Monthly Archives:

February 2017


SWB feels peeved




Oh but I am glum this evening. (WARNING- FIRST WORLD PROBLEM ALERT). Here I go with my litany of complaints.

I’ve been under a bit of stress. Have I mentioned we’re building an extension? I jest. But I hear you folks: you’re thinking what’s the matter now? What catastrophe has befallen SWB? Could her yoga class have been cancelled? Was the queue in Forestside too long? (Yes actually). Perhaps her latte was a tad tepid? Isn’t life a bitch?

But tonight I should be at my Irish Dancing class, laughing and frolicking with my pals, instead of sprockled here on my bed icing my hip with a packet of peas. I’ve just endured a sport’s massage, which although undeniably beneficial, felt like I was being pinched, hard, on all my sore spots for an hour. My glasses are broken and keep falling off my face, and I’ve lost my other pair. Besides my phone, my specs are my second most mislaid item. Family members are frightfully tired of me blundering about looking for the elusive objects and fear that I’ve been stricken by early onset dementia. I can’t seem to recall events and names at present and just wander about looking bewildered. LSB is wearing a pained expression since we’ve been hit with two more large bills. I’ve retreated to the bedroom to lie on my peas and let him come to terms with financial ruin.

I am also burdened with matters of a loftier nature. Every year, as Lent approaches, I feel I ought to give something up. It’s usually ill-thought through and I fall off the wagon a few days in and much self-flagellation ensues. One is obviously supposed to seek spiritual support to get through the ordeal of self-denial, and I rarely manage to get myself out to church. (SWB and God, there’s a post for the future).

So last year, a friend suggested that LSB and myself have a meat free Lent. I leapt upon this idea with alacrity because a) we could still drink wine and b) my vegetarian repertoire of dinners is limited, and thus I would be forced to make an effort. It was not a success. I made a variety of stews and soups, many from the Deliciously Ella website. She’s the poster girl for veganism and all that bollocks but I can’t be having her at all. It’s all, “Simply fling some tomatoes and lentils in a pan with smoked paprika and I promise you, you won’t miss the meat!” We missed the meat. While the paprika may lend a smoky/BBQ flavour to the sauce it does not compensate for the lack of bacon. And alas, lentils are not my friend. Even less are they LSB’s friend. They do terrible things to our guts. If you suffer from IBS, you are advised to steer clear from too many pulses or foods very high in fibre. You certainly just don’t overdo it like I did. I still can’t look at a kidney bean. After a few veggie concoctions LSB got proper narky. He was hungry and tired listening to my gurgling gut. It was the Sunday after Ash Wednesday when he lifted the car keys. Slowly and deliberately he announced: “I am going to Marks, and I am buying a chicken, which we will ALL eat for dinner.” He even cooked it, which was a rare turn of events, and feck me but that was one good chicken.

On the plus side, I did make a good tofu and potato curry which we still eat from time to time, and I definitely make an effort to eat fewer meat dishes during the week.

So this year, I’m thinking a bit of self-denial is on the cards. I’m thinking: less frequent trips to coffee shops; fewer cheeky glasses of wine and an effort to be of a sunnier disposition. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Lent Cartoon








SWB gets philosophical



I’ve been having some problems. Not ‘Stranded In Limbo God-Awful Refugee Crisis’ sort of problems, no, just some ‘First-World-Aren’t-I-Actually-A-Lucky-Bastard’ problems that have cropped up with the renovations.


I’ve been out of my comfort zone, hanging out on the Boucher Road, making interior decorating decisions. (I told you it was a First World Problem). In my defence though, you do need to think carefully. So many shades from which to choose, but if you’re not careful with the tone, your yellow could end up more mucous than mustard. Do you want to look at your shit walls and be reminded of your crappy taste everyday for the next ten years?


