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SWB hosts a Book Club (via bloody Zoom, obviously, cos that’s where we’re still at)

Hello good people. I hope you are all well, and not overwhelmed by the prospect of Blue Monday, and thinking of spending the day in bed, a-sipping at a bottle of Blue Nun to keep with the theme.

On Wednesday evening I am delighted to have been asked to host January’s book club with the Irish Secretariat. Unsurprisingly my choice of book has an environmental theme and if you haven’t read Dara McNulty’s ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ then I can thoroughly recommend it. I can barely tell an oak from an ash or a jay from a jackdaw (ok, I’m exaggerating there) but I do wish I knew more, and this is a great place to start. What I am committed to is taking small steps to addressing the havoc generations before us have wrecked upon the planet, and I’m quite in awe of this young chap’s passion and encyclopaedic knowledge.

Should you wish to join in, pop me a DM and I’ll get you the link on Wednesday.

 

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SWB makes rest a doing word

The French have a great word ‘coincée’ (pronounced ‘quant-sayed’) which has popped into my head often these holidays. The best way to sum it up in English, is, I think, ‘stymied at every turn’ which sums up more or less how I’ve felt, from approximately March 2020 but with particular intensity this last month. Almost every opportunity for space and frivolity has been curtailed in some way and of course I’m very good at coincé-ing myself, filling my house with children and animals, all of which compete for my attention.

I LONGED to go abroad this Christmas, but watched as each option slipped through my fingers. Making any kind of trip into a reality seemed to necessitate a fair bit of good luck and a side order of fairy dust.  I spent hours on the net, but aside from the price hike of any trip during the school holidays, there were whatever restrictions to consider, with possible ramifications for my work if our PCRS weren’t clear. I admire people who can be flexible about switching flights and changing plans; who can just let them go if it doesn’t work out. Letting go in general isn’t my strong point.

My brother lives in Ras Al Kaimah in the UAE. We haven’t seen him since 2019, and we miss him, especially my wee girls. But luckily, we didn’t venture out to see him after all, given that he ended up with Covid and in bed all of Christmas Day. However, regardless, of any of the practicalities, I’m not sure I could have made the trip anyway. My body has just refused to play ball. I have been rendered listless with lethargy; felled by fatigue; toppled by tiredness.

On Christmas Eve I felt perkier and said, with great enthusiasm to my friend, ‘let’s do a day trip to the Mournes! Just ourselves, no children! Oh, the joy. By the following evening I was thinking longingly of my pyjamas by the time the Queen’s Speech was due to air. The Mournes trip never materialised. Nor have windswept beach walks, cold-water swims or New Year runs.

My Facebook feed is awash with photos of people engaged in wholesome activities; embracing the outdoors regardless of the elements. I, meanwhile, had to ask LSB to slow down when we walked the dog along the embankment. ‘Can I just get a taxi home?’ I asked at one point, but we sat down to rest for a few minutes on a wall instead before shuffling on.

I’ve taken more lateral flows than the government is recommending given the shortages, and I’m apparently covid-less but symptom full.

And all this has made me feel cross and resentful and angry as term starts again for me tomorrow. I feel as though I’m standing below an avalanche and I’m bracing myself for the onslaught. But today, in an unusual bout of positive introspection, I took a moment to focus less on what others have got up to, and reflected a little on myself.

I didn’t do yoga everyday as planned, but I have slathered myself in cream my friend has made from flowers she has grown from seed and distilled in oil and melded into body butter.

I have cuddled under blankets watching sitcoms with the girls, warmed from the glow of the wood burner.

I washed dishes while listening to the words of Katherine May’s ‘Wintering’, and thought how she might just have it sussed.

I have bashed biscuits to make tiffin from left over selection box chocolate and dunked it in tea.

I have grilled cheese on hot toast and set it down to old friends.

And this morning, I tuned in to a poetry workshop and sat, propped up in bed like an imperious queen, asking LSB for a refill of coffee and a chocolate digestive. He brought me not one but three and a freshly brewed coffee in my new mug. This time, it’s not the word ‘coincée’ but instead the phrase ‘my cup overfloweth’ that springs to mind. Well, I’m unlikely to be thinking this tomorrow, but learning to rejoice in the moment, perhaps that’s one resolution I can try and keep in 2022. And yesterday morning, we finally made it to Murlough for a short walk. Glorious it was too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SWB feels befuddled

So we’ve hit ‘Twixt-mas’, that irksome period where nothing makes much sense, after a couple of years which haven’t made much sense either. It’s not much wonder we’re feeling more discombobulated than usual.

