SWB on the return of Date Night

It is Saturday night and I am perched at the island in the kitchen, sipping a Margarita that LSB picked up for me at The Errigle, and doing the Guardian crossword. I’m dressed appropriately for date night, which means I’ve donned my leather skater skirt and I’ve applied blusher as well as a light dusting of powder.  The joy of date night in the HOUSE means that I can wear lipstick, without smearing it all over my mask. I can also pop in my earrings, without the worry that I will trail one out of my earlobe when taking off my mask on the way in to a restaurant. Masks are a f**king menace aren’t they, aside from the fact that one might just save one’s life: which  should, I suppose negate any aggravations about aesthetics. I’m also wearing my slippers, and don’t have to wear tights. I hate tights; scratchy annoying things that they are. What’s the point in slathering on my Tropic leg shimmer, only to hide them behind a pair of Sainbury’s opaques?

The other good thing about date night in your house is that you can sit, while your husband makes you an aubergine curry, and read the Guardian Weekend Magazine. Over the last lockdown, I felt myself grow more and more Guardian as the weeks went on. I identified with just about everything Hannah Jane Parkinson wrote. The week, she documented how, in a fever of  spring cleaning, she took a tooth pick to the scum between the tiles in her shower. The day before, I had been caught wielding a cocktail stick, prising crumbs and grime that had lodged around my recycling bin. She felt a huge sense of achievement, and I concurred heartily, having felt a similar surge of pride myself, at the sight of my pristine bin. In the column the following Saturday, she mentioned the unexpected joy of a finding  a slab of sponge cake on her doorstep from a kindly neighbour.  I was only after whipping one up and sandwiching it with cream and jam, and was thinking I might deliver a piece to my mate Maggie who always gives our dog treats. Hannah Jane likes people who demonstrate their love through the medium of baked goods, and who couldn’t concur ? Friends who show their love by handing you a Tupperware bowl of roasted vegetable risotto should be forever cherished. We could be great mates, Hannah Jane and me. We share a love of unusual words (we agree that petrichor is one of the best ever); we are delighted with ourselves when we manage to run a measly 5K without having heart failure, and we are both stricken with similar bouts of apocalyptic dread. All these endear her to me immensely.

Another journalist of whom I am fond, is Hadley Freeman, and she grabbed my attention in her article this week which was about her fear of eggs, which borders on the pathological. LSB has a similar phobia, and like Freeman, has been known to leave the room, when the children start bashing the top of their boiled eggs with a spoon. It’s most irksome. There’s me, stumbling across something that the children will actually eat, and the second they crack open the shell, off he f**ks up the stairs, with a face on him like a truculent toddler.

So far so good, until I read about  Tim Dowling, who admitted that he’d been off the booze for 3 weeks. Three fecking weeks! Well, I was raging: I selfishly want everyone to be in the downward slide into semi-alcoholism as me: solidarity is what I’m after from my print companions, not declarations that they’ve all gone sensible. Still, he admitted that he still feels rubbish and irate, hence is none the better for his abstinence.

This morning alas, as I woke at 5am, feeling as though someone was trying to open up my skull from the inside using a crowbar, I concluded that Dowling perhaps has a point. Date night is all well and good, but in the pub you would limit yourself to one tequila based cocktail and not feel that you had to finish the can which contained four servings. Damn it Tim, but I may have to jump on that wagon with you.




SWB Shares 3 ways to survive a Circuit Breaker

Anyone else feeling like a big bag of shite at the moment? I do hope so, just  so I’m not alone. I must confess to having wilted  this week, as the clouds rolled in on Monday and down it pissed, all frigging day. It would take a saint to stay up-beat these days, and as you know, I’m not inclined towards saintliness, even in normal circumstances.

But I felt so despondent yesterday that I had to stop and reflect.  It went something like this: ‘Cop on, you miserable auld bastard. You have everything you have ever wanted: a family, a nice (if revoltingly messy) house, and now you even have a dog. Have a word with yourself: it’s not like I’m stuck in a refugee camp in South Sudan.’

But still. Usually this time of year we are looking forward to having a nice  break to ourselves with friends. Last Halloween we headed up to the North Coast where I acquainted myself wit the boutiques in Limavady, and the year before we drank Guinness in Galway. This year, I’d be flouting the rules if I nipped down to Bangor to wave in the window at the parents. I’m fed up. I’m sick of playing ‘hunt the f**king mask’ every time I need to go to the shop. I’m tired worrying about catching Covid, because they were bleating on today on the news that even if you are under fifty and on good health it could still leave you with a rake of issues. ‘Excellent,’ I thought. As if I’m not already tired enough with every f**king thing being so f**king complicated, now there’s a chance I might die as well.

