his first GCSE the following week. It was all somewhat uncomfortable. Various paramilitary groups started to be mentioned, with whom Bleach boy was affiliated. All nice, convivial Saturday evening stuff.

 

The bus pulled in and a crew of rugby supporters trotted on. Oblivious to the small drama unfolding, two older gents joined us. They were great, full of craic, and perhaps more clued in than we thought. One guy was from Carrick and we knew a headmaster in common so had a yarn. I tried to drop in as many Protestant names as possible, but it seemed if you didn’t hail from the ‘estate’ you didn’t cut the mustard with our mate. We were all lying bastards apparently. Outnumbered now, he staggered up the bus and demanded to be let out in the middle of a junction: “Let me aff this bus or I’m f**king wrecking it”he asked politely, before finally careering up May Street with a “You’re dead” gesture.

 

LSB wasn’t going anywhere until the school kid had
met his friend and the nice guys in Yugo were very understanding that we were by now somewhat late for our table. I really, really needed that gin cocktail.

 

So after the Botantic Gardens incident which went viral and this lovely episode, I think we can conclude the sun really brings out the charmers in South Belfast. But LSB, all eight and a half stone of him. What an urban warrior.

Happy Mondays

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Hats off to all those who ran Belfast marathon in the gruelling heat on Monday. Belfast Running Club deserve a massive shout out for their superb relay result of 2 hours 46 minutes. For a fledgling club this is an astounding time where the team worked in impressive synchronicity to bring home the goods. Their mixed team included a German/Italian exchange student who’s a speed demon altogether: I couldn’t believe it when I saw her speeding down the Ravenhill in well under the 3 hour mark. She had the cheek of it to look fresh faced. Personally, I put the team’s success down to a certain wife of one of its members who lovingly cooks him nutritionally balanced meals pre-race meals prior to races to enhance his performance and wordlessly takes his progeny off-side so he can train in peace. Yes, their success is all down to her, clearly. 🙂

 

I spent the marathon morning giving orders. First off, we stationed ourselves opposite Cherryvale Park, where I met club members Eileen and John outside their home on the corner. “Could these runners not do with a jelly baby?” I enquired. I mean the audacity: sure I could have taken myself round to the Co-Op and bought some, but Eileen diligently disappeared indoors and returned with a veritable sack of jelly beans. She proffered these with enthusiasm to grateful runners looking a final spurt of energy.

 

We waved our banner and clapped like evangelicals on speed and caught Laura Graham racing by to snatch the first female place. (That woman has FOUR CHILDREN, and she’s winning prizes for frig’s sake. Is she just trying to make the rest of us feel bad?) We spied our own Flying French man from the club zooming past, looking chipper for someone who only a fortnight before had completed Paris in record time. Seriously, what do these continentals be on? I want in on it. Note to self, it’s not rocket science you daft mare, they just train like f**k. If I stopped drinking wine and taking naps and actually did the exercises the physio suggested I too could improve my time. But in all seriousness, what terrific athletes: all credit to them.

 

Next stop we sauntered over to the Ormeau, where I was all for a caffeine boost from my favourite haunt Kaffe-o. Serious supporters like me deserve a one-shot latte, and maybe even a chocolate mocha ball. However, we were diverted by the carnavalesque atmosphere in the church grounds of St Jude’s, and stopped there for the next hour instead. The minis’ eyes lit up at the sight of juice and popcorn and I got wired in to the coffee. Last August, when I was demented trying to entertain youngsters, I popped down to a summer scheme they organised and was totally won over. It was delightfully low-key; a few toys were flung out and a craft table erected, then a sofa and some comfy chairs were dragged out front and people could plonk down and exhale and thank God that it wasn’t their living room being trashed for the third day running. Sustenance in the form of hot beverages and biscuits were duly wheeled out for the wild-eyed, sleep deprived parents and a sense of calmness was restored. The vicar George is a talented pianist and he bashed out a few songs on the keyboard to finish while the kids shook a tambourine or two. And there was no proselytizing, AT ALL. Well, they were back in business on Monday and I made myself right at home, suggesting that we maybe should offer some drinks and sweets to the runners, and before I knew it the kids were racing forth with cups of water and George set to chopping up Mars Bars and offering them up on a big silver platter. “Chocolate for energy” he called with gusto. “Take please!” It was joyous. The Parador was belting out super tunes and a big fella beside me provided an animated commentary of “Keep ‘er lit!”; “Yer all winners, every one of ye” and “Go on ye boy ye!”

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I took my poor sun burnt and exhausted children home at one o’clock and sighed a contented sigh at a morning well spent. The good people of Belfast were out in force and the craic was mighty. The lively fella was right, we were all winners. More of this type of thing please Belfast.

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.