Monthly Archives:

July 2018


SWB gets arse to seat (finally)


Anne Lamott, a writer whom regular readers will know I hold in high esteem, recommends that one keeps their expectations low when it comes to writing  on a Monday. She suggests that after the freedom of the weekends, it is hard to condition oneself to achieve much, while the memories of the period of reprieve sit so vividly at the forefront of one’s mind. When it comes to writing, the summer seems to me, like a constant stream of Mondays.

I find it almost impossible to settle myself, running hither and thither, dogged by a state of mild but relentless anxiety about how to entertain my offspring. The holidays ought to be a time to unwind but instead the constant demands of small people means that I feel I have to crank it UP a gear, when every natural impulse suggests I do otherwise.

In Spain, in the absence of turning to writing as a means of catharsis, I took to the drink. Last year, we left the laptop in security at Belfast International, this year I left the charger, plugged in, at the house. ‘We can turn back,’ said LSB, ‘We have time.’

‘No no,’ I said, like a demented lunatic. ‘Foot to the floor, we MUST NOT be late.’ We were a mere ten minutes from the house, but on we trundled, and rocked up at the airport a full ten minutes BEFORE the baggage drop had even opened. I’m an anxious sort of a traveller.

My dreams of tapping away merrily on the balcony thus came to naught, and my writing muscle went un-flexed for almost a fortnight. Instead, I sipped more Vinho Verde than was advisable but did help somewhat dull the intensity of the children.

I exaggerate a little. I was reasonably restrained until the last evening, when I got quite carried away in a tapas bar in Fuengirola. After enjoying ice-cold beer as  aperitif, I foolishly guzzled  Rioja with the meal and got stuck into dessert wine with my tiramisu. I was in fine fettle by 11am and kept pestering LSB to let me adopt a small Chinese child. I even dragged the father-in-law into the debate. ‘You could take a pivotal role,’ I told him, with some gusto. ‘I’ve done my child rearing,’ he said firmly, giving his son a sympathetic look.

It was all great fun until the next day when our bus to the airport took the most dreadfully circuitous route and the combination of heat, hangover, and perhaps a dodgy langoustine in my Pil Pil Prawns left me feeling most nauseous. I was so ill and sweaty and quite beyond speech that no one came near me and I was left to sit alone on the bus, undisturbed in my misery. I suppose there is always a silver lining when one looks for it.

Incidentally, there is FORM to my wanting an Asian child. It was always a thought of mine that I might adopt, even long before I had shacked up with LSB and had my own pair. A former partner had to rein me in on a trip to Cambodia, when I kept harassing American parents about how they came by their Asian children. ‘Why can’t we just do World Vision like everyone else,’ he had grumbled.

Anyway, you can just imagine LSB’s delight when we arrived at our resort and there was a lovely couple from Galway with FOUR children,  one of whom was their biological child and the other three hailed from Mexico and China respectively. The little Chinese fellow took a great liking to me and I spent a great deal of the holiday with him slung round my neck, finding it quite hard to relinquish him to his mother. ‘Oh dear God, she has him again,’ I heard LSB mutter to his dad at least once.

Gosh, I digressed terribly there. What I’m trying to articulate, badly, is that over the summer I come quite UNDONE, and perhaps go a little berserk. Although I wheel the kids into various summer schemes, (this week, Playball, last week, tennis at Stranmillas Boat Club, both excellent) we are all out of our routines and I’m beginning to think that I actually quite like a routine to keep me functioning like a normal person. Without one, I feel like a cartoon motorcar, careening down a hill helter-skelter with hubcaps flying, then boot and bonnet, wheels and all, until it lands, a hissing steaming wreck, fit for nothing.

But I’ve so much to write about, not least the wonderful John Hewitt Summer School for which I was lucky enough to receive a bursary and attended last week. I was almost over-saturated by culture and was left reeling altogether by the quality of the poets and novelists who shared their work with us. I did the most wonderful memoir workshop with Ferdia Mac Anna who recommends ‘bum glue’ as a means to getting started, and I took his advice tonight and just SAT DOWN and blattered something out.  I’ll write more about the whole experience again, when a small child is not running around, at 21-34pm holding a colouring book and singing PEPPA PIG, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA, with tremendous vigour.

If you’re in anyway religious, say a few prayers. If not, say them anyway. I need them this evening.




‘Told you so,’ says SWB

Sometimes, when I’m wittering on about ingesting micro-plastics and potential droughts, I fear people think I’ve gone mad. Close friends and family members (maybe ESPECIALLY family members) have been known to do a spot of eye-rolling and mutter darkly about my being ‘off on one’.


