SWB On Being ‘Ironing Bored’

We’re back to the grind, the weather is bat-shit crazy and the children are coming in wet and sodden. As the laundry mounts, how do you stay on top of it? Is it possible to keep up with domestic drudgery without losing your mind?


Ironing. That can be bitch, can’t it? But my advice is this: if an item looks like a pain to iron, then leave it in the shop. It is not deserving of a place in your wardrobe or a place in your life. Same goes for an item with ‘special washing instructions.’ Items such as this can GET IN THE BIN. A professional organiser once advised to clear your home of any objects which give you work; need your time or make your feel bad. There are things aplenty in this life to fulfil all these roles. Clothes shouldn’t be one. It’s #SecondHandSeptember so if any of the above applies to something you own, then this is an ideal time to drop off to our nearest charity shop.


Thankfully,  ironing pile in our house is greatly reduced these days, but this didn’t just happen by accident. I try to treat our recently laundered clothes with respect, i.e., I don’t adopt LSB’s approach which is to pluck the stuff off the line or out of the tumble drier and chuck them all crumpled into a basket. I’ve taken @tidydad’s advice, and started to enlist all the family’s help with laundry, sorting into piles and folding pronto before sending them off to put away. Doing laundry is lonely! Nobody should be sifting through a basket of socks, fruitlessly looking for a match. I now pull the basket out when we’re watching an episode of Modern Family and set to it.


I also don’t tend to iron much of LSB’s stuff anymore. Often he works from home and just wears a tee-short. Also, to my absolute delight, in his present job he doesn’t have to go to London and look smart while he talks to a lot of pretentious pricks. It’s taken a load off.


My mother-in-law ironed EVERYTHING. Pants. Towels. Socks. Sheets. No, no, no and HELL NO. The Mothership used to stand and iron fifteen shorts on a Sunday night for the week ahead, so my dad, my brother and I had a clean shirt everyday. I must admit that I will never reach this level of domestic prowess.


Occasionally though, I might need to iron something. Say a dress I really love, or if the kids have left their uniform in a heap and a quick fix is needed to take the bad look off it. My mantra is this, ‘never perfect, always better.’ Same goes for all the housework chores. But say, like on we ta day like this and I’m not teaching, I might say, iron a few things. This  is the ideal opportunity to embrace ‘luxury ironing.’ This is where you make a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine should it be later in the day. Say 11am. (JOKING). Then I pop on a podcast such as The Uncanny* on Radio 4. Honestly, sometimes I get so engrossed I start looking for things to run the iron over. Who doesn’t love a spooky story with no rationale explanation?


This is how I deal with the monotony of household chores if no one is around to help. Earphones in with spoken word radio or a decent podcast so I feel my brain isn’t turning to mush. (‘Everyday’s a school day with you,’ says LSB.) But it works a treat and makes it all that bit easier. And should you be stressed out as the chores accumulate and need some sensible tips delivered by someone with a compassionate but no-nonsense air, then I recommend listening to KC Davis’s audiobook, How to Keep House while Drowning. 


The bottom line is this- whatever you have to do, make it more fun, whether you’re listening to @U105, Radio 4 or feasting on a new episode of The Bear. Happy Tuesday everyone.


*Show in The Grand Opera House coming to Belfast in November. Keep an eye out!




SWB on Modern-day Mishaps

It’s the horror of the modern age. Not nuclear armageddon or another strain of Covid. Or God forbid, a third lockdown with the kids. No, the real terror of modern life is sending a text to the wrong person. The sinking feeling when you hit send,  knowing your missive is winging its way to the wrong recipient, and there’s dang all you can do about it.

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s absent-mindedly banging a kiss on the end of a WhatsApp to a colleague, or worse still, in an email to your boss, confusing them with your loved one.

And that’s just a cringe fest and there’s no harm done.

But with our interactions with friends, the absence of a simple ‘x’ can signify that all is not well, and can be interpreted as being passive aggressive if you habitually use one. The lack of an ‘x’ can signify a peevishness, hint at a hurt, and be the verbal equivalent of  ‘I’ve had enough of this.’

Then there’s the people who aren’t kissers or huggers IRL and don’t want to become one in the digital arena after. Do you send an ‘x’ in your communications with them because you ARE a digital ‘x-er’?