And then you have the General Public to deal with. I was standing next to a pair of auld dolls in Harvey Norman, and boy, were they were making a meal out of picking wallpaper. “Not keen on that,” sniffs one. “Very wishy-washy” agrees the other. “Yon’s like nothing. Open that other book til’I see”. They were from up the country. The next book didn’t please either. “Did you see the price of that one?” (theatrical tutting). “I did, I did. Shocking altogether.” “And our Harry isn’t up to hanging it and we’ll have to get somebody in and if he’s anything like yon feller our Patricia got he’ll be a right cowboy. We may just go on.” Except they didn’t ‘go on’, but wittered on at length and I got thoroughly distracted and had a great deal of trouble choosing paints myself, so busy eavesdropping was I.


That was a digression and a half, sorry about that.


So next stop, up to the house to let the painter in who had very kindly agreed to come of a weekend. And what’s that? Oh yes, the builders had left the flipping key in the lock and the pair of us were stuck out in the rain like a pair of eejits. In fairness to him he was most understanding and said no harm done. I begged to differ, thinking that when he’d rearranged his whole day and driven from Lisburn considerable harm was done. I was very irked though, having inadvertently wasted his time, yet through no fault of my own.


I’d spent all week sorting stuff out, such as when the tiler was coming so I could get the plumber booked; taking back lights to Homebase that my spark told me were shite and choosing new ones. These are just to name a few among a plethora of another annoyances. I was out of patience. Of course all these house related decisions had to be taken during half term which made it all the more fraught.


Anyway, I took a moment, exhaled and remembered a good motto of my dad’s. I don’t call him the Wise Old Elf for nothing. When feeling overwhelmed and about to go down the rabbit warren of doom, his advice is “Don’t feed it”. When I’ve left my handbag in the butcher’s, or booked the MOT and forgotten to go to it, I feel so terribly inadequate that I self-flagellate till all is no more. And to what end? So with this in mind, I apologised to the painter, and off he vroomed. I met LSB and the kids and we snacked on toasted rye bread in Kaffe-O, and there I parked the troubles of the day.


Of course the real reason I get so demented over the small stuff is the sense of total impotence in the face of the true horrors, over which I have no control. The news is just so relentlessly dire at the moment, isn’t it? But we can do something. I just donated to the charity Safe Passage, after hearing about them on the Today Show on Radio 4 this morning. It also makes the decorating easier. People have no kitchen to decorate, full stop. Why not get the cheaper option and donate the difference. If I can sit drinking coffee I can spare a few quid.


And that’s enough of my sanctimonious chatter. Wish me better luck this week guys and don’t forget, don’t sweat the small stuff.


SWB chitters on about running. Again.


I’ve wittered on about it before, but I’m a keen runner. It wasn’t always this way. Until I was 20, living it up on the French island of Reunion, I’d never run the length of myself. In fact, I quite believed I couldn’t. I could do an aerobics class or swim a few lenghts but running defeated me every time. But on my year abroad I met my lovely friend Emily, and before I knew it we were running 10kms at the track of an evening, which gave my liver a couple of hours off the rum punch of which I was so partial.

Running has certainly enjoyed a resurgence of late, or at the very least it is on-trend. Seriously, head out of an evening and count how many seconds go by before you see a group of lycra-clad enthusiasts in fluorescent vests canter past. The Ormeau Road is full of them. And I, to my delight, am one of them! If I could tell my teenage self that I’d be doing half marathons, coastal challenges and running 7 miles FOR THE CRAIC she would face plant straight into her hot chocolate. I had zero confidence in myself and my capabilities as an athlete. I was a studious sort and a voracious reader and I regarded the sporty ones in my class as a different breed, so alien were they to my maladroit self.

My PE teachers didn’t help matters. They clearly pegged me as useless and there wasn’t much by way of encouragement offered. As an awkward first-former, I quaked in terror after the heinous error of using the wrong side of the stick to hit the ball. That day, Mrs X was donning a fetching coral-pink shell-suit, and came stampeding across the pitch like an infuriated rhino to scream in my face. Feck, nowadays I could’ve taken a lawsuit for PTSD. Dammit, there was a missed opportunity. Following that debacle I was forever relegated to goal defence at the far end of the pitch, gripping the stick between frozen fingers and hoping to God that the ball came nowhere near me.

