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March 2017


SWB is off her trolley

Folks we’re in, oh yes. Here I sit, perched at the breakfast bar, and pausing to exhale. It’s been one rocky ride.


LSB is back to work, yes that’s right, the week we actually move in, he’s back at the office. Fecking builder’s and their deadlines; those are a movable feast I can tell you. But in fairness he was around to help with the clear out job last week, and erect some bedroom furniture, courtesy of Action Cancer on the Ormeau road.


My attitude to moving is haphazard. Most people stockpile boxes in advance, then fill and then label according, so they can unpack in time. Far too sensible for us! Oh no, we repeatedly fill a few bags, take back to the house, dump and return for another go. We then stare in horror at the wreckage.


Some kind friends called to assist the shift from the apartment. Susan arrives and we set to clearing. I have grotesquely underestimated the amount of stuff. If you read my blog back in October you may remember phrases such as ‘pared down living’ and I think the phrase ‘capsule wardrobe’ was even bandied about. It was all shite. Our mounds of clothing, books and toys  have grown exponentially. Susan notes the lack of boxes and usual moving paraphernalia. I have about three Sainsbury’s Bags for Life and a couple of shopping baskets, ‘borrowed’ from the same store. Undeterred she sets to, “Why don’t we take the big awkward things first.” She heads to the lift with an easel and some bits of bed. Big bits in successfully, she surveys the wreckage and tentatively enquires: “I don’t want to upset your system but…” It is perfectly obvious that there is no system, so under her guidance we just get to it. Wrapping a mountain of clothes in a duvet as it turns out is an excellent means of transporting half a wardrobe. Who knew? She is adept, purposeful and positively Amazonian as she hoists and shifts. She wouldn’t see me in her wake.


Tuesday was the turn of the Racing Retiree to lend a hand. She’s another expert, no messing about there. I thought I was better organised this time, I’d emptied a few of the bags, and there was another eiderdown for clothing conveyance. She too, noting the disarray took matters in hand. “What would you like done with the artwork?” She asks tactfully, surveying the children’s doodles, strewn throughout the room. They go in a bag and are dumped. Thank God for that. I’ve borrowed a trolley from the local garage, which is another Top Tip if you happen to live in a third floor apartment. My friend asserts that this genius idea forgives all other lack of system.


I haven’t been an easy person to be around. Working with me at times like this must be akin to dealing with someone who’s suffered a head trauma. Luckily my friends are kind and understanding of my befuddlement. They see the scale of the operation, and forgive the lack of forward planning on my part.


So it’s now 5-30 in the morning, I’m having palpitations and instead of lying awake I’m up drinking tea and blogging. We have a foreign student coming to stay on Sunday and a bed and sofa to build in preparation. I seriously need my head read.


SWB on profanity (redux)

CDb-KtvXIAImXuODING A LING. Well who could that me, before 10am of a morning? It was herself. A call before noon can only mean one thing: either someone’s died or she’s raging. It was the latter. “Now, I haven’t had time to vet what you’re putting out there, because I don’t have hours to while away on social media, but I think it’s a disgrace.” “What’s appalled you now?” I enquire, knowing rightly. “But I just went on this morning, to see what you were up to, and I was shocked, quite frankly. And after you chatting to Frank, and him so nice, but I’m telling you, he’ll not be having you back on the air if he reads the like of that.” “I used the word ‘shite’ mum, I’ve heard you use worse when you can’t get parked ‘in front of your own house’.” “I’m quite sure you’re mistaken, but that’s beside the point. No, the point I am at pains to establish, is that there is just no need for such profanity. I couldn’t even let your father see it, he’d be most distressed.” Oh God, make it stop. “I mean look at Julian. Julian combines wit and humour and all at 7.30 before Coronation Street. I’ll never forget the Christmas Eve special about the reindeer. And he doesn’t run around using bad language.” I actually would love a glass of wine with Julian. It’s on my wish list. Julian, Carolyn Stewart and SWB, sharing a pitcher in the Perch. It would be a riot.

So readers, I put it to you. Does my language truly offend? Should I go off swearing for Lent? I actually don’t think I’m that bad, I hear plenty worse. Right, back to the house I go, to get stuck in. Now if that won’t make me swear, what will?


SWB comes a cropper

Picture2My week deteriorated further. Poor advance planning on stool purchases aside, my pièce de résisitance was yet to come. LSB is referring to the most recent debacle as ‘revenge of the skip’. You may have noted that skips seem to have exerted a magnetic pull over me of late. Firstly, a succession have been filled outside our home with the remnants of my former kitchen, amongst other rubble. There’s the skips I’ve been rummaging about in, salvaging small tables and units destined for landfill. And then there’s the ones I just drive straight into for a bit of pre-weekend entertainment. Yes, you read that right What a dick. How could you just drive straight into something? Well quite easily apparently, if you’re me. I was up to my old tricks, recovering some old cupboards for my utility room from a friend’s house. (I did ask first.) In my haste to deliver LSB to work before half past nine and get my builders to install said cupboards, I misjudged how skips jut out a bit at the bottom and “Boom”, straight into it I went and took off my headlight and a lot more besides.