But to stop myself going completely mad, here’s a few things I’ve been doing this week that have lifted me a little.

  • Baking: I keep it simple folks. We bake fairy cakes, crumbling chunks of chocolate into one batch and grating lemon into another. It was my nana’s recipe and it makes golden fluffy buns of joy. They don’t even require icing, which is great because I can never be arsed making it (plus the amount of sugar required for icing frightens me.) The Older Child found a tube of pink fondant in the cupboard, that I bought once in a moment of frivolity, then promptly forgot about. She squeezes a blob onto her bun and it seems to keep her happy. The added bonus of bun making is that everyone likes them.  Thus you can dome them out round the neighbourhood, making you look magnanimous and lovely. (Little do they know that really, you only baked them to stop you disappearing down a plughole of despair when it’s shitting it down out of the heavens and there’s another week and a half to go before school starts again.)

  • Listening to Podcasts. Now you know me- I fecking can’t be arsed with housework. You know it, I know it, but complaining doesn’t get the dishes done. But, as I mentioned before, I’m properly hooked on the ‘Poetry Un-bound’ podcast; and this week there was an absolute gem on a poem by the Nigerian writer Chris Abani. It was MARVELLOUS, so marvellous in fact that I ‘Googled’ him (how I f**king hate that that is now a verb) and watched his Ted-talk. It certainly distracted me from picking up pieces of toys that the dog had mutilated in the children’s bedroom. It also makes one re-evaluate their circumstances. Separating the whites from the colours seems easier to thole when you hear what someone who has been incarcerated in a Nigerian prison has had to endure. However, all of that can get a bit heavy so my third tip of the evening is to:


  • Sit down on your arse and WATCH TV. Yes. I’m not ashamed to admit it, but sitting in front of the box last night, watching ‘The Bake off’ with the kids and the dog and a cat, made me feel the most content I’d been in a long time. I know you should be doing all sorts of edifying activities with your children, like making Halloween decorations from scratch booking or playing Ludo, but frequenty, I can’t be arsed. Instead we lit the fire, snuggled under the blankets and got very emotionally involved with proceedings. My girls were most indignant on Linda’s behalf when she f**ked up all her pastries and complained bitterly she was booted off. ‘She just didn’t have enough time,’ sighed the Small Child. ‘She had the same amount as everyone else,’ I told her, firmly. So there’s a lesson for you on time management. We were very taken indeed with Laura’s Key Lime Tart last night and agreed that she deserved to be Star Baker.

I know that this sounds like the most simplistic and frightfully obvious post you’ve ever read. Sorry about that. But it’s all my  mangled head can cope with right now. It’s just the small things with a bit of sweetness thrown in that keep us all going at the minute.



SWB on Two Shades of Grey (Hound and Squirrel and Tom Cruise)

Did you know that the Latin word for the grey squirrel is ‘Sciurus carolinensis‘? Seems to sum them up quite nicely, if you ask me, for they are a bit of a scourge, monopolising the bird feeders and terrorising the red variety. The wee red ones are scarcer to spot than a piece of good news at the moment.  Their numbers have diminished to such an extent that there’s only about six of them in NI at the moment and your might have to traipse Mount Stewart or Ballycastle for the privilege. Anyway, I digress. Basically I’m trying to make myself feel better because thanks to Miss Tilly though, we may be down at least one grey squirrel in the Ormeau area.

We had an incident two weeks ago in Cherryvale, to which we now refer as ‘Squirrel-gate’.  It was one of those balmy evenings, when the air is bathed in a hazy autumnal glow, with the sun slanting through the trees. The older one was playing football with her new wee club, so LSB and I were taking a walk with the dog, watching as the Small Child climbed trees like the nimble little monkey that she is. It was reminiscent of that scene at the end of Jerry Maguire, when the wee lad lobs a ball back at the bigger boys playing baseball and Tom and Renee smile beatifically at each other at the perfection of the moment. That was us, looking like a pair of gormless twats, to be fair.