The children serve as a pleasant distraction on one level, while ramping up the crazy on the other. The older one landed down for her lunch yesterday with bubble wrap wound tightly around her arm, fastened with a white hair bobble. It was somewhat distracting, trying to eat my leftover turkey and ham with her opposite me looking like she’d just returned from the burn’s unit of the Royal. Later it lay discarded on the carpet, looking disconcertingly like a used condom.

One wonders idly what to do with the long drizzly days. In the ‘Before Times,’ LSB and I would have been donning matching elf outfits and trainers as we zoomed down to Castlewellan for the annual Christmas Cracker Race. Eight miles over mountain trails we ran, with the air taking on various hues of blue as I puffed out expletives with every excruciating step as we neared the finish line. And yet, this never seemed out of the ordinary for me; it was a delightful antidote to the peculiarity that is endless lounging coupled with fizzing adrenalin which characterises ‘Twixt-mas’.

Since this year I have all the energy of a semi-deflated balloon, I batted away all thoughts of fell-running, and yesterday I was that person, the one still wearing their pyjamas at four pm, Googling recipes for what to make with all the Snickers languishing at the bottom of the boxes of Celebrations. I used to enjoy a Snickers, but now I find all the peanutty pieces get lodged between my molars. I did however, read almost all of a Jo Jo Moyle’s novel, while the tree lights twinkled and the warm scent of the fig and winter berry candle almost concealed the wet dog smell emanating from the snoozing greyhound beside me.

At least LSB and I have plans for tomorrow night as it’s our anniversary (11 years- wow!) so out to dinner we shall skip, and I shall divest myself of the pjs and may even don a frock.

He really is a good sort, all things considered, tholing all my neurosis, which in recent times have been many and varied. How he hasn’t sought a divorce after this omnishambles of a year I don’t know. His patience with all the animals, which I insisted on getting, has been remarkable, especially when I complain about the smell of piss that still lingers on the rug we had professionally cleaned (twice) and the cat hair which tickles my nose when we go to bed and keeps me, and thus him, awake. He walks the dog in the rain and picks up not only her poop, but other mounds of shite left by other less conscientious owners* on the street.

My increasingly obsessive recycling habits don’t seem to have struck him as bizarre. He holds the door when I come home from school burdened with cans and papers and bottles, and obligingly jumps in the blue bin to make room for all the excess. He doesn’t mind when I stop in the street to pick up cans; in fact he now keeps a plastic bag in his pocket for the purpose. I’m full of fun facts these days, chuntering on about how aluminium is infinitely recyclable. Funny how one’s goals change. We used to talk about Personal Bests, but now I say things like: ‘I got five cans between Forestside and the house!’ and he’ll comment: ‘That’s a bumper loot!’

I’m sure you must get sick of all this,’ I said to him the other night, as I stood on the Ormeau emptying half a tin of White Lightning into the gutter. ‘To have and to hold, to collect and to crush,’ was his reply. Readers, I think I got a good one.

* (or will be just call them what they are, selfish, lazy bastards.)

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And just like that- we’re at Christmas and finding ways to smile

I’m back and still plenty sour, after being smited with a flu-like malaise which had me feeling as rough as a badger’s arse. I don’t know whether nasal linings are more tender from the constant blowing of nose or from shoving so many swabs up there. I remain Covid -free, and I’m starting think that it’s just karma at play as retribution for my lack of sympathy for LSB when he got his eye’s lasered at the start of December. What a pain in the backside that was, as I ran the youngsters hither and thither while he lay up there soaking his pillow through with eye secretions. I thought it was only on TV sitcoms that men lay convalescing amid mounds of crumple tissues, but apparently that happens IRL too, despite my having left the bin at his elbow for convenience. (He would like it on record that he couldn’t actually see anything, never mind the bin.)

 

I have thus been rendered testier than usual and I’ve found it hard to dispel the gloom. But, after a particularly long moan on the phone to the Mothership, she told me to buck up and stop being such a grouch. I have forced myself to think of a few things which have made me smile. (Trust me, the mood that I’ve been in, this required serious effort.) But I’m starting today with Sex and the City, and I’ll try and think of another few things before the week is out.