It’s all very complex. But this is small fry, in comparison to sending the wrong message.

Years ago,  a friend was replying to a group chat about a night out. She sent a few dates when she wasn’t free as she was in the throes of a new romance. Anyway, the pal who was organising the shindig wrote, ‘We’ve been sidelined AGAIN, of course, because Jane’s* out with bloody Paul.’ Except she sent it to the group chat, and not to the friend she thought she was sending it to.


Jane admits now that she was totally infatuated and a tad hard to listen to, but she did marry perfect Paul and still invited her mate to the wedding, which I think was very magnanimous.

But it’s a tough one, because when you do send a message like that, you reveal what she really feel, and the person can go back and read it over and over again. I suppose the old adage, ‘If you’re not going to say something nice then don’t say it at all,’ still holds true.

Nearly everyone has a story about when things go terribly wrong. While at uni, an old friend of mine went to a gig with a girl he fancied. They were having such craic that he got a bit ahead of himself, and sent his flatmate a message telling him to vacate the premises, in anticipation of having the house to himself. Of course, he sent it to the girl instead, who told him he was a presumptuous git. He went home alone, and with a flea in his ear.

The rule is, be careful. Be very careful. Or better still, leave the blooming phone at home and give yourselves some time off. We always feel we have to be checking and scrolling and texting. Bring a book next time you go to a cafe- far less chance of any bother!

*names have been changed to protect the guilty


SWB on a September reset

‘I call September the ‘slidey’ month’ said a friend yesterday. When I inquired how so, she explained: ‘because if you don’t carve out time for yourself, you get caught up with the kids and suddenly it’s January.’


Was ever a truer phrase spoken? To me it’s a bittersweet month, tinged with sadness that the longed-for summer holidays have passed, but blended with relief that a routine for the wee buggers is re-established.


Aside from the melt of sorting the kids out for school, I think there is a collective ‘Thank f**k’ from parents,’ (and let’s face it, mostly mums) that they don’t have to scour the internet for summer schemes and annihilate the bank balance in the process.


During the holidays I feel a constant hum in my head, as though a little wasp has made its home in my earhole. I can’t properly relax as I’m constantly ‘on’- painfully aware that my children are around and might need me. Don’t you get tired of being responsible for someone else’s happiness for two months? I find it very grating.


Hence this is why yesterday, I responded with unprecedented enthusiasm when my friend Jane asked if I’d like to join the 6.30 (am!) running group. Initially I said No. No no no. Again no- I’m not a morning person, I said. But then, capricious creature that I am, I did a u-turn quicker than the Tory government under Truss.


In a moment of unusual clarity, it struck me that this is EXACTLY what I need to reset after my summer of pastries and rosé.


We need time for ourselves! said Jane, who has four children, yet always appears  buoyant and put-together. But she wouldn’t be, she told me, if she didn’t prioritise her needs, and at present, pre-breakfast is the only time she can guarantee it.


I agreed. How very life-affirming to claw back uncompromised ‘me’ time before the demands of children and animals. (Poor auld LSB- he doesn’t even get a look in here) I also need an incentive to stop drinking wine in the evenings. I love wine. I savour the first sip over dinner before shifting to the sofa, glass in hand, for an episode of Modern Family with the girls. For me, this ritual says, “I am off the clock. I am not leaving the house to take anyone anywhere. See my arse? It’s glued to the seat.’


But this is not good.  In the mornings I am sluggish, and feel defeated before the day’s even begun. Action is needed.


Lynette Fay in the Irish News agrees that September is a much better month to reset than January, which makes perfect sense to me, with its soft golden light and autumnal glow. Last New Year, I’m ashamed to admit, I spent a over a hundred quid signing up to an online group called The Six Pack Revolution, inspired by a Guardian writer’s experience. Readers, I lost no weight. I couldn’t stick to the food plan and nearly gave myself a hernia doing the exercises. ‘I’m on a diet,’ I kept bleating miserably to the girls. ‘STOP going on about it!’ they implored. So I deleted all the emails from the coach, left the Facebook group and drank some wine to celebrate. I put it down to a moment of insanity.