Tilly was springing around the trees while the squirrels frolicked, and I’m sure I saw one of them give her the finger as it scampered around, leaping from branch to branch. ‘You can’t catch me,’ it said.

‘No,’ said Tilly, ‘but I might get your mate over there.’

One particular squirrel, who was either a dare devil in extremis or dopey as f**k, took a notion of racing straight across the grass, without a tree in leaping distance. Beside herself with joy, Tilly pounced. She caught it, of course she did: not a bother to her at all. A small crowd gathered. Mostly children. It’s not every evening that they watch a dog shake a squirrel like a ragtag chew toy. The squirrel wasn’t the better for the experience. Interestingly, we noted, when LSB had persuaded Tilly to drop it, there were no puncture marks, so she hadn’t sunk the teeth in,  just shook it vigorously, as one would a French Martini cocktail.  (The Tom Cruise theme continues). A chap came to its rescue and lifting it by its scruff, he set it on the bough of a tree. It managed to cling on but was too paralysed with fear to make much of an attempt to climb up.

Opinions on the fate of the squirrel differed amidst the crowd. ‘It is the cycle of life,’ opined a Spanish gentleman, shrugging in the expressive way that people from Continental Europe are wont to do.

A small boy seemed to be crying, but on closer inspection (or as close as I dared to go, given the times), he was actually laughing… hysterically. (Note to self, we might have to keep an eye on that one)

One mum said, ‘Great, far too many of those grey rodents about anyway.’ I liked her. A few others reserved judgement but I think they may have been on the side of the squirrel. Opinions differ on the subject, as this little article from The Guardian demonstrates.

However, had we been at a park reserved for dog walkers, I’m not sure the event would have attracted the same attention. I imagine, with the dog walkers I’ve met at Stormont anyway, there would have been a quiet acceptance that this is the sort of craic that goes down. Anyway, it’s just another reason to petition the council for a  dog park, lest any child or adult was traumatised by the events a fortnight ago.

(I feel I ought to have it noted, lest I am assailed by complaints, that Tilly is a whippet, crossed with a greyhound. We simply refer to her as the latter, since the other is a bit of a mouthful. She is not therefore by law, obligated to wear a muzzle, which would obviously stop her from catching prey. She also seems to be able to differentiate between squirrels and small spindly dogs like chihuahuas, which IMHO, don’t look unlike rodents.)

SWB on doggy parks, (or lack thereof)

I’ve a new favourite place which neither the pooch, nor I, can get enough of it. It’s the doggy play park in Stormont, or ‘The Bull Field’ as the sign says. If you ever need cheered up of a Sunday morning, this is the place to come. Borrow a friend’s dog if you are dog-less yourself, but feel you are missing out on the craic.  I wouldn’t want you to feel left out.

Anyway, the dog park. There’s a crew of seasoned walkers who know their own dogs and dogs in general. It’s very reassuring. The first time we took Tilly I was all: ‘SORRY! SORRY! Is she harrassing your dog? I’m so SORRY!’

They soon put my mind at ease and were well impressed with Tilly’s speed and agility. ‘She’s a greyhound in her, isn’t she?’ said a man waking over to us. He was wearing a beanie and sucking on a vape. ‘They do that. They run after other dogs for the fun, she’s not doing any harm. Sheba will keep her right.’

Over bounded a big Alsation from the bushes, joining in the fun. Tilly deferred almost immediately to her. There must be some sort of dog hierarchy and they know that you don’t mess with a German Shepherd. and Sheba is clearly the Queen of the dog-park, with her regal ruff and knowing eyes.

The regulars at the doggy park seem to know how to behave themselves and not piss anyone off. The dogs are pretty good too. A laid-back atmosphere prevails, with no over-protective princesses with pampered Pomeranians. One morning in Cherryvale we let Tilly off the lead, and she was having a great old time running about with a terrier. However, when her big greyhound mouth is gaping open, she can, I suppose, look a bit intimidating. A lady with a Westie (who let’s face it, can be guerny and antagonistic themselves) took great umbrage and tucked him under her arm and walked the other way. ‘THAT DOG SHOULD BE ON A LEAD,’ she said, pointedly. My girls were affronted on Tilly’s behalf.

But annoyingly, she had a point. There are children (or adults) who may be wary of dogs. It is also upsetting when a dog makes off with your child’s toy. No one wants to watch their six year old wrestle their ball from the mouth of a pitt-bull cross. We must also consider the cyclists. I was in a rush one morning nipping into town through Ormeau Park, and my journey wasn’t rendered any easier by the number of Labradors and collies bouncing out in front of me. I’m a big enough liability on a bicycle.