Rounders, there was another frigger of a game. The chewing I got from a boy in P6 after I missed the ball and had to chase it for miles, then hoke it out from underneath a mobile while the other team scored a home run or whatever it was called. I had thought myself safe in some remote corner of the playground, but of course the ball was clobbered my direction. Hand eye co-ordination never was my forte. My confidence plummeted and my interest in sport flat-lined. What is it about games that brings out the raw aggression in people?

But I found running, or rather it found me. I am so very thankful that I can get out during the day. My runs become a mini-therapy session with my pals: what is it with a sideways chat that makes you open up more? I get to hear the birdsong, see the light filter through the trees and dodge the occasional rat on the towpath; not so un-co-ordinated now eh? We joke that here we are looking svelte and nimble; but give us twenty years and we’ll be hobbling along on zimmers, swapping dates for our knee replacement ops. But Carpe Diem, because for the moment we’re happy. I’ll keep taking the fish oil for the joints and the sunlight and friendships will take care of the rest.


SWB at the coalface


All has been quiet on the SWB blog, because at certain times during the year I do actually, shock horror, undertake some work. Oh yes. During these stressful periods, LSB develops a tick in his jaw and runs for cover as my legendary sourness goes off the chart. The exact details of my work I won’t disclose, but it involves trawling through mounds of paperwork, deciphering information, separating the wheat from the chaff. It necessitates great concentration, so I can’t listen to Lauren Laverne in the background, or Jane Garvey on Woman’s Hour. I actually think I’d be great on Woman’s hour. ‘The Trials of the Modern Mum; women who try to have it all, then realize their life is shite, so turn to blogging in an effort to redefine themselves.’ Might make for an interesting feature. Back to THE JOB. It is also monumentally boring, ninety percent of the time. Can you imagine any other work, which gives you a longing, an actual longing, to iron? Or contemplate the heady thrills of scrubbing the bathroom floor? There’s a corner of the floor by the shower door and I’m itching to get at with an old toothbrush. This behaviour, it goes without say, is quite alien to me. I’m not a bit pleased with the turn of events.

The Wise Old Elf has withdrawn all sympathy for my sorry state. I landed down this afternoon  so I could offload the kids and get some of this infernal work done in peace. I was about to launch into a tirade when he fixed me with the look. It clearly said: “I tell you every year not to do it, you do anyway, so don’t come running to me with the face guerned off you.” I withdrew wordlessly to the other room with a cup of perfectly brewed tea (if there’s one thing that AAI does well, is make tea. And God forbid you hand her a substandard cup. Really, she needs to get out more.) My Dad has a point, and indeed it’s one I’ve made many times myself over the years. We all know someone who drones on and on about an issue, but doesn’t take heed of any advice. If you don’t like it, don’t do it, and if you still insist on doing it, then shut the fuck up about it. I’m sure there’s many a person has put that more succinctly, but my brain feels like partially cooked mashed potato, so you’ll have to make do with drivel. And I guess, if you don’t like it, feel free to unfollow me. I wouldn’t want to read this rubbish of an evening either.


Thankfully, gin is at hand, and a rather spectacular bottle my sister-in-law bought me for Christmas is now on the go. Nick Mulvey is on the playlist and I’ve put both my work and the hoover down. Equilibrium is returning with each sip of the Sipsmith. Cheers everyone, let the weekend begin. 🙂










LSB gets a roasting


Most people would take the opportunity of Valentine’s Day to write something heart-warming about their partner, and maybe chronicle the reasons why they chose to shack up with them. I think we’ve established by now that I’m not of that ilk, so I’m going to get the knife in instead. LSB’s birthday was at the weekend and I bought him tickets for the rugby AND organised a night away, so the party’s over, let’s go!


(Now I say a knife, more of a palette knife, round at the edges, but a knife all the same. )


LSB is a likeable sort of a fellow. Well I thought so anyway, hence I married him, and I’m not one for suffering fools. They used to get kicked to the kerb sharpish. But he can, at times, be exceptionally annoying. Let’s explore how for a moment, so we can analyse if I’m over-reacting.