‘Sex and the City’/’And just like that’

I accept, it’s not what it was first time round, but then again, what is? ‘The Guardian’, my paper of choice, have been mighty, or even crushingly cruel about it’s relaunch.  And they probably have a point. As the acerbic Lucy Mangan witheringly noted, it was excruciating at times. But did it still warm me just a little? Indeed it did. Like old friends, I longed for a catch up with these girls, and not in a super-budget movie sort of a fashion. I wanted a dollop of real life; knowing full-well that real life by SATC standards differs greatly from my own. I went through a lot with these ladies. One winter when I was in my twenties, living in my wee two-up-two-down, I used to snuggle under a blanket and watch a two or three of episodes each evening. Felled by fatigue on the run up to Christmas, it was just what I needed. It was pure, unadulterated escapism. I don’t wear heels, never mind Manolo Blaniks, but that didn’t stop me ogling Carries collection and her impossibly slender ankles. I shed tears when Miranda proposed to Steve outside the subway or when Big showed up to woo Carrie in Paris. I thought it showcased how mercurial we can be when it comes to matters of the heart. Who didn’t want to slap the face off Burger’s moody bake, and how I fumed when The Russian manipulated Carrie out of her party with fans in a Left Bank bistro. Slimey wee weasel.

Yes, it was nonsense but nonsense with a great big New York heart. I loved it. But as with all our great loves, it can irritate the hell out of us at times. It’s irritating that Charlotte is still a total princess and even more loaded than before. Miranda can’t stop mentioning that she’s fifty-five every three seconds. Nor can Carrie- we get it, we’re getting older- enough already. Do you know what I want? I want them ordering egg white omelettes and suggesting how to stoke the fires of passion when your idea of a romantic evening has become sharing a bottle of shiraz and inhaling a bar of Tony Chocaloney in front of ‘The Sopranos’. That’s the real life I’m after, not allusions to Covid, or whether we owe it to ourselves to keep covering up the grey, or to just embrace it as Miranda has. It also feels that the modus operandi is to re-educate. I could live without the lesson on political correctness; I don’t come to SATC to discuss gender fluidity and choice of pronouns. This series seems dedicated to addressing the wrongs from the six seasons before, tackling issues it failed to adequately deal with in the past.

Do you know what though? Although it can feel heavy handed, or as The Mothership would say, uses ‘a sledge-hammer to crack a nut,’ I quite applaud the fact that there’s still room for froth and highly impractical outfits, while they have troubling and deeply uncomfortable conversations about the issues which affect us all. Grieving. Loneliness. The fact that during the pandemic we’ve half-drunk ourselves to death.

Life rattles on, even without our Samanthas and Mr Bigs, and very tragically, our Stanfords. But with good friends and the ability too keep talking, and laughing, we can still find the joy.

 

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SWB visits the Menopause Cafe

Wordsworth wrote about daffodils; Yeats took to the pen about unrequited love, and me, I write ditties about periods.

When Anne McGale from menopausewellbeing.com asked if I would do a reading at the Menopause Café in First Avenue Café (formerly Boden) on the Ormeau last week, I was delighted to oblige. ‘Sure I’ll write you a poem,’ says I and churned out a few stanzas about the delights of being a woman on the cusp of the change. When I first started writing the blog, my periods were a pain in the arse so they featured heavily in my posts, (pardon the pun). Five years later, and I appear to be entering a new phase, so I might soon be talking less about the nuisance of having them, but rather NOT having them.  Changes have been afoot for a while now and as you can imagine, it’s been a riot.

On occasion I have long gaps in between, and last month it was so light that I was left wondering, was that even  a period? But sometimes, it likes to mix it up a bit. On my birthday back in June, my ovaries took umbrage at turning forty-two and as I sat in a restaurant with friends, I felt a sickening whoosh and bam, I bled right through my pants and ruined a pink silk dress. ‘Surprise!’ it seemed to say.

This prompted me to look up peri-menopause symptoms and to be honest I’m not much the wiser because annoyingly, much of what I’m experiencing goes hand in hand with stress. Anxiety, overwhelm and infrequent periods are symptoms with which I’m all too familiar, except they’ve been intensified and I feel more overwrought and incapable of coping than ever. But show me a sane person who isn’t feeling discombobulated at the moment? You’d need to be presenting with psychopathic tendencies or be living on Mars to be chipper in the midst of this global cluster fuck.