But today, I’m feeling utterly exonerated because TWICE I’ve heard why we all need to be conserving water with RENEWED vigour. (If you’re wondering about my new love of the capital letter by way of emphasis, it’s because when my blog is in Facebook format all the bold and italics disappear, and I worry that my writing may lack some of its vitality).


I digress. So there I was this morning, zooming off in the Qashqai to do its MOT (it passed, hurrah!) when what should be being discussed on Radio 4’s ‘Today Programme’ but the hosepipe ban in England which is being introduced post-haste, much to the consternation of the bottom feeders who will merrily stand in a shower for forty minutes or leave a sprinkler on for 3 days so their wisteria doesn’t wither, while our reservoirs dry up.


The venerable John Humphries was in quare form, some would say positively gleeful, as he tried to probe an answer out of them as to whether it’s acceptable to throw wee over your plants as a means of watering them. (The clip is SO worth a listen: nip over to BBC I-player and shimmy along to 2 hours fifty minutes in and hear for yourselves. I haven’t heard him so animated in ages.)


I recall a hot summer while I was attempting to potty train my youngsters, and I took to flinging a pot of pee over our new hedges in the garden. I can’t say for certain if it did them any good but three years on and they’re not dead at least. (The hedges that is, not the children, they’re all still fine and exuberant and driving me to the Pinot Noir of an evening). I remember poor auld LSB attempting to slosh some pee down the loo when I grabbed his arm with a loud: ‘NOOOO, it’s for out the front!’ and noticing his eyes cloud over with a mixture of bemusement and fear. I later thought it would be a good line to begin my first novel: ‘It was the pot of piss that did for them in the end….’


Anyway, Nicci Russell from Waterwise suggested that we use our waste water from the shower to flush the loo (Go me! Was I not just saying exactly the same thing on the Frank Mitchell phone in at the start of June?) and she didn’t entirely write off the notion of using wee to water our plants, though she added the caveat that it may be best to avoid the vegetable patch. (I’d take a light smattering of pee over pesticides any day but maybe that’s just me.)


Later on today, I took my pair of melters (and trust me, this week they’ve been bloody awful) up to visit some friends, one of whom hails from Australia. He told me that the drought of 2007 in Brisbane was so severe that the government actually considered  hacking off glaciers from Antarctica or importing water from China since the three reservoirs which provided the city’s drinking water had run dry. (I mean seriously, you couldn’t write it.) Residents diligently saved their shower water in buckets for the purposes of loo flushing and were exhorted to shove a brick down the cisterns of their toilets in an attempt to avoid a total drought. Thankfully it rained eventually so the extreme measures were never taken, but Paul for one, never rolls his eyes when I get enraged about people only half filling their washing machines.

So there you are. There wasn’t much to this blog post other than a smug ‘I told you so’ but many thanks if you’ve been bothered to read it anyway. If anyone would like to share their water saving methods or even post a photo of their slop-bucket or shower basin I would LOVE that.





The Mothership makes corrections

‘Like I told you yesterday, I think this is a bunch of nonsense.’

Oddly enough, after I posted the ‘vlog’ (I still can’t get used to that word. Sounds a bit vulgar and spell check still takes exception to it) the phone rang.

MOTHERSHIP: Now, I watched the vlog, or whatever its called, and I just have one correction.

One, I think? Only ONE? She must have watched it in a hurry or with the sound well down so as not to have noticed my mildly croaky morning voice. (Really must kick all those fags). 😉

MOTHERSHIP: I must object to throwing all those ‘slops’ at your plants. I fear that the bacteria could do for them, especially if they’re at all unwell in this weather.

SWB: I appreciate it’s not ‘Dobbies’ Best Plant Food’ but the remnants of some apple juice or milk can’t harm them surely?

MOTHERSHIP: I suppose you could chuck them under a hedge. An OLD hedge.

SWB: So I need to find a robust and resilient hedge to cope?

MOTHERSHIP: Yes, an established hedge.

Luckily, we have the delightful gentlemen from Loane Landscapes coming this morning to do a spot of pruning out the back. (‘Deforesting’ may be a better verb to describe their Herulean task.) I’m going to harass them no end for a bit of advice.

I would say, if your hedge is positively floundering, it will be glad of a drink, regardless if there’s a spot of last night’s cab sauv within. Delighted it will be in fact. A hedge has to get its kicks somewhere.

Any budding horticulturalists out there (not a bad pun for 8.27 of a morning) do feel free to contact us and settle this debate. In the meantime, there will be some tea flavoured water heading to a hedge in the Forestside area shortly. Just try and stop me.

(I have just spoken to Raymond from Loane Landscapes and he says as long as it’s COLD, slop water won’t damage the plants, or hedges, and they will in fact be the better for it. You read it here first.)