I’m presently ‘not at work’ (save the odd seasonal bit I do from home,) thus I have my mornings free until I pick up the wee one, then it gets very busy, quickly. It is thus up to me to do the lion’s share of the housework, and with my pair and himself, this is no picnic.


So how does he piss me off, let me list the ways. First up, he literally ‘stamps’ off his jeans or ‘lounge wear’ and I have to go a-hunting for socks and boxers which remain entwined within. If he does deign to pop them in the linen basket, they remain all rolled up and I have to unscrunch a load of dirty socks; a most unsavoury task.


He’s a hairy sort of chap, but after shaving would he ever give the sink a wee wipe? And I say hairy, but he’s not a yeti, which one would think given the amount of shower gel and shampoo he goes through in a week. ‘Like shit through a goose’ as folk up the country would say. I get on my environmental high-horse, with all that polluting of the oceans.

Then there’s the running obsession. Well I’ve only myself to blame, it was me got him into it. But he does take it to extremes. Last week he insisted in venturing out in sub-zero temperatures when he wasn’t a bit well. “Don’t go,” I pleaded. “You’ll be sick as a dog.” He went on of course, regardless. Cheeks aglow, he returned, full of chat and slight bravado about his speediness. Next morning, he’s coughing up a lung and shuffling around, his visage slate-grey and forlorn, while I get the kids up and out and delivered to their respective schools, resisting the urge to punch him in the face as I bundled them out the door.


With OTHER people however, he’s a dreamboat. Take our safari trip, back in 2010. I’ll come clean, I didn’t know how he’d fare. I’d camped in the wilds before: I’d bumped along the dirt tracks, I’d had the shits behind a tree, I thought I was ready for the challenge. Himself, he’d been to a few music festivals. Turns out, that makes you a pro. He could handle any amount of discomfort. He put up our tent, then put up everyone else’s. This meant that he was often last in the queue for the bathrooms, so for 15 nights he never had a hot shower. He didn’t get one at all in the Serengeti, because the local elephants had a play fight with the remains of the water. Bastards didn’t even drink it, just sprayed it round the place. And, he was always up for the craic, chatting animatedly as we trundled through Tanzania, while I snored beside him in the van. When we managed to get stranded in Zanzibar, I nearly had a stroke, so terrified was I that we’d be robbed and left for dead at the airport which was about the size of a Texaco service station and had as much security. “I’ll sort it,” he said (well he is from from the Falls), and he negotiated a flight the next day and our safe passage back to Stonetown for the night.


Closer to home, (note, not AT home) he’s obliging too. At the weekend, we were invited to a terrific bash for some friends, celebrating 20 years together. There he goes again, stacking chairs, lifting tables, and putting to use skills honed from playing Tetris to pack them back into a van. “Isn’t he wonderful”, gushed some guests. “Hmmm,” I replied. He drove too, so I could get a bit merry. “Why the hell can’t you as helpful in our house,” I grumbled later. He ruminated over the question before suggesting: “Maybe you should make it more of a game.” I mean, FFS! So not only do I have to direct him towards the chores that need doing, but I have to make them fun too! I already have to play ‘hunt the fucking sock’ when I put a wash on, and I’m not laughing. Apply your fecking Tetris skills to the dishwasher once in a while, perhaps that will amuse.


I wish not to pick too grim a picture however. He has something of the caveman instinct about him and having warmth in the home is a priority. Without his vigilant eye, we’d be forever foundered, for it is he who keeps an eye on the gas meter and ensures it’s always in credit. One cold Saturday night in November, we ran out of oil when our first baby was 3 weeks old. With no oil coming til Monday, he stayed awake practically all night to ensure she hadn’t frozen, and lugged heavy emergency oil drums first thing on Sunday morning.


He has also just come back from a run with some quality wines from which we can take our pick and imbibe of a Tuesday evening since, hurray, it’s half term, and there’s something of a holiday feeling in the air. And of course, it’s still Valentine’s Day. Maybe I will go and light a wee candle after all. I’ve kind of come round to him again after writing this.