However, a couple of other symptoms have me thinking there’s more to it. I read Byddi Lee’s wonderful blogpost about her experiences, and she suffers extreme joint pain. Apparently this happens as oestrogen lubricates the joints so when it fucks off everything rubs together and causes friction. That’s my understanding of it anyway, but listen, I’m no scientist.). As well as tightness in my Achilles, I’ve also felt shooting pains in my wrists. Sometimes when I get out of bed I actually hobble to the bathroom, and feel as if I’ve run 10km the day before, until I remember I sat on my arse on the sofa and watched ‘The Sopranos’.

This is why it’s a blessing and a half that Anne has started the Menopause Cafe, to create a space where women can visit and share what they’re going through with others. It is particularly important since trying to get an appointment with your GP is almost impossible right now. With so many very real emergencies, I am loathe to be bothering them with questions about my aging ovaries; but that undermines the true dehabilitating nature of some aspects of the menopause. The government are constantly banging on about mental health and when you’re creaky and cranky and your confidence plunges, you may just need someone who is in the know and with whom you can confide.

I’m now keeping a ‘little red book’ so I can keep a record of how I’m feeling and jot down details of my waning cycle. Anne is a registered nurse and a menopause specialist, so it’s a relief when someone in the know can help you navigate this new terrain and tell you firmly that no, you’re not going mad and yes, it may be helpful to consider HRT. Anyway, if you’d like to hear the poem it’s over on my Instagram, @sourweeblog,  and do check out Anne’s page for more details if you think it would be helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SWB on zen and the art of a tidy house

Once, I had to endure a conversation with a colleague about the virtues of her new steam mop. Almost glowing she was, on the topic of her sparkling kitchen tiles. ‘I can’t wait to go home and get at it again!’ said she. I hoped fervently, that never in my future would I be a person who got their kicks from cleaning.  

But what is life, if not full of surprises? Last week, when I found abrush attachment for the hoover which enabled me to reach those pesky spaces between the bannisters, I felt something approaching joy. ‘Is this what happens when you turn 42?’ I pondered mournfully.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t LIKE cleaning, and especially not without my trusty marigolds, lest I chip my acrylic nails, but I like living in squalor even less. And I have to admit something else here, which I hate very much, but it seems that the Mothership is right. Again.  She’ll be insufferable to listen to when she reads this, but there we are. She counselled against getting pets and she had a point. Animals are a pain in the arse, not least because they’ve augmented my cleaning three-fold. That’s likely a modest estimate; it’s probably ten-fold. Now, I’ve to take the sticky roller duvets and clothes before they even hit the washing machine, which is rarely off. I’m never done brushing and hoovering and mopping. And all this before I get to washing out tins of dog and cat food and scraping hardened foods off their bowls. 

We’ve had to invest in carpet cleaning services and last week, finally admitted defeat and chucked a rug in the bin. You know me and my hatred of waste, so I found this very traumatic. At least it was a few years old, but I’m not going to lie to you, it hurt. 

 I know what you’re thinking, because I can hear the Mothership’s voice in my ear. ‘Don’t let the animals have the run of the house! Turf them off the beds!’ But this is coming from a woman who used to get up at three or four am, when our erstwhile cat Snowball woke up and wanted out. He would wake her every night and then take his time, stopping to lick his paws at the top of the stairs and she had to chivvy him along. However, he was, she claims to this day, an exceptional cat. 

We’re suckers for pets, in our family, and also for letting our children do whatever they like, hence the coffee table, and, let’s face it, much of the floor, is strewn with pieces of card and paper and other ephemera that they’ve snipped up and left at their backsides. (The Mothership is in my ear again.) 

And this, everyone, is just the cleaning, before I even touch on my nemesis which is endless piles of stuff, and clutter. This is why, when I caught a snippet on Frank’s Phone-In this week, when he was on with Lisa from @Orderinthehouseni, I felt that frisson of excitement again. Lisa and Claire will come to your house, armed to the oxters with storage solutions and fresh ideas, and they help you sort your shit out. What also makes me do little jumps with glee is that they’re also very knowledgeable about where to pass on your stuff in an effort to keep it in circulation and out of landfill.  The last two years have seen our homes become our workplaces, our social hubs as well as our havens, and it’s taken its toll. Some folk on furlough were able to tidy and sort and organise, but with work and home schooling I wasn’t one of them and my shambles of a house bears testimony to this. I need help. I think I need Claire and Lisa. Or a miracle.