But this morning, wait til you hear! I set the alarm, and at six twenty-five, I met four lively ladies on the Ravenhill and we ran five km. There was barely a ripple on the Lagan and all was calm and serene. I haven’t described EVER put the words ‘Monday’ and ‘serene’ in the same sentence. I had one glass of wine with dinner last night, cleaned the kitchen and I did ten minutes of Kundalini yoga before bed. Jane’s husband tells her she’s created a ‘Movement’ and I think he may be right. If I do this a couple of times a week, I’m hoping that the benefits will trickle through to the rest of the day, and maybe, just maybe, to a much more positive mindset.




Can’t SWB just enjoy the summer?

The Mothership’s been on. As usual, the conversation began without preamble.

‘I don’t think you’re right in the head,’ (that was her her opening gambit.) You’re a busy woman, or so you keep telling me. You’d think you’d know your audience.


Some gentle probing finally unpicked what she was getting at. On Thursday I was on with Frank, giving off about supermarkets peddling their Christmas wares. In August. I mean, HEAVEN HELP US.


I’d popped into TK MAX last Sunday and had been affronted by the Halloween stock on display; but Christmas? That’s too much to thole altogether.


The Mothership had taken umbrage when I’d suggested that instead of stocking up on the tubs of Celebrations, that shoppers visit the charity shops instead, buy some pretty containers and chuck in some homemade treats.


Who has time to be standing scrubbing jars to fill with sweets that YOU HAVE TO MAKE YOURSELF? Who do you think you are, Kirsty Flipping Allsopp?


Now it was my turn to take offence, because last year I DID blend biscuits and melt chocolate and roll Bailey’s Cheesecake Truffles and they were, even if I do say so myself, MARVELLOUS.  I mentioned this on Frank because I love thrift shopping and I also think it’s a nice festive activity to do before Christmas. The children could even get involved, although I added that an essential prerequisite is that they wash their hands well, as the recipient will be less grateful if they get E-coli.


The big stores have a quare cheek on them. They maintain, that by hauling out the holiday merch that they’re helping the savvy shopper manage their budget, but they’re a bunch of scoundrels, if you ask me. It’s all a cynical ruse to plant the idea that Christmas is just around the corner and generate anxiety for their own Machiavellian ends.

Their stationary will be full of notebooks with ‘Live For The Moment’ emblazoned on the cover, while the stock in the seasonal aisle sends us into a frenzy about a holiday five months away.


They know rightly, that most people, unfortunately myself included, have zero will-power. Who can resist the lure of a chocolate pick-me-up as the dregs of the year draw to a close, and you’re fraught and frazzled and foundered. Chances are that the tubs will be torn into. It’s a win-win for the stores, as they make double the sales. Case in point, there’s always a wine deal in Sainsbury’s* at the end of November. Brilliant, I say to myself, when I spot the jaunty bunting proclaiming, ‘25% off Six Bottles or more!’. Every year, I think I’ll organise my presents and have them all ready. And every year, without fail, we drink the lot, and back we go to replenish the cupboard, LSB’s ears ringing, amid such reprimands of, ‘I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU SANK YOUR DAD’S CHÂTEAUNEUF DE PAPE?’


So I’m not suggesting that people don’t budget to spread the cost, or get themselves organised early, or even that you go full-on Nigella in the kitchen. But there are other retailers I’d rather support, and local markets and charity shops need our money more. My advice?  Find out what creative souls are in your area, making their own soaps and candles, cultivating and potting up honey and jams. I know what I’d rather find in my Christmas box.

*other rip-off merchants are available



SWB causes chaos

So basically, I’m a bit of a twat. Let me expand.


The day before we were coming home was blustery, and the children and I were as unsettled as the weather. I was still mortified after the body boarding incident, and irked that I wasn’t stronger, even after all the ‘Building muscle for peri-menopausal women’ videos on Instagram I’d watched.


Off we headed for dinner, but a surge of new arrivals at the campsite meant that the usually well-organised system in the restaurant was in disarray. The mood, having been buoyant for the rest of the holiday, took a downward turn, and my luke-warm glass of sauvignon blanc did little to boost my spirits. (I don’t care that it’s from the local vineyard, just put the fecking bottle in the fecking fridge. And leave it there, FFS.)