SWB goes mad for Bear and Mouse


I have just discovered the Bear and Mouse series by the wonderful Bonnie Becker, and the question is, where have they been all my life? Ms Becker has a shrewd understanding of the human condition, and depicts these foibles beautifully through her eponymous characters. Bear is a gruff sort of creature, solitary and abrasive. He gets a bit Shakespearean when irked, bellowing “Begone!” and “I AM UNDONE” when Mouse doggedly seeks out his company. Finally though, through determination and perseverance, Mouse wins him over, and finds that beneath this crabbed exterior, Bear is as soft as a lightly whipped mousse. We all need a Mouse in our lives.


(The stories actually reminded me of LSB and I when we were dating. I was a tough nut to craic, but he hung in there, and God love him, he’s still here. I actually read him The Sniffles For Bear the other night and he enquired “Did you actually write this?” I wish. He thought my likeness to Bear was uncanny.)


It was a lovely friend who introduced me to this glorious duo. She had brought her two boys round for dinner and my youngest, to whom we refer as Father Jack because of her less than sunny disposition, was in a right old strop. Susan tried some light cajoling to dispel the gloom, but it didn’t go down at all well. Hmmm, she sighed, “To quote Bear, I clearly do not appreciate the gravity of the situation.” I knew right away that these books would be right up my street, and Susan kindly lent me her collection.


So yesterday I sought them out in Waterstones, and shock horror, they are soon to be out of print! Why is it always the good ones? So I urge you, get on to e-bay or Amazon and bag yourselves a copy before it is too late. In fact, buy several copies and there’s the rest of the year sorted for kids’ birthday presents if you’re doing the circuit at the moment, as am I. Stem the tidal wave of tat and buy a Bonnie Becker. Less plastic shit and more quality stuff. And this, dear friends, is pure quality.


SWB gets good news


So as a treat for getting my work finally done and dispatched, I spent yesterday morning at the Royal, having a series of ultra-sounds to determine why my bowel is so badly behaved. The night before, all imbibing of liquids and foodstuffs had to end at 10pm to begin my fast, which was only broken at 11am with 2 vile cupfuls of barium meal. To those of you who are mercifully unfamiliar with this substance, it’s white, chalky and liquorice-ish. You have to gulp it down with great vitesse so it stays in one gloopy homogeneous mass and its passage through your gut can be monitored with ease. It adheres itself to lips and skin like Poly Filler and is a terrible disappointment when all you long for is a sip of water.


It’s an odd thing, fasting, and has made me think once again how I would fail miserably as a devout religious type. I would not be a pleasant person to know during Ramadam. My great pal, Rosa, was in Tunisia during the festival of Ramadam.  (Imagine, not so much of a drop to drink in the heat. I tell you, I’d be ever so dead.) So her husband, (who’s a Bon Vivant if ever there was), had his Michelin guide at the ready and off they went to the best restaurant in Tunis. The waiter, already visibly wilting in the midday sun, did not cope well with Rupert’s chirpy request for a wine-list. “On ne boit JAMAIS d’alcool ici,” he fumed. “Et en plus, c’est le RAMADAM.” The tagine which followed was a dreary affair: the only lasting memory of the meal was the sad lack of a chilled white wine.


I’d gone to my appointment armed with my Kindle and laptop but the whole procedure took no time at all. Turns out there is no evidence of Crohn’s disease or anything more sinister, I just have a bowel greatly prone to irritation, a bit like its owner I suppose. It is healthy and just incredibly speedy, hence they got the results so quickly. I put down its expediency to a dose of dysentery I suffered in Madagascar back in 2000, the details of which I will spare you. Still, it was a welcome relief from the chronic constipation I endured as a child and a teen. To think of all those wasted hours, perched upon the throne, with very little to show for it. Seriously, I could write a book on the subject of my innards. Perhaps I will; I’m sure it’ll knock E. L. James clean off the bestseller list.


I celebrated my result with a coffee and a pain au chocolat in the café at the Royal, and it was like manna from above. LSB bought me a pair of wireless headphones and I listened to Desert Island Discs, with the very lovely Nigel Owens. Now there’s a gent if ever there was, and I don’t even like rugby much. Anyway, here’s to a happy bowel, and a lovely beverage. Heaven indeed on a Thursday morning.