 

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SWB gets her COP26 on

Do you know what has me stressed out no end? Climate change, obviously, and the doom mongers who tell us that, even if we buy electric cars and rely on wind turbines we’re still only clinging to the precipice of disaster with our fingertips.

 

It’s hard to fathom that Cop 26 is happening in Scotland, next week, and Johnston is making sweeping, grandiose statements when he’s content to ignore tons of untreated sewage to flood our waterways, and send tons of plastic to Malaysia to be ‘recycled’, when in fact it’s just dumped on unsuspecting villagers who are subjected to toxic fumes while the remnants of our ready meal containers are burnt in a field beside them.

 

But what to do, when Johnson goes round telling school children that recycling isn’t the answer? (Well obviously it isn’t, when he’s just sending it overseas where it’s just not our problem anymore.)

 

The message of Cop 26 is that we must collectively make radical changes to our lives, but how exactly that is supposed to happen, given the timeframe which should have been implement thirty years ago, is difficult to compute.

 

Much of our inability to change is simply through ignorance. Take a recent purchase by me as an example. After freezing our arses off in the garden during the first lockdown, I nipped up to Hillmount to buy a fire pit.  It was in the trolley when I clapped eyes on a gas burner and bought that instead, so I didn’t have to tend a fire while I served chilled Sauvignon which comes from, you’ve guessed it, the vineyards on New Zealand’s South Island. Did it enter my head that burning gas in my back yard was perhaps a big ‘no no’, especially for one who’s so keen on eco issues? Of course it didn’t; I just thought it would be nice to chat to my friends in peace without waving smoke out of my eyes.

 

One of the major obstacles in our inability to make changes isn’t through laziness or a disbelief that the planet’s in trouble, it’s because we just don’t think, and we don’t often see it modelled to us.

 

Take local schools and businesses for example. Most homeowners will recycle, sorting their rubbish into bins. But trot into shops or cafés and you’ll see cardboard cups and cans and food waste all chucked in together where, thus contaminated, it will be shipped off to landfill. Case in point, I hoked a few cans out of a bin in a café on the Ormeau on Friday. I asked a barista first and he was very nice about it. ‘Knock yourself out,’ he said, kindly handing me fairy liquid and a towel to wash and dry my hands when I was finished. ‘Dunno why they don’t do that here,’ he said. ‘I do it at home, but not in the café.’ This makes no sense to me at all. Why aren’t there facilities provided? Isn’t this is a perfect example of individuals being asked to do one thing and businesses another?

 

On to food waste. Not being a scientist, I didn’t realise that when food breaks down it produces methane, which is why it should be kept separately to make compost.  Now that I know this, it’s cracking me up when I see food scraps shoved in with everything else.  School canteens often rely heavily on plastic cutlery and polystyrene containers. Pupils and teachers alike STILL use these without a second thought, then chuck them into a bin-liner along with leftover food. Every. Single. Day.

 

Surely there are  environmental experts who could interject and show businesses and schools how they could do this better; perhaps with a small financial incentive to do so. It would, I imagine, be easier to tackle these problems at source than try to strain our oceans of detritus after.

 

So in short, despite Boris making a total bollocks of himself and telling children that recycling isn’t the answer, we need to start small, work out what will help and try to implement it.  In short, nobody’s perfect- like me and my gas burner. Being a bit more mindful is at least the start, but it’s hard when global conglomerates are still shunting all the responsibility on to the individual and doing what they want. There has been no central lead on recycling from our government. Ever. They may parrot Greta Thunberg to sound good- but that’s all it is, meaningless rhetoric until they legislate for companies to produce less packaging and make it easier for people to recycle.

 

 

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SWB and the trouble with feet

Do you know what people hate? Being interrupted. Even if you think it’s worth interrupting them for, you probably shouldn’t bother, as they won’t thank you. I should know, because I’m a serial interrupter, but I’m trying to rein it in because I’m already quite annoying. I usually interrupt people as they are trying to put an object in the bin, but I hover, ready to intercept them, lest that aluminium can lend up in landfill instead of in my recycling bag.