But after our pizza and a carafe of more temperate red arrived, things started to improve. The children even looked up from their screens and made conversation. It had, we all agreed, been a great trip, and we were sad to be leaving France.


That’s when a French couple were shown to the table beside us with a very cute, but very boisterous collie pup. Delighted with himself he was, wee tail going a dinger as everyone smiled and looked up from their dinners as the bouncy little fellow arrived.


‘Would the couple mind,’ I asked, ‘if we stroked the pup?’ And then a brain wave struck; given how long the desserts were likely to take to arrive, perhaps my husband could take the pup on a dander and the girls could stretch their legs?


The couple were overjoyed. No bother at all! Someone had already taken their children so they could have a meal in peace! What had they done to deserve it?! We all laughed merrily and I smiled as my family were despatched.


Ten minutes, I thought. Just ten minutes to read my book, and look forward to a sundae for pudding, coconut and vanilla ice cream, doused with Malibu and slathered with fresh cream. (It’s becoming  clear why I couldn’t master the paddle boarding, as it had been a fortnight of such indulgences.)


I read a chapter, then another. By the time I began the third I was beginning to worry. No waiter either to take an order, so I wasn’t pleased. Enter a small panicked child. In tears. People were shouting at Daddy, saying he’d stolen the dog. Out I went and there was LSB,  clinging to the dog’s lead while surrounded by a fractious crowd, a camp security guard and two members of the animation team looking at him accusingly.

‘WALKING,’ LSB was shouting, trying to be heard over the din. ‘I’m WALKING LE CHIEN!’


The child of the couple had seen their dog being walked by a stranger and gone berserk. Out came the dad to settle matters, but the on-lookers still looked at us with suspicion and disdain.


LSB was shaken up by the whole affair. Initially I thought it the baying crowd which had upset him, but it transpired that the pup had bitten him. Twice. The child had tried to unclip the dog from the lead LSB was holding, and in the furore, it had nipped him on the arm and the leg. ‘Now I have to go home and get a f**king tetanus jab,’ he said, seething.


He was wrong. He needed FOUR jabs. The following Monday, at the Urgent Care at Lagan Valley Hospital, they took it all VERY seriously. He had one injection in each arm, plus seven day’s worth of antibiotics. Next month he needs another jab, and a final one in September. He had never been immunised for Tetanus before, hence this battery of precautions.


I thought I would be properly in the dog house (pardon the pun), but he was remarkably sanguine about it all, once we got home. I was on chatting to Frank Mitchell about the potential hazards of holidays, and he got the whole story. The pup was a bit of a headcase, I explained. ‘Let’s call a spade a spade,’ said Frank. ‘The pup wasn’t the headcase. Stevey wasn’t the headcase, I think we know exactly who’s to blame here.’


The moral of the story (aside from having an up-to-date tetanus booster) is not to get tipsy and garrulous and volunteer your husband to walk other people’s pets. ‘If I ever suggest the like of that again, just tell me to f**k up,’ I told Stevey. ‘Awk, I won’t say that,’ he replied, ‘I’ll just say, ‘Remember France.’

I’m not likely to forget for a while.


SWB makes a fool of herself

(not how I looked..)

It had all been going so well. Too well, perhaps. I was beginning to feel a tiny bit of smugness creeping in, as in ‘Just maybe, as both children have reached double digits, I’m learning to master family holidays. Then I had to go and ruin it.

Poor auld LSB. I’ve told him, if he wants to leave me, I will be very sad but I’ll understand. I’ve brought it upon myself with my foolishness.

It was the last full day of the trip, and a breeze whistled its way through the campsite. We were roused by the clatter of pinecones thudding down on the tin roof of the caravan, and stepping out unto the porch I set about retrieving a few pairs of pants which I’d washed and inexpertly pegged to the clothes horse.