Hence the point of this post- dog parks. We need more of them. If parks are for everyone, is there any reason why the parks in Cherryvale and Ormeau don’t have a small area sectioned off for the dogs. That way we can all enjoy themselves, and dog owners aren’t shitting a brick that their canine children will wreak havoc. Speaking of which, I’ll be posting up a story later in the week, entitled: ‘When Tilly met a squirrel.’ You can look forward to that one.



Make yourself less f**king miserable with SWB.

Since it’s World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d tell you about my week and how I tried to be upbeat and organised and productive. I wasn’t entirely successful. Take Tuesday evening for example. Upon extracting a pan of celery soup (which was, incidentally, under-seasoned and bland), from the fridge, I knocked over a large jar of beetroot on the top shelf. It didn’t smash, but  tipped over at a 45 degree angle which allowed all the juice to escape.  Everything got covered in vinegary, cerise rankness. Himself came down to extract a bottle of beer. ‘F**k me, it’s like Carrie in here’, he exclaimed.

A normal sort of person would have addressed the beetroot issue straight away, but I was otherwise occupied and left it until Wednesday. (It took me a day to work up to it.) But before I donned my gloves, I put on a podcast, and listening to the dulcet Cork tones of Pádraig O’Tuama as he read some poems, made my task infinitely more palatable. I highly recommend this approach to housework.

And when Pádraig was through with his poetry I stuck on The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Have you ever watched this? You probably have, and the question is, where the hell have I been these past forty years and why am I only watching him now?

‘Have YOU heard of Bob Ross?’ I said to LSB, in an accusative tone.

I couldn’t believe it when was all like, ‘Yeah, of course, he’s a legend,’ and I was like: ‘and you never thought of popping it on when I was doing my nut?’

It was almost grounds for a trial separation. Bob Ross would have been just the tonic when I was full of despair a few years ago and kept thinking that the world was about to end, or I was going to be blown up in a terrorist attack in my local Ikea. Fun times. Listening to Bob’s melifluous chat, while he dabbled at his canvass with Prussian Blue and van Dyke Brown, would have soothed my frazzled mind. It’s hard to believe that there’s any badness in the world, as you watch him paint a happy little tree in the foreground, and blend his Titanium white to add in a few fluffy clouds, having the craic up in the heavens.

With times being as they are presently, this is what you need for light relief, as there’s little else to find elsewhere. I thought I’d give ‘The Duchess’ on Netflix a go, since everyone’s gushing over it. But unlike Bob Ross, it got on my nerves something shocking. Now, Mary Whitehouse I am NOT, (case in point I rather adored Channel Four’s Catastrophe) but I just found it this show relentlessly COARSE. And far-fetched. And a bit stupid. What is it with comedians who take to the acting: they think they can just shout a lot, and spout reams of vitriol in a ‘look at me, aren’t I ever so clever,’ sort of a way. They seem to create their character solely as a vehicle to spew their invective. I chuckled a bit at first and though fair play to her, being super mum to the wee girl. Then I admired the outfits and felt an intense envy regarding the décor, but I had to give it up because the dialogue had me all agitated. At the moment, the world is unforgiving enough, without being antagonised by a television character whom you want to slap.

So what am I trying to say? Be kind to yourself: with what you watch, with what you listen to, with whom you allow in your life. If anyone stresses the hell clean out of you, perhaps now is not the moment to give them air-time. Real life and on the telly, it goes without say. It’s self-care all the way, and if you’ve any tips of your own I’d love to hear them. Just don’t go sending me pictures of your home grown vegetables. I’m still not over my teeny tiny courgettes.


SWB on breast pumps and other madness

There’s a breast pump which makes a similar sound to the opening bars of a track by Daft Punk called ‘Robot Rock’. Who knew? Lauren Laverne brought this to my attention this morning on her ‘House Music’ feature on Radio 6 Music. LSB laughed when he heard it, concurring that the intro did indeed echo the ‘whirring sound’ of a breast pump in full flow (pardon the pun).