I was pootling about Dalkey on Saturday last week, when, to my glee I found a charity shop. Dalkey doesn’t have many of these, but it does have a raft of small establishments where you can buy a shampoo bar made of lichen and algae for 11 euro, or a hessian bag to put your eco-friendly products in, which will only set you back €21.99. I’m not going to tell you what I spent on a reusable coffee mug, but I think there’s people of the Mothership’s generation who spent the same amount on their first car.

Anyway, so I’m trying on shoes in the charity shop (a pair of Una Healy’s which I purchased and are rather fabulous, despite the fact I’d never heard tell of her and was later running round telling people she was in a band called ‘The Yesterdays.’) and I overhear the staff out the back having a protracted conversation about battered mushrooms. They finally emerge from the back and the chat has moved to lasagne, and in particular, problems with their béchamel. Fortunately for them, a customer trots in who has no qualms about interrupting with details of a sauce she now routinely makes. ‘It’s changed my life,’ she says. ‘Take a tub of natural yogurt and beat in an egg,’ she says, waving her hand in a flourish. ‘Done!’ A dietitian gave her the recipe, she says, as she leaves. One of the shop volunteers, who walks past me with an armful of clothes rolls her eyes at me. She was enjoying her good complain about her lumpy sauce and didn’t care for the unsolicited advice.

I was tempted to do some interrupting myself the night before in the hotel restaurant. The lady at the table next to us was all for buying herself a pair of DM boots. ‘Like I had when I was young,’ she tells her mum. ‘They’re all the rage again, except they’re about £140.’ I’m thinking she could nip into a Dalkey shop and spend the same amount in seven minutes on a few toiletries, but I say nothing.  ‘I’d love a pair though,’ says the woman. ‘They’re so comfortable.’ I really have to rein myself in at this point, because my DMs are many things: eight hole, high gloss and of a lilac hue, but what they are not, is comfortable. Excruciating, torturous, lacerating of heel, but definitely not comfortable. I’ve had a large glass of wine and I’m about to start in to what a nightmare they are, but the waiter sets my starter in front of me and the children emit long sighs of relief because they are fed up with me accosting randomers.

A writer friend of mine commented that her DMs are ‘soft as butter’ now that she has them broken in, and I’m bewildered because I’ve had my pair since Christmas and they’re still brutal. ‘Google them to see why they’re still so bloody awful,’ I tell LSB. He sets down his Guinness with a sigh to investigate ‘breaking-in methods for DM boots.’  My pair are made of ‘vegan heavy duty material’, which is possibly why they leave red welts on the tops of my feet. I have been trying to wear them in for a few months and all to no avail. They also take an age to put on and take off. In short, I hate them, but they look so pretty I can’t bear to get rid. I consider interrupting but my goat’s cheese starter with fig and candied walnuts, looks incredible so I get stuck in to it instead.

 

Yesterday though, one of my lovely readers sends me a message. She recalls that I was bitching about my DMs on Insta and empathised because after 3 YEARS hers were still torturing her. Isn’t that shocking? Anyway, she recommends buying silicon heel protectors, which are hideous and look like something a plastic surgeon would dole out if you scalded yourself, but sure they’re for under your socks so who cares? Sadly these are only available on Amazon, but feck it, whatever my beef is with Bezos I’m ordering a set, so I can actually get some wear out of the DMs, which cost Himself an absolute fortune. I bet every fibre of of his being wishes he hadn’t bothered at this rate.

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SWB on Expectations vs Reality

Do you ever harbour notions which have little, if any, basis in reality? I do, all the time, and this morning was no exception. I had a rare day off work, and so, with uncharacteristic enthusiasm, I walked the Small Child down to school, dog in tow. How fine it will be, I said to myself, to breathe in the fresh dew-laden air and soak up the autumnal sunshine.

 

It didn’t take long for the dog to disabuse me of this romantic notion. Just at the school gates, (a mere 2042 steps from my door, according to the Fitbit,) she took a massive dump. A ‘double bagger’ it was, which was some fun clearing up, while the parents all filed past.  The Child scuttled on in, because we were, inevitably, running late as well.  Big bag of shite hand, on I went, my initial glee somewhat tempered. The dog was in one of her sniffy moods, stopping to root about under the hedgerows, an activity she finds tantalising indeed. It was thus a stop-starty sort of a dander, preventing me from striding purposefully forth.