It was an odd choice then, to decide to go paddle boarding. ‘Sure, we’ll see what it’s like at the beach,’ I said, optimistically. The man though, who rented the boards, said it was fine, once you got over the first waves at the water’s edge, it was calmer. It was our only chance if we wanted to have a go, because the waves would reach 2 metres later on in the afternoon and he was shutting up shop. Down at the shore a couple of children played on body boards and one fellow was out paddling; I reckoned we’d be fine. LSB WAS fine. Once he wrestled his way out it was surprisingly peaceful, and he even managed to stand up, and looked competent, one could almost say poised and athletic.

When it came time to swap though, I was less so, and even when I reached the calmer water my legs were so shaky, I could barely kneel on the board, never mind stand. Anxious of appearing like the twat I was; dishevelled and incapable in front of the elegant French people sunning themselves on the sand, I determined to paddle inwards. ‘Feck this,’ I thought. As I scooped ineffectually at the water a wave swelled behind me, and sent me catapulting off. Immediately after I’d hauled my hefty-self back on, another crashed into the board and away I went again. This time, It took a while for me to reappear, causing some consternation from Himself, looking nervously out sea, For someone with a dodgy back and pelvis, wrestling with waves and boards isn’t something I’d recommend.

Out LSB swam to save me, all purposeful and Mitch Buchanan-like. ‘All the upper strength work at the gym has paid off,’ he said, taking the board and retrieving the oar and untying the safety leash from my ankle. I swam back to shore, but was so battered by the elements I could barely get ,myself in, and washed up like a bloated walrus on the sand, after dropping to my hands and knees to clamber in. The French sunbathers looked on, making only minimal efforts to  camouflage their smirks. I sat there, coughing up yet more salt water and discreetly shook a load of pebbly sand from my bikini bottoms. LSB dragged the board in and plonked down beside me. ‘Where’d I be without you?’ I asked, sheepishly. ‘Halfway to Morocco, I expect,’ he replied.

(SWB pictured post paddle board)

These were only the events of Saturday morning, so tune in to the blog later in the week to read how I disgraced myself in the evening. No shortage of entertainment here (unless, of course, you’re LSB.)




SWB on Handling Holidays with Care

Jess Carter-Morley wrote a great piece in The Guardian recently on how to holiday like a pro. One piece of sage advice I took to heart was to have a rest BEFORE the holiday. (I would take it further and suggest a couple of days either end, should one have the luxury.) Be honest though, how often have you spent the first few days pulsing with such adrenalin that relaxation is off the cards completely?

We had a break in Portugal back in May, and what with work beforehand, we didn’t board our Easyjet flight well-rested and serene. LSB had the beginnings of a stye, red and angry on his left eyelid. ‘The sun will help it,’ I said optimistically, ‘it’ll be gone by tomorrow!’ Alas my positivity was unfounded and it continued to grow in size and ferocity. (Previously to this I had taken a rash in my armpits as a reaction to a new deodorant. Together we resembled Middle Age plague victims.)

Despite his distress, because as well as looking revolting it was, apparently, very painful, I set about organising activities. Who wants to go dolphin watching? I asked. Zero interest. Who fancies a coastal grotto tour? Sub-zero interest. Who wants to play in a freezing pool and splash me while I read the new Marian Keyes? Well, that was right up the children’s street, obviously, so I perched by the chilly poolside, wondering how if 11am, was too early to get tore into a Verdejo. Meanwhile, LSB lay up in the room with a teabag on his eyelid, which was of no use whatsoever because the trick is to apply said teabag before the lid has swelled to the size of a leprechaun’s scrotum.

It wasn’t a remotely relaxing holiday. First of all, I forgot my driver’s licence, so LSB had to do all the driving, with only one functioning eye. He did very well, considering. I can only relax when I feel I DESERVE to relax, I feel I have to EARN the wine and crisps and ice-cream. The day I dragged everyone rock-climbing, for example, I felt I could really enjoy my Argentinian steak with a carafe of Malbec that evening.

Carter-Morley also suggests that one has realistic goals and expectations of a holiday. The problem is, for me, that a holiday for LSB means having the chance to sit on his arse and relax. The highlight for him last year in France, was reading a book on the shady terrace of the caravan we rented. Delighted with himself he was, sipping a beer and chortling away to himself at some shite on his phone. I, on the other hand, was like Tigger on amphetamines. What will we do next? Kayak? Paddle board? Who wants to do aqua-aerobics? Apparently, I’m rather annoying.