I was pleased that he could now laugh about it, because as I packed up the pump and gave it away a few years ago he said ‘Thank f**k for that.’ LSB hated the breast pump. I hated the breast pump. When I think of the word ‘futile’ I think of the word breast pump and the effort that went in to extracting half an ounce of milk, and I was the proud owner of a ‘Medela’, which was apparently the Rolls Royce of breast pumps. Whatever it was, it was incompatible with my malfunctioning mammaries. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to use a breast pump I don’t suggest that you listen to this tune, lest it triggers your PTSD.

Once, after laboriously extracting some milk I managed to fasten the teat on the bottle incorrectly, and as I fed it to my parched baby, I saw it leak out and run down the front of her bib. I dropped the C-bomb in my distress, very loudy. To any mums out there who are finding breast feeding too hard, can I urge you to try give the bottle a go as backup. Breast may be best, but a starving baby is in nobody’s best interests at all.

These memories came flooding back to me this morning because my oldest child turns nine at the end of the month. I am thinking back to a time when I was unfamiliar with words like colic and gripe water and nipple shields. I may have heard of them, but I did not appreciate their import. I had no actual experience. It’s a bit like now when parents mention the transfer test. I see their faces cloud and their jaws clench, and I think, oh fuck, that’ll be me soon, running to the chemist for Imodium when all that palaver kicks off.

It’s funny though, because in some ways I feel like we’ve returned to a similar chaos these days, in these surreal times. When it comes to leaving house it’s not unlike what it was like with a newborn, except now we’re hunting for face masks and sanitiser and poo bags for the dog. There’s a similar pressure simmering under the surface. Things can fall apart fast.

And in the midst of this the mean little inner voice is saying ‘Hurry up!’ and ‘How can you be stupid!’ and ‘Seriously, did you forget the mask? Again?’

And we’re not stupid and we’re not crazy.  We’re all just very, very tired. I wish I could have chatted to my sleep-addled self when my baby was weeks old and not latching and not sleeping. I would have told me to cut myself some slack. And so I’m trying to do that now when all is strange and odd and stressful. I’m drinking a lot of tea. I’m spending time with the people who make me smile. I’m spraying on my Miss Dior perfume that I only wear for going out. I’m putting on some shimmery fake tan. What I do know for sure, is that me walking round with a face on me like a well-slapped arse isn’t making anyone’s day any better. I know that as the stoics say, “this too shall pass.’ But in the meantime, we have to do what we can to make it bearable.

SWB gets buttered up

Buttery pens. Buttery effing pens. That’s what I was up against this morning. I had dropped the children to school, giving the dog her morning walk in the process. Two birds, one stone- I was winning already. Yesterday I had bought myself a vegan breakfast pot from Kaffe-o in preparation for a good start to the day. LSB bought a filter coffee pot recently so I had a second cup of freshly brewed @Boden Park single roast to look forward to. I opened up my leather bound pink diary with gold embossed flamingos to make a few notes but then couldn’t find a pen. I remembered putting some in the pocket of my handbag for handiness and reached in to lift one out. My hand was met with a greasy, buttery mess. Fuck, I said.

How, you would be entitled to think, could that happen? I will explain. As you know by now, I don’t like waste. In coffee shops, when they give you three little pats of butter wrapped in foil when two will suffice, I pocket the third, fearing that all 25g of dairy goodness will be dumped, and putting butter in the bin is, IMHO, a crime.

It wouldn’t be happening to Marie Kondo though, I’m telling you. No, the crime in her book, would be coming home and firing the handbag down on a chair and neglecting to extract all its contents in an orderly fashion before placing the bag in its ‘special place.’ There’d be no forgetting about the butter and leaving it to melt and coat all one’s new pens in a rancid sludge.

So there you are. As well as cleaning up a pool of greyhound piss this morning because the cat sat blocking the back door and being the deferential type, the dog decided to go and piss in the living room instead,  , I also had butter-encrusted pens in pastel hues to clean. Later, you may notice a photo on Instagram, of my diary and pens and coffee. It will be intended to look as though I am an organised sort of a person. But you won’t be deceived, for you will know the truth.

SWB on Second Hand September

I’m worried that I’m driving everyone nuts on Instagram chuntering on about Second hand September. You see, I just love it. I think it’s flipping brilliant. Now, I’m no cheap-skate, so don’t ever confuse my lack of enthusiasm for spending money on clothes with an aversion to spending money in general. There’s few people I loathe more than a tight-fisted fecker.  However, I do object to shelling out fifty quid on a top from a High Street chain that has cost pence to make in Bangladesh because they’re paying their workers a pittance in some shithole of a factory that collapse around them with the merest hint of an earth tremor.