 

Not far from the wee primary school in Rosetta, nature called again. The second deposit was smaller, and happily so, for I discovered I’d used up my bags. It is exceptionally bad craic to leave a poo anywhere, but near a school is unforgiveable in my book. I did, however have a bag of plastic wrapping in my rucksack, destined for the recycling bin in the Co-op. I thus repurposed a packet from a bag of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Anya Potatoes, which, whilst not ideal, did a decent enough job.

 

On we go.  At this point I met Matthew O’Toole, our local SDLP MLA.

‘Hello!’ I say, with gusto. Matthew makes the rookie mistake of asking how I am and I thus regale him with tales of dog defecation and plastic recycling. He does his best to seem interested, sympathetic even, but the voices in his head must be screaming ‘MAKE IT STOP, PLEASE GOD, I BEG YOU.’ That’s the problem with being a politician.  The world and his wife feel they have the right to accost you and go over any auld nonsense. At least I have encountered a bin between me and Matthew, so I’m not clutching a bag from a packet of potatoes turned dog-shite receptacle.

 

There’s a lesson here. To avoid this sort of caper, which is never edifying, (but most definitely not what you need of a Monday morning,) DO NOT feed your dog Sunday leftovers of roast potatoes and pieces of beef brisket. And especially not if the grandparents have already called in and fed her excessive doggy biscuits and ‘Jumbones.’ And, should you meet anyone, just let them carry on.

 

Anyway, by 10.14 I am back at the kitchen table, coffee poured and six thousand, four hundred and fifty-three steps under my belt. Aside from the cat pawing at the laptop and mewing pitifully for a second breakfast, the situation is much improved. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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SWB on misogyny and raising girls today

So would you look at that: Dominic Rabb, our esteemed Justice Minister, isn’t actually sure what defines misogyny, as he blundered his way through an interview this morning. He must have spent all of about six minutes preparing (and that’s being generous to him) for what is one of society’s most pressing issues. Boris has dismissed any plans to make misogyny a hate crime, since there is already an ‘abundance’ of laws out there to protect women. Well, try telling that to the 214 women who were killed last year in the UK, 9 out of 10 of which were at the hands of men. I’m sure they all felt that their safety was an absolute priority.

 

Could it be that Boris is reluctant to implement such a law, lest an officer knocks at the door of number ten to arrest him for one of many blatant misogynist comments which he has bandied about over the years?

 

Yes, he may protest that his remarks were ‘flippant’ or ‘said in jest’, but isn’t that how it starts? Normalising the objectification of women? That is perhaps the same argument used by Wayne Couzens in his WhatsApp chat with his police cronies. It’s all just ‘wee jokes’ and ‘bantz’, until it isn’t, of course.

 

When it becomes acceptable to undermine and demean women, through everyday rhetoric, it will inevitably lead to men being less empathetic, less respectful, less kind. And that, sadly, is where we’re at today, with tragic news headlines.

 

We’ve been forced to have some difficult conversations at home as a result. My girls have asked what happened to Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa. I can’t flick off the radio every time the news comes on, and I’ve watched the colour drain from their faces as they try to compute what has happened. But I’ve decided to be honest with them, rationalising that they should have some awareness about the world around them. So we talk and I try to answer their questions. I tell them that these things don’t happen often, but that they do, on some very rare occasions.

 

They are still of primary school age, but we have only just let the older one start walking home from school by herself. What has been lovely is that other neighbours know, and they look out for her going past, and some stop for a chat. It truly does take a village to raise a child.

 

I don’t want my anxiety to burden my girls; to temper their sense of adventure and enthusiasm: they have to learn how to navigate their way through this world. But we must give them the tools, so that they grow to be independent, curious and assertive.

 

And that’s where the hate crime comes into it. I don’t want them thinking that it’s acceptable to be spoken about in a degrading fashion. That’s why awkward discussions need to become the norm. While most men and boys aren’t remotely misogynist, we all have a part to play in calling out those who are. Maybe they will make fewer locker room jokes and lewd, salacious comments, if they aren’t let off with it.

 

I don’t believe that Couzens was called out- in fact, it is rumoured that the was referred to as ‘The Rapist’ in his group chats, which defies belief. So, while misogyny may not yet be a hate crime, at least in considering it as such, as a society we are challenging it. Our young people deserve better.

Image credit to Vyvyan Nguyen

 

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