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April 2019


SWB leaves her common sense at home

For a pessimist, I’m surprisingly optimistic, or perhaps just plain stupid, you can decide which after you read this. Before we set off for Valencia, a friend who is presently there, texts to tell us that the weather has been ‘a bit sketchy’ and to bring warm clothes, and even raincoats. We check the temperatures and they are due to improve when we arrive. Easter is late this year, it is almost May and so we are not going to need things like trousers, and socks and sensible foot wear, (or so I tell myself.) Valencia, we have read, is the ‘ciudad de correr’ and LSB is most excited at the prospect of racing along the repurposed riverbed that splits the town in two. ‘Bring your trainers,’ he tells me, ‘and have a wee skip up and down. You’ll need your head showered,’ he adds, nodding in the direction of the youngsters. I am adamant, that I will not need trainers. I am on holiday, and will thus be devoting myself entirely to relaxation. I have two pairs of sandals and three summer frocks. I intend to float about, eating ice creams and jamon Iberico, drinking red wine mixed with lemonade with bits of Valencian orange bobbing about in it.


We arrive and though the sky is blue there is a notable chill in the air. The friend who gave us the clothing advice waves to us from the steps where she is waiting to board her EasyJet plane home. She is wearing a fleece, as are many other passengers in the queue. I am wearing a sleeveless jumpsuit. I am fucking freezing. I am also, as further testimony to my stupidity, hungover. Last night, I got firmly into ‘holiday mode’ with our neighbours at a BBQ. Wine was taken, then instead of heading home at a sensible hour, more wine was taken and the dancing began. Such frivolity, such fun and merriment. Such a desire to vomit this morning, but instead, houses had to be cleaned and bags packed and arrangements made for cats who are not coming on holiday.


I am so tender of head and grumbly of gut, that I cannot even countenance the thought of a nerve-steadying gin on the journey. This is unfortunate, as it is a bumpy sort of a flight, so much so that we are urged to ‘buckle up’ for almost the duration of the flight and to avoid using the toilet. No one else looks particularly bothered as we hurtle towards Spain, but so terrified am I that my Tourette’s comes out in full force. The man in front, an impassive sort of a fellow, (though one look at his wife explains a certain numbness to life and its vicissitudes) looks round in disapproval as I yelp ‘FUCK’ and ‘Jesus Christ.’ I am as perturbed as him by my involuntary and blasphemous utterings, but I am most rattled. The man has already horsed 3 small bottles of red into him and has 2 more ordered so he can reserve his judgement.


By the time we arrive, and another elderly chap has almost clunked the Small Child on the skull with his valise, I am seething, nerves positively asunder. ‘Did you leave your manners in Belfast?’ I ask, through clenched teeth, pulling the Small Child close. ‘I’m not actually from Belfast,’ he replies in a thick Brogue, but seeing the manic look in my eyes he quickly looks away, which is awkward, as EasyJet gangways are not wide and by now LSB is ratty too.


Sandals, I learn, are not appropriate travel footwear. Exposed toes are no match for wheelie suitcases and other passengers’ feet in crowded airports. I feel the beginnings of a blister and I have even set foot in a Spanish plaza. We have barely ordered our first plate of patatas bravas before LSB has googled the nearest H&M. My lips start to form the words ‘fast fashion,’ which he pre-empts because the link he shows me is about their new ‘sustainable cotton’. In the end, I never buy sensible shoes, but hobble about in my sandals with freezing toes. I do, however, frequent several small boutiques and after quizzing them in Pigeon Spanish about the origins of their wares, purchase a few items. They are neither warm nor functional, but will spruce up my wardrobe. I do buy one pashmina but the Older Child keeps nabbing it to wrap her doll in.


Most other tourists wear jeans and are attired sensibly. Two girls walk past in hot pants revealing acres of goose bumped flesh. Their accents are unmistakeably Irish. I open my mouth to pass comment but shut it again. I may not be wearing buttock skimming denim shorts but I’m still in no position to judge.







SWB gets guidance from The Mothership

I can tell you what you don’t need, two hours before you’re playing ‘hostess’ at a soirée for the p2 mums, and that’s The Mothership on the telephone.

I’m hosting a night for my friend who sells Tropic products. I’m totally smitten by Tropic with all its green credentials and the fact that it makes me look visibly more youthful, which is no easy feat, I can tell you.

I’m stuck in a traffic jam at the Rosetta roundabout, having collected two fatigued children from dancing. I’ve stopped off with the crew at Harper’s Yard to pick up grown-up cupcakes and rocky road bars, when the phone goes. I answer in a weary tone, which is instantly detected.