I seek comfort in the fact that others while under duress do the same things. I have a lovely friend, whom I consider to have excellent judgement. Anytime we meet up I feel the better for it. Have you ever seen on Mumsnet how it says AIBU and people ask the opinions of some randomers before they tell their boss to go f**k themselves or fire their nanny for feeding their children shite? Well I would just ring this friend, and she would say in the nicest possible way to wind my neck in and take myself out for coffee and a bun. She’s fabulous. But when under stress herself, she shouldn’t be let near a motor. She is forever reversing into posts or bollards,though thankfully no pedestrians to the best of my knowledge. If her mother knows she is frazzled she leaves voicemail messages saying “TAKE A BUS.’

I wish to God I had just taken a bus, but it was quite a heavy cupboard. Anyway, there were silver linings. One, I was rattled and there’s a lesson there. If you’re rattled, take a pew, and breathe deeply. Go to yoga, have a latte, or sit on your arse but don’t go racing round in a frenzy. The chore can wait. Two, in a crisis, have LSB nearby. God almighty, I hate to be a smug sort of creature but he was rather terrific. He informed his work he’d be late and accompanied me to a garage. Then he took me for a coffee to settle my nerves and took over the house business for the morning, since my project management skills were somewhat impaired. He was also remarkably sanguine about the whole episode, which was a comfort indeed.

Plus, after I’d embarrassed myself yowling in front of the builders they went into overdrive and galvanised themselves into action. Stuff was actually done for a change.

Incidentally, if you do go driving into things, go to Breda Tyres. There’s a mechanic there called Keith who is a saintly sort of fellow and he’ll sort you out in a jiffy. He is so soothing on the nerves that he really ought to work in A&E. I arrived in tears and left feeling as though I’d just won the Premium Bonds. He’s a dote.

But onwards and upwards and moving back home next week. Expect posts on the topic of botched DIY and financial penury. And the swearing will go off the scale. (What’s new, sez you).



SWB goes shopping


God but last week was mad altogether. I was killing dead things, trying to get this house furnished. I had my new unit for storage saved from the skip, then I went on to Gumtree found a bargain of bar stools on the Ormeau Road. “Where are you,” I enquired. “We’re in ‘The Very Thing’” a chirpy fellow replied. “If you come before eleven I’ll keep you four for a hundred and twenty quid.” Yippee said I, and made for the door. I powered down in the Corsa and had a good old look round the shop. It was a bit of a treasure trove and the stools were brilliant. Somewhat Scandinavian I felt, with a beech effect and smooth round edging. Anything with a circular finish is meant to be good Feng Shui, and if anyone needs additional positivity in their home it’s me. “Sturdy too,” I remarked to the man, thinking how much better for the kids, since they’re less likely to push them over and be found sprockled underneath. “Aye, sturdy alright,” agreed Seamus. “They’re from Laganside Courts, they have to be heavy so some header can’t lift them and clobber someone round the skull.” “There’s been some bad bums on them alright.” chipped in Gerard, his brother. “There’s a story with everything in here love.” Hmmm, perhaps not such good Feng Shui after all, but never one to miss a bargain I bought them anyway and some helpful chaps took tremendous care to manoeuvre them gently into the back of the motor.

“I’ll be back for one of your sofas,” I called as I drove off, quite charmed with the experience. I had to practically bribe my builders into carting them into the house, such was the weight of them, but off I went all pleased and rang LSB. “Bet yours won’t be first Falls Road arse on them I jested. “F**k off” said he. (Sometimes he’s less in the mood for sectarian banter than others). Well, the joke was on me. Upon sitting on one later on in the week I discovered they were of fixed height and therefore too tall for our island/breakfast bar, therefore utterly useless. Did I even think to consider this in the shop? Oh no, far too busy having the craic. I’ll try and return them but of you see them back on Gumtree at a reduced rate you’ll know I had no success. If you want them for a hundred they’re yours and LSB will help you load them into the motor.



SWB gets a visit from the grandparents


It is eight-sixteen. I need my children to sleep. I am sick to the back teeth of their antics. My nerves are in shreds. Work has been on-going outside the flat, all weekend: the banging, the drilling, the flashing lights; it’s been like Armageddon from six every morning. And it was still going this afternoon. So I thought that if my parents called in it might bring some relief. Stupidly I forgot to tell them that the car park next to our apartment block, which is where they usually abandon their motor, is temporarily closed. Thus they got caught in rush hour traffic on the Ormeau. “But when will they BE HERE?” guerned the youngsters who have been in particularly annoying form, very screechy and whiny.


AAI arrives in an uncharacteristically chirpy mood. The tea I pour is decent, the hot cross buns delicious and the children are ‘exquisite’ in their frocks. Is she on drugs, I wonder? The Wise Old Elf looks equally content and accepts a glass of wine with glee. He did his back in last week with an overly strenuous serve at tennis. He suffered such spasms that he kicked a chair over in his distress and went around the house emitting loud groans and yelps. He probably is on drugs, to ease the pain. Whatever it is they’re on, they manage to hype the kids up no end. I reach for the chilled white. So much for Lent. (Incidentally, there’s 25% off 6 or more bottles in M&S and this was a particularly nice Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc by the name of ‘Craft’. All zesty and citrusy and quaffable).