Feck that.

Nor am I some kind of anti-new zealot. I do sometimes buy new, and trust me, if you were afflicted with my feet, you would too. I am woefully flat of foot and have the beginnings of a bunion. It is a terrible and painful state of affairs, for my wallet as well as my feet. But, thanks to God above I have discovered Campers, and I am never going back. Ever. They suit the shape of my deformed toes and I reckon that any shoes that don’t torture my tooties are worth it. So yes, I do buy new, when I have to.

But one of the best things about a pre-loved item, is that my friends know that I have no shame and regularly heave me a bag of garments to plunder through. There are few activities I enjoy more, truth be told. Most recently my pals Louise and Brenda transformed my back-to-work wardrobe when I got a call to start teaching again in September. The whole lockdown experience had quashed any creativity I had left for knowing what to put on me. Not a notion did I have, and everything I owned appeared to be blue. Navy blue, duck-egg blue, royal blue. I feared I was going to rock up at the school looking like the blue section of the Dulux brochure. So when they arrived with jackets of mustard and cerise and patterned dresses that my tiny addled brain couldn’t contemplate, they injected some colour and vivacity back into my wardrobe. It was all very jolly and cheered me up of a morning.

I also love it when people see me and they say ‘I know that dress!’ and are all chuffed to see it getting another airing. And I love having money left over at the end of the month so I can pay for a room in The Sandhouse in Rossnowlagh. How much better to spend the cash looking at the incoming tide and making those memories to carry us through the winter (which, according to the news earlier, may be a bit shite).

But with my enthusiasm for the second hand, I don’t want people to feel like they’re being judged. At the beginning of the month I went out for dinner with my friends and one of them had recently denied herself a new frock f because she feared I’d be affronted. ‘Not a bit of it,’ I said. I think it’s an opportunity just to shop a bit less and to make more considered purchases. I used to shop all round me just for the hell of it and I don’t do that anymore. I shop less and tend to put more on the items I decide to buy.

I’m actually a bit sad now that September is coming to a close. It gave me a wee thrill, sharing pictures on Instagram and keeping in touch with some friends when meeting up in person hasn’t been an option. It’s been a distraction from everything- a bit of much needed frivolity, and f**k knows we could do all do with that right now. So if you do see me posting my attempts at second-hand chic well into October, then just humour me.


SWB on Post-Lockdown Life

Well, how the heck is everyone? F**king awful, if you’re anything like me. The sunshine has finally arrived, and am I get a second to enjoy it? Of course not. I got the dreaded call to go back to work, and no easy transition was that, I can tell you.

I had aspirations of resting myself for a while, after the combined horrors of teaching online and home-schooling. I think I’m still suffering from PTSD, with early stages of cirrhosis of the liver too, no doubt. But didn’t the phone go at the end of August, with a man looking for someone to teach youngsters English in a local school.  How LSB’s eyes lit up upon hearing that news. Frankly, I think he wanted me out of the house but he claims that necessity simply dictated that I should go. Stony broke we almost are, after  staying in that f**king eco-cabin in Donegal and now back home, we’re forking out for all manner of activities so our children grow up to be well-rounded individuals. I’ll tell you who’s NOT well-rounded, nor well-rested either at the moment, and that’s me. More fried than a Glaswegian Mars Bar that’s had a double dip, that’s what I am.

Have you ever clapped eyes on those ‘Hama Beads’ that my children express a fondness for? Bastard things altogether: a million tiny pieces of plastic that get spilt over the floor and press into the soles of your feet when you’re trying to do your yoga. Well, imagine that a large tub of these has been upset over your carpet and you are trying to scootch them all up. That’s what it’s like when I try to write anything presently. The synapses just aren’t firing as there is too much afoot.

Teaching used to be trying enough, but as you can imagine with all this Covid shite, the stress has been upped significantly. Used to be you could sit in your room, waiting for your class to trot in. Instead, I am looking every bit the bewildered substitute teacher, as I shuttle around the building searching for rooms and attempting to follow the one-way system. I keep forgetting my mask and have to keep racing back to find it. Then it’s into the room and logging on and futtering about with a computer. Just getting the class started at all is a miracle.