MOTHERSHIP: I’m just ringing to see how preparations are going for your ‘do’. I’m assuming, from your tone, not well.

SWB (irked) :  I’m fine. Just nipping home to clear up a bit (in other words, gather armfuls of shite and hide behind the sofa or in a laundry bin or shove into one of the many ‘drawers of doom’.

MOTHERSHIP: Well, what I was really ringing for….

(Ah fuck, here we go, I think)

…is to check that you’ve cleaned the downstairs toilet. I would heave in a good capful of bleach: LEAVE for half an hour, NO LESS, then give a good scrub round with a brush. Don’t forget to  flush.

SWB (through gritted teeth): RIGHT.

MOTHERSHIP: You can tell a lot about a person from the state of their toilet. And I’m sorry to say, yours is often in a terrible state. I’d be ashamed, actually, if anyone were to come in, and see it. With regards to the sink, I saw on Monday that it was grimy around the plughole. I advise taking an old tooth brush and a spray of Dettol to that.

SWB: Is that it?

MOTHERSHIP, (AKA MRS HINCH): No, it is NOT all. What I want to know is this: what do you intending feeding these people?

SWB (sighing): Gin and tonic cupcakes, rocky roads, homemade guacamole, an assortment of crisps and a ‘mayonnaisey’ dip from Alison.

(I am very pleased, proud even, with the range of refreshments I have gathered. There are four bottles of Proscecco chilling in the fridge, plus an assortment of red and white wines and 2 non-alcoholic alternatives. I have even scrounged some wire off a child in school and intend to craft little ‘glass charms’ to fix to glasses so people don’t mix up their beverages.)

MOTHERSHIP: Excuse me? Crisps and a dip?

SWB: Two dips. And buns.

MOTHERSHIP (aghast): I’ve never heard the like. I thought a fork supper would be more in keeping. Some of these mummies might not have had time for their tea! They could end up on their ear, with all that drink.

SWB: It’s not until 8 pm, they’ll have had their dinner.

MOTHERSHIP: Would you not put the oven on for a few cocktail sausages? Hard to beat a sausage, I think. Denny are probably your best bet.

SWB: I’ve made a lot of dip.

MOTHERSHIP: Come to think on it, I have some vol-au-vents in the freezer. I could take a run up and they’d almost be defrosted.

SWB (in a state of mild panic, envisioning the Mothership arriving and causing all manner of chaos in the kitchen): NO. Absolutely no need.

MOTHERSHIP (ignoring me  and sounding increasingly animated at the prospect at the prospect of a jaunt): I have a lot of mushrooms I could make into a sauce with a tin of Campbell’s Chicken Soup, and you could have mushroom patties. Do you like my mushroom patties? They go down a treat up at the church.

SWB: I think we’ve enough, honestly. Now I’m nearly home here…

MOTHERSHIP: You sound very crabbed. I’m only trying to prevent another incident like last Easter.

(Oh God. So last Easter, I over-exerted myself. I had all the family for Easter Sunday, then a party on the Monday, with about 12 people and consumed a significant amount of Rioja, and then, on the Tuesday, I had my aunt and her daughter and HER daughter. I was ill-prepared and hungover, if I’m being truthful. Normally, my children don’t eat much, but on that occasion, they ate all round them. There was very little food to go around in the end, and the disappointment was evident).

MOTHERSHIP: ONE pizza. ONE pizza, between how many of you? And then there was supposed to be a soup, which never actually materialised. And left over cheesecake. One slice. When I THINK about it, I’m embarrassed all over again.

SWB: I digest this with a stony, mortified silence. Tragically, she has more or less summed up the situation accurately, except there were a few crisps and some sandwiches; chicken, if I remember correctly.

MOTHERSHIP:Well, before you go, take a duster to those window sills. And put out napkins. I hate it when I go out, and there’s not a napkin; it shows a distinct lack of foresight.

SWB (frostily): Will do.


Despite my mother’s reservations, doubts, even, the night is a success. One by one, mums arrive, bearing bags of wine, crisps and chocolate for children. The Older Child is very taken with the Tropic party, and writes little notes beside products. : ‘Go on, buy me!’ ‘Take me home, I smell fruity!’

The Small Child is ‘serving’ which means I hover around her with a look of desperation to make sure nothing’s smashed. She’s actually very careful. I, on the other hand, have been clumsy of late (I think the period is due) and with that in mind, have borrowed several large plastic glasses. They are much easier to wash and dry, as I can be heavy handed and many’s a wine glass has met its end because of my vigorous washing up style.

