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.



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