After reading Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie’s fabulous article on feminism the Guardian weekend, I am disgusted when the girls kit them themselves out in princess costumes to perform a show for the grandparents. They pirouette around and even the tomboyish one asks “Am I beautiful mummy?” “Yes, you’re lovely but what about being inventive?” I reply. “That’s a good quality.” (So would being quiet and sitting on your arse I think). “Oh, like Rapunzel,” says the older one, and I concede she has a point. The ‘show’ begins, which entails standing on a small table (the one I looted from the skip last week) and they do some prancing in their full length gowns while we look on terrified they’ll trip and brain themselves. They massacre a few tunes from their Nativity show and mum films the performance while The Wise Old Elf does a few back exercises on the floor. It’s a f**king circus.


While I set about clearing up, I task my mum with putting them to bed. The sounds which emanate from the bedroom suggest that sleep is far from near. Animated storytelling from the older is afoot. It is a most protracted tale of a monkey’s trip to a supermarket. “That’s a powerful long list he has there” I hear my mum say. “Is there any chance they could go to sleep now? I call through gritted teeth. “Shortly”, replies mum. “Wonderful children, you’d never find the like. That story was very well put together for a P1 child.” Sticking to an animal theme, she tops the monkey story with one about a badly behaved bunny who drops his purse down the loo and fishes it out with the tongs his mother keeps for turning bacon. I hear snippets of the tale while I beetle back and forth with laundry. “Quite disgusting” says Mummy Bun. “I shall put these tongs in the bin, or at the very least disinfect them.”


“But do you know (my mother never misses an opportunity for learning) “the money inside the purse was quite dry because the purse was plastic which is waterproof.” Ooooh, chorus the children. FFS I think. Guess what mug is going to fishing stuff out of the toilet for the next week.


The parents leave, and LSB returns. The offspring are still bright-eyed and perky. Your turn I say, and flop on the sofa.




SWB gives skip-diving a whirl


Never a dull moment in our house. You just never know when you’re out and about, where you might spy a skip with stuff destined for landfill and think, I could do with a chair like that. I am now in possession of an office chair, stationery, a few shelves and a child’s seat, simply down to some luck and an eagle eye.

I rang mum to tell her of my loot. “Bin hoking, what next?” she mumbled through a mouthful of wheaten. (I’d rung at half three, apparently it was brunch. They eat at odd hours, those pair.) “Who’s hoking through bins?” I heard the Wise Old Elf enquire.

“It’s SWB, she’s after going through a skip. You’ve given your father apoplexy and him trying to take his soup”, she carried on mildly, not seeming remotely disturbed, despite the hyperbole. “Though is that not illegal?” She then reflected. “You don’t want to be lifted, and you a teacher. Wouldn’t look good at all.”

I explained the situation. I was passing a skip, watching a few blokes toss items in with wild abandon. It was about to be carted off and when I enquired as to where they said: “The dump. What is it you’re after love?” I fecking love bin men; salt of the earth. I can’t walk down the Ormeau these days without a toot and a wave from a sanitation officer. “You one of them hoarders? My wife’s like that. Nightmare to live with, house full of shite” said one, as he dusted down a shelf. “We’ve a small chair too, where is it Decky?” They rummaged a while, then found a little wooden chair, for the mini. She looked thrilled, after staring wide-eyed at the whole interaction. “Take that table too, lick of paint, it’ll be grand.”

I mean where would you get the like?

“So would this suggest that you’re open to accepting things again?” says AAI, ever the opportunist. “Because I have to get rid of some of this glassware, and I’ve a lovely set just the size for a prawn cocktail starter, and you entertain more than I do. Or you could chop up some crabsticks, and serve on a bed of cucumber and lettuce.” “Yes, I regularly serve up starters in stemmed glasses, mum. I’ve all the time in the world to scrub non-dishwasher proof crockery.”  The conversation went on to take a morbid turn. “ I mean you hold on to these things, and you think you’ll use them in the future, then you just have to be honest, at our age you don’t have much of a future left. You might as well just get rid.”

I mean FFS! There I was, all jaunty with my recycling and happy encounter with the bin men and now I have the thought of my parents’ mortality firmly planted in my head. AAI doesn’t dwell on the subject though. “Here’s the cat in, I must go and dry her paws. She went out for her constitutional after her cream.” (The cat is fed cream, served at room temperature on cold days, after her Gourmet Felix, as a dessert.) You’ll not see a glossier coat this side of the Atlantic.

“All right, I’ll go on then” I said. I did have a chair to paint and at least handiwork takes one’s mind off things. It’s still sitting there, unpainted. I had a snooze instead, with a child under each arm. It was that sort of day. And it’s Friday. There’s always gin.