People in Belfast, I find, are a most magnanimous bunch. Even friends who can’t make the soirée, lend chairs and plate stands and send up foodstuffs. With at least 6 unopened bottles of wine, I try to press them upon my visitors as they leave. They look almost offended at the prospect. I enjoy a mini-facial from Pauline, our delightful Tropic rep, and as I sit, glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand, savouring the hints of vanilla and lime from the cleanser, I think, really, there are worth ways to spend an evening all right. At 12-30 though, my stomach starts to grumble. ‘Feck, I think, ‘a wee mushroom pattie would have gone down quite nicely after all.’

(Rocky Road with dark chocolate, almonds, cranberries and pistachio. Below, gin and tonic cupcakes. Harper’s Yard on top of their game, as always)







SWB takes on the dinosaurs

Is anyone else’s head f**king turned? I mean, where the BLEEP are the holidays? Why is Easter so FECKING late and why does no one just reschedule the holidays and let us all have a break because I’m not coping; the kids aren’t coping, and poor auld LSB’s just had the head chewed off him for looking at his phone when I was trying to talk to him.

I’m fed up people; WELL fed up. I feel like I live under a tyranny of relentless washing, ironing, cooking, and the bane of my F**KING life; getting children and all their paraphen-f**king-alia ready for school.

‘Where are my shoes?,’ (always the shoes.)

‘Why have I no clean vests?’

‘Because all your bastard bears are wearing them, THAT’S WHY.’

‘My show and tell is tomorrow!’ Of course it is. I’ve had the sheet for weeks but only now, at 5-45 the night before have I found it within myself to address the issue. 6- 30 and a yawning child is trying to pen: ‘I’m a Diplocous, my long tail keeps me stable!’ It still looks shite. The printer has spat out a stegosaurus with half a head. We set the bar too high with the previous Show and Tell and have thus created an unrealistic standard to try and maintain. I put the child and her annoying sister to bed at half seven.

‘It will wait til the morning,’ I tell them through gritted teeth. I’m lying of course- it will never wait til the morning. A sodden LSB arrives in from training, drenched and pitiful. Happily, he stopped at The Vineyard. Just as well. I open a Malbec and he starts googling dinosaurs.

‘What would the Small Child be if she were a dinosaur,’ he opines.

‘Which one was the biggest melter?’ I retort, savouring the first mouthful.

‘Here’s one looks like Jacob Rees Mogg,’ he says, and he’s right; it’s wearing a Top Hat and glasses, like some sort of anti-EU arch villain from the Cretaceous Period. If only an asteroid with drone like precision could take him and all those other twats at the ERG out and we’d all, (well all 56% of us who voted remain in NI) be happy.

Anyway. We do some snipping and attaching pictures of dinosaurs to a pin board.

‘I’m a Tyranosaurus Rex! My closest relation on Earth today is a chicken!’

‘Hello! I’m a stegosaurus! My brain’s the size of a walnut, but even I voted to remain!’

I slug more wine. There is still a meal to cook and lunchboxes to wash. I fecking hate lunches. The Older Child will, at least take a cheese sandwich, but ONLY on white bread, preferably from M&S. ‘I NEVER want to eat Kingsmill 50/50 again,’ she declared on Wednesday. The Small Child eats ‘butteries.’ These are two circles of bread, perfectly formed as I take a cookie cutter to a slice of pan loaf and make nice shapes so she doesn’t succumb to starvation. She won’t countenance any class of a filling, so butter it is.

‘You know how we have a donkey cutter?’ she asked on Monday. (We do, I bought it at the Donkey Sanctuary.)

‘Can you make my butteries in a Tyranosaurus Rex shape today?’

‘No I flipping can’t,’ I snarled.

This week, for their ‘healthy snack’ they had ‘vine fruits, two ways,’ otherwise known as a tub of grapes and a smaller one of raisins.

I can’t make the lunches the night before because even though the containers claim to be 100% BPA-free I don’t trust that they are, and so leave this task of slicing and buttering and cutting grapes in half lest a child choke until the morning. See? I can be quite a diligent mummy.

It’s just hard, keeping on top of it all. The air has been a striking, vibrant shade of blue. At pick-up a while ago a mum remarked that her daughter had been told off for swearing. ‘She certainly didn’t hear it at home,’ said the perplexed Mum.

‘Mine TOTALLY hear it at home,’ I said, not to make her feel better, just because it’s the truth. They hear it all, my children, and I hope to God they have the wit just to accept it when I tell them that mummy is just stressed to f**k and they’re not to go repeating it.

If the Mothership reads this I’m so dead. I give it an hour, and the phone will ring, and they’ll be an aggrieved pensioner on the phone.

I’m off- there’s a few facts about a Triceratops I still have to look up.