We are presently on holiday again, and this time, I’m a different type of annoying. LSB is minus stye and in better humour, and we are with my friend in Barcelona, hanging out with her bulldog, Jason. Aside from my pidgin Spanish, I feel like a native, wandering around the barrio with my trusty hound. And instead of complaining and being sour, I keep telling LSB, Isn’t this WONDERFUL? But isn’t it? Isn’t it really? When are we coming back?’ The superlatives just keep on flowing. ‘You’re kind of a person of extremes,’ aren’t you, opined the Small Child, with a degree of insight.

I think though, there is a solution at hand, and the solution is to be learnt from the Spanish. Here most Spaniards have a ‘horario de verano’ which means they work fewer hours in July and then the month of August OFF. The district of Sarrià, where we are at the moment, is like a ghost town in August because most locals head to the coast or to the Pyrenees.  If I wasn’t trying to cram all the things I want to do into a short period of time, I would be much happier because I wouldn’t feel such pressure and could actually relax: I’d be neither hyper Helen nor hyperbolic Helen. Happily, as  long as a decent beer is at hand, LSB is can generally cope with both.




SWB feels the heat

It’s a short blog this week and the theme is MIND YOURSELVES.  June is a desperate month altogether for fractious behaviour, or it is in the world of education anyway. I speak from bitter experience. I don’t know whether it’s circadian rhythms, fatigue, or just the fact that I’m a crabbed auld bitch, but any serious altercations I’ve ever had, with friends, family or work colleagues, have kicked off either round June or Christmas-time.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? No one makes good decisions when tired or over-stretched. When thus pressurised, the sensible part of my brain, the part that reins in my baser instincts, goes into retreat, and the irrational side reigns supreme. There are too many people to please, too many demands, too many looming deadlines.

A friend of mine who is normally quite unflappable, admitted to feeling exactly the same way, saying that June always has a similar frenzied feel to Christmas, with its raft of social engagements and accompanying expectations. She, however, is a sweet-natured sort, who doesn’t go round insulting folk when they annoy her. I, on the other hand, can’t seem to help myself. I’ve told people they are rude, insufferable, and bereft of manners. Once, instead of just saying ‘No thank you,’  to a kindly woman who enquired if I’d like to work in her (albeit rather tough school,) I retorted, ‘I’d rather die.’ There wasn’t a bit of need for it, but I was so beside myself with exhaustion that I didn’t even register how rude I’d been.

And now, we’re in June again, and the tension is tingling at my temples as the strain of the year takes hold.

The usual stress factors have been ratcheted up a notch too, since we’re existing practically in tropical climes, minus any decent air-con or swimming pools in our back yards in which to cool off. Usually I long for warmer weather, but reality is a cruel mistress, and spending hours each week cooped up in a classroom has been testing, to say the least.

So take heed from one who has f**ked up aplenty, and don’t ask too much of yourselves. Say no to things. Pour a glass of something cool, elevate your puffy ankles and allow time for some respite; better to bite your tongue once than spend the summer licking a multitude of wounds.



SWB on being in the moment

Anyone else feel like they need a wee holiday away from their phone? The realisation hit me the other day when I realised that I’d watched ten TikTok videos back to back on cleaning hacks. One of these clips featured, and I kid you not,  a ‘professional cleaner fromWisconsin’ who had the ground-breaking idea of lifting the loo roll holder and toilet brush off the floor to clean under them,  instead of cleaning AROUND them. Swear to God, this was the crux of her video. I mean, who knew? I watched several reels on oven cleaning. I am never going to clean my own oven. Even if my state of penury dictates that I’ve to subsist on baked beans for a solid month and endure the fall-out from my small intestine, I will still be ringing Sam the Oven Man and giving him fifty quid for his expertise.

Emma Brockes, one of my favourite writers from the Guardian, has been ruminating on a similar topic this week, when she discovered the accidental pleasure of taking her children to the park minus her phone. Her first reaction was one of panic (oh, how I can identify!) but in the end she rather enjoyed it. She was interested in seeing where her mind wandered, when not fixated on a little pixellated screen. Birds mainly (and not angry ones), was where it went, and she enjoyed watching a few sparrows have the craic. She surprised herself with how enjoyable it was, noticing the sun on her face and the sense of relief, really, at just allowing herself to be ‘off’ for a while. Her twins too, noticed her new found calm and ask that she leave the phone at home in future.