So that’s school. Then there’s home, when I’m ever actually in it and not taxi-ing weans hither and thither. And no sooner are they dealt with, than there’s an animal annoying me to be walked or fed or removed from a clean pile of laundry. Speaking of wildlife, guess what befell me this VERY evening. I was perched upon the sofa, writing my blog for the first time in 3 weeks when The Small Child appeared at my shoulder. ‘I’m very sorry to interrupt you,’ she began, ‘But we are going to have to bath the dog.’

They often suggest bathing the dog, just as a fun activity, and I ignore them. I could tell by her tone, however, that this wasn’t just a notion. ‘She has rolled in dog dirt,’ went on the child. ‘And it is all over her neck. It smells really bad.’

Well that was the end of my peaceful half hour. Up I had to get, run the bath and lift said greyhound in, trying not to get smeared in shite in the process. Raging she was about it too. ‘Well that makes two of us,’ I told her, as I lathered doggy shampoo into the offending area.

So there you are. Not much writing has been done, of late, and tonight’s escapades should give you an idea what the tempo of life has been like. So to any one of you out there, who is currently working full-time and managing not to throttle those closest to them, fair play to you. I mean, I was stressed BEFORE I went back to work and now I’m just hoping I don’t give myself a hernia. Any tips, you know which way to send them.





SWB on Storm Francis

This isn’t the morning to discover that you have a hole the size of a five pence piece in the sole of your boot. The rain and wind are driving in from the west with a velocity bordering on venomous. It’s the first day back at school and I am trying to manoeuvre the children out of the backseats without bashing the car beside us. I have parked too close and am mouthing ‘SORRY’ to the man beside who is refusing to look at me but no doubt thinking that I’m a clampet.

I wanted to walk the children down with the dog this morning. I wanted to it to be a pleasant experience, after all the randomness.  I can get oddly emotional about them going to school, (which is quite ironic since I’m often looking rid of them.) I wanted to smile at their wee friends and their other mums and dads, or at least try to convey that I was smiling behind the mask. But there is no time for any salutations in the car park. Just as the water seeps into my sock and I squeeze the three of us between the cars, another mum calls over that they aren’t letting any of the pupils in before their appointed time: we are seven minutes early. We clamber back into the car. Both children have donned wooly gloves and warm coats. The Older Child left her detachable hood on a class trip to Oxford Island, so she is wearing a pink hat with a star on it. It is pointy and makes her look like an elf. The leggings they are wearing were labelled ‘cosy’- I had bought these for after Halloween, in a fit of organisation. I didn’t imagine they’d be worn on the 25thAugust, but since nothing in 2020 has turned out the way we’ve expected, fleece lined leggings should be the least of it. 2020- the year that just keeps on giving.

At 9-12am they begin bleating that they’ll be late, so we do the sideways shuffle out of the car again and weave our way over to the gate. The rain falls in torrents. I see The Small Child’s teacher at the door as she herds in half the class, ‘Bubble A’. Although her hood is up obscuring her face, I know by her gait that she is reassuring the children as they come in. She taught the Older One last year and I feel enormous relief that at least some things remain consistent.

I come home and strip off my soaking socks and leggings. I am so grateful that I’m not teaching at the moment- that I can come into my warm kitchen and reheat my coffee. It’s just as well LSB and I are both here, so we can act as referee between all the animals. The visiting cat (Fat Bramble) has taken up residence and our tortoiseshell is giving him daggers through slits of eyes. He disappears under the sofa with a disconsolate mew. The dog is bewildered by the inclement weather. We put her coat on her earlier so she could go out to pee but she just stood at the door looking back in at me with a hurt expression. Greyhounds are a very sensitive breed apparently. It doesn’t pay to be sensitive these days. I voice my concern that she is going to urinate, (or worse) on the floor again so LSB leaves what he’s working on and dons his coat. Fetching an umbrella he trudges up onto the grassy bit of the garden where she prefers to pee and holds the brolly over her while she relieves herself. He comes back in, peels off his sodden socks and is now back at his computer looking like a Jedi with in his green hoodie. I’ve just interrupted him to ask if he thinks greyhound coats come with hoods. He starts googling. While he’s at it, I ask him to see if he can buy us a golf umbrella made from recycled plastic. Apparently both are available on Amazon. I feel that it’s quite wrong to name a storm after a Saint who was  so fond of livestock. Or the present Pope for that matter. Surely he wouldn’t have approved? They should be running these things past the Vatican before letting them through, in my opinion.