I can dentified with this t. Sometimes I look at  the cherry blossom and wish I could just appreciate the candyfloss-ish loveliness of it, instead of working out how best to capture it on camera. In Fuengarola a few years back (a surprisingly nice town by the way, and not  deserving of the slating it gets.) the kids and I found a park which was home to an abundance of bright green parrots. Noisy little buggers they were too, and most industrious, flitting from tree to tree, squawking away merrily. I sipped café con leche while taking in the scene. A pigeon pecked at crumbs nearby and I noticed he had a banjaxed foot, but still strutted around with as much dignity as he could muster. He was there again the next day. We have a habit of naming creatures we met and the go-to name is Cedric, but given his Spanish heritage we christened him Cedriqué. We still think of him fondly.

I’m not saying we should ditch our phones all time. It feels like a win to catch up on jobs and the never ending ‘What’s App groups when we get five minutes. It’s hard to win at this mothering lark. You’re either vilified as a helicopter parent for being hyper-vigilant, or neglectful when you’re not hanging on their every word and applauding loudly when they scale the climbing frame. I do worry though, that there will be a generation of kids with issues because every time they shouted ‘Watch me mummy!’ mum was watching a ‘Get Ready with Me!’ video and missing the first time they broke the land speed record going down the slide. At least therapists in twenty year’s time will be raking it in.

Send me your thoughts, and I’ll try to check them when I’m not in the presence of a child and likely to be accused of ignoring them.


SWB puts a sock (or two) in it

Friday afternoon was gloriously sunny. As I gazed out my window in work the dappled light caught the dancing leaves of the trees. (The Japanese call this ‘komorebi’ and I love that I know this). Amid this moment of bucolic calm after a busy week, my thoughts turned not to an appreciation of the clement weather, but to laundry. It occurs to me that if LSB can fling on a load, I can have it hung out while there’s still some heat in the air. It can then finish drying indoors as the sun warms the front of the house in the evening. There’s no better household aesthetic than a clothes horse erected in the living room for bystanders to see as they pass.  And so I picked up the phone and issued instructions. A 30 degree wash, I tell him, and use the laundry egg, because at 30 degree the capsules from SMOL don’t melt and we end up with gloopy bits stuck around our pants and I don’t want chemicals, (however mild they may be) around my privates.


I rarely let LSB near the washing because he is, in short, a liability. He doesn’t separate colours so everything emerges tinged blue or pink. He fecks the delicates in with more robust items and massacres them. Last week he successfully managed the washing of his nice hoodie from Rapanui, only to fling it into the spin dryer without due care, resulting in two large holes in the sleeve.


But I have to accept some  blame because I’ve made the laundry a total palaver. First is the over-complication of cleaning products, choosing either egg or detergent. The drying process also has several steps, starting with a turn in the spin dryer. Next, it’s small items on the whirly-gig which hangs in the laundry room, and any extras over a radiator, before bigger items are slung on the line outside. This process is often thwarted by cats parading in and out, demanding food as the laundry room doubles as their feeding space. I’ve been known to trip over the bastards in the process. When the items are almost dry, I then give them a 10 minute turn in the tumble drier.


In an effort to reduce the toll all this takes on the planet, what enters the washing machine is subjected first to scrutiny. One cannot for instance assume, that if a child has plopped an item into the laundry basket, that it is, in fact dirty. I thus exercise a swift ‘sift and sniff’ policy, (underwear excluded.) They may have worn it once for twenty minutes and chucked it in the basket instead of a drawer, so I always check. Heavy items, such as hoodies, demand a closer look, and if not too stinky, then I take a sponge to the sleeves and any stains.


Jeez Louise I’m exhausted just writing this, so I’m going to stop because I could go on, and on, like an endless forty-degree cycle.  Last night though, I’m pleased to say that while LSB was glued to the new Zelda game, the children and  I put away two massive piles of clean clothes and barring three rogue ones, every single sock found it’s partner! It’s truly the small wins that keep us going, right?